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Learn to: Blow things up extremely well
August 29, 2010 5:14 PM   Subscribe

Gallery: 30 Awesome College Labs
posted by andoatnp (26 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

 
I'll just pretend that the guy in picture 25 is paid to stand there and poke demons back down into hell when they try to escape through that hole.
posted by Burhanistan at 5:41 PM on August 29, 2010 [7 favorites]


This would make a great Discovery Channel show. You could get at least a season out of this gallery.
posted by brundlefly at 5:46 PM on August 29, 2010 [3 favorites]


That didn't blow up.
posted by StickyCarpet at 5:52 PM on August 29, 2010


I looked because I was wondering: how can black granite counter tops and Bunsen burners be awesome?
posted by shothotbot at 6:04 PM on August 29, 2010 [4 favorites]


I'll just pretend that the guy in picture 25 is paid to stand there and poke demons back down into hell

No, he's poking at a mutated snapping turtle with his oar. His titanium canoe is off-screen, just to the left of the frame.
posted by StickyCarpet at 6:05 PM on August 29, 2010


how can black granite counter tops and Bunsen burners be awesome?
The bench tops are awesome because they're not granite, they're asbestos. This means you can douse them with ethanol and light them on fire as much as your wittle pyro heart desires... using the handy bunsen burner.
posted by thusspakeparanoia at 6:20 PM on August 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


WHAT. There are people who just watch sloths all day? I knew I should have applied to NCF.
posted by punchdrunkhistory at 6:26 PM on August 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


Here in Australia, the page redirects to the same location on popsci.com.au, which is a 404.
posted by antiquark at 6:51 PM on August 29, 2010


Oops, wrong lab explosion. In today's news, here's a college lab explosion.
posted by StickyCarpet at 7:00 PM on August 29, 2010


awesome. i think number 10 was my favorite - carnegie mellon's robot nerds!
posted by janepanic at 7:16 PM on August 29, 2010


Oh man, I'd hate to be that grad student who blew himself up. Sure, losing three fingers, an eye, and other burns and abrasions suck - but he just brought down an occupational health and safety shitstorm to every other person in the department.

Just a nitpick, but doesn't college refer to institutes without graduate programs (at least PhD programs, I know of a few colleges with very very small MSc programs), whereas universities do?

I guess there are very different flavours of awesome. Sure, physics and engineering labs are sexy to laypeople, but there are some really cool high-concept bio labs out there. Ed Boyden at MIT has multi-electrode/fiber-optic probes they stick in animal brains, brains which are transgenically modified to express chanel rhodopsin and other light-activated ion channels. They flash light into the brains and change the firing patterns (simstim, anyone?). Their lab even has undergrads working on pretty cool research projects. Heck, even hear at UBC we have labs that shave windows into mouse skulls and use calcium-sensing dyes to watch firing patterns in real time. The lab down the hall uses transparent tadpoles to make 3D time-lapse movies following the development of individual neurons over weeks. In our own lab, we make neurons grown on glass make "artificial" synapses to heterologous cells (although we're mostly into figuring out how/why neurons make connections with each other, this could also potentially lead to neural control of prosthesis, peripheral neuronal repair, maybe tactile feedback from prostheses or even augments... anyone want articulated tentacles that you can feel with?).
posted by porpoise at 7:20 PM on August 29, 2010 [3 favorites]


The University of Washington has a few excellent and somewhat little-known field labs. Notably there is the awe-inspiring Wind River Canopy Crane, with access to over 300 trees and the precision to return to a specific branch. There's also the ocean-going R/V Thomas G Thompson, which I had a friend sail on as a research machinist for a few trips. Sadly, as a computer scientist the awesomest my research labs got was when they finally replaced the CRTs with new LCDs.
posted by lantius at 7:21 PM on August 29, 2010


antiquark: "Here in Australia, the page redirects to the same location on popsci.com.au, which is a 404."

All hail badly-implemented IP geolocation redirects!

Google's cache makes it work in Oz.
posted by Pinback at 7:48 PM on August 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


Which, now I try it, doesn't work past page 2. It's like they only want us to blow shit up and crash things…
posted by Pinback at 7:52 PM on August 29, 2010


Oh man, I'd hate to be that grad student who blew himself up.

Pretty much the entirety of my chemical knowledge is comprised of knowing that most chemicals that end with "perchlorate" blow up good.
posted by StickyCarpet at 8:20 PM on August 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


We won't get on any awesomeness lists, but in our lab, we eat our preps when we're done experimenting on them. They may be mean as hell, but they're oh so tasty and also non-explosive: decapods for the win!
posted by Humanzee at 8:39 PM on August 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


porpoise: "Just a nitpick, but doesn't college refer to institutes without graduate programs (at least PhD programs, I know of a few colleges with very very small MSc programs), whereas universities do?"

The functional definition of "college" turns out to vary, particularly but not exclusively between countries, and change. Here in Ontario, Canada, we mostly reserve the word "college" for places that deliver applied arts and technology programs, but they've started conferring some undergraduate degrees in the last few years. At my university, Waterloo, we also have affiliated colleges on campus -- undergraduate education, no grads so far as I know. In the UK, colleges are units within the universities and they offer both undergraduate and graduate education.

Short answer: Post-secondary education doesn't work the same way everywhere.
posted by lccarson at 9:17 PM on August 29, 2010


Just a nitpick, but doesn't college refer to institutes without graduate programs
Wikipedia has more information on this subject than you ever cared to know about.

Short answer: Any inconsistencies in US English are Harvard's fault. Dartmouth and William & Mary get a pass because The Queen said so. Usage outside of the US varies somewhat.
posted by schmod at 9:54 PM on August 29, 2010


In casual speech, Americans don't generally make much of a distinction between the words college and university. Even though all three of the institutions I went to were very much universities, I still refer to them as the colleges I went to. There's not really a sense of conferred status either, I don't think that anyone at CMU would be offended that I called it a college.
posted by octothorpe at 6:14 AM on August 30, 2010


This is wonderful and it kills me.

Fricking life-sucking high school science teacher, grah.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 7:40 AM on August 30, 2010


Humanzee - I'm so jealous, man. I knew some people who used to use lobsters for their neuronal circuitry preps. Lucky buggers. Also knew some chaps from the UK who raised antibodies in rabbits. Saw a sea urchin by the sink down the hall the other day, too.

Ah, thanks all for the college/uni (lack thereof) distinction.
posted by porpoise at 8:42 AM on August 30, 2010


Toy Lab is indeed an awesome lab at MIT, but they really missed out on some of the others (though thankfully a lot of these have doppelgangers at other schools):

-MIT's D-Lab is kind of the grand-daddy of many/most/all of the international development and technology at the community scale programs. Stanford in particular grew up alongside and slightly after the way was paved at MIT.
-Strobe Lab is an awesome opportunity to learn the physics of strobe photography and other strobe applications, and then get plenty of hands-on time.
-Holograms. Holograms? Holograms!! Awesome science and great results but a bitch to set up.
-Does the Media Lab count? Home to lots of cool toys that serve as proof-of-concept to new weighty ideas, lots of cool stuff came out of here like Lego Mindstorms and E-Ink (your Amazon Kindle display technology).
-I never found out exactly what they do, but could you ever say no to the Impact and Crashworthiness Test Laboratory? Me neither.

A lot of these are children of the Edgerton Lab, named after "Doc" Edgerton. This is the grand-daddy of all cool labs, established from the estate(?) of a well-loved professor who was known for being there for any student who came into his lab and said they wanted to learn something or try something. The anecdotal story is that he would say "there's the stuff, here's a desk, ask if you need help, I'll be around." The Edgerton Center now has lots of applied learning opportunities for current MIT students (and their alumni volunteers, actually), as well as many outreach programs for K-12 and strong connections to the Public Service Center to serve unmet needs in communities near and far.

(Hi, I used to work with one of these. Some of them, actually. I got around.)
posted by whatzit at 9:24 AM on August 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


I don't know how one of California's fine Cow Universities got missed: UC Davis has both a tractor driving lab and a wine lab. Its no sustainable tech for third world country, but WINE, man, and TRACTORS.
posted by Ogre Lawless at 10:30 AM on August 30, 2010


Nice to see my alma mater (#20) represented. And yes, I did get to blow things up.
posted by gruchall at 2:43 PM on August 30, 2010


Americans don't generally make much of a distinction between the words college and university. ... there's not really a sense of conferred status ...

I have never missed an opportunity to point out to a graduate of Harvard College, that he is not a graduate of Harvard University.
posted by StickyCarpet at 12:46 AM on August 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


God I wish I was the geek that I am now. Life at 20 would have been so cool.
posted by stormpooper at 7:03 AM on August 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


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