Magnetically Charged Goodness

May 31, 2007 at 11:00 pm | | science and the public, stupid technology

I was at my local Fairways Supermarket the other day looking for some shampoo when I came across this gem of an item:

The label reads:

Magnetically charged hair care for naturally beautiful hair.

and the list of ingredients is:

Aqueous (Water) Extracts of *Rosemary (Rosmarinus Officinalis) Oil, *Coltsfoot Leaf (Tussilago Farfara), *Sage Leaf (Salvia Officinalis), *Clary (Salvia Sclarea), *Thyme (Thymus Vulgaris) Oil, *Soybean Protein (Glycine Soja), C12-14 Olefin Sulfonate (coconut derived), Cocomidopropyl Betaine, ** Magnetite (Fe3O4), Citric Acid (corn), Lactoferrin (Metalloprotein), Mica, Sodium Hydroxymethylglycinate, Sodium Chloride (sea salt), Grapefruit Seed.

I guess a little magnetite will go a long way. Do the good people at the Luxuriant Flowing Hair Club for Scientists know about this miraculous breakthrough in “naturally beautiful hair” technology?

publice—is that like crabs?

May 30, 2007 at 6:54 pm | | wild web

OK, this little typo made me laugh out loud:



impeccable flawlessness

May 25, 2007 at 8:12 am | | everyday science, nerd, wild web

As a sophomore in Honors Physics, we had to do “special projects” and have websites associated with them. A friend just sent me a link to my team’s old website…. it’s pretty funny looking back.

The Impeccable Mechanics of the Flawless Trebuchet

Caution…there’s music, and it’s loud.

RIP de Gennes

May 23, 2007 at 5:45 pm | | news, science community

We lost a great scientist this month: Pierre-Gilles de Gennes. He won the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1991 for his work to understand complex matter such as polymers. My research and studies as an undergrad involved a lot of polymer physics, so I learned to love his book Scaling Concepts in Polymer Physics.

(Thanks for the heads up, Biocurious.)


May 22, 2007 at 2:33 pm | | literature, nerd

OK, okay. I’m a child…



I just couldn’t let that title go by my RSS reader without some comment.

open SIF

May 21, 2007 at 8:40 am | | everyday science, software

My lab has a few Andor CCD cameras for imaging, and I was happy to find an plugin for opening Andor .sif files directly into ImageJ.* I was happier to see that my friend Stirling Churchman wrote the plugin originally. Thanks Stirling!

* ImageJ is a great open-source image processing program developed by the NIH. I’ve been really happy with it (especially the plugins!).


May 15, 2007 at 6:23 pm | | everyday science, grad life, nerd

The folks over at have a new motivator generator – here are a few chemistry motivation posters that I came up with. Have fun. Click on any of them for the full-size image.

blog-roundup for Aprilish

May 15, 2007 at 3:08 pm | | blogs, grad life

I know this is late, but here’s some blog-roundup stuff for April/Mayishtime. [As a side-note, I went to my brother’s graduation at UNC (my alma mater, too). Madeleine Albright was the commencement speaker and she was good. My favorite part was when she mentioned chaising tail.]


shitting your pants for science

May 9, 2007 at 5:29 pm | | everyday science, grad life

This is not my story. This is my friend’s story. Let’s call her X. X is dedicated to science. So dedicated that she shit her pants for science. Here’s the story (as best I can remember it)…

At some point in X’s grad-school career, she required some specific protein—some tubulin, I think. Now this tubulin was very expensive: for the amount she needed, her lab would have to pay upwards of $500k. Needless to say, they didn’t have the spare cash to buy a vial of this stuff. The other option for obtaining this tubulin was to purify it themselves … from calf brains.*

So X and two of her colleagues traveled the two hours to the nearest slaughterhouse … for calf brains. Once they got there, the workers discovered that they didn’t have any cow heads small enough to fit into their head-splitter (yes, apparently slaughterhouses have head-splitters on hand, but small ones). So the three scientists had to drive the two hours back to lab empty-handed.

After the third such trip, X and her labmates were successful (if you can call it that) in getting—still warm, mind you—calf brains. They threw the brains on ice and drove quickly back to lab. Unfortunately, all three had some digestion issues, and they had to stop several times on the trip back to use the restroom.</foreshadowing>

Now they had to do each step of the ~20-hour purification without stopping or the protein would be unusable. So X and her labmates were many many hours into this purification. She was doing one repetative pipetting step in the coldroom while her labmates were elsewhere in the lab. Suddenly, she felt a rumbling in her gut and a dreadful loosening of her sphincter. Continuing to pipet, she called out to her labmates. Her yelling was to no avail, because the insulated door to the coldroom blocked her cries for assistance.

A dilemma: to stop the purification and destroy many hours of collective effort and delay an essential experiment, or to shit one’s pants. For X, the decision was clear: she shat her pants between plunges of the pipetter.

When her labmates eventually returned, X excused herself and said she’d be back in an hour or so, went home and cleaned up, then returned to lab to help finish the purification.

You know, I never asked her whether the experiment with the tubulin actually worked…

[Update: X read this post and had this to say: “the only factual correction i would like to contribute is that i didn’t even go home after i shit my pants – we still had protein to harvest, sam, and i couldn’t abandon my colleagues. i just went to the bathroom, threw out the soiled underpants, cleaned up, and went back to the prep.” Now that is dedication! I would have just stolen the $500k at gunpoint from a local bank….

X also said: “i should also come clean and say that the tubulin was only worth $150k. the prep worked great—nice clean bands on a protein gel. finally, i should let you know that a former postdoc in [my old] lab told me that he once participated in a tubulin prep at an institution that didn’t have any cooperative slaughterhouses nearby. this meant that he had to SPLIT THE HEADS HIMSELF WITH A CHAINSAW. seriously. “]


* Just a side note that X is vegetarian. So am I, so I can’t officially condone using animal parts. But, for science, some exceptions to ethical guidelines must be made. Like running stoplights. And using byproducts of the meat industry. Just the other day, I had to buy some gelatin in the name of science. ;)

breaking the 200k mark

May 6, 2007 at 10:04 am | | grad life, hardware, news

My 1995 Toyota Tercel broke the 200,000-mile mark this (Sunday) morning while driving in to lab:

before: 199999mi.jpg after: 200000mi.jpg

My little friend has taken me from Portland, ME to Chapel Hill, NC and back many many times. It also made if from Chapel Hill to Palo Alto, CA and back 1.5 times. And it’s still going strong!

faulty new brunswick freezer = fire

May 2, 2007 at 8:55 am | | hardware, lab safety

I received an interesting email yesterday from some of the facilities managers here at Stanford:

On February 26, 2007 we had a small fire originating on one of the circuit boards of the power supply for a New Brunswick -80 freezer…. I was alerted by an automatic alarm system that text messages my cell phone. I responded and put the 3 inch flame out with a spray bottle of water. Had it been on the weekend, the board would have totally burned and possibly spread the flame to surrounding components with disasterous results. That same day I called the New Brusnwick factory and spoke with tech support lead guy … about this incident. I explained New Brunswick should contact all customers who had purchased one of these freezers and replace the power supplies immediately. Obviously they did not. In fact, instead of replacing the entire power supply on our unit, I have subsequently learned they just replaced the board that burned.

After being repaired with a new control board, this same freezer again started acting up this week and yesterday a technician … came out. After inspecting the power supply, he shut the freezer off. He said it again presented a fire hazard and could not be turned on until repaired. The freezer was holding temperature OK – meaning it was not something that was obvious. The only clue was indicator lights on the outside of the freezer saying “low battery” and “low incoming supply voltage”.

Scary. Here are some pics of the control board (post fire) and the nameplate of the freezer model:

closeup-of-burned-component.jpg location-of-burned-board.jpg nameplate.jpg

So check to see if you have one of these freezers and be careful.


May 1, 2007 at 1:10 pm | | news, science community

My advisor W.E. Moerner was elected to the National Academy of Sciences this morning. Two other science faculty members at Stanford were also elected new members: Mike Fayer and Steve Block. The departement will celebrate this afternoon with an ice-cream social. That’s nice…

Powered by WordPress, Theme Based on "Pool" by Borja Fernandez
Entries and comments feeds. Valid XHTML and CSS.