Afternoon InquisitionScience

Sunday AI: An Adventure with Scientists

I am traveling to the West Coast this week, and while I'm there I'm hoping I can pick up the latest movie from Aardman StudiosThe Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists.  It has Darwin! And a dodo! And pirates!

Sadly, the original UK title was changed for the US release to remove the word "Scientists."  From the link above:

"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? 


Bug_girl has a PhD in Entomology, and is a pointy-headed former academic living in Ohio. She is obsessed with insects, but otherwise perfectly normal. Really! If you want a daily stream of cool info about bugs, follow her Facebook page or find her on Twitter.

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  1. I work in science, you would think I would have better stories/adventures, but I can't remember too many.
    There was that one time the Physics Club professors dressed up as Greek philosophers and dropped different fruits from the fourth story of the science building to study gravity.
    Or the time the science club was messing with nitrogen, and then some guy tipped the beaker back a little too far and had to go to the hospital. He was the first person who swallowed that much nitrogen and survived, I think it earned him a newspaper story.
    Everyone in my lab seems to have a story about a time they've accidentally mixed ammonia and bleach (pro tip: don't ever do that!). But damn, I am drawing a blank for neat stories.

    1. Wait, I do have a funny adventure story, but it's only somewhat related to science. I dressed up as a zombie for Halloween, sprayed with fake blood and everything. But I really liked the shirt I had used, so my husband took it to the dry cleaner to remove the fake blood. Of course, you can imagine what the dry cleaner thought, so I was the one who had to pick it up just so they could make sure he hadn't killed me. Although I could have been the mistress, they would have never known! (Except I'm sure they know the difference between real and fake blood once they clean it out.)

  2. On my second day as an intern, literally my second day in a real lab EVER, we got in a human muscle biopsy for processing. It was supposed to be a sugar-cube-sized lump of muscle in a tube that we'd mince up and transfer to a petri dish. What we got was an entire thigh muscle, complete with tendons. In a bag. The tricky part for my co-workers was finding a way to take a sample of the muscle while keeping everything sterile (harder to do with a giant thigh muscle than a tiny chunk). The tricky part for ME was not passing out or thowing up, what with not having that much dissection experience at that point.
    Do shenanigans count too? There was that time as an intern when my mentor and I heard that you can make windshield wiper fluid with soap and methanol. The only problem was that the soap we used had moisturizer in it, which we only discovered when my mentor loaded it up into her car and wound up with a giant greasy mess across her windshield and an interior filled with methanol fumes.

  3. I think I should attempt to defend Aardman's decision to rename this movie in other territories.
    First of all, it wasn't just renamed "Band of Misfits" in the USA, it was called that everywhere else aside from the UK. This is thanks to the book of the original name becoming a moderate hit over here, whereas elsewhere I'm not even sure it was published.
    Secondly. Had there been no original source material with that name, you could all but guarantee that Aardman would have named their movie "Band of Misfits" over here too. America doesn't hold the monopoly on people who are bored, scared or intimidated by science, but it does manage to be the largest filmgoing nation in the western western world (India actually holds the record.)
    In short, sad as it may seem, you have to market to your strong suit. "Pirates!…" took over five years to film and cost an awful lot of money. Had this film not been based on a book, you can bet it would have been called "…Band of Misfits" over here too.

    1. Actually, the story I linked to has translations of several different language versions of the movie title. I’m rather fond of “¡Piratas! Una Loca Aventura”
      There is quite a bit of variation.

        1. I loved the book – it was brief, weird and quirky and was the first time I’ve ever read something that seemed so clearly in the same vein of humour as Aardman animations.

  4. One of my college professors was studying coyote movements in urban areas, which involved putting radio collars on several coyotes and following them around the city with a big antena, at night.  He spoke with the police on a few occasions.

    1. was that at BC? I think I had that professor. I really liked him. I took him from Survery of Bio and he started from the big bang which was pretty cool

  5. I'm a professional performer / entertainer.  Some years ago I was performing at a bachelor party, during which one of the (drunken) guests spilled a beer on me.  Driving home I was stopped at a police spot-check.  Even though I was obviously clear-headed I stank of booze and the officer said he'd like me to do the breathalizer.  I explained that I had just come from a party during which I'd performed fire-eating and I was concerned that the fuel residue in my mouth would give a false positive.  I think at that point I'd strained the cop's credibility meter, however when I pulled out my gear and gave an impromptu performance at the side of the road (while cars slowed down to watch) he was mollified and let me go.

  6. I may see this film just for David Tennant's role!
    I like the original UK title better.
    I don't suppose part-time amatuer astronomer can count as an having an adventure in science?

  7. My two favourite things I ever got to do in labs were manufacturing glow in the dark bacteria by splicing jellyfish genes into E. coli, and accidentally making something that turned out to be a bit like flubber.

  8. I worked at the mojave airport (the place where the original x-prize was won) as a manfacturing engineer.  I saw a few test aircraft crash including one into the best KFC across the street.  We all watched as the plane lost engine power turned around to land (BIG no-no) and went down into the back of the big chicken sign and a small fire erupt.  We expected to see charred bodies when we ran over but amazingly no one was really even hurt.  I'll post pictures later today.

  9. You know, the previews made me think this was just another kiddie pirate movie, and honestly I was going to give the whole affair a pass. But what is this you say about scientists? And David Tennant is Charles Darwin? I must go!

  10. Got a rave review from a friend who saw it on Saturday, but she didn’t say anything about Darwin or the sciency bits, just that it was very funny.

  11. Hahaha, I never got pulled over, but last summer I was shopping for an archaeological field school, where I would be camping. At one store, I bought:

    – A shovel
    – An ax
    – A blue tarp
    – Rope.

    Would have gotten a similar reaction to my assemblage, if I had been pulled over.

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