The face in the feces: Nature paper hides Trump’s visage in a monkey turd

This paper, online this week in Nature Scientific Reports, got a lot of attention because of a certain image it contained. First, the title (click on screenshot to access the paper):

The paper describe a new way to get host DNA (from monkeys, in this case) by isolating it from feces, a method that enables you to determine an animal’s genotype without hurting it or even capturing it. (The problem is to distinguish the feces-producer’s DNA from that of the bacteria in the feces or other DNA that got in there.)

But in Figure 1 (below), someone noticed something odd:

You can’t see it here, and I’m not sure if it’s in the original paper (my resolution is low) but as Snopes reports:

On 13 December 2018, a member of the Facebook group “Wild Green Memes for Ecological Fiends” posted a video that revealed what looked to be President Donald Trump’s hidden the diagram’s representation of baboon feces. Although that version of the diagram appears to be in jeopardy now that the journal’s editors are aware of it, we were able to grab a close-up of it as it appeared in the original paper:

Yep, there’s no doubt about it; one of the paper’s authors (or the illustrator) deliberately put Trump’s face there as a political statement.

I have mixed feelings about it: it’s funny and I agree with the sentiment, but on the other hand I don’t think political statements like this should be part of scientific papers. Were I the editor, I’d eliminate it, knowing that the meme is on the Internet forever. And indeed, the editors are investigating (what’s there to investigate?), so that now this statement appears at the end of the paper:

 

57 Comments

  1. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted December 15, 2018 at 10:20 am | Permalink

    The word “churlish” comes to mind.

    I imagine the non-clever artist did this as a protest. Well, with protest comes risk of something, I think.

    • Posted December 15, 2018 at 6:37 pm | Permalink

      If I was president and somebody did this to me I’d go apeshit.

      • Diane G
        Posted December 15, 2018 at 9:24 pm | Permalink

        😀

  2. keith
    Posted December 15, 2018 at 10:21 am | Permalink

    I became aware of this via Richard Dawkins’ Twitter feed and downloaded it yesterday. It’s in the original paper, unless I misunderstand your meaning, Jerry.

  3. Paul G.
    Posted December 15, 2018 at 10:25 am | Permalink

    “what’s there to investigate?” Most likely if the authors submitted the poo that way or someone at the publishing house edited the image.

  4. prinzler
    Posted December 15, 2018 at 10:30 am | Permalink

    Agreed, the proper thing to do would be to remove the picture, presumably while laughing uproariously the entire time.

  5. Jenny Haniver
    Posted December 15, 2018 at 10:35 am | Permalink

    “Unusual aspects,” indeed. I think that the editors’ note is just as funny as the fecetious feces.

    • ThyroidPlanet
      Posted December 15, 2018 at 10:41 am | Permalink

      I see your re-spelling and raise you

      Facetious fecial face

      (I made up “fecial”)

      • Jenny Haniver
        Posted December 15, 2018 at 11:00 am | Permalink

        I like it.

  6. Ken Kukec
    Posted December 15, 2018 at 10:38 am | Permalink

    If the shit fits, let him wear it.

    Looks like something Mike Pence mighta pinched off. Now all the deplorables will want a turd of their own to worship.

    (Or maybe I’m just reflecting how Donald Trump has coarsened our public discourse.)

  7. GregZ
    Posted December 15, 2018 at 10:43 am | Permalink

    Inappropriate, but funny as heck.

  8. Posted December 15, 2018 at 10:45 am | Permalink

    It is wrong to deface monkey shit that way.

    • ThyroidPlanet
      Posted December 15, 2018 at 11:01 am | Permalink

      enface?

      Enfacenate?

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted December 15, 2018 at 11:08 am | Permalink

      Wait, Trump fans are snowflakes whose feelings might get hurt? ‘Cause I thought they were all self-styled tough-guys, like this couple at a Trump rally:

      https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/nrFQVaoSRAhFVV6MxEr-6bstle2HFoNDqaAdsS6TXCmpYIY3j7CjnbFYnQCIc6tZCn_R3alIqYfKYuA6uhwDtqix3toZKdB4s76mHhIsKD-8IA7BMdZaWgWaK3HqEn2YqrKvXCcz

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted December 15, 2018 at 11:11 am | Permalink

        Sorry, this was meant in response to Mark Sturtevant below.

      • Posted December 15, 2018 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

        Ken, my impression is that Trump himself is a snowflake. But this is not the crux of the matter. My opinion is that such things have nothing to do in a scientific article.

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted December 15, 2018 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

          I’ll grant you that, Maya.

        • Nicolaas Stempels
          Posted December 15, 2018 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

          I think we all agree, Maya, but still a good joke. After all, Mr Trump has not exactly been a defender of science.
          That being said, I agree with the Journal’s editors they need to find out where it came in (the authors? an editor? or what, did the peer review not pick it up?). I hope the ‘perpetrators’ come off with a stern warning.
          Another thing, is it necessary to show a drawn illustration of a baboon poop in such a paper? It does not even look very much like the baboon poop we regularly find around here (Chacma baboon, Papio ursinus, but then, different baboons might have different looking feces).

        • Heather Hastie
          Posted December 15, 2018 at 6:37 pm | Permalink

          I agree. It was wrong to do this in a serious journal.

          Imagine if someone had put Obama’s face in the same place? We can’t have double standards about this stuff imo, though I know plenty don’t agree with that.

          I don’t want to come across as a dick though. I do think it’s pretty funny and I can imagine wanting to do it before deciding against it.

          • Ken Kukec
            Posted December 16, 2018 at 8:09 am | Permalink

            “Imagine if someone had put Obama’s face in the same place?”

            Trump fans would never do that to their favorite Kenyan Muslim. 🙂

  9. Posted December 15, 2018 at 10:46 am | Permalink

    It is funny, but I would be concerned about it causing some harm while not doing any good. Trump and his minions are easily enough triggered to move against science funding, and to use this swipe to continue to flog the cultural divide. The NIH and the NSF have enough problems with keeping their funding from being cut because of politics and stereotypes.
    I know I sound like a worry-wart.

    • Posted December 15, 2018 at 10:51 am | Permalink

      No, this is *exactly* what someone could make into a big deal or worse, a conspiracy

    • Nicolaas Stempels
      Posted December 17, 2018 at 3:06 am | Permalink

      Yes, you sound like a party-pooper, but you are perfectly right.

  10. bonetired
    Posted December 15, 2018 at 10:51 am | Permalink

    I assume that the editors of Nature will attempt to bury this story so it will be interred.

    • Jenny Haniver
      Posted December 15, 2018 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

      Just like a cat burying its scats; and sometimes, they don’t do a good job of it.

  11. Randall Schenck
    Posted December 15, 2018 at 10:57 am | Permalink

    Were I the monkey, I would be very upset.

  12. Julian C
    Posted December 15, 2018 at 10:58 am | Permalink

    Might it not be equivalent to seeing Jesus/ Mary/ Buddha on a slice of toast?

  13. Jenny Haniver
    Posted December 15, 2018 at 11:01 am | Permalink

    I also see the face of a kitty, now I’m searching for Jesus.

    • W.T. Effingham
      Posted December 15, 2018 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

      If one stares long enough, one might see “Taj Mahal” in a circular arc and “Atlantic City” just opposite…circumscribing the most handsom face to grace a token😐.

      • Jenny Haniver
        Posted December 15, 2018 at 3:42 pm | Permalink

        That’s very funny. What a monstrosity Trump Taj Mahal was. Like a bad acid trip. Now, sans psychedelics, I see quite a few faces in the turd. Could they be Russians?

  14. Steve Bracker
    Posted December 15, 2018 at 11:04 am | Permalink

    “Were I the editor, I’d eliminate it…”

    But if photos of that were to become public, wouldn’t it be even worse?

    • ThyroidPlanet
      Posted December 15, 2018 at 11:47 am | Permalink

      It already has been eliminated.

      How about a flush or two?

  15. phoffman56
    Posted December 15, 2018 at 11:05 am | Permalink

    Yes, I think it’s a terrible insult to that piece of shit to have the face of that other piece of shit drawn on it.

  16. mikeyc
    Posted December 15, 2018 at 11:23 am | Permalink

    What I want to know is who the hell spotted that in the first place? I mean, what would prompt someone to think; “oh there’s a cartoon of a monkey turd, I think I’ll blow it up to take a closer look”.

    • Harrison
      Posted December 15, 2018 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

      The person responsible had to have let it slip since they probably wanted their work to be noticed.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted December 15, 2018 at 4:58 pm | Permalink

        No great artiste wishes to keep his candle hidden under a bushel. 🙂

    • Posted December 15, 2018 at 6:15 pm | Permalink

      The image is still in the PDF which is downloadable from the Nature site and I had to zoom in 1600% to see it clearly. Obviously, whoever posted the image must have leaked the fact.

  17. W.Benson
    Posted December 15, 2018 at 11:52 am | Permalink

    Let it become known as The Curious Case of the Contaminated Baboon Feces.

    • Bruce Lyon
      Posted December 15, 2018 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

      A really dumb move in my opinion, given how the fake news folks think scientists are biased and prone to liberal conspiracies.

      • Bruce Lyon
        Posted December 15, 2018 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

        Oops, did not mean to have this as a response to W.Benson but a general response. Sorry.

        • W.Benson
          Posted December 15, 2018 at 7:36 pm | Permalink

          Done the same thing many times.

      • Diane G
        Posted December 15, 2018 at 9:32 pm | Permalink

        Indeed! They’ll be posting Michelle Obama’s “When they go low, we go high,” all over, with scads of scathing comments.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted December 15, 2018 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

      Elementary, my dear Watson.

  18. dd
    Posted December 15, 2018 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

    Not funny. It will be picked up by right-wing media as proof of scientist’s propensity for left-wing nuttery.

    It’s also jejeune.

    • Nicolaas Stempels
      Posted December 15, 2018 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

      Since we are into conspiracies, who says it was not a secret ‘Trumpista’ editor trying to show just that?

      • Posted December 15, 2018 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

        Yep– it has all the hallmarks of a false feces operation.

        • Nicolaas Stempels
          Posted December 15, 2018 at 3:27 pm | Permalink

          on the face of it 🙂

    • freiner
      Posted December 15, 2018 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

      +++ (One “+” for each of your sentences.)

  19. Kiwi Dave
    Posted December 15, 2018 at 1:25 pm | Permalink

    Not so much funny as ho-hum juvenile and, as others point out, inappropriate in a scientific paper.

    Being a conservative, I daily read a centre-right NZ blog where no thread is complete without several standard negative references by readers to our left-wing PM’s face and teeth, all just as tiresomely juvenile and irrelevant as this image.

    Someone wishes to imply Trump or Clinton or Obama is a POS – not very original or witty.

  20. Posted December 15, 2018 at 6:37 pm | Permalink

    Well, an article in Nature or Science is a big deal. I was a department editor for American Biology Teacher (house organ for HS teachers) and was responsible for graphical and text content. Let’s hope that the changes the editors have in mind involve removal of the chief exec and not just from the illustration.

  21. gravelinspector-Aidan
    Posted December 15, 2018 at 9:20 pm | Permalink

    It looks as if the “offending” part of the image has been removed.
    It is at least worth investigating if the Trump-defaced turd (a phrase worth savouring in itself) appeared by either one of the authors or one of their minions grabbings either a stock image, or asking a (friend/ neighbour/ former fellow-student) with better sketching skill “can you (find or make) a sketch of a turd for me” and the joke being slipped into the result and not noticed by the lead authors.

    Hands up those who have carried out a prank, which has unexpectedly gone beyond it’s intended audience. Everyone waving, a few wry grins? I’m waving too, which resulted in an utterly fictitious result making it into the published literature. (A trick intended for one member of the crew got left set up at shift change, and a third party person “up hill” from our lab came in after we, the perps had gone off-shift. And took it seriously, wrote it up and sent off the report overnight. Next shift, we quickly destroyed the evidence, but couldn’t recall the reports that had been telexed out already. The lab was spotless that day, and the unintended victim was rather upset because he thought the fake was so perfect an example that her thought we should see it.)
    I wouldn’t be calling for heads on spikes. Yet.

    Personally, if I heard that some artist paid “by the yard” for producing artwork for a stock image company, was found PhotoShopping subtle demeaning images of the Tangerine Shitgibbon onto photos of the back end of non-tangerine non-shitgibbons, I wouldn’t even spray coffee over the keyboard.

    • ThyroidPlanet
      Posted December 16, 2018 at 5:36 am | Permalink

      Ah yes – I can see that. That is plausible. 100% serious here.

      That would eliminate my “churlish”/protest view…

      Uh-oh … “eliminate”….

      I better go to Düsseldorf…

  22. gravelinspector-Aidan
    Posted December 15, 2018 at 9:22 pm | Permalink

    Oh, BTW, the Snopes link has got truncated. I eventually found it (took about 6 searches to find the “right” terms) at

    https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/scientific-paper-trump-turd/

  23. Pray Hard
    Posted December 16, 2018 at 8:18 am | Permalink

    Re: Baboon fecal material … how abysmally childish.

  24. Forse
    Posted December 16, 2018 at 8:18 am | Permalink

    OT: Jerry. It’s not just WEIT blog that’s censored in Pakistan.
    https://clarionproject.org/censorship-pushing-conservatives-off-twitter/

  25. Jeffnalle@gmail.com
    Posted January 23, 2019 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

    The Shroud of Turin, weeping statues, stigmatics, Marian apparitions .. God moves in mysteries ways.


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