Math, A Cappella

I came across this video the other day, and even though I suspect it will not appeal to most of my readers, I could not resist posting it. This is the Klein Four performing their original composition, “Finite Simple Group (of Order Two)”.

I’m already a big fan of a cappella music; that is, people singing unaccompanied by musical instruments. It’s a great form of music for several reasons. And the math humor was just too good to pass up, even if my math training is not sufficient for me to understand many of the references. It makes me smile nonetheless.

This song was recorded back in December, 2004; the group is no longer together as members have graduated (the group was based at Northwestern University). Still, you can watch or download videos of other songs (or this one) at their web site, or even purchase their CD if you like.

re: your brains (by Jonathan Coulton)

I was introduced to this song when my friend zld included it on a CD he gave me. And last week my good buddy Alithair found this video which was made for the song.

Singer-songwriter Jonathan Coulton (wp) is the genius behind this one; he wrote the song as part of his ambitious “Thing a Week” project. Mr. Coulton makes his songs available under a Creative Commons license enabling others to make legal derivations of his work. The video shown here was made by Mike “Spiff” Booth using images from World of Warcraft.

Mr. Coulton says, “I write about a lot of geeky stuff because I am a geek”—this is one of the reason his music appeals to me. But this song is just ridiculous.

[Update: clarified wording]

$50 Billion Science Thing

The Onion, a satire newspaper, has a surprisingly good grasp on both science and public thought. A recent gem is “Scientists Ask Congress To Fund $50 Billion Science Thing”.

A couple highlights:

Another diagram presented to lawmakers contained several important squiggly lines, numbers, and letters. Despite not being numbers, the letters were reportedly meant to represent mathematics too. The scientists seemed to believe that correct math was what would help make the science thing go.

“Now, I’m no science major, but if I’m being told by a group of people that the protons, neutrons, and electrons need unifying, then I think we owe it to the American people to go in and unify them,” Rep. Mark Udall (D-CO) said. “After all, isn’t a message of unity what we want to send to our children?”

But the accompanying illustration sums it up the best:

Diagram of science thing
Diagram of science thing. Credit: The Onion.

I worry, though, that many Americans perceive science in this way. Not only is science getting more specialized, but science education in the United States is slipping. We could become a society of science haves and have-nots, which is something I absolutely do not want to see and is one of the reasons I write this blog. Science should be free and accessible to all, and I hope the Internet will continue to help us find new ways to ensure it.

Earth to Humanity: Blue Man Group Highlights Global Warming

The creative and popular Blue Man Group (wp) has been entertaining audiences with their quirky, lighthearted performances. But Inel drew my attention to a great video they released some time ago highlighting global warming and the environment:

This version is a video of them performing live; Inel featured a slightly different version intended for TV:

What a great video, and a nice strong stand to take. See “Earth to America — Blue Man Group” at their official web site for a downloadable version.

The (Revised) History of the Universe in 200 Words or Less

From astronomer and science humorist Eric Schulman comes this amusing, 200-word history of the universe. You may have come across it before; it has enjoyed wide popularity and has been updated from its original version. Its concision appeals to me.

Quantum fluctuation. Inflation. Expansion. Particle-antiparticle annihilation. Deuterium and helium production. Matter domination. Recombination. Blackbody radiation. Local contraction. Large-scale structure formation. Violent relaxation. Virialization. Galaxy formation. Turbulent fragmentation. Contraction. Ionization. Massive star formation. Deuterium ignition. Hydrogen fusion. Hydrogen depletion. Core contraction. Envelope expansion. Helium fusion. Carbon, oxygen, and silicon fusion. Iron production. Implosion. Supernova explosion. Metals injection. Star formation. Universal acceleration. Supernova explosions. Star formation. Planetesimal accretion. Planetary differentiation. Crust solidification. Volatile gas expulsion. Water condensation. Carbon dioxide solution. Water photodissociation. Escaping hydrogen. Ozone production. Ultraviolet absorption. Polymerization. Coacervate formation. Molecular reproduction. Protein construction. Fermentation. Photosynthetic unicellular organisms! Oxidation. Mutation. Evolution. Cell differentiation. Respiration. Sexual reproduction. Multicellular organisms. Evolutionary diversification. Fossilization. Trilobite domination. Land exploration. Comet collision. Dinosaur extinction. Mammal expansion. Homo sapiens manifestation. Language acquisition. Glaciation. Innovation. Religion. Animal domestication. Fermentation. Food surplus production. Inscription. Civilization! Exploration. Warring nations. Empire creation and destruction. Expansion. Scientific explanation. Colonization. Revolution. Constitution. Vaccination. Industrialization. Emancipation. Invention. Mass production. Urbanization. Migration. World conflagration. Suffrage extension. Penicillin. Depression. World conflagration. Fission explosions. Computerization. United Nations. Space exploration. Population explosion. Environmental degradation. Superpower confrontation. Liberation. Terrorism. Lunar excursions. Resignation. Inflation. Internet expansion. Globalization. Reunification. Dissolution. Union. World Wide Web creation. Composition. Terrorism. Invasion. Extrapolation?

“Woman Overjoyed by Giant Uterine Parasite”

From the Onion, a parody newspaper, comes this amusing take on a common event:

NEW BRIGHTON, MN—Immediately following a physician’s examination for her menstrual cessation, 37-year-old events planner Janice Crowley told reporters Tuesday that she is “ecstatic” with her diagnosis of a rapidly growing intrauterine parasite.

“I’m so happy!” Crowley said of the golf ball–sized, nutrient-sapping organism embedded deep in the wall of her uterus. “I was beginning to think this would never happen to me.”

(continue reading at the Onion)

While humorous, this article does remind us of just how unusual this physiological state is.

Giant Microbes


Stuffed “animal” version of E. coli, from GIANTmicrobes.

My sister sent me a link to GIANTmicrobes, a web site that sells stuffed “animal” versions of many common microbes and more. There’s quite a variety there—aside from the bacterium E. coli, featured here, they have viruses, insects, protozoans, and even prions! (That’s my favorite.)

I think anyone in the health sciences would appreciate these. Most range in price from US $6–7.