Image: The Beach Boys (2012 reunion), © Louise Palanker via flickr.com CC BY-SA 2.0
It came on the radio again the other day: “Kokomo”*. It’s a fundamentally and phenomenally stupid song, and yet it’s so perfectly executed that you can’t help singing along a little, even knowing that you’ll hate yourself for it later. Even knowing that you’re hating yourself right now while you’re still singing, but you still can’t stop. That such a stupid, stupid song can still grab you and not let go, and can still blight the airwaves 30 years after its release, is a testament to the song writing craftsmanship of its authors** and to the performance craftsmanship of the Beach Boys. It’s just astonishing how good “Kokomo” can be, while simultaneously being so very, very bad***.
So what is science’s Kokomo? What scientific idea is fundamentally stupid, yet persists (or persisted for a very long time) anyway because it’s been argued with craftsmanship and polish enough to persuade? Continue reading