Chris M at The Echinoblog has put up a list of odd things that sit in his laboratory, and notes that people look askance at the pile of toilet paper (a vital tool in drying specimens). Well, I can top that:
K-Y jelly is actually fantastic stuff for preparing temporary slide mounts. It's transparent, it holds things in place reasonably well (though it does heat up and start flowing a bit if you leave it under the light for too long) and it's water-soluble, so you can just take a specimen preserved in alcohol out of its vial and put it straight onto the slide then return it straight to the vial when finished without needing to wash or prepare it in any way. Putting the specimen in alcohol on a concave slide is still preferable, because alcohol is more optically clear than K-Y, but alcohol won't hold the specimen at an angle in any way if you need to look at the specimen in a particular position. Seeing as how this is invertebrate systematics we're talking about, the thing I most commonly need to look at on a slide are reproductive organs. Which leads to an actual exchange that took place:
Colleague: "Why do you have K-Y jelly in your office?"
Me: "I use it for mounting... I mean, I put genitalia in it... Crap."
Offhand, I have also now discovered that if you do an image search for K-Y jelly, it pays to have the SafeSearch option turned on.
Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar: A study in fortitude and rigor
1 day ago in The Curious Wavefunction