About this Author
DBL%20Hendrix%20small.png College chemistry, 1983

Derek Lowe The 2002 Model

Dbl%20new%20portrait%20B%26W.png After 10 years of blogging. . .

Derek Lowe, an Arkansan by birth, got his BA from Hendrix College and his PhD in organic chemistry from Duke before spending time in Germany on a Humboldt Fellowship on his post-doc. He's worked for several major pharmaceutical companies since 1989 on drug discovery projects against schizophrenia, Alzheimer's, diabetes, osteoporosis and other diseases. To contact Derek email him directly: Twitter: Dereklowe

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« All Those Drug-Likeness Papers: A Bit Too Neat to be True? | Main | The Name of a Cure »

February 8, 2013

Snow Versus Scientific Progress

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Posted by Derek

In case anyone's wondering, I'm not even at work today - no one at my company is; they announced last night that they were closing down for the day, which was welcome news. For those of you not living in the Northeast US, it's been snowing merrily along since earlier this morning, and by the time it finishes tomorrow, we look to have about two feet of the stuff.

Research will be slow today in this part of the country. I'm sure to see that in the traffic figures for the site - there's always a spike at lunchtime EST, a slight dip, and then another spike at lunchtime on the west coast. I think that the Central and Pacific zones will win out this time!

The largest single snowfall I've ever experienced was in January 1996, back in New Jersey, where we had 39 inches (one solid meter) in a single storm. I remembering opening one of those doors at the bottom of the apartment-complex building and staring in amazement at a drifted wall of snow that came up past the middle of my chest. This was one of those hunt-for-the-cars kind of storms. And I well remember the winter of 1977-78, which is still a standard in many parts of the country. I experienced that one in high school back in Arkansas, so I didn't get the apocalyptic snow mountains, but it was certainly impressive enough by the standards of the area (complete with a record amount of missed school!)

So for those of you not getting snowed on, well, you have to make up for the rest of us today. I think I'll get everyone to start on the Elements Jigsaw Puzzle, myself. Note: corrected this from the earlier "crossword". If anyone has a periodic table crossword puzzle, though, I'd be glad to hear about it).

Comments (19) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Blog Housekeeping


1. p on February 8, 2013 12:17 PM writes...

It's sunny and 45 here. But if you ain't workin, I ain't workin.

Enjoy the snow.

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2. DV Henkel-Wallace on February 8, 2013 1:22 PM writes...

A snow day and you're not even in school! I enjoyed them when I was in school in Boston.

You're lucky to be getting the stuff. Out here in California we got off to a middling start (no real snow until December) and then since then...not much. And we need it to drink all summer.

But it's the land of extremes out here; I remember from the winter before last going camping and waking up to well over a meter of fresh snow that had fallen overnight. Then last year: nada.

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3. Captain Ned on February 8, 2013 1:25 PM writes...

Pfft. Here in NW Vermont we might have 6-7 inches on the ground. Stuff's so fluffy that it might as well not be there.

Days like this were made for Subarus with Hakkapeliittas and empty parking lots.

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4. Doug Steinman on February 8, 2013 1:40 PM writes...

In Chicago it's been snow then freezing rain then more snow then more freezing rain. Boy, do we know how to have fun! Then Sunday will be in the 40's with rain. We might not have as much snow as you,Derek, but everyone here has been attacked by multiple bugs and the coughing and sneezing has been quite pervasive. Well, only 3 1/2 more months of winter and then we'll be complaining about the heat and humidity.

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5. Nekekami on February 8, 2013 1:47 PM writes...

I remember spending my childhood winters up in the town I was born in, in the midde of Sweden... 180cm's of snow was not rare with over half of it coming in a day or two sometimes....

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6. Artemesinin on February 8, 2013 2:04 PM writes...

There is no snow in Southern California. I am at home with my flu-sick daughter. No school and no work, it is great day off.

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7. gippgig on February 8, 2013 2:54 PM writes...

I wonder how long it will be before chem labs are automated and you will be able to run your experiments over the internet sitting at home. Internet-controlled telescopes are already commonplace.
#4: Try copper touch surfaces. See

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8. bboooooya on February 8, 2013 3:14 PM writes...

"I wonder how long it will be before chem labs are automated and you will be able to run your experiments over the internet sitting at home"

You can already do this---outsource to Asia....

And FYI, it's a mediocre day in San Diego:

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9. Anonymous on February 8, 2013 3:55 PM writes...

A great day for beer consumption and watching the tube!!

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10. Anonymous on February 8, 2013 5:19 PM writes...

Curious about this elements crossword puzzle...

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11. dvizard on February 8, 2013 6:12 PM writes...

One of my favorite times in the year was the few days when it snowed so much that the buses couldn't reach our university. We humans can design large hadron colliders, work with the most complicated machinery ever designed and govern the world how we like, but when a bit of snow hits, all transport breaks down. Nature is not that easy to conquer after all.

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12. RKN on February 8, 2013 7:18 PM writes...

Hear my tiny violin, Derek?

Last winter we had 11' -- in town. A record even for us.

Headed to Maui presently. Couldn't help but rub it in. ;-)


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13. Derek Lowe on February 8, 2013 8:21 PM writes...

Well, yeah, but if you live in Anchorage, you've signed up for it, right? Although last winter set the record up there, if I recall. No wonder you're going to Maui. Don't be frightened by that big yellowish thing up in the sky when you get there.

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14. Anonymous BMS Researcher on February 8, 2013 10:21 PM writes...

My wife and I both worked from home today. Forecast for our area of CT is for nearly two feet by the time it's over, we're about halfway to that total now and the wind is howling.

We had pancakes today, every one of which was perfectly cooked because I got a gadget recommended by the excellent book Cooking For Geeks: an infrared thermometer. Pour on the batter (4t/20ml per pancake) when the surface of the skillet reaches 375F/190C. When the uncooked surface of each pancake reaches 175F/80C, flip it over.

Note: the IR thermometer won't be as accurate when pointed at a shiny surface. Expensive IR thermometers can be adjusted for the emissivity of the surface, cheap ones like ours just assume 0.95 which is about right for most dark-colored materials. Of course once you have learned what reading works for your recipe with your pan, you're good to go -- repeatability is more important than absolute accuracy, as many Units in Current Protocols will emphasize (having contributed a couple of Units to Current Protocols over the years, I am very familiar with their house style!).

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15. ScientistSailor on February 8, 2013 10:37 PM writes...

Can't for the life of me figure how anyone could live east of the Rockies...

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16. Formerly UCB on February 9, 2013 4:31 AM writes...

Well, it's a good opportunity to catch up on some literature and paper-writing I guess, eh Derek. Keep up the good work here, by the way.

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17. Anonymous BMS Researcher on February 9, 2013 9:26 AM writes...

@ScientistSailor: my parents retired to a medium-sized Colorado city a decade ago precisely because they were tired of Midwestern winters. My wife and I would love to join my parents -- if we could both get jobs there, which would be unlikely. Biopharma R&D in the US at present (aside from California and a few other places) mainly takes place within an hour's drive of Interstate 95.

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18. emjeff on February 9, 2013 5:32 PM writes...

I well remember the blizzard of 1996; it happened on the due date of my first son. Fortunateley, he decided to delay his arrival into the world by a few days...

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19. Anonymous BMS Researcher on February 10, 2013 7:37 AM writes...

Many towns in CT, including mine, got more than three feet of snow. We haven't seen a plow since Friday afternoon, we're not going anywhere today and who knows about Monday. Gonna be days clearing this mess. Local officials say it's too deep for their plows so they have to use front-end loaders and dump trucks which takes much longer. Also they keep having to divert snow crews to assist emergency responders. Had this only been the predicted 12-25 inches their plows could have handled it.

Places like Syracuse, Buffalo, and Upper Michigan have gigantic plows because huge snowfall is normal for them, but it's been about 40 years since CT saw this kind of snow.

One good thing: here in CT the winds were not quite as bad as had been predicted so power outages were less widespread than feared. Right now about 2% of customers in CT are without power. Since it's cold and windy, life must be truly miserable for those in the dark right now. Biggest outage in my town hit about 1200 people Friday night -- and a truly heroic line crew, working in near-blizzard conditions, got power back to those folks about four hours after their lights had gone out. As of right now local utility website reports one customer out in my town.

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