hey, how’d they know…

September 27, 2007 at 5:38 pm | | nerd, wild web

… that I love fluorophores? Unlike this person. This is what Ticketmaster used to check that I’m not a robot:

I got it right! (Didn’t get the tix, though.)

It came from the rocks

September 26, 2007 at 9:22 am | | science and the public, wild web

From a CBS affiliate on the anatomy of a Twinkie:

…Dr. Phillips says there are 39 ingredients packed into the dessert, and all but one are processed.

The ingredients cellulose gum, calcium sulfate, and polysorbate 60 are also used in sheet rock, shampoo, laundry detergent, and even rocket fuel. Author Steve Ettlinger spent five years tracking down the source of every ingredient found in a Twinkie.

“I was surprised that so many not only came from petroleum, but at least five came from rocks,” Ettlinger says.

The vitamins, artificial flavors, and colorings all come from petroleum. Phosphates from limestone make Twinkies light and airy.

“Sorbic acid is made from natural gas. That really blew my mind,” Ettlinger says…

Steve is a real winner with this alarmism. CAME FROM ROCKS, oh my God!?!

UV-Vis Lamps

September 21, 2007 at 10:58 am | | stupid technology

I’m still trying to figure out this one. The first trace is a transmission spectrum taken of a potentially suspect optic. A handful of scans later, the lamp burned out, and the second is that taken with the new lamp, same optic. Both in dual beam mode, with no additional background subtraction or zeroing.

Thankfully, the stupid check prevented me from drawing conclusions based on the original scan (you can’t have a lasing cavity with a Q=.05), although the shape matched almost exactly with the anomaly we were seeing. Weird, huh?

nerd tests

September 19, 2007 at 7:51 am | | nerd, stupid technology, wild web

You know that you’ve been studying photophysics too long when you keep trying to spell the state “Fluorida“!

So I took a nerd test. I think it’s broken: my score was way too high:

I am nerdier than 96% of all people. Are you a nerd? Click here to find out!

That just can’t be right. So I took the version 2.0 of the same test. (It wasn’t very Web2.0, by the way.)

NerdTests.com says I'm a Kinda Dorky Nerd King.  What are you?  Click here!

So that broke it down for me. Thanks. My lack of comic-book knowledge dropped my score in that category. I think my score was so high in the last category was because I said that I don’t mind the holes in my socks. But I don’t think that makes me awkward. I mean, I have a girlfriend. Shouldn’t that make my score way lower?

buy gold now

September 16, 2007 at 8:55 pm | | news, science and the public

gold_ingots.jpgThe weight of the official kilogram is decreasing. That means that, if you wait even one day, you will get less absolute mass of gold for the same official weight.

This is truly a once-in-a-lifetime investment opportunity. It’s not every day that the drifting value of a definition can mean BIG BUCKS for you and your family. You need to hurry to take advantage of this situation before it is rectified by scientists. Already there is talk about changing the definition of the kilogram to an unvarying value.

The only better investment on the planet is those collectible plates that may go up in value.

ISI at it again…

September 14, 2007 at 8:38 am | | great finds, literature, wild web

OK, someone over at ISI’s Web of Science has something on their mind. Last time, it was about ass probing. This time, it’s a little more direct:


I think they mean FACS.

I laughed out loud when I read that on my RSS reader. (Which, by the way, still gives me the wrong ACS feeds. I still don’t know what causes that: ACS says that it’s Google’s fault; Google won’t respond to my inquiries. Oh well, I’ll end up reading JOC by mistake sometimes.)

the cheap way to get rid of chemicals

September 13, 2007 at 8:22 am | | lab safety, news

From the Seattle Post Intelligencer:

SEATTLE — A University of Washington professor who dumped an extremely flammable solvent down a laboratory sink to avoid the $15,000 disposal cost needn’t go to jail but must pay a $5,000 fine, a federal judge has decided.

Admitting what he called “a stupid mistake,” Daniel Storm, 62, pleaded guilty in March to violating the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act by dumping roughly a gallon of ethyl ether. He was sentenced Tuesday in U.S. District Court to three years of probation and 80 hours of community service.

“I will never ever do anything like this again,” he told Judge James L. Robart, who rejected a recommendation by government lawyers for a $20,000 fine.

To avoid the cost to his lab operating fund, Storm, a pharmacology professor who has been with the university nearly 30 years, used an ax to break open metal containers and poured the solvent down a sink on June 25, 2006, according to his plea agreement.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration recommends that anyone cleaning up a spill of ethyl ether wear protective gear.

A university disciplinary review is continuing.

So he found the cheaper way to dispose of ethyl ether. In case the judge didn’t notice, 5000<15000.

This is your brain on … policy

September 11, 2007 at 10:14 am | | literature, science and the public

Just saw a recent article in the LA times that should get some attention. Here is the Nature Neuroscience primary source:


That’s right folks … I always knew THEY were strange and different!

pretty bubbles

September 10, 2007 at 4:54 pm | | cool results, everyday science

No, not these.



Another, and the setup:

bubble_bleach1.jpg bubble_bleach_setup1.jpg bubble_bleach_setup2.jpg

It’s a pretty simple experiment: bleaching a vial of dye to determine what the fluorophore photodegrades into. I bubbled some air to make sure I get the reaction with oxygen.

what kind of jerk…

September 6, 2007 at 1:30 pm | | everyday science, grad life, lab safety

…would spill some crazy fluorescent* solution on the hallway floor and leave it there?


Well, it’s not nearly as bad as an unreported spill could be (think of this!), but it’s still annoying. I have no idea what this stuff is, and it’s right outside my office door. I’m right next to the NMR facility, so I suspect some jerk dropped their NMR tube and was so distraught—having lost their newly synthesized whatever—to be responsible enough to wipe up their spill with their tear-soaked handkerchief. Jerk

Instead, the Environmental Health and Safety people will have to come out here and do it. In fact, a guy just got here and is trying to clean it off the floor. His orange-cleaner stuff didn’t work, so I gave him toluene, acetone, and methanol—that runs the gamot for polarity. Ah! the acetone worked well (it took off the floor wax, too!).


* Of course, the first thing I did was grab my trusty UV flashlight (385-nm diodes) and see how fluorescent it was. Cool show!


Would have been cooler with the lights off.

a little literature roundup

September 4, 2007 at 2:34 pm | | literature, news, science and the public

Because I’ve found several cool tidbits in the world of scientific literature, I’d summarize them here in a little roundup:

Baby Einstein makes you dumb:

I read this piece in Nature News: Disney is all flustered about a study (here’s the Journal of Pediatrics paper) coming out of University of Washington that casts doubt on the educational effectiveness of making infants watch some expensive garbage. The study found that babies who watched Baby Einstein videos were less verbally endowed than those who didn’t. This is probably correlation—not necessarily causation—but hilarious nonetheless.

How to unboil an egg:

Daniel Liu at Harvard has devised a way of unboiling eggs. Well, not exactly. But his lab did just come out with a JACS paper about modifying the surfaces of proteins so that they are far less likely to aggregate.


The modified GFP proteins in the figure above do aggregate and turn off when boiled. But when subsequently cooled, they return to their native state. The unmodified protein (left epi tubes) remain boiled.

Molecular thermometers:

In another JACS paper, some Canadian researchers (eh?) used the blinking rates of GFP molecules to measure temperature in a tiny reaction chamber. It’s been known for a while that the blinking rates of individual GFP fluorophores are temperature and pH dependent, so I’m not exactly sure what makes this a breakthrough. Nevertheless, I like the calibration and the attempt to make something practical out of a some complicated scientific data.

what a silly figure!

September 2, 2007 at 10:02 am | | crazy figure contest, literature

Here’s a great figure. Very informative. Just look how happy people will be to walk through this scanner!


Strange. This is from a real paper: Applied Optics, 46 (25), 6232-6236, 2007.

Thanks to Spectroscope for this one!

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