electronics cleanup

December 19, 2008 at 2:27 pm | | everyday science, grad life, great finds, hardware

We needed to move several pieces of electronic equipment from a table because they were “blocking” some circuit-breaker boxes. So we discarded of all the spare monitors that were stored under laser tables to make room for the no homeless equipment:


In the process, we found some desiccated rats. W.E. found one that had a frikkin’ wasp nest growing inside it.


Weird. And very gross.

No one buys a damn $8000 oscilloscope for Christmas

December 18, 2008 at 10:44 am | | hardware, science and the public

Why, I ask you, does it seem that every vendor I’ve even thought about soliciting a quote from has decided to flood my email with “Holiday Specials” on highly specialized scientific equipment? There’s a reason that O. Henry tells not of Jim selling his oscilloscope to buy Della a phototube cryocooler, while Della sells her monochromator to buy Jim a signal generator. That reason is because it’s moronic.

Why don't you love me?
A little subtle sexism, anyone?

chemistry dictionary for Word

December 17, 2008 at 9:32 am | | science community, software

This is pretty cool. Check out this chemistry dictionary for Word that contains thousands of chemistry words for the spell checker. That should reduce the little red squiggles all over the documents! Thanks azmanam over at Chemistry-Blog.


I’m using it. It knows what an azepine is!

It’s very easy to install and it doesn’t overwrite your own custom dictionary. The README file is helpful, but I suggest you store the chemistry.dic file here instead of My Documents:
C:\Documents and Settings\USER\Application Data\Microsoft\Proof

light bends glass?

December 15, 2008 at 11:55 pm | | literature

Interesting paper in PRL (or read the summary here):

Light gives a push rather than a pull when it exits an optical fiber, according to experiments reported in the 12 December Physical Review Letters. The observations address a 100-year-old controversy over the momentum of light in a transparent material: Is it greater or smaller than in air? In the experiments, a thin glass fiber bends as light shines out the end, apparently a recoil in response to the light gaining momentum as it passes from glass to air. But the many experimental subtleties mean that the issue is unlikely to be settled soon.

(download video: light-fiber-momentum.avi)

Does that make you want to vomit?

maybe split that into two plots?

December 11, 2008 at 4:08 pm | | crazy figure contest, literature

Did anyone else see this awesome TOC image (from this JACS paper)? I love it!


I’m not really sure what I’m looking at, but I think they did several runs of whatever experiment that is. The abstract mentions “a large variety of qualitatively different conical intersections,” I wonder if that refers to those squiggles?

The rest of the paper looks reasonable and comprehensible. I suspect the authors took a little creative (and humorous) leeway in the TOC design. I applaud the authors in their bold jokestering.

steve chu as SOE

December 10, 2008 at 7:03 pm | | news, science and the public

So it looks like Obama has snagged Steve Chu for Secretary of Energy.

Officials familiar with the selections say Mr. Chu is likely to focus his attention on the Energy Department’s core missions: basic science, nuclear weapons and cleaning up a nuclear-weapons manufacturing complex contaminated since the Cold War.

Sounds good. Steve is a big name in my field, so I know his work well. In fact, I even worked in his lab for a summer REU. He’s a nice guy and a good scientist. I haven’t been following his policy work very closely, but I suspect that he’s got some good ideas. Regardless, I really like the idea of a real, live scientist as SOE!

UPDATE: Here’s a NYT summary of Steve. Also, here’s an interview he gave about his thoughts on policy at Berkeley.

khemistry klassics

December 5, 2008 at 3:49 pm | | great finds, history, open thread, science community

I want to start collecting the great (humorous) chemistry papers. Below are some that I can think of. Please comment with more!

  • One of the best quotes in a chemistry paper is the following: “This work will be continued and I wish to reserve the field for myself.” (Gomberg, M. An Instance of Trivalent Carbon: TriphenylmethylJ. Am. Chem. Soc. 190022(11), 757–771.)
  • A good April-fool’s article is Dick Zare’s (Wayne Knox’s) zero-fs pulse. (Knox, Knox, Hoose, Zare. Observation of the 0-fs pulse. Optics and Photonics News, April 1990.) This one also has a great quote at the end: “We are investigating possible violations of thermodynamics. Somebody’s pulses must be getting longer.”
  • The Alpher, Bethe, Gamow paper has it’s own Wikipedia entry! (Alpher, Bethe, Gammow. The Origin of Chemical ElementsPhysical Review, 1948, 73(7), 803-804.) Gammow, a jokester, added Bethe without his knowledge in order to have the names sound like the first three Greek letters. I guess Alpher—the grad student on the paper—was very reluctant to add Bethe, and has always worried that it took away some of his credit. Bethe did see the paper before it was published.
  • This is a new “classic,” but the TOC art really got a lot of internet press. (Toma, et al. Inorg. Chem. 200443, 3521-3527.) Was it intentional? Also funny: the TOC image is missing from ACS right now!

  • I really want to find that paper with the man fishing in the glassware. Anyone remember the citation?

Anyway, please let me know if you think any other papers should be included in this humorous group.

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