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burgy61
02-04-2009, 02:56 AM
In my WIP I need to have someone analyze a liquid. I know what I want it to be and do, but how would one go about finding out what it is and what effects it would have on humans.

In my story it is a liquid derived from LSD and it is suppose to make a persons mind more susceptible to subliminal messages. Analyzing the liquid is not a big part of the story, but I still want to get it right. Thanks in advance for any help.

veinglory
02-04-2009, 02:58 AM
I would imagine a spectrometer would be used: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spectrometer http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mass_spectrograph

StephanieFox
02-04-2009, 03:06 AM
Or, you could just take a sip....

ColoradoGuy
02-04-2009, 03:18 AM
HPLC--high performance liquid chromatography (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HPLC)

citymouse
02-04-2009, 03:53 AM
The most effective way is a combination of techniques. I would first begin with Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) since it is a non destructive analytical method. Once I established the broad base compounds and thus their boiling points I'd send the sample for analysis via gas chromatography/mass spectrometry. Here the compounds are vaporized in a heated chamber and swept along by an inert gas such as Helium. The moving gas is separated into its various components by passing it over a polar substrate. This is usually heated from slightly below ambient (21'C) to the now know boiling point of the known compounds (remember the NMR?)
The individual compounds are separated from the substrates as discrete compounds which are are swept into the magnetic sector of the Mass Spectrometer where each compound is identified by its mass to charge ratio. Think of it as a chemical fingerprint instrument. It's highly accurate!

So what you want is commonly called GC/Mass Spec.


C

burgy61
02-04-2009, 05:16 AM
Thanks everyone for your answers. :)

I am thinking about having the person analyzing the liquid speculate on what effects it would have on humans, does that sound right? I don't think going into details about how he figures out the effects would add to the story. I would imagine that it takes a vast amount of time to figure out the effects.

citymouse
02-04-2009, 07:19 AM
The analyst would have to have a complete spectral and then have a knowledge of the biological interactions encountered in the presence of the compounds found. Typically one begins with a goal and then seeks the remedy not the other way round. You're right about the time involved and of course you don't always get it right the first, second, third or fourth time. That's why they're called experiments.

One thing that might be helpful. When looking at an array of compounds that behave much the same way in a stable environment, the analyst is constantly on the look out for the anomaly. That's the one to concentrate on.
C


Thanks everyone for your answers. :)

I am thinking about having the person analyzing the liquid speculate on what effects it would have on humans, does that sound right? I don't think going into details about how he figures out the effects would add to the story. I would imagine that it takes a vast amount of time to figure out the effects.

RainyDayNinja
02-04-2009, 07:52 AM
I'll second the recommendations of NMR spectroscopy and GC/Mass Spec. More specifically, you would be using 1H (proton) and 13C NMR to get information about the hydrogen and carbon atoms respectively. If you REALLY wanted to, you could do 15N to look at the nitrogen atoms, but it's probably not necessary.

Those tests would let you figure out the structure, but it won't tell you anything about its biological activity. Knowing that it's similar to LSD might suggest some kind of psycho-active effects, but once they have the exact identity of the compound, they could easily do a search of the medical literature and see if there have been any studies on it. If not, they would have to run their own tests, which would probably take a while.

burgy61
02-04-2009, 08:43 AM
Typically one begins with a goal and then seeks the remedy not the other way round.

A investigative reporter gets a hold of the sample and is trying to figure out what it is and does. The analyst went into the military right out of collage and worked in their lab his entire career. He's in the story to push the MC in the right direction and to unknowingly thicken the plot.


Knowing that it's similar to LSD might suggest some kind of psycho-active effects,

Once the analyst finds out what it is he is reminded of experiments he did for the army back in the fifties. The time frame for the book is a couple of months so I don't think there is time to do experiments. Like I said it isn't a big part but has to be in the story. When the analyst explains how he identified the liquid I wanted it to be correct. From there he speculates about what it might do to the mind.

Once again thank-you for the help, I really appreciate it.

waylander
02-04-2009, 01:35 PM
How much material do you have?
NMR is a very powerful technique when you have a pure sample of the material.
First line of analysis for an impure material would be LC-MS - that is HPLC directly linked to Mass Spectroscopy. This has largely superceded GC-MS as you can analyse a wider range of materials. You can also get hold of a pure sample by preparative LCMS, then you turn it over to the NMR specialists.
Once you have pure material you can screen it against a wide range of neuroreceptors to find out what it interacts with

citymouse
02-04-2009, 04:16 PM
Waylander is correct. Sample size is critical. So is purity and whether the sample's natural state is liquid or if it is dissolved in a liquid. If this is a complex of substances they may need separation via cold / polar substrate distillation or Kurdena-Danish concentrator but these have their own limitations.

Nothing is impossible but you've set yourself a difficult task which that average reader may not appreciate by way of understanding.

You may want to be general. e.g Chromatography and Mass Spectrometry.
If on the other hand if you've got gobs of sample you can include Proton or Carbon13 NMR.
C

burgy61
02-04-2009, 08:56 PM
How much material do you have?
NMR is a very powerful technique when you have a pure sample of the material.

The MC was given a pint jar of the liquid that was taken right from the source, so I am thinking it would be a pure sample.


Waylander is correct. Sample size is critical. So is purity and whether the samples natural state is liquid or if it is dissolved in a liquid. If this is a complex of substances they may need separation via cold / polar substrate distillation or Kurdena-Danish concentrator but these have their own limitations.

I'm going on the assumption that the natural state is liquid.


Nothing is impossible but you've set yourself a difficult task which that average reader may not appreciate by way of understanding.
You may want to be general. e.g Chromatography and Mass Spectrometry.

I am planning on keeping it simple and just a general description of how the analyst came to his conclusion is needed. Without the liquid being analyzed and possible effects on humans there is no story. If you follow the link you should get a better idea of what I'm working on. http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=117363&highlight=food+control

waylander
02-04-2009, 09:28 PM
A pint jar of neat pure material. That's an enormous amount! Someone is definitely going to notice that is missing.
Do you know how much LSD you need to produce a profound effect? Less than 100 micrograms. With a pint you could take out a city.
A pint of a dilute solution in ethanol sounds more realistic

burgy61
02-04-2009, 10:08 PM
A pint jar of neat pure material. That's an enormous amount! Someone is definitely going to notice that is missing.

A pint from thousands of gallons would be hard to spot, but yes they do notice.


Do you know how much LSD you need to produce a profound effect? Less than 100 micrograms.

Yes I know a little goes a long ways, but this is not pure LSD it is derived from LSD.



With a pint you could take out a city.

Or a state or country.

HoraceJames
02-04-2009, 11:04 PM
I know of a book that you might find informative. Acid Dreams: The Complete Social History of LSD: The CIA, the Sixties, and Beyond.

Goes into the CIA's search for the ultimate mind control drug. They had (and most likely still have) things that make LSD look like a dose of aspirin.

burgy61
02-05-2009, 03:01 AM
I know of a book that you might find informative. Acid Dreams: The Complete Social History of LSD: The CIA, the Sixties, and Beyond.

Goes into the CIA's search for the ultimate mind control drug. They had (and most likely still have) things that make LSD look like a dose of aspirin.

Thanks, I found a copy and will read it tonight.

justsomeguy
02-05-2009, 04:11 AM
I've got another suggested read,

PiHKAL:A Chemical Love Story (http://www.amazon.com/Pihkal-Chemical-Story-Alexander-Shulgin/dp/0963009605/ref=pd_bbs_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1233791272&sr=8-2). PiHKAL = Phenethylamines I have known and loved.

It's somewhere between an autobiography and a cookbook, written by the man who'd have to be considered the world's foremost designer/synthesizer/discoverer of psychoactive/psychedelic/entheogenic compounds, and his wife.

The upshot is that, even knowing everything he does, there's only so much you can tell about such compounds through even the very best analytical methods (such as those described above). At a certain point you just have to start giving them to people and seeing what happens. You can make assumptions based on similarities to other compounds with known effects, but they're only assumptions, and often very poor ones.

The book's a fantastic read (as is the sequel, dealing with tryptamines he has known and loved) and worth reading if you're even a little interested in such things.