Scientists Are Reviewing Amazon Products the Way They Actually Use Them

By Ryan F. Mandelbaum on at

Scientists are just like us: They buy things on Amazon. The difference is what they actually their purchases for. That’s the basis behind science’s hashtag-du-jour, #ReviewForScience, in which researchers write reviews for everyday products—the way they really use them.

It all began with Scottish PhD student Robyn Womack noticing writer John Birch’s Amazon review for a tea strainer. But he wasn’t using the tea balls for straining tea. He was putting ants inside the balls to test see how they behaved if you moved them between colonies.

The strainers worked well—four stars.

Zoological Society of London PhD student Dani Rabaiotti (originally behind the DoesItFart hashtag) noticed the tweet and encouraged other scientists to share their own reviews using the #ReviewforScience hashtag. And things blew up from there.

University of Connecticut PhD student Austin Spence uses tomato cages to catch hummingbirds:

Fríða Jóhannesdóttir uses a leather punch to collect DNA samples:

Entomologist Jules Bristow uses condoms to feed blood-eating insects:

And entomologist Cameron Webb uses a ladle to collect insect larvae.

Not all of the reviews are great, though. Ecologist Noam Ross’ power drill isn’t powerful enough to collect permafrost sediment cores. Two stars.

There are tonnes of others if you check out the hashtag. But Rabaiotti thinks these reviews can be useful as well as fun. She told Gizmodo in a DM:

I think is actually really helpful to share things that work for you as alternative equipment in science. Often scientists do such weird stuff that there isn’t actually a product manufactured for our needs—so we have to improvise! Sadly sometimes in scientific papers you can’t put ‘oh I measured my birds in a Pringles tube’ or ‘I put the bats in small cotton make-up bags’ so I thought Robyn’s original tweet was a great opportunity for us to share our own weird product use - what works and what doesn’t for your science.

Birds in a Pringles can? Yes, there is a photo:

Don’t let anyone tell you science isn’t a creative field.


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