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Posts tagged with "How Not to Do It"

  • How Not to Do It

    Mental Health Break: The Alkali Metals Show Their Personalities

    Some blogs run pictures of cats to give the readers a break from the ordinary. Around here, I thought that this might be appropriate. Here are the alkali metals, from top to bottom, differentiated in the most basic way possible. No, not by tasting them, sheesh: by tossing them into a dish of water: (Courtesy… Read More
  • How Not to Do It

    Manfred Christl Rides Again (Bonus Idiotic Lab Accident, Too)

    Readers may remember the incident a couple of years ago where a paper was published claiming the synthesis of some very odd-looking 12-membered ring compounds. Prof. Manfred Christl of the University of Würzburg noticed something odd about this reaction, though, namely that it had already been run over a hundred years ago and was known… Read More
  • How Not to Do It

    How Not To Do It: The Secret Patent Decoder Ring

    Patent applications are no fun to write. You have to figure out just what you’re trying to cover (and how wide a space around it you want to try to clear), and the lawyers have to whip up language that casts just the right legal spell. The chemists have to write up detailed experimental procedures… Read More
  • Graduate School

    How Not To Do It: Water Aspirators

    You need access to vacuum if you’re going to work at the bench in chemistry. In fact, you need more than one kind. Reasonably hard vacuum (well, by our standards, which is laughable by the standards of the physicists) is down in the single Torr or below – that is, less than about 1% of… Read More
  • How Not to Do It

    How Not To Do It: Diazomethane

    This post will have one of those stories that I can’t vouch for personally, and I’m very glad of that. It involves making diazomethane, which will have already gotten the attention of the chemists in the crowd. Diazomethane’s a very useful reagent, but it has to be treated the right way. You can’t buy it… Read More
  • How Not to Do It

    How Not To Do It: Column Chromatography

    I was mentioning chromatography last week, and I’ve been running several columns this week myself. I’m doing them the new-fangled-with-sufficient-funds way, which has been the standard in the drug industry for many years. You buy the columns of silica gel pre-packed and plug whatever size you need into a machine. Then you load your sample… Read More
  • How Not to Do It

    How Not to Do It: Hydrogen Bromide

    I’ve written before about all the fun you can have in a lab with compressed gas cylinders. We use the things all the time in chemistry, but as pieces of apparatus, they can only be pushed so far. The problem is that they demonstrate their unhappiness by venting great quantities of stuff that you’d rather… Read More
  • How Not to Do It

    How Not to Do It: More Diethyl Ether (Now With Extra Hardware)

    Man, have things changed since I was in grad school. We used to pour all kinds of horrible things down the drain – mind you, this was a good twenty years ago. But you can’t do that now, can you? A respected University of Washington pharmacology professor became a felon Wednesday when he acknowledged dumping… Read More
  • How Not to Do It

    How Not to Do It: Tertiary Butyllithium

    Over here at scenic Lowe Manor (otherwise known as the House that Pharma Has Paid And Will, With Any Luck, Continue Paying For), the dinner table conversation sometimes runs to things like the proper handling of flaming t-butyllithium. Well, OK, the conversation is a bit one-sided, since I’m the only one in the house who’s… Read More
  • How Not to Do It

    How Not To Do It: Ruining Stuff

    Here’s a question for the readership that should generate some interesting answers: what’s the most valuable item you’ve seen someone ruin in a lab? I’ll leave it broad enough to include both equipment and materials, and I expect to cringe numerous times on reading the comments. I can put one into the hopper to start… Read More