What are these scientists* really thinking? Or the truth behind “science” stock photos.

*this assumes these people are scientists and not models wearing lab coats.

For this blog, I’ve been relying a lot on MS clip art photos to beautify my articles.  Otherwise, it would just be a bunch of words, and once you go over the arbitrary limit of 140 characters, people have a tendency to lose interest.  Look, a picture of a penguin who just saw Titanic!

Penguins are cool. That’s because they’re on ice.

Isn’t everything better now that you’ve been distracted from all of my words with that penguin photo?  Thought so.  Since I’ve been mainly blogging on this blog about “SCIENCE”, I’ve become rather familiar with MS Word’s collection of science-related clip art.  So I’d thought I’d share a bit of an insider’s perspective on what these scientists would be thinking if in fact they were scientists being told to act science-y in front of a camera.  Also, just why these photos are plenty ridiculous.

“You see this?  This is a bone.  Humans have bones.  Even you!”

Also, be careful, I think your one interesting prop in the physio centre is going to fall off the banister it’s precariously balancing on if she points at that bone just a bit more dramatically.

Science means test tubes.  And glass eye droppers to put things into the test tubes.  “Susan, why are you standing there holding two empty eye droppers over a tray of tubes?  What could you possibly be trying to do?”  “SCIENCE!”

And here is the tray you would put the tubes in.  Don’t bother labeling the tubes… that would distract from the science.

“Are you done taking the photo yet?  I can’t breath with this respirator on…”

This one I particularly enjoy.  Why are these people wearing respirators while working in a biological safety cabinet?  What could they possibly be working on?  Especially since whatever it is, it is already in a hood where the air is already being filtered?  Some sort of particulate maybe?  If it requires so much protection, I’d be worried about the camera getting destroyed.  Or distracting them by taking photos…

“Come on, come on and meet the elements!”

Yes, I see that you’ve written out a chemical compound there using elements from the periodic table, but without more information, there’s over a dozen possiblities on what you’ve got there, none of which are particularly interesting (even wikipedia thinks so!).  In my mind, I’d like to think they were going for ethanol (aka common drinking alcohol, aka EtOH, aka C2H6O), but someone thought this one looked more “science-y”.

“Green water in test tubes.  Clearly this is a Nature paper in the making!”

Again with the glass droppers and the unlabelled test tubes!  What possible motivation would require green water being added dropwise to a bunch of test tubes other than science-y photos?  As pointed out by a friend of mine, clearly she’s getting ready to do a santitary napkin commercial.

“I am the Doctor.  Of science!”

I like this guy cause he’s wearing a bow tie.  And bow ties are cool.  But you know what’s not cool?  Everything else that is going on in the picture.  (I won’t bore you with the details, but what he is doing is failing on multiple levels.  Free imaginary cake for anyone who can point it all out in the comments.  I have three main problems with this photo.)  Also, is it just me or is the tip box in the bottom left corner in the process of falling over?

“Why are you taking a photo of me?  I just want to get some work done…”

Her pained expression is because the flask just came out of an autoclave where it was sterilized at 121ᵒC.  But I do feel that this picture is MS clip art’s best representation of science.  We do often stand around holding up liquids and staring at them.  Seriously.  This is probably best illustrated in the next series of science photos we have:

“I am a scientist!” *

* This is because she is a model pretending to do science — her makeup is perfect and her fingernails are manicured.  She also doesn’t seem bothered with the amount of awful in this photo.

The reason you would have a test tube in a metal holder like this would be so that you wouldn’t touch the glass because you’ve been heating it over something like a bunsen burner and it’s freakin’ hot.  Especially at the bottom where you’ve been heating it.  Keeping that all in mind now, the way that she’s holding the tube so that it’s a more interesting angle for the camera looks a little bit stupid, doesn’t it?

“Look!  The water is so… blue!”

Seems like they’re all ready for another tampon commercial again in this picture.  Also, it looks like the photographer between this photo and the last pointed out that she should put on her safety goggles to look more science-y.  I’m not going to criticize that she’s not wearing gloves.  We all know that the number one risk is that the blue food colouring might slightly stain her lab coat.

After all of the photo analysis I’ve done, I have come to the conclusion that science is not particularly photogenic.  And attempts to make it so amuse me greatly.

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5 Responses to What are these scientists* really thinking? Or the truth behind “science” stock photos.

  1. Loving the bow tie in one of those pictures!!! There is always one person in the lab who incessantly wears bow ties…

    Got to be honest though, test tubes are probably the most boring piece of lab equipment you can get…

    Even these are more interesting: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jzzDixOGmgk
    AND IT STILL HAS DIFFERENT COLOURED WATER!!!

    Although i swear the commentator is a robot.

    • Heh, seems like different coloured water is a requirement of science advertising. 🙂 At least in the bow tie pic, I can imagine that it’s media that he’s pipetting (in the most unsterile way possible).

  2. Clip Snark says:

    These are great! I am also fascinated by clip art and stock photos. So much that my blog is devoted to it! 🙂

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