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Chemistry Lab List

November 9th, 2008 by skippy

And once again it is Monday, and time for another list update.  This list comes courtesy of a chemistry professor, who would like to not be named because it might interfere with getting tenure later.

(Submitted by Professor Anonymous)

1) Chemical burns are not badges of honor.

2) Yes, as a matter of fact, my dry ice privileges can be revoked


3) Should not refer to teaching a freshman course as “destruct testing the lab”.

4) “Design and build a still” is not an acceptable extra-credit assignment.

5) Telling students that harmless chemicals are poisonous is an inappropriate way to encourage lab safety habits.

6) Telling students that poisonous chemicals are harmless is an inappropriate way to avoid grading their lab reports.

7) Cannot reheat my lunch using a furnace, Bunsen burner or laser.

8) No one in the lab is named Igor, so I had better stop talking to him.

9) Movie star sunglasses are not an acceptable replacement for safety goggles.

10) Not allowed to add food coloring and dry ice to my experiments, to make them green and bubbly. Unless the Dean is visiting.

11) I may not wear such a short skirt that it looks like I am going commando under my lab coat. Unless the Dean is visiting.

12) It’s okay to invent technobabble to impress the Dean. It’s not okay to use technobabble from Star Trek.

13) I had better have a good reason for saying any of the following:
*Where’s the fire extinguisher?

14) There is no good reason for maniacal laughter.

15) I am allowed to dress as a mad scientist on Halloween. Not when potential donors are touring the labs.

16) Excessive radiation exposure will not turn me into a superhero. It will turn me into a corpse.

17) Monty Python references have no place in my lab notebook.

18) I am not a “lolscientist” and thus have no excuse for being “in ur suply clozet, stealin ur glaswar”.

19) Cannot use unnecessary Radiation signs to keep students out of my lab and away from delicate equipment.

20) Cannot tell students that real Radiation signs are just there to keep people out.

21) Cannot place Biohazard signs in the restroom or the break room fridge.

22) It is my fault that the biochemists didn’t get the joke and started storing biological samples in the break room fridge. I now owe the department a new fridge.

23) My warning sign privileges have been revoked.

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62 Responses to “Chemistry Lab List”

  1. Knocturn Says:

    Nice to see a wide range of people on the site.

    Captcha: No Femina; clearly not the case.


  2. Stickfodder Says:

    Ok now number 14 is just discrimination.


  3. Daver Says:

    This place just gets better and better, sending this to my first year lab demonstrator.


  4. MarkHB Says:

    Regarding number 11, Pics Or It Didn’t Happen ;)

    I think science tomfoolery has much of the same appeal as military tomfoolery: the ability for things to go “FOOM!” in a big way makes them more giggleworthy.


  5. Andrew Says:

    Heh… My high school science teaher was a Ph.D. BioChemist. And his favorite thing to do was to set off the fire detectors and scare little kids. You know, stuff like 6 foot tall pillars of purple flames jumping out of crucibles, or helping a freshman with a chemistry project to make highly explosive crystals and such.

    During my sophomore year he even managed to halp the same sophomore blow out every window on one side of the school… from over 1000 feet away.


  6. Tzanti Says:

    Number 5 reminds me of the Head of Science at my High School. He caught some lads in my form larking about in the labs. He took them to a storeroom, opened a safe and took out a heavy metal flask covered in trefoils. Opening it, he doled out handfuls of grey sparkling goop to the lads.

    “There are dangerous substances in the labs,” he declared, “This is Uranium!” The lads fled screaming.


  7. Anonymous and STILL Employed Says:

    My old science teachers used to tell us about the dumb shit they did in college. One burned the athletics field down to bare earth with a weather balloon full of photoreactive herbicide, one threw a dead sheep off the tallest building to test terminal velocity (no pun intended), and one blew up a boat belonging to the cambridge rowing team while they were out practicing in it.


  8. Dorkus Says:

    Sounds like a great chemistry professor.

    My chem prof decided one day to show us the amount of explosive energy found in different gases, namely oxygen and hydrogen. I’ve never seen a fireball that big inside of a building. This is also the professor with a well known reputation for causing the entire chemistry building to have to be evacuated at least once a semester.


    SpaZzy reply on November 14th, 2008 11:37 am:

    He sounds like a fun guy. One time, my Chem teacher blew the door out of our portable, and the roof cracked, so we had to be under a tarp until they could order a new portable.



  9. Dave in NC Says:

    Sending this to my biochem grad student sister.

    looked insured – whadya mean “how am I gonna pay for it?”


  10. Martin Says:

    Reminds me of my old Science teachers. They would deliberately run dangerous-looking yet totally harmless experiments with the older students just to get the younger students who could see straight into our chem lab to cower in fear under their desks thinking something was about to seriously explode… perhaps running out screaming in fear was not such a good idea


  11. Skye Says:

    definitely sending this to my Microbiology teacher.


  12. dainis Says:

    Heh…our chem teacher had such awesome methane bubbles (now THERE’s a fun demo!) he lit the ceiling on fire. The scorched tiles were a constant reminder about fire safety for the rest of the semester.


  13. Stonewolf Says:

    This comes from taking Chem my senior year for shits and giggles after taking a HS Chem course. Appolgies for length, but I loved Chem class.

    1-Do not take a Chem course when you know more about chem than everyone else.

    2-When asked why I am voluntarily taking Chem, the proper response is “To learn” not “I like explosives.”

    3-Do not ask difficult questions in class even if they are legit. Its just too far over everyone’s head.

    4-NEVER giggle in lab. It tips off the professor.

    5-When informed we are going to perform an Acid/Base lab, do not grin. It tips off the professor.

    6-After the lab in #5 do not offer to clean up everyone’s lab so I can collect the excess hydrogen and “cook it off”.

    7-Do not explain how to make crappy Mustard Gas from common cleaning products. Apparently this is not common knowlege.

    8-When my dorm gets bombed by with a Drano bomb, it is inadvisable to tell security what the device was, based on recognizing the smell.

    9-Do not quote movies in lab, especially Real Genious “It worked! Now if we can just keep it from exploding!”

    10-Do not ever be responsible for an evacuation.

    11-I do not know how to make any explosives or incindiaries. My professor needs to sleep at night.

    12-Do not teach fellow students anything outside of the issued lab. My professor needs to sleep at night.

    13-Do not place MSDS sheets for dihydrogen monoxide over water fountains. Apparently college students are dumb.

    14-Do not lable chemicals in any language other than english. Modern english.

    15-Finally, never utter the words “I wonder what will happen if I mix these.”


    Daver reply on November 10th, 2008 1:08 pm:

    Re 13, you know it’s amazing that you can walk around the labs of one of the 5 largest oil companies in the world and refer to “dihydrogen monoxide” for a full day before anyone cottons on.


    Tzanti reply on November 11th, 2008 1:28 pm:

    Re: 15, when we got bored in High School chemistry lessons we’d play around with the quantities (the teachers were smart enough to only give us the stuff we actually needed for the experiment), so if it called for 0.5 grams, we’d add 5.0 grams. This led to some interesting results. Sometime we’d sneak up to the bored and change it there too.

    I was in the lowest set, with the rest of the thick kids. We were only aloud to make safe things like shampoo (ours started glowing), toothpaste (mine had certain similarities to epoxy resin), wine (I shit thee not, it was the eighties after all) and fun things with electricity (like *BIG* shocks). The regular experiments were basic stuff that was deemed to be safe, and was quite safe if you forget the super-heated peanut cannons.


    Stonewolf reply on November 11th, 2008 5:31 pm:

    Super-heated peanut cannons? Do tell.


    dave the destroyer reply on August 3rd, 2010 9:33 am:

    my highschool chemistry teacher accidently told us to add far to much of a chemical once… can’t remember the specifics, but we were trying to measure the rate at which CO2 was produced, and he told us to add 5 grams of powdered white stuff, instead of the 5 grams of lumpy white stuff we were meant to… if you know anything about the effect of surface area on reaction speed, you won’t be surprised by the 32 gas syringes almost simultaneously smashing into the walls and out of the windows…


  14. CCO Says:


    1. Remember the boiling chips in your beaker lest whilst using distilled water for boiling lest your test tube in said beaker bounce off when the one huge steam bubble overcomes the gamma-star limit (the energy of new surface creation) and bounces your beaker off the Bunsen burner wrecking the experiment.

    2. Do not pour acid straight from big carboys into tiny (100 ml) beakers lest ye splash acid over yourself and your lab partners.

    3. Re above, sulfuric acid eats nylon hose very quickly.

    4. Do not clean up old corroded looking sodium with tap water because you can count on there being a lump of pure enough to explode sodium in there somewhere.

    5. Now-a-days performing unauthorized chemistry experiments outside of lab could get you arrested; especially if the purpose of the experiment is to make explosives.

    {I did #1, my high school physics teacher did #4, and a friend did 2,3, & 5.}


    CCO reply on November 10th, 2008 12:41 pm:

    Actually, it was my friend’s lab partner who did #2.


    Jim A reply on November 12th, 2008 12:01 pm:

    Don’t sit on the lab tables. And those were new jeans too….


    David B reply on November 28th, 2014 6:46 pm:

    Could you please explain #1?


    CCO reply on November 28th, 2014 7:25 pm:

    Sure. When I was a college freshman, I had to boil a solution in a test tube in a beaker and observe the result. It’s been years ago, so the details are a little fuzzy. Either the beaker or the test tube or maybe both were filled with pure (de-ionized) water. I forgot to put my boiling chips in the appropriate vessel. Therefore, there was no free surface to lower the nucleation energy (gamma star–part of the kinetics of boiling, as appose to the thermodynamics (which dictates that water boils at 212 degrees Fahrenheit). Finally, one huge steam bubble formed which burst at the air and knocked my experiment off the beaker stand for zero results.


    David B reply on November 28th, 2014 7:35 pm:

    Thanks for that. I didn’t take chem my senior year, but now I’m wishing I had! (Instead I took metal shop, which brought me to a career in welding.)

  15. Billy Says:

    I had fun in middle school when i found out how to make nitroglycerin from an old encyclopedia. All I needed to know was the man who made it, I was promised jolly ranchers if I did so. Now I wish I took chemistry with these people. Instead I ended up being the one person who always knew the answers in high school, why was I the only one who truly enjoyed chemistry there?


    Stonewolf reply on November 10th, 2008 3:57 pm:

    Because you are probably smarter than your classmates. And none of them realize that all the joys of incendiaries and explosives come from Chemistry.


  16. rozz Says:

    The liquid nitrogen should not be used to make booze cubes.


    CCO reply on November 10th, 2008 7:20 pm:

    LN2 is a really cool way to dust the floor!


  17. Fairest of All Says:

    I knew I should have taken chemistry!


  18. Dave Van Domelen Says:

    There’s a physics activity where the students take a battery, some paper clips, copper wire and a rare earth magnet to make a little electric motor, and compete to see who can get theirs to spin faster. We used to leave the DC power supplies from the previous exercise out in the lab room, since we’d need them in the next exercise anyway, and why waste time putting them away and bringing them back out?

    The reason why is that students, in competing to get the fastest spin, will realize that hooking a 30V power supply across their motor will really get it kicking. But they will not realize that they should unhook the battery first…and when you put 30V across a D cell the wrong way, let’s just say we needed to repaint that table.

    It threw meter-long sparks, too.


  19. Speed Says:

    My 9th grade lab science teacher was busted out of chemistry for filling up a weather balloon with hydrogen and setting it off in school. It blew out the windows and set off the fire alarms in the elementary school a mile away.

    You always knew when the Advanced Biology teacher was going to blow something up when he said, “Hey, you wanna see something cool?”

    #24 Don’t worry, eyebrows grow back.


    Stonewolf reply on November 11th, 2008 5:36 pm:

    He got kicked out? I’ve had three different Profs do that with no problem. One even lit the lab on fire two different times (sodium is fun). There was even this one time the Prof was expecting a shipment of yellow phosphourus. He’s lecturing and opens the container, looks in and runs outside with it. He hurled it over the parking lot then took cover. Of course we were all at the window so when it exploded we all got to learn what “flash bangs” are like. Turns out he got shipped Willie Pete instead of yellow. Yet no one ever brought up the idea of firing the guy.


    macdjord reply on November 20th, 2008 1:55 pm:

    /Fire/ him?!? The guy deserves a medal – most people, suddenly finding themselves holding a powerful explosive that could go off any second, would have creamed, dropped it where they stood, and ran. And then several members of your class would probably have died, and the lab would have been wrecked.


    Stonewolf reply on November 21st, 2008 1:49 pm:

    You don’t know our class. Handling volatile explosives and incendiaries was fairly common. See, by the time Chem was an option you had already filled out your Science Credits so it was voluntary. So Chem class was basically a Pyro Club. Its gotten to the point that I play with so many explosives and have so much high-velocity metal passing near my head I finally bought a K-Pot. I lost track of how many pairs of eyebrows I’ve been through.

    macdjord reply on November 23rd, 2008 10:10 pm:

    Still, the guy did the Right Thing in a dangerous situation that was in no way his fault. Whatever else happened in that class, /that/ incident should have earned him nothing but positive acclaim.

    Captcha: “tight she” – this thing has a dirty mind.

  20. Storm Raven Says:

    When the teacher say’s it’ll only sting a little bit when making soap in chemistry, they’re lying, it ate through the desk at a rate of knots, even hydrochloric acid could get through the varnish.

    Never trust a teacher’s sanity who does a practical how to make nitroglycerine with a class of 15 year olds.

    Storm Raven


    LastClerkStanding reply on May 28th, 2013 10:18 am:

    Lying… nice considering you need lye to make soap.


  21. Zlatko Says:

    * Thermite is not a valid ChemLab project.

    * Do not ever leave your copy of the Anarchist’s Cookbook next to your lab equipment.

    * As a general rule, do not lick it.


    Stonewolf reply on November 11th, 2008 5:38 pm:

    Thermite is so a valid lab project. The four inch crater we left in the back parking lot says so. The Profs exact words before lighting it off “Huh. I’ve never done this much before.”


    Zlatko reply on November 11th, 2008 6:43 pm:

    Lucky you. We were told to think up a project and see it through, and between soap-making and thermite… well, a pound and a half of thermite it was. If only the vice-principal had been just a tad more open-minded (he’s the one who found my book).


    Housellama reply on January 2nd, 2009 9:24 pm:

    It will go through an engine block.

    ….Trust me on this.


    dave the destroyer reply on August 3rd, 2010 9:39 am:

    i had a friend who did that, too. he’d had to save up for a year an a half to get the money for that car, too…

    Housellama reply on August 3rd, 2010 2:04 pm:

    The delicate part is making sure that you don’t hit anything with gas in it. We set ours up well away from the gas line, and even then we used a long fuse.

    …our vice principal was not amused. At. All. Fortunately, it just made a hole and didn’t actually blow up.

    David B reply on March 14th, 2014 10:24 pm:

    So, how /does/ one make thermite? I have a principal’s car to melt through! (He’s a joke. Even the teachers think he is a flake, but they never say it directly. Everyone in the school except him knows that it is really the Vice-principals running the school.)

  22. Maverick Says:

    You know, I actually got permission in my Grade 11 chem class to make Thermite, though I did have a meeting involving the principle and my teacher wondering why I wanted to make thermite.


  23. Mike Says:

    Explosives seem to be the draw to chem. these days. In the 70’s, it was making LSD.

    Captcha: occupied Arline – Arline is occupied making exploding LSD.


  24. Billy Says:

    You know, I should check up on newer encyclpedias to see if those ones mention the “how” part of nitro, after all, the really old encyclopedias that said how to make nitro may not have decided how bad of an idea it was to publish that knowledge as publicly as they did… Damn I love explosives, now I wish i had the anarchists cookbook, i never retained much knowledge in high school chem to figure out how to make explosives myself, just nitro. anything else is just common sense.


  25. Brian Rice Says:

    yeah well i didnt need the chem lab i was born with the knowledge of how to make bath tub napalm and sulfuric acid gas i did how ever in high school check out a book on how to make a time bomb, pipe bomb, and flash bombs which are fun to use on deer.


  26. Mike S. Says:

    If anyone has seen the Discovery Channel’s Mythbusters, their November 12th show had them attempting to cut a car in half with 1500 pounds of thermite. It was impressive.


  27. SpaZzy Says:

    SpaZzy here, my own little list of things that are nono’s and will cause booboos.

    1) Even if the Chem teacher say’s it’s O.K. to eat, DON’T.
    2) Especially if the side effects he tells you involve hallucinations.
    3) Not allowed to attempt to make acid.
    4) Even if it’s not possible.
    5) Never giggle when “Hydrochloric Acid” is mentioned, hinted at, or shown.
    6) Not allowed to take the same course three times and attempt to teach the class to new students when there is a sub.
    7) Don’t inhale that.
    8) When it bursts into flames, it is always my fault.
    9) Not allowed to leave the class with a smirk on my face.
    10) O.K. to leave the class laughing maniacaly.
    11) Not allowed to use my sandwich as a test subject.
    12) Turkey and Pepper Jack are hard to get off of the ceiling.



  28. Ihmhi Says:

    “11) I may not wear such a short skirt that it looks like I am going commando under my lab coat. Unless the Dean is visiting.”

    I *really* hope that a woman wrote this list.

    CAPTCHA: £500,000 highways

    Honestly, having the Pound symbol (£) is going to mess people up occasionally. If you hold the Alt Key and press 0163 on your numberpad (and then let go of Alt), it will generate the symbol.


  29. Eric Says:

    And people wonder why I still have this habit of washing my hands BEFORE using the bathroom.

    High school chem was WAY too much fun. I nearly got kicked out one day for asking too many questions whose answer was “That’s beyond the scope of this class.” Especially after finding out what exactly was in the basement supply closet.


    macdjord reply on November 20th, 2008 1:58 pm:

    What /was/ in the basement supply closet?


    Eric reply on November 23rd, 2008 4:36 pm:

    It was one amazing supply of chem/physics materials that were outdated, and somewhat expired.

    Among my personal favorites were the full co2 laser, plus optics for labs, and a really nice 2 watt analog FM transmitter, with provisions for chaining to a power amp. There used to be a WWII Geiger counter down there too, with a manual only in German and French. It lives in my basement now. I managed to score it when one the physics teachers left and helped clean out the basement of things he told the school they’d never use again. Works great too!


  30. Morgrim Says:

    I suppose I should be slightly alarmed I’ve done or been caught attempting to do 13 of the things on that initial list. >.>

    I was the lab tech of a high school with quite a good science program, so I had the run of the entire storeroom and a surprising amount of free time. My boss had an equal enjoyment in most of the activities that happened. So far my worst injury is only a 2nd degree burn on my hand, I generally know the things that are too dangerous to be mucking about with.

    A few of my own.

    1) If you manage to set fire to a 3m high ceiling, most people don’t actually -want- to know what happened.

    2) Thermite may be perfectly safe to make, but the iron oxide will stain your skin a distinct red colour. If you are removing blades from the scalpels the biology class has been using and your hands and wrists are still this colour, when your boss walks in he will jump to the conclusion you have accidentally slit your wrist.

    3) Doing an imitation of his reaction in the staff room at lunchtime will result in you having to do something unpleasant, like cleaning up the biology classroom where the scalpels were being used.

    4) Walking into the front office wearing a white lab coat, safety glasses, and carrying a large jar covered in warning labels when the entire board of governors is also in the front office leads to some uneasy looks.

    5) If the substance is radioactive and you’re also carrying a ticking geiger counter, the reactions are so much better.

    6) (Ok, so this was with the physics class, but still playing with liquid N2). In future, the police would like to be informed if you are planning on doing the ‘dambuster’ experiment at Open Day.

    7) Setting off balloons filled with hydrogen and improvised fuses, especially in the evening, will increase the number of reported UFO sightings significantly.


    David B reply on November 28th, 2014 7:07 pm:

    Please explain the “dambuster” incident.


  31. industrial equipment Says:

    Thanks for sharing.. :D


  32. Lisa Says:

    Lithium- No! Just no!
    NaOH crystals are not good things to touch, my grade 11 chem teacher no longer has any fingerprints by-the-by
    Even if you can create a vacume the schools equipment will not stand up to it, so don’t
    If you make contact explosives clean the meter stick you used to set them off so that the 6months pregnant biology teacher who likes to use the meter stick as a pointer will not nearly have a heart attack, ps she WILL come after you and it is not pretty!


  33. dave the destroyer Says:

    “1) Chemical burns are not badges of honor.”
    1a) Neither are blood stains

    it was only from one of my (far too regular and excessive) nosebleeds, but when you have your own custom mad scientist style goggles and wear your bloody, chemically stained labcoat to a fancy dress party, people get very alarmed when you tell them the bloodstains are real…


  34. meep.com Says:

    Sending this to my chemistry teacher.

    Though this is more biology then chem…

    1. Don’t put sealed glass bottles in the autoclave. They explode…and quite spectacularly at that.

    2. When dealing with Biohazard L2 agents, the correct response to a spill is “Call for a cleanup” not “WE’RE ALL GOING TO DIE!!”

    3. Bunsen burners are for sterilization, not cauterization (not mine, something I overheard).

    4. OSHA does not need to be informed of conditions that are unsanitary for the viruses (we’re TRYING to kill them).

    5. Viruses do not need funerals when we autoclave the plates.

    6. Proper procedure for a surprise lab inspection is not “Quick, look busy!”

    7. When carrying boiling agar, please don’t go near the ethanol storeroom. One fire per year is enough. (Again not mine).


  35. demonpenguinskipper Says:

    oh the joys of AP chem.

    my 2 best friends and i have been bumped up a couple grades for our AP stuff. the teacher allowed us to design an experiment using certain “safe and harmless” ingredients. she said there was no way for ‘us’ (being my friends & i) to destroy another classroom with this assignment. i dont see why it was cute when the populars explode a beaker but they suspend you for lighting the ceiling on fire, blowing out some windows, burning a hole through the desk and having the building evacuated. only reason we weren’t expelled was it was neglect by the teacher. it does say in my file ‘do not leave unattened with anything of value, she will explode it, burn it, destroy, disassemble it, break it, catapult it, smash itor a combination.’ that and my friends dad is some bigshot. im known very well by the principal, counselor, and fire department.


  36. Morgan Says:

    Do not use the sulfuric acid to wash your hands. Even if it works better than the provided soap.

    Do not use the sulfuric acid to “remove your fingerprints for homecoming.”

    Do not drop a golf ball on top of a bowling ball from the roof of the wrestling gym.

    Do not use homemade fuses on black powder bombs without extensive testing. There is nothing quite like trying to decide of the fuse went out, or is just burning slow.


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