Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The dumbest thing I ever did in the lab, #642

Gather around and listen to a little story about Uncle CJ and his days in grad school:
Picture this, Sicily! 1932! So there we were in the lab and there was this summer student. Super smart, not super experienced and she's trying to get a reaction to work. It used to work, it works with the grad student she works with and now, of course, it's not working. She's close to tears, sad that she's going to disappoint her out-of-town grad student mentor (who's really nice and wouldn't be too disappointed, let's be clear) and is generally frustrated at her sudden Sidam touch.

So my buddy and I were listening to her sadness and one of us hit on a way of putting a smile on this undergrad's face. One of us squirts a healthy bit of acetone on the lab floor, the other lights it on fire with a spark striker. We then squirt circles of flaming acetone with the squirt bottle and sing "Ring of Fire". Instant happy summer student, no tears. 
Look, kids, DO NOT GO AND DO THIS. IT WAS DUMB. It could have ended in tragedy, with the squirt bottle holder seriously injured.

Lesson: a grad student will do anything, anything to avoid tears from their subordinates.

9 comments:

  1. Replace "grad student" with "man" and "their subordinates" with "women" and I think the statement is even truthier.

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  2. CJ: Okay, I'm man enough to admit that I watched "The Golden Girls"...hey, Betty White was "da Bomb" and Estelle Getty was hilarious as Sophia. Anyway, back in my grad research group the most common pranks involved dry-ice-Eppendorf bombs and ammonium triiodide traps.

    FYI: In a non-joking situation, my labmate discovered that silicone oil will burn if it gets hot enough!

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  3. Yes silicone oil will burn, and "hot enough" becomes less hot as the oil ages due to chain breaks and consequent increased vapor pressure.

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  4. I would give he a hug especially if she was bright and good-looking. Otherwise, a better flame is easily made in a crystallization dish with little methanol, with few spoons of solid boric acid and lithium chloride added - beautiful green and purple transitions above the the methanol burning with nearly invisible flame - it looks just like Aurora Boreais

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  5. Yes! The methanol-borate combo does look quite pretty. I also used to love the glycerol-potassium permanganate raging fire.

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  6. I will admit to my fair share of chemical fun to lighten the mood in lab. One of my favorites was the crushed dry ice in a tied-off latex glove (looks like a cow udder), then there's the fact that a glove can be used like a slingshot to fire small projectiles (like vials).

    We may have also "tested" flammability of organometallics on Kimwipes in the back of the hood. STUPID STUPID.....don't try at home (or work), kids!

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  7. benzene with a dash of os(viii) burns as a nice green color. not something i enjoyed putting out

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  8. Back when I used to still smoke, it was routine to light my cig with a little bit of acetone squirted onto a sparker. Stupid, but for smoking I suppose.

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  9. I had a few grams of old 9-BBN spontaneously combust on me once, trusting H.C. Brown's comments on its bench stability. Beautiful green flames.

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