Thursday, September 25, 2008

Science is fun!

Scientists tend to get a bad rap. We're stereotyped to be workaholic, out-of-touch geeks who think a labcoat is fashionable and would rather spend a day in the lab than at the mall. O.K., some of it is true (dude, labcoats are TOTALLY sexy), but not all of us have no sense of fun or adventure. Just ask the chemists from the University of Hawaii who have decided that there is nothing wrong with mixing business and pleasure.

Robert Liu and his colleagues study the chemistry of Vitamin A, carotenoids, and other polyenes. These chemicals, for those without a degree in chemistry, are pigment molecules. Much of their work centers around using light, and so logically, they perform many experiments in the sun. It turns out that these experiments also tend to generate heat, which can interfere with the chemical processes if it is allowed to build up. The perfect solution? Do the experiments in something cold yet also in the sun, like, oh I don't know, the Pacific Ocean.

These wonderful, out-of-the-box thinking chemists have fitted a boogie board with a test-tube system so that they can perform experiments while catching some waves. After all, if you're in Hawaii, why not? The test tubes are in the sun, and excess heat from the reaction is dissipated by the sea while the ever-hardworking chemist catches a wave or two - in the name of science, of course.

The board can "tap the Pacific Ocean as an immense heat sink for the dissipation of the excess thermal energy discharged from the solar reactor, while at the same time it injects 'sun and fun' into our photochemical program," says Liu.

The new surf reactor is unveiled in an article in the RSC journal Green Chemistry. Also in the article are a few candid shots of the locals combining their passions (photos courtesy of the Royal Society of Chemistry).

See? Science can be fun. Who said we scientists don't know how to have a good time?