Autotrophs don’t actually drool

Fans of The Big Bang Theory are now singing

The whole universe was in a hot, dense state…

I admit to being a fan of TBBT, and one of the things I like is the effort they put into the scientific accuracy. Despite one or two slip-ups (like the title of this post), the science and terminology are quite accurate. I got a huge kick over the Leslie and Sheldon’s feud over the pre-eminence of Loop Quantum Gravity vs String Theory. Hysterical if you know anything about the history of these similar, but conflicting models.

This is an immensely popular show, and I think it is a good thing for Science, and Science Education. Despite the fact that the main characters are portrayed as “losers”, they are still the protagonists, and bring a certain coolness to science. And given the decline in science literacy of late, a touch of coolness can only help.

[Edit – if you came here looking for something about drooling autotrophs, see this post]

24 thoughts on “Autotrophs don’t actually drool

  1. Michael

    Isn’t the whole point of the lyric to bring up an evolutionary step, from organisms that produce their own food to those that seek their nutrients from other organisms – the drooling indicating their hunger.

    Now, I understand that there’s a good chance that evolution happened in the other direction (heterotrophs preceding autotrophs), but that seems to be a more lucid explanation than assuming that they were just throwing words together.

  2. ed Post author

    Yes, the idea is to show, in snapshots, the history of the earth.
    But autotrophs, who produce their own food through photo- or chemosynthesis, don’t have mouths. You could say “the heterotrophs began to drool”, but it doesn’t sound as good.

    1. Mike

      Very astute observation about autotrophs. In fact, I had the same realization that brought me to your site via a Google search on “do autotrophs drool.” However, after thinking about it some more, I don’t think it’s as much a goof as it is a lyric license.

      Think of the line “the autotrophs began to drool” as a poetic way of saying, “The autotrophs evolved into heterotrophs.” If the song had a line saying “the fish climbed onto land,” you wouldn’t say it’s a goof, because the imagery is more obvious as a step in evolution.

  3. T J

    Early earth History. Autotrophs are the top predator (No heterotrophs yet) The autotrophs are consuming CO2 and Light with a voracous appetite, Their drool is oxygen. which changes the chemical history of the planet.

    1. Ed Hitchcock

      Well, sort of. Just because there weren’t predators doesn’t make producers into predators by default. And drool is a liquid, not a dissolved gas. O2 was certainly waste (and dangerous waste at that – oxygen is highly reactive!), but more like autotroph farts…

      1. saumitra

        well, plants do drool, in a way. There is always “guttation”. At low temperatures and in high humidity conditions, the plants lose the excess water through pores on the leaves. It sort of oozes out.

        1. ed Post author

          Well, true. But if we want to get that picky, we would also have to mention that guttation only occurs in terrestrial plants, by which time there were plenty of critters to do the drooling 🙂

  4. mattmchugh

    No, no. They actually say, “The autotrophs began to RULE.”

    Barenakedladies are Canadian, so it’s hard to tell with their accent. It’s like the whole “aboot” thing.

    — mm

    1. ed Post author

      Check the lyric sites. It’s “drool”. And being Canadian (and from Toronto) I have no problem with the accent… 🙂

      1. Richard

        I can think of a few songs where I could tell that the singer was either British or attempting to use a British accent.

  5. Wetczech

    It’s a joke… “producers” drool. Where producers are the people that “produce” movies, music, TV shows, etc. Think Al Brooks… Don’t be so literal 🙂

  6. Tom

    Wetczech is right. Its just a joke. The barenaked ladies who wrote the song know autotrophs dont drool. They are very smart. Great song writers.

  7. Greg

    Ed Robertson of Barenaked Ladies wrote the song. The line as written is: “The autotrophs began to drool.”

    And yes, it is a joke. No word yet on the lyrics to Soft Kitty.

  8. me_llllljdkdkdkd

    What makes it funny:

    An autotroph makes its own food. _No need_ for drool
    But in this story/song, the autotrophs are doing fine, but then look @ their neighbors, and think “hey, I could _eat_ you….”


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