One of the annoying things about getting old is resenting change. So when you’re a scientist, it doesn’t help that the lab environment is one of the most mutable places on earth. New technology emerges all the time, and our brains have to cope — even when ‘improvements’ often seem, to well-greased neural pathways, as unwanted and cumbersome diversions.
Of course some changes are good: I’ve enjoyed swapping X-ray film for a fluorescent image analyzer, and I don’t miss grappling with large amounts of radioactivity one little bit. Cutting and pasting bits of DNA together ye olde fashioned way was certainly therapeutic, but I’m happier with the faster, new-fangled recombination methods that allow you to bypass ligations altogether. No, it’s the useless cosmetic changes that I find annoying: like Microsoft Word deciding to completely rearrange all of its hundreds of functions into entire new categories, so that simple tasks like counting words or changing the font size can take fifteen minutes of hunting through endless tabs and menus. (Dear God, why?, I heard one of my colleagues moaning just the other day as he tried to justify his margins.)
So, grumpy not-quite-as-young-as-I-used-to-be woman that I am, I was really cheesed off when I removed my shiny new electrophoresis boxes from their packing peanut nest and encountered these lime-green arrows on the side:
OK, so it’s a helpful little tip aimed at reminding the uninitiated that DNA is negatively charged and needs to migrate towards the positive pole. I get why they’ve done it. But it just seems… wrong. If you need an arrow to understand which way to load your samples, you probably shouldn’t be trusted with an experiment that mixes liquid and high voltage in the first place.
Plus, the designers who decided to add these helpful arrows probably never worked in a lab where the post-docs routinely swapped the red and black plugs on the power pack to make sure that the PhD students were paying attention.