Oxygen has eyelashes!

It’s cute: this exercise in molecular visualization has been all dolled up with anthropomorphized atoms to sneak it into kids’ attention spans.

I can’t be entirely dismissive, though. There’s some cool stuff lurking in the backgrounds of these scenes, it’s just unfortunate that the goofy cartoon stuff is always being placed front and center.

I am kind of hoping that the creationists, with all their talk of cars and buses and traffic lights in the cell, steal this video. I can almost imagine Michael Behe exclaiming that the sophisticated facial expressions of atoms are evidence of intent and design.


  1. says

    Does this mean that purpose in chemistry is deliberately being denied by chemists? You know, since it is evident that from time to time chemists speak of “desires” and “purposes” of inanimate molecules, as biologists do of evolved organisms.

    May as well claim “design” behind anything and everything. Then maybe we can get on to the overwhelming illusion that nothing outside of the actions of known (and evolved) animals, no design is evident in the universe.

    Glen D

  2. Sven DiMilo says

    There’s some cool stuff lurking in the backgrounds of these scenes, it’s just unfortunate that the goofy cartoon stuff is always being placed front and center.

    Except that it’s my impression that those front-&-center goofy cartoons are explaining what’s going on in those cool-stuff backgrounds (which look quite accurate to my eye, even including some of the Brownian jitters usually missing from such simulations). If instead they just used a voice-over, it would look like another boooooooooring science video. I think this could be a step forward in science communication to the younger set; I see no reason to be dismissive at all.

  3. Burning Umbrella says

    Where’s the old guy comprised mostly of beard and the two evil guys with big red noses?

  4. JRQ says

    On the UNK announcement:

    “Dr. Myers’ research organism is squid…”

    Um…I thought it was zebrafish?

  5. says

    from a purely scientific point of view, is the desire of an atom to form a bond, or the desire of a planet to revolve around the sun different from desire in an animate being?
    or is it both just determinism on a different level?

  6. teter says

    kinda along the train of though (but a little more disturbing)


    since my boy has started pre-k i’ve been getting the stuffed toy that corresponds to each the equally enjoyable, mucusy, fevery family pets he brings home from the petri dish…

    note, we certainly are not encouraging him to work too hard on getting the whole set…

  7. Anon says

    New this Winter, from Vivid entertainment: Molecules to the Max!

    VoiceOver: They had chemistry.

    Oxy: “Oh, yeah, I want both of you, right now! One Hydrogen is never enough for me! Oooh, you’re making me wet!”

    VO: Lots of chemistry.

    Flo: “Yeah, I’m really into bonding, if ya know what I mean. Wanna hook up?”

    VO: Watch them work their way through the periodic table… coming, this Winter!

  8. Raynfala says

    Don’t come down too hard on anthropomorphication (and please don’t make me type that word again ;^).

    It’s an abstraction technique used in computer science and software engineering all the time. By reducing software functions, classes, packages or overall concepts down to related real-world concepts or occupations, it allows us to imagine entire systems in our heads, all at once, without going completely bonkers.

    And most importantly, it greatly enhances communication to those who are trying to learn about a new system or technique.


    “What’s this guy do?”

    “Oh that? It keeps track of which processes have checked in. If a process doesn’t check in within a certain time, it assumes that the process has lost control, and so it’ll put the thing out of its misery.”

  9. Rey Fox says

    “To The Max”? Jeez, are these molecules “gnarly” and “radical” too? Brilliant writing…not!

  10. colluvial says

    Looks intriguing.

    I’m still waiting for an animated series on geology – the formation of glacial landforms, mountain-building, plate tectonics, etc.

  11. flame821 says

    I think this is an excellent teaching tool for the younger set. Beats the beegeebers out of effing Barney and the Wiggles.

    Truthfully I hope to see many more programs like this and less fluffy “Bob the Builder” sorts of shows. Although I can really, REALLY do without another Captain Planet.

  12. Norm Olsen says

    Phthhh, this just proves it: “oxygen is for wimps!”
    (bonus points to the first person to get that reference)

  13. H.H. says

    That was just like Finding Nemo! But I would have preferred even less science and more show tunes.

  14. DanM says

    All of that cheezy cartoon garbage isn’t even really necessary to keep kid’s attention, if they do it right.

    The reasonably accurate and exceptionally beautiful Biovisions life of the cell http://multimedia.mcb.harvard.edu/ had my nephew mesmerized for weeks.

  15. Richard Blaine says

    I know the profs who made the film, have seen an advanced copy, and even had lunch with the fellow who voices “Carbone.” They are all excellent scientists with the best intentions. Pharyngulytes should be aware that this film is aimed at very young children. The filmmakers’ goal to show them that the world is made of atoms and molecules, and include some realistic simulations in the animation. For example, the scene from inside an ice crystal lattice while it melts is awesome. The film was made with very high production values, and shot in extraordinarily high resolution, so visually it is a knockout.

    Yes, the character atoms are cloyingly cute, but I think the filmmakers can be forgiven for that, considering the age group they are targeting, and the cultural competition from Disney etc.

  16. Tack says

    Given the target audience of the film, I really can’t imagine finding fault with anthropomorphizing atoms. Anything that makes young children interested and excited about science and educates at the same time is good.

    Plus they’re really cute. :)

  17. Brian says

    I don’t really get the impression they’re necessarily trying to make this stuff cute in order to make it interesting. I think it’s more likely that they’re trying, as Blaine mentioned, to appeal to a younger audience that might not be so good at grasping abstract concepts like the behavior of submicroscopic particles.
    At the same time, lest we forget, this IS an IMAX movie, and in competition with things like “Monsters of the Deep”, etc., entertainment value probably should be considered.
    Eyelashes aside, I was impressed by the representation of covalent bonding, accustomed as I am to the ball n’ stick models.

  18. Thrillhouse says

    This seems like a pretty good setup to me. Since the target audience is kids, a few cute singing molecules aren’t a big deal. As for the characters taking up the foreground while all of the cool science is in the back, it looks to me that when the film is actually up on an IMAX screen the characters will look more like they’re in the first row, sort of like a kiddie chemistry version of MST3K or that Star Tours ride in Disney. Heck, I can even forgive calling it Molecules to the Max if it’s a play on it being shown in IMAX theaters.

  19. Kevin says

    PZ, PZ when the cow walks into your yard it needs to be milked.

    “My usual honorarium is $6,666 dollars, plus expenses up to $1,234. In advance.”


  20. laureney says

    I am so glad that someone is developing children’s entertainment that is based on real science. I found science through watching TNG with my dad (which is awesome, but not accurate).

    Watching something like this as a young child makes it that much easier to understand how science really works. It took me a long time to make the jump from sci-fi to science. Not everyone makes it there.

    That’s how you get scientology.

  21. Kichae says

    I thought those cartoon characters looked familiar.

    This is the newest offering from the Molecularium project. Why does Oxy, the oxygen molecule, have eyelashes? Because the show’s aimed at 6 year olds. When I was 6, even the Sun and Moon had eyes and mouths.

    I work in a planetarium that shows the first Molecularium movie. While watching it daily for the past 9 months has induced my gag reflex, it’s a hell of a lot more educational than the Teletubbies.

  22. 'Tis Himself says

    Phthhh, this just proves it: “oxygen is for wimps!”

    Are you a snowboarder from Colorado?

  23. Norm Olsen says

    “oxygen is for wimps!”

    Are there no Red Dwarf fans out there?

    Ah Red Dwarf. So many memories …

  24. Kay says

    My six year old is going to LOVE this! We talk about molecules, bonding, atoms, electrons, etc. and even though I’ve drawn a few models he still has a hard time conceptualizing it. He loves science and he’s gonna love this film.