Something strange happens in laboratories. The door slams suddenly when you’re working back late alone. That inexplicable puff of air that comes from nowhere as you’re walking back to your bench carrying 10.00 mg of precious, freshly-weighed sample. And, most common of all, things go missing. There are certainly supernatural forces at work here.
Some labs may have ghost mice haunting the benches underfoot. Our lab bears the tormented souls of millions of sacrificed yeast and bacteria. And they are poltergeists. I know this for a fact.
Recently a 20L container of sterile-filtered juice spontaneously began fermenting in the walk-in fridge, far below ideal conditions to start fermentation.
The fermenting juice was moved to the walk-in freezer where fermentation became more vigorous. By the next morning the container was billowing a fountain of partially-fermented juice-slushy. Impossible at -20 degrees Celsius. Unless there were poltergeist-yeasts present. True story.
There are also the migrations of inanimate objects. This is well documented for the movements of teaspoons away from tea rooms in research institutes and is also known to occur for pens. I always have at least 10 pens in my bag. Unless, of course, I actually need one and then they have all inevitably gone to wherever it is pens go. Also a true story.
In the lab, these Migrations of Inanimate Objects include pipettes, tip boxes and anything you might need in a hurry.
It’s easy to blame other people. And in some cases, it is likely to be that someone has needed something in a hurry and grabbed it from a vacant-looking bench. And then forgot where it came from, making returning it impossible.
This explanation is plausible and yet a far more convincing argument is that this is the work of gremlins. It explains so much. I once found my lab book, after an hour of looking, in the fridge. The. Fridge. Clearly I didn’t put it there. It must have been gremlins.
Perhaps with vigilance and cunning we can outwit these supernatural forces and keep equipment exactly where we need it. Or remember from where we’ve borrowed something and return it.