Another fake science blackboard (with Professor Ceiling Cat)

August 19, 2014 • 12:06 pm

I’ve posted this before as my one shining moment of glory. My ex-student (Allen Orr) and I appeared on a “science blackboard” in the dreadful movie “Evolution,” made in 2001 and starring David Duchovny, Orlando Jones, and a monster-killing dandruff shampoo. Another of my students spotted it and even sent me a screenshot, which you can see here. Check out what the arrow points to:

Coyne and Orr Evolution movie 2 (1)


I thought this was a fake, so I had to spend good money to see the movie, and, sure enough, the scene is correct. It says, in this scene: Read Coyne & Orr. “Drosophila.” pp. 448-450.

Of course I checked up, and Orr and I never published anything on Drosophila (fruit flies) that has that pagination. There are more than 450 pages in our book Speciation, but the relevant pages are on species concepts in the Appendix, and have nothing to do with Drosophila. Some Hollywood person was obviously assigned to make the blackboard look science-y, and somehow hit upon Orr and me.  How this happened, or how that factotum knew about “Coyne & Orr” has remained lost in the mists of history. As is the quotation marks around Drosophila. 

At any rate, even if you’re interested in evolution, don’t waste your money on this movie.

47 thoughts on “Another fake science blackboard (with Professor Ceiling Cat)

  1. Readers may want to add Aeon to their list of fake science sources. Elegantly turned out – like a painted lady – but false at heart and with no visible means of support (business model anyone?)

    Real scientists offer contributions – the superstar Robert Sapolsky for one – but click through on an author.

    No lies, just deception. Beware!

    1. They’ve been flitting around the luscious peaches in my kitchen this week.

      When my son was a teen I opened his backpack mid-summer to see if he had borrowed my graphing calculator. I found the calc, but also 17 gazillion- I counted them – drosophila which had been happily munching on an unpacked apple..

        1. Try using Scope or any other mouthwash that’s loaded with menthol and thymol. Cheaper and probably equally effective.

          Most of the phenols in herbs and spices are natural insecticides. Eugenol, found in cloves, cinnamon, and some types of mint, is pretty darn toxic. Luckily, the flavors are so overpowering that it’s hard to consume a lethal dose, as proven by the Cinnamon Challenge.

          1. Thanks for the tip! In fact, for the first summer in years we’ve barely been troubled by fruit flies. I’m not sure why this should be.

    2. I’ve found that leaving empty wine and beer bottles around the house does a good job of trapping and exterminating them…or breeding them, I’m not sure which. I should really clean up a bit around here.

  2. Now you tell me, years after I watched it. :p

    Although, if I recall correctly, I watched it in-flight on one of those long-haul flights when you will watch anything at 4am to keep yourself from eating your own hand out of boredom.

  3. Lighten up, Professor Ceiling Cat!

    I thought that movie was a hoot. Sure it was bogus, but did that ruin “Ghostbusters” for you?

  4. Such an entertaining movie! Everyone on set was clearly enjoying themselves, and it was catching.

    (I don’t judge my entertainment the way I judge my science.)

  5. I like that they only had to read two pages. When did you have to read only two pages of any text book as an assignment?

    Cool to have an approximation of your work though.

  6. It’s been years since I saw it, but I don’t remember it being that bad. I remember it as an acceptable comedy.

  7. The quotation marks around “Drosophila” are almost certainly a sly reference to the controversy surrounding the paraphyly of that genus. As I recall, Hollywood of the early 2000’s was very strongly allied with the “rename to Sophophora melanogaster” camp. 😉

          1. I haven’t heard much about the issue since the petition to have D.melanogaster be the type for the genus was rejected. See: I don’t follow that world closely though, so I don’t have a real answer.

            Realistically, there’s no way that we’ll all suddenly start calling them Sophophora melanogaster, just as it’s unlikely that we’ll stop calling them fruit flies:

          2. Thanks, Andrew, I enjoyed both articles. 🙂

            Sometimes previous scientific names do become accepted common names–like kribensis among tropical fish hobbyists.

            I did know about the fruit fly misnomer, having spent a few years working for Guy Bush, who did some interesting work on sympatric speciation on the true fruit flies, in particular Rhagoletis pomonella. (Like many insects whose larval stages are the real pests, their common name reflected that–apple maggot.)

            I like “vinegar flies” for the Drosophila types, and of course most of us know that you can actually catch more flies with vinegar than with honey. 😀

  8. Oh come on, there’s *always* time for lubricant – Evolution might not have been big on real science, but it was a very enjoyable comedy, and that’s all it was…

  9. I actually liked Evolution. It’s silly fun. It has nothing to do with actual evolution, of course. And I never felt the need to re-watch it.

    Then again, nearly everything screws up evolution. Star Trek TNG evokes panspermia by ancients to explain why alien species look so similar, and implies that Spock-like hybrids can come from normal sex. (To his credit, Gene said in a Q&A once that aliens don’t really look like the human actors in cheap 60s makeup his budget allowed. Klingons always had bony head ridges, for example.)

  10. Fabulist fun is fine but disses lurk in laughs.

    Art that pokes fun at reality cheapens reality. You must know that there lies a tongue in “tongue-in-cheek”. Some people (not their fault, obviously) are gullible.

  11. I would have been more impressed if the Cigarette Man had come out and linked the article to Fox Mulder on the X-Files on the secret alien hybrid facility in Roswell.

  12. – “Drosophila’s”
    – ice
    – pokey man

    There, all fixed. That, my friend, is how you do the science.

    1. To answer my own question, both Jones and Duchovny have Bacon numbers of 2, according to The Oracle of Bacon, which makes you a 3.

      If we include Julianne Moore, then your number drops to 2. But I haven’t seen the movie and don’t know if she’s in the blackboard scene.

  13. “Evolution” is one of my favourite movies, it’s hilarious!! The scenes in the shopping mall are brilliant. The whole thing is thoroughly silly and I love it.

  14. I accidentally saw it on TV and kept watching in much the same way one watches maggots growing – a sort of morbid fascination. Oddly, I thought it had Eddie Murphy in it, but it seems it was quite silly and appalling enough without him. IMDB also says it was first released in New Zealand, I have no idea why.

  15. While taking a Geology lab at CSU Fullerton, the professor pointed out that the lab we were sitting in was “famous” because it was used in the film Evolution. Specifically, the scene with Harry (Orlando Jones) and Nadine (Katharine Towne) near the beginning.

    It sounded like several other locations on campus were also used for other college-based scenes, but I didn’t hear details.

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