"Your brain appears to be as primitive as your artistic skills."
July 25, 2019 12:44 PM   Subscribe

On April 2, 2017 comics artist Branson Reese posted a 4-panel strip titled "The Person Who Discovered Sharks" to his Twitter feed. Several science-minded respondents immediately took to the replies to express their consternation at the strip's questionable description of shark skin as being "smooth" rather than rough—some of them quite vehemently and with receipts. The debate raged for days but the artist was tenacious and would not be swayed. And thanks to his courage and determination, it can now definitively be said that shark skin is indeed "smooth as hell."
posted by Atom Eyes (62 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
 
A quick google says there are 440 species of shark. Surely some are smoother than others?
posted by poe at 1:11 PM on July 25, 2019 [2 favorites]


A quick google says there are 440 species of shark. Surely some are smoother than others?
posted by poe at 1:11 PM on July 25 [+] [!]


They're all really smooth, I think it'd be hard to get them any smoother.
posted by gc at 1:14 PM on July 25, 2019 [21 favorites]


I have always read that shark skin, like Harry Styles, is smooth in one direction but quite rough if rubbed the wrong way. Perhaps there are other factors such as species (as poe pointed out), and whether it's a dry dead specimen or a wet piece of an actual swimming shark. Also it's possible that old sharks don't have smooth skin but baby sharks do, do, do, do, do.
posted by w0mbat at 1:24 PM on July 25, 2019 [20 favorites]


I have always read that shark skin, like Harry Styles, is smooth in one direction but quite rough if rubbed the wrong way.

You're mistaken, they're completely smooth all over.
posted by showbiz_liz at 1:29 PM on July 25, 2019 [18 favorites]


I've seen the compiled comments with Branson Reese's replies before, and they ALWAYS make me laugh. The rest of his comics are great too. I'm especially fond of this one. SEE HOW YOUR HAND FALTERS!
posted by showbiz_liz at 1:33 PM on July 25, 2019 [12 favorites]


I use a shark as a pillow at night because a satin pillowcase just wasn't cutting it.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 1:35 PM on July 25, 2019 [11 favorites]


Heart eyes for Branson Reese and his indomitable snottiness.
posted by Don.Kinsayder at 1:48 PM on July 25, 2019 [2 favorites]


It's both amusing and sad at how resolutely serious and angry people get when disagreeing with the artist. But I have to admire his dedication to the bit; I would have given up weeks ago and responded with a "Dude, relax, this is a JOKE about a silly CARTOON, FFS" tweet or something.
posted by Greg_Ace at 2:00 PM on July 25, 2019 [8 favorites]


I know, I know - what joke, sharkskin is smooth...
posted by Greg_Ace at 2:01 PM on July 25, 2019 [2 favorites]


some shark skin is so smooth it feels rough

because the smoothness acts like a mirror

reflecting your own skin’s roughness back at you

that’s the science deal with it
posted by Doleful Creature at 2:08 PM on July 25, 2019 [14 favorites]


I do like this response though: Why is your caveman who discovered sharks speaking English? I'm starting to doubt you do any research at all.
posted by Greg_Ace at 2:14 PM on July 25, 2019 [11 favorites]


A number of years ago, in a very industrial part of the upper midwest of all places, I was in a leather shop talking to the owner. I had just stopped into the shop randomly, but he ended up being quite the craftsman and liked to talk. He had a claim to fame and that was having made guitar straps for some very big-name musical acts; he had pictures of the musicians using his ornate straps in stadium concerts.

Out of curiosity I asked about different types of leathers--do some animals produce leathers that are better for different purposes? He started digging around in some of his cupboards and brought out a box, asking me not to publicize what he was about to show me (I was there for the local paper). The skins of different animals do indeed produce very different leathers and he wanted to show me samples of the hardest he'd ever worked with, and the softest.

The hardest leather came from sting rays. I'm not sure if it was a particular species of ray that he showed me, but in my memory you could rap your knuckle on it and hear a sound. He said it required specialized tools to work...diamond-tipped was preferred, if I remember right.

Then he brought out a little piece of dark gray material, probably 5 inches by 8 or so, and he wouldn't tell me how he got it. This was the softest leather, and I couldn't believe how thin it was, but there were some wrinkles to it. Softer than the nicest sheets I'd ever touched, by far, and it looked almost like it would just float away. It was from an elephant.

Not exactly on the subject of sharks, but I don't get many opportunities to speak about the smoothness of animal skin. Ugh.
posted by msbrauer at 2:31 PM on July 25, 2019 [22 favorites]


Raptorific, on tumblr, described this whole phenomenon very succinctly:

Apparently for dudes who've got a compulsive need to be the smartest person in the room, "someone who's wrong in a really stupid way who has unshakable confidence that they're smarter than you" is their kryptonite. You can play dumb on almost any subject and their ego, their staunch belief that the masses are so far below them, will blind them to the fact that you're just fucking with them, and as long as you don't admit you're fucking with them or acknowledge that there's anything Off about what you're saying, they won't be able to stop themselves trying to get you to Respect Their Authority, and they won't be able to see that will literally never happen.

Because the debate continued there, and was no less wonderful.
posted by kafziel at 2:42 PM on July 25, 2019 [34 favorites]


This is amazing and I want more of this kind of trolling on the internet!
posted by spindrifter at 3:30 PM on July 25, 2019 [3 favorites]


This is my favorite kind of stupid absurdist comedy. Just like the profane Wheel of Fortune Twitter guy who justice flat out says "no" to anyone who claims he made a mistake.
posted by backseatpilot at 3:31 PM on July 25, 2019 [7 favorites]


I love this partially because I remember the past when I was one of those dudes who would have insisted he is wrong and never let go or realize it was a joke and somehow that makes it even funnier.
posted by sleeping bear at 3:44 PM on July 25, 2019 [6 favorites]




Reminds me of the time I got sucked into arguing that (in "This is Spinal Tap") just cause an Amplifier's knob went to 11 instead of 10...

Never mind.
posted by aleph at 4:05 PM on July 25, 2019 [2 favorites]


Is this the same or different than when other public figures claim provably false things and so people provide audio files, archival video, authoritative transcripts, etc. as counterevidence but those public figures reveal they'd been joking all along and so stupid arrogant debunkers?
posted by mistersquid at 4:23 PM on July 25, 2019


Condensing everything between "a guy with a smallish webcomic following" and "President of the United States" into public figures doesn't seem terribly useful/meaningful/productive.
Like, it's someone who's figured out how to get somewhere under 400 people to give him $3 a month average for joke-em-ups, I'm not sure that rises to the bar of How Dare He besmirch the Noble Truth by telling falsehoods here, especially when the point of his internet following is people expecting a particular brand of humor.
posted by CrystalDave at 4:27 PM on July 25, 2019 [8 favorites]


My point is more about how what seems to be the same is that debunkers as well as "humorless" science types can both be viewed as as get-the-facts-right-though-that's-not-what's-really-at-stake depending on your point of view.

Sneering at the easily trolled is, in the end, sneering.
posted by mistersquid at 4:35 PM on July 25, 2019 [3 favorites]


Reese is right though because smoothness is subjective.
posted by um at 4:55 PM on July 25, 2019 [1 favorite]


well also he’s right because sharks are smooth
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 5:03 PM on July 25, 2019 [9 favorites]


Sneering at the easily trolled is, in the end, sneering.
posted by mistersquid at 19:35 on July 25


squids are smooth tho
posted by Etrigan at 5:12 PM on July 25, 2019 [7 favorites]


No, squids are like sandpaper. That’s why fried calamari looks like that.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 5:21 PM on July 25, 2019 [3 favorites]


No smooth.
posted by hilberseimer at 5:21 PM on July 25, 2019 [1 favorite]


I don’t understand, are you saying “no smooth” to mean “no smoothness?” Because then yes I agree as far as squids are concerned.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 5:22 PM on July 25, 2019


Is this the same or different than when other public figures claim provably false things and so people provide audio files, archival video, authoritative transcripts, etc. as counterevidence but those public figures reveal they'd been joking all along and so stupid arrogant debunkers?

Here's a hint: A webcomic artist is not a public figure and the statement that sharks are smooth does not impact society or inform a belief that impacts society in any way, other than occupying the attention of pedants. The comparison is absurd.

Also, there's no counterevidence, because it's a factual statement.


the wise man bowed his head solemnly and spoke: "theres actually zero difference between good & bad things. you imbecile. you fucking moron" - @dril


Seems like there's always someone.
posted by kafziel at 5:25 PM on July 25, 2019 [9 favorites]


none more smooth
posted by rather be jorting at 5:52 PM on July 25, 2019 [1 favorite]


Everything is smooth if you're brave enough.
posted by Pastor of Muppets at 6:05 PM on July 25, 2019 [4 favorites]


I mean what I say and I say what I mean. No smooth.
posted by hilberseimer at 6:08 PM on July 25, 2019 [2 favorites]


Whether or not sharks are actually smooth, from the point of view of the character in the comic it's valid that "smooth lions" would be their takeaway IF anyone was taught how to understand a story anymore or cared to learn. Not everything is all STEM all the time people.
posted by bleep at 6:09 PM on July 25, 2019 [1 favorite]


Smooth as opposed to furry is a valid construction anyway.
posted by Scattercat at 6:12 PM on July 25, 2019 [2 favorites]


Sharks have frictionless surfaces, it is why they glide and turn so effortlessly through the briny deep of the winedark sea, yet can never be considered "wet". One does not say: "Look in the ocean, at that wet shark." A dog or a toilet seat can be wet*, a shark can only be a shark.

*Other things can also be wet, memail me for deets.
posted by turbid dahlia at 6:22 PM on July 25, 2019 [8 favorites]


> Is this the same or different than when other public figures claim provably false things and so people provide audio files, archival video, authoritative transcripts, etc. as counterevidence but those public figures reveal they'd been joking all along and so stupid arrogant debunkers?

Can't say I recall any public figures stating, like Reese has, "If I was wrong I would fess up immediately and not spend hours online saying "I'm actually right" at people."
posted by rather be jorting at 6:23 PM on July 25, 2019


Everything is smooth if you're brave enough.

PAIGE NO
posted by Greg_Ace at 7:06 PM on July 25, 2019


squids are smooth tho
That's because they are a kind of shark.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 7:47 PM on July 25, 2019 [1 favorite]


Is this the same or different than when other public figures claim provably false things

When public figures claim provably false things, it's generally because they're using those false things as evidence to get some kind of concession or activity or even law passed.

Whereas Reese just wants everyone to know how smooth sharks are. He's not petitioning to end the sale of shark leather to people who mistakenly believe they can use it for sandpaper.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 10:37 PM on July 25, 2019 [5 favorites]


I actually know far more about this than you can possibly imagine. Squids are not sharks. Because squids are smooth and sharks are not. Therefore, the English-speaking caveman who “discovered sharks” was probably being eaten by a squid. Or more likely some kind of marine dinosaur because dinosaurs were a very common caveman predator back then.

Grow a brain, moran.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 11:18 PM on July 25, 2019 [1 favorite]


So, it wasn't until I read this thread that I realized that he was leading people on. I just figured he had a pet shark of a species with smooth skin, and that there were other species that had rough skin. I was getting annoyed that neither side was considering the other possibility -- that maybe there are some sharks with soft skin and some sharks with rough skin.

So, on the one hand, it's nice to read this thread and learn that it was a joke. On the other hand, I am apparently someone with a "compulsive need to be the smartest person in the room," that I have a "staunch belief that the masses are...far below [me], and that when I get frustrated that people aren't considering other possibilities, it's because I can't stop myself from trying to get people to "Respect My Authority," so that just made my day a little bit worse. Ugh.
posted by Bugbread at 12:34 AM on July 26, 2019 [3 favorites]


Being earnest isn't the same as being a jerk by a longshot. The whole "compulsive need to be the smartest person in the room" thing isn't because people are missing the joke, it's because people are calling him an idiot and stuff. Like, the title of this post is something someone said to him, not only calling him stupid but demeaning his work. Even if you were getting annoyed, you certainly weren't being a jerk and publicly calling people idiots or demeaning them in some way -- which is really the bar here, as far as being considered the "Respect My Authority" type. At least in my book.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 3:02 AM on July 26, 2019 [4 favorites]


I guess. The first two people were big jerks, but the rest seemed fine to me:

Person three
"Err Shark skin isn't smooth, you can use it as sand paper. Think he discovered killer whales. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oroshigane"

Person four
"It's smooth if you stroke it one way, rough if you stroke it the other way. N.B. Don't stroke sharks."

Person five
"*whispers* Sharks aren't smooth...."
"Rub one backwards, I dares ya!"
"Okay, now rub the lion backwards."
(two wikipedia links)
"Also says "The rough, sandpaper-like texture of shark and ray skin, coupled with its toughness" in the wiki article."
"And the other starts with, "Shark leather is world known for its rough, course texture"."
"I also have actual experience with real sharks. The bonus of being an Aussie. Either way, I actually liked the strip."

None of these seem like big assholes to me.
posted by Bugbread at 3:18 AM on July 26, 2019


I wondered why so many people were a) so bothered by this and b) so rude and then I realized it's because shark skin is used for sanding and then noticed a lot of dude types were the ones getting mad about it.
posted by Chaffinch at 3:33 AM on July 26, 2019 [1 favorite]


Zelda is the smooth shark boy.
posted by Roommate at 4:30 AM on July 26, 2019 [6 favorites]


Wait, are sharks actually squids, being as smooth as they are?
posted by gc at 7:31 AM on July 26, 2019


I wondered why so many people were a) so bothered by this and b) so rude

Welcome to the internet!

(That may have been rude, sorry)
posted by Quindar Beep at 8:00 AM on July 26, 2019


What's really confusing is when there's something everyone "knows" but they're actually mistaken.

For example, I've been reading a borrowed copy of Gene Roddenberry's autobiography and I was astonished to learn that nowhere in any episode of Star Trek is Kirk's middle-name actually mentioned. But Roddenberry said on numerous occasions that canonically it's "Timothy!" Which makes sense, as that's his father's name.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 8:08 AM on July 26, 2019


Nowhere in any of the live-action episodes is Kirk's middle name given, but apparently "Tiberius" comes from one of the animated episodes.

David Gerrold claims credit for it here, but I've seen someone else saying that Roddenberry had a character with the middle name Tiberius in a previous work, so..
posted by Four Ds at 8:31 AM on July 26, 2019


Fun fact: The Michael Jackson hit "Smooth Criminal" was actually written for the soundtrack of Jaws: The Revenge but Universal spent so much of the film's budget in casting Michael Caine that in the end they were only able to afford "You've Got It All" by The Jets.
posted by Atom Eyes at 8:45 AM on July 26, 2019 [3 favorites]


But Roddenberry said on numerous occasions that canonically it's "Timothy!" Which makes sense, as that's his father's name.

This is a common misconception. Actually, Capt. Kirk’s name is Timothy in the British version of Star Trek. So, for example, instead of “Dammit Jim!” Dr. McCoy says “Blimey Tim!”
posted by Huffy Puffy at 8:53 AM on July 26, 2019 [3 favorites]


What's really confusing is when there's something everyone "knows" but they're actually mistaken.

I got into an argument with one of my elementary school teachers because I knew that human blood is never blue, no matter how it's labelled in circulatory system diagrams. It's unbelievable how many people believe this.
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:59 AM on July 26, 2019 [1 favorite]




Everyone knows that the "T" in James T. Kirk stands for "Tin-plated dictator with delusions of god-hood."
posted by Daily Alice at 9:09 AM on July 26, 2019 [1 favorite]


The adventure started when the team spotted a log in the middle of the ocean.

The crew — made up of Fisheries and Oceans Canada, the Canadian Coast Guard and at least one member of the Tseshaht Nation — grabbed a rope and pulled the log away, concerned it would interfere with their equipment, Du Preez said.

In the process, they dislodged some barnacles off the log, which drifted in the water.

That's when a coast guard member shouted, "Fin."


But it wasn't the end... it was only the beginning.
posted by Daily Alice at 9:11 AM on July 26, 2019 [1 favorite]


Delighted to hear that Captain Jimothy Timothy Kirk is canon!
posted by rather be jorting at 9:31 AM on July 26, 2019 [2 favorites]


Have you ever kissed a girl?

/evil Kirk
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 9:35 AM on July 26, 2019


Internet jokes aside, I have touched sharks and some related creatures. Blue shark, thresher shark, sand shark, stingrays.

They're smooth like high grit wet sand paper is smooth. Which isn't actually smooth. Handle a shark long enough - say, struggling to land one on a fishing boat - and it'll polish your fingerprints right off.

People in general underestimate how spiny and pokey most fish and macro-sized sea life are. You do not want to be trapped in the transom of a small fishing boat with any fish larger than a bonita flopping around and struggling for freedom. Anything barracuda sized or larger is basically covered in razor blades and needles and is capable of causing deep cuts and lacerations.

Scale this up to a tuna, swordfish, marlin, sailfish or other large deep sea game fish and a smaller deep sea sport fishing boat (Say, 30-40 foot) and you may have the opportunity to try wrestling with something that weighs several hundred very angry pounds and will happily try to cut you to ribbons with tail slaps.
posted by loquacious at 9:54 AM on July 26, 2019 [2 favorites]


Also it's possible that old sharks don't have smooth skin but baby sharks do, do, do, do, do.

You are history's greatest monster.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 10:30 AM on July 26, 2019 [6 favorites]


No, his middle name is "The".

James The Kirk.

It's canon.
posted by "mad dan" eccles at 11:46 AM on July 26, 2019 [1 favorite]


James "Trashbag" Kirk, because he's worthless and belongs in the garbage.

I do not anticipate any cause for further argument resulting from this statement.
posted by kafziel at 12:55 AM on July 27, 2019 [3 favorites]


No, Jim Tim is as smooth as a shark's skin
posted by rather be jorting at 4:35 PM on July 27, 2019 [2 favorites]


Somewhat more seriously though, while misogynistic dudebros may insist upon claiming Kirk for their trashbag selves with the intensity of those who insult the intelligence of people recognizing a shark's smoothness, these are not the true Trekkies, tbh, imo, fwiw. Had they actually watched TOS, they would have seen, for example, the episode in which Kirk's old Starfleet Academy Irish-stereotype bully reappeared to taunt our boy Jimothy for being a bookwormy nerd whose ascendancy to captainhood had not erased his bullied past. A past that may have imbued him with the humanistic empathy required to stand up for his female crewmembers, e.g. when he officially admonished an alien-superpowered teen for harassing women on his ship.

I haven't seen all of TOS yet though, so maybe he gets more trashbaggy later on, but I've been repeatedly pleasantly surprised by Kirk's upstanding nature in the episodes I have seen thus far.

(Also I think it's super funny when he tries to fight the Andorian guy with his butt in "Journey to Babel" and it ends up being an effective butt-butt (like a headbutt, but butt-first))
posted by rather be jorting at 6:32 PM on July 29, 2019


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