Category: fun

Fear of the Duck

“Fear of the duck, fear of the duck
I have a constant fear that something’s always near
Fear of the duck, fear of the duck
I have a phobia that someone’s always there”

Finally, after I don’t know how many months of teaching and writing, I’m back!!! Back in the lab.
To celebrate this awesome moment, here some ducks:

During our last course (Nanomedicine) we used a home(lab)-developed micelles for showing the students how a multimodal imaging probe works (fluorescence and MRI contrast agent). Usually for this kind of experiments a “phantom mouse” is used, but we thought that a mouse is kind of boring. What’s better than a duck???
We printed a mold for making small ducks (here on thingverse) and we had quite some fun with agarose ducks:
agarose pdms duck

left an agarose duck, and right a PDMS duck (not really for depth penetration study, but I love PDMS so….)

phantom duck2

Here the dyes injected in the head (red) illuminated by a UV lamp.

phantom duck1

Same duck, this time illuminated by a laser (right).

Then we moved for some MRI experiments… Have you ever seen a 2cm NMR tube?

2cm NMR tube

Well, now you have :) (and a comparison with a standard NMR tube). See how the duck is happy to get a bath in the NMR tube? Now let’s try to measure something…

MRI duck1

This is an MRI of the agarose duck. In white the contrast agent injected in the duck. the black stuff is just air. Nice isn’t it?

MRI duck2

Another duck another MRI. This time without contrast agent (and also without air bubbles inside the agarose…..)

 

But, wait a minute, the students also formed some quantum dots during the course…. Shall we put them in agarose??? Well, why not?

QD = Quantum Ducks:

quantum ducks 1 quantum ducks 2 quantum ducks 3

 

Luckily no students suffered from anatidaephobia, but in any case, if you are afraid of the ducks, you are not alone:

Disclaimer: this blog post and the experiments described herein were not sponsored nor supervised in any way shape or form by @chemjobber. Any resemblance to @chemjobber, living or dead, is purely coincidental. No @chemjobber were harmed during this course.

CoverTime: Robots

How nerd are you? Can you identify the robot in this cover (without googling)?

tripod

 

Did you get it?

This is a cover from a review in ACIE from the group of Ley about machine assisted organic synthesis. I’m a big fan of Ley and all the automatic things and remote control they have in the lab, but we are here for one and only one reason: The cover!

So, which kind of robot they used for the cover?
I’m pretty sure it’s a badass tripod from the war of the worlds.

warofworldsaliens

Now, let’s forget for one moment that the size of the tripod is huuuuuuge, and I guess is not going to fit in the lab, but my main question is: Why picking up an “hostile” robot?
Frankly speaking, the tripod is not such friendly robot one would have around…. True, it has quite a lot of flexible arms that are handy, but still….

And then I was wondering, which robot I would like to have in the lab? And here the topic gets complicated…..

A random decepticon, although they are not friendly, I just love the metallic voice “DECEPTICON” from time to time.

c-3PO is kind of useless, but it’s nice for the fun and the good atmosphere of the lab.

R2-D2 it will be like that non-english speaking labmate that is impossible to understand, but he fixes the HPLC like no one else.

Ash/Bishop, shall I trust him? Is he going to scoop all my research and send it to someone else?

Data, amazing guy, he knows every-fucking-thing. Maybe little bit arrogant and I-know-it-all-guy, but well, he has his reasons.

Number 5, maybe it’s a good choice. Still I don’t like how he moves.

Robocop, booooooring.

Chappie, undergrads for few minutes, PhD in one day and then he will be the best chemist ever.

Terminator, “I’ll be back”, yes but when? Why did you leave all this mess in the lab? Where are you going? No, you cannot just add Sarah Connor as author in the paper.

HAL 9000, come on, please distill some DCM, is not that dangerous.

 

And then I stopped thinking about that, the choice is way too difficult to be solved in one day. And you, which robot would you like to have in the lab?

 

Previous CoverTime: The power of the Metal, 80s vs 90s.

ISMSC 2015 – Strasbourg

Another year, another ISMSC (International Symposium of Macrocyclic and Supramolecular Chemistry). After two years of stop I finally went back to one of my favorite conference, this year in Strasbourg. As always, here you will not find anything scientifically relevant (it was amazing as always), but just some random facts. And no, no video this year (for ISMSC 2012 New Zealand – The Lord of the Posters see here: trailer, part I and part II).

Die Straße en roseIn a city that is half german and half french the only thing you can do is singing Die Straße en rose. The city welcomed us with a temperature that ranged from 35C to 120C, few of us developed gills for breathing in a close to 100% humidity weather, showing an impressive survival skill. Some of us melted away during the conference and come back in water bottles, and the rest of us, the ones with more than 25 fat percentage (like your lovely) started frying. It is kind of weird being in the sun and start hearing the classical frying noise coming from your skin. But the smell of bacon was amazing.

Rue de what?My hotel was in this lovely street. And no, before you ask, I didn’t met any. Historical and geographical fun: there is even a city called Bitche (safe for work link, come on guys, I’m not THAT bad) and the surrounding called Pays de Bitche. Any guess how the inhabitants are called?

fools on paradeThe conference centre, knowing that the chemists were coming, hanged this amazing piece of art in the room. Apparently everyone knows we are fools….. In the drawing you can also see Miley Cyrus and her wrecking ball.

baguette holderPoster tubes have beer around for a while, but only when you are in France you realize they are perfect baguette holder. And when you open the tube and that amazing bread smell is coming out…..

balanced dietDuring the 5 days of conference, I had a very balanced diet consisting of 50% pain au chocolat and 50% macarons. Healthy? I think so, after all it was balanced.

wankers 4 everFound this near the place of the Gala Dinner. Show me some self-love! It is also kind of ironic coming from a street called Rue the Bitche….

food?

Those birds were also walking all over the Gala Dinner place. When, later in the night, they serve you  some meat that seems duck but not quite, then you start wondering…

video posterFor the first time (for me) I had a video poster. Cheap (35€) chinese tablet taped on the poster and video on loop. Et voila’ some fancy microfluidic devices.

microfluidic business card IMG_7343As this year I was presenting some microfluidic devices, I did some microfluidic business card. Few selected people now have this nice microfludic device on their desk (or in a closed drawer, or in that trash can). What? how did I do this? Well you still have to wait few weeks, and keep on eye on the Advanced Science ASAP :)

bombardier Then after 5 days, 3 (or 4) new collaborations, a lot of fun and two kind of massive hangovers, it is time to go back home. With a “bombardier”……

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

American Dad’s chemistry

Yesterday I was watching an old episode of American Dad and part of the story was set in a chemistry class…. Are the writer of American Dad as scientifically good as the one of the Simpsons or Futurama? The episode is the 11×05 “now and Gwen”.

american dad chemistryClassic periodic table but weird molecules poster… And why the hell there is a world globe in a chemistry class????

american dad chemistry

Sexual joke while cleaning the test tube. Pretty accurate I would say :D

american dad chemistry

Quenching a fire with organic solvent…. not a brilliant idea (but I saw it happen once).

american dad chemistry

Uhm… a couple of protons missing?

american dad chemistryApparently they solved it few seconds later. Part of the periodic table is also correct.

Not that much chemistry, but it’s still fun to see chemistry in pop culture :)

 

 

 

 

Videogames and science #2 “Dying Light”

Second post from the series “Videogames and Science”. First one here.

After finishing Far Cry 4 and The Walking Dead Season 2 (no science in both of them) I’m on Dying Light, an amazing free roaming zombie video game from the same people that did Dead Island (another zombie game that I loved). As most of the zombie games you need to do some quest while brutally slaughtering zombies here and there. Without saying that the game is pretty amazing and extremely fun to play let’s see how “science” is depicted in this videogame:

In one of the main quest you will go in a school looking for some “anti zombie drugs”. Here the science class:

IMG_6996

 

Like in “The Last of Us” science is primarily identified as microscopes…. Microscopes, microscopes everywhere… Then we have an Erlenmeyer flask and a huge Bunsen burner. And yes, I’m using a two hands ass-kicking head-removal axe.

IMG_7009Some other stuff: What looks like a separator funnel and a thermostat.

IMG_6999Very important safety flyers all over the room and….

IMG_7003

…. some safety guidelines.

IMG_7016 2

A classic periodic table…. Wait a minute…. Do you notice something weird? Yes, indeed, the colors! What happened to the colors? Which kind of weird periodic table is it? After a little research I discover that this is a wikipedia-made “periodic table by value“. Some programmer at Techland probably remembered that there were colors in the periodic table but didn’t know where….. Wikipedia keeps track of the change of everything, and the exact periodic table that is in the game is the version of July 2012.

IMG_7013Oh, look at that, some properly drawn chemical structures…. Even the reactions are correct…. And in fact they (probably) came from masterorganicchemisry.org. Interestingly, the masterorganichemistry.org article was also written in July 2012. The game was released in 2015…..

IMG_7015

Another (almost) well drawn chemical structure (there is a H missing on that nitrogen). But what’s that? Caffeine? Theobromine? I would have expected a caffeine molecule, but it is not. That molecule is a theophylline…. Now, someone badly drawn the caffeine molecule or was drawn on purpose? No one knows……

IMG_7018

 

The Pi, down to I don’t know which decimal…..

IMG_7022And last but not the least…. The Sierpinski triangle…. Almost in perfect time with the amazing Nature Chemistry paper on molecular Sierpinski assembly.

 

For now that’s all, I think I’ll need another 20/30h for finishing the game, so, see you with the next game (probably Bloodborne or The Witcher III) if there will be some science inside.

 

#AcademicAprilFools

First try of twitter in real time for a good cause….. AcademicAprilFools:

 

CoverTime: The power of Metal

nanoscale

One of the most “metal” cover I’ve ever seen is coming from a Chinese group: Gong’s publication on ZnO “nanopencil” featured the cover of Nanoscale. Let’s forget for one moment about the nano-whatever word and focus on the beauty of the cover: Two metal missiles flying under a heavy storm.

Two songs come up in my mind watching this cover:

 

and I can only imagine the group working on this, singing along this song in the lab after getting the cover published:

“Brothers of metal
We are fighting with power and steel
Fighting for metal that’s all that’s real
Brothers of metal will always be there
Standing together with hands in the air”

 

 

15 reasons why NOT to date a chemist

il_340x270.654173348_pfox

Early this week I was reading this “dating advice” on 15 reasons why to date a chemist. Although most of their points are quite good there is always the other side of the coin…. So… 15 reasons why NOT to date a chemist:

1) We may be smelly. We are daily working with thiols, amines, tosyl chloride and so on and so on. We get used to the bad smell in few hours and we don’t care anymore. But the stink of amines stick on you for days giving you that “did you use cat’s pee as cologne” distinct smell.

2) We work 24/7/365. Even when we are not in the lab we are usually thinking about something chemistry related. We may seems interested in what you are telling us, but in all honesty, we are just thinking “maybe I should use less equivalents of X in my reaction”

3) We are stubborn. This sometimes is a good point, but most of the time it is not. We may spend days in trying to figure out why the dishwasher is not working. “Shall I call the technician?” – “No f. way, I’m on it, I have a PhD in chemistry I can do this”. It may take more than one month before calling the technician….

4) We are not big fan of chitchatting. Human relationship are not our favorite thing. If you want to talk about what someone did and why he/she acted in that way it’s kind of meaningless for us. Do you have data, proof, strong evidence of something, can you reproduce it? If yes, then we can analyze that, otherwise it’s just philosophy.

5) We have an analytical mind. We analyze the problem, dissect it into smaller problems and then we solve it. You may not like the solution, but trust us, most of times that’s the best solution.

6) We cannot stand non-scientifically educated person. In a party your best friend is “enlightening” other people on how toxic aspartame is and you see in our eyes the fire of “oh, for Finkelstein sake I’m going to destroy him/her”. Your significant other already told you million times to let it go, but it’s stronger than us bashing someone with some good chemistry.

7) We always have deadlines. Always. Now for a paper, now for a grant. Please do not disturb, I’m trying to write.

8) We are really picky on Tv shows. In CSI someone is storing a pipette upside down? Funk that show, I’ll never watch it again and I’m sending them a two pages long explanation on how to proper use a pipette.

9) We want acetone. Waiting for glasses to be dry is unacceptable, give me some acetone and I’ll take care of them.

10) We may be extremely annoying in the kitchen. “What are you doing? Did you put the steak before the pan was hot??? NOOOOOOOOOOO, for the sake of Maillard, why are you doing this to me? whyyyyyyy?”.

11) Sometimes we can lose a lot of time at the TSA in the airport. It may take a while to explain your research and why the residues on your computer triggered their alarm.

12) We have tons of chemistry books and printed literature around the house.

14) We are superstitious. We don’t believe in that, but if it works….. Having a green cap for your NMR tube is a good sign. Using balloons of different colors for different reaction because it worked with that specific color of ballon. Never change it!!!!

15) We know how to make drugs, bombs and how to kill you with thousand different chemicals.

 

This list is mainly for organic chemist (that’s because of my background), it may not apply to computational or physical chemists.
So, how many of you I pissed off with this list? Do you think I’m wrong?
Be honest with yourself and you will see that at least half of the points can be easily applied to yourself.

 

CoverTime: 80s vs 90s

Let’s start a new category: It’s CoverTime!!!

The first topic of this category is ’80s versus ’90s……

He-Man was a chemistIn the beautiful cover for the last issue of ChemElectroChem the Spanish group headed by Ibon Odriozola decided to use He-Man (aka Violoman) as a powerful chemist. In the ’80s favorite cartoon Skeleton this time become Skelectrode. Kudos for the use of comic sans, this so many time abused font, here is used properly. What else should I say? FOR THE POWER OF GREYSKULL!!!!!!
I can see a small tear in your eye, chemists born in the ’80s…. Here you go: watch the trailer of the awful movie “Master of the Universe”:

Naturally all of you know that Dolph has a master degree in chemical engineering…..

 

Second cover of the day, and this time for the chemists born in the ’90s:

PoCheMon ChemistryThis cover of Chemistry A European Journal was designed by an Italian group headed by  Marcella Bonchio. Why using a poké ball for a chemistry cover? That’s because you didn’t know that pokemon is the acronym of POlyoxometalate CHEmistry for Molecular Nanoscience. How genius? Funny things is that there are waaaaay more than only 151 polyoxometalate…. Gotta catch’em all!!!!

As I’ve used a video for the ’80s I should use one for the ’90s as well….

and I’ll leave you with this image:

Pka

since now on, you will never manage to say pKa without thinking of Pika Pika Pilachu… You’re welcome :D

 

#AcademicValentines

Few of my favorite:

 

Me and my thermal camera

Recently I’m working on some hot hot hot reaction and I needed something fast to monitor the heat, what better excuse to buy another toy??? I’ve got a seek thermal camera for my iphone (http://thermal.com/see_the_unseen.html), pretty cheap and extremely simple to use.

Now the main question: is it working?

I should say, I’m pretty impressed by it. For its price is quite amazing (again, I’m not getting paid by them :) )

Pictures pictures pictures:

RotovapA beautiful rotavap, you can clearly recognize the bath, the hot pump and the cold parts for the collection of the solvents.

Fumehood thermal cameraMost important things in a fumehood, a reaction refluxing, a 5L DCM (the handle is warm as someone was using it) and a packing silica column.

officeBack in the office with my macbook, still the heat from my arms and a freshly laser printed papers on the left. This is probably the meaning of “hot papers”….

Hot flaskOne of the first lesson that you lear when you enter in a lab is that a cold flask looks the same as a hot flask. Not anymore!!! You can also see the heat transfer where the flasks touch.

Oh, and I almost forget…. You can make video as well :)

Is your heating plate working?

Or you can make beautiful drawing with acetone and then wait for the evaporation:

Or maybe you just want to drop a pellet of NaOH in concentrated HCl…..

At the end of the day the seek thermal camera is an extremely nice toy to have in the lab. Hopefully sooner or later you will also see the use in one of my future paper :)

 

How to deal with Lab Thieves

rol_bbassotti

Disclaimer: this is (as most of the case on this blog) a funny, non-serious post. DO NOT do the following things in your lab!

 

You are ready to set up a reaction, open the flask drawer and…. Nothing… All the 50 mL flasks that you cleaned yesterday are gone. All. Of. Them. All the NMR tubes are gone as well and your freshly distilled DCM is half of what it was this morning. There is a white layer of crap in your separator funnel.
Who you gonna call???
No, the guilty person was not a ghost nor a parallel universe. You have been touched by the infamous glory of Lab Thieves.

This category of people is widely spread in the university labs all over the world.
They are among us!

Those are few tips and tricks on how to deal with Lab Thieves:

1 – First-Aid reaction set-up. Always store the bare necessity glassware for setting up a reaction in your backpack. 50mL Flask, stirring bar, a couple of hamilton syringes and a stopper. In this way, no matter where you are, you will be always ready for starting a reaction on-fly. Just remember to put it out from your backpack when you travel around. TSA people are usually not that happy when they discover that you are a chemist.

2 – To clean or not to clean. DO NOT WASH your glassware. NEVER! Lab Thieves are well-known to steal only clean glassware. Recent studies have shown that a group of Lab Thieves were extremely confused when in a room with only dirty glassware. After a short while they just left the room in search of freshly cleaned glassware.

3 – Fight back. Intentionally contaminate some clean glassware with something sticky but colorless. A drop of silicone oil is usually enough. Do the same trick with some NMR tube as well. Just remember which ones are the contaminated and which ones are not. When during a group meeting someone is showing an NMR spectra with a huge peaks around 0-1 ppm then you are allowed to stand up and scream at them “GOTCHA!!”. Then  challenge them to a spatula duel to the death or whatever other duel you use in your lab for solving controversies.

4 – It’s a liquid problem. It’s not a big deal that “someone” is using the solvents in your fumehood, but still, it’s pretty annoying to pour fresh solvents in your 250 mL bottles every hour. The secret here is in the labels. Randomly change the labels on your bottles, but remember the labeling system you used….  Or use a secret code for each solvent…
Water = That’s not water
EtOH = Water of life
CHCl3 = Liquid goodnight
Acetone = Napalm
Et2O = Magic Dreams
Cyclohexane = I’m on a boat
And so on……  Now just sit and watch the Lab Thieves sweating in panic like Indiana when he has to choose the right Holy Grail (not so subtle citation).

5 – Lock and Key. Lock, lock and lock everything you can. Be the keymaster of Gozer (little bit more subtle citation). Do not forget the keys at home.

6 – Dye, Lab Thief, Dye (another subtle citation). Use few dye packs in some of your drawer, better if bluetooth connected on your phone. They will not explode only if your cellphone is in proximity. Then walk around the department looking for pink colored people.

7 – Hello I’m X and I am a Lab Thief. Talk with them, show them that there is still a possibility for them to be accepted in the society. They can redeem themselves. Teach them how to clean their glassware. Show them the LTAA (Lab Thief Anonymous Association). Give them hope. Bring them to the bright side of the lab. It will take some time, probably years, but day after day they will clean their own glassware and they will stop to be Lab Thieves…….
Now you can finally go and steal their freshly cleaned glassware….

#ExplainScienceBadly

twitter_bird_dead.jpg

Another glorious day on twitter….

The PhD Tao

Unknown

That’s an amazing guest post from my labmate Rui Carvalho (@rkramska). The Tao of a PhD:

“The further one goes, the less one knows.” 
 
Lao Tzu – Tao Te Ching – 4th year PhD

“When nothing is done, nothing is left undone.” 

Lao Tzu – Tao Te Ching – Speaking of lab work

“Do your work, then step back. The only path to serenity.”
Lao Tzu – Tao Te Ching – During coffee break

“Take care with the end as you do with the beginning.” 

Lao Tzu – Tao Te Ching – While writing a paper

“Water is fluid, soft, and yielding. But water will wear away rock, which is rigid and cannot yield. As a rule, whatever is fluid, soft, and yielding will overcome whatever is rigid and hard. This is another paradox: what is soft is strong.” 

Lao Tzu – Tao Te Ching – When reology results do not make sense

“Our enemies are not demons, but human beings like ourselves” 

Lao Tzu – Tao Te Ching – Speaking of referees

“If you search everywhere, yet cannot find what you are seeking, it is because what you seek is already in your possession.”
Lao Tzu – Tao Te Ching – Before figuring out how to use the chemicals list

“Stop thinking and end your problems.”
 Lao Tzu – Tao Te Ching – On a Friday evening

“A beaker is only as useful as the emptiness inside it, very much so like my thesis.”
 Lao Tzu – Tao Te Ching – Talking about his thesis

Go the f*ck to work

Unknown

Happy new academic year to all of you!!! May this year be full of 50 hours days and even less holidays than the year before, bless referee number 3 for his great comments and so on and so on…

It’s hard to get back to work, I know, I know…. For this reason, here a chemistry version of “go the f*ck to sleep” (and the youtube version read by Samuel L Jackson). Enjoy, and feel free to print it and give it to whomever you want:

 

The birds sings loudly on the threes,
The sun is already high in the sky,

You are cozy and warm in your bed, my dear.

Please go the fuck to work.

The windows are dark in the microscopy room,
The pumps are down to one millibar,
I’ll buy you a coffee if you swear
You’ll go the fuck to work.

The reflux went off and the reaction is almost dry,
The oil bath is on and the solid in the flask is black by now,
I know you’re not on your way.
That’s bullshit. Stop lying. Wake up, my darling,
and get your ass in the lab.


The condenser crashed and the lab is flooded,
Safety inspector whistling while looking around,
It’s been thirty-eight minutes already.
Sweet Berzelius, what the fuck? Go to work.

All the undergrads are at the fumehoods,
The postdoc is head-banging the NMR
Hell no, you can’t stop to the supermarket
You know where you can go? The fuck to work

!
It’s noon already, people are eating lunch,
and the seminar is going to start soon,
The hot, crimson rage fills my heart, love,
For real: shut the fuck up and work.

The bench is full of dirty old test tubes,
wrapped in used gloves and stained TLCs,
How come you can do all this other great shit
But you can’t get the fuck here and work?


The reaction is stirring since months now,
And the glass stopper will never get out again.
No more questions, this interview’s over.
I’ve got two words for you, kid: fucking work.

The new order for you has arrived,
Five boxes of 10 kilos to organize,
Sure, fine, whatever, I’ll move them for you.
Who the fuck cares? You’re not gonna work.


Bleary and dazed I enter the lab
To find you in your labcoat
My finger crossed tight as i tip-top away
And pray that you’re fucking working.

You’re finally there, doing a column.
Phone ring in your pocket with a facebook message “beep!”
Oh shit, goddamn it, you’ve got to be kidding.
Go the fuck back to work!

Summer 2014

Summer

 

P.S. as I’m enjoying a lazy “holiday” in the lab I’m not going to write anything here. Luckily for you Matthew (@MCeep) wrote a nice post about researcher holidays. If you are not that lazy to read it, you can find it on his blog.

The Feng-Shui Lab

Bagua map octagon

Planning to renew your lab? New space to fill? New instrument to set-up? 

Did you think about the energy flow of the lab? No? Then do not complain if the phds are fighting each other, the rotavap is not working and the dry solvents are 20% water. The only real solution is to set-up the lab using the ancient Feng-Shui philosophy…

North, water: rotavap, water distillation, refluxes (pay attention that the fire should be in the south, so the oil bath should be in the south and connected with an unimaginable sets of tubing to the condenser in the north part of the lab), ice baths, cold fingers and so on. The water is your life path, put an old picture of you on the first year of university, and start crying.

Northeast, earth: Put here your collection of alkaline earth metal ions. Put here also the instrument that only you in the whole department know how to use and show your skills.

East, wood: Chromatography paper, cotton, white papers and whatever generated by a well destroyed and processed woods. Family? What?

Southeast, wood: Prosperity and abundance of dirty glassware to wash.

South, fire: Oil baths, metal baths, heat guns, ovens, and why not, an always burning bunsen…. Organic chemists love to have open flame in the lab. It keeps them always in the edge.

Southwest, wood: Again? there is wood everywhere. It seems to be in an old 1970’s lab. Southwest is also about love, put here the tiny and clean 5mL flask that you are hiding from the rest of the lab.  

West, metal: It goes without saying, collection of transition metal. No children in the lab.

Northwest, metal: This is pretty close to north/water, so i would put all the alkali metals you have, just for adding a little bit of spices. Apparently you should also store helpful people here. There may me not that many around, so keep the few of them always locked in the northwest part of your lab.

 

Easy isn’t it? If you find it too complicated you can also use the standard lab arrangement: North=Northeast=East=South=Southwest=West=Northwest= MESS, MESS and more MESS. Southeast = few cubic centimeters for doing a column.