# On asking a question that may inspire unethical or illegal activity

For the past two or three years, I have been wondering about a chemistry-related question which would probably be on-topic on Chemistry SE if ethics and legality were of no concern whatsoever. Since I remain curious about such question, I kindly ask the Chemistry SE community for input regarding the possibility of posing a question in a highly obfuscated way and requesting answers in a similarly highly obfuscated way.

The question pertains to the possibility of building a time-retarded stink bomb. Classical, $$\ce{H2S}$$-based stink bombs are not enormously interesting, as they produce a malodorant rather quickly upon "detonation". In my humble opinion, a much more interesting question would be to find an odorless compound that could be dissolved in water and sprayed on unsuspecting human targets. Slowly, this odourless compound would react with, say, cotton or wool (or some other fabric) and produce a rather unpleasant malodorant, ideally, several minutes or hours after the spraying. The one answering would choose his or her favorite fabric.

The ethical and legal implications of divulging information on the synthesis of such a compound are quite obvious. Not only would pranksters be empowered, but also anti-riot police forces. However, if the question and its corresponding answers were highly obfuscated to the point of looking rather innocuous, would it be admissible to post such a question?

Ideally, one would need a very strong academic background in chemistry to even understand that which is being asked, let alone understand any proposed synthesis. Since my academic background in chemistry is close to non-existent, I would have to kindly request your help in formulating the question in a seemingly innocuous form. I am under the impression that making questions and answers as hard to understand as possible is somewhat antithetical to the norms of Chemistry SE, but given the ethical and legal implications, it is the only potentially admissible option available, in my humble opinion.

• If ethics and legality are waived AND full indemnification is guaranteed - and I mean rock-solid immunity from any legal issues arising, from anyone, anywhere, ever - I see no reason why not except if one's moral inclinations are taken into account.
– Todd Minehardt Mod
Dec 27, 2021 at 16:47
• @ToddMinehardt Thank you for your comment. In order to build greater immunity from legal trouble, it may be wise to sacrifice the synthesis and focus solely on finding a compound with the desired properties. Dec 27, 2021 at 16:52
• Does this answer your question? FAQ update: How to ask (or close) questions that involve potentially controlled or dangerous substances? Dec 29, 2021 at 17:28
• Dec 29, 2021 at 17:29
• @Mithoron I don't think finding duplicates is very useful in this case — at least, not yet — as the question would be formulated and vetted here on Meta prior to being posted on Chemistry SE proper. Once the question has been asked on Chemistry SE proper, or once it has been concluded that the question should not be asked, then closing as duplicate is appropriate. Dec 29, 2021 at 17:47
• Oh, you wanted to ask such question... Hmm it's IMO too broad, then, not particularly dangerous. It's more difficult to make some subtle stuff then rather simple, but highly lethal. Dec 30, 2021 at 13:51
• Ethics or legality needn't play a role in formulating such a question if you restrict it to the chemistry of the compound which will convert into the desired smelly product. There are plenty of similar prank and practical products that are perfectly legal and can be used ethically or not, depends on context. Whether particular use is ethical is off-topic except insofar there is a general "be nice" policy. I would post the question and hope for assistance with the chemistry. Include key constraints determined by the application, which you needn't discuss in detail. And be nice.
– Buck Thorn Mod
Dec 31, 2021 at 7:12
• Just have someone unsuspectingly (no hood, glove box, etc.) do work with innocuous selenium or tellurium compounds: their resulting very bad body odor will last months, from what I read long ago.
– Ed V
Jan 4 at 18:15
• @EdV Very interesting! If I asked a question on non-meta Chemistry SE, would you consider posting an answer? Jan 4 at 18:24
• Actually, no. When I was a kid, I had a basement lab and traded for some elemental tellurium, just to pull this foul body and breath odor prank on some generic ‘subject’, if you follow my drift. But it only takes a few mg to give multiple months of nasty body and breath odor, so I did not do it. Instead I switched to regular stink bombs (even after a few decades, my original stink bomb is still not in the literature, as far as I know) and pyrotechnics. Anyway, what was a prank back then is now unacceptable for many reasons. But I was really good at coming up with these pranks! ;-)
– Ed V
Jan 4 at 18:43