The laboratory is not a good place for children and it’s not because it’s dangerous and it’s full of toxic compounds, that’s only a cover-up story. The real truth: it’s a place inappropriate for children because of the profane language used inside. This is the reason why the labs are usually soundproof-ed. Based on the amount of swears/day It can be compared to a pirate vessel of the late 1800. When some of your colleague comes to you saying “hey, the boss is in the lab” is not because you are doing something wrong, it’s just to warn you for not swearing too loud. Another point is that the swear is usually done in mother tongue. It’s way easier to swear in your own language than in English. In a decently big group there is the possibility of learning so many new swears in so many different languages that at the end of your phd/postdoc you can add a paragraph in your CV with “proficient swearing in Language1, Language2, Language3”. This will improve your CV and show your multicultural side.
So, why all this swearing in the lab? Here the top ten reasons: (I would not open most of the links in a crowded place)
10 – Column chromatography
As I told you in the previous post, I love column chromatography but sometimes it just don’t work as we wish. After hours of collecting empty fractions everything you loaded on the top come out (all together) in two fractions.
Blasphemy level: almost routine.
09 – Clogged needle
The only reagent missing in the reaction is the one in the syringe. Start pushing but nothing happen.
Blasphemy level: elementary school.
08 – Broken pipette in the column
Loading your crude on the column with too much emphasis can have some side effect. Getting you pure product after a double glass column is priceless.
Blasphemy level: just some minor stuff.
07 – One of your colleagues
Sometimes it’s just a bad day. Why not involve a colleague in a fair swearing competition? Even better if you are in two different labs and can scream loudly.
Blasphemy level: friendly.
06 – Paper rejected
It’s more or less lunch time and everything is fine in the lab… so far…. You go back to the computer for checking the pre-lunch emails and one of them catch your attention: “decision on manuscript…”. Your heartbeat increases, open the mail and scan for the worst sentence ever written: “I regret to inform you…..”. Now you are happy that your colleagues are already having lunch far far away from the lab. You are alone and free to express your deep sentiments to the referee(s). Based on my personal experience, do not write back to the editor as soon as you receive the bad news, it’s way better if you can hold on and write a sedate email the next day.
Blasphemy level: rejection letter and WWII.
05 – Someone stole your reagent
Also in this case, everything is ready for starting the reaction when opening the fridge you realize that the chemical you have ordered few days ago is magically disappeared. All the other reagents are already in the flask and the temperature of the oil bath is increasing. Swearing in all the lab is the only things that make sense right now. It will not help you recovering your reagent, but at least all the floor will know that someone stole your chemical. In this case a swearing email to all the department is the right choice.
Blasphemy level: KAHHHHNNNN.
04 – Separatory funnel with open stopcock
Don’t tell me it never happen to you because I’ll never believe it. It happened to all of us, don’t lie.
Blasphemy level: sparta.
03 – Down in the NMR room
Another critical moment is in the NMR room. You spent all day long purifying stuff and then…. it takes only five second for destroying your day… only one single 1H NMR….
Blasphemy level: video games.
02 – Flask in the rotary evaporator
I should admit, this is not so common. Unfortunately in some rare events the pump may stop working in the middle of your lunch, and in that exact day you forgot to put any safety ring on your flask. Back from lunch you will find your nice and pure product floating in five or more liters of dirty water. While your brain is thinking about the possibilities of extracting the water and run a column or synthesize it again, your mouth is already shouting unrepeatable words.
Blasphemy level: the incredible Hulk.
01 – Kinetic experiment
This is for me the worst scenario ever. I already hate kinetic experiment, during my phd I was sleeping in the lab for two nights doing NMR experiments. After that experience I hate kinetics. However from time to time you need to do it. Those experiments can last ages. And what’s happen if the instrument you are using since one week broke leaving you with no data in the middle of your experiments? Please tell me how you would react in this situation.
Blasphemy level: violent.
So, did I forget something? Why are you swearing in the lab?
Periodic table of swearing from: http://www.ritholtz.com/blog/2010/07/periodic-table-of-swearing/