Babbin Blogin 5: The Joys of Color-Coding

By Andrew Babbin

Reliably by the third day of a cruise (let alone three weeks in), my brain is utterly frazzled. In those tough times, I must rely on a method of sorting understandable to any preschooler with an aptitude for crayons: group by color. I rapidly lose all capability to think rationally (in fact, I’m not sure I ever even had said ability), but the differences between red and blue and yellow and green (and even orange) remain apparent. So just like separating M&Ms and eating the icky green ones first to save the delicious yellow ones for last, I must with my experiments too match purple to purple and pink to pink.

Every color has a meaning – from which type of chemical gets injected into which bottle to which bottle gets sampled for which experiment – and each such meaning is as obtuse and unintuitive as the next. The system did make sense years ago, but the time has long passed since I remembered why something seemed so logical at one point and now is simply incomprehensible. Alas it doesn’t matter though, and therein lies the joy of color coding. Add blue chemical to blue bottle. Insert yellow needle into yellow vial. Use red pipette for red incubation.

I am always needled about my fondness for such use of color, but when the same people come begging for my spectrum of labeling tape, they leave with the only color of which I am able to part: the white one. White in my color palette is so plain (perhaps consistent with my propensity to sunbathe on deck to achieve some sort of pigment in my skin regardless of whether the hue is a member of the brown or red family). I use it sparingly when I must, because really, compared to the rich colors, it’s so very boring.

babbin sample vialsPerhaps the moral of the story here is that organization ahead of time pays off, although I don’t think I’m old enough yet (read this as I don’t want to be old enough yet) to impart wisdom. At least grouping things by colors are fun. I could have done everything just as easily using the Greek alphabet and paring the Chi to the Chi and the Phi to the Phi. Well that’s all for now – we’re about to head down the home stretch and I have six intensive samplings in six consecutive days. Perhaps my next entry will be about another joy of mine imparted as a toddler: rhyming. Or perhaps I’ll bite the bullet and finally write about my research. Nah, I sincerely doubt that.


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