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Archive for May, 2013

The Classic Spirograph Returns

Ah, Spirograph:



Spirograph has a long history as a toy – dating back to 1965.  Its actually not the original – as the copy above says it was based off a drafting tool invented Denys Fisher. It probably looked something like this tool from 1968 (scanned from the Edmund Scientific 1968 catalog).



MTC Propette Adjustable Volume Pipettors

Mechanical adjustable Pipettors area mainstay in most labs. They are excellent for ‘dialing in’ the exact amount of liquid that your system needs. We’ve carried such pipettors before and while they are decent instruments they have lacked certain features.

Now, however we introduce the MTC Propette Pipettors:



New Colorful Super Magnetic Thinking Putties!

For years we have sold quite a bit of Crazy Aaron’s Thinking Putty: The ones that glow, the ones that change color in your hand, andthe putty that is clear as glass!

But far and away our favorite putty is the Strange Attractor Super Magnetic Thinking Putty



Cell Smashing Time Redux! The BenchMark Scientific Handheld Homogenizer

So. homogenizers.  Quite possibly the most violent of devices used in a laboratory. When you consider that the term ‘homogenize’ is a more scientific term for ‘beaten to a (literal) pulp’.  This process is used for turning organic material (such as bone, wood, plants) in to a material that can be better examined.

While we joke about homogenizers beating organic materials to a pulp, keep in mind that what a homogenizer does is actually destroy the cell walls of a material. This process is called lysis. It has many uses, far too many to go into here.

Spectrum has already carried the excellent Benchmark Scientific Homogenizers the BeadBug and the BeadBlaster. These are fine devices but they have two disadvantages: one is their lack of portability, and two is that the material needs to be inserted in microtubes prefilled with mashing material (beads).  Well, Benchmark has now added a new homogenizer to their product line, it is the D1000 Handheld Homongenizer:

4624 (more…)

Assembling the Orion SkyQuest XT8i Intelliscope Dobsonian Telescope – Part 2

OK, so we are continuing from Part 1 of this telescope assembly. Our base is pretty much together, but now we need to add the encoders. Here is where we shall see the major issues with the way Orion’s instructions are laid out.

First of all, as we mentioned in the 2nd to last paragraph of part 1, you have to stop working from the main instruction manual. There isn’t really an indication as to where you should do this, but if you continue to build your telescope you will need to unbuild it to attach all the pieces needed for the Intelliscope parts to be attached. In order to continue properly, you actually have to switch over to the manual that comes with the Intelliscope controller.


There was a time when there was good reason for why this manual was separate from the main manual. Orion originally sold the Intelliscope with and without the Intelliscope controller. Four years ago they ended that policy since the “Classic”  SkyQuest was still available. Now all the Intellscopes come with the Intelliscope Controller, so there is no legitimate reason to confuse the customer with different manuals. Especially ones that have errata and parts for versions of the Intelliscope that have not been made in 7-8 years.


Assembling the Orion SkyQuest XT8i Intelliscope Dobsonian Telescope – Part 1

A bit of a disclaimer here. This is going to be as much of ‘what’s wrong with the Intelliscope’s instructions as much as it will be a  ‘how to’ for helping set-up your Intelliscope.

005First a little background: Dobsonian telescopes, with their large mirrors and lazy-susan bases have been around for ages but it wasn’t until Orion released their SkyQuest XT line in the late 90’s that they became popular. Previous Dobsonian telescope models had issues with balance and were trick to keep on target.  Odd solutions like weights added to the outside of the telescope were clunky and awkward for basic users. Orion solved the issue by adding the CorrectTension system, which was a spring that held the optical tube of the Dobsonian to the base. It was a simple and elegant solution and it worked very well. The line got excellent marks and was considered one of the best Dobsonian lines on the market . At first Orion just sold a 6″ and 8″ model, then added a 10″ model, a 4.5″ kid’s model, and later a 12″ model.

For several years, Orion pretty much dominated the Dobsonian Market, but when imitators cropped up they decided to improve their classic Dobsonian by adding a computer guidance system (not a computer control system like many GoTo telescopes). Here you would get the advantages of having a computer system to help you find objects. It would not require batteries for any motors and the observer would be the person moving the telescope, using a hand controller to guide them.

The whole system using a pair of magnetic encoders, and development was tricky. The initial plan was to have the Intelliscope completely replace the original Dobsonian line where it would be sold with and without the controllers. This didn’t happen due to some development issues. Once the Intelliscope was ready it was sold both with and without the controllers, but after a few years it was sold strictly with the Intelliscope controller system. This unfortunately left some ‘development scars’  that will show up from time to time as we assemble the telescope. (more…)

Space Oddity…performed in SPACE!

OK. there’s really not too much I can add to this video.  It is Commander Chris Hadfield performing David Bowie’s Space Oddity. Mind you he is doing this while on the International Space Station.

Some complained that this cover is the most expensive music video ever made since it was done on the ISS, however some point out this simply is not true.




The New BenchMark IsoBlock – For when you need to heat two things at once

Dry Baths are a staple of labwork, and we’ve carried a decent variety of them – mostly supplied by BenchMark Scientific.  But there have been some minor issues in that you can only do one heating run at a time. Sure, you can get models that hold multiple blocks but you end up with the same problem: the blocks are all being heated to the same program and having the same things done to each block.

Sure you can solve the problem by purchasing multiple Dry Baths and have each one run a different program, but in a small lab that means more benchtop real estate taken up, more cables, and more clutter.

BenchMark has decided to relieve the problem by adding a new product to their product line, it is the IsoBlock Digital Dry Bath:


The IsoBlock has two separate heating chambers the are insulated from each other by a blocking wall:


The IsoBlock’s two chambers can each be separately programmed to different heating programs. You effectively get two Digital Dry Baths in one!

The IsoBlock does not come with a block, but is shown with the popular QuickFlip Block that covers a lot of needs. It can hold tubes from 0.5 to 2.0ml, and with a quick flip can handle 0.2 tubes or PCR strips. The IsoBlock can hold two different blocks and different machined blocks are available for everything up to 50ml tubes (note: lid might not close with larger blocks).

Want to see more Dry Baths & Water Baths?

Want to purchase the BenchMark IsoBlock?




It’s 2 hours to the Australian Eclipse…(live eclipse online)

..and if you are anywhere near our store there is no physical way for you to get there in time to see it.

But don’t worry, you can see the eclipse online at the following link: http://events.slooh.com/

The date here is 5/9/2013 at around 3:30 PM ET . If you are reading this any later you are probably too late.

Have fun and enjoy!




Disposable Transfer Pipettes (pipets)

This is going to be one of those ‘not the most exciting fun-filled’ topics we covered. But we these things are important and it is good for us to let people know about them. So without Further ado we give you Disposable Transfer Pipettes!


Disposable Transfer Pipettes are something of an unsung hero of the labware world. While glass beakers and cylinder get a lot of the attention, these little plastic eye-dropper thingies solider on taking small quantities of a sample material and placing it into PCR plates, concave microscope slides or other containers.

Tranfer Pipettes are made of  clear, low-density polyethylene (LDPE) so they are soft and easy to manipulate. The material makes them easy to produce so they are inexpensive. They save a lot of labor that might require a lot of washing & cleaning between procedures. The LDPE is surprising durable, able to handle low temperature liquid nitrogen exposure  (-196C). The LDPE tips of the pipettes can also be heat-treated to make a completely sealed sample. All you need is a match or light and you have an instant air-tight mini liquid storage container

Transfer Pipetttes have three parts: The bulb, the shaft and the tip. The bulb is the reservoir for the majority of the liquid held by the transfer pipette, it is also the part that gets squeezed to draw in liquid or expel it. On non-disposable pipettes  a filler bulb needs to be attached or a mechanical pipettor used.

The shaft holds part of the liquid and can be graduated or not graduated with markings to show how much liquid is in the pipette.  This can be handy for measuring small quantities of liquids.

The tip can vary in size – standard tips are still pretty small and will require about 25 drops per ml. Special ‘thin-tip’ pipettes are made that can require 50-66 drops per ml. This can be handy for tight control of small quantities of a liquid material.

Disposable Transfer Pipettes come a variety of sizes, but they still only hold a small quantity of liquid. Typical is around 5ml total, with a few lines that hold 7ml. Some specialty pipettors can hold 3ml, 4ml or 1.2ml. Typically the average transfer pipette is about 6″ (150mm) long.

Spectrum Scientiics has carried disposable transfer pipettes since our opening day. Typically we carry a 5ml model that is sold in a 5-pack and has 1ml graduations on the shaft. They are not sterile. Now however we have added a wide variety of individually-wrapped and sterile disposable transfer pipettes sold in packs of 500.  The sizes we have added are:

5ml Pipettes with 0.5ml graduations on the shaft, a 3.5ml reservoir, and a tip that dispenses 22 drops per ml

7ml Pipettes with 1ml graduations on the shaft, a 3.5ml reservoir and a tip that dispenses 23 drops per ml

3ml Pipettes with 0.5ml graduations of the shaft, a 1.5ml reservoir and a tip that dispenses 22 drops per ml

5ml ‘Thin-tip’ Pipettes with no graduations, a 3,5ml shaft, and a tip that dispenses 65 drops per ml

1.2ml “Shorty” Pipettes with no graduations, a 0.9ml bulb and a tip that dispenses 25 drops per ml

5ml Pipettes with 1ml graduations on the shaft, a 3.5ml reservoir and a tip that dispenses 25 drops per ml.

5ml “Blood Bank Standard’ Pipettes with 0.5ml graduations on the shaft, a 2.4ml reservoir, and a tip that dispenses 22 drops per ml

5ml ‘Thin-tip’ Pipettes with a descending shaft (no graduations), a 1.5ml reservoir, and a tip that dispenses 50 drops per ml

7ml ‘Thin-tip’ pipettes with no graduations, a 6.0ml  reservoir, and a tip that dispenses 66 drops per ml.

4ml Pipette with no graduations, a 3.5ml reservoir, and a tip that dispenses 28 drops per ml.

All of these pipettes are sold in packs of 500 individually wrapped, sterile pipettes. They are ideal for microbiology, blood banking, hematology, immunology,  urinalysis, and tissue culture applications.

Want to buy other laboratory disposable items?