Dear Dr. Boli: This bottle of hand sanitizer says it kills 99.7% of germs. How does it do that? —Sincerely, Louis “Bubba” Pasteur, Paris, Va.
Dear Sir: The active ingredient in hand sanitizer is alcohol, which makes the germs drunk. Once they are thoroughly intoxicated, many of the germs become belligerent and kill one another in colorful furniture-tossing bar fights; most of the rest grow morose and despondent and hang themselves or throw themselves in front of microscopic subway trains. A few simply become reckless and die in accidents. All this would take days or weeks on the human scale, but at the accelerated pace of microbial life, where an entire life span may be measured in minutes, it all takes place within a few seconds.