On Monday, the LabLiterati met up with James Meek, author of the new lab lit novel The Heart Broke In, to find out more about the writer and his work. We recorded the entire discussion for an upcoming LabLit podcast, which should be produced within the next week or so. The conversation was fascinating – science was a big part of it, of course, but we also covered areas as diverse as religion, women in the workplace and the evils of word processing.
Do look out for it!
I just received the following tweet:
I clicked on the link to discover a lab lit drama was going to be aired on BBC 3 later today. The blurb sounds promising:
Samantha Bond stars as a psychiatrist in this classic European farce by Friedrich Dürrenmatt about three theoretical physicists who believe they are Einstein, Newton and Möbius. They are locked in a lunatic asylum and each gets tangled in vicious murders. Amidst all the jokes is a real relationship between a scientist who may or may not be mad and his nurse who wants to save him. The Physicists was first performed in 1962 at the height of the Cold War.
The serious subject behind the farce is what to do with the knowledge of weapons of mass destruction once let out of the genie’s bottle. Who controls that knowledge? Can scientists remain free, even in the free world?
Unfortunately, I won’t be able to watch this live. Some time ago I made the decision that if I were going to have time to write fiction, it was best not to own a television. Then BBC came out with the iPlayer, which undermined my resolution a little bit. (I do restrict myself to about 2-3 hours a week of watch-again TV on my iPad, but it’s not the cold-turkey ideal I’d like. But sometimes, I really just need to veg out.)
Still, I’m definitely going to make time for this one. Thanks for the tip-off, Kev!
There is nothing quite like that delicious feeling when you wake up on the first day of Christmas holidays, safe in the knowledge that you’ve left the lab behind you for a little while. It’s time to stop thinking about bad-assed bugs, cells, manuscripts (we’re juggling four at the moment), statistical analyses and grant applications, and start focusing on sleep, food, literature…and maybe a little bit of the fermented stuff. Today, I even gave my hair a leave-in treatment – for this overstressed academic, that’s the height of indulgence and time-wasting.
Here at LabLit Central, the tree is up, the gifts are wrapped, the cookies are baked and it’s time for a bit of well-earned downtime. And maybe even a few hours spent penning some fiction.
From all of us at the magazine, we wish you a happy and healthy holiday, and a prosperous new year.
What is everyone going to be reading? We’d love to hear.
In other news, these two beauties popped up on my Petri dish over the weekend. Gorgeous, aren’t they? Based on the color, they are probably in the bacterial group KESC (Klebsiella, Enterobacter, Serratia and Citrobacter). I need to do a few more tests to narrow it down…and of course finding out What It Means might take a bit longer.
We are tickled that The New York Times used LabLit.com as a resource in a prominent feature about scientists in fiction, and gave it a few name-checks. Respect.
Read the feature here.
And thanks to all those who found us via the piece and have already written in to nominate your favorite books! We’ll take a look and incorporate them in the next List Update if they fit the bill.
I used to be part of a rich lab, and now I run a poor one.
It’s sometimes fun to find creative ways to perform your experiments on a budget, but it can be a little painful when you have to compromise on equipment. When it came time to buy a new piece of kit to measure concentrations, I had to go for the rock-bottom make of spectrophotometer – and even that was almost a little bit too expensive. Having spent the last few years completely spoiled on a lovely machine known as the NanoDrop – which can measure concentrations in a single droplet of liquid suspended on a tiny pedestal – we are now entirely old-skool, using old-fashioned cuvettes in a version of spectrophoometer that would not have looked out of place in my PhD lab back in the early 1990s.
I am definitely not complaining; anyone who’s ever worked in a lab with no spectrophotometer at all will appreciate the frustration that its lack causes. So I’m trying to be philosophical about my latest addition to the lab.
It’s totally retro-chic.
For the microbiologist who has everything.
Kitting out a new cell biology lab on a very limited budget isn’t easy. So recently I’ve immersed myself in the strange and colorful world of online second-hand lab equipment. Unbeknownst to most researchers who work in rich, multi-grant-funded labs, there is a brisk trade out there for used scientific machinery. It makes a lot of sense: why spend £3,000 on a brand-new liquid nitrogen tank when you can pick up a good-quality used one for a tenth of the cost? There’s a lot of junk out there, but amidst the clunkers I’m stumbling over a few finds – tanks, if you will, that little old ladies only drove to the supermarket once a month.
But the marketing and display of some of these websites leaves a lot to be desired. This one is my personal fave thus far:
…might be me.
It’s my last day in this lab. Like the good citizen I am, I have tried to remove all traces myself and make space for my eventual replacement in this itinerant dance that science policy folks like to call “the Churn”. I’ve handed over important or useful stuff and thrown the rest away – except for a few lost pockets of grey area in between, which join the hundreds of other piles of similarly grey stuff that may one day be thrown out when the current denizens have “churned” to such an extent that our initials have long since been forgotten.
In about an hour, I walk out and never come back. And in a few weeks, a new lab adventure will begin.
Boring lunchtime seminar?
Want to distract yourself, but forgot your notepad?
No problem. Just borrow a pen.
My illustrious colleague Dr X shows you how: