Category: relax

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….


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”……










For a fistful of pics

Lately I’m quite busy and I didn’t manage to update the blog as much as I would like….

So here some random pics (I use some of them for talks), some original, some downloaded from the magic place called the internet:

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:



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….


…. some safety guidelines.

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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 Interestingly, the article was also written in July 2012. The game was released in 2015…..


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……



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.


15 reasons why NOT to date a chemist


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.


Holidays 2014

Another year wandering in the lab is finished. Have great holidays, eat like no one business, drink till you get great ideas and have a lot of fun. A lot of referees are waiting for your papers in 2015…..



And naturally thank to all of you, also this year we managed to get >100.000 visits. See you next year folks.



And remember that the competition is still open. So far we have 2 winners, and I’m waiting for the 3rd one….. hurry up…….

The PhD Tao


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

Don’t put it in your mouth

I’m not going to lie to you: Helix is a bad show. 

Scientists mixing up DNA, RNA and proteins without any elementary knowledge of the subject, bright field microscope used for imaging nanometric viruses, cowboy pipetting and so on. I mean, it’s quite funny if you watch it with the proper spirit. I would recommend it to anybody with an elementary biology knowledge, you will have great time watching it.

Anyway, for some series I have a kind of Stockholm syndrome so I watched it till the end, like I did with Lost, how I met your mother and (unfortunately) I’m still watching the walking dead.

Here just a couple of frame shots (I could have written a book on how many things were wrong in the series):


I think the capture should be something like:
Girl: I have a terrible headache
Boss: It’s maybe because you are spreading your glove all over your face?  

Now, the boss is in front of her, do you think he is going to say something about using her glove like a napkin? Not at all, not at all my friends. Here is what he did:


Boss: don’t touch your face with your gloves, it’s not enough. Here, let me spread my glove on your face as well. Here you go, you welcome.

Just in the same episode:


The blue thing you see in the spraying gun is not paint, no, is not even some fancy coating. It’s a cryogenic liquid….. Most probably nitrogen… 


Please watch it, there are so many pearls in it that it’s difficult for me writing them all (one of the character even say “I’m your father”)

And remember to use the gloves properly:

how to put them:


and once you have them remember to not touch your face, and don’t put it in your mouth:


no idea…

More than two weeks without any new blogpost….. Sorry but I’m kind of busy (and in holiday this week).

so….. May the DART Vader be with you, and see you soon with more amazing adventures from a chemistry lab….

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Finally your non-gmo salt

Salt Himalayan Pink Gourmet FDA No Chemicals Non-gmo Organic Halall Kosher Fine Grind (.5mm)



This non-gmo salt have been recently rediscovered (read Twitter). I love sarcasm so, my favorite part of the whole story are the comments.
Please enjoy the fine selection of (hopefully) sarcastic comments: 


“I was in the market for an organic salt such as sodium tosylate or pyridinium chloride in order to complete my evil science experiments to disprove the Gaia hypothesis. When I saw this product, I nearly jumped for joy! I thought it was a bit weird that the sellers don’t specify which organic salt they’re selling, but I figured it was a sort of grab-bag or mystery box-type deal. When my product arrived, the first thing I did was to get an IR spectrum to see which organic salt I had received. My smile quickly turned upside down as I saw that there was not a single peak in my spectrum! After several more failed IR’s I performed a crude analysis with my tongue which confirmed that this product is actually sodium chloride, AN INORGANIC SALT! And these sellers have the gall to label their product “organic”? This is a clear case of false advertising. WOULD NOT BUY AGAIN.


“this just tastes so much better than the stuff made by the evil scientists who have managed to make salt into something living only to kill and torture it, then genetically modify the DNA they put into it.I heard that in some salts they even used STEM cell DNA from aborted fetuses, then modified that so that it only feels pain and excretes chemicals such as mercury and the stuff they put in chemtrails – you know, the stuff they use to control you into buying the evil GM stuff that will kill you slowly and painfully or whatever the hell chemtrails are meant to do to you.I’m sure that buying this pink salt will ward off spirits and those lizard people that David Icke warned us about (lizards hate salt but not the salt that the evil scientists make – they also genetically modify it to be safe to lizard people so when they do take over the planet we will have no defenses) I for one will be buying this in bulk and keeping it in my bunker so that when the end of the world does come I will be well prepared!”


“For too long, godless agronomists have harvested their Haram, Non-Kosher salt from a bland albino monoculture, pumped full of artificial sodium hormones and spliced with chloride transgenes. But now there’s No-Chemicals Non-GMO Organic Halal Kosher Gourmet Himalayan Pink Salt! It’s the perfect garnish for my Margarita made with All-Natural Unpasteurized Non-Homogenized Andean Tequila and Sustainably-Raised Free-Range Jhatka Aleutian Lime Juice.”


“I was super-enthusiastic to finally discover a salt that has not been genetically modified by Monsatan. It’s seems that Monsatan is everywhere, modifying genes in places I didn’t even know they existed! It is a relief to be able to cook my favorite Kosher meals without the worry of growing gigantic tumors all over my body.”


“We need to get off our salt dependency people! It’s made with sodium chloride (NaCl) and, when mixed with dihydrogen monoxide (used in commercial farming) creates a substance that is now polluting the oceans! Every dead ocean creature ever found has had traces of these two dangerous compounds.
I recommend only eating sticks you find on the ground.”

“I was really excited to finally find salt without chemicals, but when I took it to my lab and ran it through the AAS, I was dismayed to find it contained sodium, chlorine, and many other scary elements. Chlorine was used to kill many people during WWI. I certainly don’t want it in my food! If you want no chemical salt, look elsewhere!”

“It is pinker than the average salt. Pink is pretty. Pretty is good.
You may be able to source other salts which are equally kosher, halal and devoid of genetic manipulation, and equally full of sodium and chlorine. But do they have a delightful hint of pink? No? Well, this is clearly a prettier and hence superior product.”

“I used to work in the Himalayan Salt Mine recruiting center. Basically there was a squadron of us that yearly would demand the first born children from the locals and sent them to work in the mines. The “pink” color is the blood stains from those that resisted us. So, no GMO’s, just the blood of the rebels that resisted us! Viva La Himalayan Pink Salt!”

“I only buy single-sourced, free-range salt. This salt reeks of cruelty – it has probably never seen life outside the cramped salt coops.”

“As a Nepali citizen, I sincerely apologize for the confusion I have created. What’s being sold is not salt but frozen urine from my last hike to the Mt. Everest basecamp. So sorry.
P.S. I can ship you more ‘salt’ if you agree to pay via paypal. K thx bye.”

“I really love this. From eating it, to filling my salt box. It’s sexy and you know it. SAY TO TO GMO!”

Naturally if you still want to buy it, here it is:
or you can join the Facebook group and start fighting this damn GMO-SALT!!!!  
Even better is probably the carbon-free sugar….. 


Remember to clean your fumehood before going in holiday……




And (as you can see in the second picture) remember to leave a reaction for the new year, a token for the Gods of Chemistry.

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Happy holidays to all of you.

My top something papers of 2013

Web  Library  image

What are the top ten papers that you read this year? @JessTheChemist on her blog started this nice topic, followed by @KarlDcollins here and now I guess it’s my turn.

Before going on, maybe it’s nice also to check the top 100 papers according to altmetrics of 2013 (so, the most discussed on the web).

I changed field in July so most of the time I was reading the last 20 years of relevant literature that I was missing. Moreover I like to read quite a lot of different papers, If you think I’m mono thematic then probably you will be disappointed by this list.

and let’s go (as always not in any particular order):

1- Ultrastable silver nanoparticles. Pretty impressive paper on silver nanoparticles (or maybe better, clusters). Amazing monodispersity, fixed number of silver atoms and capping molecules. The TOC with 140g of dried silver nanoparticles is a joy for the eyes. Maybe I have some remarks on the word “Ultrastable”. How can something be more stable that stable? Are they better than superstable nanoparticles? What’s next? Fworld-Stable nanoparticles? Maybe it’s only my english…  Bad point is that so far we didn’t managed to repeat the synthesis, but who is working on the field know how difficult is sometime repeating the formation of nanoparticles….

2- Tactile perception limit. If you think that your finger can detect only surfaces with millimeter patterns, well, think it again. This paper shows that your finger can detect the differences in surfaces with micron size features. Please avoid any sexual jokes about fingers and micron-sized things. 

3- Devices and 3D printers. Using your cellphone as microscope for single nanoparticle detection, single molecules counting or albumine test in urine. How cool is that? I would say as cool as printing and modifying new materials or your own microfluidic reactors. This review on nano materials for breath test is also a nice reading.

4- Is it difficult to grow long carbon nanotubes? Fei Wei doesn’t think so as his team managed to grow half meter carbon nanotubes. And what about controlling the movement and the assembly of nano-objects? Edo Waks and coworkers proved that it is doable using flow control.

5- Passing information from DNA to another set of molecules without even using an enzyme? Doable.

6- And more or less on the same topic, how to synthesize a specific sequence of aminoacids without using an enzyme? Using the “robosome” of course. 

7- Editorials, perspectives, comments and so on: The “All you can tweet” editorial on Nature Chemistry is pure gold. Can natural products and material chemists talk to each other, I mean without weapons? A very nice discussion on the topic in a JACS perspective. Otto Wolfbeis in an Angewandte editorial asks where are all the sensors, labels and probes that we are synthesizing in the lab everyday. Why they are not on the market? That’s a very good question. George Whitesides also thinks about market in his “Cool, or simple and cheap? Why not both?” and I share his point of view on that. Little bit more controverse is his “Is the focus on “molecules” obsolete? but also in this case some (most) of his points are reasonable. 

8- Random stuff. Electronic Visualization in Chemistry: From Alchemy to Art, very cool paper on the evolution of graphics in chemistry. If you are into the data mining business you may want to read how to predict future events mining the web.

9- Last but not the least a PNAS paper titled “Penis size interacts with body shape and height to influence male attractiveness”. Right from the paper this cit: ”Before clothing, the nonretractable human penis would have been conspicuous to potential mates. This observation has generated suggestions that human penis size partly evolved because of female choice.” That’s science! 


So what are your favorite papers of 2013? discuss it on twitter using #chemclub2013

Scientists from 80s (80s movies may explain something)

Can some movies reflect our attitude in the lab? Let’s see….



The gremlins:
Never, and that’s very important, never start a new experiment (or purification) after midnight. You are tired and the risk of crashing your precious product on the floor is quite high. For organic chemists: never get your solvents wet.
Pro: Sometimes your product is so cute you want to cuddle the flask.



It doesn’t matter if the the competitors have more instruments, a better lab or more people working on your same project. You can still win. Never give up.
Pro: You are american and publish on an american journal. 



You are not alone. Collaboration and group working is the key to find the One-Eyed Willie’s treasure or to finish a project. Help your labmates.
Pro: Having asthma in a chemistry lab. 



Weird science:
It doesn’t matter how crazy it may sound, but you can synthesize it. The pure power of the bottom-up approach.
Pro: Using underwear on your head as protection.



The road for your PhD may looks long and overcomplicated, a lot of different possibilities, non-working projects and trolls. You will survive.
Pro: Listening David Bowie in the lab.



Risky business:
When the boss is out for holidays or conferences it’s the prefect time for doing that crazy experiment you had in mind since long time. 
Pro: Sliding in the lab while playing “old time rock ann roll”.



Adventures in babysitting:
Sooner or later during the lab supervision of undergraduates everything will go wrong. And I mean everything, non-working pumps, clogged syringes, shatter glass flying everywhere. 
Pro: getting a flat tire on your bike while going to the lab.



Karate Kid:
The glass wound on your hand, the KOH burn on your finger or your tired legs will not stop you to finish the purification of your compound. No one can push you down.
Pro: Catching the stirring rod in your flask with chopsticks.



Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome:
Because everyone of us worked, at least once, during the weekend in an (almost) empty university. You know what I’m talking about.



The NeverEnding story:
Even during the longest group meeting that you have ever attended your mind is still free to wander around on a white dog/dragon. 
Pro: Screaming “Atreyuuuuuuuuuu” at the end of the group meeting


I wish I were tenure track. 

Videogames and science: “The Last of Us”

Since long time I wanted to do a post (or a series of posts) on videogames and science (the university journal talking about the project here.pdf). Recently I finished “The Last of Us” and I guess it’s perfect time for starting this kind of posts. (Note: if you think that videogames are only for kids, well, maybe you want to read this paper

First of all “The Last of Us” is an amazing game, if you own a PS3 you should definitely play it. The developers (Naughty Dog) are the same guys that brought to you Crash Bandicoot and Uncharted. I love them and their attention to details they put in the games. 

The Last of Us is a clear example of game with those small details that make you smile while playing. Part of the adventure is based in the science department in the University of Eastern Colorado.

Aaaaand here we go:

A nice centrifuge:

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A nice microscope (in front of a window to make you blind):

IMG 2930

No one is cleaning glassware…. That looks like a real lab:

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To me it looks like a plasma cleaner… Any idea?

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Safety shower in the corner and not near the exit door? Nice…. Run for your life… in the corner, in the corner…..

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Something with two high pressure inlets? HPLC? Or some other purification stuff…. No idea

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A very nice TEM….. in a room with a lot of windows….

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And well, since I’m in the Netherlands I also started enjoying biking. This was pretty nice: 

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The Monster Silica Ma(e)sh

Happy halloween from LabSolutely:

and, in case you missed them, don’t forget the other classic LabSolutely video:

Mario Bros Column Chromatography  and the making of

So God Made a Chemist and the picture comparison with the original spot

Extreme Sport: Chemistry

the #RealTimeChem trailer 

and here if you want to see some fun with the old working group in Groningen

Clear Message

The fluorescent microscope (and/or the fluorescent micro particles) are sending me a very clear message…. Very very clear….


Fluorescence Rocks

Who needs to put in order the cuvettes? That’s simply boring…..