a new PALM software package

February 13, 2015 at 2:11 pm | | nerd, software

2015-02-13 13.56.48


August 20, 2014 at 12:31 pm | | nerd

hammer time

checklist of unusual phenomena

July 22, 2014 at 1:40 pm | | nerd, stupid technology

AKA “troubleshooting.”


no ensemble averaging

February 7, 2013 at 12:24 pm | | nerd

I’ve been making these nerdy CafePress products for many years. The most “popular” idea I came up with was a pin that denounced ensemble averaging in favor of single-molecule spectroscopy. (At some point in 2006, I saw random science folks wearing my buttons and they claimed that someone their lab made them, so I added the copyright. But I’m more than happy to have other people “borrow” the design.)

newnoEA_copyright sms-bio

For the 2010 Single-Molecule Approaches to Biology Gordon Conference, we made a slightly different design and W.E. handed them out to attendees.

I used to own a car with several of these bumper stickers on it, and I thought I was a super-nerd. Well, I’ve been way out-nerded: a friend (Jan Lipfert via Adam Cohen) emailed me these photos from BPS in Philly.

no ea car1no ea car2

That really cracked me up! Does anyone know who this super-nerd is?

So, to keep up with the times, I’m creating a new product. It celebrates the state-of-the-art efforts to break the diffraction limit of light microscopy.

no lambda over 2na

I’m inspired to detail my car, but I don’t think my wife would appreciate it.

Update: It’s Yale E. Goldman. Apparently, he needed to cover a big scratch! Best. Reason. Ever. A tractor trailer veered into his lane and the wheel scrapped away his paint. He sent me this before-and-after:

no ea car3 no ea car4

laser pointer and a fluorescent lanyard

January 8, 2013 at 8:24 pm | | nerd

This is one of the coolest things I’ve seen all year! I have a habit of shining my 405 nm laser pointer at fun things. But I was really surprised when I donned my safety goggles and the beam hit this Chroma lanyard:

Wow! I think what’s happening is that the fibers are acting as light guides—like fiber optics. So you see the fluorescence travel along the fibers, which are weaved diagonally up along the strap, over the edge, then diagonally back down. Super cool. Chroma should use this for marketing.

lion hunter?

October 11, 2012 at 1:16 pm | | nerd

What are the chances that the only person cc’d on this email would be “LHunter”?

Also, anyone wanna go get coffee? I know a shortcut through the woods. Here, put this antler hat on.

walking with coffee

May 23, 2012 at 8:40 am | | literature, nerd, science@home

I love this paper: H. C. Mayer and R. Krechetnikov. Walking with coffee: Why does it spill? Phys. Rev. E 2012, 85, 046117.

In our busy lives, almost all of us have to walk with a cup of coffee. While often we spill the drink, this familiar phenomenon has never been explored systematically. Here we report on the results of an experimental study of the conditions under which coffee spills for various walking speeds and initial liquid levels in the cup. These observations are analyzed from the dynamical systems and fluid mechanics viewpoints as well as with the help of a model developed here. Particularities of the common cup sizes, the coffee properties, and the biomechanics of walking proved to be responsible for the spilling phenomenon. The studied problem represents an example of the interplay between the complex motion of a cup, due to the biomechanics of a walking individual, and the low-viscosity-liquid dynamics in it.

Genius. Here’s a great figure from the paper:

Fun stuff. It would be especially cool if they designed a new cup shape to minimize coffee oscillations.

playstation joystick control on electron microscope

July 13, 2011 at 11:13 am | | hardware, nerd, stupid technology

Fancy electron microscope…


…uses a game controller to manipulate the internal robots. Ha!

405 nm laser fun

May 26, 2011 at 5:39 pm | | nerd, science and the public, science@home

I bought a 10 mW (30 mW, actually, according to our lab’s power meter) 405 nm laser from Amazon. No this pointer isn’t for presentations, for reasons I have already stated. This pointer is for fun.

For instance, I’ve enjoyed shooting the beam through tonic water and seeing the fluorescence from quinine. Here’s some total internal reflection:

Any other ideas for cool “experiments”?

(Note, please be careful with this or any laser pointer. Although the purple light emanating from this pointer doesn’t look bright, it can damage your eye or skin. Even if your eyes aren’t sensitive to 405 nm, that doesn’t mean they can’t be damaged by 405 nm. This pointer is dangerous to be viewed even in diffuse reflections.)

(P.S. The sorta shitty photo credited to E.Y.L.)

UPDATE: It turns out that urine is also fluorescent:

Especially after taking a multivitamin.

what your laser pointer says about you

March 10, 2011 at 4:50 pm | | conferences, hardware, nerd, science community

Red: You either don’t really care if anyone can see what you’re pointing at or you’re cheap and you use the free pointer you got from a vendor at the expo. Of course, you could be one of those considerate folks who buy very bright red pointers, because you stubbornly like what red looks like even though human eyes are not sensitive to 633 nm. That’s fine.

Green: You want your audience to see what you’re pointing at. Unless you bought a 5+ mW laser (either because you’re showing off or because you didn’t realize how sensitive the human eye is to 532 and bought the brightest laser you could find). In that case, you’re blinding your audience. If you’re going to get a 5 mW laser, get it in red. That’s classy and visible!

Blue: You’re a bad-ass. You don’t care that blue lasers are more expensive and slightly harder to see, you want the audience to know that you’re a real laser jock. (Or maybe you’re worried about leaking 1064 nm from green laser pointers.)

Purple: You’re so bad-ass you’re crazy. You don’t care that the human eye can hardly detect and can’t focus on 405 nm. You want to show that you support Blu-ray.

Yellow: You think blue lasers are soooooo 2009.

Invisible: You have a UV or IR laser pointer? Maybe a tripled or undoubled Nd:YAG? You’re nuts.

Maser pointer: I want one.

royce makes a funny

January 13, 2011 at 9:16 am | | literature, nerd, science community

Prof. Royce Murray’s recent editorial in AC is fun. I actually do find these type of sarcastic instructions for writing a paper helpful. To an extent. These devices are great reminders of the essentials to making a paper readable. I might find even more helpful a template of a paper that tells you what each paragraph and caption should say. Maybe I’ll make that someday for teaching purposes…

My fav line is: “Diagrams are worth a thousand words, so in the interest of writing a concise paper, omit all words that explain the diagram, including labels. Let the reader use his/her fertile imagination.”

Another anti-suggestion from Royce is: “It should be anathema to use any original phrasing or humor in your language, so as to adhere to the principle that scientific writing must be stiff and formal and without personality.” Which reminds me of this line from an old Chem. Rev. paper: “Evans boldly put 50 atm of ethylene (C2H4, trans-C2H2D2, or C2D4) in a cell with 25 atm of O2. The apparatus subsequently blew up, but luckily not before he had obtained the spectra shown in Figure 8.”

I think Royce should have added another rule: Make sure your TOC art is unreadable, phallic, or filled with math formulas (or even just “Maths“).

P.S. I see that CBC scooped me on Royce’s editorial!

bouncing water droplets

October 19, 2010 at 8:32 am | | nerd, wild web

Fun video:

For your Tuesday.

the simpsons have their own nobel predictions

September 27, 2010 at 3:19 pm | | nerd, news, nobel, science and the public, science community

This was on The Simpsons last night:

(the screenshot is from 1 min 22 sec on Hulu)

I may update my predictions to reflect the venerated opinions of cartoon writers.

By the way, seeing my PhD advisor and a member of my dissertation committee listed on The Simpsons feels really strange.

(My/our real predictions are here.)

how to tell if your horse is dead?

September 10, 2010 at 7:46 am | | crazy figure contest, literature, nerd

(In reference to How to tell if your rabbit is dead.)

Apparently, you can’t tell.

By the way, one of those organisms is my friend.

(source: “Evolution: What Is an Organism?“)


August 23, 2010 at 8:50 am | | crazy figure contest, literature, nerd, science community, wild web

My (very nerdy) friends started a internetted-web-blog to celebrate/mock hilarious/terrible table-of-contents images: TOC ROFL. (In reference to NCBI ROFL.) I might even submit my own once in a while; you can too!

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