Dirty Lab

March 28, 2007 at 12:27 am | | everyday science, hardware, stupid technology

I came across this picture while surfing Physorg (having an hour to kill after missing the last call Caltrain).

What jumps out at me is how insanely dirty the air is in that picture. It’s probably a good thing they’re just trying to push water around instead of doing any type of spectroscopy.

But that got me thinking about the way optical surfaces attract dirt like the ground attracts buttered toast (polarization smolarization, it’s Murphy’s law). In the spirit of making lemonade, I propose constructing an air purification system composed exclusively of optical elements. Obviously they’ll have to be configured into a running optical cavity (because the dust loves nothing more than finding that one critical spot to screw things up). The slight increase in price will easily be off-set by the 100+% efficiency. I say >100% because the system will coerce dust particles to materialize out of vacuum fluctuations, it’s that good. Call within the next 10 minutes with your credit card, and we’ll throw in this collectors edition Walnut cracker. Operators are standing by.

laser + coffee = blue?

March 27, 2007 at 10:28 am | | hardware, lab safety, stupid technology, wild web

This guy decided to heat his coffee using a very powerful laser. Stupid, right? Even more stupid, he filmed it and put it on the internets. That’s a good way to get fired. (I’m just jealous.)

[youtube OYvynmK0Slo laser coffee]

My question: How come the light is blue? The safety placard says it’s Nd:YAG (invisible IR 1064 nm) or HeNe (red 633 nm). Even doubled Nd:YAG should be green (532 nm). Strange.

Maybe things looks different at 2 kW.

(Thanks to Geekologie.)

50/50 Beamsplitter?

March 26, 2007 at 8:06 am | | everyday science, hardware, help me

I guess optics are harder to make in the infrared. You ask for a 50/50 beamsplitter for 3.5 to 6.5 microns and you get something like this. I guess it crosses 50% T a couple of times within the spectral window so I shouldn’t complain.

If anyone knows a good source for IR beamsplitters that have flat spectral responses and also don’t achieve their %Reflectance with multiple little reflections leading to strings of pulses separated in time by a few tens of femtoseconds let me know.

great boxes in chemistry

March 17, 2007 at 4:17 pm | | everyday science, great finds, hardware

I get excited when I find convenient containers usable in the lab. For instance, I loooove the boxes that new optical filters come in (e.g. from Chroma). They are sturdy and have little metal closing tabs you can bend over to keep the box closed. Perfect for storing, well, anything!


I hoard these.

Second place for the coolest-boxes-in-the-lab goes to the ThorLabs “Lab Snacks” box. First, you get snacks, then you have a nice little closable box that you can store samples or small parts in:


Probably the most available (and the most used) box in our lab is the pipet-tip box. They’re great for secondary containment for sample vials and for segregating samples. I use them all the time:


In fact, we hardly ever throw any away, which is why we have this pile:


Maybe I should take a trip to the recycling center someday soon, before it gets any more trouble-with-tribbles in here!

OK, so what are your favorite boxes?

the einstein

March 8, 2007 at 10:14 am | | literature, nerd

My favorite unit is the einstein, or a mole of photons. What a silly unit! Until ecently, I had never actually seen the einstein in use. Until I read a recent paper, that is:

For 7.0 nM spiro nanoparticles and a photon flux of 2.8 x 10-9 einstein (260 nm > > 390 nm), it takes ~30 s to switch a 1-cm cuvette from green fluorescence to red fluorescence (Figure 1C); the reverse process under photon flux of 8-10 x 10-9 einstein ( > 515 nm) requires ~20 min.

I’m not sure why 2.8 x 10-9 einstein is any easier than writing 1.7 x 1015 photons.

You know what? I want the sam to be a mole of femtopennies. How old were you when you made your first sam?

ilya’s defense

March 7, 2007 at 2:25 pm | | grad life, seminars

Notes from Ilya‘s defense entitled “Ultrafast Protein Dynamics in Aqueous and Confined Environments”:

ilya1.jpg ilya2.jpg

Now we have a PhD who posts on this blog!

dexter learns to walk

March 5, 2007 at 9:12 am | | news, stupid technology

The Anybots robot lab out here in Mountain View, CA got Dexter (their first dynamically balancing walking humanoid robot) to walk!


Kinda scary: AN UNPOKABLE ROBOT!!! Well, it’s better than poor Asimo falling down the stairs.

Actually, despite my mockery, I think this is wicked cool!

zewail seminar

March 1, 2007 at 8:44 pm | | seminars

These are my notes from Ahmed Zewail‘s talk here at Stanford (on 2/28/07):

zewail1.jpg zewail2.jpg zewail3.jpg

It was sorta good—for a Nobel laureate’s talk—but too focused on we’re-so-awesome-and-look-at-these-impressive-pictures (as opposed to this-is-the-science-and-this-is-what-we-did sorta stuff).

But here are the non-science highlights. The very first question was someone asking him to repeat the date on one of his publications he mentioned and cited on one of the slides. Seriously?? Ever heard of SciFinder Scholar?

My favorite part was, when he showed the picture of his lab, he said, “I did ask all of them to smile, but, well….” At which point, a friend whispered to me, “But they don’t remember how.” Ha! Life in the Zewail lab—or Caltech—can’t be that bad.

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