Paleontologist Jon Tennant was trying to figure out how climate change, plate tectonics and other factors influenced the diversity of dinosaur species in the Mesozoic Era when he got some results so thrilling he felt compelled to celebrate with a tweet:
“Apparently the first thing you do in research these days is tweet about it when that happens,” explained Tennant, a graduate student at Imperial College London with an apparent fondness for “Apocalypse Now.” “The quote just popped into my head, and I figured a few other people might find it amusing, so onto Twitter it went!”
One minute later, Helena Ledmyr, a development officer at the International Neuroinformatics Coordinating Facility in Stockholm, copied the tweet and added the hashtag #scienceamoviequote.
And they sure did.
In the past couple of days, hundreds of scientists (and science sympathizers) have taken to Twitter to convert famous lines from film into phrases suitable for academia. Among them:
“It’s fun to see how creative people are,” Ledmyr said.
After the hashtag blew up, she did a little digging and realized #scienceamoviequote may have been kicking around in her subconscious since November, when a neuroscientist she follows – Benjamin Saunders – used it to solicit entertaining tweets while he waited for his plane to take off.
“It didn't get much traction,” said Saunders, a postdoctoral researcher at Johns Hopkins University. But its resurgence this week has been worth the wait.
“Twitter has provided an excellent place for people to express their fondness for puns and in-group references,” he said.
Among his favorites:
The #scienceamoviequote craze reveals that scientists have eclectic taste in movies. There are plenty of references to sci-fi standards, including "Star Wars," "Back to the Future" and "The Matrix." Ditto for classics like "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly," "Gone With the Wind" and "On the Waterfront."
Judging by the tweets, plenty of scientists have a soft spot for rom-coms …
… as well as dramas.
And Tennant wasn’t kidding about the puns. Consider:
The hashtag campaign “gives a bit of insight into the, er, less-mechanical side of research,” Tennant said. “It also shows that scientists watch way too many movies, and will jump on almost any opportunity to procrastinate.”
Perhaps that’s not such a bad thing. As Ferris Bueller might say:
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