A burner by any other name…

In case you didn’t know, today is National Bunsen Burner day.* Let the partying begin!!

A celebration of Bunsen’s contribution to the scientific lab does beg the question, though (with apologies to Shakespeare): Would a burner by any other name burn as hot? Would it be as useful for melting things in test tubes, or making spotters from pipettes? With more apologies to Bunsen, I’m going to venture a ‘yes’ on that one, but this could just be because my last Bunsen burner was not very useful (too sensitive to drafts), so I can’t imagine how things could get much worse.

On a somewhat related note, when I was in graduate school, we received word that the EPA would be coming through the lab to make sure we were obeying all the rules about proper handling and disposal of chemicals. While of course we were completely in compliance with these rules already, we wanted to be absolutely certain that we were following the EPA guidelines to the fullest extent, in particular in regards to the extent to which things needed to be named (or labeled) throughout the research space. As a result, we spent a fair amount of time labeling anything that had previously escaped our notice, such as chairs (‘Chair’), doors (‘Door’), walls (‘Wall’)… you get the idea. In the end, the EPA was very happy with us (and the chemistry department in general). Phew! Actually, the only group on campus that got any significant fines was the art department, who were happily throwing oil-based paint down the drain. Oops…

Anyway, back to the main idea: what are you going to do to celebrate such an exciting holiday? Adjust your Bunsen burner’s air vents? Sterilize/dry some flasks? Cook dinner by burner? Let me know if you think up any good ideas.

Catherine (associate editor, Nature Chemical Biology)

Spend a few minutes today to appreciate the value of this important scientific tool. We will let you determine how many minutes to spend in reflection.

It’s nice that I am allowed to determine my own actions. Thank you, holiday write-up person, for empowering me.