As Seen on TV Series

As Seen on TV: The Mysterious Career of Ross Geller on Friends

I usually receive one of three reactions from people when I tell them I study anthropology. The first is confusion, because depending on their experiences some people have not heard of anthropology or are unaware that the study of humans, their skeletons, genetics, culture, material remains, language etc. is called anthropology. The second group of people have heard of anthropology and are either neutral or excited about the discipline. The third group of people are those that get the most excited. “Oh!”, they exclaim, “What’s the latest dinosaur you’ve found!!!” This is the group of people that is the most disappointed when they learn I cannot in fact tell them about the latest in Jurassic predators and the one I get to educate about the difference between paleontology and anthropology.

At this point it’s a standing joke in my field, the mix up between paleontology and anthropology. It is true that some branches of anthropology, specifically prehistoric archaeology and paleoanthropology (human evolution), devote their study to a timescale farther back than most of us consider. We became anatomically modern as Homo sapiens about 200,000 years ago, and our ancestors and the chimp lineage diverged about 5-7 million years ago, but the velociraptor stalked its prey about 75 million years ago. So as an anthropologist, I grapple with a much shorter time frame than a paleontologist. Where then does the confusion originate? Sure both disciplines study remains of the past but I blame Ross Geller. Yes, you heard me – Dr. Ross Geller, from the television show Friends. He was a paleontologist, but in many episodes he makes references/science jokes about subjects that actually fall under the umbrella of anthropology. There are in fact numerous articles detailing the questionable knowledge of Professor Geller as a paleontologist. In this article I am going to dissect some of Ross’s scientific references on the show for their place within academia (paleontology vs anthropology) as well as their accuracy.

Continue reading “As Seen on TV: The Mysterious Career of Ross Geller on Friends”

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In the News

In the News: A Beer for Sue

sue_skeleton
The reconstructed skeleton of Sue at the Field Museum, Chicago (Photo by Connie Ma, National Geographic)

If you enjoyed my first post about the archaeology of beer and wine you may be interested to know that the Field Museum, Chicago’s natural history museum, recently announced that they are teaming up with Toppling Goliath Brewing Co. out of Iowa to create a beer that celebrates Sue, their famous Tyrannosaurus rex fossil. You can read the article from the Chicago Tribune here. The new beer, “Pseudo Sue” will be a single hop pale ale and available at the museum starting in January.  This is a unique blend of paleontology and anthropology – using the human invention of fermentation to promote paleontological education. People have long been fascinated with prehistoric predators and “Sue” is the most complete (about 90%) and best preserved fossil of her species found to date.

Continue reading “In the News: A Beer for Sue”