Trial Balloon

Trial Balloon: May 11, 2010 Archive

Science Meets Art

Posted at 6:00 AM on May 11, 2010 by Dale Connelly (31 Comments)
Filed under: Science


Today is the birthday of the late physicist Richard Feynman. (May 11th, 1918). He was one of the best known U.S. scientists, not a very reliable group for generating interest among the press. But he was a colorful character and an accomplished explainer. He was part of The Manhattan Project and the inquiry into the Challenger disaster. He won the Nobel Prize in 1965 and his name is on the Feynman Diagrams for explaining the behavior of subatomic particles.

And he played the bongos.

There are numerous Feynman videos available online. Here's a short one where he challenges the idea that artists can appreciate beauty more readily than scientists.

And here's an interesting clip that features Feynman along with astrophysicists Carl Sagan and Neil deGrasse Tyson and "science guy" Bill Nye. It's part of a larger project called "Symphony for Science" led by a musician named John Boswell. Using sampling and auto-tune software, he takes the spoken comments of scientists and weaves their ideas into songs. Feynman is the first performer to appear in this video, playing the drums of course.

For people who love music and lyrics, packing information into a song is a great way to remember it. I'll never forget that the earth revolves at 900 miles an hour, thanks to Eric Idle and "The Galaxy Song". Of course it varies based on where you're standing - more like 1,000 miles per hour at the equator. That's the weakness of sung science - song lyrics demand an unrealistic level of simplicity.

Is there something you have trouble understanding that might make a great subject for an educational song?

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