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Whatever else may be true about biologists, they generate the best spam. I've somehow managed to get on a mailing list for biological lab equipment — some conference I attended, or some journal I subscribed too — and as a result, I get lots of email like this one, which arrived this morning under the Subject heading "Upgrade your Tissue Culture Lab today":

Whether you want another CO2 incubator, biosafety cabinet, or just a water bath or new stir plate, we have it in stock and ready to ship.  Pipettes?  We have them. Media shaker? Got that too. We have some amazing discounts to our already low prices, but the offers on this email are only applicable until Feb, 29. 2012.

Or another of today's little BioSpam gems, under the heading "The Smart Way to Master Your Pipetting Applications":

We called our new electronic pipette „The App Master”, because it has a revolutionary concept to support your pipetting applications. An intuitive menu paired with a large color screen make even complex pipetting tasks easy.  Take the example of a serial dilution: you quickly set up the advanced mixing mode and then it guides you through aspiration, dispensing and mixing without interruptions and as many times as you want. In combination with our multichannel E4 you will have done your 96 well plate serial dilution in no time.

Compare this to the pathetic attempts to get me to read some virus-laden attachment, like this one received today under the heading "Termination of your CPA license":

We have received a complaint about your alleged involvement in tax return fraudulent activity  for one of your employees. According to AICPA Bylaw Subsection 730 your Certified Public Accountant license can be cancelled in case of  the occurrence of presenting of a false or fraudulent income tax return on the member's or a client's behalf.   Please be notified below and provide your feedback to it within 14 days. The failure to respond within this term will result in withdrawal of your Accountant status.

Or this one, informing me that "You are eligible to receive a tax refund":

After the last annual calculations of your fiscal activity we have estimated that you are eligible to obtain a tax refund of $927. You need to file the tax refund request and give us 3-9 days in order to process it.

The delay of a refund can be caused by many various reasons. E.g., submitting untrue information or not complying with a deadline.  To access your tax refund please click here.


Tax Refund Department
Internal Revenue Service

Or the drivel that fills our comments-spam filters here on Language Log (2,124,394 and counting):

Thanks for the ideas you might have provided here. One much more thing I would like to mention is that laptop memory requirements generally increase along with other breakthroughs within the engineering. For instance, as soon as new generations of processors are introduced towards the market, there is usually a matching increase inside the shape demands of all computer system memory plus hard drive room. This is because the application operated by these cpus will inevitably boost in power to leverage the new engineering.

Or moving even further downscale:

This is certainly i'll be looking for. Here I contact priceless. The knowledge offered this is to the most. I want to express you must have used up a bit in adding every one of these happy with each other. They're relevant to your product. We shall recommend it to the modern world after which to every single single part of this associates. I’ll give back listed here to look into the number of give good results. When i love you actually with regard to creating this unique arise.


  1. Barbara Partee said,

    February 16, 2012 @ 1:18 pm

    Oh, I've been getting those too recently, but had never read any of them. Is this coming to all Language Loggers? I'm not sure I would have realized it was spam. Any safe way to get off their list?

    [(myl) I assume (without having looked into it) that the companies offering discount bio-lab equipment are legitimate, and have just bought mailing lists from AAAS or Nature or some outfit like that. Their ads are spam in the sense of being unsolicited commercial email, but they're probably not phishing attempts to implant viruses or anything similarly pernicious. But then again, maybe the long-awaited spamularity is appearing first in the lucrative lab equipment market.]

  2. Howard Oakley said,

    February 16, 2012 @ 2:52 pm

    They may be onto the growing market in the linguistics of DNA, cellular linguistics, even protein linguistics, perhaps? Google seems buzzing with hits for any of those terms.

  3. Rubrick said,

    February 16, 2012 @ 3:25 pm

    I have now been infected with competing earworms: "11 pipers pipetting" vs. "96 well plate serial dilutions on the wall".

  4. Bill Walderman said,

    February 16, 2012 @ 5:41 pm

    Readers who are US taxpayers should be aware that "the IRS does not initiate taxpayer communications through e-mail and won’t send a message about your tax account." From the IRS website:,,id=202394,00.html

    [(myl) And if the IRS did write to you, they wouldn't explain that "The delay of a refund can be caused by many various reasons."]

  5. toxolil said,

    February 16, 2012 @ 6:41 pm

    Am I the only molecular biologist who reads Language Log?
    I'm (just a little) ashamed to say that I'm actually quite curious about this "App Master" gadget now. All my pipetting problems solved, you say? Thanks, Language Log!

    [(myl) Here you go (I think…) Enjoy!

    Rainin's new E4 XLS electronic pipette helps you master your applications. With advanced features and a revolutionary new approach to navigation, the E4 XLS raises the bar for simplicity and control in pipetting. The contoured body, even balance and Rainin's legendary precision and accuracy all combine to offer an extraordinary pipetting experience.

    There's even a game:

    If you have an iPhone, iPod touch or iPad download the E4XLS App now. It allows you to simulate the programming of the new RAININ electronic pipette in 4 modes: Basic, Advanced, Multi Disp and Manual. Once you've learned to program the pipette go for the games and enter our High Score rankings!


  6. Garrett Wollman said,

    February 16, 2012 @ 10:13 pm

    Wow, you receive vastly more interesting spam than I do. There's probably some interesting analysis that could be done on why different people's spam profiles vary so much. I get a very large quantity of foreign-language spam (Russian, Turkish, French, Chinese, and Portuguese are the most common), and most of the rest is traditional "Your email may already have won" / 419 scams and various phishing attacks. I do occasionally get the odd "I would like to buy 5,000 widgets, please send a quotation" (the point of which I still haven't identified), and there's always the suprer-important-inform-the-whole-university messages from Mahogany Row about the appointment of a new chair of the search committee for the assistant deanship for search committees. Thankfully, my spam filter (Bill Yerazunis's mailreaver.crm) has excellent taste in machine-learning algorithms and shunts all of this way to a folder where I don't have to look at it unless I'm feeling curious. I'm always puzzled when I see people complaining about email spam, since this sort of filtering is not exactly difficult to implement (of course, I do have a higher tolerance for false positives than many people). Blog-comment spam is much more difficult, as the individual spam comments tend to be shorter and often include keywords from the original post.

  7. a said,

    February 16, 2012 @ 11:22 pm

    That spam has pretty much the same tone as the equipment brochures you can pick up at vendor fairs. In the lab where I work we read those brochures aloud for entertainment. If you want more, I suggest you choose your favorite equipment from the spam and look for demo videos on YouTube.

  8. Chris Waugh said,

    February 16, 2012 @ 11:47 pm

    "Media shaker"

    A device that pries English tabloid journalists loose from their phone hacking equipment?

    "because it has a revolutionary concept"

    What is the world coming to when even pipettes have their own ideas?

  9. Jim said,

    February 17, 2012 @ 12:53 am

    Untargeted bulk mail is spam. Targeted bulk mail is an information source.

    This just serves to reaffirm that, IMO.

  10. Jim said,

    February 17, 2012 @ 12:57 am

    I do in fact get a fair amount of BioSpam though. Some choice excerpts:

    "Phusion DNA Polymerase from NEB, OneTaq contest and exciting phage display applications"

    "For the month of December, receive FREE SHIPPING on all purchases containing cloning competent cells."

    "See how IPA® and Integromics' SeqSolve software were used to investigate Ewing's Sarcoma patient samples generated from Helicos' NGS technology."

    etc etc.

  11. John Walden said,

    February 17, 2012 @ 2:57 am

    The spam other people receive is irrelevant? Mine is uncannily accurate: I am both greedy and gullible and not at all surprised that I am heir to a Nigerian prince's fortune. And my wife says that other emails are not far wrong either.

  12. wally said,

    February 17, 2012 @ 11:19 am

    "analysis that could be done on why different people's spam profiles vary so much."

    Some years ago I for some reason was actively keeping up with several different Hotmail email accounts. I was amazed actually at how much the quality and especially the quantity of spam varied between the accounts.

  13. Moses said,

    February 17, 2012 @ 11:56 am

    Toxolil, you're not alone. I'm also in the field of molecular biology, although peripherally. I'm reading LL via experience in computational linguistics for information extraction in predictive toxicology. It's all good fun.
    Surely the media shakers will be orbital rather than revolutionary?

  14. Matt McIrvin said,

    February 17, 2012 @ 10:21 pm

    Only the Polytron reduces an entire mouse to a soup-like homogenate in 30 seconds.

    (When I was searching for this old Usenet chestnut, I discovered that there sure are a lot of companies called "Polytron".)

  15. ASG said,

    March 15, 2012 @ 3:21 pm

    John Crowley, one of my very favourite living authors, recently posted a very strange piece of spam he received from a pirate ebook site. It peppered a "generic" but surreally ungrammatical rave review of some random book with his name and the title of one of his own books. The idea is supposedly that everybody wants copies of this book, but the prose is so over-the-top (describing lineups of screaming fans stretching down the street, and so on) that it's unexpectedly funny when used to describe the thoughtful, sombre work of Mr. Crowley. The comments are pretty funny too:

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