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Fire!

I'd just like to say that bishi_wannabe probably shouldn't read this, because he will fret.

So I'm preparing my media for the chemostat. To do this, I'm being super-careful about contamination (as I'm sure you can understand given my track record). Thusly, I'm doing oneof those mildly dangerous things that scientists are occasionally forced to do - I'm using a bunsen burner in a laminar flow hood.

For you non-science types out there, a laminar flow is a big box open on one side only, which blows sterile air from the back out through the open side. The principle is that it stops random non-sterile junk falling into what ever you're working with. The hood is mostly sterile, so to keep it that way when working in there, you swab everything with ethanol when you place it inside (when it's not in use, it is sealed up and a UV light is switched on - killing any microbes that might have been hiding inside).

However, if you place a bunsen burner in a laminar flow, the flame will obviously also be pushed out towards the opening somewhat (blow lightly on a candle flame to see what I mean). Also, bunsens have a blue-almost-transparent flame when they are normally in use - the yellow flame you normally see in sciencey-shows is a 'safety' flame, in as much as it is cooler and you can see it better.

So there I am, filtering stuff behind the flame in the laminar flow. This isn't actually so bad, so long as you pay attention to what you are doing, which I was. However, after filtering stuff, I have this one step where I add a chemical in methanol to my media - I can't filter it, because methanol dissolves the filters we use, but I don't need to because nothing grows in methanol.

I reach outside the hood, grab the solution, and ethanol my gloves. Normally, I'd wait a few moments to let most of the ethanol evapourate, but I was in a bit of a hurry so I didn't bother. I add my chemical - no problems. As it was the last step, I immediately began planning my next move out in my mind, and pull my hands out of the hood...

... bringing my left hand through the bunsen flame.

I didn't see the flame, I didn't even look. It was one of those moments where the reflex brain kicked in before the conscious brain. I vaguely recall uttering "shit" in a rather dispassionate fashion. I felt the heat all over my hand and up my wrist, and immediately began waving my hand to put the flame out (which is generally all you need to do to put out ethanol fires). Sure enough, there was the rushing, wooshing, flame in the wind sound, then the heat stopped.

I'm not actually badly burned - more scalded. Like when you dunk your hand in really hot water for a moment. I have one little burn spot on my wrist where I had ethanol on my bare skin (not on my gloves), and a whole lot of singed hair.

But it gave me one HELL of a fright.

No reall harm done, though.

Comments

( 11 comments — Leave a comment )
arcanumveritas
Oct. 14th, 2004 06:01 pm (UTC)
tsk tsk ... take more care ... glad all was ok ...
miss_rynn
Oct. 14th, 2004 06:04 pm (UTC)
It was touch and go for a moment there, but it was all fine. I really *should* have been more careful, though.
morsla
Oct. 14th, 2004 06:15 pm (UTC)
I'm jealous... I usually need heat sources for 4-5L of acid solutions, so we use ceramic hotplates. Sure, they won't set you on fire - but bunsen burners feel so much more "sciency"...
(Deleted comment)
lukeii
Oct. 15th, 2004 03:30 am (UTC)
Did the needle help put the flame out? If not, why did you plunge it into your hand?
bishi_wannabe
Oct. 14th, 2004 07:24 pm (UTC)
Heh. I know this is all down to your setting people on fire addiction - this is why you should always keep a second person around for when the cravings kick in :)
mareth_redorb
Oct. 14th, 2004 08:15 pm (UTC)
I can't say I've ever managed to do anything to myself with a bunsen burner. Serious burns on my hand one day from a magnetic hotplate though, nearly dropped the beaker of 10M sulphuric acid I was moving in the fume cupboard.
delphaeus
Oct. 14th, 2004 09:05 pm (UTC)
Laminar flow is also a type of flow water can do. Over rocks normally. Wow. My degree actually taught me something that stuck. Too bad it's useless information.
morsla
Oct. 14th, 2004 09:13 pm (UTC)
Yup - for deposition of sediments, you have laminar vs turbulent flow. Laminar flow takes up most of the time involved, and the least of the sediment; turbulence (tsunami, etc) takes a fraction of the time but leaves the thickest deposits.

Amazing what gets stuck in your brain...
(Deleted comment)
matcha_pocky
Oct. 17th, 2004 08:15 pm (UTC)
But Becka! Just think! You could've been horribly burned, woken up afterwards in shards of glass and chemostat, seen your face in a mirror, screamed, laughed, laughed more, laughed maniacally, laughed horribly and maniacally, devised some kind of mask and then unleashed your breed of horrifying microbes and trained evil black mice upon the world!

Actually, you wouldn't have to do much training with the black mice, I hear they're evil to start off with.
( 11 comments — Leave a comment )