NoChromix Volcano

April 11, 2007 at 8:47 am | | cool results, everyday science

A new twist on an old favourite. To make the NoChromix volcano, add one package of NoChromix® to your favourite H2SO4 and stir. Insert a cherished piece of glassware contaminated with whatever the hell pissed off the bath, slam the sash, and enjoy!


(I know what you’re thinking, but I scrubbed the hell out of those filters, rinsed them with nitric, then triple rinsed them with H2O before putting them in the bath).

Dirty Lab

March 28, 2007 at 12:27 am | | everyday science, hardware, stupid technology

I came across this picture while surfing Physorg (having an hour to kill after missing the last call Caltrain).

What jumps out at me is how insanely dirty the air is in that picture. It’s probably a good thing they’re just trying to push water around instead of doing any type of spectroscopy.

But that got me thinking about the way optical surfaces attract dirt like the ground attracts buttered toast (polarization smolarization, it’s Murphy’s law). In the spirit of making lemonade, I propose constructing an air purification system composed exclusively of optical elements. Obviously they’ll have to be configured into a running optical cavity (because the dust loves nothing more than finding that one critical spot to screw things up). The slight increase in price will easily be off-set by the 100+% efficiency. I say >100% because the system will coerce dust particles to materialize out of vacuum fluctuations, it’s that good. Call within the next 10 minutes with your credit card, and we’ll throw in this collectors edition Walnut cracker. Operators are standing by.

Laboratory Safety

February 23, 2007 at 9:25 am | | lab safety, nerd, science and the public

Not even the president bothers with it. Waft, don’t sniff, Mr. President.

LN2, the quicker picker upper

February 14, 2007 at 6:03 pm | | everyday science, great finds, lab safety

While working on a mechanical pump, a leak was sprung whereby the entire oil reservoir found its way onto the ground. The beauty of mechanical pump oil is that it’s viscous, coats everything it touches, spreads like a STD in a co-ed dorm, and isn’t particularly easy to absorb. So rather than deforesting the Amazon and taking a bath in the stuff to clean it up, I decided to try a little experiment.

1000mL of liquid nitrogen was obtain from Praxair and used without further purification. To the floor in the lab was quickly added 1000mL of liquid nitrogen. Upon addition, it was observed that the pump oil was vitrified into a glass. Upon evaporation of the residual nitrogen, a plastic scrapper (TAP Plastics) was used to scrape the frozen pump oil into a pile. Approximately 300mL of pump oil was collected and analyzed via optical spectroscopy (it looked yellow).

It’s not quite as versatile as club soda and lemon juice, but it worked.

The author would like to thank the voices in his head, for the stimulating conversations on the subject. Funding: NSF #109.3008.8849

Pop Quiz

December 19, 2006 at 8:56 pm | | grad life

When I say, “Liquid Nitrogen,” is your first response:

A) Cool stuff you can freeze things in, or

B) A royal pain in the ass.

I was ruminating on the subject while filling my diffusion pump (of course done while wearing a face shield, spash guard, cryogenic gloves, and not carrying the dewer on my shoulder sloshing it all over myself. Safety first.). I think it is kind of interesting how liquid nitrogen goes from being this magical and amazing liquid pulled out at chemistry demonstations, to a hassle that means coming in 2 hours earlier than usual refill a detector.

Oh, Snap!

December 4, 2006 at 10:43 am | | crazy figure contest, literature, news, science and the public

Remember a while back when some guy used fractal analysis to study Jackson Pollock paintings and made a world of bold proclamations, the most important of which was the claim that fractal analysis can be used to refute provenance? Not so much. Apparently all it takes to become the master of “the language of nature” is 5 minutes and photoshop.

Now all that needs to be done is configure our laser jet for a 10×15′ canvas, and I’m richer than L. Ron Hubbard. No flying DC-10 spaceships required.

(Xenu prefers fractional dimensionalities)

Not Your Parent’s Science Fair Project

November 1, 2006 at 8:18 pm | | everyday science, science@home, wild web

Ever wonder how many licks it takes to get to the centre of a tootsie roll pop? How about what is the meaning of life? I’m guessing no, because you were too busy trying to figure out how many condoms will fit on a simulated phallus, and the ramifications thereof. Well, in a seminal work, researchers at have set a lower bound on the critical condom parameter of 625. They’ve also characterized potential side effects of, uh, 625-bagging, of which priapism is evidently absent.

Someone forget to tell Feynman physics doesn’t suck, it blows.

October 20, 2006 at 1:55 pm | | literature, nerd

The solution to Feynman’s infamous sucking sprinkler problem. What really amazed me about the article was how true to the KISS principle the paper was. Alright, so it has a Gedanken experiment of shooting bullets from a gun underwater on a boat, but who out there has honestly not plotted an assassination staged from the moonbay of a marine biology ship? The key is shooting from underwater to begin with, so you don’t have to contend with refraction.

A first case study of homosexual necrophilia in the Mallard Duck

October 18, 2006 at 3:57 pm | | crazy figure contest, literature, science@home

As promised, an oldy but goody.

Beyond the great title, the article is an even better read, and truly deserving of it’s Ignobel prize status.

Yeah, Baby, Yeah!

Sam’s Laser Site (Different Sam)

October 9, 2006 at 11:05 am | | hardware, wild web

I came across this absolute compendium of amature laser know-how a while back, and figured I’d post it for the world to to share. Everything you’ve ever wanted to know about building your own laser.

Let’s just say this has given me a couple of pet projects, with updates to follow any actual progress.

Is that Pong on your dress, or are you just happy to see me?

August 25, 2006 at 3:12 pm | | stupid technology

Submitted without additional comment, because nothing sarcastic I could say would do this baby justice.

And then there were 8…

August 24, 2006 at 8:15 am | | news, science and the public

Well, the IAU has now decided that Pluto is a planet no more. Resolution 5A passed, which officially demoted the now “Plutonian object.” I have to say I’m very pleased with the outcome. As a scientist, nothing gives me greater pleasure than making children cry. I wonder if it’s too late to get a refund on the New Horizons program…

If I may, a tribute to the far-off, icy land:

First Empirical Detection of Dark Matter

August 21, 2006 at 10:48 am | | nerd, news

Well, after giving everyone a taste of what is to come today, NASA has finally let the cat out of the bag. During the observation of a collision between a pair of clusters, the observers were able to resolve the separation of baryonic and non-baryonic matter by comparing the luminous and gravitational profiles.

I spy CDM

Schrodinger’s CATion

August 17, 2006 at 10:15 am | | crazy figure contest

I don’t think this illustration was taken from the original document, but seriously. While trying to illustrate the parity properties of singlet and triplet Cooper pairs, this illustrator decided the most appropriate representation for an electron was a cat (some reference to Alice in Wonderland.) Now we just need Pecora to scatter light off of it…

Deflections 2.0?

July 14, 2006 at 2:57 pm | | nerd, science@home

I came across this product advertisment recently:
Wanna shoot my pharoah?

Zap the pharaoh. No, that’s not slang for a questionable act, but the object of the first ever board game to use real lasers! Deflexion is a high-tech game of strategy in which two players try to zap each other’s pharaoh by bouncing a laser beam off Egyptian-themed game pieces bearing one, two, or no mirrored surfaces.

That got me thinking. I’ve got an empty 4 x 8 laser table, more optical elements and mounts than I know what to do with, and plenty of lasers (manly class IV, too)…

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