In which I marvel at a serious swag #fail

Who doesn’t love a good conference swag bag? Yes, I know it’s frequently full of useless tat destined to go straight into the hotel bin. But what jolts the adrenalin as you paw through the bulging canvas sack in your jet-lagged haze is the promise of maybe one really, truly cool item: the gadget or gizmo that you’d be happy to swap precious luggage space formerly reserved for cheesy American snacks like Cheetos.

Your future is full of...foam

And so it was at Science Online 2011 last week that I eagerly unwrapped a Magic 8-ball-style fortune teller from Sigma. Finally, something that would give a straight answer to whether I’d be able to stay up until past 10 PM to get drunk with the oceanographers!

As I shook the cube and peered into its viewing window, I was dismayed to see that whatever fluid Sigma had chosen to immerse the magic plastic answer dice was so foamy that it was impossible to make out the words.

Now this is a sad state of affairs. If Sigma, which bills itself as a premiere purveyor of fine chemicals, can’t come up with an appropriate fluid for this purpose, then honestly, who could? (If I could read the reply, the cube might tell me “Reply hazy: try again”.)

Or maybe the entire thing was deliberate on Sigma’s part, an attempt to deliver the ultimate metaphor for scientific inquiry. We might think we’re unraveling the secrets of the universe, but in actual fact, we’re just staring fruitlessly into a window of obscure murk.

About Jennifer Rohn

Scientist, novelist, rock chick
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19 Responses to In which I marvel at a serious swag #fail

  1. Ed Gerstner says:

    Hehehe. Regrettably, that is the way of all 8-balls. I’ll bet it’s old stock. The 8-ball I used to use to make all my decisions on manuscripts went the same way. Now I have to read the manuscripts and make a considered decision on them! Weak!

  2. rpg says:

    I just read the wikipedia article, and it says you shouldn’t shake them because of bubbles. But but but randomization and all that.

    I guess Sigma just aren’t all that good, really (no big surprise there). They’re like the KiwkSave of chemicals.

  3. nico says:

    No, this is a highly accurate Magic ball. Clearly you are due a blue foam bath.

  4. Jim says:

    Clearly they’re using their very cheapest surfactants.

  5. Dr_Bik says:

    The Magic 8-ball is actually the newest cutting-edge tool to inform you whether or not your PCR will work. ‘Cause, its all voodoo anyway, so you might as well ask the unseen forces for help.

    I may empirically test this theory with statistics.

  6. rpg says:

    I’ve never seen a Magic 8-ball that was 80% negative…

    Be sure to publish your results!

  7. Oh dear. If it’s too frothy to see, Jenny, then – magic or otherwise – you are most definitely behind the eight ball.

  8. cromercrox says:

    Viking, forties, North Utsire, etcetera etcetera and so forth in like fashion.

  9. Jenny says:

    How can you reset the cube without shaking it? Otherwise it will give you the same answer every time. I need someone, preferably a physicist, to sort this out so I can get the cube to analyze all the anomalous results in my manuscript.

    “Is my hypothesis bollocks?”

    “it is decidedly so.”

    Sorted. Who says science is difficult?

  10. rpg says:

    I guess it’s like doing plasmid preps Jenny: you’re supposed to mix without shaking. Otherwise you shear your genomic DNA.

    Now there’s an idea…

  11. ricardipus says:

    Or maybe the entire thing was deliberate on Sigma’s part, an attempt to deliver the ultimate metaphor for scientific inquiry.

    I think you’re giving Sigma waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay too much credit for cleverness there.

    As for decision making – he’s a little bigger and more expensive than your swag version, but I can wholeheartedly recommend the Electronic Ask Yoda. I have one in my office, and apart from a tendency to duck the question repeatedly, he’s been very helpful. He even correctly predicted that the final Star Wars movie was pants, after waffling about “the future, hard to see it is” a couple of times.

  12. ricardipus says:

    Oi! Where’d me comment go then?

  13. rpg says:

    (it got spamtrapped, R’pus. I just dug it out. Thank me later.)

  14. Jenny says:

    Was the electronic Yoda wearing rolexes or lingerie, then?

  15. Please do – I’d love to see that study! And the IgNobel committee might just agree!

  16. ricardipus says:

    I figured (only one link – goodness). Thanks for digginess.

    Jenny – not that I know of, but I really don’t know what he might be ordering off t’inernets in his spare time.

  17. cromercrox says:

    Forget swag fail – here’s some swag success, my favourite item of meeting swag
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/27848370@N04/5370916158/
    It’s an acrylic cube, almost pi inches (cubed) in which is displayed a 3D map of the Sun’s stellar neighbourhood. Sol is in the centre, and it goes all the way out to Altair, around 16 light-years away. It’s a pretty substantial object, and has proven useful, not just as a stylish paperweight or bookend. Where did I get it? SciFoo 2007. Natch.

  18. daedalus2u says:

    I drove to scio11, from Boston, and after driving back, I left my swag bag in the car and my magic answer cube froze. On thawing it did not leak, but my experiment did demonstrate that it would be completely useless on an Arctic or Antarctic expedition.