Field of Science


Here is an interesting quote I came across today. It is meant to help you solve problems:

"You write down the problem. You think very hard. Then you write down the answer. "
~Richard Feynman

OK, I am going to try it right now with a problem I have. I am hungry. I missed breakfast and have not had lunch yet (it's 1.15). But the isopropanol is evaporating sooooo slowly, we need to do other things once it finally goes but it's taking it's own sweet time.

Problem: I am hungry
Thinking: need food, really need food, but it's so cold outside and too far to walk and I can't be bothered and I need more money food, need food.
Answer (written after a minimum of three minutes thinking time): I will fill myself up with water and not be hungry.


Sort of worked. Try again:

Problem: I have a 3000 word essay to write before January 20th
Thinking: I've sort of started it, I know some stuff, I have a week at home where I can sort of work except I won't have the Internet (crap) I have the weekend except I should probably be spending that with a Certain Someone as it is my last week with them before the holidays. why is this useful anyway! Lab Rat's don't need to be able to write essays. at least I'll have 20 days when I get back, crap how am I supposed to do anything in 20 days. I can't think I'm too hungry!!
Answer: ...

Screw you Richard Feynman.


And why have you used 84 plates?

The thing about scientific protocols is that they are meant to be exact and precise. Every step must be explained concisely and there should be a reason for all the methodology.

For example, for every protocol you use, you should be able to answer random questions about why you did what you did at each step. Why was the bacteria incubated for four hours? Why was the temperature kept at 50 degrees? Why was the product stored on ice?

The answers to these questions should be sensible and scientific. Temperatures, amounts and incubation's are used to optimise reactions. Every step should be planned to get the best possible result in the most efficient way.

At the moment, we're growing phages on agar plates. At one stage of the protocol, we use exactly 84 plates to grow them. Two of the plates are controls and four are for dilutions but the fact remains that every time we use exactly 84 plates, no matter what we're doing.

The answer (as can probably be guessed) is not scientific in the least. Science is not a cold and clinical organised space, no matter how much scientists want it to be. It is a wild and crazy world full of human error and things going random and even more human error. The problems are not just scientific, they are also spacial and temporal; incubators are only so big, parts of the lab are only open during certain hours.

And the big jars we use for incubating will only physically fit 42 plates. We've tried to stuff more in but the lids won't shut. And while we have three of them in total the incubator is quite small and only fits two at a time.

42 x 2 = 84

Which wouldn't seem so bad if it weren't for the dilutions and the controls, because once you've put them in there's only room for 39 plates of actual phage sample per jar. 42 is at least a nice round number, but a protocol always looks a bit odd if it starts with the phrase '39 plates were taken...' It begs the question, 'why 39?' and the answer is, scientifically, faintly embarrassing.

Science would be a lot more precise if the world stopped getting in the way.

But far less fun =D

Back to lab Rat-ing


Wow, it's been a while since I've written anything here. Term finally finished (finally!) and now I am back happily being a Lab Rat and currently waiting for media to cool down so I can plate it out. Normally when making agar or other media it just gets melted in the microwave then poured instantly. However at the moment we're using media that needs antibiotics in it after it's been melted, the antibiotics don't like high temperatures so we have to let it cool down a bit first.

Other things I have to do:
  • Read up papers for my project next term (More bacteria! But no phages. Antibiotics instead)
  • Write a 3000 word essay about biorefinaries for the end of January
  • Revise all the stuff I did this term because I am a lazy Lab Rat and didn't do enough during the term.
  • Decide which options I am doing next term and organise my timetable
  • Write a CV and pester the person whose Lab I will be working in over summer this time to the point where they will fill in funding forms for me (but not actually get very pissed off at me).
  • Write the second chapter of a Very Geeky Story for a friend (it's about proteins...inside a cell...yeah. Currently stars Fos and Jun as the main characters, over-sentimental sacrificial cyclins and a gigantic mafia-style phosphate empire. Like a Sci-Fi/Western. But in a cell. heh)
Fun fun fun! Actually I really don't care because I'm back in a Lab and all is good :) And apart from the huge amount of work going on the rest of my life is going swimmingly.

This stuff is taking ages to cool down though x|