PiratesI will be out of the virtual office for a few days–I have to travel off to the West Coast.

I am hoping I can pick up the latest movie from Aardman Studios while I am out there.  Sadly, the original title, shown in this PR photo, has been changed for the US to remove the word “Scientists.”

“By downplaying the presence of a plasticine Charles Darwin (voiced by David Tennant) in the film’s marketing, the studio probably figures it has more of a chance of getting box office numbers in the Bible belt. The mere mention of ‘Science’ or ‘Charles Darwin’ is enough to make some extreme Creationists flip out, call forth hellfire and brimstone and lynch a chimpanzee by the highway.”

Le Sigh.

But it’s always an adventure with scientists, even if you don’t label it that way.  Sometimes you have an adventure even before you get to the science part–I’m thinking here of the time I was pulled over at a rural traffic stop and had to explain why the following items were in the back of my car:

  • Axe
  • Shovel
  • Machete
  • Large black plastic garbage bags
  • Rubber gloves
  • A jar with cyanide in it
  • Air filtering face mask
  • 2 old and dirty white sheets

It took quite a while for them to be convinced that I wasn’t up to anything other than a collecting trip for insects in dead logs.  “Really, Officer! These are standard tools for entomologists!”

What’s YOUR favorite science adventure? 

Posted by Gwen Pearson

Writer. Nerd. Insect Evangelist. Have you heard the good news? BUGS!


  1. The French version also omits the scientists from the title. I think it’s not so much that the American market doesn’t like scientists, but rather that the British market is scientist-crazy: that is, crazy about the idea of scientists as rather daft. The UK did give us “boffins,” after all.

  2. That is so funny about the dodgy items in your car. I can see why the police were worried!

    I often wonder what they would think if they stopped me on the way to beekeeping, with a hammer (for frame making) and knife (for cake cutting) plus sometimes a white powder treatment.

  3. My favorite fun with police was just after 9/11. I was working on a crystalization of adenovirus project with the Jack Johnson lab at The Scripps Research Institute, and my crystalographer was an Indian named Vijay. As normal, he packed his precious crystals into a 6 pack cooler and hand carried it on the plane. When the TSA agent asked what was in all the 6 well plate, Vijay replied in a thick accent “whyrus crystals”. OK so he missed that filght and the next one before TSRI could convince the TSA he wasn’t Alqida and this was indeed safe to transport in this manner…

  4. That’s awesome. =) I bet it took a while for that officer’s blood pressure to return to normal.

    I love going to a hardware store and buying stuff their staff is very familiar with knowing I’m going to do something very different with it:
    *use lumber chalk to mark owl limpet plots during rocky intertidal monitoring
    *pvc pipes to provide shelter for herps and small mammals caught in our trapping arrays
    *sponges to chuck into buckets & squirt w/water to keep any caught tiger salamanders nice and moist.


    Keeps a person amused.

  5. I’m a botanist, or, to be exact, a botanist puppy. As such, I don’t carry salamanders or virus crystals in my pockets but, well, I never waste a chance to pick a plant or two and I’m prepared. I admit that it adds extra fun to plant hunting when I pull out a small shover, garden shears, several plastic bags and a really filthy notebook from my posh bag because I chanced upon something nice at a family reunion and between lunch and tea, I disappear into some shrubbery to return somewhat dirty, with a bag of plant matter in one hand and a bunch of twigs in another.

  6. Lucky for you they didn’t look in your trunk and find a guy named Earl tied up – that would have been a little harder to explain.

  7. A friend was pulled over with several hundred 5 and 10 dram glass vials rolling around in her trunk. Thankfully she had a few with insect specimens already sorted into them; I don’t think the lawman was getting the explanation that crackheads don’t care about archiving and therefore don’t purchase polyseal caps.

  8. LOL! That’s hilarious, Brian!

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