Catastrophic Failure

24 April 2014 § 6 Comments

24 April

Today was the last day of organic chemistry lab ever, which is cause for celebration—not too much celebration, however, given that there is still a final lab exam to be taken.  In honour of this blessed day, we must remember to give homage to the patron saint of the natural sciences, St Albert the Great, otherwise known as Albertus Magnus, and yes, of course he was German.  Although there is certainly nothing natural about standing for four hours whilst making carcinogens, I suppose the practise of science has evolved somewhat and we should give him the benefit of the copious amount of doubts.

Literally trapped behind a lab bench.  Poor soul.

Literally trapped behind a lab bench. Poor soul.

Preparations for the exam may start with reviewing laboratory safety.  This sort of review is customarily done at the beginning of a lab course, but I prefer to learn about it at the end, for the extra challenge of making up my own safety rules along the way.  These rules include

1)  Avoid making too many water fountains with the lousy faucets.  Water fountains are when the water time lapses, floods into one’s tiny funnel or centrifuge tube, and douses one’s fellow lab sufferers.  It doesn’t bother me when other people do this to me, because it is likely I have water fountained myself and my lab notebook already.

2)  Sequester large volumes of distilled water before each lab begins.  It always runs out, and who wants to be the person who uses tap water and contaminates his .00000001g of product?  You never know what might provoke an explosion.

3)  Don’t forget your locker combination on the last day of lab.  A new rule as of today.

Now I shall turn to a few less important, though official, guidelines.

1)  Set a good example for all peer students.

2)  Hair should be secured in a way that it cannot fall or dangle into your experiment.

Obviously I have failed on both accounts, though at least I chopped off my hair so it doesn’t dangle as aggressively.  Otherwise it would have burned off by now.

There is a separate category for centrifuge safety.  Centrifugation is an activity pretty exclusive to biochemistry, an actually enjoyable subject.  An excerpt:

Centrifuge Safety

Centrifugation: the lab practice which uses centrifugal force to separate substances of different densities by spinning at a high velocity.

Worst-case scenario = Catastrophic Failure
Warning: dangerous/exotic agents of life-threatening nature

Judging by the format of this list/definition scenario, the writer of the lab manual must have slept through his freshman English course in college.  It does seem appropriate, though, to capitalise Catastrophic Failure.  Use of exotic agents mostly consists of frequent extractions of DNA from E. coli.  It would be much more fun if this consisted rather of doing tests on an extremely dangerous foreign spy.

Back to your books.

Back to your books.

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