Friday, March 03, 2006

Every disaster is an opportunity.

We may have discovered a new way to cross-contaminate samples between solution and laser-ablation ICP-MS today. I’m not saying that no-one has ever done this before, although that is possible. But as far as I know, nobody has done what we did in a repeatable and predictive manner, much less published the results. More importantly, as far as I know there is no record in the literature of how to fix the problem in a simple and timely fashion.

So, on Monday, I am going to see if today’s observation can be repeated, or if it is just a Friday arvo fluke. If I can figure it out, it might even be worth turning into a short paper or a technical note, so that other people don’t have to spend all day cleaning up their machine and pulling their hair out, like today’s analyst has been doing. I don’t know if that will make up for spending all Friday night in the lab running samples that were supposed to be finished hours ago, but you always gotta look on the bright side- a paper’s a paper.

On the other hand, if my hunch about the source of this thing is wrong, then I’ll be stuck in lab all day Monday banging my head against the wall over the same flaky trace elements. At least then he’ll have someone to share the misery with. And even if it is a total write off, at least I can whinge about it to you folks. So have a good weekend, everyone- even if you’re stuck in lab at sundown with ten hours of samples left and backgrounds that are two orders of magnitude too high.

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