Scientists sometimes have to engage in experiments that can be hard to explain to people outside their field. Mostly that just prompts bafflement, but there are times when those explanations need to be really good to prevent people thinking they are a murderous psychopath or criminal mastermind. Over the last few days, some have shared online the moments they did things that could have, or actually did, get them identified as risks to us all, using the hashtag #SerialKillerOrScientist.
Paleontology graduate student Yara Haridy of the University of Toronto kicked the whole thing off.
It seems some scientists are made of sterner stuff than those we might expect to be used to confronting death.
It turned out lots of people had stories they wanted to get off their chest, as it were.
Depending on your personality, these moments of honesty could be the highlight of your day, or a source of permanent mortification.
Sometimes you really hope no one is eavesdropping.
Sometimes it's so in the culture you don't even think about it:
Even when everyone is in the know, scientists can have some fun with the topic.
On other occasions even knowing the tweeter is a scientist isn't enough to avoid some side-eye.
Fun as this all is, one scientist had a serious point to make, noting he didn't get stopped at airport security despite having samples that would get someone of a different ethnicity in a lot of trouble.
Even a Nobel Prize does not necessarily protect you. In fact, although he hasn't joined in the Twitterfest, the Vice Chancellor of the Australian National University has previously told the story where the Nobel Prize was the problem.
After winning the 2011 prize in physics, Professor Brian Schmidt tried to take it to America to show his grandparents. Schmidt told Scientific American the gold in the prize medallion absorbs all X-rays, and airport security at Fargo, North Dakota had “never seen anything like it.”
“They said, ‘What’s in the box?’
I said, ‘a large gold medal,’ as one does.
So they opened it up and they said, ‘What’s it made out of?’
I said, ‘gold.’
And they’re like, ‘Uhhhh. Who gave this to you?’
‘The King of Sweden.’
‘Why did he give this to you?’
‘Because I helped discover the expansion rate of the universe was accelerating.’
At which point, they were beginning to lose their sense of humor. I explained to them it was a Nobel Prize, and their main question was, ‘Why were you in Fargo?’"
Still, a picture is worth a thousand words, and Kaeli Swift, who conducted a study on whether crows fear death (spoiler, they do) will be hard to beat.
Whoever said scientists don't have a sense of humor?