Wednesday, July 09, 2008

This too Shall Pass or Can You Smell What the Science is Cooking?

This past July 4th weekend may have been the best time I've ever had in the city. My dad came up to visit and my brother and I showed him a hell of a time. Thursday was dinner at one of our favorite places. Friday we saw the Coney Island Hot Dog Eating contest (USA! USA!) and then fireworks on the Brooklyn side of the South Street Sea Port, close enough we felt our eyebrows smolder. Saturday was a BBQ with Aunts + Uncles, Sunday a Buckminster Fuller exhibit at the Whitney, and Monday before he flew off we got pizza and talked about Trotsky's assassination in Mexico.

Naturally after all that I assumed I was due for some astonishingly bad luck. That's not pessimism, just probability. And maybe a little pessimism, but after today I probably won't have to worry about it for a while. See I can have a bad day at work like anyone else. Quitting time rolls around and looking back you figure your productivity may actually have been higher if staying home with a pitcher of iced tea and the remains of the Sunday paper. The only difference with my bad days is that I work in a lab and as it turns out that makes a hell of a lot of a difference.

It started early, I had to check on some mice for a project at 10 and while I was picking up this 40 gram bastard he squirmed out of my grip and bit off a not small chunk of my thumb. I cursed, dropped him, swore vengeance and held a towel to my digit for a while. This is a rather too common occupational hazard and there are many first aid kits scattered throughout our lab walls and in various crowbar accessible crates.

The 10 o'clock project didn't start till 11, but at least it was something I was looking forward to, sacrificing mice on the altar of science and guess who was first on the chopping block?
Also I was killing the lot for another one of the attractive post docs I work with, and we had a pretty good time at it. Of course she also mentioned (reiterated actually) how she thought it was a really bad idear to date in the office. Balls. Actually I'm not exactly sure sure why it was she brought this up, I don't recall acting particularly flirtatious. Maybe it's just when you peal back a rib cage to reveal a still beating heart waiting for your needles well, these things cross the mind.

Or maybe other things.
An aside regarding the mouse sacrifice. The fuzzy little guy has received a few minutes prior an extremely lethal dose of Pentobarbital-and is before we begin checked carefully for reactions or responses to stimulus or pain before we get cracking. I'm not a monster...not all the time.

Anywho that finished I got to start on the next big project of the day. For that I was measuring how a completely different breed of mouse thermoregulated. That is, I put 2 dozen of them in the freezer and took their temperature every hour for a while. Now we've two means of measuring this-a fancy implanted probe that sits under the skin broadcasting information about the mouse temperature, mood, mass of the lass bowel movement whatever. The other method requires a lot of Vaseline.

Go ahead and guess which system I employed.

So I was walking out of the central lab area for the 2nd to last reading and I noticed a lot of red splotches on my glove. Right, the biting, I knocked around in a first aid kit wiped down my wound with alcohol and applied a fresh band aid. Then, when I turned about to walk out again I heard a sharp cracking sound and felt something small and likely expensive under my foot. I bent down to pick it up and-

Another aside, how do you think we learn about our environment, especially when were confronted with some really novel stimuli? Personally, and I don't have much to back this up with aside from my impromptu experiment, I think a lot of our tactics fall back on the old hunter/gatherer models. For instance imagine you've picked up something smallish, and new to you. You need to figure out if it's good to eat (and then eat it) or potentially dangerous (and give it to your neighbor). You must act quickly so the actions you follow aren't exactly on a conscious level, but it's simple stuff, just getting as much sensory data as you can. Touch, sight and smell, and so on.

So-you feel a thing, kinda papery but solid in the middle. Then your looking at it, but oops not wearing prescription today and the print is very tiny so hold it close, and as you pull it close*SNRF*, a quick smell. All pretty basic stuff, not the kind of thing you'd pay a second thought to unless it went, "Hmmm what's this say? Ammon*SNRF*AAAAAAAAAAARGH!"



"AAAAGH OH GOD!"

Pretty decent zombie comic, and also OH GOD IT BURNED
"Tom what is it?" The post doc again, coincidentally, her bench is the closest to the first aid box.

"AGH it's this thing NO DON-"

*SNRF* "OH GOD!"

"What IS it?!"

"Smelling Salts-get rid of it!" I had no idea how. If I threw it down the sink or in the trash I'd probably gas the lab or at least the cleaning lady. I ran to the underboss, the tiny capsul clenched tight in my fist "AGH! How do I get rid of this?"

"Get rid of what?" She reached for my hand.

"NO! It's Ammonium!" *SNRF*

"AGH! Tom what in the HELL are you doing with Ammonium? Get it in the hood in a container with a lid on it and a note!" And in it went to our dangerous chemical hood to be vented outside, presumably killing overflying birds and small aircrafts.

1 comment:

The Silly Addiction said...

So, are you some kind of troubled, mutilated crimefighter now, or did you not sniff enough ammonium?

I need to know before I boast about all the raping I've done this week.