Tagged: lab

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 :)





Parafilm Galore


Parafilm is without any doubt the most used consumable in all the laboratories in the world. Need to seal something quickly? Parafilm! Need to repair something? Parafilm! Need to stop bleeding from a glass scratch? Napkin and parafilm! Your shoe is broken? Parafilm for keeping it useful until going back home!

Parafilm! Parafilm! Parafilm!!!!

But, this magic plastic, is used only in labs? Of course not, such amazing material is used to keep oxygen out of your favorite whiskey, wrapping your flowers or painting your models… It’s one of the few things that you can find in the lab and in the “real world”.

But, who invented this magic film? When, and how? Useless questions that I tried, without any luck, to answer:

Parafilm is a 50:50 mix between polyolefins and paraffin wax. It was trademarked in 1934 but some previous references are found in a patent dated 1932. Those dates are quite important as they are between the two great wars, therefore the parafilm was not one of the invention pushed by the war (like for example the silly putty). And it fits with the discovery of the synthesis of polyolefines.

And that’s more or less everything I managed to find about it. Who was the man (or woman) that discover it? I don’t know, but THANK YOU!!!

Naturally if you have any good hint on the parafilm history, please contact me :)

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 :)


Fast Update…. quantum dots frenziness

Just a fast update (pretty busy at the moment):

Tomorrow the contest will be officially closed, so far we have 2 winners. Will you be the third???? 

As I’m pretty busy with teaching, here some nice nice nice pictures of the last week course: 

Qauntum dots, quantum dots and even more quantum dots:

From green:


green quantum dots


to yellow:

yellow quantum dots


to orange:

orange quantum dots


to the sweet sweet red:

red quantum dots

Having 32 students means a LOT of quantum dots:

quantum dots

quantum dots 2quantum dots 3


And we modify them to react with streptavidin-Cy5 attached on glass slides: 

IMG 6509


and as a bonus, here my hot hot hot selfie:

hot selfie

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. 

Are lab instruments male or female?


If you are reading this as first post of the blog you should know something: nothing is serious on this blog. No, not even this post. This is just for fun and mainly based of maybe-true-maybe-not stereotypes.



Some topics connect all the labs in the world: the hate for alumina columns, the crappy university food, the mysterious ghost that steal clean NMR tubes, and naturally “are instruments male or female?”


It may be sounds a trivial question, but it is definitely not. After spending so much time working on a single instrument you start talking with him/her. Having a proper discussion with your instrument can make the difference between a successful or unsuccessful experiment. You need to talk with the instrument, understand him/her, hug the instrument, caress and comfort him/her. “There there, don’t worry, here the new solvent my dear” 


So, are the instruments in your lab male or female?



Male: He’s usually huge, not only the physical part, but his ego is expanding well behind his metallic shield. Usually traffic cones or yellow tape are used for outline his impressive ego.

He’s mono-thematic, ask him to do a 1H or a 13C and there will be no problem, ask to go for a 31P or a 15N and then he needs to change his mind, reflect a little bit and maybe, and only maybe, he will do it.

Female: She is still huge, but shiny and nice. Can destroy your credit cards in matter of seconds. Sometimes needs a lot of tuning foreplay before starting the measurement. It’s so hot you need liquid nitrogen to cool her down. 



Male: He has a tip. Repetitive movement of the tip. I’m not going to add anything else here.

Female: She is oversensitive. No matters what, sooner or later she will go crazy for the minimum movement or sound you will do in the room. It’s like having a discussion with your lovely half, you will always end up saying something wrong. On the other hand, when she is in good mood she will give you beautiful pictures.



Male: He is repetitive, injecting the same stuff time after time after time after time…. Annoying.

Female: Her thermal sensitivity is impressive “It’s hot in here, no, now is going to be back to normal, now I’m ok, oh no, now is hot again…. Wait, now is going better….” And so on… Forever.


UV-Vis / Fluorescence:

Male: Usually his software is extremely old. Bad memory: “did I record the blank? I don’t remember, do you?” 

Female: The software is far far away to be linear. Millions of sub menu, boxes to check or uncheck depending mainly by her mood.



Male: He can resist quite a lot of over pressure. Noisy, that kind of repetitive noise that can drive you crazy in few hours. Just stop talking. Just stop. Please.

Female: She is moody as well. Sometimes perfect separation other time a single huge peak. If too much pressure is applied she will start crying, spraying solvents everywhere. Requires daily care.



Male: Dude, I can measure from 1mg to 150g. Something outside that range it is not my damn business.

Female: Make up your mind once for all: “it’s 1.56g…. no 1.55g…. no, no, wait… 1.54g… yes, i’m sure about it…. 1.57g, this is the correct one, trust me….. 1.55g”. Make up you mind!!!


Ultrasonic bath:

Male: Sensitivity? Not his best point. Throw something at him and he will destroy it.

Female: That noise that pass trough your skull directly to your brain. 


That super old instrument that is still working:

Male: He is way older than you, sometimes you just want to drink a whiskey with him sharing good old stories from the lab.

Female: She is the grandmother you never had, you cover her with a warm blanket during the cold winter. 

So, are your instruments male or female? Let’s check it out #MFInstruments 

Magic Acid?

Seriously Aldrich? Magic? Seriously?




from thefreedictionary.com:

1. Of, relating to, or invoking the supernatural: “stubborn unlaid ghost/That breaks his magic chains at curfew time” (John Milton).
2. Possessing distinctive qualities that produce unaccountable or baffling effects.

Why not “the mysterious Grubbs catalyst”, “the black art of C18” or “the superstitious pH indicator” ?


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.

IMG 0095


Happy holidays to all of you.

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. 

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

The new Single Flask

Tired of people stealing your clean glassware?

Tired of stealing dirty glassware from your labmates?

Do you know that every day 3.4 out of 100 PhD die[1] while washing flasks and cylinders?

Wasting half of your working time in playing hide and seek with adapters and stoppers?


The wait is over. We introduce today the New Single Flask.

SingleFlask 021


The New Single Flask is going to change your way of thinking organic synthesis:


– Performing all your syntheses with only one flask will drastically decrease the amount of time wasted in washing glassware. This means more time for procrastination.

– It is portable, once finished your stuff, put it in the bag and bring it home. No more ninja stealing in the lab.

– It comes without any adapters, but our full set of proprietary adapters can be bought on-line for an incredible huge amount of money.

– The third generation of see-through glass is so amazingly brilliant that it will be like the liquid is floating in the air.

– The New Single Flask is stable to most liquids and solids in the world[2][3] making your life easier.

– Stable to high and low temperature[4].

– Doesn’t require battery of any kind. Leave it in your drawer and 10 PhD later it will be like new.

– Possibility of coupling with a magnetic stirring bar (sold separately).

– Unscratchable[5].

– The unique design form CuSn – Cf (bad, bad joke)


Shipping in May 2015 [6]


[1] Statistics made by hearing people saying “my back is killing me washing all this stuff here”.
[2] Do you have HF in the lab? Seriously? Dude that’s dangerous.
[3] No idea why I put this other note, probably I had an otherworld joke in mind but now it’s gone. Please feel free to fill this note by yourself.
[4] We mean very very high and very very low temperature. No numbers nor units given or whatsoever.
[5] Unless you use your spatula like a shovel for cheating on the yield. Something like: “dude that’s 50% product and 50% glass”.
[6] The production of such excellent and complex system is not easy and there are good probability that the amount produced will be not even close to be enough for all of you. The expected shipping date is May 2017. Deal with it.

#sciconfessions – confess your lab sins

Twitter bird dead


Another day, another funny “scientific” hashtag. It’s time to confess your lab sins. Last time was #overlyhonestmethods, now it’s the #sciconfessions moment.

Enjoy some of the funniest ones (as always, I removed the tweeps)


Once, while sterilising an inoculating loop, I nearly set the lab on fire. #sciconfessions

I have eaten an organism I couldn’t ID just to get rid of it #sciconfessions

I eat and drink in my lab. Even during dissection and microbiology practicals. #sciconfessions

The lab skeleton was called Steve. It took my mother, a retired radiographer, to point out Stephanie was more appropriate. 

I once MRI-scanned my colleagues kid’s fluffy bunny toy. Had to soak it in water first to get an image. #sciconfessions

Did an experiment horrifically wrong, just repeated it a few times and called it anomalous because i was to embarrassed  #sciconfessions

#sciconfessions Back in the deep past in Cambridge – corridor cricket with a glass measuring cylinder and a rubber bung

As an undergrad, I managed to melt laboratory glassware during practicals. Now I am doing bioinformatics. #sciconfessions

At my old lab, a bottle of acetone was kept “because it had always been there”. I.e. that bottle is probably as old as I am. 

PI wanted us to keep the lab “as clean as the radioactive lab”. He must have missed that we never had a radioactive lab 

I call myself a Neuroscientist because I still can’t pronounce ‘Immunology’ #Sciconfessions

#Sciconfessions “accidentally” left open bottle of b-mercaptoethanol to disguise a curry fart. Sorry!

I chose my current University for PhD because its logo is blue and it totally looked like Hogwarts. #sciconfessions

Have used experimental petrology lab equipment to fix a bike, a squash racquet, a pair of trainers and a phone. #Sciconfessions

Out of every dewar of liquid nitrogen I fill, 50% is for ‘science’ & 50% is for ‘fun’ #sciconfessions

A long time ago, I twisted my 1000 ml pipettman around to read 9999. I was young. #sciconfessions

I’ve licked many rocks and lived to tell the tale #sciconfessions

I once calculated the surface area of a gram of Ti nanoparticles to be larger than a house #sciconfessions

That smell of b-mercaptoethanol in the lab the other day, well, it wasn’t b-mercaptoethanol #sciconfessions

Fallen asleep on microscope while counting worms (who knew it’s just like counting sheep?) #sciconfessions

No sir, I cannot recreate my data… It’s been a year worth of trying… #sciconfessions

I own a dog speculum. #sciconfessions

I’ve never used the dog speculum on a dog #sciconfessions

We think Schrödinger should bring his cat to the vet. #sciconfessions

I use the textbook *Behavioral Issues and Autism* as a wedge to fix the noisy radiator in my apartment. Just the right size. #sciconfessions

I would set people’s pipettes to zero. #sciconfessions

I once set a 72 hour HPLC run on someone else machine just cos he annoyed me. #sciconfessions

I actually said to my director:”the problem with this paper is not that it will be rejected, it’s that it might be accepted” #sciconfessions

#sciconfessions Tried to distil an organic azide once. It blew up & shot a glass stopper across the lab like a missile!

I do more washing up in the lab than I do at home. #sciconfessions

Sometimes, I eat the popcorn I make for Tsunami the Orangutan. #sciconfessions

Forgive me! I once sabotaged a student’s PowerPoint by inserting “penis” into a slide and then he presented it to medics 

The last sentence on the last page of my PhD thesis says ‘Well that’s what I think anyway”. Nobody’s noticed yet. #Sciconfessions

I used to put Hello Kitty stickers on all my solvent squirt bottles so none of my (all male) labmates would steal them. #sciconfessions

I probably get more done in one hour of “thinking” than in two hours of meetings. #sciconfessions

I’m a physics major but hard math problems still make me feel like I’m dying. #sciconfessions #ughughugh

I am supposed to do some actual science, but I am tweeting bullshit. #sciconfessions

Had timer paused at 12 minutes permanently in lab coat pocket. Would set it running if called into boss’s office. #sciconfessions

I enjoy hearing my non-Dutch colleagues try to pronounce “professor Kouwenhoven” #sciconfessions

One PI i worked for, used to let us smoke in the lab. Knew it was OK when the safety office started joining us ! #sciconfessions

15 min incubation = time for coffee. 1 hr = lunch. 18 hr = screw it, went home and slept. 48 hrs = took a weekend off. #sciconfessions

Spend more time taking photos from the pigeons outside the lab than photographing my samples, the pigeons were cuter! #sciconfessions

#sciconfessions When your chemistry teacher hands you lemons to extract limonene from, make lemonade…

A chat with the AFM

Have you ever talked with you reaction, products or the instrument you are using? Sometimes they talk back to you:

IMG 1915


Me: hello my dear AFM, how is going today?
AFM: same ol’, same ol’. Reflecting laser here, reflecting laser there.
Me: what about trying this surface today?
AFM: why not? Nothing better to do today.
Me: perfect, shall we start then?
AFM: sure, first of all remove my head, take the tip holder and put a new tip in that bastard. I love fresh tips.
Me: roger, where are the tips?
AFM: right there, on the bench.
Me: there are only a coin, the holder and the tweezer…
AFM: come on, I can see the tip from here.
Me: do you mean this super small thing down here?
AFM: yeaaaa.

IMG 1941

Me: You gotta be kidding me….
AFM: come on, put it in.
Me: uhmmm ok, I’ll try.
AFM: do it or do it not, there is no try…..
Me: ok, I’ll do it!
AFM: oh and do not touch the surface of the cantilever.
Me: ok
AFM: and do not destroy the tip with the tweezer…
Me: ok
AFM: and do not press too much the tweezer….
Me: ok
AFM: and naturally do not let the tip touch any surface…
Me: Come on for God sake, how the hell I’m supposed to put it in if I cannot ever touch it?????? 
AFM: use the force Luke, use the force
Me: tze’, R2D2 would have been way better than you.
AFM: Say it again and I’ll self destroy. I want to see R2D2 measuring your sample….
Me: ok, ok, sorry, don’t be so sensitive.

Sweating like a bomb squad agent in the last 3 seconds before the detonation I manage to fit the tip in the holder.

 Me: done, now what?
AFM: now it’s going to be easy. First of all align the laser on the cantilever. Be my guest and use the microscope on the top.
Me: good, but I cannot see the laser spot.
AFM: well move the two screws until you find it.

Finding the laser spot with a microscope is like looking for an apple seed in a football field (whatever football means for you)

Me slightly tired: ok, done.
AFM: perfect, now just align the mirror.
Me: do you mean other random screwing?
AFM: yep
Me: oh dear Lord of microscopy. 

15 minutes and few blasphemy later

Me: done
AFM: perfect, we are almost there. Now down the tip close to the surface. DO NOT TOUCH THE SURFACE. Remember if you touch the surface you start again. Have you ever played “operation”? It’s a kind of that game. Little bit more expensive though….

And this is the reason why I’m doing chemistry and not surgery

Me: I think the tip is close enough to the surface.
AFM: well, then press “approach”

bzzzzzzzzzzzzzz…. 30 min later……

AFM: close enough my ass… 
Me: ok, ok, so probably was not that close, but come on, I don’t want to crash the tip
Me: mocked by an instrument… done!
AFM: ok, sorry that was rude. Now that the tip is on the surface let’s start.
AFM: AH AH| you said it loud, now we should start again.
AFM: yes I’m quite sensitive to any kind of vibration.
Me: ok, I’ll try to be quite.

IMG 1939

Me: relax buddy, relax. Maybe it’s just a single spot. Let’s try to move the tip a little bit.

IMG 1935

Me: oh, finally something nice… Hey what the hell are you doing? Why are those things stripy??? WHAT THE??
AFM: relax buddy, relax…. How do you feel now? How do you feel? DO NOT SAY RELAX TO ME! NEVER AGAIN!
Me: look, I was just trying to be polite with you, and helping with your clearly oversensitive crazy mood
Me: can we please discuss later about it. Can we please take at least one single good micrograph today? Can we?
AFM: only because I have nothing better to do today. BUT I STILL HATE YOU!
Me: fine, I’ll bring you out for dinner tonight.
AFM: fine, let’s try another spot. 
Me: fine.
Me: you are impossible. 

IMG 1934

Me: seriously? I was not breathing for 1.30h and that’s it? What the hell are those falling star-nanoparticles??? I swear I didn’t move. WHAT THE HELL?? DO YOU READ ME???
AFM: Affirmative Dave. I read you.
Me: can you please explain me why you are doing this to me?
AFM: I’m sorry Dave. I’m afraid I can’t do that.
Me: Are just some nanoparticle on a surface, how hard can it be????
AFM: Dave, this conversation can serve no purpose anymore. Goodbye.

Finale 1:
Screaming blasphemy walking in the corridor. 
Me: It’s not over. I’ll be back tomorrow, and then we will see….. We will see. MUHWAHWHAWHAWHWHAHW (evil laughter)

Director’s cut:
Someone found my body three days later. Apparently no sign of fight. The autopsy didn’t find anything significant and the case was closed as death by natural causes. A small red light shine from the AFM room. A small red led. From the AFM. A small red led.

X-Men School for Gifted Chemists


Charles Xavier, Professor of synthetic organic chemistry. All his papers have been accepted without passing for any referees. Legend wants that the only things he needed was to call the editor of the journal. Most of his students work for 72h non stop, and they don’t even know why. Hates comic sans.


Cyclops, Post-Doc. MALDI expert, some undergrads have seen him recording the MALDI-TOF by simply watching the matrix. His red-filtered fashion safety goggles are also perfect for red fluorescence and raman. The goggles, however, make almost impossible to use a pH paper. Do not ask him to prepare a buffer solution (he is a Post-Doc, so he will not do it anyway). 



Iceman, Post-Doc. His ability of preparing cooling bath is renowned in all the department. Busy all day long with cooling NMRs, preparing cryo-TEM samples and random -78C cooling bath for other people in the lab. Looking for the 0K.



Beast, Post-Doc. He is simply a living safety issue and he is not a good view when he is fully shaved. Trying to make his way up in computational chemistry. Some people are allergic to him.



Wolverine, PhD student. Amazingly precise in cutting TLC, silicon wafers and scratching preparative TLCs. Still in doubt if he can get close to the NMR or not. He is usually banned from the lab when some other students are trying metal catalysis. 



Storm, PhD student. She was hired for changing the weather while working. Since then no one in the lab said anymore: “look what beautiful weather outside and we are closed in the lab”. 



Banshee, PhD student. Whit him in the department the ultrasonic baths have become obsolete. No fused glass joint can resist his power. Pay attention: the guy can be quite annoying when asking questions during the group meetings. 



Pyro, PhD student. A living bunsen burner, no solvent will remain liquid in his hands. Distillation wizard, no vacuum needed. Never.  Quite good in elemental analysis as well. t-BuLi his favourite reagent. 



Rogue, undergrad student. She is currently studying for his MSc. No one really knows why she is walking around the department touching as many chemists as possible.



Magneto, technician. Can fix whatever instrument in matter of 5 minutes. When in a huge centrifuge can also be used to record a NMR. Do not mess with him if you want to find your stirring bars tomorrow.  

The Flying Stirring Bars

Some reactions are highly sensitive to shear stress (i.e. stirring bar grinding). This is a variable that many times is forgotten, but it’s quite important and very useful for the reproducibility of the experiment. Today in the lab we were checking the stirring speed of our stirring plates with a 60fps camera. 

After the flying dutchman here we go with the flying stirring bars:

P.S. If you check the second segment of the video, you will see that the stirring bar is changing the spinning direction when flying away…..

Let’s MacGyver it!


(edit 21-04) other entries for the #ChemMovieCarnival: http://justlikecooking.blogspot.se/2013/04/chemmoviecarnival-aaaand-action.html and http://justlikecooking.blogspot.se/2013/04/chemmoviecarnival-take-two.html

This post is a quasi-entry for #ChemMovieCarnival hosted by See Arr Oh (more information about this movie carnival on his blog here). It’s a quasi-stuff, because I will not talk about a movie and this post will not be very outreach. Moreover since a quasi-stuff won a Nobel prize I started using quasi-words whenever I have the possibility. Actually I would like to win a quasi-Nobel.

If this is not my first post that you are reading, you should know that I’m from the fabulous ’80s, and I’m very nostalgic (I’m getting older). It was a great period, excellent movies, good music, weird clothes, no internet and so on. It was a time where the kids chemical kits were actually dangerous. And when the instruction explicitly warn you to NOT mix A and B, you knew that the first thing to do would be to instantaneously MIX A and B (naturally followed by a lot of smoke and screams). Unfortunately the absence of internet meant that amazing shows and characters didn’t get the proper diffusion (and billions of memes). 

At that time, one of my best tv series was Mac Gyver (on the podium together with Quantum Leap). Now, If you don’t know who is MacGyver you are missing a piece of history. Every single episode was a piece of art. And the haircut. Oh God, that haircut was one of the emblems of the ’80s. Anyway, we should talk about science….


MacGyver was the quintessence of science. I’m not saying that it was scientifically correct (because now I know that mixing sugar and salt will not produce a bomb), what I’m saying it’s that the feeling of science impregnate all the MacGyver series. The idea that you can solve not most, but all your problems with intellect and few things you have around. The great message of using scientific/engineering knowledge for solving problems, not just brute force. And, keep in mind that we are talking about ’80s…. Movies like Rambo or the Schwarzenegger’s one were only about brute force. Overpowering the enemy with muscles and a shitload of weapons.

But no, MacGyver was different. A quick look in the room where he was locked, check the available household chemicals, mix them in a precise ratio and sequence et voila’ the bomb/smoke/weapon/distraction/whatever was done. Unfortunately, as I said before, it was (mainly) scientifically incorrect. And the worst part was that the lack of internet was equivalent to lack of information (especially for a kid). This also meant that the only way to check if the experiment shown was true or not was to “repeat” the experiment in your house. I don’t want to lie to you. Most of the times (I mean always) it was a disaster: crap everywhere, stinky and sticky stuff, screaming parents and so on. 

Anyway, just for sake of the good show/bad chemistry, check this video on how to destroy a wall using sodium, water and some candies. Also check how sodium was stored….

If you want to check all the amazing things he did (and how) you can read this amazing wiki: List of problems solved by MacGyver.



There is only one thing I really would like to see: MacGyver + Parafilm. This would be the MacGyver holy grail.
80% of lab stuff can be fixed with parafilm (15% with duct tape, and well if you broke the other 5% you are screwed).
I love parafilm.

So, did you usually watch MacGyver? Did you MacGyver something in the Lab? Let me know.

Best preface of a MSc thesis


Few days ago I was reading this preface of a MSc thesis. It’s from a chemist fellow, drinking buddy and “philosophical” discussion pal. I find it quite amazing as it clearly catch the spirit of the daily work in a chemistry laboratory. Blood, sweat and tears in the frontline of science:


“Twelve months ago I started this project as a catalysis project, but it turned out to be long battle against a small molecule. This paper is the report of this long process. It cannot express the long days spent in the lab, battling shoulder to shoulder with my fellow scientists and friends, the joy for the synthesis, the hope for good results and the sadness and tiredness with each failed attempt.”


And this also reminds me about my own PhD thesis (that by the way you can download from the university library here). At the end of the first page (acknowledgment) I wrote this line:


“At the end, thanks to you, reader. If you are reading this line after the others, you at least read one page of my thesis. Thank You.”

Moreover, as (a nerd) easter egg the page number 42 of my thesis is in italic…..

What about you? Did you write something funny in your thesis?

Who wants to clean forever..

And finally we got the safety inspection, that some time becomes “tidiness inspection”. And also this time we survived it (except for some scotch tape on the glass of our fumehood, some needles around and…. 16 liters of DMF outside the fire proof cabinet). Unfortunately we completely forgot that we received the DMF and the boxes with the solvent were still laying around the lab. Damn it!

Anyway, some pictures. Can you spot the differences?

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