Not Exactly Rocket Science

Darwinius changes everything

i-f55c0206b4ed3d7127c58c3183e6fdc6-Darwinius-on-toast.jpgYesterday, the entire world changed noticeably as the media, accompanied by some scientists, unveiled a stunning fossilised primate. The creature has been named Darwinius masillae, but also goes by Ida, the Link, the Chosen One and She Who Will Save Us All.

The new fossil is remarkably complete and well-preserved, although the media glossed over these facts in favour of the creature’s ability to cure swine flu. Ida was hailed as a “missing link” in human evolution, beautifully illustrating our transition from leaping about in trees to rampant mass-media sensationalism.

Speaking to a group of international reporters, the scientists who discovered Ida described the animal in painstaking detail to the sound of Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries played from 50-foot speakers. As a barrage of fireworks launched in the background, one journalist said, “The release of 30 doves just at the right moment really helped to drive home the unique paleoecological perspective that Ida provides.”

Evolutionary biologist Stephen Wilton added, “Ida has been waiting for us for 47 million years so I’m grateful that the publication of the paper wasn’t rushed and that the whole thing didn’t turn into some sort of media circus. You never know when that might happen.”

Businesses around the world are also hoping that demand for Ida merchandise will stimulate an ailing global economy out of recession. Retailer Bud Hornblower said, “We’re seeing a massive spike in demand for fainting couches as ordinary lay people fail to cope with the total change brought on by this small, weird-lookin’ monkey thing.”

Scientists and people who actually know a thing or two about evolution warned of hype and exaggeration but were forced to abandon their reason and critical analysis in the face of incontrovertible speculation that Ida could convert base metals into gold and has already led to the invention of flying cars.

“I didn’t believe it at first,” said Professor Adam Templesmith from the University of Slough. “When I read the press release about a fossil that would change everything, I naturally assumed that it was some sort of poorly conceived and overly exaggerated PR claim. But now that the total reversal of climate change is underway, I’m forced to reconsider my prejudices.”

Already the star of her own website, book and documentary, little Ida will soon have her own action figure, underwear range, three-album deal and seat in Parliament. “Ida’s brand is a hot as Obama’s right now,” said Don Chumleigh, market analyst. “I’m just sad that her fossilised hand isn’t doing that fist-bump thing.”

Recreated through CGI, Ida is also set to play a pivotal role in the climax of the new Harry Potter film, where she will be voiced by Keira Knightley and wield a powerful ‘Changus Totalus’ spell. Special effects will also be used to insert Ida into previous seasons of the Wire and past G8 summits.

Around the world, signs that everything has changed have already begun to appear. Jeanette Gould from Stoke-on-Trent was shocked to discover the outline of Darwinius emblazoned on her morning toast. “Well, it ruined breakfast,” said Ms Gould, failing to appreciate the detail of the creature’s stomach contents outlined in bread crumbs. “I couldn’t very well spread raspberry jam over the direct ancestor of my children, could I?”

For actual details about Ida, look no further than excellent takes from Brian Switek, PZ and Carl Zimmer. Brian in particular has serious reservations about the paper itself. I’m too weary to tackle it.

Comments

  1. #1 John S. Wilkins
    May 20, 2009

    You failed to mention that it is the Primate Who Lived.

  2. #2 Monado
    May 20, 2009

    Thanks, Ed! This is quite a thorough send-up.

  3. #3 Lee Harrison
    May 20, 2009

    That was utterly awesome. You’ve just got yourself a new reader.

  4. #4 Silmarillion
    May 20, 2009

    It’s that damn Ida! She’s so hot right now!

  5. #5 Zeno
    May 20, 2009

    I just can’t make up my mind: Should Ida toast be served with Jesus toast or Blessed Virgin Toast? (One doesn’t want to make a mistake with holy breakfast manifestations.)

  6. #6 Ryan
    May 20, 2009

    Nicely written – but what would newspapers and journalists do if they didn’t sensationalize everything?

  7. #7 J-Dog
    May 20, 2009

    One Darwinius masillae to rule them all,
    One Darwinius to find them.
    One Darwinius to bring them all
    And in the P.R. bind them.

  8. #8 Martin Christensen
    May 20, 2009

    “Well, it ruined breakfast,” said Ms Gould, failing to appreciate the detail of the creature’s stomach contents outlined in bread crumbs. “I couldn’t very well spread raspberry jam over the direct ancestor of my children, could I?”

    Ms Gould is mistaken; Ida died much too young to have borne offspring, so there can be no possible direct line from Ida to Ms Gould’s sprogs.

    Oh, and John… isn’t it rather the Primate Who Died?

    Martin

  9. #9 ArchangelChuck
    May 20, 2009

    Lucky I wasn’t drinking anything. ;p

  10. #10 Brodie
    May 20, 2009

    “incontrovertible speculation”

    Brilliant!

  11. #11 Johnny Vector
    May 20, 2009

    As an astrophysicist, I am furious that you forgot to mention that Ida also proves (finally! for the 20th time) the existence of black holes.

  12. #12 anon
    May 20, 2009

    Mr Yong, this was the first time I’ve heard of you (thanks to link from PZ Myers).

    That piece ranks up there with Mark Twain and H. L. Mencken. Thank you!

  13. #13 Epinephrine
    May 20, 2009

    I think I’ll name my daughter Ida. Heck, I’ll rename all my kids Ida!

  14. #14 BAllanJ
    May 20, 2009

    LOL

  15. #15 Paul Browne
    May 20, 2009

    Excellent, with this post you’ll be the toast of the science blogging commenity!

    OK, you can shoot me now:-(

  16. #16 Lassi Hippeläinen
    May 20, 2009

    #1 and #8: Considering what happened, it should be The Primate Who Couldn’t.

  17. #17 MartyM
    May 20, 2009

    Awesome write-up. and… notice Google’s image today!!

  18. #18 Brock
    May 20, 2009

    Ida cured my herpes and regrew my amputated leg! She’s a miracle, and clearly beyond the scope of mere science. She’s a veritable sphinx, the gatekeeper of another realm, bigger and more fantastic than this life, where people live forever in bliss and children frolic in butterscotch waterfalls.

  19. #19 Scicurious
    May 20, 2009

    Ok, I want my Ida underwear!! Awesome stuff, Ed. :)

  20. #20 Dennis
    May 20, 2009

    Look at me way down here!

    You wouldn’t be auditioning for your favourite news source would you?

    Great post Ed, from someone who didn’t just get here from a PZ link. And you Myerites don’t mess the place up while you’re here.

  21. #21 Pete Rooke
    May 20, 2009

    Amen Dennis. They are, for the most part, with one or two notable exceptions, a foul bunch.

  22. #22 Jackal
    May 20, 2009

    Last night, Ida came to me in a dream. She told me to go forth into the woods and eat leaves and fruits, and to pick bugs off my spouse and eat them.

    Great post. A complete skeleton with soft tissue remains from a 47 million year old mamal… naw, that would never sell. Better call it the Salvation of Darwin Kind.

  23. #23 mattmc
    May 20, 2009

    Great post Ed, from someone who did just get here from a PZ link. I can assure you that this “Myerite” will not mess up the place. Despite Pete the well meaning fool/king of bizarre analogies Rooke’s characterization, most of us are well behaved.

  24. #24 Pete Moulton
    May 20, 2009

    Pure gold, Ed! I came over as a visitor from PZ’s, but the bookmark’s duly installed, and I’ll be a regular in future.

  25. #25 Ryan
    May 20, 2009

    Oh thanks heaven I can finally sleep know.

  26. #26 Jon D
    May 20, 2009

    Hah that was made of awesome Ed!

  27. #27 Clemens
    May 20, 2009

    On All Hallows’ Eve, when you look into a mirror and say Darwinius three times you gain a random superpower from a hero of the X-Man series.

  28. #28 ayasawada
    May 20, 2009

    Brilliant stuff Ed. The Ida on toast image is the icing on the cake!

  29. #29 Richard Hendricks
    May 20, 2009

    I want my Ida action figure!

  30. #30 Ida Yong
    May 20, 2009

    Hmmm, lots of new readers. See? Everything HAS changed!

    /memo to self: write more satire…

  31. #31 Erin
    May 20, 2009

    /silently clapping in my seat

  32. #32 Erin
    May 20, 2009

    /silently clapping in my seat

  33. #33 Hank Fox
    May 20, 2009

    The ailing American auto industry has plans to unveil a revolutionary new vehicle dubbed the Ida, which they hope will reverse the slump in sales. The all-terrain Ida will be larger than the Hummer, get 15 miles per gallon, and will cost a mere $72,000. But it will have all-new “evolutionary” cupholders, “Hard Rock” suspension, “Raptor Claw” wheel covers, plus sporty feral-looking “Predator” headlights. It will also come in three “Thunder Lizard” color schemes originated by an award-winning Parisian designer.

  34. #34 Michael Simpson
    May 20, 2009

    PZ’s blog sent me over here, and I was thinking, “oh probably someone warning us about Creationists or something.” Funniest thing I’ve read in weeks. Now I can laugh whenever I see the History Channel adverts.

  35. #35 Tim H
    May 20, 2009

    How long do you think it will take before nude pictures of Ida start showing up on USENET newsgroups? And is it true that Ida has been signed to appear on “Dancing with the Stars” next season?

  36. #36 Glen Davidson
    May 20, 2009

    She’s dating Brad Pitt now, so I hear. Compared with her curing swine flu and changing planetary orbits, that really matters.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/6mb592

  37. #37 James F
    May 20, 2009

    It’s that damn Ida! She’s so hot right now!

    Ida…so hot right now…Ida.

  38. #38 ArchAsa
    May 20, 2009

    This was Stephen Fry worthy drumming!!!
    I can barely write through my tears of laughter.

    I can’t eve pick a quote it is ALL so inspired.

    This text has my vote to be included in the next unmanned spaceship to go beyound the solar system.

  39. #39 Karen James
    May 20, 2009

    I was going to blockquote some of my favourite bits of your blog post here, and then write things like ‘*snorts*’ and ‘*chortle*’ after each one, but then I realised I was going to end up blockquoting every single paragraph so I gave up.

  40. #40 chris y
    May 20, 2009

    OK, now you owe me a new keyboard.

  41. #41 Patricia, OM
    May 20, 2009

    Well done! Very enjoyable read.

    Oh, before I forget: Pete Rooke, get stuffed.

  42. #42 Zach Miller
    May 20, 2009

    Ida layed her fossilized hands on me and BAM I was cured of cystic fibrosis. Science bless Ida!

  43. #43 cicely
    May 20, 2009

    All in all an insightful, fact-filled post, putting the recent discovery into its proper perspective, but I’m afraid I must pick a small nit.

    I was shocked to see that Ida’s cameo appearance in the recent Star Trek movie passed completely unremarked.

    Now, off to Pharyngula. I promise to take my mess with me. (Howdy, Pete.)

  44. #44 Glen Davidson
    May 20, 2009

    Amen Dennis. They are, for the most part, with one or two notable exceptions, a foul bunch.

    Rooke, obviously, has never proven to be one of the exceptions.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/6mb592

  45. #45 Aurora
    May 20, 2009

    I don’t usually comment, but I’m so indescribably delighted that I have to express gratitude.

    So… thank you! The influence this piece has had on me, is second only to Ida.

    Lastly, I assume everyone has seen the homage paid by google?

  46. #46 John Phillips, FCD
    May 20, 2009

    Giggle. Nice one.

    Another via PZ, but this time only because I hadn’t reached your feed in my reader yet.

    Oh and re: Pete cRooke, I echo Patricia’s sentiment.

  47. #47 John Lynch
    May 20, 2009

    Awesome, Ed. Just frackin awesome.

  48. #48 Lilian Nattel
    May 20, 2009

    That was hilarious. Thanks.

  49. #49 Stagyar zil Doggo
    May 20, 2009

    That post was made of Awesome. The Ida toast was just the icing on the cake.

  50. #50 Daniel J. Andrews
    May 20, 2009

    Bravo Ed!! A post for posterity! Chuckling away here. –dan

  51. #51 Sauceress
    May 20, 2009

    Ahh..the Rapture is at hand and the Idites cometh.

    Cheers Ed

  52. #52 Douglas Berry
    May 20, 2009

    Ida turned me into a newt!

    I got better…

  53. #53 N
    May 20, 2009

    Brilliant! It made my day.

  54. #54 arvind
    May 20, 2009

    Hilarious! Do you, by any chance, also write for The Onion?

  55. #55 The Chimp's Raging Id
    May 20, 2009

    Muahahahaha.

    So when will they discover the remains of Hera Agathon? Surely that will presage some truly miraculous shit (like, possibly, the mainstream media doing some decent science reporting for a change).

    Oh, and I share the sentiments of Patricia @ #41 regarding both Ed’s post and Mr Rooke.

  56. #56 Emily
    May 20, 2009

    Yes, but will Ida solve the economic crisis? Of course! As an evolutionary missing link she can travel through time and alter the course of human history so that it never happened.

  57. #57 Steve
    May 20, 2009

    (deep American movie voice)
    “Ida IS the Creator!”

  58. #58 Karel
    May 21, 2009

    Does this mean that Fox will bring back Firefly?

    (Bravo!)

  59. #59 AndyD
    May 21, 2009

    Is it true that Jenny McCarthy complained today that remnants of Ida have been discovered in vaccines?

  60. #60 hobittual
    May 21, 2009

    To say that Ida “Lived” is a little presumptive. Presumably with its Lemurical appearance it most likely had an arborial existence. So come on, would you like to have to eat berries and insects and sleep in a tree? What kind of life is that, you can hardly call that “Living”
    Ida the missing link? She missed the bloody point i think!

  61. #61 Bob O'H
    May 21, 2009

    Ida has even forced the ICZN to change their rules on nomenclature.

  62. #62 Ed Yong
    May 21, 2009

    I wonder if I can get “revealing the link” to enter common parlance as the sci-comms equivalent of “jumping the shark” or “nuking the fridge”. Hmmm…

    Anyway, welcome all, loyal readers and incoming Pharyngulites alike. Everyone make yourselves comfy.

  63. #63 Jason
    May 21, 2009

    Looks like a plain old run-of-the-mill monkey to me.

  64. #64 Mindy
    May 21, 2009

    I stumbled through the news today and this article came up. At the end of the first paragraph, you had me. I totally believed it. Why? Because it made sense that, after watching Ida’s unveiling that I must have been listening too hard, cause I missed the real significance of the find?

    But that caused me to read the entire article and I loved it. Now, after countless failed attempts, I was able to take a snake, put it in a roller coaster, and expected it to bake me a cake. Thanks Ida!

  65. #65 Bioephemera
    May 21, 2009

    Best. Post. Ever.

  66. #66 Zach Miller
    May 21, 2009

    AndyD, it’s quite the opposite. Jenny McCarthy is claiming that Ida can CURE autism.

  67. #67 piero
    May 22, 2009

    Pithy satire clad in stylish writing. This blog will certainly make my top ten.

  68. #68 DD
    May 22, 2009

    About as good as it gets, fantastic find, bizarre story, hyperhype, smackdown, real science and hilarious satire.

  69. #69 Sid
    May 22, 2009

    This was great, Ed. You expressed what was annoying me with razzmatazz.

    You got yourself a new reader.

  70. #70 Mike Haubrich, FCD
    May 28, 2009

    If I may be so bold as to coin a new term: Paradolida.

  71. #71 Tammy Fajkus
    June 3, 2009

    “She Who Will Save Us All.” Hmm. Was she found lying in the shadow of the statue on a time-traveling island with strange electromagnetic properties?