Thoughtful scientist, colored water

For you scientists out there, I have a question.

When you’re contemplating an Erlenmeyer flask or beaker filled with colored water (as you scientist types so often do), what color do you prefer?

Today we’ll concentrate on orange. Here’s a picture that makes me happy for several reasons.

First of all, it’s picture of a thoughtful scientist holding insight-bestowing colored water in laboratory glassware. These always amuse me, even when they’re absurd stock photo fictions. But this one is real. This is a real scientist who is actually studying orange-colored water (a sugary orange soft drink). And it’s interesting research (high-fructose corn syrup prompts considerably more weight gain than an equivalent caloric load of sucrose). And it’s at my alma mater. And as it happens orange is one of the school colors. Man, what a great shot!

Look at the whole picture and you’ll see they’re clearly having a good time posing for the picture. You can almost hear them planning the shot: “Let’s do one of those colored-water-in-beakers photos!” I don’t know if those purple gloves were necessary for the lab work, but my, they look dandy next to the orange water.

As for showing what lab breakthroughs really look like, I enjoy Derek Lowe’s discussion here:

It doesn’t make for much of a cover shot, but if one of us ever does manage to change the world, it’ll start with a puzzled glance at a computer screen, or a raised eyebrow while looking at a piece of paper. Instead of getting noisier, everything will get a lot quieter. And if there are any purple spotlights to be seen, we won’t even notice them. . .

4 thoughts on “Thoughtful scientist, colored water”

  1. 1) Old PI; old lab. Dig all the glassware! Most labs moved over to plastic… everything back in the 90’s. They’ve got so much extra glassware, they some strewn haphazardly in a box like they’re ready to move. I haven’t seen oversized glass test tubes like those since, well, Princeton.

    2) All female lab. This is more and more the norm: from technicians to graduate students to post-docs, women appear to make up the majority of young scientists. I don’t know what this says, but it gives one pause when over half of the graduate school attends the lecture on the underrepresentation of women in science.

    3) I prefer blue. It looks like copper sulfate, which is innocuous enough to be carrying around in an open beaker. The yellow-orange, turbid stuff looks too much like a bacterial culture, which is gross when it splashed on your face. The purple looks like potassium permanganate, which is a strong oxidizer. I wouldn’t be swirling that in front of my eyes without good personal protection:

  2. It wouldn’t surprise me if the photographer said they should really have some proper glassware, and somebody said “Oh! I saw some of those giant old test tubes down in the basement…” Notice that they don’t include any pictures of the poor bloated orange-tinted diabetic rats.

  3. They don’t include pictures in the article either; just tables and graphs! Maybe the article will be featured for the issue’s cover art and they’ll have a picture of the rats when the print version comes out. One can only hope.

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