Watch: Could the Joker Venom Really Make You Die Laughing?

Sunday, 20 September 2015 - 12:44PM
Sunday, 20 September 2015 - 12:44PM
Watch: Could the Joker Venom Really Make You Die Laughing?
Could the Joker's infamous toxin really kill you and leave a smile on your face? Nerdist's Kyle Hill breaks down the toxin's cited chemical components and investigates whether it could plausibly produce the observed effects in the latest episode of Because Science.

In the Batman comics, movies, and cartoons, the Joker toxin quickly kills its victims, but not before it causes them to hallucinate and laugh uncontrollably, and then spasms the muscles of their faces into a nightmarish smile. According to Detective Comics #867, the venom consists of a "deadly combination" of strychnine, cyanide, meth, ecstasy, and laughing gas. The meth, ecstasy, and laughing gas would reasonably be able to cause hallucinations and uncontrollable laughter, so the question is whether the poisons strychnine and cyanide could take care of the rest.


Cyanide is a systematic chemical asphyxiant, or a toxin that interferes with the oxygen transfer inside all of your organs. At low doses, it produces giddiness and laughter (check), and at high doses will kill you in under a minute (double check). 

Strychnine is also a poison, causing extreme muscle spasms all over the body, but especially the face and neck, which ultimately chokes the victim to death. (This is also, incidentally, the poison that doctors believe was used to kill King Joffrey.)

Hill claims that it is scientifically plausible that the mixture of the toxins would actually produce the effects of the Joker venom, but can the toxins actually be combined? It's unclear in Bat-canon whether the toxin is a liquid or a gas, but if it is a gas, it would be possible to combine them all at their boiling point of 280 degrees C. But at these temperatures, strychnine breaks down and loses all of its toxicity, so the mixture would still kill you, but you might lose that signature smile. 

But overall, Hill says, the mixture described in the comics could realistically produce the effects of the Joker toxin, especially if it were in liquid form. So basically, DC Comics just provided everyone with a how-to guide on murdering people with laughter. That's a good idea if I've ever heard one.
Science of Sci-Fi

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