Posted by Jim:
Yesterday I gave a talk entitled “Phosphorus: what is it, what do we use it for, and are we running out?” to an interesting lunch group in Scottsdale called the “Wise Guys” (actually, the “WiseGuise”), a very bright group of fascinating and active, retired and semi-retired folks who meet every Friday to have a talk from prominent scientific, cultural, and political speakers. They made an exception for me.
In any case, I had fun preparing the talk and learned a lot myself about the industrial (and other) uses of phosphorus (did you know that it’s used in production of meth?). I was also able to introduce my favorite Batman character, Dr. Phosphorus, and to raise the interesting prospect of “peak phosphorus” that is making some faint buzz in the news. See the London Times link here.
Phosphorus is strange – we need it, it’s limiting, and it’s also poisonous. We often have too much of it (in our lakes) but we might be running out. And a reliable source of it can be found in a very repulsive form, our urine.
By the way, a visit to the Comic Book Periodic Table of the Elements is a bit of a super-nerd kick. link