Science Loves Myths…Really
In my previous blog post, I argued that life is the result of Chemistry and Physics at their finest. Lots of people find this idea uncomfortable however because Science has a habit of shredding cultural myths and replacing them with brute knowledge. Obviously that’s an intellectually honest approach, but I do understand the objection because nobody likes abandoning a belief - even when trading it for truth.
Virtually every supernatural claim Science has investigated has crumbled under close inspection and that gives Scientists a reputation as curmudgeonly pedants who enjoy ruining people’s fun. Exactly the opposite is true though; Scientists want to believe in wondrous things just like everyone else, we just limit our cognitive diet to what can be proved reliably.
Every Scientific investigation is built on the hope that strange things are possible. Vigorous and rigorous Scientists are the ones willing to stretch their imaginations and consider possibilities outside what’s already known. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence that's true, but that doesn’t mean we have to reject extraordinary hypotheses in the first place.
Richard Feynman once described Science as being “imagination in a straitjacket” and I think that’s very apt. You obviously need to consider unproven hypotheses in order to investigate them, but keep your flights of fancy within testable parameters, otherwise nonsense will creep in.
The point of my last blog was to show that ethereal ideas have to be investigated and sometimes sadly, they have to die. However, I feel it’s important to redress the balance a little so today I’m going to write a counter-blog.
I’m going to select a far-fetched mythical creature and argue in favour of its biological plausibility. Not because I want to suggest such things are real, but to show how Scientists engage their imagination without the dreaded “anything is possible” mantra. Getting excited about outlandish ideas is crucial, but we don’t want impurities filtering into our head.
Here be Dragons
Ancient myths provide a panoply of monsters to choose from, so I'm going to narrow my thinking to something truly fantastical. Blood-drinking vampires are tempting, but they’re a recent invention and I want something universal to all human history. Older myth-monsters are always more intriguing because they speak to something primal in our psyche, and the two oldest supernatural creatures are werewolves and dragons.
Unsettling accounts of humans transforming into wolves date back to the 4th Century BCE but such stories are light on detail. The middle ages were when werewolves became iconic monster-men, and back then they were treated as literal beings.
You’re reading this as a 21st century internet-user so you consider werewolves artistic creations, but there was a time when they were considered a serious threat. One grisly court-case which took place in Germany, 1589, ended with the torture and execution of a man named Peter Stubbs on charges of being an actual werewolf…on the night of Hallowe’en no less.
Ultimately however, although werewolves are cool, I decided to go with dragons. Books, poems, songs, artworks and local legends about dragons are not only found in every human culture, they seem to be the oldest monster we’ve ever frightened ourselves with. Reaching back to the earliest human civilizations, we find stories about dragons tormenting humans since the beginning of written thought.
Even in locations where you don’t get reptiles, dragon myths are still told. Every culture in the world seems to recognise the iconography of dragons which admittedly seems a little spooky. Anthropologically it makes sense though, because the human species started in one place and traditions which originated there (including fears) could easily have been carried along as we expanded our territory.
Not only that, some human knowledge seems to be truly innate and passed down through neural architecture. New-born babies know breasts are where they get food from and you’ve probably seen internet videos of cats freaking-out over cucumbers because the shape apparently triggers a snake warning in their brain.
Explanations for these mass-phobias are widespread of course, with the most famous being Carl Jung’s notion that humans share a collective unconscious mind. Jung’s hypothesis is definitely cool but it’s hopelessly vague and, more importantly, unnecessary. Occam’s razor insists we don’t need elaborate explanations for something if a simple one will suffice and I think there are perfectly straightforward reasons for the prevalence of dragon myths.
You, like every other sentient animal, are programmed to avoid predators and share a common fear of “big monster harming me,” so all we really need to explain is why humans invented dragons specifically.
Why be there Dragons?
I once heard someone suggest that the dragon myth is a hangover from pre-history when dinosaurs roamed the Earth. The claim goes that mammals who survived the mass extinction had a species-wide fear of giant lizards and passed them on. It's a neat idea but I find it doesn't work for two reasons. First, 65 million years feels too long for such a specific memory to survive in our brains.
Second, dinosaurs weren't actually reptillian, they were actually feathered, and we don't have a species-wide fear of being hunted by giant chickens. Although, having recently sat through the mess-terpiece that was Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom I can't help but feel that a giant chicken is the next logical step for the franchise. Nevertheless, I think we need to look eslewhere in our quest to explain dragons.
The word dragon comes from the Greek “drakon” which originally meant “sea-serpent.” Indeed, most early dragon stories emphasise these monsters living in rivers, lakes or oceans and in the Bible Satan is associated with dragons and serpents - the terms originally being synonymous. In fact, Chinese dragons are still considered to be river-dwellers, depicted as snake-like monsters, sometimes with a lion's head.
This all makes environmental sense because snakes were a significant threat to early humans. Their sneak attacks, sharp teeth and venom made them seem like evil creatures, so it’s no surprise people living in the Indus valley told stories of monstrous snakes. It’s also no surprise they sometimes made snakes even scarier by hybridising them with another feared predator – lions.
The first major work of fantasy fiction, the Gilgamesh epic, tells the story of a hero doing battle with a dragon called Humbaba (depicted below). Humbaba was a monster who had the body and head of a lion but was scaled like a snake, winged like a vulture and possessed a serpent for a tail...and penis for some impractical reason. Dragons are basically an amalgamation of all the unpleasant animals we used to contend with in pre-history.
According to Wikipedia, the modern notion of a dragon emerged in the 11th Century with the first depiction of fire-breathing coming from a 1260 manuscript. I dispute that however. I think the earliest example of a dragon as we would recognise it today can be found in the book of Job, dating to the 6th Century BCE.
In Job 41, a description is given of "Leviathan", a giant scaly demon living both underwater and on land. We are told it would be difficult to tame it like a bird (implying it could fly)...and it breathed fire. For my money, Leviathan is the oldest record of a fire-breathing dragon and as Christianisation spread across Europe, Africa and America, the dragon meme hitched a ride. Take that Wikipedia.
Do dragons exist?
But could they?
Let’s get down to it. If we take the principles of biology as currently understood, would it be possible for a dragon to evolve on Earth? Well, the idea of giant animals is evidently fine. Komodo dragons (obvious to discuss) can grow up to three meters in length, saltwater crocodiles can reach seven meters and reticulated pythons can hit over nine. Big reptiles present no problem.
Dragons themselves, like the size we see in Game of Thrones, are also within nature’s limits. Animals can’t grow to an indefinite size of course, eventually the mass of a body becomes too great for the density of bone, but provided we keep to dinosaur/elephant size then giant lizards are fine.
The wings are acceptable too. Nature has invented wings on several occasions in many different species. Birds obviously have them, as do insects, some mammals (bats), fish (flying fish) and one species of lizard has arm-flaps which help it glide on the air between trees (dracos). It’s what’s called convergent evolution: species nowhere near each other hitting on the same solution to a problem. Every species has the same trials of life to overcome. They all need to feed, mate, raise young, avoid predators etc. so they often end up developing similar ways of achieving these goals.
Another good example is the development of opposable thumbs. Primates and pandas both have them despite their hands being very different (pandas have six fingers, while primates have five). It's because bears and primates need to do the same kinds of things and random chance hits on the same good ideas every now and then.
It’s absolutely permissable to have features more commonly associated with one species crop-up in another. So do the laws of evolution permit giant lizard creatures with leathery bat-like wings? Abso-dragon-lutley!
And the fire-breathing?
This particular aspect of dragon-lore took me a while to figure out because fires don't occur in any known biological system. Lightning and lava are usually responsible for fires in nature, and when humans achieve it, we do so by striking metals or oxidising chemicals together. How do we rationalise a fire-breathing animal?
In the Christian Bale movie Reign of Fire, dragon breath is explained as dragons producing a natural napalm which they spit out. That's creative and all, but the problem is that flammable or incendiary chemicals don't catch fire on their own. They need an ignition source.
The more I thought about it, the more frustrated I got. Fires typically burn at hundreds of degrees celsisus and even birds, the warmest-blooded creatures on Earth, rarely exceed forty. It didn't seem there was any way of justifying an animal getting things hot enough to start a fire.
Until I remembered bombardier beetles....
Bombardier beetles possess one of the most chemically remarkable adaptations in nature. When threatened, two glands in their bodies eject separate streams of hydrogen peroxide and paraquinone which blend together in mid-air. When mixed, these chemicals form a jet so hot it reaches the boiling point of water, burning any predator away.
Paraquinone and hydrogen peroxide are also irritant chemicals so it’s a wonderful defence mechanism…if you try to attack a bombardier beetle, it pees boiling poison in your face. Fun fact, John Cusack repels people the same way.
So, here’s what I’m thinking. Suppose our dragons had similar glands in their throats to bombardier beetles. They could spit out a chemical cocktail close to 100 degrees Celsius and that might be enough to achieve ignition. Most substances need to be scraped, scratched or electrocuted to catch fire but there are a few which ignite when you simply warm them.
Triethyl borane, for example, will catch fire at -21 degrees. That would do the trick but it's probably not a good idea because the body temperature of the dragon would set fire to it as soon as the gland produced it.
White phosophorus catches at body temperature of course, but it’s a solid powder. Powders take weeks to form inside a body (think of kidney stones) and presumably the dragon will want to use its fire-breath regularly, meaning we want something that a gland can produce at short notice.
That leaves carbon disulfide, a colourless liquid which catches fire at 90 degrees, roughly the same temperature of a bombardier beetle jet. Carbon disulfide can cause erectile dysfunction in humans but, to my knowledge, nobody has ever tested this on dragons so there’s no reason to assume it would cause any harm.
If we therefore propose that a dragon has three glands in its mouth, one for paraquinone, one for hydrogen peroxide and one for carbon disulfide, when all three squirt together they could theoretically create an honest-to-god biologenic flame-spray on demand!
So while dragons might not exist on Earth there's no reason they couldn't exist in nature. In fact, given the sheer size of the Universe and the number of potentially inhabited planets, there may even be a world on which dragons have actually evolved.
And there you have it. We've entertained a crazy idea, but rather than justifying it by saying "magic did it" or appealing to some other unprovable notion, we've used facts we already know to be true. And this is how Scientists speculate. Sticking to the laws of nature doesn't mean you have to abandon extravagant dreams. In fact, sticking to the laws of nature can sometimes make your dreams possible.
I've never heard of it...
The idea isn't talked about much these days, but I can fill you in fairly quickly. Life-Force is a 1985 sci-fi horror movie directed by Tobe Hooper about aliens who dehydrate people to death, based on a Colin Wilson novel, The Space Vampires. And I'm not making this up.
Today it's a celebrated cult classic, famous for a young Patrick Stewart cameo and because the main character, played by Mathilda May, spends the whole film needlessly naked as she strolls around killing. Fun fact: the original poster had to be recalled because it featured May's nipples and the family version (below) had to be issued with lens flares painted over them. They don’t make sci-fi movies like they used to…perhaps that’s a good thing.
The movie got its title from an ancient, pre-Scientific idea called "life-force" or "vital essence" - a mysterious property all living things were believed to have. The assumption was that studying Biology was distinct from Chemistry and Physics, because living things were somehow separate to the crude matter of the inorganic world.
Supposedly, it wasn't possible to explain living phenomena without including this soul-subtance, and for centuries Biology was fused with philosophy, mysticism and magical thinking. Until Science destroyed it.
There are some hangers-on who still talk about living “energy” or “aura”, but people who trust things like clear definitions or the logic of parsimony have long abandoned the idea of life-force. Thanks to Science, we now know life isn't the result of some boring, primitive notion like magic. Life is Physics and Chemistry at their most complicated and beautiful. Here's how we figured that out in nine experimental steps.
Step 1 - Camera Obscura
The first hint that life-force might be unnecessary was uncovered by the Muslim scholar Abu Al Hasan. I’ve mentioned Al-Hasan in another blog because he essentially invented the Scientific method itself. The thing he's best known for however, is explaining how pin-hole cameras work.
If you make a tiny hole in the wall of an otherwise dark room or box, light from outside will project itself onto the far wall, creating a perfect image of the external world. This effect had been known since ancient times, but Al-Hasan successfully explained it as the geometric behaviour of light-beams moving in straight lines.
After building a number of pin-hole cameras with lenses to prove his idea, Al-Hasan got hold of a bull’s carcass and extracted its eyeball for comparison. Following a rather unpleasant dissection, Al-Hasan found that the retina of an eye behaves identically to the back wall of a camera. The pin-hole (pupil) allows light to enter and light-beams create a retinal image according to his geometric laws. There was no need of magic. Apparently you could explain the very nature of visual perception using only a basic appreciation of optics.
Step 2 - Doctor Death
Up until the 16th century, medicine was built on the work of the philosopher Hippocrates of Kos. Hippocrates never got his hands dirty with actual dissection of course, he just used intuition (guessed) and doctors learned their trade by reading his books and watching occasional amputations. It wasn’t until 1543 that a scientist named Andreas Vesalius decided to carry out genuine human autopsies and record his discoveries.
Vesalius began his career as a grave robber, unearthing bodies and dissecting them at his laboratory. This may sound immoral by today's standards, but if you want to make an omelette you’ve got to dig up a few cadavers.
Fortunately when he moved to Italy, he fell into favour with Charles V, who not only patronised Vesalius' research but began scheduling executions to match his lecture schedule so he would always have a fresh supply of corpses. Doctors of the city would be invited along and Vesalius became a morbid celebrity who would take the freshly killed criminal and cut them open as his assistants created diagrams for medical textbooks.
And, astonishingly, Vesalius began to discover that the human anatomy was not particularly different to that of animals. We had the same stuructre, the same organs and our skeletons differed only by shape and size. It would appear that ancient wisdom was wrong; humans were another breed of animal rather than a separate classification. Life-force was still part of the deal, but it was disconcerting to realise we probably shared the same life-force with dogs and cats.
This idea was heretical of course. You weren’t supposed to challenge the accepted wisdom of ancient thinkers, so it was assumed that the human body had simply changed form in the years between Hippocrates and Vesalius. The idea of throwing out an incorrect theory when contrary evidence arose wasn’t a big thing back then.
It was also Vesalius' discoveries which stirred up the first notions of ethical vegetarianism. If humans were made of meat just like every other animal, did we truly have the right to kill and eat other animals? Was it really that different from eating human meat?
Step 3 - Breathe With Me
About a hundred years after Vesalius, a physician named William Harvey dealt another blow to the ancient medical textbooks. It had long been taught that there were two kinds of blood in the human body, one manufactured in the liver, the other in the lungs.
Harvey measured the capacity of a human heart and, by timing the average pulse-rate, showed mathematically that the heart pumps 260 litres of blood per hour which would weigh three times more than the actual human. There was simply no way the liver or lungs could be manufacturing that much blood. Besides, where was it all going? Vampires?...SPACE VAMPIRES???
Harvey proposed that blood was circulated in a fixed amount, collecting something important from the heart and transferring it to the organs. Harvey’s discovery still had the idea of a life-force but in 1637 Renee Descartes (who thought therefore he was) showed that the heart was a mechanical muscle-pump and life-force was really being collected from the lungs. Apparently, blood was absorbing something we were breathing in.
It was just a matter of time before, in the 1780s, Antoine Lavoisier showed this life-force in the blood to be oxygen. He did this by collecting hundreds of guinea pigs and removing gases from their enclosures until he found the one they needed to live. Many guinea pigs died during this experiment.
Lavoisier also showed that the two types of blood were oxygenated and deoxygenated variations; there was no magical ingredient being added to blood from the lungs or heart. It was all based on Chemistry. (Lavoisier was one of the key architects of the periodic table and there's a whole chapter about him in my book Elemental...which you should definitely buy).
Step 4 - Warming to the idea
Lavoiser's commitment to Chemistry and guinea pig torture didn't stop there. He also became very interested in body heat – another mystery attributed to life-force. Lavoisier put more guinea pigs into a fiendish contraption which used their warmth to melt ice. By measuring the amount a guinea pig’s body could melt, he was able to calculate the amount of thermal energy they produced.
He then measured how much oxygen guinea pigs were taking in during the same time and burned an equal amount for comparison. He discovered that the amount of heat given off from a rodent body was identical to the amount of energy given out during a simple chemical burn. It would appear that body heat was an exothermic consequence of oxygen reacting with something in the cells of the guinea pigs.
A century and a half later, Julius Von Mayer showed that living things carry out a chemical reaction between sugars in their food and oxygen in the air. By measuring precisely the amount of sugar, oxygen, carbon dioxide, water and heat taken in or given out by a number of small creatures (presumably guinea pigs) he was able to show that the energy going into a living thing is equal to the energy coming out of it.
Energy conversation and heat laws, previously thought to apply only in the realm of Physics, were just as important in Biological systems. Apparently Biology had to obey the laws of Physics just as everything else did - it wasn't exempt or special.
Step 5 - You are all diseased
In the 1700s, the British navy was in trouble. More than 50% of its sailors were dying from scurvy; a horrible condition which causes your teeth to fall out, your skin to split open and you to die. Nobody could figure out what was going on until 1747 when the physician James Lind carried out the first medical trial in history.
Lind decided to run experiments on the crews of various ships, administering different diets to different sailors. Some were given cider to drink, some were given sulfuric acid, some vinegar, some oranges and (as a control group) some had to drink equal amounts of seawater. The results were clear: sailors who consumed oranges didn’t get scurvy.
By 1794 other foods like sauerkraut, lemons and limes were also shown to prevent scurvy and it became standard practice for ships to have a supply of citrus fruits on board (hence British sailors being nicknamed “limeys” by yanks). Finally, in the 1930s, the active ingredient preventing scurvy was identified by Norman Haworth as Vitamin-C (ascorbic acid).
It turns out that while most animals produce their own, a small number of species including monkeys, apes and bats do not make Vitamin-C. As a species, humans suffer from inherent Vitamin-C defficiency, which makes things uncomfortable for the life-force hypothesis.
If living things are bestowed with magical essence, why was it missing Vitamin-C? Why would humans and bats be born with a genetic disease while other animals get excused such a handicap? If life-force existed it was imperfect and incomplete…which sounds more like a natural, random chance thing than an ethereal, magic spirit thing. Incidentally, one other animal which lacks Vitamin-C? Guinea Pigs.
Step 6 - Back to the lab again yo...
One of the most pervasive (and ludicrous) ideas Science had to battle was the idea that there is a distinction between natural and man-made materials. This idea still hangs around unfortunately when people talk about “natural ingredients” in food as opposed to “man-made chemicals”. It’s a sophistric logic because humans are a part of nature, so anything synthesised by humans is a natural thing synthesising another natural thing...but there you go.
The first person to prove we could manufacture “life chemicals” in the lab was Friedrich Wohler in 1828. One afternoon, mostly by accident, Wohler synthesised some crystals by reacting ammonium chloride with silver nitrate and, after careful analysis, discovered them to be pure urea. Urea is a chemical found in the urine of animals and therefore impossible to make artificially...except it clearly was possible. Wohler’s discovery showed that “man-made” versions of “natural" chemicals were the same thing.
It was another Scientist named Marcellin Berthelot who took things further and threw life-force into serious turmoil. Following in Wohler’s footsteps, Berthelot decided to catalogue and synthesise every known “biological chemical” he could think of using inorganic lab ingredients. He managed to create ethanol (yeast excrement), methanoic acid (ant blood), benzene (found in Styrax bark) and began advocating the idea that living things were complex arrangements of molecules. You could, in principle, create any substance found in a living thing if you knew how to arrange the atoms.
By the mid twentieth century we had figured out the atomic compositions of thousands of biological substances. Max Perutz solved the structure of Myoglobin and Haemoglobin, Linus Pauling solved the protein alpha-helix, Franklin, Watson and Crick solved the structure of DNA and the undoubted queen of Biochemstry, Dorothy Hodgkin, successfully figured out steroids, penicillin, Vitamin B12 and Insulin (a molecule of 777 atoms, getting her the most hard-earned Nobel Prize in Biology).
There was no life-force needed to account for any of it. If you were careful you could glue atoms together in the right order and make any living thing you wanted. In other words: nature isn't adding anything to life, it's just arranging atoms in phenomenally complex ways.
Step 7 - It's alive! It's aliiiive!
In the 1790s, Luigi Galvani was dissecting frogs in his lab. Most of his experiments concerned electricity, so his laboratory was filled with electrical equipment and by chance, a metal scalpel which had built up a charge came into contact with the sciatic nerve of an amputated frog leg, causing it to twitch. Galvani's curiosity was galvanised. Sue me.
He began conducting (pun intended) other experiments like wiring frog corpses to his electricity machines or fixing them to metal rods during thunderstorms and discovered that motor neurons are wires carrying small currents. Whereas life-force suggested movement was the result of a spirit inside your body pulling strings, Galvani showed that movement is the result of electrifying muscle tissue and could be carried out on dead muscle just as easily as live.
Allessandro Volta took things further and showed that the electrical currents in neurons were identical to those generated by batteries and finally, in 1865, Julius Bernstein proved that chemical reactions in cells are capable of generating the tiny voltages Galvani had discovered. Once again, a mysterious bio-property could be explained in terms of Physics and Chemistry.
It has been speculated that the discoveries of Galvani and Volta influenced Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel Frankenstein in which a hubristic Scientist attempts to reanimate human tissue. Sadly, this original version was heavily rewritten into the far more famous, "audience-friendly" version of 1831, removing a lot of the satire...and presumably painting lens flares over Frankenstein's nipples! Frankenstein was one of my favourite novels as a teenager and arguably the first work of modern Science Fiction. If you decide to read it, I recommend Shelley’s original 1818 text. It's got more bite.
Step 8 - It's dead, it's deeaaad!!!
In 1896, Eduard Buchner (shown below) was interested in fermentation. If you feed sugar to a bunch of yeast cells, they crap out ethanol and carbon dioxide. By now, life-force was in serious question and the Scientific community was divided on whether fermentation was a biological or chemical process. Some assumed yeast cells were converting sugar to ethanol via life-force means (aka hocus pocus) while there was a growing feeling that yeast cells contained a chemical which reacted with sugar.
The distinction between biological and chemical processes was, of course, a false dichotomy which Buchner proved in a blindingly obvious yet brilliant experiment. He tried to achieve fermentation with dead yeast.
If Biology was basically Chemistry, then structurally there should be no difference between a living cell and a dead one, so if you killed the cells and burst them open, their chemical guts should be unchanged. Lo and behold, Buchner successfully achieved fermentation with dead yeast cells, proving that living stuff could carry out the same processes as dead stuff.
Step 9 - Soup's Up!
By the 1950s Darwin’s theory of natural selection was so well-evidenced, it was accepted that life on Earth originated from a common ancestor billions of years ago. The only question was how that life got there in the first place.
It was one thing to say living things are today the result of biochemistry, but the initial spark which gave rise to proteins, enzymes and information chains was still unexplained. It was sometimes nicknamed “Darwin’s Black Box” because nobody could figure out how to get life from a sterile Earth. So naturally people plugged life-force into the epistemological gap.
But then, in 1953, Harold Urey and Stanley Miller decided to replicate the conditions which had birthed Biology. By stewing all the chemicals known to exist on Earth at the time (easily learned from studying rocks, ice cores and cosmic nebulae), they filled a flask with methane, ammonia, hydrogen, water and began spark-plugging this "primordial soup" to simulate lightning.
After a week the soup had changed composition entirely. It was filled with amino acids, the building blocks of proteins and enzymes. If it was possible for lifeless chemicals to synthesise amino acids in a few days, imagine what could be achieved in a few hundred million years with a churning ocean, lightning, hydrothermal vents, rock pools, ultra-violet rays and so on.
(NB: some people have mistakenly criticised the experiment because along the road to making amino acids, the Miller-Urey experiment also made cyanide and formaldehyde, which are obviously poisonous, leading to fallacious rejection of the results. What's not being understood by these people is that the cyanide and formaldehyde are part of the sterile mixture of chemicals...if you react them long enough they do make amino acids, that's the whole point of the experiment.)
The final “missing link” between these amino acids and simple proteins has not yet been discovered, however. We’ve figured out step 1 of the life process, and we know steps 4,5,6,7... etc, but we’re missing a few steps in between. It is here that the remaining spiritualists and witches set up camp, insisting life-force must exist within those few question marks left in the chain.
As a Scientist, I have to concede that they may be right. However, I think it’s unhealthy to cling to an un-evidenced hypothesis. Furthermore, the history of Biology has shown that the more we’ve studied it, the smaller life-force’s reach has become.
It makes sense that early explanations for living things would favour magic over testable laws of Science...nobody knew any testable laws of Science! But now that our knowledge has matured, I think we can safely shrug off the cloak of mysticism. We cannot know with certainty of course, but wisdom suggests that life-force has been truly sucked dry.
Soul leaving body: YouTube
Life-Force poster: thecultmoviereview
Look into my eye: giphy
Hannibal Lecter: wikipedia
Shameless Plug: shamelessplug7
Guinea Pig 1: imgflip
Guinea Pig 2: angryapps
Dorothy Hodgkin: thefamouspeople
Pain in the ass frog: knowyourmeme
Primordial Soup: defendingthebible
I love science, let me tell you why.