Why is that ultracentrifuge walking down the hall?

On ruining really expensive lab equipment, from organic chemist Derek Lowe's blog.

I find something very soothing in these sorts of tales of personal disaster. Chemistry ones tend to be juicier than information technology ones; the latter may involve halon dumps but seldom include any gaseous hydrogen chloride.

The chem stories, like metalworking stories, are also usually not so technical as to be incomprehensible to those of us whose chemistry expertise extends not much further than the ability to tell bromine from packaging peanuts.

Lowe's whole Org Chem Horror Stories category is here.

5 Responses to “Why is that ultracentrifuge walking down the hall?”

  1. Steven Den Beste Says:

    His "Things I won't work with" category is fun, too. Things like perchlorates, and azides.

  2. Erik T Says:

    I'm thoroughly enjoying this.

  3. Darkside Says:

    The only interesting chemistry related event in high school was when a group of boys stole a few chunks of sodium, and put them in the urinals. The resulting explosion didn't hurt anyone thank goodness.

  4. matt Says:

    I worked as a fitter and turner for 6 years, and came away from that with a healthy respect for rotating metal, a load of good stories, and (due to some luck) no disabling injuries.

    But chemistry has a whole different feel to it, doesn't it? Just recently we had a professional soldering team turn up here to rework a bunch of PCBs, and they sent their equipment on ahead. One box arrived, dimensions about 40x40x40cm, and more protective layers than an onion
    - contents, 1gm Thallium (or Gallium? Sorry to be ignorant!) soldering flux and about a billion "packaging peanuts". I think they paid more to ship that one gram of nasty chemicals, than all the rest of their gear put together (3 soldering-stations with microscopes, etc.).

  5. Daniel Rutter Says:

    Not sure what that'd be, off the top of my head.

    Gallium is indeed used for some soldering applications, but it's very innocuous. Thallium's pretty nasty, but (for that reason) it's not used for soldering (if it were non-toxic, it'd probably turn up in some oddball solder alloy or other, since it's got a low-ish melting point).

    I can believe that the stuff genuinely was evil and ferocious. If it was just super-low-melting-point gallium alloy solder, though, then it might have been overpackaged just to stop it from getting damaged, flowing out of the box and scaring someone :-).

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