October 8, 2010

Test your knowledge of the science songs universe!

From 2004 to 2006, I sent out a monthly science songs newsletter ("MUSE: Music for Use in Science Education") to members and friends of the Science Songwriters' Association via our Yahoo groups email list. Many newsletters included a science songs trivia question whose answer was revealed in the following month's newsletter. I thought it would be fun to revisit those trivia questions now, so let's take a look! Answers will be (re-)revealed tomorrow!

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.

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")

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

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

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

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.

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

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

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

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

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