Sciencemadness Discussion Board

Cloud Labs - against the spirit of amateur chemistry?

DoctorOfPhilosophy - 22-11-2018 at 23:14

You might have heard of Transcriptic and Emerald Cloud Lab, basically a robotic lab that you can control from the comfort and safety of your web browser. Suppose we made one for students and amateurs, would you use it?

The cool thing is that you could have access to any chemicals and equipment you could only dream of, the not so cool news is that I've found from personal experience that once you have access to anything, it's not amateur chemistry anymore. The thrill goes away and the only logical thing to do at that point is actual ("""useful""") research.

The redeeming aspect of this is that people, children included, can learn how to use a $250,000 MALDI-TOF without spending 50 grand and 4 years on a chem degree. So basically learning, and for young students cool science fair projects.

JJay - 23-11-2018 at 00:11

I'm not seeing how it could possibly be cost-effective. Robots aren't cheap, and I'm sure a lot of equipment would get damaged.

Sulaiman - 23-11-2018 at 03:56

A human or AI moderator would be required to prevent accidental or mischevious syntheses of hazardous compounds such as toxins or explosives.
In which case, I'd rather have access to the moderator than the lab.

DoctorOfPhilosophy - 23-11-2018 at 11:30

I'm specifically interested in the philisophical dimention: suppose the robots and humans were subsidized and free, would it still be fun to run experiements via webcam and command line?

JJay - 23-11-2018 at 12:57

Of course, LoL, but it would probably lead to more dangerous experiments.

macckone - 25-11-2018 at 13:56

This kind of setup would be most advantageous for dangerous experiments that can't be safely performed at home. I mean sure mixing vingegar and baking soda using real lab equipment and measuring the CO2 produced is cool, but that can be safely done at home with a couple of mason jars and a sink with some tubing. It would really need a tiered system.

Tier 1 would be a substitute for a home lab only allowing 'safe experiments'
Tier 2 would be available for more dangerous experiments
Tier 3 would be for commercial use

You might need more than one level at tier 2 as making toxic by products is different than explosive compounds or nerve agents. And some level of moderation would be required.

Assured Fish - 25-11-2018 at 15:32

Sounds boring as hell, i love handling materials that could hurt me, its also fun to think about precicely how you are going to handle the material in a safe manner. Down to which beaker your gonna use for waste product and which vial for main product even so far as to which hand your gonna be useing to decant off the precipitate.

Anyhow im pretty sure they have been talking about trying to replace chemists with machines for years, anyone who has done much practical work would understand just how smart and intuitive those machines would have to be to not screw something up.
As far as doing chemistry from a distance using mechanical arms as an extention, im pretty sure this has been done for years in the fields that work with radioactive materials, specifically reactor waste as that stuff would be quite hot.

I see no reason why i would ever take off the nitrile gloves to use a key board, irrelivent of cost.