A Brief History of Fruit Fly Research

If you’re anything like me, you literally screamed at the television when Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin directed her ignorant, anti-science ravings at fruit fly research a few weeks ago. Well, my good friend and talented skepchick Wendy Chao made a helpful video to educate anyone who is under the same misconception as Palin. Enjoy!

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca is a writer, speaker, YouTube personality, and unrepentant science nerd. In addition to founding and continuing to run Skepchick, she hosts Quiz-o-Tron, a monthly science-themed quiz show and podcast that pits comedians against nerds. There is an asteroid named in her honor. Twitter @rebeccawatson Mastodon Instagram @actuallyrebeccawatson TikTok @actuallyrebeccawatson YouTube @rebeccawatson BlueSky

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  1. Fruit flies are an excellent genetic research tool. Unfortunately, they will forever haunt my nightmares. The eyes were the worst part. Four somewhat indistinguishable colours, 300+ flies to sort and count in the half an hour before class started in the morning. Ugh.

    Clearly I do not have the constitution to win a Nobel prize in genetics, but good on those that do (and all the other scientists doing valuable research on those little buggers)!

  2. Maybe Palin doesn’t like the fact that they were experimenting on something smarter than she is…

  3. You know, Palin does seem to get quite of lot of stick which I think is a little unfair. You wouldn’t go around laughing at anyone else who had learning difficulties or was educational sub-normal would you?

    It’s like laughing at someone who can’t read or has the IQ of a really smart dog.

  4. I too was angered.

    I like fruit flies.

    Father used to complain that all my favorite music sounded “like a god damn fruit fly convention” and I was sold that they must be pretty cool.

    Keep up the good work,


  5. @russelsugden: “You wouldn’t go around laughing at anyone else who had learning difficulties or was educational sub-normal would you? It’s like laughing at someone who can’t read or has the IQ of a really smart dog.”

    No, I wouldn’t but that’s not the case here. An illiterate person, a person with developmental disabilities or a really smart dog are not WILLFULLY ignorant.

    There is no excuse for willful ignorance, especially in someone that aspires for high office.

  6. Between Palin’s fear of fruit flies and McCain’s irrational hatred of planetariums, that would be an administration that would set back science in the U.S. similar to the way the Soviet genetics research was set back by 30 years.

    Obama has to win by such a margain that it would be unstealable.

    I have to say this here (I also said this on Bad Astronomy): Everytime the United States twitches, Canada quakes. I can think of no other country which is as sensitive to every minor political/economic/social tremor of the U.S. then Canada is. We are deeply affected by every election, president, and congress that passes through washington, and we don’t get to have a say in your election (I’m not suggesting we be allowed to vote, of course….that’s just plain stupid). So the last course of action left to us in our respective foreign countries is to beg and plead with you all to vote for Obama.

    I’m not crazy for Obama the way some people are, but with McCain/Palin, your once-great country will fall into disrepair so far that it will be beyond saving. I don’t mean to be alarmist, but every politicial scientist outside the U.S. (yo!) can see the barbarians at the gate, and we’re all screaming that Rome is about to fall unless something drastic changes.

    With Obama, you have a chance. He won’t deliver you from the $10-Trillion + debt, and he won’t bring your fallen soldiers back to life. But he is your best chance to return the United States to the status it held around the world in the post-war period.

    Remember the Marshall Plan? (well, I don’t remember it because it was before I was born, but you get the idea) that was America at its best: compassionate, prosperous and willing to share that prosperity to rebuild an entire continent. America used it’s incredible wealth to build, not blow to smithereens. I truly believe that an Obama/Biden administration would do all it could to act in a similar way in the Middle East. But first they have to win this election, and win BIG.

    It’s like what Chris Rock said on “Real Time”, “Congratulations Barack, you got the most votes….too bad you didn’t win! Now we count bacon!” The republicans will do everything they can to prevent Obama from the white house, and if you thought there were dirty-tricks abound in 2000, just wait to see some of what they’re going to pull this time.

    The best weapon against that is numbers. Get out there, and vote for Obama. Get your grandparents who are scared of black people to smarten up. Get your lazy-liberal friends off their damn couches and impress upon them that THIS is the chance that they’ve been complaining would never come.

    I’m sorry if this sounded incredibly partizan (it’s meant to), but I needed an American audience, or I would sleep tonight feeling really scared, and wondering if I had done all of what my conscience (and degree in poltical science) has taught me to do.

    Thanks all.

  7. Great vid. Summarizes a point succinctly. Too often, smart people go on long tangents that bore the people they’re supposed to be reaching out to.

    @jolly atom & everyone else: What does XD mean? I’ve seen it so many times but I still don’t know what it means.

  8. I hope she ends up with a job on snl instead of one in the white house. She’s good at writing jokes but not too good at writing speeches. What a complete dillhole, do some research next time.

    I actually believe a fruit fly would make a better VP than palin. At least fruit flies have more than 200 proteins in their synapses. Like the saying goes – ‘if you haven’t got anything intelligent to say, then say nothing’
    I haven’t heard her say anything intelligent this whole campaign. Making her about as good a politician as a fruit fly.

  9. @Canadian Skeptic:

    You aren’t the only one that sees this election as crucial to the survival of our Republic. I do as well. It seems axiomatic to me that a country based on high-technology cannot survive without scientifically-literate leadership. I can hear the barbarians pounding at the gates…from the inside. I, too,have lost sleep in recent months over this election. I feel as if I’m living inside a bad suspense novel.

    If McCain/Palin wins (and even worse if he falls to his health problems and she becomes President), we risk a real chance that the US will become another Russia – a third world country with nuclear weapons.

    I am not Obama-crazy, but I voted for him on Friday (I love early voting hours!) because I fear the results of another four to eight years of alleged-Republicanism. It must be pointed out that the current Republicans have little in common with the Republican Party of just 30 years ago. Compare the pre-Reagan Reublican Party with the current neo-con version sometime.

    I remember my history lessons about the Marshall Plan and I see no one (except possibly Obama) on the horizon that has that kind of vision for everyone. The time for hyperpowers that rule the planet is over. Even the US isn’t rich enough or powerful enough to do that. We need to learn to play nicely together and share our toys before its too late.

    I hope that your post helps everyone on this board to make that extra push to get to their polling place tomorrow and to stay in line to vote no matter how long it takes.

  10. Thanks, jolly atom.

    It’s the intellectual laziness of people like Palin and Shrub that bothers me most. They don’t even bother to look into things. They’re happy to be supplied answers and opinions and the Bible’s “facts”. Tres annoying.

  11. @QuestionAuthority: Are you suprised that politicians are stupid and/or corrupt? This is news to you? It’s not exactly Jefferson and Lincoln any more and hasn’t been for some time; Nixon, Reagan, Bush, WBush is there a pattern I wonder?

    Palin isn’t that smart but I would say she’s slightly above average intelligence and it seems to me a LOT of people find her agreeable, she certainly seems to be on the same wavelength of a lot of americans.

    My prediction is Obama will win the popular vote but McCain will win Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania (sic?), and win the electoral college in a US version of the UK ’92 election.

    Still, it wont all be bad news, Stem Cell Research, Hell, Scientific Research in general, will get a huge boost in the UK when all the talent moves over here

  12. @russellsugden:
    Not particularly at “stupid” or “corrupt.” That happens all the time, all over the world. I do draw the line at “incompetent,” though. That’s why I’m so disgusted with the Bush Administration, and with Palin on the ticket. I think McCain might have been a force 10 years ago, but now he’s spent and should find somewhere nice to retire.

    If you think the Atlantic is wide enough to insulate you from the worst that could happen here, you’re just kidding yourself.

  13. @Some Canadian Skeptic:
    I agree with pretty much all of your comment. Did you ever see It was full of pictures from Americans apologizing for Bush’s “re-election.”

    Anyway, back to the video. It’s great, but Wendy could make another whole video about some of the developmental research that’s based on fruit flies. I think, if anything, she understated her case.

    Finding the genetic “switches” that control development could be a foundation for a long list of treatments and/or cures.

    I haven’t looked this up yet, but I’d bet that developmental research in fruit flies was necessary before we learned to make pluripotent stem cells from adult cells.

    So not only has fruit fly research made steps toward helping (at least) one of Palin’s own children, but it’s also reduced the need for embryonic stem cells – which she does not want to fund.

    Fruit fly research (in Paris or anywhere else) is in Sarah Palin’s best interest as much as anybody’s.

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