Lab Stories

Category archives for Lab Stories

True Lab Stories: Death of a Laser

So, what’s the deal with last night’s silly obituary? Basically, the main laser in my experiment died because I’m a jackass. More specifically, the laser in question is a diode laser, similar to the kind found in CD and DVD players. These are broadly tunable, available in a wide range of powers and wavelengths, and…

True Lab Stories: Boris the Magnet Guy

The story about Bloch oscillation gravity measurements reminds me of a True Lab Story about a different sort of sensitive measurement made using cold atoms, made during my grad school days. Sadly, this one wasn’t particularly useful… The standard technique for accumulating large numbers of cold atoms is a thing called a magneto-optical trap, which…

(A couple of regular commenters will recognize this one…) Every working research lab has a sort of rhythm to it. There’s always a collection of background sounds, in a particular pattern, that indicates that the lab is functioning properly. When I was a post-doc, the pattern was something like three mintues of white noise (the…

True Lab Stories: Career Tracks

Back when I was an undergrad, I spent the summer before my senior year on campus working on my thesis project (trying to build a MOT for rubidium, which never did work). That same summer, one of the guys I did problem sets with, we’ll call him J., who was only a rising junior, was…

Too Stupid to Be a Scientist

True Lab Stories really are everywhere these days. Via Inside Higher Ed’s Around the Web, a blog called “What the Hell Is Wrong With You?” offers True Lab Stories: The Party Game (my name, not hers): Back in the good old days, when La Blonde Parisienne and I were bright young grad students working in…

Gravity Still Works

True Lab stories are everywhere, as Arcance Gazebo today features a story of new and interesting liquid nitrogen experiments: Condensed matter labs such as ours receive frequent deliveries of liquid nitrogen in one- or two-hundred liter dewars. Unfortunately, most of the Berkeley cond-mat labs are in Birge Hall, which has no loading dock, so that…

This isn’t the usual story about lab mishaps, but I’m not quite sure what other category to put it in. It is a true story about my lab in grad school, though, so we’ll call it a True Lab Story. The mid-90’s was not a great time to be working in a government lab, particularly…

It’s been a while since I did a True Lab Story, and it seems like an appropriate sort of topic for a rainy Friday when I have grades to finish. I’m running out of really good personal anecdotes, but there are still a few left before I have to move entirely to hearsay. And who…

A low-key True Lab Story, in honor of the previous post on knowing more about your experiment than anybody else. One of the first times I had to run my grad school experiment all by myself, I had trouble getting the discharge in the metastable atom source to light. I went through all the usual…

I’m still feeling pretty lethargic, but I hope that will improve when I get to lecture about the EPR paradox in Quantum Optics today (it’s going to be kind of a short lecture, unless I can ad-lib an introduction to Bell’s Theorem at the end of the class, but then I’ve been holding them late…