October 9, 2010

Answers to the trivia questions!

And now, as promised, the answers to yesterday's science song trivia questions....

1. The song "Drops of Jupiter" by the group Train was a #1 hit in 2001. Which of the following incorrect "facts" is implied by the lyrics of the song?
A. Earth is not part of the Milky Way.
B. We now have proof that life once existed on Mars.
C. Jupiter was named for the Greek god of metallurgy.
D. Saturn is the only planet with rings.
E. Pluto was discovered by Galileo.

The answer is (A). In the song, the vocalist asks his galaxy-hopping girlfriend, "Did you make it to the Milky Way?" -- implying that the Milky Way is some distant astronomical entity, when in fact we are already in it.

2. Though most SSA members toil in anonymity, every so often a science song makes it into the repertoire of a famous person or group. Which of the following recording artists has NOT recorded a science song?
A. Biz Markie ("Energy blues")
B. Flanders and Swann ("First and second law")
C. Kate and Anna McGarrigle ("NaCl")
D. Sam Hinton ("It's a long way from Amphioxus")
E. Sheryl Crow ("Fathom the atom")
F. They Might Be Giants ("Mammal")
G. Tom Lehrer ("The Elements")

The correct answer is (E), Sheryl Crow. (How about covering me on your next album, Sheryl?)

3. The overall winner in the 2001 SSA Student Science Songwriting Contest was a song that included these lyrics:
I got isotopes
Of an element.
They have different masses --
It just don't make sense.
I'll guess you'll say,
"How come they don't weigh the same?"
Neutrons, neutrons, neutrons
Talkin' 'bout neutrons, neutrons.

To which oldie hit are these words meant to be sung?

A. "Born To Be Wild" by Steppenwolf
B. "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow" by The Shirelles
C. "I Want You Back" by The Jackson 5
D. "Your Song" by Elton John
E. "My Girl" by The Temptations

The answer is (E), "My Girl," as originally performed by The Tempations (and later covered by Hall & Oates and many others).

4. Only one of the following purveyors of science songs is/was based in the United States. Which one is it?
A. Les Horribles Cernettes
B. The Metabolites
C. Chris Rawlings
D. Billy B. Brennen
E. Flanders & Swann

The answer is (D). Billy B. Brennen, a children's biology/environmental singer/songwriter, currently resides in New York. Les Horribles Cernettes include
members from various European countries and are based in Switzerland; The Metabolites (the children of songwriters Harold Baum and Peter Shade) and Flanders & Swann are British; and Chris Rawlings is Canadian.

5. A brilliant and famous 19th-century physicist wrote many poems, including the following lines, which he may have sung while accompanying himself on guitar:
If a body meet a body
Flyin' through the air.
If a body hit a body,
Will it fly? And where?
Every impact has its measure,
Ne'er a one have I,
Yet all the lads they measure me,
Or, at least, they try.

Who is the author?

A. Henri Becquerel
B. Ludwig Boltzmann
C. Carl F. Gauss
D. Jean Foucault
E. James Clerk Maxwell

The answer is (E), James Clerk Maxwell. Walter Smith of Haverford College and PhysicsSongs.org offers additional info at: http://www.haverford.edu/physics-astro/songs/rigid.htm

6. In 2000, the York Theatre Company premiered a musical play titled "Fermat's Last Tango." In a nutshell, what is the plot of this play?
A. A Princeton professor struggles to prove a 350-year-old theorem.
B. A dance instructor derives equations that explain the aesthetic beauty of his discipline.
C. An elderly Pierre de Fermat reflects upon a life in mathematics.
D. Parisian disco revelers welcome the arrival of the 1980s at a New Year's Eve party.
E. A famed French composer's most celebrated works are secretly ghostwritten by a mathematician.

The answer is (A). This play is based on the real-life toils of Princeton math professor Andrew Wiles, who did in fact prove Fermat's Last Theorem after many years of work. Professor Wiles was not himself involved in the making of the play, but after seeing it, he remarked, "I think that it did especially capture the feeling that one sometimes has when doing mathematics that obstacles have been put there deliberately to taunt you, but also the feeling of wonder at the beauty and simplicity of it all when one finally sees the light."

7. Of the following, which is the longest science/math song that is currently available in its entirety on the web?
A. "The Krebs Cycle" by Science Groove
B. "Digital Love" by Eric Siegel
C. "Stairway to Kelvin" by the Incubators
D. "Furrier Than Thou" by Dr. Chordate
E. "The First 1000 Digits of Pi" by Math MC

The answer is (B). You can listen to this song -- all 12 minutes and 51 seconds of it -- and find its lyrics at: www1.cs.columbia.edu/~evs/songs/.

8. Which of the following is a real science song (for which a recording exists)?
A. "Albert Einstein's Comb" by Mister Mark
B. "Barbara McClintock's Lipstick" by Jamminella
C. "Archimedes' Socks" by They Might Be Science
D. "Heisenberg's Wallet" by Fun Factory
E. "Newton's Wig" by Terminal Velocity

The answer is (A). "Mister Mark" is the stage name of Mark Burrows, a musician in Fort Worth, Texas.

9. Match the songs (1-5) to the recording artists who've performed them (A-E).
1) "Big Science"
2) "Disco Science"
3) "Mad Science"
4) "Pure Science"
5) "Weird Science"
A) B. Hill-Smith
B) Hustlers of Culture
C) Laurie Anderson
D) Mirwais
E) Oingo Boingo

The answers: 1-C, 2-D, 3-B, 4-A, 5-E. To be honest, even I haven't heard of all these recording artists, but I still thought it was interesting how many songs with "science" in the title are out there.

10. Moving away from the usual multiple-choice format, this question is an essay question. Assignment: assess the chemistry content of the song "Chemical Calisthenics" by Blackalicious. Song lyrics can be found at

Answer: Although the song is a long stream of words, at least some of them appear scientifically suspect. For example, calcium hydroxide and laughing gas are identified as "C-O-H-O-2" and "N-O-2" rather than the more commonly accepted formulas of Ca(OH)2 and N2O. Pretty funny, eh? There is also a reference to "boraxic acid," which I'm not sure is a real acid. Boric acid, maybe?

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