Chloral hydrate, or 2,2,2-trichloroethane-1,1-diol to the IUPAC confessor, is a controversial little chemical, in at least three different ways that I can think of right now.
I am pretty sure Justus von Liebig did not see it coming, the day he first prepared it in 1832. (Note to the layman: Justus is to organic chemistry, what Elvis is to rock and roll.)
Firstly, the structure is upsetting to organic chemists, because geminal diols are not supposed to be stable. But this one is. On the bright side, this gives us the opportunity to mumble “hyperconjugation“. (Note to the layman: the typical organic chemist has no idea what hyperconjugation really means, but it sounds awesome and helps us excuse a couple of anomalies.)
Secondly, lonely girls in nightclubs should fear chloral hydrate, because it is the magic ingredient in knock-out drops. (Note to the layman: work on your pick-up lines instead.)
Thirdly, perhaps the most debated Nobel Prize ever – the 1948 Physiology or Medicine Award (not even in Chemistry!) “for the discovery of the high efficiency of DDT as a contact poison against several arthropods” – should concern all of mankind, especially since the release of Silent Spring in 1962. (Note to the layman: DDT is a potent but toxic pesticide. It is made from chlorobenzene, a dash of sulfuric acid and – chloral hydrate.)