Sloppiness may lead to big discovery

Humorous stories from the lab. What were your biggest mistakes that you can now laugh about? (Keep it clean!!)

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Sloppiness may lead to big discovery

Postby relaxin » Aug 31 2010 8:12 am

Alexander Fleming, who won a Nobel prize for his discovery of penicillin, must be a very sloppy scientist. Otherwise he would not get molds growing in his bacterial plates. This morning, I heard from the radio that he also discovered lysozyme. Apparently, he looked at the bacterial plates while he had a cold. Drippings from his nose lysed some of the bacterial colonies, and this led to the discovery of lysozyme in his nose drippings.

Next time if you have a spill and your experiment ruined, just do not toss everything into the trash bin and start over. Think, you might have won a Nobel prize. :D
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Re: Sloppiness may lead to big discovery

Postby r.rosati » Aug 31 2010 1:45 pm

Let's not forget that we must thank Florey and Chain too, who systematically worked on making of Penicillin an antibiotic usable in humans. Were it for sloppy Fleming, we'd have lost it. Florey and Chain believed in it, and produced an effective antibiotic out of the mold.
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Re: Sloppiness may lead to big discovery

Postby JMG » Oct 13 2010 8:28 pm

"Bast_rds!!," exclaimed the terrified Icthyologist plummeting
unexpectedly into an unusually vast deposit of large mouth
droppings.

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Re: Sloppiness may lead to big discovery

Postby relaxin » Oct 14 2010 9:07 am

I remember one of my professor told us a story of the discovery of a cold-labile mitochondrial enzyme. The student left a prep of the enzyme in an ice-cooler on the bench overnight. Next morning, the ice was all gone. Most people will toss the enzyme into the trash bin and start all over. However, the student went ahead to test the enzyme and found the enzymatic activity actually increased, despite the fact that it has been sitting at room temperature for hours. Hence, the discovery of a cold-labile protein.
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Re: Sloppiness may lead to big discovery

Postby CrowSan » Oct 18 2010 10:22 am

If I remember correctley Hunter only discovered the existence of phospho-tyrosine residues because the buffers he used to detect phospho-threonine and phospho-serine amino acids were old and the pH had "gone off". When he tried to replicate his results he could not do it initialy as he made up fresh buffer to do it.
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Re: Sloppiness may lead to big discovery

Postby JMG » Oct 22 2010 9:35 pm

One of my favorite stories has been the one in which a disgruntled scientist
finally had enough one day, and apparently, violently threw the dog pancreas
he was working on [trying to extract a small peptide] into a -20C freezer and
left for the evening...

He couldn't find anything when extracting the pancreas at room temperature...
but he knew a molecule of some sort [that allowed glucose to be absorbed] was
absolutely housed in the pancreas, since dogs with their pancreas' removed urinated
their glucose out - and it would crystallize in astounding amounts upon evaporating
the urine.

The scientist returned in the morning and extracted the offending pancreas while
it was still cold (being frozen angrily at -20C the night before; a temperature at which
proteases in the pancreas such as trypsin and chymotrypsin were not active) - and voila!
the first successful extraction of insulin~!

During the earlier attempts at extraction (at room temp), the insulin was merely being
degraded by the endogenous pancreatic digestive enzymes before it could be apprehended.

That is the way I remember the story anyway. I believe the scientist may have uttered a
few choice words upon throwing the canine giblet into the deep-freeze.

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Re: Sloppiness may lead to big discovery

Postby relaxin » Oct 23 2010 9:00 am

JMG wrote: I believe the scientist may have uttered a
few choice words upon throwing the canine giblet into the deep-freeze.


Those were the magic words! :D
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Re: Sloppiness may lead to big discovery

Postby JMG » Oct 24 2010 1:32 pm

Can't you just hear it?

"Bite ice! - you baffling bag of befuddling beta-cell buffoonery!!!"

Although I do suspect (to a statistically significant extent) the actual exclamation
to have been along the lines of a more, shall we say, "colourful" variety... :wink:

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Re: Sloppiness may lead to big discovery

Postby relaxin » Oct 25 2010 9:08 am

Yeah, I do believe Frederick Banting said that with a flowery Canadian accent. :)
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