A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from September 05, 2014
“If it moves, it’s biology; If it smells, it’s chemistry; If it doesn’t work, it’s physics”

A popular saying about science demonstrations has been printed on many gift items, such as T-shirts, posters and coffee mugs:

“If it moves, it’s biology.
If it smells, it’s chemistry.
If it doesn’t work, it’s physics.”


“The old saying applies: ‘If it moves, it’s biology. If it changes, it’s chemistry. If it doesn’t work, it’s physics’” was cited in a student essay in New Scientist in 1977. The authorship of the saying remains unknown.


Google Books
3 March 1977, New Scientist, pg. 525, col. 1:
The old saying applies: “If it moves, it’s biology. If it changes, it’s chemistry. If it doesn’t work, it’s physics.”
(Written by Tarun Stephen Weeramanthri of Perth, Western Australia.—ed.)

Google Books
Man and Mouse:
Animals in Medical Research

By William D. M. Paton
Oxford: Oxford University Press
1984
Pg. 90:
Sir Richard Doll has remarked, ‘There was a saying among my colleagues when I began the first year of preclinical studies to the effect that if it moves, it’s biology; if it changes colour, it’s chemistry; but if it doesn’t work, it’s physics. Some years later a friend added that if it sends you to sleep, it’s statistics.”

Google Books
Getting the Buggers Into Science:
How to Motivate Students in Biology, Chemistry, Physics and Investigations

By Christine Farmery
London: Continuum
2005
Pg. 59:
There is an adage that says:

If it moves, it’s biology,
If it smells, it’s chemistry,
And if it doesn’t work, it’s physics.

Google Books
A Career in Statistics:
Beyond the Numbers

By Gerald J. Hahn and Necip Doganaksoy
Hoboken, NJ: John WIley & Sons, Inc.
2011
Pg. 9:
If it moves, it’s biology; if it stinks, it’s chemistry; if it doesn’t work, it’s physics; if it puts you to sleep, it’s statistics. —Anonymous student

Twitter
binary smasher
‏@kiwinerd
Old saying re experimental science demonstrations
If it moves, it’s biology.
If it smells, it’s chemistry.
If it doesn’t work, it’s physics.
2:18 PM - 5 Sep 2014

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityEducation/Schools • Friday, September 05, 2014 • Permalink