5 Dumb Fanboy Names Scientists Have Given Real Discoveries
Outside of the discovery of new, incredibly Instagram-friendly animals or obnoxiously named science meme Facebook groups for Boomers, pop culture and science don’t often intersect. I, and I’m sure many scientists, wish they did more frequently. Unfortunately, the likelihood of geology taking the internet by storm is not something I would put money on. So what’s a scientist who wants people to learn about a new discovery to do? One path many have taken is naming said discovery after a pop-culture character or icon.
I understand and respect it, I really do. Within all these cutely named organisms and animals and genes, though, there are some that feel especially lame. Whether it’s leaning a little too hard into the trend of the moment, forcing a pop-culture reference into something that’s beyond a stretch or just an idea that’s bound to age poorly, there’s a couple “fun” names that could be retired.
To that end, here are five fanboy pop-culture scientific names that feel a little less than necessary.
Sonic Hedgehog Gene/Protein
Right now, sitting on your chair/bus seat/toilet, you may not know it, but you contain a gene named, “Sonic Hedgehog Gene.” Yes, not even Sonic the Hedgehog gene. Not only is it named after the speedy blue Genesis star, but it officially has the syntax of a beleaguered mom searching for a Christmas gift circa 1993. Let me emphasize, as well, this is not a nickname, or a joke among scientists, this is the name that the goddamn National Institutes of Health has to use. It’s often referred to as the “SHH gene” out of pure embarrassment, which, of course, stands for Sonic Hedgehog.
The name does have some basis, as the gene in question has a spiky appearance, but in a final insult, the scientist who named it didn’t even name it after the video game, but the comic book that his daughter owned. The gene was originally discovered in fruit flies, where a funny name didn’t matter as much, but when the equivalent was discovered in humans, the name transferred over. It becomes less fun when you find out the “sonic hedgehog gene” in humans is responsible for the correct formation of the brain and eyes. Sorry your child doesn’t have two fully formed eyes, it’s probably from eating too many chili dogs!
Beyonce stans are cool and normal people who I am not terrified of. I think she’s great and a genius, regardless of their ability to track down my address and SWAT me. Other, less chill people might suggest that some fans of hers might be a little overboard. Maybe one such fan is the researcher who named a newly discovered insect after Beyonce.
Now, given that one of Beyonce’s most well-known nicknames is “Queen B,” and the fans who like her an acceptable and normal amount are often called the “Beyhive,” what’s weird about this? It feels like a perfect, fun fit, one that everyone can enjoy! Well, in fact, I bet even Beyonce herself had mixed feelings about her scientific debut, given that the insect in question wasn’t a bee. It wasn’t even one of the bugs you think twice about killing, like a ladybug or butterfly. Scaptia beyonceae is a horsefly. The name apparently comes from some golden hairs on the fly’s back, which doesn’t really make it better. “Hey, I saw a fly that reminded me of you” is never a great way to make a new friend.
If it takes you more than a second to recognize this creature’s namesake, it’s only a testimony to how poorly the piece of pop culture in question aged. Game of Thrones is one of prestige television’s most impressive bag-fumbles ever, going from a bona-fide phenomenon to a complete afterthought with a single, incredibly dumb backstab.
The only respite is that the sea slug that was named after yass-queen-turned-war-criminal Khaleesi never had to watch the final GOT season. It earned the name by having a golden stripe along its back, which, okay? All in all, better a sea slug than the 560 actual human children whose parents decided to name them Khaleesi in 2018, a decision that should put you on Child Protective Services’ short list.
So Many Darth Vaders
Star Wars might just be the absolute be-all, end-all of annoying fanboy fuel. I get it, it’s a pivotal space western or whatever, but it was never my cup of weird blue milk. Luke’s a whiny baby, and I find it hard to take a bunch of guys in repurposed aerodynamic cycling helmets seriously as an intergalactic threat. I also can’t keep my eyebrows down at people calling Darth Vader one of the greatest villains of all time despite having a head that looks like a goth fire hydrant and a chest full of buttons that reminds me of a toy robot I had as a kid.
I understand that there is a large majority of people who don’t agree with me, and wouldn’t you believe it, a bunch of those nerds became scientists, which has resulted in thirteen different creatures bearing the name of the Big Wheeze himself. Look, I’ll give you a “darkling beetle,” that feels right. But a “chewing louse”? You have to know he’d magic choke you for that one.
Pokémon Gene (Almost)
Look, for this one, I’m on your side. Pokémon rules. Well, except for Arceus and the choppy mess that is Scarlet and Violet. Okay, the idea of Pokémon still rules. Nothing would make me happier than to collect a series of little guys, and then leave some of them stored in a PC forever. Apparently, some researchers were big pocket monster fans themselves, and when they discovered a new gene, they were excited to give Game Freak the honors by naming a new member of the POK family of genes POK erythroid myeloid ontogenic, or, well, POKemon.
Unfortunately, the honor was a little questionable, given the fact that they were oncological researchers and the proposed POKemon gene caused cancer. Nintendo loves lawsuits almost as much as they like selling 10-year-old games running on an emulator for $59.99, so you better believe their legal department moved quickly.