Pop Science and an Introduction

Hi everyone! After 10 weeks on basic internet science, I thought it might be fun to switch things up a bit.  For the next few weeks (more if we get inspired), I’ve invited a very special collaborator to help me put together a definitive guide to the good, the bad and the ugly of science/math references in popular music.

Say hi to Ben!

Ben is a childhood friend of mine who runs ten-four films, his own blog, is funny on Twitter, and he watches movies.  He grew up without a TV, so of course he rebelled and became a professional film maker.  He’s a font of knowledge on music in general and indie rock in particular, and is the kind of person that responds to emails like “what’s up with Rivers Cuomo?” with multi-page missives that are just a few citations short of being a media studies doctoral thesis. Since that kind of brilliant obsessiveness is one the traits I most value in others, Ben has always been one of my go tos for all things pop culture. If you want to get  a sense of where he’s coming from, check out his favorite albums, TV shows, songs, and movies of 2015.

Anything else you’d like to tell the nice people Ben?

Ben: Hello! And thanks for having me. As Bethany mentioned, this is the sort of thing I do when only vaguely prompted, or sometimes entirely unprompted, and for an audience that often consists of only myself. As Dante once noted, you have to follow your own star.*

*I’m mostly sure this is a Dante quote, but the Internet might be fooling me again.

I like appearing on this site, because it gives me a veneer of intellectual robustness, which is somewhat undercut by the fact that I had to use a thesaurus site right there because I couldn’t remember the word “robust.”

Okay, so what are the rules here?

Both Ben and I have a healthy dose of petty despot in us, so everything’s subject to change at our whim. However, here’s how we started:

  1. We kept the definition of “science songs” pretty broad. We decided to include things that referenced math, scientists and medicine, in addition to more general science stuff.
  2. We drew the line at “science”. Some people try to sneak what are basically “geek” references on to science lists. Dungeons and dragons, while geeky, is not actual science.
  3. The whole song didn’t have to be about science. I’m a pretty big fan of the one line reference, so sometimes that’s all it took to make the list.
  4. I classified how good the science was according to my own whims, Ben classified how good the song was according to his. Ben’s a filmmaker, my taste in music is terrible. It works better this way. Basically, if you don’t think the song should have made the list it did, complain to me. If you don’t like it’s order on the list, complain to Ben.

Wait, Ben, did I just make those rules up or is that how you did things too?

Ben: You made all those rules up. I just followed your lead. But I think we ended up contributing a roughly equal amount of songs to this endeavor, and I think it’s pretty telling we both had mental lists of songs in which we had either applauded or been irked by the science displayed.

Frankly, this is a pretty ideal setup, with you placing the ball on the tee for me here. I’m glad to be Waldorf to your Statler.

Now that you’re all up to speed, we’ll see you next Sunday for “Ten Songs that Got Science Right”.

Click here to read Part 1 of “Ten Songs that Got Science Right!”


3 thoughts on “Pop Science and an Introduction

  1. So just in the normal run of conversation you worked in Rivers Cuomo, Dante, and Statler & Waldorf.

    I, of course, wondered if there were two or three rivers in Italy or something (like the Cris rivers in Romania), and whether they had somehow made the news and I should know about them. I then wondered if there were some Dante quote in the ad astra per aspera series, and there sort of is, https://www.facebook.com/events/1080899508588194/

    I could force a Statler and Waldorf reference, but will refrain this time.

    Where was I? Oh, yes. This is a great idea. i think science movies should be next. Decades ago I saw a dermatologist objecting to Quest For Fire because the humans would have had more skin diseases then.


    • Movies can be tough because they can be so wrong in so many ways. There’s accuracy, emphasis, dramatic effects, etc. I saw a Law and Order once about bone marrow transplant and the whole explanation sounded like someone grossly mispronounce a word. The easy parts were dramatized and the hard parts skimmed right over. Anyway, we’ll see how far we get with music. I rule nothing out.


  2. Pingback: Ten Songs That Get Science Right (Part 1) | graph paper diaries

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