July 29, 2010

Science Song of the Week #10: The Nano Song

This week's featured song is a gem recently brought to our attention by Felix, one of UBEST's wonderful student assistants. Wendy and I were unaware of the American Chemical Society's "What is Nano?" video contest when it was held last year, but the entry shown below -- made by a UC-Berkeley team led by director Patrick Bennett and vocalist Glory Liu -- won both the Critics' Choice and People's Choice awards.

I'm always impressed when the musical accompaniment and arrangement of a song reinforce the meaning of the lyrics, but this production takes the opposite approach. A very modern and cutting-edge topic, nanotechnology, is presented in a very old-fashioned way, featuring puppetry and Mary Poppins-ish music. The contrast makes the video more striking and humorous, at least for me. While a "techno" flavor might have been a more obvious stylistic choice, I'm not sure that it would have had the same impact.

July 23, 2010

Songs from the Science Frontier

...And speaking of frontiers, Oklahoma singer/singwriter Monty Harper is working on a recording project that he calls Songs From the Science Frontier. For the past couple of years, Monty has been hosting Born to do Science meetings at which professional scientists speak to children about their research. These talks are somewhat unusual in that the scientists tell the kids what they do in the lab from day to day rather than simply reciting a bunch of general facts on their research topic. Monty has written a set of songs based largely upon the talks and now hopes to get them recorded with the help of a first-class producer and band.

In general, I want to avoid turning this blog into a series of ads for new products. However, based the novelty of Monty's program and the extensive unpaid work he has already put into science outreach, I think that Songs From the Science Frontier is worth mentioning here.

July 22, 2010

Science Song of the Week #9: Journey to the sun ... without accompaniment!

Recent SSotW posts have had a general theme of "pushing the limits," including featured songs about medicine (a profession based on science but encompassing much more than that) and in Spanish. This week's featured song explores a different sort of science/music frontier, i.e., the minimalist approach to instrumentation. To my knowledge, only one full-length CD of a cappella science music has ever been made: AstroCappella by The Chromatics. The Chromatics' recording of "The Sun Song" has been paired with some striking footage from orbiting space observatories in the video below.

July 15, 2010

Science Song of the Week #8 ... en Espanol!

This week, your faithful correspondent happens to be in Tres Cantos (literally, "Three Songs"), making him wonder about the existence and prevalence of science songs in Spanish. Not being the most worldly sort, he is currently aware of only a handful: a few tracks from La Tierra y el Mar by the Banana Slug String Band, and the following piece from Carl Winter:
Mantenga Bien La Comida

I once saw Carl perform this live, and he sort of apologized for the fact that, unlike most of his other songs, it isn't particularly humorous. "I don't know how to be funny in Spanish," he explained. Personally, though, I crack up at the lines "Yo no soy descuidado, yo no soy descuidado, soy profesor." I'm not careless, no sir -- I'm a PROFESSOR!

July 8, 2010

Science Song of the Week #7 ... and what exactly is a "science song," anyway?

Is this a science song?

Your answer may depend on whether you think of medicine as a science, or whether science songs should by definition include scientific content (as opposed to commentary on the lives of scientists and so forth). I really like the "Anaesthetists' Hymn," but have yet to include it in our list of YouTube's greatest science song hits. What do you think? Does this song inspire curiosity about the science of anaesthesia, or is it simply a funny monologue set to music?

July 1, 2010

Science Song of the Week #6

Well, let's get right to it. This week's song comes to us from medical students at the University of Alberta in Canada. It's a parody of Justin Timberlake's "Sexyback." The new version is called "Diagnosis Wenckebach," Wenckebach being a type of cardiac arrhythmia.

Thanks to Twitter user @WesleyWilson for alerting me to the existence of this song, which now joins our list of YouTube's most popular science songs.