Photojournalism Tour

August 12, 2010 at 1:25 am | | everyday science, grad life, lab safety

These photos are from anonymous labs:

Like working at the MMS.

A monument to Thorlabs.

Money well spent.

Laser safety.

Inappropriate Labware

May 31, 2010 at 9:38 pm | | hardware, science and the public

We have these Al bases floating all over the place.  I guess when Stanford sanitized their mascot, we never got around to PCing our opto-mechanics.

Energy and Fuels RSS

April 1, 2010 at 6:41 pm | | literature

Apparently, if you believe the Google (or is it Topeka?) statistics, I’m the only person who reads the RSS of Energy and Fuels on Google Reader.  As opposed to the 364 of you currently reading this on Google Reader.

New Rule

February 6, 2010 at 2:10 am | | conferences, literature

Ubiquitous subjects are ubiquitous in chemistry.  If a compound, protein, reaction, etc. really is ubiquitous, then it is likely widespread enough that you don’t have to inform everyone of its ubiquity.

Murphy’s Law of Water Titrametrics

January 17, 2010 at 5:47 pm | | grad life

It will ALWAYS be raining whenever you need to do Karl-Fischer titration in another building.


El Nino sucks.

Hg Thermometry

November 24, 2009 at 1:01 am | | hardware, stupid technology

In keeping with green traditions, we’re required to trade out Hg containing thermometers.  For those cases where no equivalent alcohol thermometers exist, they supply Hg thermometers that are encased in Teflon.  One of those thermometers was my baby, a 1/2 degree with a ground glass joint that goes with my favourite distillation head, range 0 to 400C.  Except that Teflon melts at ~325C.  I discovered this fact when the teflon melted off the thermometer and into my rb during a distillation.  FMC (Fail My Chemistry).

Pew Pew Pew Pew

July 8, 2009 at 4:54 pm | | crazy figure contest, literature


What the hell is happening here?  It looks like some sort of epic space battle against ghosts.

An Electromagnetic Sex Change, Metamaterial Voyeurism, and the Cup that is a Spoon

June 22, 2009 at 6:55 pm | | crazy figure contest, literature

I haven’t had this much fun with a paper in a while.  Hot off the RSS press from PRL is the absolute gem:  Illusion Optics: The Optical Transformation of an Object into Another Object.  A number of things caught my attention in this one.  Their first application of their metamaterial image transformation is a feat of gender illusion.


Anyone who has spent one night in Bangkok (Choose your own adventure!  The semi NSFW Youtube here, or some boring lyrics here) knows this can be accomplished with far lesser means than metamaterials, but kudos.  Personally, I’ll stick with beer goggles.  Their next trick involves what I can imagine will be the next great party prank, turning a spoon (in this case what appears to be a 1um spoon) into the illusion of a cup.

Next is rendering a “virtual” hole in a wall.  You simply slap their mystical illusion device on the wall (you’ll love this Sam, all the details of what exactly such a device entails, aka the entire basis of the paper, are piled in the supporting materials), and you can look through the virtual hole like it was an actual hole.  I call the device of my own invention that can accomplish this a window(TM), but let’s not argue over semantics of fenestration.  Porky’s would be proud.

Even more ridiculous, they argue that one can even see into a closed container by simply turning on their device and projecting the illusion of free space where the container should be.  Which would totally work, except for this little thing called absorption.  So if you decide to hide 8-balls of Coke in a Mylar balloon, you’re totally screwed.  And an idiot.

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

Snuggie Scientific

April 24, 2009 at 8:53 am | | hardware, stupid technology, wild web

Want to not die while working in the lab?  Lab coats are okay, but they don’t show off your awesome ass.  And the second you need to reach for something, you catch on fire.  But now there’s the Snuggie Scientific, from the makers of Snuggie.  It’s a blanket and a PPE.

Now you can titrate without feeling cold.  Run a column and feel slightly less cold.  Check the New York Times and feel slightly less cold.  Make coffee.  Drink coffee, all without ever having to feel the icy pinch of 72 degrees.

Made from space age materials that are totally not soluble in every single liquid you handle, the Snuggie Scientific lets you work alone without ever being alone.  And that’s why I wear one too.


So that’s how you make a laser work

March 19, 2009 at 5:25 pm | | scientific integrity, wild web



This image is from a Wired! article on a 100kW mobile laser defense system that was recently tested.  I guess they’re planning on just airbrushing out the warheads faster than the Iranians can photoshop them in.

Meet Data

January 21, 2009 at 4:36 pm | | grad life

My wife and I recently adopted this little guy.  Originally my wife was shopping scientist names for him, but I’ve always thought that was a little too cliche.  Were it up to me, he’d be named Yossarian, but you’re supposed to go 2 syllables.  After hitting all the obvious candidates, we had reach a soft agreement on “Fermi,” since I’ve always wanted a white cat named Fermi.  And about $3.50.


It was about that time I realized the Fermi idea originated from the eminent Lt. Commander Data’s own cat Fermi, at which point the choice of naming was clear.  They’re both pale white, frequently cock their heads and stare blankly, and I can only imagine an android also relieves himself in postures a contortionist would find impossible to achieve.


While formally named after the TNG character, our choice of alias also satisfied an ulteriour motive.  In the incidence where I get caught going home early, I can confidently tell my boss, “Don’t worry, I’m going home to play with my Data.”

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?

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.

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