The ‘Friday afternoon experiment’

Never do a critical experiment on a Friday afternoon. Almost every scientist at some stage has fallen into the trap of doing ‘just one more’ experiment on a Friday afternoon only to experience that dreadful feeling when things go awfully wrong. Like that feeling of when you’ve lost all of a precious compound you spent months extracting. Yep, that was me circa Honours year.

That’s where the ‘Friday afternoon experiment’ comes in. This is a concept a good friend of mine introduced me to and is a great way to try out a new idea. It came about because we were talking about how the use of microwave heating in chemistry labs has become a popular method for rapidly synthesizing compounds (especially polymers). That means as some stage someone said to themselves, ‘I wonder what would happen if I put my reaction flask in the microwave?’. Crazy experiment but it established an entirely new area of chemistry. Now, I don’t know what day of the week the first microwave reaction was done (or in fact who did it — I cooould look it up) but my friend and I liked to think it was a Friday afternoon and they were burnt out from the week and just wanted to try something wacky. Enter the Friday afternoon experiment.

Because you don’t want to ruin your weekend, rather than do a really important experiment critical to your project/team why not use those few hours to try out something totally new. Something which probably won’t work but if it does it would be amazing.

Of course it doesn’t make sense to do this every week and in fact I recommend to students if you are just looking at the clock on a Friday you’d be better off doing something fairly brainless such as scan journals for recent articles (feedly is good for this); some reading; work up some data; put together some figures for your thesis/manuscript; backup data, order chemicals, etc..

But, if you’ve have a crazy idea that’s been sitting in the back of your mind just waiting for the right time then Friday afternoon is the time to try it.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s Friday afternoon and it’s been a pretty good week so I’m off to the lab to try something. It probably won’t work but if it does…

(caution — always assess the risk. There is a difference between crazy enough to work and just plain dangerous.)

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