Searching the internet to see if I could find out what the boiling point of Rubidium at pressures of ~10^(-6) Torr is (anyone know? Or know where to look it up?), I came across a site made by some students who seem to be trying to build a rubidium atom trap, but on a much smaller scale than our setup -- I guess they don't have to fit a cavity in their trap. Compare their pictures with ours -- there's no way we're building an oven around our system. We just wrap the heater coils around it and cover the whole thing with tinfoil, when we need to bake.
I am of course fascinated by this. It's weird to see someone else suffer through the same things, and weird to see their different approach to some of the problems.
They don't say whether they ever succeeded or not. The story ends with the coils still nonexistant. But I love "optics man." I'm totally going to build his brother, for our lab.
Also on the topic of seeing other people suffer in familiar ways: "Colst" explains the ways in which graduate student life is completely and utterly different than undergraduate life, which most people, including undergraduates who are considering grad school, completely fail to grasp.