PLEDGE NOW
The History, Science And Myth Of Poison

A new exhibit at the American Museum of Natural History in New York explores the power of poison to harm and to help.

The golden poison dart frog is credited as the most poisonous animal currently in existence. (AMNH)

The golden poison dart frog is credited as the most poisonous animal currently in existence. (AMNH)

Poison is somehow utterly captivating.  Start talking “double, double toil and trouble,” and we’re all ears.  Root of hemlock.  Poisoned entrails.  Slips of yew. Humankind has known for a long, long time that the natural world bubbles with poisons, far and wide.  Poison frogs.  Poisonous caterpillars.  Monkshood. Wolfsbane.  Castor bean. Belladonna. Oh, and aersenic of course.  And a whole lot more.  A new exhibit at the Museum of  Natural History unfurls poison in nature, myth, murder and in medicine.  This hour On Point:  the power of poison.

— Tom Ashbrook

Guests

Mark Siddall, curator at the American Museum of Natural History and the current exhibit, “The Power of Poison.” (@TheLeechGuy)

Deborah Blum, Pulitzer Prize-winning science writer, professor and author of “The Poisoner’s Handbook; Murder and the Birth of Forensic Evidence in Jazz Age New York.” (@DeborahBlum)

From Tom’s Reading List

New York Daily News: Mark Siddall of the American Museum of Natural History points out poisons all around us — “Just because the city’s murder rate is on pace for a historic low doesn’t mean there aren’t dangers at every corner. Wherever you step in the Big Apple — from the gutter to the grocery store — you’re surrounded by potential poisons. It’s not cause to panic — but there’s reason to study up, according to American Museum of Natural History poison expert Mark Siddall. ‘We live in a pretty safe environment,’ says Siddall, who recently discovered a new species of venomous leech in the Amazon rain forest. His new exhibit, ‘The Power of Poison,’ opening Saturday, tracks toxins throughout history, from Cleopatra’s deadly snakebite to the possibility Napoleon died due to arsenic in his wallpaper.”

Bloomberg: Poison Show Inspired My Thanksgiving — “‘The Power of Poison’ takes us on a focused journey through the realms of myth, history, medicine, literature, murder and dementia starting with a glittering display of chocolates. In the interest of domestic harmony, resist leaving an opened box of Godiva on the coffee table within reach of the yappy canine belonging to your annoying sister-in-law. Like so many exhibitions at the museum, ‘The Power of Poison’ is entertaining, illuminating, inspirational and definitely spellbinding. Sit down and watch a film of a poisonous water snake take on a freaky Moray eel. It’s hard to know who to root for, but that toothy eel has my vote.”

Mother Jones: Study: Everything I Like to Ingest Has Arsenic — “In a study apparently designed by my friend for revenge on me, Dartmouth researchers found an association between bodily arsenic loads and consumption of the following substances I have swooned over in print (and enjoy in really life pretty much every chance I get): white wine, beer, Brussels sprouts, and ‘dark meat fish,’ a category that includes my beloved sardines. For people who drink 2.5 beers or glasses of white wine per day, they found, arsenic levels were 20 percent to 30 percent higher than for nondrinkers. Gulp. Or, perhaps better: Stop gulping.”

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
ONPOINT
TODAY
Feb 11, 2016
In this Oct. 21, 2013, file photo, Vern Lund, president of Liberty Mine in central Mississippi near DeKalb, Miss., holds some of the lignite coal planned for use in the nearby Mississippi Power Co. carbon capture power plant. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis, File)

The Supreme Court hits the brakes on the heart of President Obama’s push to fight global warming. We’ll dig in.

Feb 11, 2016
A sampling of same of the great books author David Denby thinks could help encourage young readers to love books. (National Post)

David Denby on the 24 great books that can bring even today’s kids to reading. And maybe you, too.

RECENT
SHOWS
Feb 10, 2016
In this Feb. 1, 2016 photo, a technician from the British biotec company Oxitec, inspects the pupae of genetically modified Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, a vector for transmitting the Zika virus, in Campinas, Brazil. (AP Photo/Andre Penner)

Taking on the Zika virus, from tackling the disease itself, to killing the mosquitoes that carry it to the challenge of birth control.

 
Feb 10, 2016
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., waves to the crowd before speaking during a primary night watch party at Concord High School, Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2016, in Concord, N.H. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

The winners and losers in New Hampshire, and the path ahead in the presidential primary race.

On Point Blog
On Point Blog
Notes From New Hampshire, #9: Remedy Or Replica?
Wednesday, Feb 10, 2016

Jack Beatty offers one last note from New Hampshire, and looks beyond to the primary races yet to come in both parties.

More »
Comment
 
Tom Ashbrook’s Note From New Hampshire
Tuesday, Feb 9, 2016

Fresh off the New Hampshire Presidential Primary results, host Tom Ashbrook reflects on his trip to New Hampshire, and on what comes next in the race to the White House.

More »
Comment
 
Notes From New Hampshire, #6: Bernie v. Hillary — The Electability Debate
Monday, Feb 8, 2016

Bill and Betty are not real New Hampshire voters. But their arguments about the Democratic race for President most certainly are.

More »
Comment