Tagged: movies

CoverTime: Robots

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



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.


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.

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. 

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.  

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.

Movie quotes for the PhD life

What if your PhD was a movie?

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I’m absolutely sure you know all the quotes and all the movies cited here, but just to refresh your memory: Braveheart, Casablanca, Apocalypse Now, Apollo 13, Apocalypse Now (yes, i love that movie), The Shining, The Godfather II, Titanic, The Gladiator.

More chemical related movie quotes soon… (well, soon for my standard)