When the lights went out across northeastern North America during the continent's biggest blackout in history, scientists in the New York area experienced minor inconveniences rather than major experimental setbacks. And some actually found innovative ways to enjoy a difficult situation that lasted as long as 29 hours in parts of the region.

Spokespersons from Columbia and Rockefeller Universities reported no significant problems at their institutions thanks to properly functioning backup systems. Annie Bayne, Columbia's health sciences division director of public relations, told The Scientist that the university learned its lesson after a local blackout a few years ago. "Unfortunately, at that point our generators did not work, and we lost quite a lot of our research," she said.

According to a Yale University spokesperson, Yale never lost power. However, Donald Wiggin, Yale's administrator for biology, said that a power surge did cause some temporary compressor problems that affected water...

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