Jonny Berliner - science through song

Science Songs 0.333333

SCIENCE SONGS 0.333333333


Hunting For Higgs

The Large Hadron Collider was built to discover the Higgs boson, which was predicted to exist in the 1960’s. The collider has four detectors around a 27km ring of superconducting magnets. Particles are accelerated around the ring and made to collide in the detectors which capture hundreds of millions of collisions each second. Crazy amounts of computing power is needed to analyse all the data and make sense of it, but why all that fuss? And what is a Higgs boson?

The Higgs boson solved a big problem with the Standard Model – particles which carried the weak nuclear force have mass but particles that carry the electromagnetic force don’t. In quantum mechanical terms, that means that the former cannot travel at light speed and the latter have to, but there was no reason why this should be the case. It was proposed that throughout the entire universe is a field, the Higgs field, which interacts with some particles to give them mass, slowing them down. To prove the field existed required a collision with just the right energy to get the field to behave momentarily like a particle. This particle can’t be directly observed but would decay into particles that could be. They were observed. The field exists.

Save the Humphead Wrasse

Written as a contribution to the Ugly Animal Preservation Society, this song raises awareness of the plight of this remarkable but ugly fish.

The humphead wrasse grows up to 2m in length, making it the biggest of the reef fish, and the older they get the bigger their hump gets. Sadly they are fished heavily for the live reef fish food trade as their flesh goes for $100 per kilo. This is not ethical fishing. Cyanide is poured onto the reef killing 9 out of 10 of the fish, making them unsellable. It also damages the reef and kills many other fish too. But the humphead wrasse is really important for the health of the reef. They are one of the few fish that can eat the poisonous crown of thorns starfish which kill coral reefs. Of course, reefs are an important source of protection and food for much of the life in the sea, so in a way, if the humphead wrasse goes extinct, it’s a threat to all biodiversity in the ocean and therefore a threat to all life on earth. That is, of course, a scientifically dubious claim, but you never know… Save it now!

Rise of the Machines

Machines are getting smarter but will they ever be conscious? And if they do should they have rights. It’s a philosophical conundrum but we should probably think about it before it’s too late!

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Dear Alfred Russel Wallace

We all know that Charles Darwin discovered evolution by natural selection, but many are unaware that he shares that achievement with Alfred Russel Wallace. Despite discovering the same idea they were very different individuals. Darwin was rich, a well known scientist and didn't really like leaving the house. Wallace, on the other hand, was an obscure naturalist, capturing specimens for rich collectors in the jungles of the Malay Archipelago. Whilst Darwin played with worms and held back his great idea, Wallace befriended forest dwelling tribes, and when, in a malarial fever, Wallace realised how species had evolved from a common ancestor he had to share the idea as quickly as possible.

He wrote a letter to his only acquaintance of scientific importance, Darwin, to tell him, having no idea that Darwin had been working on the very same theory for the past 20 years. Darwin at once realised that he would have to publish, or risk never getting credit for this ground-breaking theory.

This song imagines how Darwin may have responded to that fateful letter. 

Nobody Can Tell You 'ow the Brain Works

The human brain is one of the most complex structures in the known universe. We’ve been studying it for years and yet for all the data we have taken on the brain, we really are pretty vague on how it works. Nevertheless there are some things we know pretty well. Roughly speaking, different bits of the brain do different things but how they all co-ordinate is hard to say and bits that are designed for one job are able to adapt themselves to do different jobs. Maybe one day we’ll understand it but don’t expect it to be any time soon!


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The poor albatross is an endangered species. There are a number of reasons for this. Firstly, their mating grounds, which are usually remote islands, can become infested with rats that eat their eggs. They also have a tendency to eat the plastic waste littering the oceans and get caught in fishing lines. What makes things worse for the poor albatross is that they mate for life, so if their spouse gets killed, they may never mate again.

It’s a very sad story especially when one considers how amazing these birds really are. They can glide for thousands of miles and sleep on the wing. They come down only to feed and mate and whilst you’d think they sound like good flyers, they are not. They can only really glide. So if there is no wind, they cannot take off, which is why the sight of an albatross is good luck for sailors.

Call Yourself a Scientist

What makes a good scientist? A healthy doubt of all your beliefs is the first thing. A thick skin to withstand criticism from your peers is another. A keen eye for detail and of course an unquenchable curiosity.

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Geek Porn

The internet has changed the way we consume information. 

It has given us new ways to communicate, buy stuff, learn, play games, meet people and watch loads of pornography. Internet addiction is a recognised problem but by far the most addictive thing (for geeks) are the enormous quantity of amazing science videos!

Circadian Rhythms

Circadian rhythms are not very well understood but they control our lives on a day to day basis.

They are the natural rhythms that we feel every day. They are the reason we get tired when we do and they affect our body temperature but ignore them at your peril. They are regulated by light, so don’t look at your laptop screen before bed and be careful when you change time zones or work shift work because long term negligence of your circadian rhythms can lead to health problems such as diabetes and sleeping disorders. 

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Don't Put Your Bottom on Facebook

It's easy to put something stupid on social media, but much harder to make it go away!

Here's some cautionary tales to help the younger generation (and let's face it, some of the older generation too) make the right decisions.