‘I’m a Stem Cell and I Know It’ from the Frye lab at the Cambridge Stem Cell Institute.
|“I have this great uncle/ who worked on the atomic bomb/ he got a nobel prize in physics/ and a place in this song/ and I bet there were no windows/ and no women in the room/ when they applied themselves/ to the pure science of/ boom”|
For me, one of the best discoveries I made while collecting science-themed songs is singer-songwriter, satirist, pianist, and mathematician Tom Lehrer. You may have encountered his song The Elements in an earlier mixtape. And this one obviously reminds me of the shortest mathematician joke: “Let epsilon be negative.”
“It is very hard to tease out the cognitive universals of music from a sample of white, suburban teenagers listening to Mozart,”
says jazz experimentalist Vijay Iyer in an interview in the current issue of Nature. Iyer started as a physicist but ‘hit a wall in research’ and switched fields to study body rhythmns and music, before becoming a professional jazz pianist and composer. He still carries science with him in his music – much more than other musicians:
“Some composers might write a string quartet ‘about’ string theory, but that is just inspiration, it is not really discovery. I’m more of an experimentalist.” *
Personally, I can stand Björk only in small doses, but since she is now a self-proclaimed science groupie I’ll give it another try. Especially since she was even featured in Nature Medicine and has a song Virus along the lines of “As a virus needs soft tissue, I need you”. Lovely!
Once I got started, I couldn’t stop: Collecting songs with a science theme is quite addictive. Maybe from now on I just hand them out in packages of five or so.
Pardis Sabeti, working at Harvard and the Broad Institute and lead scientist on a recent, discussion-stirring paper on detecting interactions, is also the lead singer in the band Thousand Days. And the person who put together this video must be a huge fan of her and her music – or it’s just a Broad-thing to promote everything and everybody with a video: