To provide insight into the way experts use taxonomy to categorize the world’s living things, science educator and The Brain Scoop host Emily Graslie conducted a delicious experiment: She asked four expert taxonomists from Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History to help her classify 12 different types of candy.
Scientists use evolutionary relationships to lump plants, animals, and microorganisms into similar groups. How, then, would they divvy up a sampling of sweets, ranging from Starburst Jelly Beans to Peanut M&Ms?
After assessing color, size, and performing a taste test or two, each of the taxonomists provided Graslie with a different answer. Bottom line? Taxonomy isn’t an exact science—and it’s subject to many interpretations.
“There’s … many ways to classify things, and it’s an interesting problem why there should be so many ways to classify things, and what these classifications then say about the world, and what they say about us as people,” concluded Olivier Rieppel, the Field Museum’s curator of fossil reptiles.
Watch Graslie and the Field Museum’s scientists perform their tasty analysis in the above video—and while you’re at it, try your own version of their exercise.
“Experiments in classification can be used with anything from pasta, to cell phones, beverages, cereals … seriously, start asking your friends and family if they think Pepsi and Coca-Cola are synonymous species, or similar via convergent evolution, and you’re sure to have a lively Tuesday night,” Brain Scoop writes.
[h/t The Brain Scoop]
All images courtesy of iStock