Thursday, October 18, 2012

Lab Clean Up

After being here for six years, I honestly thought there were no stones left unturned in my insatiable appetite to discover all of the awesome in my lab.

You see, my lab used to be a Naval Ordnance Research Laboratory.  This means that aside from being used as a facility for highly secretive research on artillery, this lab used to have a lot of money.  The marks of previous wealth are quite distinct: we have a machine shop that would make most machinists green with envy, we have entire rooms full of old electronic equipment that (back in the day) was state-of-the-art, we even have a room that we call the "lunch room" although it has long been relegated to neglected office space.

Now that my lab is acquiring a shock tube, we are doing some major lab remodeling.  The process is yielding new things to explore and discover.

Last week, I went out to our wood shop (who knew?) to help one of our lab guys clean it out for storage.  To protect my hands from the rusty scrap metal I was hauling away, I found this awesome pair of thick, protective, leather gloves.  I called them my "astronaut gloves" because they looked very much like what the astronauts wear.  However, my dexterity was severely limited and so I spent most of my time marveling at the fine motor skills that astronauts manage while performing their missions in full space gear.  I also got to use our glass blaster to clean off a few rusty wrenches.  I'm afraid that actually created a monster out of me - once you get started, it's hard to stop.

Today, I went up to the lunch room to look through old cabinets before they get hauled away in preparation for a new researcher.  One cabinet yielded the usual haul of expensive but confusing jumble of optics.  One cabinet yielded piles of old Scientific Americans (we're talking 1950's and 1960's).  One cabinet yielded data that I have been looking for for 6 years although the media is now obsolete.  One cabinet yielded a lot of flasks and beakers.  The last cabinet smelled like a sterile hospital and was full of pipets and syringes.  I know that this was post ordnance research but what kind of research was conducted here that hundreds and hundreds of dollars were spent on sterile lab equipment only to be abandoned for 25 years?
Circa 1959 - we hadn't even taken a picture of Earth from space yet

Alternate career No. 65470: Lab historian.

What do you think?  Doesn't that sound like a ton of fun to go rifling through old documents and hardware and figure out exactly what previous research has been done in a facility?  It's like archaeology meets rocket science.

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