September 30, 2010

Science Song of the Week #19: "Collider" by Les Horribles Cernettes

This week's featured song is more in the "just for fun" category than the "learn a whole lot of science in four short minutes" category. But there are some good reasons to give this one a turn in the spotlight. First, the video appears to have been filmed on location at CERN, the Conseil Europeen pour la Recherche Nucleaire (European Council for Nuclear Research). Second, the group has an awesome name, Les Horribles Cernettes, which shares its acronym of LHC with another CERN-based entity of some renown. Third, LHC can legitimately claim to be the "first band on the web" -- not just the first science-song band, but the first band, period!

Below is a video of their signature hit, "Collider" (lyrics here), about a woman who is lonely because her physicist boyfriend spends all of his waking hours at the lab, smashing atoms.

September 23, 2010

Science Song of the Week #18: "The Double Life of Amphibians" by Two of a Kind

David and Jenny Heitler-Klevans are a husband-and-wife musical duo known as Two of a Kind. They met at Oberlin College in 1986 -- not long before Do Peterson, Kirk Van Scoyoc, and Gretchen Ludwig of Science Groove would get to know each other at the same school. What is it about Oberlin and science songs? Anyway, Two of a Kind has written several kid-oriented science songs, including the one shown below. (Notice the musician playing the frog at the start!) Their YouTube channel has additional videos of science-themed performances at school assemblies and the Philadelphia Zoo.

September 21, 2010

Saving Kids With Science

My boss and I were shown singing science songs -- and talking about their impact on students and society -- in a KOMO-4 TV special that aired last Friday! Below is Part 1 of "Saving Kids With Science"; our segment starts at about 11:55. Also, my song The Waltz of the Ribosomes is played during the closing credits at the end of Part 3. If you aren't sure whether to commit to watching the whole show, you can view the 30-second trailer.

September 16, 2010

Science Song of the Week #17: "Outbreak of Superbugs"

The song below is from Damaged Care, "the musical comedy about health care in America." It was written by physicians Greg LaGana and Barry Levy and has been performed by them in 27 states over 15 years! Thanks to Maryn McKenna's blog Superbug for drawing our attention to this.

September 10, 2010

Rock stars of science

Here is a site that I was surprised to discover. There aren't a whole lot of places on the web where you can find biographies of Harold Varmus and Anthony Fauci alongside those of Sheryl Crow and Seal.

So what's the goal of "Rock Stars of Science"? The mission, as stated on the site, has four parts.
• Make investment in medical research a national priority
• Accelerate therapies across diseases: cancer, Alzheimer's, heart and HIV/AIDS
• Inspire the next generation to careers in science
• Stand together and refuse to accept "no cure" as an answer

The featured scientists are mostly rock stars in the metaphorical sense. However, Francis Collins (of Human Genome Project fame) can be seen and heard playing songs such as The Times They Are A-Changin' with Joe Perry of Aerosmith.

Given the many scientific fields not represented in this group, a more accurate name for the initiative might be "Rock Stars of Biomedical Research on Diseases Prominent in the Developed World." In any case, we here at Sing About Science certainly agree that researchers should be recognized for their achievements and that young people should be encouraged to consider careers in science. Rock on, guys!

September 9, 2010

Science Song of the Week #16: "The Light Wave Equation"

I'm short on time this week, so I'm grabbing the SSotW from the archives of a veteran science songster, Lynda Williams, also known as the Physics Chanteuse. This one is called "The Light Wave Equation." It's completely baffling to me, but Williams has taught physics at the college level and presumably knows her stuff.

September 6, 2010

Science music minus the music

I've written a series of posts on my favorite enzymes at my other blog. They have nothing to do with music, but feel free to read them anyway! Here are the links:
* My favorite enzymes, part 1: S-adenosylmethionine decarboxylase from Trypanosoma brucei
* My favorite enzymes, parts 2 and 3
* My favorite enzymes, part 4: RuBisCO

September 5, 2010

A rant about media coverage of genome sequencing

"Apple genome is cracked by geneticists," BBC News declared on August 30th. The article states, "Scientists from 20 institutions took two years to unravel the apple's code."

While I applaud achievements such as this one, I wish news organizations would stop portraying the latest sequencing of a genome as the cracking of a code. (So do T. Ryan Gregory and Larry Moran.)

Genomes do indeed use a code to specify how proteins should be made. But that code, in which each group of three nucleotides (such as ATG or CCA) corresponds to a single amino acid, was deciphered decades ago. The people who determined how this works -- Robert Holley, H. Gobind Khorana, and Marshall Nirenberg -- were awarded the 1968 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.

Each organism's genome can also be considered a code in the more trivial sense of "something that represents or symbolizes something else." An apple's genome is a genetic representation of an apple, so you can call it the "code" for an apple if you really want to. But I submit that sequencing a genome is not much like cracking a code. As Katrin Weigmann says in a 2004 essay for EMBO Reports, "It is not genes but intricate protein networks that constantly survey the environment outside the cell, monitor metabolic processes and integrate this information into physical function. Simply deciphering the text as laid down in the genome therefore does not necessarily predict how life works at the cellular, let alone at the organismal, level."

Or, as I once wrote in a parody of the song "I Don't Know How to Love Him":

Yes, now we have their genome,
But I don’t see what it tells us.
It’s the genes; it’s just the genes.
And the genes don’t change
When the fuels do,
So how do the cells respond?
We need more clues!

September 2, 2010

Science Song of the Week #15: "Biochemistry Operetta" by Dr. Chordate

If last week's featured song was reminiscent of Timbuk3 and The Cars, this week's offering reminds me of Don McLean's "American Pie" or Meatloaf's "Paradise by the Dashboard Light" trilogy. That's right -- it's a ballad, and it's long! It's by Dr. Chordate, a.k.a. Jeff Moran, who really is a doctor (of the Ph.D. variety).

To hear this newly recorded song -- all 8 minutes and 58 seconds of it -- go to and click on "Biochemistry Operetta."