In which I am outwitted by swag

A good scientific meeting will often lead to more questions than it answers. And sure enough, I’ve recently returned from the American Society for Cell Biology with a mystery object that has evaded all powers of comprehension. In the spirit of collaborative, cross-disciplinary research, I thought I’d crowd-source its identification.

One afternoon wandering around the Expo hall, I was selected at random to receive a plastic bag bulging with swag from various exhibitors. Upending it later in my hotel room, I found myself the proud owner of a wide variety of items including four extra-extra-large T-shirts; a pack of post-it notes; a keyring torch; a 4 GB flash drive; an oddly seductive glass paperweight dedicated to the Silver Anniversary of the first publication of Leninger’s Biochemistry; lens paper; a mini-slide holder; and no fewer than 26 bizarrely over-engineered ballpoint pens, some with the girths of bananas.

And this little fellow:

In short, what the hell is it? The device opens and snaps shut like a clam shell, and those white ovoid pads are made of a very firm foam substance.

Whatever it is must be somewhat useful: the mystery item is inscribed with both a US and Chinese patent number, although searches on the internet for their applications drew a blank. In my jet-lagged state, I tried to image what it might be for, but the only thing I could come up with was a device for pressing Drosophila or other small model organisms for your scrapbook, as children press flowers.

Any guesses, serious or otherwise, are welcome!

About Jennifer Rohn

Scientist, novelist, rock chick
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37 Responses to In which I am outwitted by swag

  1. rpg says:

    I reckon it’s for cleaning scalpel blades.

  2. Jenny says:

    Hmmmm. But that wouldn’t work more than a few times, would it?

  3. rpg says:

    Can you remove the foam things for washing? They seemed to be pretty firmly stuck, though.

  4. It’s an eyeglass/sunglass clip for the visor in your car.

  5. fidouglas says:

    Will it fit slides in? Maybe it’s for transporting a small selection of your favourite slides to show to people at conferences, in the pub, etc.

  6. Eva says:

    With the big logo and URL printed on it, I’d say it’s a standard catalog swag item used for promotion (like Squishy Cow is), and not an instrument of scientific use. So think more along the lines of resealing bread bags or other non-lab activities.

  7. fidouglas says:

    P.S. This does rather remind me of the first episode of Black Books.

  8. It looks like a Higgs Boson. Those losers at the LHC must be kicking themselves.

  9. What about sample transportation – maybe not for pressing Drosophila , but for taking your favourite mutant fruit fly to a (rival?) laboratory. It might work for EM grids too.

  10. I’m not sure from the pictures, but it looks like one of those little spectacle holders. You can clip it to something and then you clamp the arms of your spectacles between the foam pads… Right?

  11. Stephen says:

    Clip for dialysis tubing?

  12. Jenny says:

    It’s not water-resistant, I can’t see it being useful in dialysis…

  13. Scicurious says:

    It’s a glasses holder thingy. Or possible a bizarrely futuristic nail buffer.

  14. AJ Cann says:

    It’s a sonic screwdriver sharpener.

  15. rpg says:

    @fi, *hah*!

  16. Cath@VWXYNot? says:

    My guess is that it’s a useless device, designed to distract you while an accomplice steals your wallet / passport / data.

  17. ricardipus says:

    Dunno, but it looks like *just* the kind of thing I’d catch my finger in painfully when snapping it shut.

  18. ricardipus says:

    P.S. I am now giggling uncontrollably at your reference to “bizarrely over-engineered pens”.

  19. cromercrox says:

    It’s a 21st-century re-interpretation of a traditional medieval cordwangler’s scrode, used for grunting futtocks. Itinerant cordwanglers would wander through towns, touting their scrodes for all to see, and calling out to the populace in this fashion: “Get yer futtocks grunted ‘ere! Get yer futtocks grunted ‘ere! And get us an ounce of shag while yer about it!”

  20. Cath@VWXYNot? says:

    Mystery solved!

  21. cromercrox says:

    That was easy. Ask me another.

  22. gerty-z says:

    its a sunglasses clip that you can put on your car visor.

    Sorry if someone already answered

  23. Kausik Datta says:

    As SFS above said, “It’s an eyeglass/sunglass clip for the visor in your car.” I had one like that, but the clip broke. Of course, how you want to use it is your prerogative… Heh-heh!!

  24. Brian Wolfe says:

    It’s a clip you place on your plastic bag handles so that they don’t cut into your hand after carrying it around for hours. A friend has one and it works nicely. πŸ™‚

  25. Brian Wolfe says:

    *blink* I think you’re right. I didn’t notice the clip on the backside until I saw your post. Unfortunately after my own post below about it being a bag holder.

  26. you put it on the visor of your car, and then you use it to hold your glasses. the earpieces go between the foam pieces and holds them in place.

  27. ricardipus says:

    I think it goes on the sun visor in your car. The foamy dingus holds the arms of your glasses.


  28. Jenny says:

    I think we have a consensus, folks. Seeing as how I lack a car, the item in question is likely to be headed for a new adventure.

  29. cromercrox says:

    It’s a thing you clip on your car’s sun visor to hold sunglasses? Nonsense. That’s what golden retrievers are for.

  30. Cath@VWXYNot? says:

    What’s the difference between a duck?

  31. nico says:

    It’s obviously a tie clip, I thought they were extinct.

  32. rpg says:

    “Foamy dingus”? you should see a doctor, mate.

  33. ricardipus says:

    Do I detect a date with a landfill? Or perhaps someone with a car would LOVE to have this?

    Sorry, it’s Saturday afternoon, I’m procrastinating housecleaning and grantwriting.

  34. cromercrox says:

    a chicken.

  35. steve caplan says:

    Jenny, I am surprised at you! Anyone can see that this is the original container for extra aspirator needles for the INTERACTREX 3000…

  36. Ian the EM guy says:

    One of its legs is both the same.

  37. Cath@VWXYNot? says:

    Hurrah! Someone else knows my Dad’s favourite joke πŸ™‚

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