FRIDAY FUNNIES: SCIENCE MYTHS : Why do novelists, filmmakers and newspaper journalists get science so wrong?

FRIDAY FUNNIES: SCIENCE MYTHS : Why do novelists, filmmakers and newspaper journalists get science so wrong? Perhaps, scientists don’t communicate too well. Writing for Science, Adam Ruben imagines this conversation:

MICHAEL CRICHTON: What if mosquitoes drank dinosaur blood before being encased in amber? Would it theoretically be possible to extract that blood and clone dinosaurs from the DNA?



Perhaps, the truth had better not be told? πŸ˜›

Myth: Scientists follow the scientific method as it was taught in high school: Observation, Question, Research, Hypothesis, Experiment, Conclusion .

Truth: In reality, the way scientists work is more like: Fiddle Around, Find Something Weird, Retest It, It Doesn’t Happen a Second Time, Get Distracted Trying to Make It Happen Again, Go to Chipotle, Recall the Original Purpose of Your Research, Start Over, Apply for Funding for a Better Instrument, Publish Some Interim Fluff, Learn That Someone Has Scooped You, Take Your Lab in a New Direction, Apply for Funding for the New Direction, Collaborate With an Icelandic Poet, Eat Chipotle With an Icelandic Poet, Co-Write Scientifically Accurate Ode to Walrus, Get Interested in Something Unrelated, Apply for Funding for Something Unrelated, Notice That 20 Years Have Passed.

Any Icelandic Poets out there? Madame Scientist would love to collaborate.

Source: From PhD Comics (image) and the ever-funny Adam Ruben (Science :

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49 Responses to FRIDAY FUNNIES: SCIENCE MYTHS : Why do novelists, filmmakers and newspaper journalists get science so wrong?

  1. raj Yadav says:


    how r u

    good evening

  2. It is funny that I sat down to read this, because just a few minutes ago I was thinking about the movie “The Core” and wondering if it’s possible for any movie to depend on a scientific plot device more nonsensical or less coherent. πŸ™‚

  3. Rajini Rao says:

    Not seen it (must I?),but I’m sure “The Core” has plenty of competition, LOL.

  4. Rajini: no… no you certainly mustn’t. πŸ™‚

  5. Rajini Rao says:

    Ah well, an MD. That says it all, smirk πŸ˜‰

    (He probably aced multiple choice; I’ll leave it at that)

  6. This scares me of absolute truths. Very Funny!

  7. Chad Haney says:

    I β™₯ PhD Comics. Rajini Rao don’t get me started on Med School vs. Grad School. For those that don’t know, graduate students often take the same courses as the med students but after the multiple choice “exam”, the grad students get to take a real exam, i.e, an essay exam. Instead of memorizing the steps in Krebs cycle, I had to actually learn what it means.

  8. Rajini Rao says:

    R Prakash Prakash , the scary thing is that my scientific method is pretty much as described, except for the Icelandic Poet. Anyone??

  9. Victim of system?! πŸ™‚

  10. Chad Haney says:

    Rajini Rao as Feisal mentioned, it’s your Hopkins proxy in the link for Science.

    Is this it?

  11. Rajini Rao says:

    Oh sorry, Feisal Kamil . It must be behind a pay wall. For shame. I was expecting some tweaks on Myth #8. Perhaps Chad Haney can testify πŸ˜‰

  12. Rajini Rao says:

    Thanks, Chad Haney . I’ll edit with your link, if that’s okay?

  13. Rajini Rao says:

    Gnotic Pasta , if Michael Crichton builds me a Time Machine, I could collaborate with Snorri Sturluson πŸ™‚

  14. Chad Haney says:

    Yowza, Rajini Rao I can’t discuss what goes on in the lab without an NDA. :~) Myth #8 cannot be confirmed or denied.

    Since I work in a hospital I’d like to wear my lab coat as much as possible, for the ladies. πŸ˜‰ Alas, I actually do work in a lab so my lab coat is not pristine like the MDs (pressed and all). Oh, wait that’s why I have a clean lab coat in my office πŸ˜‰

  15. Rajini Rao says:

    I’m buying my ticket now, Feisal Kamil πŸ™‚ I’m guessing a certain metal loving friend of ours will have many more “poetic” suggestions.

  16. Rajini Rao says:

    Sorry, Chad Haney , cannot impress the ladies without a stethoscope hanging around your neck πŸ˜‰ Although, you could arrange for a pager to go off during a seminar, attempting to convince everyone that you are important.

  17. Chad Haney says:

    Rajini Rao even if a pager could help with the ladies, I would still refuse it. I have a hard enough time hiding now, with Google Voice following to various labs.

  18. Rajini Rao says:

    Double LOL, Gnotic Pasta , of course you would. I trust your data collection protocol. I’m sure reproducibility is assured by a large N of observations. However, Feisal Kamil , Chad Haney and I would like to subject your findings to a rigorous peer review.

  19. Rajini Rao says:

    Rashid Moore , cute video (BTW, I look just like Dr. Quantum πŸ™‚

    Diffraction grating, interference, wave theory of electrons..what’s not to enjoy?

  20. Chad Haney says:

    Maybe Rajini Rao would like to peer review Dan’s work. You can leave me out. I’m too innocent :D. However, Dan you walked right into the harem = lareg N. Let’s be clear about what is being reproduced as well.

  21. Rajini Rao says:

    Don’t worry, Chad Haney , primary data never make it to publications. I’m expecting to review some impressive graphs and stats to represent this long term scientific study πŸ™‚

  22. Chad Haney says:

    Prabat Parmal the physicists that I work with don’t communicate well. If you don’t understand something they say, the simple repeat the same sentence under the assumption that you didn’t hear them rather than they didn’t explain it well.

  23. Chad Haney says:

    Rajini Rao I don’t want to see a representative figure.

  24. Chad Haney says:

    I was reading too fast. I thought Gnotic Pasta was talking about a skirt with a double slit. I got distracted by the diffraction under the skirt.

  25. Rajini Rao says:

    Chad Haney !!!

    Prabat Parmal , one thing physicists are really good at is naming stuff. I mean really, quarks? See:

  26. Rajini Rao says:

    Too late, Feisal Kamil , he’s already got one.

  27. Rajini Rao says:

    It is so hard to be proper sigh


  28. Rajini Rao says:

    From their wonderful imagination and humor, Prabat Parmal πŸ™‚

  29. Chad Haney says:

    That might be a first, a demerit for just imagining a reply by Feisal Kamil

  30. Rajini Rao says:

    Being cursed with an active imagination, Feisal Kamil , let me just say that I am shocked and scandalized! Where is the lasso?

  31. Rajini Rao says:

    Tsk, WW is above demerits.

    Surely this cannot be derailed πŸ™‚

    Myth #5: Experiments always yield data that teach or reveal something.

    Truth: Let’s say you’re doing an experiment with five mice. These particular mice will turn either yellow or blue. So you walk into the lab expecting to see five yellow mice, which will point to one explanation, or five blue mice, which will point to the other. Instead you would see one yellow mouse, one green mouse, one striped mouse, one plaid mouse (dead), and one mouse that has somehow sewn himself a little blue jacket, though he doesn’t wear it all the time.

  32. Rajini Rao says:

    He’s just trying to make you jealous, Feisal Kamil and Chad Haney . Actually, he’s off to meet a grizzled geezer whose name is Al πŸ™‚

  33. Jochen Fromm says:

    Icelandic poets. Ha ha. I wonder if there is a poem about the EyjafjallajΓΆkull ..

  34. Chad Haney says:

    Rajini Rao I can’t tell from this font, is that AI as in artificial intelligence or Al as in Mr. Al Dent?

  35. Rajini Rao says:

    Here’s the link to the full size:

    A stands for Al and B for Bambi in Gnotic Pasta ‘s experiment, of course.

  36. Rajini Rao says:

    Oops, I should have linked to the Oatmeal site..this was the first one that came up in my search πŸ™‚

  37. Jeff Sayre says:

    Funny and great post!

  38. Chad Haney says:

    I hope that A + B does not equal C, if I’m the C. I can’t be part of Dan’s experiments.

  39. Rajini Rao says:

    Hmm, I would have said earlier that C stands for control, Chad Haney given your innocent looks. But after that R-rated comment of yours, I’m not so sure. D is for Dan, obviously. Feisal will introduce the F factor (funny) into this in some way. Madame scientist will solve this complex equation, have faith πŸ™‚

  40. Chad Haney says:

    Does Hopkins have a super computer? You’ll need it! LOL.

  41. Chad Haney says:

    Feisal Kamil parallel processing is huge, whether it’s on a supercomputer, cluster, or local multi-core CPU/GPU. I’m too dumb to write parallel code. Fortunately we have some tools to make it dummy proof.

  42. Rajini Rao says:

    Dr. Brian May is the ultimate Renaissance man and yet another reason why Queen is an all time favorite of mine, thanks Feisal Kamil .

  43. Vinod Garga says:

    are you a sciencetiste

  44. Kousik Sundararajan : – πŸ˜€

  45. “What will this mean for Obama!”

    “What you don’t know about “A” will kill you!”

  46. It’s that truth πŸ™‚

  47. I’ve noticed that MC does conciously separate fact and fiction in his books. Anything portrayed as a ‘fact’ is a fact. ‘new tech’/’inside gossip’ is false and may be scientifically impossible. Places/companies/events are usually false.



    Facts: Everything about the insides/building processes of airplanes. Physics of an airplane as well.

    Fiction: The ‘inside gossip’ on the JAA/FAA.


    Fact: Intro to QM, everything about the history/culture of the area. I think the area itself (La Roque) is real. I can’t remember though.. I’d googled it before.

    Fiction: Confusing nonsense about the many worlds interpretation–specifically how it can be used to go back in time. Yes, Gordon portrayed it as ‘not really time travel’ and waved away the grandfather paradox, but this is inconsistent. Also, CTCs (Closed Timelike Curve; scientific jargon for ‘time machine’), have already been investigated–mainly by Kip Thorne. It has been proved that they can exist, but they destroy themselves in the planck time (1e-43 s) by a nifty mechanism.

    The Andromeda Strain

    Fact: All the stuff about human physiology

    Fiction:(at time of publish) A lot of the tech displayed (electron microscopes, xray crystallography, and I think amino acid analysers existed though). Also all the military stuff.


    Fact: Psych stuff(if you can call psych a ‘fact’-based science). Also the underwater physics/marine biology stuff.

    Fiction: Military stuff, the parameters of the ‘habitat’s (habitats existed, though not the same kind). Not too sure though.

    Rising Sun

    Fact: All the goodies on Japanese culture

    Fiction: Not much except for the chain of events, which os obviously fiction.

    (I purposely left these for the end)

    Jurassic park

    Alright.. This one doesn’t exactly have an umderlying topic like most of his books do (usually there’s some subject the book introduces you to). There’s a bit on fractals and chaos theory-that stuff is true. Evolution is a tricky subject, so the stuff on evolution/dino behaviour, while not necessarily a fact, is at least a feasible view. The cloning stuff is probably nonsense, as mentioned in your post πŸ™‚

    The Lost World

    Here, the concerns about behaviourial evolution are facts/possible views, but the behaviour itself is fiction.

    Most of this I’ve googled/asked people at some point.


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