While researching homebrew chromatography, I got seriously sidetracked by several cool blogs on DIY science.
DIYBIO4Beginners is over a year old, and has a huge number of posts covering mostly practical aspects of learning about Biotech and DIYbio. Of particular interest are the posts that contain video series’ teaching you about Biotech/Biochem, or “How-To”, etc. There's a lot of stuff in there, much of it news coverage, but the signal-to-noise is really excellent. I'm gonna have fun reading the archives.
Another great blog focused entirely on the practical side of things is Citizen of Science, and I particularly like how the author puts a lot of thought into recycling and upcycling household materials into labware. An example is his use of old lightbulbs as boiling flasks. He also made a centrifuge out of a blender, and a cell density meter using a solar cell and a bright light source (I'll probably have to do something similar with a photocell soon; Spectrophotometers are simply too expensive!).
I also sidetracked myself learning about how to get stuff (TM). Among my discoveries:
- You can get almost anything from alibaba.com, although up front pricing is not often available. I've found tens of suppliers for high-fidelity polymerase, agarose, Ni-sepharose, etc. I asked about pricing for Ni-Sepharose, and I hope to be pleasantly surprised. For the uninitiated, Ni-sepharose is a special resin used to purify transgenic proteins quickly and easily, but it's usually super-expensive.
- http://www.mistralni.co.uk/ and http://mistral.ie/ for lab-grade chemicals, solvents, acids and alcohols. In keeping with the silliness of law, you can buy exceptionally toxic chemicals from them but not Ethanol. Of course, the exceptionally toxic ones aren't habit-forming and are unlikely to lead to domestic abuse, but labs need pure ethanol for good reasons sometimes y'know. Still, these sites are selling affordable chemicals inclusive of VAT and shipping to Ireland, and accept Paypal. I love them already.
- More on the chemicals front; in case you've forgotten or never encountered it, here's a great resource on Makezine.com detailing the essentials of a good chemical lab, including ways to quickly synthesise loads of essentials not readily available. Much of this is only applicable to the USA, because over here things are a little harder to find pure sometimes and because our brand-names for household chemicals are different. Non-denatured Ethanol being an example. But it's still awesome. And it's part of a series that may contain other gems, even if it's not targeted at biological labs.
I have other cool things to write about soon. For now, this will sate me.