Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Billy The Kid and The Science Experiment

For some time now, I've been wrestling with the dilemma of whether or not to blog about my job. The perils of doing so are many and range from getting fired, which would be bad, to getting sued, which would be worse, to getting arrested which would be tragic. On the other hand, I spend so much time at work, where so many blog-worthy things happen, that I've felt constricted by NOT writing about what goes on there. I've been struggling with that for some time but have now decided, screw it, I'm going to blog about it...with some boundaries:
  1. I'm not going to mention where I work
  2. Or what exactly I do there
  3. I'll be blogging about some of what happens there, not the nature of the company itself or the business that takes place there.
  4. And I'm going to use pseudonyms for everybody who works there.

If you really care about the first two points, ask me (quietly, via email). I'll (probably) tell you.

I'll start by telling you a little about the guy with whom I share an office. Billy, while not actually a kid, is younger than me and I have known him since he was one. He's a cocky, mischevious little bastard who I think of as a grown-up Bart Simpson. Frequently my work is interrupted by a shower of pushpins or paperclips or bottlecaps or boxes he's thrown at me. Sometimes he punches me or puts me in a chokehold. I don't want to give anybody the wrong idea: I'm not a passive victim and am certainly capable of giving as good as receiving...I'm just saying he (always) starts it.

The other day I was working on something and was enjoying an ice-cold bottle of Coke. I had only finished about half of it when Billy came over (completely unprovoked) and put three or four paperclips in it. He laughed and I threw a stapler at him. Afterwards, we mutuially agreed that the Coke was no longer potable so we might as well put it to good use and decided to conduct a science experiment. You know the old urban legend about the incredible acidic properties of Coca Cola? The version I remember from childhood consisted of some kid soaking his bike chain in a pan of it to remove rust, but leaving it in too long and finding the entire chain itself dissolved. Anyway, we decided to see for ourselves if it were true. If I was to be deprived of icy refreshment, at least maybe mankind could benefit from our work. We left the paperclips in there and, as our control, we put some in a bottle of water and screwed the caps tightly on both bottles. We took Post-It notes and labeled them scientifically as A and B. We also added other elements to both bottles to see how this would affect things: some breath mints (this frightened one of our interns who worried that Bottle A would explode. Billy dismissed his fears reassuringly by saying "That's Mentos, not Ice Breakers, dumbass"), a couple of Sudafeds (I have a cold...again), some peanuts and a squirt or two of hand lotion (not sure why we did that exactly). Some have tried to dismiss our work as less-than-scientific:

  • Co-worker: What's your hypotheses anyway?
  • US: Huh? Whazzat?
  • Co-worker: Your point. What are you trying to prove?
  • Billy: That something bad is going to happen to those paperclips.
  • Co-worker: That's stupid. They're just going to rust.
  • Me: You are a cro-mag, unworthy of reaping the benefits that will eventually result from our research.
  • Co-worker: That isn't even how you conduct an experiment. You aren't measuring data...
  • Me: Heretic! We have see-through bottles! We have Post-Its! Leave this laboratory at once!
  • Billy: Yeah, get your ass out of here.

Admittedly, the hypothowhatever has changed to "What's inside these bottles is totally going to reak" now that we've gotten bored with waiting for the paperclips to rust (they're not) and have just been opening them up every day to add more stuff (non-dairy creamer, sliced beets), but I guess that's the ever-evolving nature of science.

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