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In Focus

Podcast: The Green Silk Bag

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Author Mike Jay discusses the improbably poetic rise of nitrous oxide.

The first lungful of nitrous oxide gas was inhaled in 1799. The subject, Humphrey Davy, described the experience as “a highly pleasurable thrilling in the chest and extremities.” The substance—later called laughing gas—would go on to become a critical anesthetic for minor surgery, and it is still used for that purpose today. But the discovery wo...

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