Category Archives: Song of the Week

Scientific awe & wonder in Colleen Brown’s Swallowed Whole

Standing in my kitchen, I first heard this track on the CBC Radio program Key of A. Beautiful, haunting? Check. And inspired by Carl Sagan. What? The name caught me ear and I turned to the radio and, yes out loud, asked again “What?”. That brief mention was enough to make me very curious, and I tracked down Colleen Brown, the Edmonton singer-songwriter responsible for this gem to ask her about it. Continue reading

Race for the Prize

There aren’t many mainstream songs about scientists. I only know of two. One is quite well-known but I don’t like it and it doesn’t really seem to be about science anyway. The other one is The Flaming Lips’ “Race for the Prize”. It was released in 1999 on The Soft Bulletin, and describes a competition between two scientists who are in a race to find “the cure” (not the band, all lower case).

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Toys at sea

In January 1992, a container with yellow duckies and other bath toys fell from a cargo ship in a heavy storm. The container opened in the accident, and the contents spilled out into the Pacific.

Cargo ships lose a few hundred containers at sea every year. The containers usually sink, and the contents end up on the bottom of the ocean. These bath toys, however, were made to float – and float they did.

Song inspired by the travelling bath toys, by Rich Eilbert

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Moot Point

The word “moot” is doesn’t come up much in song lyrics*. My cursory search turned up 30 unique songs that use the word. Almost half use “moot” in a way that may not be consistent with normal usage of the word – at least to my reading.

Inarguably, the most famous use of “moot” in a song is in Rick Springfield’s “Jessie’s Girl”.

I’ll play along with this charade
That doesn’t seem to be a reason to change
You know I feel so dirty when they start talking cute
I wanna tell her that I love but the point is probably moot

It is pretty hard to miss. They lyric sticks out like a sore thumb, in part because “cute” and “moot” almost rhyme but don’t. Like an uncanny valley, if such a thing actually exists, of rhyme.

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O(K Go)ptical Illusion


OK Go are known, in addition to their music, for their quirky videos, particularly a no-edit style that reduces “production values” (and costs) while making the whole thing that much more impressive. They’ve done a Rube Goldberg machine and a sound generating car-obstacle course combo. Now they have an entire video based on optical illusions.

One of my favorite things about optical illusions is not that they show that our brain can be tricked (which it can). It is that optical illusions are entertaining proof that the reality we perceive is a processed version of actual reality. Optical illusions represent a hack of that system.

Hat tip to Lauren Davis at io9.