Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Angus MacGyver, Patron Saint of Noble Gas Labs



I'd like to nominate MacGyver as the patron saint of noble gas thermochronology labs. I had originally thought that perhaps he could represent all labs, and perhaps I need to expand my definition, but I have my reasons. Let me explain. For those of you who don't know, MacGyver was one of the greatest television action heroes/good guys of all time. Like most TV heroes, he almost never failed, but what made him unique were three important characteristics.

1. He hated guns. Except in one early episode, he never touched them. This leads directly to point number 2, but also explains why my mom let me watch the show. I like this, noble gas thermochronologists are a peace loving bunch.
2. "Mac" was resourceful, and often called upon his vast background in "science" and "engineering," crafting weapons, picking locks, breaking through security systems, opening doors, and in general saving the world using his Swiss Army Knife, duct tape, and whatever pieces of junk happened to be lying around. I'll get to this later. Oh, and for the record, I don't care if most of what he did was BS, it was still sweet. And, allegedly the producers made things slightly impossible so stupid kids in places like Sacramento didn't try to replicate his bombs and booby traps, just an idea.
3. He was supposed to be Canadian. Seriously, how many other Canadian action heroes were huge on American TV? Richard Dean Anderson, the actor who played MacGyver, is a Minnesotan who only took to acting when his hockey career was put on hold, which in my opinion is the best training an American can have for playing a Canadian.

MacGyver is the patron saint of noble gas labs because of his resourcefullness. On TV, MacGyver destroys a laser using smashed up binoculars and cigarettes, plugs a leaking vat of acid with a chocolate bar, and made a bomb out of cold medicine. In the time of need, he has no budget, and has to work with what is around. Doesn't that sound familiar! How can I fix this with the half broken old lab equipment that is lying around ? I summon my inner MacGyver all the time, clamping together 3 different size KF flanges so I don't have to order the proper reduction fitting, using the brackets I had made for the pneumatic valves for every structural support need except the pneumatic valves, the old UHV gauge controller with the "warning, may produce lethal shock" sticker that I "rescued" and used for 2 years. The list goes on. Not as impressive as the real MacGyvers, but hey..

In addition, MacGyver just looks like a geochronologist.


Check it out, here he is checking on his LMT heavy fraction. Ooooooh, lots of heavies, yes!


And here he is at the power source for the magnetic sector mass spectrometer. Hmmm, I think the problem is with the z-deflector, maybe the accelerating voltage is low...



This is when he was trying to figure out which integrated circuit blew during the power outage, man this takes forever. Thank god I have my leather bomber jacket


OK, I think the tube is ready for the reactor. And, let me add, that is obviously a paleontologist in the background, they probably want MacGyver to tell them how old some ash beds are, that's all they ever want from us.



Check out my LMT lights, I can totally get enough kspar out of this for an Ar MDD analaysis. But first, let me have a drink from my NHL water bottle, go Sabres!


And he even does field work. On the Colorado Plateau! Must be a detrital zircon thing. Let me guess, there's a Grenvillian Peak. By the way, polar fleece long before it was popular. Mac was a trendsetter.

So in conclusion I am trying to think of all of the random things that were commonplace in my lab. Aluminum foil, of course, rolls and rolls of Reynolds Wrap, Q-tips, unwaxed dental floss for the cryogenic cold trap, binder clips, balloons, cinder blocks, toothpicks, the little radioactive source from a film duster....Nothing compared to the great one, but a start. I'm interested what other non-traditional lab supplies are in use out there.

And, by the way, his first name was Angus, at least according to the infallible oracle of all knowledge. It only came out in the last episode, the same one where he found out he had a long lost son.

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

You would be proud of the velcro-bolt contraption i made to secure the argon laser pan while we hijacked the laser for helium work. we miss you.

Brian said...

I thought thermochronologists were like the Navy SEALs or olympic athletes of geology?

MacGyver...as resourceful as he is...is a geek. Look at that mullet. Thermochronologists are more like the guy who checks the valve on the Navy SEAL's scuba gear.

Hey is that Dick Butkus checkin' out the LMT (now SPT) lights?

Anonymous said...

dude, you failed to notice that the guy mac is talking with in the NHL water bottle shot is none other than hall of fame linebacker and emmy-winning actor DICK BUTKUS! considering you're supposedly a chicago bear "fan," i'm surprised you didn't notice this. maybe if you spent less time focusing on the science and concentrated on more important shit like guest stars you'd have a few more readers. what i'm wondering is if bubba smith ever made an appearance on macgyver. do us a favor and give the charts and graphs a rest and have a posting devoted to guest stars on macgyver. actually, if you want to have charts and graphs detailing the number of appearances for guys like butkus, feel free. but for the love of god, no talk of radiometric geochronometers or alpha decays.

Anonymous said...

i seem to have corroboration on the butkus ID. now, find me bubba smith!

Thermochronic said...

OK,

1. I know it is Dick Butkus. I didn't mention it because I still get teary eyed when I use the work "Bears", oh, wait, here we go..We were just so close...
2. Thermochronologists are the Navy Seals of the Geology world. I'd argue that even Navy Seals must occasionally summon their inner MacGyver. Patron Saint implies something we strive to be. Just think how unstoppable a platoon of Navy MacGyvers would be. And they'd save tons on the budget, only needing to buy leather bomber jackets and swiss army knives.
3. MacGyver is not a geek. Well, was not. Remember, this was the 80's, and he was Canadian. I think you got taxed if you didn't have a mullet back then.
4. Guest stars, good idea, I bet there is cross over between MacGyver guest stars and A-Team guest stars.
5. Is that a sedimentologist making cracks at a thermochronologist? Keeing in Military terms, I'd say sedimentologists are best represented by This Man.

Brian said...

Or, this guy , who I think might be Tom Cruise's much nerdier younger brother, Ned Cruise

Thermochronic said...

I heard that guy rode your coat-tails all the way through school.

Anonymous said...

sorry, not a sementologist, my friend. my game is physics. i'm so fucking respected in my field i'm known simply as "physics man." and for the record, physics man went easy on his cracks. he's been suppressing every instinctive impulse to rip on the majority of these postings in the name of good friendship...

that being said, is this blog for anyone else besides those two dudes who make all the comments? as it stands, "esoteric" would be an world-class understatement. why don't you guys just email each other?

fianlly, back to something that warrants interest with the other 98.2% of mankind: you should post some photos of richard dean anderson guesting on the simpson's. patty and selma kidnap him and force him to act like macgyver. not bad for a recent season, which generally have been mediocre. and where's that a-team/macgyver guest star chart? quit teasing us!

Thermochronic said...

Ahhh, Physics Man, I had my suspicions, I should have been able to tell, the years of finishing school have left at indelible mark. What I should have done is post about ping-pong ball spins, that would have brought out physics man.

As for why have the blog, yesterday we got 2 feet of snow, couldn't get out ot the driveway, what the hell else am I supposed to do all winter? It's entertainment. I like writing it. My traffic has also been steadily increasing, which means I am now world famous.

The YouTube link at the bottom of that post has patty and selma reacting to someone disrespecting MacGyver. One thing at a time for my blog though.

Brian said...

hey Physics Man...

if we just emailed each other, you never would've got annoyed and fired up enough to comment on how annoyed you are, cuz you never would've known ...I wonder how many others like you are lurking about getting pissed, but then finding themselves back here

and, I agree...i think Thermochronic oughtta start generating that A-Team/MacGyver guest appearance database

thm said...

Ah, anonymous must be this guy. I never said there wasn't a shortage of wierdos in my field.