Sunday, February 5, 2012


Howdy Folks.  Do I ever have a treat for you!

Some background:  There exist a system of steam tunnels under Caltech, and for many years (at least 40 or so) undergraduate have been running amok in them causing all kinds of trouble.  There is apparently access to every building on campus through these tunnels, and there is a written and artistic history of undergraduate life painted and Sharpied onto the walls.

So I came by these photos of some grad student hoodlums exploring these tunnels.  Since this blog is so intimately linked with my identity at Caltech, lets leave names out of it, shall we?  Anyway, some of the photos were so outstanding, I decided they needed to be shared here, on Coffee Nanoparticles.

 Figure 1: Wow, Caltech undergrads.  That brings about an awfully visceral and disturbing image.  Must help to keep the god-fearing folk out of the tunnels.

  Figure 2:  The entrance to the tunnels proper.  Into the rabbit hole.

   Figure 3:  This is what the tunnels look like.  Some of these pipes carry steam, so it is quite hot in there. (Or so I hear)

  Figure 4:  True dat.

  Figure 5:  So this one deserves a bit of a story.  The Dean of Undergraduate Students here (Rod Kiewiet) has instituted a strict and obviously well-respected rule to no longer go into the steam tunnels, citing "safety issues".  So someone was kind enough to immortalize this rule on the wall of an alcove somewhere under Bridge Laboratory.    

   Figure 6: HAH valence band.  GET IT?!

  Figure 7:  Caltech legend tells of a bet made by Nobellist and well-known badass Richard Feynman of QED fame with the undergraduate physics class.  If they performed up to Feynman-par (likely about an A++ average or thereabouts), he would live in the tunnels for a week.  Naturally Caltech undergrads cheated or something and did not disappoint, leading to Feynman setting up a couple mattresses and a supremely creepy swing-set here in the steam tunnels.

  Figure 7:  There was also a "SAY N2O to DRUGS" graffito somewhere.

 Figure 8: It really looks to me like the one on the right is saying "Kiss me, I'm Irish", and for some reason the one on the left looks awfully good at being crazy smart.

Well, that was mostly full of figures, but I hope you got a bit of a taste of what the tunnels are like.  It is really too bad we're not allowed to go down there.  In a hypothetical world in which we were, I would surely be well on my way to mapping it and exploring every nook and cranny.

Lets take a look at my allowed domain, then.  I just moved into a new and improved office!  My lab dominates about 90% of the basement of Noyes Laboratory of Chemical Physics, which means that no one has an office with a window.  But now at least I have a couch, a table, a whiteboard and a sweet monitor.  Check it out!

  Figure 9:  It is super duper comfy, cats and kittens.  Srsly.

  Figure 10:  OMG SO BRIGHT.  Who do those awesome happy-looking orange lab goggles on the wall belong to?

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