Chemistry and King Joffrey

(by drrubidium) Apr 15 2014

HBO's King Joffery on the Iron Throne

Fans of George R.R. Martin’s Song of Fire and Ice series and HBO’s Game of Thrones know two things...

1. don’t get too attached to any of the characters
2. not all weddings are happy occasions.

Sometimes the reason a wedding isn’t so happy is because people get dropped from the guest list during the event. The Red Wedding lost a few wedding guests in dramatic fashion.  In the fan-dubbed Purple Wedding, only one character is dispatched. However, that one character was important - and not just because he was the groom. He was also the king.  A nearly universally despised king, but a king nonetheless. King Joffrey meets his end at the hands of "the strangler" in Martin’s book A Storm of Swords. The strangler isn't a wedding quest with a criminally obvious nickname. No, the strangler is a poison made from a plant - plus sugar, spice, and everything not-so-nice - as described in Martin's book The Clash of Kings.

Do we have any poisonous plants here in the real world that could bring down a king? Oh yes – and more than one!  There are a number of plants that produce chemicals that can be both medicinal and murderous. Three plants are routinely cast in fictional and non-fictional murder plots - belladonna (aka “Deadly Nightshade”), poison hemlock, and Strychnos nux-vomica (aka “strychnine tree”).

belladonna (R), poison hemlock (M), and strychnine tree (L)

right: belladonna | middle: poison hemlock | left: strychnine tree

These three usual suspects all produce alkaloids that can be weapons in the wrong hands. Alkaloids share a loosely similar chemical structure – at least one nitrogen atom in a heterocyclic ring.  Belladonna, poison hemlock, and Strychnos nux-vomica all make more than one alkaloid, but each has an alkaloid it's best know for.  For belladonna, it's atropine and  for poison hemlock, coniineStrychnos nux-vomica's  heavy-hitting alkaloid takes its name from the tree - strychnine.

left: atropine  |  middle: coniine  |  right: strychnine

left: atropine | middle: coniine | right: strychnine

Could any of our usual suspects be a real-world stand-in for the strangler?  To determine that, the strangler's modus operandi must be examined. In Martin’s book The Clash of Kings, this poison is described as making "...the muscles of a man’s throat clench tighter than any fist, shutting off his windpipe."  Taking some creative license with Martin's description, a real-world strangler stand-in must cause airway and/or neck muscles to clench (contract) and death by asphyxia.  This requirement lets two of our usual suspects off the hook.

Both belladonna and poison hemlock can be stone cold killers, but their stand-out alkaloids tend to relax and paralyze muscles. Belladonna's atropine affects smooth muscle in a relaxation-to-paralysis way, including airway smooth muscle.  Atropine, typically as a sulfate salt, has seen used as a bronchodilator - something that decreases airway resistance and increases airflow to the lungs.  Atropine can certainly kill you, usually by messing with your heart, but it doesn't kill like the strangler does.  Coniine also works to paralyze muscle, but it targets striated muscles - like skeletal muscle.  This includes the ribs' intercostal muscles and the diaphragm, which are the respiration system's heavyweights.

What happens is that your body is slowly but surely paralysed while you're still fully conscious, starting at the feet and rising until eventually even the muscles surrounding the vital organs become affected. Death is caused when the diaphragm stops contracting and oxygen stops getting to the heart.

[excerpt from Chemistry World's Chemistry in its element on coniine]

Coniine, like atropine, isn't a good fit for the strangler role.  That leaves strychnine.

Like coniine, strychnine targets striated skeletal muscles - including those important respiration muscles.  Unlike atropine and coniine, strychnine does not relax and paralyze muscles.  Strychnine causes muscles to contract – violently and incredibly painfully. Within 10-20 minutes of ingesting a lethal dose of strychnine, the muscles of the face and neck convulse – fitting a bit with Martin’s description of the strangler.  Convulsions spread to all skeletal muscles, coming in waves. The periods of contraction grow longer, with breathing impossible during a convulsion. Death by asphyxia results. That death could be quick – say a few minutes from the start of convulsions - or a person may suffer in agony for 2-3 hours (or more!).

Muscle contraction and death by asphyxia - strychnine and the strangler have a bit in common.  Could strychnine play the strangler?  Back to Martin's description of the strangler from The Clash of Kings

It was made from a certain plant that grew only on the islands of the Jade Sea, half a world away. The leaves had to be aged, and soaked in a wash of limes and sugar water and certain rare spices from the Summer Isles.  Afterward they could be discarded, but the potion must be thickened with ash and allowed to crystallize.  The process was slow and difficult, necessaries costly and hard to acquire.

If we think of Joffery’s home as a sort of Europe, then the strychnine tree is definitely from half a world away being native to Southeast Asia. The most dangerous part of this tree isn’t its leaves, but the seeds of its fruit.  The leaves^ contain strychnine, but not nearly as much as the seeds.  It will take a lot of leaves, which seems like just the kind of hassle Martin is trying to convey in his recipe. Martin's recipe calls for the leaves to be dried (aged), followed by the extraction of strychnine with "a wash of limes".

What if Martin doesn’t mean lime, the fruit?  What if Martin means lime (aka "quicklime"), a product of treating limestone?  This type of lime is mainly calcium oxide and is alkaline.  This lime has been used as part of multi-step processes* to extract alkaloids from leaves – like the alkaloid cocaine from coca leaves or the alkaloid morphine from opium.  The non-fruit lime is just one interpretation* of Martin's recipe, but it could be part of a "slow and difficult" extraction process.  Sugar and spice is next, which is good considering that strychnine - like most alkaloids - has a bitter taste that will need to be disguised.  Leaving nothing to chance, a beverage that will also help disguise strychnine's bitterness should be used.   A beverage like red wine – which seems to be Martin's delivery beverage of choice and what King Joffrey is drinking at his end.

This strychnine concoction is nearly stage-ready, except… where’s the purple? The strangler is described as a purple poison.  Is strychnine purple?  No.  In fact, many alkaloids - strychnine, cocaine, caffeine, morphine – are white crystalline solids.  Here’s where Martin’s spices could help out again. Some spices pull double-duty as dyes.  If dried berries are in Martin's spice cabinet, purple strychnine wouldn't be just a fantasy.  Dyed strychnine isn't as weird as it sounds – some commercially available strychnine pellets for dispatching of rats, gophers, or other critters are dyed red or green.

In a pinch, purple strychnine could stand-in for the strangler.  To be sure, we have to try Martin’s recipe with the lots of Strychnos nux-vomica leaves and spices for color to see if we could make our purple poison. Given how nasty strychnine is, we’ll need to strictly follow lab safety protocols. For even greater safety, never let Martin plan your wedding.


^In 2011, a suicide attempt via ingestion of Strychnos nux-vomica leaves was reported in literature.

*Another interpretation of Martin's recipe is that his lime is the fruit, working perhaps an acid extraction.  The ash in Martin's recipe could be wood ash or soda ash, both of which are alkaline and could neutralize the acidic brew. Update 04/28/14: I'm of the view that lime juice simply isn't acidic enough.  An acid extraction with hydrochloric acid (HCl) would do the trick, and the resulting salt would be water soluble.  Subsequent treatment with base (non-fruit lime, lye, sodium carbonate, or wood ash) would return our lethal alkaloid to us.


Image of King Joffery from Wired

Image of belladonna plant from NC State University

Image of poison hemlock from NC State University

Image of strychnine tree from Caroline's Botanical Art Blog

All chemical structure images are from chemspider

Strychnine label from photobucket user Samantha Giedris

2 responses so far

The @DIYscizone was a hit at @GeekGirlCon!

(by drrubidium) Nov 03 2013

science zone

Last month, we brought the DIY Science Zone to GeekGirlCon (GGC) on October 19th & 20th.  It all started on by October 18th, when GGC volunteers  and Washington State Convention Center (WSCC) staff began transforming the WSCC into a geeky paradise.  The zone space started off like this...

zone before set up

...then we got tarps down, tables and chairs up...

zone after set-up

...our supplies organized...

 zone supplies

 ...and soon we were ready to offer GGC attendees a space to do the following experiments:

  • DNA extraction made easy!
  • Are you bitter? A genetic taste test.
  • Magic breath! Acid-base chemistry of the body.
  • CSI: GGC! Finding latent prints using ninhydrin.
  • Coffee ground fossils! Perfect for Seattle.
  • Neuron know-how! Build your own & learn how they work.
  • Slime-to-go!  Make your own bag of goo.
  • Making craters! Please bring your own sound effects.
  • Dancing raisins!  No choreography skills required.
  • Nature notebooks! A mix of art & nature.

Bright and early on the first day of GGC, the zone crew assembled for a weekend of sciency goodness!

Back: @HeyDrWilson, Dr. Marie Villabara, @scicurious, @granade, @DrRubidium, @DrMRFrancis, @r343l, @noisyastronomer, & @DNLee5. Front: @Seelix, @tereshkova2001, & @lalsox.

Back: @HeyDrWilson, Dr. Marie Villabara, @scicurious, @granade, @DrRubidium, @DrMRFrancis, @r343l, @noisyastronomer, & @DNLee5. Front: @Seelix, @tereshkova2001, & @lalsox.


Attendees were given an 'Exploration Tracker' to document the completion of experiments.  This tracker also doubled as a prize entry, thanks to the support of ThinkGeek.  By completing 3 projects, attendees could win a Portal 2 PotatOS Science Kit, an Edible Chemistry Kit, or a the Common Cold.  The first 50 experimenters completing 3 projects received a cool coffee mug thanks to Chemical & Engineering News.

coffee mugs

Over the 19th and 20th, approximately 350 people visited the zone.  Fun and science was had by all!


In addition to providing a space for GGC attendees to get their hands dirty with science, attendees worked side-by-side with scientists and science teachers.  They got to see that scientists look just like them and that science is open to anyone.

Zone crew is ready for GGC day #2

Zone crew is ready for GGC day #2

The buzz during the con was that the zone was "the" place to be!  My goal is to bring the zone back to GGC next year - we're already cooking up new ideas!

On behalf of the DIY Science Crew, thanks to all our donors for making the zone possible!   As of October 24, 2013 at 4:05pm BST, we've raised $5667! Our minimum goal of $5000 has been reached and we're only $333 from our ultimate goal of $6000!  It is not too late to support the DIY Science Zone!

 Click on the button below to make a donation. Thank you!

money button



One response so far

Plan to bathe in the blood of your enemies? Consider this...

(by drrubidium) Oct 31 2013

It's tough out there for a supervillain-in-training.  Not only do we have to think-up overly elaborate methods to smote and humiliate our enemies, we have carefully consider if a particular method passes the Villainous Plan Test (VPT).


Clearly, all "yes" responses transition a plan to the implementation phase.   Why draft a plan where a "no" for either #1, #2, or #3 is an option?  Any "maybe" selections require additional paperwork pursuant to VPT clause 6.6.6.C

Each 'maybe' selection must be accompanied with an explanation as to how a 'maybe' will be transitioned to a 'yes'.  Failure to use the approved VPT Supplemental Information Form (SIF) will result in immediate assassination via ninja attack.

The trick, dear readers, is to draft a plan that does NOT invoke VPT clause 6.6.6.C.  This is actually a lot harder than it sounds.  Take, for instance, the relatively simple plan stated below.

I will bathe in the blood of my enemies.

Considering the VPT, the answers to #1 and #2 are clearly "yes".  It's #3 and #4 where this deceptively simple plan goes awry...      The bathe-in-blood (BIB) plan clearly assumes that one's enemies are already dead.  As such, we can focus on risks associated with vanquished* foes.  What should immediately leap to mind is the inherit risk in handling blood - or any bodily fluid, for that matter.

The body fluids of all persons should be considered to contain potentially infectious agents. The table below provides examples of infectious agents that may occur in body fluids and the respective transmission concerns. It must be emphasized that many of the body fluids with which one may come in contact contain microorganisms, some of which may cause disease. Individuals may be at various stages of infection: incubating disease, mildly infected without symptoms, or chronic carriers of certain infectious agents. In fact, transmission of communicable diseases is more likely to occur from contact with infected body fluids of unrecognized carriers than from contact with fluids from recognized individuals because simple precautions are not always used. [Universal Precautions: Handling Bodily Fluids]

See that "potentially" in the first sentence of the quote above?  That makes the answer to VPT #3 a dreaded 'maybe' and VPT clause 6.6.6.C kicks in.  Readers that are adept at handling bodily fluids are probably thinking "Just copy the blood handling procedures from any 'Handling Bodily Fluids' manual and paste into the SIF!"

True enough, savvy readers, true enough!  Strict adherence to safety procedures and the use of appropriate personal protection equipment (PPE) would greatly minimize the risk to the supervillain, likely transitioning our 'maybe' for VPT #3 to a 'yes'.  One major problem, however...

Supervillains typically place their personal style above safety.  If you're standing over your fallen enemies while rocking embellished leather, holding an impressively sized weapon of some sort, with the wind blowing your bad-ass cape just right... you are NOT going to want to put on latex gloves, shoe booties, a hair cap, and a face shield.  A supervillain could argue that the right PPE for the BIB plan would change the assure the answer to VPT #2 is 'maybe'.  A supervillain could also argue that the right PPE and strict adherence to safety protocol makes the answer to VPT #4 a 'maybe' as well.  Actually...  just between us, dear readers... the training and PPE required to properly handle bodily fluids is beyond some villains and supervillains meaning the answer to VPT #4 could very well be 'no'.  Speaking of VPT #4...

Bathing in the blood of you enemies is not as easy as it sounds.  First of all, 'bathe' means to wash by immersing one's body.   Thus, a supervillain will either have to pack a portable bathtub or transport gallons of blood.    Hauling around a portable bathtub hardly seems practical or stealthy.  Neither is transporting 18 gallons† of blood.

Of course, a supervillain may go Old Testament...

The righteous shall rejoice when he seeth the vengeance: he shall wash his feet in the blood of the wicked. [Psalm 58:10]

If one is simply going to wash one's feet, the volume of blood required is much less.  While this makes the BIB plan easier to implement, it doesn't fix that proper-handling-of-bodily-fluids thing.  It also doesn't address an often overlooked BIB issue - blood coagulation.

The process by which the body prevents blood loss is referred to as coagulation. Coagulation involves the formation of a blood clot (thrombus) that prevents further blood loss from damaged tissues, blood vessels or organs. This is a complicated process... [How Blood Clots]

How complicated? More complicated than a supervillainous plot.  Like One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez complicated.

Just look at all the steps and chemicals involved.   Don't worry, dear readers, there won't be a quiz.

Why does coagulation matter to the BIB plan? Well, all the chemicals involved in blood clot formation are in drained blood.  Buckets of blood will clot.  Bathtubs of blood will clot. Foot basins of blood will clot.  Chunky blood.  Ewwwwwww, gross! I concur, dear readers, chunky blood is not aesthetically pleasing.  Luckily, there are ways to keep blood nice and liquidy.

If you ever donated blood or had medical blood work done, you've likely seen those test tubes with different colored caps some of your blood goes in.  You've probably noticed those tubes had stuff in them before they held your blood.  Some of those tubes contain anti-coagulant chemicals to prevent clots from forming.  One popular anti-coagulant is ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid (EDTA), a chemical with an affinity for binding calcium ion.  See all the spots in our complicated coagulation cascade where calcium ion is needed? EDTA makes calcium ion unavailable, putting the kibosh on the coagulation cascade.   No creepy chunky blood!  But....

Now we've got to integrate anticoagulants into our BIB plan?!  This once simple, yet menacing, plan is much more complicated upon careful consideration.

Looks like it's back to the villainous drawing board.  See, villainy isn't as easy as it looks.


*I mean VANQUISHED. None of this I'm-pretty-sure-my-foe-is-dead-so-lemme-turn-my-back nonsense.

†An estimate based on the water usage of your typical environmentally conscious supervillain.   This estimate of 18 gallons also requires 12-18 enemies, if one assumes a single enemy is your average adult human.


T-shirt image from here

Loki wink image from here

Coagulation pathway image from here

Donated blog image from here


2 responses so far

We're so close! #DIYscizone at @GeekGirlCon fundraising update!

(by drrubidium) Oct 04 2013

For more information on the DIY Science Zone, please see the two posts below.


Click on the button below to make a donation. Thank you!

money button

No responses yet

I'll be listening to Nickelback. FOR SCIENCE!

(by drrubidium) Sep 14 2013

Fundraising for the DIY Science Zone to GeekGirlCon started the Battle Of Nickelback.  This fight as shown there are three types of donors:

  1. Anti-NB contingent (my people!)
  2. NB fans
  3. The Pro-SufferRb team - those that don't like NB, but want to see me suffer

This battle has been a tough one.  I came very close to listening to the NB albums 'Curb' and 'The State'.  Each time, the anti-NB contingent was able to save me.  Sadly, I think I am doomed to listen to NB very soon...

To date, we've raised a total of $3320.  Who is wining?!  Pro-NB and Pro-SufferRb or anti-NB?

As of September 18, 2013 at 2:15 AM BST...

NB fans &  Pro-SufferRb with $2010 raised!

Team anti-NB is trailing behind with $1310.

That difference of $700 meant I had to listen to NB's third album 'Silver Side Up' on September 16th, taking care of $500.  That means NB fans and Team Pro-SufferRb have $200 toward me listening to NB's fourth album 'The Long Road'.  Unless... unless team anti-NB donates to save me!  Click below and make a donation, noting "NO NB!". Alternatively, you can tweet me after your donation saying you're trying to save me!

Are you team pro-NB and pro-SufferRb?  Want to make sure I have to listen to lots of Nickelback? Like their fourth album 'The Long Rode'? Click below and make a "YES NB!" donation.  Alternatively, you can tweet me after your donation to wish me "Happy listening!"

Either way, science wins!

One response so far

DIY Science Zone at GeekGirlCon needs YOU!

(by drrubidium) Sep 12 2013

science zone

Next month, we're bringing the DIY Science Zone to GeekGirlCon (GGC)!  Last year, over 4000 attendees  Washington State Convention Center to celebrate geek culture and science played a mayor role.  This year, we're launching a lab space where attendees can do experiments with the help of over a dozen scientists and science teachers from a range of disciplines.

What will the zone offer?

  • DNA extraction made easy!
  • Are you bitter? A genetic taste test.
  • Magic breath! Acid-base chemistry of the body.
  • CSI: GGC! Finding latent prints using ninhydrin.
  • Coffee ground fossils! Perfect for Seattle.
  • Neuron know-how! Build your own & learn how they work.
  • Slime-to-go!  Make your own bag of goo.
  • Making craters! Please bring your own sound effects.
  • Dancing raisins!  No choreography skills required.
  • Nature notebooks! A mix of art & nature.

DIYscizone Exploration TrackerAttendees will be given an 'Exploration Tracker' to document the completion of experiments.  This tracker doubles as a prize entry, thanks to the support of ThinkGeek!  By completing 3 projects, attendees could win a Portal 2 PotatOS Science Kit, an Edible Chemistry Kit, or a the Common Cold!

Not only will attendees get hands-on experience, they'll get to work side-by-side with scientists and science teachers.  Why is this side-by-side interaction important?

I tend to forget that most people don’t know scientists personally or ever meet them. Is it any wonder that, when asked to draw a scientist, many kids draw an older white dude with Doc Brown hair? It’s pervasive enough that characters on The Big Bang Theory were going to be in lab coats before the showrunners met actual science graduate students and realized that t-shirts and jeans were more common. One way to combat that stereotype is to let people meet actual scientists... We’ve got younger and older scientists. Most of our team is female; many are not Caucasian. I want people to realize that science is open to anyone.

~Dr. Stephen Granade, DIY Science Zone volunteer

To realize the full potential of the DIY Science zone, we need to raise $5000-6000.

As of October 24, 2013 at 4:05pm BST, we've raised $5667! Our minimum goal of $5000 has been reached!  We're only $333 from our ultimate goal of $6000!  Think  a donation of$5 is too little?  Think again!  Every donation counts.  If 67 of you donated $5 or 34 of you donated $10, our ultimate goal of $6000 would be reached!

 Click on the button below to make a donation. Thank you!

money button



2 responses so far

UPDATE: The Battle of Nickelback - FOR SCIENCE!

(by drrubidium) Sep 01 2013

A motley crew (not the Mötley Crüe) have asked for your help to bring a DIY Science Zone to GeekGirlCon.  In exchange for your donations, this motley crew are offering to perform acts of whimsy.  One of these acts of whimsy is actually controversial - mainly because it might cause the doer (that's me!) serious harm.

Yes, I am talking about my promise to listen to a different Nickelback album for each $500 raised.  Concerned for my safety, @docfreeride donated to the zone but against any Nickelback exposure.  Thus, the Battle of Nickelback was born!  Is it simply Nickelback (NB) fans vs. the anti-NB contingent? NO! A third group has emerged! A group that doesn't like NB, but simply wants to see me suffer.  I call this team 'Pro-SufferRb'....

It's been a fierce battle so far.  I came very close to listening to NB's first album 'Curb', but the anti-NB saved me.   'The State', NB's second album, is all cued up... how close am I to a NB session?

To date, we've raised a total of $2065.  Who is wining?!  Pro-NB and Pro-SufferRb or anti-NB?

As of September 11, 2013 at 7:41 PM BST...

Anti-Nickelback fans, with $1050 raised!

Teams pro-NB and pro-SufferRb are trailing behind with $1015.

That means the anti-NB peeps have saved me from 'The State'.

What's even MOAR awesome?! People are donating $5, $10, $20, and more to help us bring science to GeekGirlCon!  With nearly $2000 raised, our goal of $5000 seems within reach!

Now, team anti-NB, you know what you need to do!  Once pro-NB and pro-SufferRb teams hear we're kicking their a**, they may rally... Click below and make a donation, noting "NO NB".

Dear teams pro-NB and pro-SufferRb...



Channel that anger to your index finger, click below, and make a "YES NB!" donation...

Either way, science wins!


2 responses so far

Help fund the DIY Science Zone at @GeekGirlCon!

(by drrubidium) Aug 28 2013

science zone

GeekGirlCon (GGC) gave the DIY Science Zone the thumbs-up! We're bringing hands-on, do-it-yourself science to Seattle this October!

We will run the zone all day Saturday, October 19th (day #1 of GGC) and half the day on Sunday, October 20th (day #2).  Who is "we"?  To name but a few...

The DIY Science Zone will be in a high-traffic area of GGC, which is at the Washington State Convention Center.  We've picked activities well-suited for (1) a variety of ages, (2) are affordable when scaled up to large audiences, (3) can be done mostly with household ingredients, and (4) with low messiness factors.   What will the zone offer?

  • DNA extraction made easy!
  • Are you bitter? A genetic taste test.
  • Magic breath! Acid-base chemistry of the body.
  • CSI: GGC! Finding latent prints using ninhydrin.
  • Coffee ground fossils! Perfect for Seattle.
  • Neuron know-how! Build your own & learn how they work.
  • Slime-to-go!  Make your own bag of goo.
  • Making craters! Please bring your own sound effects.
  • Dancing raisins!  No choreography skills required.
  • Nature notebooks! A mix of art & nature.

Some of these projects will be scheduled, while others are drop-in activities.  All scheduled activities will occur several times during the operation of the zone, giving GGC attendees plenty of opportunities to experiment in the zone!

What do we need from you?

What will your cash be spent on?

  1. Zone supplies (activity ingredients, tarps, cleaning supplies, etc.)
  2. Zone advertising (banners, flyers, posters, etc.) - being in a high traffic area helps, but we'll still need to advertise around the con!
  3. Two hotel rooms for zone workers within a short walking distance of the con
  4. Airfare assistance to zone workers needed financial help

How much are we looking to raise?  $5000-$6000.  Items #4 and #5 are the biggest expenses and here's why that money is worth it...

Each and every zone worker requesting travel assistance is passionate and committed to science outreach, experienced running activities of this magnitude for diverse age groups, and excited to work nearly non-stop Friday (GGC prep and set-up), Saturday, and Sunday of GGC.  We want to infect the thousands of GGC attendees (small children, teens, and adults) with our love of science.  We want to show attendees that science is everywhere - their backyard, their kitchen, themselves!

What are we willing to do to get your money?  Acts of whimsy for each fundraising milestone reached!

  • For every $100 raised, @DrMRFrancis will wear his Cthulhu hat in public.  Photographs will be provided!  UNLOCKED!
  • If the Royal Society of Chemistry donates $100, I'll wear a tiara and welcome my students with the royal wave to one class session.
  • @Chemjobber is known for his ceramic duck, which is his Twitter avatar. If $300 is raised, he will change his duck's hat (and outfit?) by popular demand, no matter how silly. If we reach $750, he will answer with "Quack!" at GGC whenever someone says, "Hey, CJ!"
  • My feelings about Nickelback are well-known.

no nickelbackFor every $500 raised, I will listen to a different Nickelback album.  Surprisingly, there appear to be 7 Nickelback albums.  Just how will I prove I've listened to each album? Google Hangouts On Air! @DNLee5  will join me as she loves Nickelback.  UPDATE: @docfreeride is strongly advises against Nickelback consumption and will donate to have me NOT listen to Nickelback.  Mark your donation "NO NB" and you might be able to save me!  It'll take "NO NB"  funds equal $500 to save me from each album. [UNLOCKED! I'll be listening to a Nickelback album at 7pm CST on 9/16/13]

  • If Nature Publishing Group (NPG) donates $500, we'll stage a dramatic reading of a paper in Nature Methods. WITH PROPS.
  • If we reach $1000, we will bust out in song! We'll do a group sing-a-long video at GeekGirlCon and upload the video to YouTube. NO, we will not be doing a Nickelback cover.
  • What happens when you Mad Libs somebody's thesis abstract?!  Hi-Lar-Ity! We'll take to Google Hangouts On Air, where @NoisyAstromer will lead us in this game of nouns, verbs, and adverbs.  We'll make this happen for every $1000 we raise - using our own abstracts!  [2 Thesis-Libs UNLOCKED!]
  • Will we sell-out to corporations? You know it! If you're a business and you donate $1000, we'll drop product placements in all Google Hangouts On Airs and videos. Say you're the American Chemical Society... I will personally wear your t-shirt, while drinking from your coffee mug, all while using your pen to play cowbell in our music videos.  The more money you donate, the more product placement!  NOTE: we're scientists, so no quack products will be featured and we're got to keep it clean, so no NSFW.
  • Not a corporation, but able to donate a lump sum of $500 or more?  @Lalsox will knit you a set of personalized zombie dolls (see below)!  Limited to five sets.

zombie dolls

  • When we've raised $1500, @Scicurious will write a science version of a pop song and @DrMRFrancis will perform it!  I'll accompany with cowbell!
  • Wouldn't you want to see @Seelix's cat dressed-up as each of The Avengers?  When we hit $2000, The Catavengers will happen!
  • For $2500, @DNLee5 will do a terrible re-enactment of @SamuelLJackson's demise in Deep Blue Sea with the help of  me and @Lalsox at GGC.  We're confident our shark will actually look better than the one in the movie... [UNLOCKED! @DNLee5 is learning her lines & we'll film this at GGC next month!]
  • Sock puppets performing a (much shorter!) re-enactment of Prometheus, corrected for science and common sense? YES!  The budget of Prometheus was about ~$130 million, but @Sargent will stage Sockmetheus if we raise a mere $3000! [UNLOCKED! Sockmetheus is in progress! Stay tuned!]
  • If we reach $4000, we'll do a 5 minute (or less!) re-enactment of a movie at GGC and upload it to YouTube.  We'll use a reader poll to select the movie! I suspect we'll be horribly acting our way through some Nicholas Sparks adaptation...
  • When we've raised $5000, we'll dance a jig. Seriously, a jig.  And yes, we'll be dancing it badly. [Jig UNLOCKED!]
  • We'll faint if we raise $6000. Probably onto fainting couches, of course.  A few of us won't just faint, we'll do a Leyomi Drop.

What if we have money left over?  That money will be donated to science projects listed at  Every dollar spent will be detailed on this blog, complete with receipts, screen captures, etc.

Ready to help make the DIY Science Zone at GGC happen?!

money button

7 responses so far

I love chemicals, but some chemicals...

(by drrubidium) Aug 16 2013


The tutorial I refer to is ''How I Perm My Eye Lashes' by Lily Seymour, which @DNLee alerted me to.  The relaxer used in Seymour's video, and discussed in my video, is

Optimum Multi-Mineral Reduced pH Creme Relaxer from SoftSheen-Carson.  BeautyVirus provides images of this product which detail its ingredients and instructions.


To find out more about the science of hair straighteners, check out the links below:

No responses yet

UPDATED Let's bring a DIY Science Zone to GeekGirlCon 2013!

(by drrubidium) May 10 2013

science zone

While hanging out in the design-your-own-game room at GeekGirlCon 2012, I thought to myself...

What if we had a do-it-yourself (DIY) science zone at GeekGirlCon 2013?

  • with chemistry!
  • with biology!
  • with physics!
  • with math!
  • with engineering!

Where adults and kids could go to get their hands dirty with a half a dozen or so fast projects under the tutealage of scientists.  Where adults and kids could have some fun, learn some science, and walk away wanting to know/do more science!


Probably.  This would require 6-8 scientists to run, plus projects and supplies. And, of course, money.  But how awesome would it be to have a DIY Science Zone at GeekGirlCon?!


UPDATED ideas...

GeekGirlCon (GGC) is October 19 - 20, 2013.  Ideally, the DIY Science Zone would be open both days from opening until one hour before closing with a lunch break at noon.

The zone would offer 4-6 projects/experiments, each managed by a scientist.  Each scientist is responsible for designing or selecting an project/experiment that's suitable for kids and adults, can be completed in 30 - 60 min, and won't break the bank if 200 people want to do it.  Scientists need to provide the science background and help participants with their project/experiment.  At a minimum, a particular project/experiment would be offered twice each day.  A schedule of projects/experiments would be listed in the GGC programming guide and posted in the conference center.

Let's talk money. We'll need travel and hotel for scientists - these folks are donating their time, so this seems fair.  We'll need money for the supplies.  I'm thinking sponsorship and/or Kickstarter!

7 responses so far

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