April 29, 2008 at 8:46 pm | | news, science community

Steve Boxer has been inducted into the National Academy of Sciences. (At last! I had just assumed that he was already a member.)

Other notable names include Ken Dill, Jennifer Lippincott-Schwartz, Timothy Swager, and Frances Arnold. Protein people are certainly well represented here!

youtube: coupled pendulums

April 25, 2008 at 9:20 am | | science@home, wild web

Man, it’s so easy to get hooked watching YouTube sciencey videos. I liked this coupled-pentulums (or is it pendula?) video:

But then I found coupled magnetic pendulums! Even cooler:

Now you can go get trapped in YouTube.

stanford ’89 quake story

April 23, 2008 at 8:32 am | | grad life, lab safety

I recently heard a great story from a faculty member about the 1989 earthquake here at Stanford. The quake started around 5 PM and lasted for about 15 seconds.

Just before the quake, two chemistry grad students who were coming into lab after dinner had parked in an illegal space next to the Old Chemistry building, that had been condemned for being earthquake-unsafe. As they shut off the engine, the quake started. Looking at the run-down stone building directly in front of them, the two decided to get out of the car and try to move away from Old Chem. After the earth stopped shaking, this is what remained of their car:

A chimney from Old Chem had crumbled off the roof and landed on their car! They would have been dead if they hadn’t decided to get out of their car. I had seen that picture before, but I didn’t know that people were so close to being killed, and that they were chemists!

The funniest part is that Harden McConnell gave the two students the Department’s Safety Award for getting out of their car that that had parked in a dangerous illegal spot during an earthquake. Genius!

For more info, you can read the Chemistry Department’s history here, or Stanford’s quake pages here. Interesting stuff.

Stanford Professors Speak Out about Bush’s Climate Strategy

April 17, 2008 at 4:04 pm | | conferences, everyday science, news, science and the public, science community

A few Stanford profs that were attending the GCEP workshop on Carbon Management in Manufacturing are featured in an ABC 7 News story.  This includes one chemistry professor interviewed, and another makes a cameo at the very end.  It’s only 2 minutes long and worth watching.

Watch News Story Here

(If anyone knows how to embed this rather than just linking to it, please let me know).

This is Your Brain on … SCIENCE!

April 16, 2008 at 5:17 pm | | news, science community

Quite a brouhaha building over at Nature and in the blog-o-babble about this little commentary that appeared in the magazine: Professor’s Little Helper. So Nature ran an informal online poll and here’s the result:

Shocked me a little. Am I too naive? I liked some of the more amusing comments to that article.

(Lab) Climate Change

April 13, 2008 at 3:42 pm | | grad life, stupid technology

The centerpiece of operation “Spider Monkey” was a DPSS pump laser to replace our old, post catastrophic cooling loss YAG. Everything was great until it was discovered the chiller lacked a secondary cooling loop to discharge the waste heat into the house cooling water. Needless to say, the 1kW localized heat source and accompanying thermal gradients didn’t help the laser stability. To mitigate the problem until the new chiller arrives, we decided to do a little home HVAC. Behold:

I actually felt a little dirty on this particular jury rigging adventure. We were using duct tape… to tape a duct. I’m sure there is some sort of warning label on the tape stating, opposite to your spray paint and OTC pharmaceuticals, that “Using this product for its intended purpose is a violation of Federal law.” The duct tape functioned rather poorly, I might add. Without the appropriate flashing, the process of sealing the duct to the box involved a round peg / square hole type problem of the duct tape folding over on itself.

The whole apparatus seems to work pretty well. I was finally able to get my Ti:Sapph under control, all while staying within the ambient operating temperature values for the chiller.

The Assault on David Baltimore

April 13, 2008 at 7:53 am | | science and the public, science community, scientific integrity

All NIH fellows have to take a course on Ethical Scientific Conduct, so I’ve become quite familiar with all the rights of lab rats. Never mind that down in the subway, just a few floors below the 24hr rat veterinary facility, they’re throwing rodenticide out like candy wrappers.

Amidst the jetsam of the course’s various “case studies” we sometimes get an interesting nugget; the David Baltimore affair was one of them.  Its a very interesting case because of the grayness of the accusations and the high level of the involved parties (Baltimore is a Nobel laureate and was president of Rockefeller at the time). Eventually, Congress and the Secret Service got involved!

If anyone is interested, checkout a New Yorker article about the case (abstract only). I’ve just ordered a book (ISBN: 0393041034) by the author of the New Yorker piece. Another excellent overview can be found in this Ethics & Behavior article.

a vial and a laser, part II

April 9, 2008 at 10:41 am | | everyday science

Some people enjoyed the last installment, at 488 nm. Now we have another picture with a 532-nm, diode-pumped, frequency-doubled Nd:YAG laser:

The red fluorescence in the cuvette comes from a red-emitting DCDHF fluorophore (the last one was a green-emitting version).

political science: APS asks us for grassroots help

April 8, 2008 at 8:01 am | | political science, science and the public, science community

APS is asking for grassroots help in the next couple days to call your Senators and Representative and encourage them to include additional funding for science in the FY08 supplemental:

I am calling today to voice my support for including additional funding for scientific research and science education in the supplemental appropriations bill for fiscal year 2008 that Congress and the President will soon be considering.

Consider it, if you appreciate spending tax money on science.

(Thanks for the tip, LSC.)

The Smell of Success

April 6, 2008 at 1:16 pm | | lab safety


I opened the sealed butanethiol shipping container only to find that the bottle seal had failed and leaked. My previous lifeguard training was paramount in how fast I then managed to strip off my gloves and lab coat, throw everything in the hood, and then scrub my arms like Lady MacBeth.

a vial and a laser

April 3, 2008 at 12:49 pm | | everyday science

I always like seeing a laser pass through a vial of fluorophores.

This is the 488-nm line of an Ar-ion laser passing through a DCDHF fluorophore in water.

more burning water

April 2, 2008 at 10:58 am | | literature, pseudoscience, science and the public, science@home, stupid technology

We here at EDS always love a good ol’ combustible-water story. I don’t know if you remember a while back, but there was a great YouTube video about running boats and cars on salt water. All you need is salt water (oh, and a huge RF energy source).

Now they’ve published a paper about the burning salt water: Roy, R.; Rao, M. L.; Kanzius, J. Mat. Res. Innov. 2008, 12, 3. There are some “real” scientists who wrote this: Rustum Roy is an emeritus professor at Penn State! But why Roy chose to publish in MRI, his own journal that uses “super peer review” (if you’ve been published in a peer-review journal, you can publish in MRI), is the big mystery: if he wanted people to take this seriously, why didn’t they publish in a peer-reviewed journal?


Go Figure. I’m not really sure what we’re supposed to see here. There’s no discussion in the paper, just a claim that the figure demonstrates a change in the water structure. But it’s just an intensity change!

And there’s this great footnote on the first page of the paper:

It was perhaps this distortion [by the media] that may have misled Philip Ball … in his rather unwarranted critique in Nature (published online Sept. 14, 2007.) No claims have ever been made by Kanzius of getting out more energy than was put in, etc. He only reported a unexpected observation, a forgotten art in modern laboratory practice, which could be pursued for a variety of possible applications. His observations, fortunately for science, unfortunately for his ‘unscientific’critics who did not delve into the facts first, as in normal science, appear to be correct.

Man, go watch the YouTube video and then try to take this guy seriously. A reasonable scientist would have denounced the media analysis, not the skepicism of the scientific community.

And, unfortunately for Kanzius and Roy, this “unexpected” result has been published before: Roychowdhury et al. Plasma Chem. Plasma Process. 1982, 2, 157. In 1982, this paper reports using the same frequency to split water, producing H2O2 + H2. Of course, Roy et al. fail to cite this in their “scienfitific” paper on the Kanzius effect.

Here are links to Phillip Ball’s excellent original analysis of the claim and his response to the recent paper. And here’s a C&EN article about it.


April 1, 2008 at 10:56 am | | blogs, help me

EDS is going to start charging readers of this blog. I hope that’s OK with everybody. You can use Paypal, credit card, or cash. But I’ll leave it up to y’all how much we charge.

All the proceeds (after we pay for site maintenance, travel expenses, and CEO compensation and bonuses) will go to the Virgle project.

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