Sulfur makes up almost 3% of the earth’s mass. If you think that’s not much, next time you look to the sky and see the moon, think of this: the earth contains enough sulfur to make not just one new moon, but two!
When Shakespeare’s Othello asks for punishment, one possibility he mentions is: “…roast me in sulphur!”
Sulfur burns with a very satisfying blue flame – its old name is brimstone, which means ‘burn stone’ or ‘stone that burns.’
Pure sulfur has no smell, but many of its compounds stink! For example sulfur compounds called mercaptans give skunks their awful smell. Rotten eggs (and most stink bombs) get their distinctive aroma courtesy of hydrogen sulfide, H2S.
Cave bacteria, which digest hydrogen sulfide, produce snottites (think of slimy stalactites) in caves. These snottites drip sulfuric acid with a pH as low as zero – that’s enough to burn holes in your clothes if you stand underneath them. Snottite bacteria thrive in areas where there are sulfur deposits or sulfur-containing minerals or hydrocarbons. The sulfuric acid they excrete carves out new cave systems underground by dissolving rocks.
There’s a much higher proportion of sulfur in the earth’s core than in its crust – approximately 100 times more.
Penicillin is a natural, sulfur-based antibiotic.
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