nuclear duct tape not so hot?

February 23, 2009 at 1:18 pm | | hardware, wild web

Geekologie and elsewhere reported that 3M sells nuclear-grade duct tape, which is true.

But not everybody is satisfied with the tape.


I guess you can’t please everybody.

make your science sexy

January 7, 2009 at 7:15 pm | | crazy figure contest, hardware, literature, science and the public, science@home

This machine is the closest some graduate students get to the Real Thing:


“Finally, theories proposed for the mechanism of breakage were investigated on a laboratory coital model.”

Source: White, N.; Hill, D.; Bodemeier, S. Male condoms that break in use do so mostly by a “blunt puncture” mechanism. Contraception 2008, 77, 360-365. (Also reported in Nature’s news section here.)

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?

clamp that AOM, boy!

November 6, 2008 at 11:14 am | | everyday science, hardware

Sometimes you can’t find that nice new equipment. Like the quick clamps that were sitting on the bench for weeks: now that you need them, they’re nowhere to be found. So you find the old hardware:

My labmate didn’t want to hold that AOM on the mount while the epoxy dried, so it was either tape or these monster C-clamps.

I just liked the juxtaposition of the monster clamp and the fragile little quartz Bragg cell.

Drains on Laser Tables

September 3, 2008 at 9:35 am | | hardware

If I may make a humble suggestion, how about some sort of system for conveniently removing liquids (and maybe small screws, ball bearings, and our LBO crystal) from the bottomless pit that is a laser table?

I want my Margarita to be NIST traceable

August 28, 2008 at 1:37 pm | | great finds, hardware, stupid technology

Presenting the Retsch Grindomix Laboratory Knife Mill (blender).  For a cool $3,589.73, you can “quickly and efficiently batch process a variety of dry, soft and medium-hard foodstuffs such as fresh fruits, meats, cheese, oilseeds, grains, breads and pastries.”  Sub-300 micron smoothies, mmmm.

Poll: Laser Breath

May 2, 2008 at 4:23 pm | | hardware, open thread

The above original adornment of our laser head had to be removed, ostensibly due to the possibility of back reflections, fire, and the subsequent destruction of sensitive optics. Although the first thing my boss said when he saw it was, “I really hate that guy;” so maybe that logic is only a smokescreen.

In either case, now that we’ve reconfigured the case, it is possible to redecorate it with something shooting a laser beam. As such, I leave it up to you to suggest possible candidates. Some suggestions were another Nixon, Reagan, Chuck Norris, Bishop Desmond Tutu, or the Hello Kitty. What do you think?

thwarted bike theft

February 15, 2008 at 9:06 am | | grad life, hardware

Any moderately good bike is always under threat on Stanford’s campus. Jerks drive around with pickup trucks and just steal any bike they can sell.

I had my first road bike stolen my first year, and I’m still pissed off about it. Now I ride the junkiest beater-bike I can: no derailleurs (poor-man’s fixie), bad brakes, rusty chain, etc. Nevertheless, some idiot stole the rear wheel off this heap; they needed a wrench to remove that piece of crap wheel, and there’s no way they could have sold it for anything more than 12 cents. The crazy thing: there were wheels all over the ground from previous thefts. I just grabbed one that sorta fit, and rode away. WTF?!? Why take the time to steal a crap wheel when there are half a dozen equally crappy wheels sitting on the ground, rife for the taking?

This morning, I saw evidence of some asshole:


The thief didn’t even have time to remove the jack. And they left the crank on the ground:


I hope the person who caught the thief in the act disposed of their body in a place where no one will find it. Or even better, I hope they sold the body on eBay and made enough cash to buy three locks.

I’m tempted to set up some booby traps on a nice bike some night. Nothing fatal, just severely uncomfortable. And something that might lead the police to the thieves. Any suggestions?

Do Not be Shame Because of Your Instrument Size

February 14, 2008 at 9:26 am | | grad life, hardware, nerd, wild web

From an email I received this morning:

Your chick shack up with your mate that is why you are alone.

By reason of of his instrument size. Chicks love huge device.

Do not worry bro. Today you have good possibility to Increase your machine size.

Lots of men the world over have increase. Now its your turn.

What the hell? My delay line is already 5 ft, quadruple passed. That’s a full 40 ns of pump-probe action. What I lack in girth (of pulse bandwidth), I make up for in S/N. Too bad it wasn’t enough to save my marriage.

do not unplug that fridge

February 13, 2008 at 5:38 pm | | everyday science, hardware

You can tell that someone had an unfortunate day when they opened the fridge and found all their samples ruined:

fridge-sign1.JPG fridge-sign2.JPG fridge-sign3.JPG

Who would unplug a fridge, anyway? Ridiculous. I think it was the people putting a new ventilation system in the room, a few years ago.

(My camera has been broken for the last few months. Now that it’s fixed, I hope to post more photos!)

sonicator rules

June 26, 2007 at 4:13 pm | | everyday science, hardware

I’ve got a question to all the chemists out there: Why can’t I put anything on the bottom of the sonicator bath? It says not to right here:


But we often put stuff directly on the bottom of the bath while the sonicator is on:


I mean, what’s the big deal? Does anyone have a good reason? Could it damage the sample or the sonicator?

The latter would explain why we’ve gone through a baker’s dozen of sonicators in the last six months.

breaking the 200k mark

May 6, 2007 at 10:04 am | | grad life, hardware, news

My 1995 Toyota Tercel broke the 200,000-mile mark this (Sunday) morning while driving in to lab:

before: 199999mi.jpg after: 200000mi.jpg

My little friend has taken me from Portland, ME to Chapel Hill, NC and back many many times. It also made if from Chapel Hill to Palo Alto, CA and back 1.5 times. And it’s still going strong!

faulty new brunswick freezer = fire

May 2, 2007 at 8:55 am | | hardware, lab safety

I received an interesting email yesterday from some of the facilities managers here at Stanford:

On February 26, 2007 we had a small fire originating on one of the circuit boards of the power supply for a New Brunswick -80 freezer…. I was alerted by an automatic alarm system that text messages my cell phone. I responded and put the 3 inch flame out with a spray bottle of water. Had it been on the weekend, the board would have totally burned and possibly spread the flame to surrounding components with disasterous results. That same day I called the New Brusnwick factory and spoke with tech support lead guy … about this incident. I explained New Brunswick should contact all customers who had purchased one of these freezers and replace the power supplies immediately. Obviously they did not. In fact, instead of replacing the entire power supply on our unit, I have subsequently learned they just replaced the board that burned.

After being repaired with a new control board, this same freezer again started acting up this week and yesterday a technician … came out. After inspecting the power supply, he shut the freezer off. He said it again presented a fire hazard and could not be turned on until repaired. The freezer was holding temperature OK – meaning it was not something that was obvious. The only clue was indicator lights on the outside of the freezer saying “low battery” and “low incoming supply voltage”.

Scary. Here are some pics of the control board (post fire) and the nameplate of the freezer model:

closeup-of-burned-component.jpg location-of-burned-board.jpg nameplate.jpg

So check to see if you have one of these freezers and be careful.

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.

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