June 24, 2010

Science Song of the Week #5

This week's featured song is actually a pair of songs.

Though we tend to think of science songs as a new, experimental frontier in education, they have been around for many decades. The true aficionados out there are familiar with such classics as "First and Second Law" by Flanders and Swann and "The Elements" by Tom Lehrer. Even more remarkable than these one-off pieces was the production of a SIX-ALBUM set of Ballads For The Age Of Science in the late '50s and early '60s, with lyrics by Hy Zaret and music by Lou Singer. Of the Zaret/Singer songs, "Why Does The Sun Shine?" (orginally performed by Tom Glazer on the album Space Songs) remains well-known thanks to various cover versions recorded by They Might Be Giants.

Despite the authentic-sounding content of "Why Does The Sun Shine?" -- also known by its first line, "The sun is a mass of incandescent gas" -- They Might Be Giants decided that it needed to be updated. Their new song "Why Does the Sun Really Shine?" begins, "The sun is a miasma of incandescent plasma." As they explain, "Plasma: electrons are free. Plasma: a fourth state of matter. Not gas, liquid, or solid. Plasma -- forget that song. Plasma -- they got it wrong. That thesis has been rendered invalid."

Kudos to They Might Be Giants for keeping up with the latest research!

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