My job is cooler-looking than it looks

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Science has a way of being imagined to need dressing up before going out in public.  It’s obvious when scientists are depicted on TV, but also manifests in publicity photos for real labs or equipment.

It’s common to add coloured lights shining upward onto people’s faces (try that sometime while you’re working) and reflecting off of available metal surfaces.

If there is protective gear in the lab, there will be a temptation to use it for any photo shoot, regardless of its inapplicability to a normal working situation.  If this gear can be silver, or have a dark visor to reflect some coloured lights off of, all the better.

To indicate the imminence of a discovery, we may see one or more workers peering intently at something, which is either lit up with coloured lights, or actually emitting coloured light, as though the interesting thing that may be about to happen will be measured by noticing when the coloured lights look just right.

Coloured lights seem to be the key to the interestingness of a technical activity.


In fact, we have many coloured lights in our lab. But they are there only partly to make it seem more interesting.  A lot of them are LEDs indicating things like switch positions or numerical readings, kind of like the power button on your TV and the numbers on your clock radio.  (Aside: Notice the demonstration of additive colour mixing where the out-of-focus red and greed LED spots overlap!)


There are also hot filaments and furnaces that emit light.  If you look carefully at this photo you can see the special coveralls we do, in fact, wear, whether sitting in front of the computer workstation that controls the various instruments or peering intently at coloured lights through a viewport.  Also a sliver of the awesome blue banded bouffant cap that goes with it.


There are also lights on the ceiling and lamps pointing in the windows of chambers so we can see inside.  They’re white.

What would be a useful addition, light-wise, is one of those UV-emitting lights I could shine on a sample to tell me if my line of investigation is a dead end or not.

From watching cop shows on TV, it seems such a unit is standard issue for detectives and spies, and the principle of operation appears to be thus:  Shine it on a potential piece of evidence and ask it a question.  As far as I can discern, it can determine most types of physical and biological properties of any sample, the sole limitation being that you only get one question per episode and it has to be the yes/no type.  If the answer is “yes,” then the sample will glow purple or blue.  I haven’t been able to find a supplier for this apparatus yet, though.


I’m sure we could source a blue spotlight to shine on this nice stainless steel though, and I’m thinking maybe a red one for the other side. Yes?