Category Archives: music

Music Mondays: By Endurance We Conquer

Once more, it’s Music Monday!

Today: the somewhat weird relationship between exploration, daredevilry, and science.

This is By Endurance We Conquer, the opening track from Science From an Easy Chair (the 2015 album from Have Gun, Will Travel).

The album tells the story of the 1914-17 Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition, Continue reading

Music Mondays: Strangeness and Charm

Once more, it’s Music Monday!

Today: particle physics, from Florence and the Machine. Strangeness and Charm is a bonus track from the band’s first album, Lungs.

Strangeness and charm are also two of the six flavours of quarks in the standard model of particle physics; quarks occur tightly bound together to make up the subatomic particles that in turn make up matter in the universe. In the song, the quarks are a metaphor for attraction:

Hydrogen in our veins, it cannot hold itself, our blood is burning
And the pressure in our bodies that echoes up above, it is exploding
And our particles, they’re burning up
Because they yearn for each other
And although we stick together
It seems that we are stranging one another

There’s some artistic license here, as it’s up and down quarks that make up most everyday matter (neutrons and protons); strange and charm quarks are involved in more exotic particles like kaons and D mesons. In particular, a strange quark and a charm quark together make up a particle called a strange D meson, and that particle has a mean lifetime of about 5 x 10-13 seconds. So, those quarks can stick together – just not for very long. But Upness and Down wouldn’t have been a very good song title, I don’t want to make the mustard seed mistake, and I like the metaphor at a more general level.

And now for this week’s I-just-like-it bonus: Amy Millan, from her fabulous 2006 album Honey From the Tombs. This is Baby I:

There’s one week left of summer – or at least, I’ll define it that way, since my fall semester starts after Labour Day. So, I’ll see you next week for one last installment of Music Mondays.

© Stephen Heard  August 30, 2021

Image: Standard model of particle physics, public domain via Wikimedia.org.

Music Mondays: Lonesome Friends of Science

Once more, it’s Music Monday!

Today: astronomy, but also wildlife biology, and a little different perspective on science from John Prine.

John Prine was an absolutely wonderful singer-songwriter. He wrote so many fantastic songs over a long career, and his last album, Tree of Forgiveness, was among his best. But I don’t quite know what to think of Lonesome Friends of Science: Continue reading

Music Mondays: Chemistry

Once more, it’s Music Monday!

Today: chemistry, but also neurobiology. But the song is called Chemistry – here’s Rush, from the 1982 album Signals (sorry, no cool video):

Signals transmitted
Message received
Reaction making impact
Invisibly
(…..)
Oh, but how
Do we make contact
With one another?
Electricity, biology?
Seems to me it’s chemistry

Here the lyrics are playing with a double meaning of “chemistry”, I think – the chemistry of neurotransmission (“electricity, biology”) but also the chemistry of interactions between people and between people and music. Continue reading

Music Mondays: Cold Missouri Waters

Welcome to another Music Monday.

Today: climate change; but I’m going to push the “songs about science” envelope a little. There’s a link to today’s release of the new IPCC report – I’ll explain.

Here’s the Canadian folksinger James Keelaghan with Cold Missouri Waters. It tells the story of the 1949 Mann Gulch fire, in Montana, in which 13 firefighters died.

It’s heartbreakingly beautiful, but is it about science? Continue reading

Music Mondays: White Collar Holler

It’s Music Monday again.

Today: statistics! Yes, really.

The late folksinger Stan Rogers had a little tiny revival last year when that bizarre and brief sea-shanty fad took hold, and Barrett’s Privateers got an extra 15 minutes of fame. Continue reading

Music Mondays: Out Past the Timberline

It’s Music Monday again.

Today: some entomology.  Yes, you knew I’d get there eventually.

Here’s Canadian folksinger Murray McLaughlan, with Out Past the Timberline (from his terrific 1983 album Timberline). It’s a reflection on Canada’s North, and beautifully atmospheric; it’s a real shame there isn’t a video for this song. I’ll admit the science content is a bit fleeting.

What strikes me is this lyric:

When spring waters run
The black flies come
Like a cloud of hungry dust

There are several kinds of insects one might liken to “hungry dust”, but Continue reading

Music Mondays: Endless Forms

It’s Music Monday again.

Today: evolutionary biology!

Here’s the Finnish heavy-metal band Nightwish, with Endless Forms – quite likely the only heavy-metal song ever to quote Darwin and mention Tiktaalik:

Beyond aeons we take a ride
Welcoming the shrew that survived
To see the Tiktaalik take her first walk
Witness the birth of flight

My parents would have assumed that every metal song is about drugs, sex, violence, or most likely, all of those at once. Continue reading

Music Mondays: Mandelbrot Set

It’s Music Monday again.

Today: math!

Here’s Jonathan Coulton, with “Mandelbrot Set” – a song about the fractal set of complex numbers we call, eponymously, the Mandelbrot Set. Continue reading

Music Mondays (new summer series)

Welcome to Music Mondays – something a little different I’m trying this summer.

If you’ve been hanging around Scientist Sees Squirrel, you’ll know that one of the (way too many) things that interests me is points of contact between science and the arts. Continue reading