Friday, November 2, 2012

Occasionally, science actually looks as impressive as we want it to.

The vast majority of science that goes on here is marine-biology related, and for all of the studying baby penguins that happens, the vast majority of the lab work is boring as snot.  It's nothing like we (and hollywood) expect it to look.  At least, it usually isn't.

One of the groups here currently is studying disolved gasses in ocean water as a means to estimate bacterial bio-mass, and they've taken over half the aquarium with this Rube-Goldburg inspired setup.

One of the researches leading the project gave a talk about it last week, which mostly served to make me feel really stupid as it largely flew over my head.  But from what I gathered, they're sampling seawater from our intake pipe constantly, 24/7.  The plan is to have this running for most of the season I think, but it could be even longer if the funding comes through.  This sort of thing hasn't really been done before, and the researches had to design and build most of the equipment themselves.

Most of it is for permentant ongoing calibrations; to saturate a sample of water with a precise quantity of a known gas, to give the equipment something to compare the seawater samples to.  But the heart of the matter is this mass spectrometer, which gives ultra-precise and continuous readouts of exactly what is in the seawater.

Occasionally, science does look almost as impressive in real life as it does in the movies.  Now they just need to add more blinky lights and bubbling beakers full of colored liquid . . .