The singing centrifuge

November 9, 2007

Every so often you get ambushed by a song that you really, really were not expecting.

When I went to Scotland in June, Continental Airlines celebrated the arrival of my flight in Edinburgh by playing Madonna’s “La Isla Bonita.” It was like, “Welcome to Scotland — here’s a song about how much fun you’d be having if you were in Latin America right now.”

A more recent example occurred today, when I centrifuged my bacterial cell cultures in order to separate the cells from the medium in which they were growing. The centrifuge, a Sorvall RC-6, punctuated the completion of the spin with a quick verse of My Bonnie Lies Over The Ocean.

It’s cool to have a centrifuge so enamored of its work that it sings to you. But couldn’t it offer a ditty more relevant to the task at hand? Perhaps these lyrics, set to the same tune, would work better:

My microbes lie in a vast ocean —
A broth that is known as LB.
To harvest my cells from the ocean,
I spin them at ten thousand g.*

Spin down, spin down,
Spin down my microbes for me, for me.
Spin down, spin down,
Spin down my microbes for me.

[*that is, a relative centrifugal force of 10,000 times the gravitational constant, g]


  1. I'm laughing out loud right now. This is a funny entry.It also strikes me as information that you should probably keep to yourself. Or perhaps just amongst your lab mates.Meghan

  2. Does that centrifuge really spin with 10,000g? I don't know much about centrifuges, except that if I have about 3000 of them I might be able to build a nuke and piss off GW! Nice Nerd Poem!

  3. greg, i was on the floor with this lyricism… You are one funny guy 🙂

  4. That was the funniest entries in a long time! (not that the others are boring)Adam: 10000g is a common value for centrifuges:http://www.piercenet.com/files/TR0040dh4-Centrifuge-speed.pdfAnd Greg's centrifuge won't help you obtain nukes, even if you had 3000 of them. Greg has centrifuges for liquids. To enrich uranium you need gas centrifuges that can separate U-235 from U-238 (as the gas UF6, uranium hexafluoride){I hope those "key words" don't trigger our friends at homeland security… :)}Greg, good luck at JFK next weekend! I'll have to deal with Matt Carpenter in SF in 3 weeks. So your choice of race might have been a good one.

  5. ROFL!!!I heard that the Sorvall RC-9x is going to feature Britney Spear's "Gimme More." :)Good luck at JFK50, Greg.

  6. Greg, THANK YOU! Almost 10 years later, someone in Copenhagen, Denmark will be now singing your awesome verses after every centrifugation with the good ol’ RC6!

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