Like a Kid in a LEGO Store…

Today my co-worker and friend treated me to something awesome!

The group we work for at RAL is getting a new laboratory area Soon (TM) which is an “unused” room somewhere in the maze of corridors which comprises the Harwell campus. It’s been used as a store room for more or less every piece of scientific junk from the last 40 years.




Oh yes it was!

Do you want to see some pictures? Of course you do!

Disclaimer: None of the things here are important or sensitive in any way. This is old science junk, nothing more.

First up is a picture of just one of the many MANY cabinets full of things of indeterminate use. Here we see some optical (colour and intensity) filters, some particle detectors (black cylinders, top left).

There are also lenses made of quartz and what look like seismographs (rolls of paper and brown oblongs, near the bottom)! Miscellaneous gaskets, doohickeys and thingamabobs galore as well. There was a rubber stamp, and an odd device which looked like a home-made oscilloscope screen (paper on a metal frame, on a coil of wire, left, second shelf from top).

We then found a cupboard full of things which looked like they were for controlling gas flow and testing in odd environments. One of the things we found was this; it’sa whatchamacallit! We have no idea what it was for, but we reckon it probably cost a lot of money and effort when it was new and useful. The white bit at the end, we think, was used for attaching to a vacuum pump or something.

Here’s another perspective:

This is awesome: there are big plate capacitors and some old resistors, but the yellow two at the left are diodes both pointing in the opposite direction. We still have no idea what it’s for (if you have any suggestions, leave them in the comments!) but we reckon it could be used as a prop in the new Star Wars movie at some point…

Just before we left we found this little bit of retro; a genuine copy of Windows 95! Oh yes, with a certificate to prove it! (They just don’t do it like they used to…)

Intriguingly, it ALSO came with Microsoft Office Professional (the original!) on… wait for it… thirty floppy disks! Ah the bad old days…

Finally, I wanted to share this little piece of awesome with you all. Here is something we found in a box of hand-blown glassware (the rest was probably used for some kind of experiment related to the thingamabob I showed before). These are hand blown Christmas baubles!

How awesome are they?

Thanks for reading! I might well do a second part when we return “sometime this year”…

Share your ideas and/or memories of old scientific equipment in the comments!


About stoove

A physicist, researcher, and gamesman. Likes to think about the mathematics and mechanics behind all sorts of different things, and writing up the thoughts for you to read. A competent programmer, enjoys public speaking and mechanical keyboards. Has opinions which might even change from time to time.
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2 Responses to Like a Kid in a LEGO Store…

  1. Looks like fun! As a theoretician, I have nothing more than yellowing-pieces of paper… and old computer equipment, I suppose.

    • stoove says:

      You have clearly never found a good enough excuse to enter some of the store rooms the Physics department has at University. It’s a mini treasure trove of giant gyroscopes and draws of devices of ambiguous use! Great fun indeed.

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