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Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Nitrogen

Nitrogen is a common element in the universe, estimated at about seventh in total abundance in the Milky Way and the Solar System.

Only one-fifth of the Earth's air is oxygen. Most of the rest is nitrogen.

Nitrogen was discovered by Scottish physician Daniel Rutherford (November 3, 1749 – December 15, 1819) in 1772, who called it noxious gas or fixed gas.

Scan of an old picture of Daniel Rutherford

Rutherford was the uncle of the novelist Sir Walter Scott.

The English word nitrogen entered the language in 1794. from the French nitrogène, coined in 1790 by French chemist Jean-Antoine Chaptal from the French nitre (potassium nitrate) and gène, (producing). Chaptal's meaning was that nitrogen gas is the essential part of nitric acid, which in turn was produced from niter.

In 1910, English physicist Lord Rayleigh found out that when a spark was passed through nitrogen, it made a reactive form of the element. This nitrogen reacted with many metals and compounds, and produced explosive mercury nitride when reacted with quicksilver.

The extra air in potato chip bags that we whine about, really serves a purpose. It's nitrogen and avoids the chips from breaking.

Nitrogen becomes liquid at -197c (-323f). Liquid nitrogen has long been used to treat verrucas and warts but scientists recently discovered that covering them with duct tape for two months is more effective than six freezing treatments.

Liquid Nitrogen By Cory Doctorow aka gruntzoki on Flickr Wikipedia

It's okay to urinate in the ocean, since 95% of urine is water and the nitrogen in urea is used to feed ocean plants.

We cannot breathe pure nitrogen by itself, because it does not have the oxygen that we need to live. Anyone that inhales pure nitrogen will just pass out.

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