Adventures in Ethics and Science


The March weather in California has taken a turn for the beautiful this afternoon, but to chemistry conference fans, the natural beauty of the great outdoors is no match for the beauty of the competitions inside the Chemical Arena. The crowds donned their safety goggles and souvenir nitrile gloves and piled in to observe the action. The press box was a flurry of strip-charts and lab notebooks. After some excited play, here are the first round results:

Entropy: 117
Enthalpy: 84

While Entropy was the favorite of the odds makers going into this game, Enthalpy’s fans heated things up from the stands and kept things interesting early in the game. For the first 30 points or so, the spectators were working the arena and seemed to be holding Entropy back. Eventually, however, the crowd got disorderly and then the Enthalpy fans just seemed to run out of energy to keep supporting their team. By the final buzzer, Entropy’s players had so many possible winning states on the court that Enthalpy didn’t have a chance.

Sublimation: 91
Evaporation: 78

In this game, the climate in the arena seemed to make all the difference. The air conditioners were going full blast, making things comfortable for the labcoat-clad coaches but an uphill battle for Evaporation. While Evaporation’s early game looked pretty fluid, to the point of being sloppy, Sublimation started out in a tight formation and was able to break away quickly for better conversions (to gaseous form). We’ve seen Sublimation play in warmer venues, and the players have had a much harder time keeping it together without just melting. Clearly, the climate control managers for the Chemical Arena should be credited with the assist for Sublimation’s win today.

FTIR: 101
NMR: 81

If climate control giveth, chemistry fans, it also taketh away. In particular, the fact that the overtaxed arena air conditioners broke after the sublimation/evaporation game meant that NMR came into its match at a definite disadvantage. While NMR has been a powerhouse player in recent years, FTIR has a much longer history in the chemistry conference. Even without the support of a big expensive program, FTIR’s versatility and ability to get results on the court when things heated up led to its unexpected trouncing of NMR.

Büchner funnel: 95
Erlenmeyer flask: 99

This meeting of labware titans may also have been affected by the loss of air conditioning in the arena, but high ambient temperature wasn’t the only thing that made it hard for Büchner funnel to get things to crystalize on the court. The Büchner funnel coaching staff may have made a bad decision about filter paper pore size. If the fans in the stands are to be believed, though, Büchner funnel’s loss can be attributed to “suck[ing] too hard”. Meanwhile, Erlenmeyer flask held on as their opponents poured it on, and they avoided spills and overflows.

f-orbitals: 77
d-orbitals: 90

The quantum odds makers called this one from the beginning. Some of the outcome can be traced back to fundamental differences between these two teams — the f-orbitals have more players they can send in, but the p-orbitals start playing a whole quantum level earlier, giving them more electron-handling experience on the court. Coaching may have been an issue here, too, if for no other reason than the f-orbitals’ coaching staff struggled to draw their formations on the chalkboard while the d-orbital coaches made short work of representing where each player was to go relative to its teammates. No surprise that 3dz2 was the MVP for this game.

Fossil fuels: 76
Alternative fuels: 66

There was a lot of excitement behind the Alternative fuels squad coming into this game, but they just couldn’t pull out a win against the historic powerhouse of Fossil fuels. The Alternative fuels team’s undoing may have been a plethora of talented players but no clear strategy for getting them to work together as a team. Biodiesel showed a lot of heart, and wind got things moving for awhile, but in the fourth quarter Fossil fuels drew on ample reserves and ignited a controlled burn that took them to the win.

Caffeine: 137
Ethanol: 151

In a sold-out arena, both Caffeine and Ethanol mounted drives across the blood brain barrier and got the game off to an exciting start. Caffeine deployed a flashier molecular structure, its two nitrogen-containing rings perking things up on the court. In the early minutes of the game, it seemed like the buzz behind Caffeine, but then Ethanol turned on some buzz of its own. The Ethanol team has, on occasion, poured on too much during a game, to the point where the players have literally fallen down and blacked out, but today their game was all about moderation, and as a result they played a relaxed but not depressed second half and took the win. Fans should note that, in a show of sportsmanship, these two teams will be playing together in an Irish Coffee charity match, tomorrow after the parade.

Acid: 103
Base: 91

Before this game even got started, there was an accusation of illegal buffer use made against the Acid squad. Preliminary screenings revealed no unauthorized buffering, but it was hard after such charges for anyone in the stands to maintain his or her neutrality. Indeed, the action on the court was intense, with plenty of “donation” of protons (and elbows) by the Acid team. Base responded to Acid’s sour on-court demeanor with some slippery moves of its own, to the crowd’s cheers of “OH! OH! OH!” Just when it looked like both teams had reduced each other to a sweaty, salty puddle, Acid revealed itself to be triprotic and found the internal resources to edge out Base for the win. The bitterness of the disappointed Base fans was met with the victorious visage etched onto the Acid fans’ faces.

This means we’re looking at the following second round match-ups:

Acid vs. Ethanol
d-orbitals vs. Sublimation
Entropy vs. Fossil fuels
Erlenmeyer flask vs. FTIR

The second round games promise some unexpected twists and turns. Who will be the chemistry conference champion, and will that mighty team be able to defeat the best that the biology conference can produce to go on to the 2007 Science Spring Showdown? Stay tuned to find out!


  1. #1 G Barnett
    March 16, 2007

    Wow. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen such a high density of puns.

    Is a good thing, this.

  2. #2 Janet D. Stemwedel
    March 16, 2007

    But the pressure to announce the results of these games explains the greater density of puns.

  3. #3 Chris
    March 16, 2007

    Preliminary screenings revealed no unauthorized buffering, but it was hard after such charges for anyone in the stands to maintain his or her neutrality.

    Groooaan. Thanks for the laugh!

  4. #4 bible
    March 16, 2007

    I thought for sure the fossil fuels were going to run out of gas by the end of the game. Maybe next year.

  5. #5 lisa maynard
    March 16, 2007

    whoa! i had alternative fuels going to the final four! especially since fossil fuels’ best players are all used up. didn’t see that one coming.

  6. #6 Dr. X
    March 16, 2007

    But the pressure to announce the results of these games explains the greater density of puns.

    Ah, but that only applies to ideal puns! *rimshot*

  7. #7 Oaktown Girl
    March 17, 2007

    Wow, what fun. I love it! (Especially since my hoop team isn’t in the tourney this year).

  8. #8 Bob O'H
    March 17, 2007

    Well, FITR are going to win the next round. Whenever I’ve seen Erlenmeyer flask on the bounce, it’s just cracked.


  9. #9 Lab Lemming
    March 19, 2007

    Sublimation doesn’t have a chance. They’re a good team in the vacuum of the regular season, but increase the pressure and they start dribbling a fluid phase.

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