Breaking Down The Science Behind Orphan Black

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In the BBC America original series Orphan Black, we meet Sarah Manning, a con artist and thief who gets sucked into a conspiracy involving human cloning. During the pilot episode, Sarah witnesses the suicide of a woman who looks identical to her and decides to steal the woman’s identity. As the show progresses, Sarah meets several more clones that share her face, but all have very different personalities.

As someone with roots in Evolutionary Biology, Orphan Black has been a pleasant surprise. While science fiction often exerts poetic license on biology for entertainment value, most of the science discussed in the show is valid or, as with human cloning, has the potential to be true. This is probably due to the efforts of scientific consultant Cosima Herter, a PhD. student in the History of Science, Technology, and Medicine Program at the University of Minnesota (yes, she’s Cosima’s inspiration and namesake).

So what exactly is fact and what is fiction? Continue reading

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