Saturday night, shortly after that oxalic acid rant, I think I started cracking up. If ever there were a reason not to work alone in lab, this is it. I was standing in front of the rotovap watching the toluene crawl over, ie watching paint dry, when I started idly picking my ear. A huge chunk of wax came out. I stared at the gooey mass and wondered to myself what’s in there?Link (Thanks, Phil!)
I had a vague recollection of a 5.08 lecture about the biosynthesis of cholesterol from squalene, and how the latter is a major component of earwax. There’s at least one way to test that hypothesis. I had NMR time anyway so I figured what the hell. I scoped all 36 milligrams of my waxy secretion into a test tube and took it up in CDCl3. I was expecting it to go into solution freely, but there was a mass of material that wouldn’t dissolve even with sonication. So I filtered it through Celite and ran 16 scans on the 400 (vide supra).
Mark Frauenfelder is the founder of Boing Boing and the editor-in-chief of MAKE and Cool Tools. Twitter: @frauenfelder. His new book is Maker Dad: Lunch Box Guitars, Antigravity Jars, and 22 Other Incredibly Cool Father-Daughter DIY Projects