Worst thing you've seen in a lab

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Joeldi
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Re: Worst thing you've seen in a lab

Postby Joeldi » Fri Apr 13, 2012 3:37 am UTC

I only heard about this from a partially drunk friend, so can't vouch for it's accuracy, but it's a good story. The students were looking at a antibiotic resistant strain of Salmonella, and were using sharp-ended auto pipettes to transfer the culture. Instead of placing the beaker or whatever on the table, one of the pairs of students had one guy holding it in one hand, while the other guy held the pipette. The stories goes that he missed the beaker completely, jabbed the other guy in the hand and ended up injecting a precise quantity of super-bacteria directly into his blood-stream. And, as the story goes, he was never seen again.
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Re: Worst thing you've seen in a lab

Postby meat.paste » Fri Apr 13, 2012 4:13 am UTC

ikrase wrote:I once made red fuming nitric acid.


Wow.

Did you have a reason for it or was it just for fun? Did you nitrate anything interesting?
Huh? What?

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Re: Worst thing you've seen in a lab

Postby eligitine » Fri Apr 13, 2012 2:50 pm UTC

Joeldi wrote:I only heard about this from a partially drunk friend, so can't vouch for it's accuracy, but it's a good story. The students were looking at a antibiotic resistant strain of Salmonella, and were using sharp-ended auto pipettes to transfer the culture. Instead of placing the beaker or whatever on the table, one of the pairs of students had one guy holding it in one hand, while the other guy held the pipette. The stories goes that he missed the beaker completely, jabbed the other guy in the hand and ended up injecting a precise quantity of super-bacteria directly into his blood-stream. And, as the story goes, he was never seen again.

I'm moderately surprised there is nothing on the news about this. You would think liberal media would clamber all over this. Also, if this is true, poor student gets manslaughter charges.
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Re: Worst thing you've seen in a lab

Postby Angua » Fri Apr 13, 2012 3:32 pm UTC

I somehow doubt it happened.

Pipettes generally aren't sharp enough to pierce skin, much less gloves.
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Re: Worst thing you've seen in a lab

Postby StevenR » Fri Apr 13, 2012 4:10 pm UTC

I took a marine biology class in high school. We were discecting some kind of shark that had a mouthful of small, backward angled, sharp teeth. One of the mouthbreathers doing time in school because he was too young to go to state prison thought it would be funny to jam his finger down the shark's mouth. Well, lo and behold, when he tried to take the finger back ut, the teeth dug into his finger and the more he pulled, the worse it got. It was alike a formyldahyde chinese finger puzzle. So he's freaking out, frantically flailing his arm, the shark still on his finger, blood and shark innerds flying around the room.

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Re: Worst thing you've seen in a lab

Postby BriAnna85 » Fri Apr 13, 2012 4:23 pm UTC

Someone in my lab accidentally contaminated a few of our isopropyl alcohol with formalin, they're both clear liquids and occasionally you can't always smell detect formalin especially when the smell of isopropyl masks it, no respirators were worn - nasal/throat passage madness ensued.

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Re: Worst thing you've seen in a lab

Postby alexh123456789 » Sat Apr 14, 2012 7:48 pm UTC

Lab had a large glass container (~4L) of concentrated sulfuric acid under the hood, with a glass stopper on the top. My neighbor was having trouble
getting the glass stopper out, so he decides to hit the side of the lid to loosen it up, and of course knocks the top right off, spilling sulfuric acid on the floor.
Got a bit on his clothes, but nobody got hurt, although the floor and wall got a lot of acid on them.

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Re: Worst thing you've seen in a lab

Postby aptdude » Mon Apr 16, 2012 11:40 pm UTC

Two head shakers:
1. gluing two sodium chloride lenses together while trying to obtain an IR of super-glue.
2. making "extra" chromic acid and then trying to store it for a week (the hole went through two floors).

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Re: Worst thing you've seen in a lab

Postby oxoiron » Tue Apr 17, 2012 9:42 pm UTC

aptdude wrote:gluing two sodium chloride lenses together while trying to obtain an IR of super-glue.
That made me chuckle. Two questions:

1) Was it a good spectrum?

2) Did you try salvaging the plates by soaking them in acetone (or another solvent)?
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Re: Worst thing you've seen in a lab

Postby ikrase » Sat Apr 21, 2012 11:42 pm UTC

meat.paste wrote:
ikrase wrote:I once made red fuming nitric acid.


Wow.

Did you have a reason for it or was it just for fun? Did you nitrate anything interesting?




I used it to make silver nitrate. I then used that to make mirrors.

To be fair to myself I DID take many precautions and I immediately diluted the nitric acid to non-red non-fuming state. However, looking back on it it was not a very good idea to do and I should have 1. used better apparatus and 2. rigged the system to create dilute acid which should have been possible.


I was working in a lab once and was called on to find out who left a big sulfuric acid spill on top of someone elses apparatus in a fume hood used by many people, and who did not tell anybody.
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Re: Worst thing you've seen in a lab

Postby UniqueScreenname » Thu May 03, 2012 7:45 pm UTC

We were supposed to make some sort of aromatic substance, can't remember what, but one of the intermediate products smelled SO BAD. I cannot put in words how bad it smelled. And it was like nothing I had ever smelled before. It was like we had created this new superstink that could be used for evil. My lab partner kept saying how it smelled familiar, though, and then as if she had an epiphany, she yelled, "Oh, I know! IT SMELLS LIKE JERSEY!" And I died laughing. It goes down in history as my favorite joke ever. Best part was, she wasn't even kidding. She swore it smelled just like the Holland Tunnel. :lol:
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Re: Worst thing you've seen in a lab

Postby The EGE » Thu May 03, 2012 10:55 pm UTC

Cities really do have distinctive smells, though. For me, everywhere paved in DC has the wet concrete smell, regardless of how dry it is.
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Re: Worst thing you've seen in a lab

Postby ssbookyu123 » Sun May 06, 2012 12:22 am UTC

In high school my class was doing a lab with bunsen burners and the hoses weren't secured right so a bit of gas leaked and the windows were open with a breeze coming in so the smell went out of the room and towards the hallways. An entire wing of the school was evacuated when some teachers smelled the gas and apparently no one bothered check on the chem labs for gas leaks because we finished the experiment and left to a weirdly empty hall way. Not really incompetence on the teacher's fault (the students put the hoses on themselves), but kind of a weird oversight on the faculty for not alerting the only rooms that have a gas source when there was a suspected gas leak.

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Re: Worst thing you've seen in a lab

Postby Laserdan » Mon May 07, 2012 7:01 am UTC

While still being in EE, in my first year a couple of friends and I wanted to see what happens if you attach a pen to a paper strip, attach the paper strip to the axis of a DC motor and up the voltage more and more.

Let's just say that we're happy that nobody's face was hit when the tape that attached the paper strip tore off and the pen turned into a ballistic missile.
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Re: Worst thing you've seen in a lab

Postby eSOANEM » Mon May 07, 2012 8:55 am UTC

On a similar note to laserdan's, a few years ago, I was trying to mod one of my calculators so it had a backlit screen because, awesome. The battery in the calculator wasn't a high enough voltage to run the LEDs so I decided to get two button cells I had lying around and solder them together (big mistake).

Not being a *complete* idiot, I was making sure I wasn't heating the batteries directly and that I wasn't heating them for extended periods of time but, as was inevitable, one of them exploded with a really loud bang. Luckily none of the bits went anywhere near anyone, but the ceramic heat-proof mat I was using so I didn't burn the desk now has a permanent scorch mark.

This was the same lab as the one with people drawing >100V arcs of a 60V capacitor, kids at my school really have a great survival instinct don't they?
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Re: Worst thing you've seen in a lab

Postby Laserdan » Mon May 07, 2012 10:47 am UTC

By the way, intentionally exploding capacitors was quite the daily occasion. I thought it's a normal thing with EE people. Luckily, the worst thing that happened to us was the horrible, fishy stink.

Once we were assigned the task to build polyphase current connectors, which come in "male" and "female". The socket in the wall was female, and we had to build extensions. Well, one brilliant co-ed who was quite tired and distracted that day built an extension that was male on both sides and for no known reason, plugged in one connector to the wall.
For also no known reason, someone else saw the other end lying arond and as someone asked him to "plug in the connector, please", he did. Of course, the one asking him meant another one, but there you go... It was only pieced together afterwards what happened.


On another occasion, building a model, a co-ed wanted to correct a wiring while the model was still connected to a polyphase power source; he'd done it quite often because plugging off, plugging in and restarting was quite the procedure. He had always used a screwdriver that was insulated up to the tip, so he was used to gripping the front part, too. Well, this time he had a screwdriver without the insulation, and out of habit, while turning the screwdriver, he gripped the front part for more accuracy. The rest I leave to your imagination. He got away without major injuries, but was in the hospital for several days because of irregular heartbeat.

Once we wanted to test the principle of a "gauss cannon" by sticking nails into sockets that we modified. At least we cleared the shooting path.

Having seen a whole wall of connectors just go up in flames and literally melt because of a simple error in the wiring made me realize how lucky we were that in our class, nothing really serious happened. I've been myself hooked up to heart monitors because of experiments of the dangerous kind.

Also, not in a lab, but when I was little, I got a chemistry box designed for young adults. Having said that, never write "don't ever mix these two substances together" in a manual for the chemistry box. It's literally a "dare to do this" for people. I know it was for me.
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Re: Worst thing you've seen in a lab

Postby eSOANEM » Mon May 07, 2012 9:59 pm UTC

Laserdan wrote:Once we were assigned the task to build polyphase current connectors, which come in "male" and "female". The socket in the wall was female, and we had to build extensions. Well, one brilliant co-ed who was quite tired and distracted that day built an extension that was male on both sides and for no known reason, plugged in one connector to the wall.
For also no known reason, someone else saw the other end lying arond and as someone asked him to "plug in the connector, please", he did. Of course, the one asking him meant another one, but there you go... It was only pieced together afterwards what happened.


What actually happened. I think that if someone did that in our EE lab, it'd probably just flip the circuit breakers but it sounds as if something more dramatic happened.

Fun story about the circuit breakers (although not too bad actually), one of the teachers is fond of demonstrating what happens when you overvolt components so, one year, with his brand new students he went to get a resistor to sacrifice. For some reason, they'd run out of the value he usually used so he just picked one of the nearby values and ran ahead with the demonstrations. As you'd expect, resistor started glowing but then, instead of it exploding, the power to the entire school went out. Turned out he flipped all the circuit breakers right out to the street outside the school.
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Re: Worst thing you've seen in a lab

Postby Meem1029 » Tue May 08, 2012 4:03 am UTC

Heh, all these EE stories remind me of one from high school. We had a digital electronics class that was like 15 people with a super chill teacher, and had it sometimes in 2 locations and moved between them. This of course means that there wasn't always a teacher in the room to make sure we didn't do anything stupid. One person decided it would be a good idea to put an LED (you know, one of those 1.5V or so ones that you use in all sorts of little electronics things) into a normal socket. Like a 120VAC one.

Spoiler alert: It wasn't. This was quite a few years back so I don't remember exactly what happened, but I do know that the LED was certainly not functional any longer and I believe in several pieces.

Edit: Everything after the close parens in the first paragraph was added since I forgot it...
Last edited by Meem1029 on Wed May 09, 2012 11:43 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Worst thing you've seen in a lab

Postby Jplus » Tue May 08, 2012 3:15 pm UTC

It seems that some part of your post is missing.
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Re: Worst thing you've seen in a lab

Postby eSOANEM » Tue May 08, 2012 5:09 pm UTC

Meem1029 wrote:Heh, all these EE stories remind me of one from high school. We had a digital electronics class that was like 15 people with a super chill teacher, and had it sometimes in 2 locations and moved between them. This of course means that there wasn't always a teacher in the room to make sure we didn't do anything stupid. One person decided it would be a good idea to put an LED (you know, one of those 1.5V or so ones that you use in all sorts of little electronics things.

Spoiler alert: It wasn't. This was quite a few years back so I don't remember exactly what happened, but I do know that the LED was certainly not functional any longer and I believe in several pieces.


I'm guessing they connected it across the power rails without a protection resistor. Horrendous smell.

Luckily my school recently got some new power supplies which have more effective current limitation stuff so your average student won't be able to melt an LED with it (it'll just beep and refuse to provide any current). You can still do it though, you've just got to use a big enough protection resistor not to short the supply and not too big a one to actually save the LED.
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Re: Worst thing you've seen in a lab

Postby Laserdan » Tue May 08, 2012 10:46 pm UTC

eSOANEM wrote:
Laserdan wrote:Once we were assigned the task to build polyphase current connectors, which come in "male" and "female". The socket in the wall was female, and we had to build extensions. Well, one brilliant co-ed who was quite tired and distracted that day built an extension that was male on both sides and for no known reason, plugged in one connector to the wall.
For also no known reason, someone else saw the other end lying arond and as someone asked him to "plug in the connector, please", he did. Of course, the one asking him meant another one, but there you go... It was only pieced together afterwards what happened.


What actually happened. I think that if someone did that in our EE lab, it'd probably just flip the circuit breakers but it sounds as if something more dramatic happened.



Of course the circuit breaker went off. Only it was the big one, a stage behind the ones for the room, which meant that the whole data center was turned off. UPSes weren't the standard so a whole lot of productivity was lost, and a rather expensive model was damaged because people were testing something with the coding but didn't implement a "failsafe" where the model automatically returns to a safe position without voltage. Which is stupid in it's own way, but I digress.

No persons have been hurt in the incident but it was very, very, very expensive. But it did raise awareness for backups and UPS usage, so it was actually probably a good thing it happened. And of course the mocking that ensured for the following months was both epic and enduring.
Last edited by Laserdan on Thu May 10, 2012 9:28 am UTC, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Worst thing you've seen in a lab

Postby Meem1029 » Wed May 09, 2012 11:48 pm UTC

Jplus wrote:It seems that some part of your post is missing.


Ya it was, fixed now.
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Re: Worst thing you've seen in a lab

Postby The EGE » Fri May 11, 2012 5:21 am UTC

There was also the time we had to compare a fish's metabolic rate at different temperatures. We were using old and highly unreliable hotplates. 30 C water does not kill a fish. 35 C water does.

:(
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Re: Worst thing you've seen in a lab

Postby Carnildo » Sat May 12, 2012 6:30 am UTC

The EGE wrote:30 C water does not kill a fish. 35 C water does.

Should have turned it up to 100C. That way, you'd at least get some use out of the fish.

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Re: Worst thing you've seen in a lab

Postby w.eckhardt » Sat May 12, 2012 4:55 pm UTC

As a highschool physics teacher, the worst thing I probably have seen was also the most shocking for my students.

During an optics demonstration (internal reflection), I had a glass aquarium set up on my demonstration table. However, I had set it on two lifts, so that I could light the water-surface from underneath. With some milk-powder in the water, a smoke machine above the water, and with the curtains closed, you can get a beautiful demonstration.

However, in the dark, I accidentally hit the aquarium. Because I had offset the aquarium to get the laser beam in for the perfect angle, there were some forces in the glass I didn't account for. The aquarium shattered, and a big piece of glass went into my wrist. This all being in a darkened room, imagine the shock when the lights went on.

15 liters of water + deeply cut wrist = 15 liters of bloodlike fluid on the table+floor
So, I had a couple of students panicing, one fainting, one vomiting. I actually first had to calm them down a bit, then send two to get medical help.

The scar on my wrist+the loss of feeling in some fingers is the sad reminder of that day...

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Re: Worst thing you've seen in a lab

Postby MichiK » Fri May 18, 2012 2:06 am UTC

Well, there was the time back in school, when our physics teacher wanted to show us, how a gasoline engine works: He had a tin can with a small hole on the side near the bottom and the lid just laying on top (not fixed in any way). He put a few drops of gasoline into the can, put the lid on top, waited for some seconds and then sticked a burning match through the hole - BOOM! The lid hit the ceiling and came back - and with it came the lamp.

Then, a few years later, in chemistry class, our teacher wanted us to do some reaction (I don't remeber what it was...) involving sodium hydroxide solution. I did an internship in some real chemistry lab just a few weeks ago and there I worked with the really scary stuff and I knew perfectly that everything what they would ever give us in school was harmless (well, at least as long you don't drink it). The teacher wanted us to shake the stuff inside our test tubes, but there were no plugs left, so I used my thumb instead. The look of the (always scary and over-cautious) teacher was quite awesome...

Another few years later, first semester, chemistry lab course. They wanted us to measure the boiling point of different alkanes. We had test tubes, we had thermometers, we had a Bunsen burner - but again, there was some problem with plugs: There were no plugs with holes to stick the thermometer through. I asked the advisor "Do you really want me to do THAT in an open tube over an open flame?!" and he said "Yes, why not?". Okay then - I did what he told me to do and the obvious result in form of a big darting flame was quite impressive. Anyway, nobody was hurt and (this is the surprising part) the measurement was accurate to some ±2 degrees.

Then, in the physics lab course in the following semester, we had to measure the adiabatic exponent of carbon dioxide. We hat one bottle of CO2 and two groups carrying out several measurements in a row, so we just left the bottle open and hung the pipe out of the window instead of getting up and turning the valve every minute. After some 20 minutes or so, the valve was cold. So cold, that there was already some layer of ice on it. So cold and icy, that we weren't able to turn it any more. Oops. Well, a hair dryer saved the day.

Last but not least, chemistry lab course again: We tried some reactions involving esters that day and it wouldn't go very well. Then, after several tries of something I don't remeber, the bubbling stuff inside our tube finally started steaming and I put my nose directly over it (being rendered careless by the beautiful smelling esters that day), thinking (in the very same moment) "Wait, there was ammonia involved here, wasn't it?" Yeah, indeed, it was. After half an hour outside in the fresh air, I was able to get back to work. At least the cold I had that day was suddenly gone, my nose was perfectly free after that...

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Re: Worst thing you've seen in a lab

Postby piwakawaka42 » Fri May 18, 2012 6:15 am UTC

Wow, its so cool to see the first thread I started keep going for so long! Here's a slightly apocryphal story from an experienced lab demonstrator-this may not have happened, but I can believe that it might have.
So, undergrad organic lab (don't know what year),, and they're nitrating something. Of course, there aren't enough fume cupboards, so it's being done on the bench. In an attempt to avoid filling the room with smog, marks were going to be taken off if nitrous oxides escaped from the reflux condenser. Well, undergrads being undergrads, some reactions were going a bit too vigorously. IN an attempt to avoid losing marks, one bright spark put his thumb over the top of the reflux condenser to avoid the gases getting out. He was rumbled, though, when he started freaking out that his skin was changing colour...
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Re: Worst thing you've seen in a lab

Postby eternauta3k » Mon Jun 11, 2012 10:23 pm UTC

Joeldi wrote:I only heard about this from a partially drunk friend, so can't vouch for it's accuracy, but it's a good story. The students were looking at a antibiotic resistant strain of Salmonella, and were using sharp-ended auto pipettes to transfer the culture. Instead of placing the beaker or whatever on the table, one of the pairs of students had one guy holding it in one hand, while the other guy held the pipette. The stories goes that he missed the beaker completely, jabbed the other guy in the hand and ended up injecting a precise quantity of super-bacteria directly into his blood-stream. And, as the story goes, he was never seen again.

A friend poked himself with a needle while putting Agrobacterium on some seeds. It's mostly harmless to humans though.
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Re: Worst thing you've seen in a lab

Postby UniqueScreenname » Tue Jun 12, 2012 3:40 pm UTC

I've seen Aeromonas hydrophila, the "flesh-eating" bacteria that girl in Georgia had, in a blood sample. I don't expect good things from that.
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Re: Worst thing you've seen in a lab

Postby Jorpho » Sun Jun 17, 2012 6:27 pm UTC

Shucks, I never got to do awesome stuff like this. The only thing I can think of that compares is one organic chemistry lab when I wanted to shut off the flow to a condenser and couldn't remember which way to turn the vertically-mounted knob on the sink. Someone promptly ended my deliberations by turning it the wrong way, sending water spraying all over the experiment.

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Re: Worst thing you've seen in a lab

Postby pyronius » Tue Jun 19, 2012 3:05 am UTC

Carnildo wrote:
The EGE wrote:30 C water does not kill a fish. 35 C water does.

Should have turned it up to 100C. That way, you'd at least get some use out of the fish.


along those lines... haven't seen anything terrible in my orgo lab, but back in high school i had marine bio for a semester and a large portion of it was maintaining an aquarium. well one day the teacher decided it was calamari party day and brought some calamari and a fryer from her house, set it up, and then went to go get condiments or something. One group (two boys of questionable sanity) had a bunch of small feeder type fish in their tank and decided that they could spare one... into the fryer he went, most certainly still alive until about a second after he hit the oil. afterward one of them ate another little feeder alive. swallowed it whole.

same lab, a week or so in when we were getting the tanks ready to be used we began cleaning out the little bit of water from the previous year that had been sitting there over the summer. it was maybe an inch deep at most. Out pop two fish, one bright yellow and one little bottom feeder catfish type. they'd been in there with one inch of water and no food all summer. well, the story gets better, the little yellow one went into a tank with a particularly vicious oscar who had a tendency to chase the other fish around and eat smaller fish when he could. a few weeks after he was put in the little yellow one went missing for a few days. we looked but couldn't find him. a few weeks later he magically reappeared now with a sizable and obvious chunk missing from his stomach, probably about half of his total thickness. from then on he was named Ouch and the oscar didnt bother him purely out of respect.

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Re: Worst thing you've seen in a lab

Postby TychoMaudd » Tue Jun 19, 2012 11:04 am UTC

MichiK wrote:Then, in the physics lab course in the following semester, we had to measure the adiabatic exponent of carbon dioxide. We hat one bottle of CO2 and two groups carrying out several measurements in a row, so we just left the bottle open and hung the pipe out of the window instead of getting up and turning the valve every minute. After some 20 minutes or so, the valve was cold. So cold, that there was already some layer of ice on it. So cold and icy, that we weren't able to turn it any more. Oops. Well, a hair dryer saved the day.


That reminds me of a similar incident that occurred while filling an NMR with liquid N2 while I was an undergrad. The valve on the tank got stuck open, and liquid N2 was shooting out of the overfill port at such a rate that it was hitting the ceiling tiles and formed a puddle covering about half the floor of the room. At that point, we had a second problem, in that the oxygen was being replaced by nitrogen and we couldn't spend more than about 30 seconds in the room without getting light headed. Thankfully we (eventually) got the valve closed with the help of a foot and a half long wrench.

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Re: Worst thing you've seen in a lab

Postby Garry Go » Thu Jun 21, 2012 1:46 am UTC

First Biochemistry lab of the semester at university: I wasn't paying attention and broke a graduated cylinder pulling it out of the drawer. On the bright side they didn't make me pay for anything.

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Re: Worst thing you've seen in a lab

Postby pyronius » Thu Jun 21, 2012 5:12 pm UTC

Garry Go wrote:First Biochemistry lab of the semester at university: I wasn't paying attention and broke a graduated cylinder pulling it out of the drawer. On the bright side they didn't make me pay for anything.


man, i can't tell you how often i see people break cylinders, beakers, flasks, etc. i didn't think much of it before, but then i began to consider doing a bit of home chemistry for fun. the prices on some of those things... dear god... fortunately a large state school always has money to blow even in a huge budget deficit so long as its done in small increments.

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Re: Worst thing you've seen in a lab

Postby TychoMaudd » Fri Jun 22, 2012 1:22 am UTC

pyronius wrote:man, i can't tell you how often i see people break cylinders, beakers, flasks, etc. i didn't think much of it before, but then i began to consider doing a bit of home chemistry for fun. the prices on some of those things... dear god... fortunately a large state school always has money to blow even in a huge budget deficit so long as its done in small increments.


You should see some of the price tags on the equipment that get regularly used and abused. We've got Pt crucibles no bigger than a thimble that cost over $1000 each.

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Re: Worst thing you've seen in a lab

Postby Jorpho » Fri Jun 22, 2012 1:47 pm UTC

TychoMaudd wrote:We've got Pt crucibles no bigger than a thimble that cost over $1000 each.
A whole crucible? What do you do with them?

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Re: Worst thing you've seen in a lab

Postby TychoMaudd » Fri Jun 22, 2012 5:20 pm UTC

Jorpho wrote:
TychoMaudd wrote:We've got Pt crucibles no bigger than a thimble that cost over $1000 each.
A whole crucible? What do you do with them?


They generally get used for USP/NF ID test for silicon dioxide. It involves heating the sample and potassium carbonate in a Pt crucible until they melt together, then adding in 2 mL of a colorimetric test reagent once it cools. Seeing how expensive they are, we get the smallest ones that are suitable. A larger, more normal sized crucible would be upwards of $5000.

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Re: Worst thing you've seen in a lab

Postby GonzoMcFonzo » Sun Jun 24, 2012 10:01 pm UTC

In high school chem lab we did an "alchemy" experiment (more of a demonstration really) that involved electroplating a penny with zinc to turn it 'silver' then heating it to form a brass alloy which turns the penny 'gold'. A really interesting lab, and a good one for schoolkids.

There were a lot of bits of paper towels lying around the lab, which we were using to dry the pennies after galvanizing. At the end of the lab, when everyone was leaving, the teacher went around sweeping all of these paper towels off the tables and into one of those big 40 gallon plastic trashcans. As I'm sitting in a classroom down the hall, waiting for the bell to ring, the fire alarm goes off just as I see the chemistry teacher run down the hall holding the flaming trashcan. Turns out someone left a very hot penny on the table, and it got swept into the trashcan full of mostly dry paper towels. The trashcan, complete with ~12in hole melted in the side, sat in the corner of the room for the rest of the year, as a reminder of the importance of lab safety
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Re: Worst thing you've seen in a lab

Postby TychoMaudd » Sun Jun 24, 2012 11:57 pm UTC

Back in Chem 101 lab at college, we had an experiment that involved (slowly) dissolving a small amount of sodium in water to produce sodium hydroxide. This was done by putting the sodium in a filter paper and slowing adding water over it until it was fully dissolved, then the filter paper was discarded. One person didn't wait for the sodium to be fully dissolved and tossed the filter paper along with the wet piece of sodium into the trash. Needless to say, smoke and fire soon followed. What really surprised me though was the TA's decision to try to put it out with water! Thankfully at least some of the students knew what to do and how to use a fire extinguisher.

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Re: Worst thing you've seen in a lab

Postby Jorpho » Mon Jun 25, 2012 2:28 am UTC

TychoMaudd wrote:
Jorpho wrote:
TychoMaudd wrote:We've got Pt crucibles no bigger than a thimble that cost over $1000 each.
A whole crucible? What do you do with them?
They generally get used for USP/NF ID test for silicon dioxide. It involves heating the sample and potassium carbonate in a Pt crucible until they melt together, then adding in 2 mL of a colorimetric test reagent once it cools. Seeing how expensive they are, we get the smallest ones that are suitable. A larger, more normal sized crucible would be upwards of $5000.
So is the Pt used for its high melting temperature or something? Normally I would associate its use with some sort of catalysis.

TychoMaudd wrote:Thankfully at least some of the students knew what to do and how to use a fire extinguisher.
A fire extinguisher can be just as bad when it comes to flammable metals, depending on the extinguisher. A special Class D unit is sometimes called for.


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