great TOC

May 28, 2009 at 9:25 am | | crazy figure contest, literature

I love clever table-of-contents artwork. I’ve never seen any rules about TOC artwork: it could be just about anything that advertises the paper well.


I love this one. Pretty classy, and it gets the point across. The view also has a hint of 1984-esque industrialistic dystopia. I guess that’s Madison for you.

wireless memo book

May 26, 2009 at 7:38 am | | stupid technology

Finally, the memo-book industry is catching up to the internet age:




May 21, 2009 at 8:59 am | | history, literature, science community

I guess I was the first one to check out this book since 1966.


It wasn’t worth checking out, by the way.

auto hammer

May 18, 2009 at 8:28 am | | hardware

I just saw a commercial for Craftsman’s automatic hammer. I thought that was a pretty cool gadget. Good for tight spaces (although it doesn’t sound like it’s powerful enough for serious nails).

Here’s a video of it in action.

looking forward to wolfram|alpha

May 15, 2009 at 12:35 pm | | news, science and the public, science@home, wild web

Wolfram|alpha search engine goes live on Monday. I can’t wait. Here’s a demo. I’m sure they selected the queries very carefully. But for the queries they ran, Wolfram|alpha looks awesome!

There will be a live broadcast of them trying to go online, starting at 8 PM EST (5 PM Pacific).

UPDATE: Try using the site for chemistry.

Perspectives on Grad School

May 11, 2009 at 10:19 pm | | grad life

In the form of my iGoogle homepage

Words of the day:

  • Whinge
  • Fidelity
  • Otiose

Quote of the day:

If you put tomfoolery into a computer, nothing comes out of it but tomfoolery. But this tomfoolery, having passed through a very expensive machine, is somehow ennobled and no-one dares criticize it.
Pierre Gallois

review of the NanoDrop 2000c

May 11, 2009 at 12:04 pm | | hardware

Our lab recently bought a NanoDrop 2000c spectrometer. It sure is cute:


Just look at it next to our old Perkin-Elmer Lambda-19 spectrometer:


(Although, that’s not really a fair comparison, because the Lambda-19 is a real spectrometer, with high sensitivity and resolution.)

The ND 2000c has a small pedestal with a fiber at the base; onto said pedestal, a research may place 2-5 uL (or even less!) solution and the dang machine measures the absorbance! The pedestal has a mechanism to move up and down in order to change the pathlength (the solution forms a small column between the pedestal and anther fiber above it). Very cool. The detector is a linear CCD array, so no scanning: hit go and a second later a spectrum pops up on the screen.

Of course, the sensitivity of the detector is less than that of our old real spectrometer, and the resolution is set by the CCD array—I don’t think the grating or most other parts inside move. But, with a high enough concentration, you can get quick-and-dirty spectra that actually look pretty good.

The ND 2000c also has an extra measuring mode, because it has a cuvette holder. Click a few buttons and the spectrometer measures the solution in a standard 1-cm cuvette (or, of course, small-volume or short-pathlength cuvettes, but why would you when you have the cool pedestal mode?). The cuvette holder also has a stirplate and heater, so you can measure biological samples or run reactions. Same issue with sensitivity and resolution, but I was able to get some usable spectra of a chromophore by using high enough concentrations and tweaking some settings:


Ignore the changes in the shape of the peak as the concentration increases (that is from different ratios of ethanol and water in the mixture). The higher-concentration samples produce spectra that are publishable; low-concentration samples are probably too noisy and low-resolution to pass as publishable spectra. Nevertheless, the repeatability even at low concentration is acceptable.

My biggest complaint so far is the software. Of course, this may be because I am learning a new interface after five years of using the Lambda-19, but I find the ND 2000c software confusing, limiting, and sometimes buggy.

For example, a user cannot directly change the integration time in order to better measure low-concentration samples. Instead, the software automatically sets the integration time for each run based on the amount of light incident on the detector. This is probably a good thing, because it prevents a user from inadvertently overexposing and damaging the CCD; but it’s still kind of annoying. Fortunately, the tech reps helped me by explaining how to set a wavelength range just around the peak of interest (i.e. not UV peaks), so the integration time resets to best measure that peak. (If I had not done that in the spectra above, they would have looked really crappy!)

The customer and tech service has been awesome so far. When I was thinking about buying the ND 2000c, the sales rep sent me sample spectra and answers a lot of my questions. Now that we have the spectrometer, I’ve communicated with two of the tech reps on the phone and via email and they’ve helped me with some the tricks and tips of using the software.

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