Word of the Day: Volatile

Ever heard somebody call a person volatile? They mean that the person may fly off the handle at any moment, has a temper, is unpredictable, and easily excitable. You may not know that when chemists use the word volatile to describe chemicals, they mean that the chemical readily evaporates (changes from a liquid to a gas) at room temperature. Volatile organic compounds therefore, are substances that contain carbon and readily evaporate into the air. Paint, new cars (that “new car smell”), and even your digestive system contain volatile organic compounds. (The ones in your digestive tract are made by bacteria!)