May 25 Is Darwinius Day, The Most Important Day IN 47 MILLION YEARS!

By Carl Zimmer | May 22, 2009 11:20 am

A friend passed on this ad that aired for “The Link,” the show about Darwinius on May 25. Take a look.

Yep. That’s right. May 25 will be more important than 9/11. Than Pearl Harbor. Than every date in human history. Pre-human, too.

Let this be the starting point from now on for all discussions of science hype.

Update: A commenter asked if this was a spoof. It’s not. This is a real ad for the show.

Update #2: The TV producers who passed on this video to me are now wondering if this particular piece is actually some kind of mash-up, using an original teaser ad and encrusting it with even more over-the-top-itude. Are there any YouTube-ologists who can parse such things? Take a look at this and this and this and, in particular, this, which was posted by someone who suspected it was a semi-hoax.

If I had to guess, the original ad, which aired on or around May 14, was a series of historic dates (including 9/11–classy!) with voiceovers, ending with Darwinius Day (which from now on will be the day I celebrate beautiful fossils by hyperventilating into a paper bag).

Then somebody decided the ad was so ridiculous that he or she had to take it up an extra crazy notch–grafting some of the original design from the History Channel web site. If my hypothesis is correct, there is one seriously funny amateur video editor out there.

Question: did anyone see the original on TV?

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Darwinius, Evolution, Meta

Comments (52)

  1. I saw something very similar to this (starting with “what if everything you knew was a lie?”) when I was searching for information about Ida prior to Tuesday’s event. I really wanted to believe that it was some other stunt unrelated to Ida, but now I think I have to go throw up… Ugh.

  2. LOL.

    Uh, this is a spoof, right?

  3. Hmmm, funding must be getting really tight for the paleontology community, if they’re resorting to such theatrics….

  4. No–this is real. Still LOL?

  5. Oh CMON – they’re clearly kidding!

  6. Well, Michael, it is the History Channel that made this ad, so it’s not a satire from someone else. And I see no wink-wink in it. And it’s consistent with all the hype on their web site, etc.

    But let’s say they were kidding. That would mean they’re making a joke about 9/11. That’s a pretty weird sense of humor.

  7. I don’t believe it. The reason I don’t believe it is that the Most Important Day Ever will be tomorrow, when I’m gonna put up a new chicken coop in my garden. Witness this global media event at http://cromercrox.blogspot.com as I liveblog my massive erection.

  8. Jason

    It could be worse guys. This is the History channel so they could’ve put the Roswell crash date on there.

  9. This is clearly not the most important date ever. That was last year, when the History Channel started to air Jurassic Fight Club. Let’s get our facts straight… :-S

  10. It is clearly meant to indicate what the cause of Darwinius’ death was: He forgot his towel.

  11. Did anyone else spot the 0AD in there? Yep, the History Channel used a non-existent date.

    I do feel the Blogosphere has to do something to ‘celebrate’ this, but I’ve no idea what. Any suggestions?

  12. Alisa

    Hmm… Sit cooped up indoors and watch The Most Important Event Ever on the History Channel, or have fun out in the sun at my friend’s Memorial Day barbeque? Decisions, decisions…

  13. Jason

    Speaking from a personal point of view, the most important day in 47 million years was the day I was born. I mean, that day is kinda important to me you know.

  14. Remember the scene in the ’90s movie ‘Reality Bites’ where the cheesy edgy-TV-show producer (Ben Stiller) shows the sincere and contemplative documentarian (Winona Ryder) how they completely ruined her serious work with over-the-top sensationalism — and how she ran out of the building pissed off and upset about the demise of our culture? That’s how I feel.

  15. Andrew Forbes

    This is an embarrassment to the scientific community. Misrepresentation of facts and hyping of science like this just confuses the public and makes the discipline seem less than serious.

  16. foolfodder

    I’m waiting for someone to say “Gotcha!”

  17. oh, but I forgot … in this case the authors of the find are not only okay with the sensationlism, but actively promoting it! WTF?!

  18. Blogger

    I thought creationists were the only ones who did this.

  19. foolfodder

    Are we sure that this whole thing isn’t some kind of elaborate hoax? How much effort would it take to fake the fossil and images etc., does the peer review process actually include looking at the fossil itself?

    /paranoia – or is it?

  20. BJM

    I thought the whole point of the “missing link” was to show that everything we know (or theorize) is true?

  21. Bob

    More important than the moon landing?!?!

    Jeezo, the hype on this is incredible.

  22. Star

    Notice how the promotional spot doesn’t actually say what the show will be about. It’s a big bait-and-switch – “woo woo look, big shiny thing” followed by “oh, it’s just a nice-looking fossil that adds a little bit to our understanding of a specific aspect of evolutionary history”.

    Their promotions department needs to take a medically-supervised vacation to a nice, quiet, padded room.

  23. You have to look at this in context – the History Channel is one of the campiest TV stations around. This is basically the same ad they use for all of their shows!! Yes, they play it straight, but they’re clearly making fun of the whole thing too.

  24. John

    Don’t you heathens know, the Earth is only 6,000
    years old!

  25. @Michael Eisen … you are seriously defending this?! You don’t think a culture that systematically over-hypes/sensationalizes science runs the risk of making true communciation of science perceived as ‘boring’ by the general public?

    Also … does THC call themselves “campy”? They do have some good programs … are those campy? How is the general public to know which programs are campy or not? Your argument reminds me of the “he’s just an entertainer!” argument when Limbaugh gets criticized. Just becuase THC is entertainment does not give them a free pass to be irresponsible.

    I am very intersted to see who comes out to defend all this hype as the “right thing”.

  26. Coronavirus

    Well, somebody had to pay for the million dollar fossil.

  27. I’m NOT defending it. It’s completely ridiculous!! Beyond ridiculous. Even pernicious. But it IS also kind of funny…

    Take it out on the authors for choosing to work with them if you want. But we shouldn’t feel particularly affronted by the History Channel – they’re not making a special effort for Darwinius – this is just the way they are.

  28. Speaking of the million dollars… I’m surprised that more people haven’t been discussing the history of this fossil. It seems like an interesting/potentially seedy story, but it’s been oddly absent from most of the media coverage. Did I just miss it?

  29. @MichaelEisen – The ‘How the Earth was Made’ show is quite good … not campy, not ridiculous, not science turned into a Michael Bay movie … isn’t this also The History Channel? I’m not buying this “this is the way they are” defense.

    Pernicious AND funny?

  30. @BrianR – I must just watch the wrong things. The shows I’ve seen about British history are the campiest things on TV.

    But I’ll take your word for it about the channel. Though I still think your ire is misplaced. I would really love to know the backstory here though. How did the History Channel get involved?

  31. @MichaelEisen — fair enough, but what is getting people peeved is that all the hype (and subsequent meta-hype) is overshadowing the actual science and what appears to be an interesting discovery.

    We’ll see how this plays out … but, it sure seems that this ridiculously over-the-top PR campaign is going to do more harm than good. You’re right, there isn’t nearly as much buzz about the actual fossil than there is buzz about the buzz. If, over time, this whole flap is recognized as being the result of mishandling and poor judgement, I’m sure we will read about whose “fault” it is.

    The point is, it’s a circus — and because of that, the science is, unfortunately, taking a back seat.

  32. @BrianR – I’m watching the full trailer now. It’s really over the top. They managed to use the phrases “Missing Link” “Rosetta Stone” and “Holy Grail” within like 20 seconds…

  33. Sigmund

    Its a joke, right? There’s a short version of this that actually was made by the History channel (with just a few dates and then finishing with the May 25th date). It looks like someone extended it and made it outrageous.

  34. Teal Cuttlefish

    This does not pique my interest in the topic in the slightest. It’s so pumped up that the program could not possibly live up to its hype.

  35. rondo

    @Sigmund – i think it’s already pretty outrageous with just the dates, no?

    it makes me embarrassed for anyone with any journalistic sensibilities working for History. because you know there are some intelligent people working there. they’ve just drunk the kool-aid and allow something like this to happen. how do you sleep at night, guys?

  36. Coronavirus

    @Michael Eisen: The origin of the fossil is an interesting story, however, I don’t think the media dived into it because it is “technically” confusing. I had to look this up myself because I don’t know much about fossil preservation.

    The fossil was found in 1983 and had two parts to it, the slab and partial counter-slab (I had no idea what this meant, if you don’t either, I suggest you look it up because the story makes a lot more sense).

    The partial counter slab was sold to a museum in Wyoming and the missing pieces were fabricated so it looked like a complete fossil. The fossil that we’re looking at now is the slab that a private collector was holding on to until he sold it for a million bucks. The researchers realized that the fossil sitting in Wyoming was the counter slab to the one they just purchased and it was back in 1983 that “Ida” was actually named. If I’m wrong, please, explain the correct version to me.

  37. J Pardo

    Quoting BrianR:

    THC

    Hey guys, I think we found the problem.

  38. You can get the backstory now — Seed Media interviewed History Channel executives, as well as Hurum and a PLoS One editor. I was kind of gaping in disbelief as I read it — the promotional tie-ins were forged right from the very beginning, as Hurum tried to get hold of the fossil.

    I wrote up my opinion of the affair. I’m not thrilled.

  39. @J Pardo ha ha … I didn’t even notice that!

  40. Thanks for the note, Carl. Whew, it’s a good thing that this was a spoof after all. But not a good thing that people find it hard to tell whether it is or not–it just goes to show how over the top the real hype is. The clips from the actual documentary don’t seem too far out there though. Even so, I think such a documentary is at least several months premature. It seems that the scientists involved placed publicity and fame over the requirements of scientific enquiry.

  41. So … is this definitely a parody? It’d be good to know, since it’s making the rounds rather quick.

  42. Anonymous

    What does it say about PLoS? Is it still a good place to publish?

  43. @Anonymous – why would this affect the way you see PLoS? PLoS One put the paper through a normal, non-accelerated peer review and, after the paper was accepted, accommodated the authors’ request for an accelerated publication data.

  44. Tom Jones

    It’s the new Festivus!

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The Loom

A blog about life, past and future. Written by DISCOVER contributing editor and columnist Carl Zimmer.

About Carl Zimmer

Carl Zimmer writes about science regularly for The New York Times and magazines such as DISCOVER, which also hosts his blog, The LoomHe is the author of 12 books, the most recent of which is Science Ink: Tattoos of the Science Obsessed.

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