So many experiments…
Working with bacteria requires that you work in a sterile environment. To maintain a sterile environment we use very concentrated alcohol as that will kill bacteria very quickly. On more than one occasion I accidently spilled my alcohol container on my bench while the Bunsen burner was turned on resulting in a very large, very hot but very short lived flame. That can be quite scary.
The experiment central to my work was called an isocratic elution. Exactly what that is is not important but what is important is that it takes Mon-Thurs to set up and all day Friday to do and if you make one mistake along the way you have to start again. I got good at doing the experiment but it just wouldn’t work properly with the proteins I was examining because they were unstable. After 18 months of doing that experiment essentially every week my boss told me to stop and not bother any more. In this case everything that could go wrong did go wrong and then I was told not to bother any more, very disheartening.
Experiments that dont work out. I think you will find whatawow that every scientist has a story about this.
Here is a quick one.
Some of my research requires putting cameras out into the bush, like little spy cameras. After spending three days stumbling around in the bush, I got my 50 cameras out.
These cameras were left out for a 40 day period, then i had to go back to collect all the cameas, another day of work, and then download all the images.
About 10 of the cameras worked perfectly
30 cameras stopped working after only 3 days due to various problems, memory card being full, batteries going flat, water getting into the camera (even though they are weather proof).
5 cameras made it through to about the middle of the deployment (so 20 days) before something going wrong.
5 other cameras, i didnt even turn on – that must have been a bad day.
Needless to say that the entire experiment was a waste of time, but i did learn a few things about the equipment we use, and put in place some better procedures to make sure i turn them on.
This is just a part of science that we have to deal with. Sometimes things do not go according to plan, equipment fails, human error, or in one case, one of my cameras appears to have been broken by a wombat.
As an astronomer, I’m not in the lab much. The Universe is my experiment. But in high school chemistry I had the occasional spectacular “failure”, although a couple of these were intentional tweaks on the experimental method to see how big a bang, flame or smell we could make. So, maybe they were successes! Used to love chemistry.