the great ass probe of surface chemistry

August 10, 2007 at 9:58 am | | great finds, literature, wild web

OK, my labmate showed me a paper that tops the Balls and Wood one I posted yesterday.

Optical second harmonic generation as a probe of surface chemistry
Robert M. Corn and Daniel A. Higgins
Chem. Rev. 1994, 94(1), 107-125.

But look at the title given on Web of Science:


Awesome. And look how many times it’s been cited!

I doubt anyone can top that.

watching over the lab

June 5, 2007 at 1:18 pm | | everyday science, grad life, great finds, lab safety, nerd

There has been a wave of thefts in the physics buildings on campus—losers stealing lab equipment—so we decided to have someone watch over our labs all night and day:


He startles us often. But he’s the hardest working grad student!

great boxes in chemistry

March 17, 2007 at 4:17 pm | | everyday science, great finds, hardware

I get excited when I find convenient containers usable in the lab. For instance, I loooove the boxes that new optical filters come in (e.g. from Chroma). They are sturdy and have little metal closing tabs you can bend over to keep the box closed. Perfect for storing, well, anything!


I hoard these.

Second place for the coolest-boxes-in-the-lab goes to the ThorLabs “Lab Snacks” box. First, you get snacks, then you have a nice little closable box that you can store samples or small parts in:


Probably the most available (and the most used) box in our lab is the pipet-tip box. They’re great for secondary containment for sample vials and for segregating samples. I use them all the time:


In fact, we hardly ever throw any away, which is why we have this pile:


Maybe I should take a trip to the recycling center someday soon, before it gets any more trouble-with-tribbles in here!

OK, so what are your favorite boxes?

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

another spam—quick, call 911

October 25, 2006 at 4:45 pm | | great finds, science and the public, wild web

I was in my home town (Falmouth, Maine) for a few days for a cousin’s wedding. I always read the Police Beat in the local paper. Very funny. This one might top the time some old lady called the police because there was a tennis ball in her yard.


My nerd-factor goes to 11!

October 12, 2006 at 10:45 am | | great finds, hardware, nerd

Hey hey hey, do you know what Saturday is? Its electronics flea-market day! I plan to check out this fine event at De Anza community college. Interested? come along.

In other news, I just got an ELENCO ANALOG-DIGITAL TRAINER XK-550 from eBay for a song. Finally I can learn some neat-o PIC programming and start working on my next Burning Man project(s). Look ma, no flip-flops.


Time permitting, I’ll be throwing out schematics for my latest and greatest circuit ditties occasionally for the masses

flory surplus

September 26, 2006 at 6:05 pm | | great finds, hardware

I think that it’s super cool whenever I find some old piece of equipment floating around the lab from labs past. Here’s a perfect example: a PMT or something from Paul Flory‘s lab.


Who knows how we got this: W.E. didn’t even arrive at Stanford until more than 10 years after Flory died. I suppose I could ask W.E. the story, but I’d rather just assume that it involved a lot of sex and espionage a la James Bond.

big duct tape

September 25, 2006 at 6:40 pm | | great finds, hardware

OK, this warrants a new category: great finds. Look at the size of this roll of duct tape I found in lab:


If regular duct tape is the most useful tool in lab and in life, then this roll is doubly useful! But actually, I can’t really think of many uses for duct tape that wide: it’s hard to handle and regular duct tape can do just about everything this roll can do.

Oh, wait! I just thought of a great purpose:


Hmmhm, hmm hmhm hmmm hmmh mmm …

electronics flea market

September 23, 2006 at 10:40 pm | | great finds, hardware, nerd, stupid technology

Sorry I haven’t written lately: I was busy at the ACS meeting, then I was the opposite on a nice vacation.

Recently, my lab took a field trip to the local electronics flea market (William joined us, and can add his own comments). It was really a blast, especially if you’re this guy:


Mostly, the stuff for sale was real junk:


but there were some good finds. W.E. bought a “broken” green laser pointer for $15, and “fixed” it by flipping the batteries to be in the correct orientation. I found a great pair of magnifying eyeglasses, which didn’t even need tape:


and William bought at decelerometer for a dollar:


So, you know, it was worth the trip.


July 19, 2006 at 2:44 pm | | great finds, hardware, nerd

I found a great calculator in lab today. I actually think it was from the old Pecora lab, because we took a few of their rooms. It’s a TI-1250, circa 1975. Wow!

Figure 1. A TI-1250, not a calculator from the future.

At first, I thought it was a calculator from the future: I have a new calculator, and it’s only the TI-89. But it quickly became apparent that this was an older piece of scientific equipment. You can’t tell from the picture above, but the screen is on. You can only read the display at very precise angles and the whole screen flashes every time you press a button. It has an AC adapter, so you have to be plugged into the wall if you don’t have a 9-volt battery.

The best part is on the back, where it tells you how to do math:

Figure 2. What’s the point of the calculator when they print all the answers right on the back?

And look how thick this monster is!

Figure 3. Is that a TI-1250 in your pocket? Unlikely.

Note the on-off switch on the side. I just find that amusing. Plus, check out this website, where some guy with access to an X-ray machine shows us the insides of one of these beasts.

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