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Singing Science 129

udderly writes " Wired is running a story about a University of Washington biology lecturer, Greg Crowther, who sings lectures. From the article: 'Crowther bursts into song to the melody of Sugar Sugar, the bubble-gum '60s tune - "Glucose, ah sugar sugar / You are my favorite fuel from the bloodborne substrate pool / Glucose -- monosaccharide sugar -- you're sweeter than a woman's kiss / 'cause I need you for glycolysis."' In college I used many different types of devices to help memorize information like this. Crowther has a page where you can download samples. Among my favorites are The Krebs Cycle and Come On Down (The Electron Transport Chain)."
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Singing Science

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  • Mnemonics (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Shimmer ( 3036 ) <> on Sunday December 04, 2005 @02:30PM (#14179202) Homepage Journal
    I'm all for using mnemonics to remember somewhat arbitrary information (Roy G. Biv, Every Good Boy Deserves Fish), but not for semantic cramming. If you need a song to understand the difference between glucose and fructose, then why bother taking the course in the first place? You're just going to forget everything you learned as soon as you complete the final exam.
    • You're just going to forget everything you learned as soon as you complete the final exam.

      Isn't that what happens anyway for the majority of people? They can't remember where they put the damn remote (something they think of a REALLY important), how are they going to remember anything else? A lot of of people go through the degree mill to get a piece of paper, not because they really are interested in a particular field. And that's why profs spend so much time feeling like they're beating their heads aga

    • Re:Mnemonics (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ltwally ( 313043 ) on Sunday December 04, 2005 @02:52PM (#14179322) Homepage Journal
      "If you need a song to understand the difference between glucose and fructose, then why bother taking the course in the first place?"
      Many of us were forced to take non-major classes that we had no interest in, in order to get our degrees. I'm going to hazard a guess that you either never attended an institution of higher-education, or you attended a technical/trade school.

      Also, one of the reasons that universities force you to learn so many things that you will later forget is so that your future employer knows that you are capable of learning these things. The knowledge itself is often secondary to the ability to acquire that knowledge.

      • Re:Mnemonics (Score:1, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Not the OP, but you are confusing the state of affairs of your country's universities with others. It could just be that the OP is from a different system than you...

        I'm thinking you're probably American? I've heard that US universities make undergrads take a mix of courses outside of their major.

        In New Zealand and Australia (and many other countries I am sure), you have a huge freedom in choosing extra papers as long as you do a few major-related required papers. This means that most people can go through
        • There are a bunch of American universities that don't have core curricula either. (Brown University comes immediately to mind for me.) Depends on which one you attend.
      • For the record, I went to an Ivy League school.

        And I'm going to hazard a guess that you are under 30 years old. As you get older, you'll probably start to realize what a fantastic opportunity you wasted by not paying much attention in college.
    • Re:Mnemonics (Score:2, Insightful)

      by ATeamMrT ( 935933 )
      If you need a song to understand the difference between glucose and fructose, then why bother taking the course in the first place? You're just going to forget everything you learned as soon as you complete the final exam.

      Just because a class ends, does not mean the learning ends. Some people will have a lightbulb click on in their heads, a year later, remembering something from a previous class.

      Most of what we learn when young is compartmentalized. We don't know how topic A1 relates to topic B4. In you

      • We should get the most from everyone, use whatever methods work, and not critisize a teacher for reaching 10% of his students that might otherwise not understand.

        You mistyped '90'.
    • My favorite was "All People Seem To Need Double Penetration"
      • No lie, got this one from my electronics teacher almost 10 years ago -

        "Black Brothers Rape Our Young Girls But Violet Gives Willingly."'s the resistor color coding chart;
        0BLack 1BRown 2Red 3Orange 4Yellow 5Green 6Blue 7Violet 8Grey 9White
    • Yes. The funny thing about the linked to set of mp3s is that if you listen to the songs, they don't really do semantic cramming. There's acutally fairly little hard to remember content in there. As such, other than being an amusing novelty, I would say these songs are just about useless or worse, depending if the student gets distracted by the tune rather than linking it to the lyrics.

      Besides, I happen to subscribe to the notion that it's one of a student's primary jobs to find their own ways to be int

  • by ciroknight ( 601098 ) on Sunday December 04, 2005 @02:32PM (#14179219)
    Bill Nye the Science Guy backup singer/songwriter.
  • by technoextreme ( 885694 ) on Sunday December 04, 2005 @02:33PM (#14179221)
    I can't get this dam song out of my head about snells. Signing n sub 1 sin theta sub 1 signing n sub 2 sin theta sub 2. Gosh darn it. I don't even remember the entire sign only the dam formula. Anway, here is a website from which I found the songs.
    http: >
    Ps. I just had one of those I have no life epathanies.
    • What about:
      The angle of the dangle is equally proportional to the heat of the meat provided that the urge to surge remains constant

      ... except in Soviet Russia, there the meat heats YOU!

    • Reminds me of that Warren Zevon song from Transverse City, "Run Straight Down", which starts out with a chanted:
      4-Aminobiphenyl, hexachlorobenzene Dimethyl sulfate, chloromethyl methylether 2, 3, 7, 8-Tetrachlorodibenzo- para-dioxin, carbon disulfide

      Dibromochloropane, chlorinated benzenes, 2-Nitropropane, pentachlorophenol, Benzotrichloride, strontium chromate 1, 2-Dibromo-3-chloropropane

      I used to know what that was the chemical symbol for...

  • Nice try.. (Score:3, Funny)

    by saskboy ( 600063 ) on Sunday December 04, 2005 @02:40PM (#14179254) Homepage Journal
    Nice try, but the Rolling Stones have been promoting Geology's Rock Cycle for decades now.
    • Nice try, but the Rolling Stones have been promoting Geology's Rock Cycle for decades now.

      "Do it Magma, Lava too, we're gonna make igneous rock from you!

      Under over through and through, just look at the signs and they'll give you a clue."

      AAARRRGHH!!!! stuck in my head from middle school!! About 15 years ago.... so yeh, its been around a while, and quite effective.


  • is idols for biology teachers?
    • Biology would be more FUN if the education system would do what the music and movie industry already does: putting attractive people in positions with no basis whatsoever on merit. Just think:

      Student: Miss Madonna? Could you repeat that?
      *Flashing lights, much vamping, gay dancers abound*
      Miss Madonna: Ooooh, baby, the endocrine system is important
      it makes endocs or something like that
      that help you open Microsoft proprietary format stuff
      *breast-rubbing, grinding*
  • by ATeamMrT ( 935933 ) on Sunday December 04, 2005 @02:42PM (#14179265)
    The worst teachers are stuck in one method. The best ones will explain a topic in multiple ways. I had one math teacher that used things like "Please Excuse My Poor Aunt Sally" to teach about equations- parenthesis, exponents, multiplication/division, addition, subtraction. To someone else, it might be a complex list of what to do first and rules. But he showed a small trick, and nobody missed it. I wish more teachers would take the time to find teaching methods that work, rather than passing the blame to students and telling students to "study harder".

    It is one of the reasons dissection is so important in Biology classes. Kids can't learn by looking at a picture in a book of what the digestive system looks like. It is different to cut a frog open and see for yourself. It also stimulates the imagination in ways books can not. I remember looking at the cardiovascular system and wondering "Why do we have heart attacks? Why not just add a small pump at the inferior vena cava to help weak hearts. And if someone has a heart attack, the pump will act like a CPR machine, keeping blood flowing.

    Teachers like this guy are a pleasure to have. They love their field. They feel a responsibility to reach all students, regardless of how the kid learns. I knew some smart kids in highschool who never made it that far in academia because they got stuck with book learning- read the book than take a scan tron. But when you talk with them, you realize they learn 10X as much as the rest of us when they see something done. I've seen this guy tear a carburetor apart and rebuild it, after watching someone else do it. But he could not do simple Chem 100 problems.

    I wonder how many savants are out there who were pushed out of mainstream education because traditional book reading followed by test taking did not show their potential?

    I think the anwser for education is to require a Ed.D instead of a Ph.D to teach the first four years of college. Let the Ph.D's do research. Just because they are expert in their field does not mean they know how to convey that information to others.

    • Umm... Are you SURE they work? "Please Excuse My Poor Aunt Sally" is PEMPAS, not PEMDAS. I think the word you want is 'dear' rather than 'poor.' Also, you just said the worst teachers are stuck on 1 method, and then give a tale about a teacher that only used one method, but it worked...
      • But it still worked! he failed to recall the nmemonic correctly, but he recalled the information he needed the nmeonic's help to remember.

        His teacher used the standard write-the-rules-on-the-board method and then gave a nmemonic to remember it. That gives you just one extra thing (that's worth a lot) to link it to in memory. That's the best way to memorize things, not to sit and read it over and over again, but to give it a relationship to something else in memory.
        • I'm not saying they don't work in general. PEMDAS is one of the nmemonics taught in almost every school. It doens't get that kind of widespread adoption by not working. I'm just saying he places a lot more faith in that method than he should. The real difference wasn't the method, it was the teacher. Teachers that truly care about their job, and whether children learn, teach a lot better. I've had a few of these teachers and they truly work magic. And by the way, the BEST way to learn things is to us
      • poor ~= per which implies division to me.
    • I think the anwser for education is to require a Ed.D instead of a Ph.D to teach the first four years of college.

      Yeah, then they can suck twice as hard as your high school teachers did.

    • Two genuine cases that illustrate your point: The trainee we once had who failed school, started on the shop floor, went to night school and now has an engineering degree - because none of his teachers realised that book learning was of no interest to him because they had not explained the relevance to him. There was no-one in his school who explained to him that you needed maths and physics to be a development engineer. And the other one? I have seen from personal experience that it can be easier to make a
    • I think the anwser for education is to require a Ed.D instead of a Ph.D to teach the first four years of college. Let the Ph.D's do research. Just because they are expert in their field does not mean they know how to convey that information to others.

      The thing about higher education, universities at least, is that you are supposed to take responsibility for you own education. You're not taught, you study. What you propose, is to turn college into an extended high-school.

      And while the Ph.D's might not be gre
  • Physics Rap (Score:3, Funny)

    by FuzzyDaddy ( 584528 ) on Sunday December 04, 2005 @02:43PM (#14179275) Journal
    At Berkeley, there was a professor who used to start out his graduate condensed matter class with a rap about the subject. All I remember is "If it's 1-D you desire, use lithography to make a real fine wire..."

    I think he got tired of it after a few semesters, but it was fun while it lasted.

  • I ran accross Linda Williams, the "Physics Chanteuse." She has a similar routine. []
  • I'm thinking back to all of the many slashdot stories I've read over the years...and this could flat out be the absolute nerdiest thing I've ever read. Wow.
    • Re:Mother of God (Score:4, Informative)

      by JabberWokky ( 19442 ) <> on Sunday December 04, 2005 @03:24PM (#14179484) Homepage Journal
      Oh, c'mon... this is pretty durn standard stuff. I have a box of cassettes of this kind of music, and a rack of CDs. It's called Filk, and there's both Science and Science Fiction variants. Back before it had a name, it was just music done by scientists and professors. Tom Lehrer was singing about the elements, Wernher Von Braun and New Math starting in the late 50s, and I have a songbook of Medieval students songs that predates that by several centuries.

      Heck, I've written songs about Polyethylene terephthalate and patch panels... they are things I work with and like. I also write and sing songs about corsets and myths and the SCA. Pretty much anything that somebody likes or is into, if they are a musician, gets written about. I have lyrics about the tetramanganese cluster in Photosystem II because my fiance worked with it.

      It's not "nerdy", it's simply people singing about what they do, work and play with. Pretty much the same as all the songs about the railroad, playing baseball or about steelworkers, only these happen to be written by people in the sciences. If you're riding on a railroad, you write "City of New Orleans". If you're working with NMR spec, you write a song about spectroscopy.


  • by fyoder ( 857358 ) on Sunday December 04, 2005 @02:44PM (#14179284) Homepage Journal
    Singing Science Records []

    My favourites are 'The Ballad of Sir Isaac Newton' and 'Why Does the Sun Shine'.

  • by oever ( 233119 )
    The Hawkman []

  • by jurt1235 ( 834677 ) on Sunday December 04, 2005 @02:45PM (#14179286) Homepage
    My favourite for learning to count in bin:

    1100011 bottles of beer on the wall, 1100011 bottles of beer.
    Take one down and pass it around, 1100010 bottles of beer on the wall.
    1100010 bottles of beer on the wall, 1100010 bottles of beer.
    Take one down and pass it around, 1100001 bottles of beer on the wall.
    etc etc etc
  • Nice, but MC Hawking's 'Entropy' is so much more fun.
  • Check out "The Elements". It's not exactly helpful for memorizing the periodic table, but it's fun to try to sing. Also "New Math". He has many other science related songs, being a mathemetician himself.
  • Remembering little memnomics rarely worked for me. I just flat out just crammed it in there securely enough, and in general it stayed. Though when I read numbers I see patterns all over the place, and so I am quite good at remembering phone numbers. I also happen to be pretty good at remembering equations, again because of all the little patterns I see.

    But using music to learn... I would fail that class! I can listen to a song, and I usually can only remember about 3 words at once. When I hear the next th

    • This is an issue of multiple intelligences. We all learn in different ways, we all think in different ways. Regardless of the teaching style (relaxed, disciplined, playful, structured) and method (verbal, written, musical, visual, repetition, practical - and there are many more), there will often be some students who struggle to learn. Some people's brains are simply not structured to understand certain kinds of information (although brains are fairly dynamic and malleable). A successful teacher will commun
  • Are there going to be little mathy marks next to/over/under the words of the lectures to help the speaker remember what to sing? 'Cause those tend to be damned hard to learn.
  • Reminds me of... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Masato ( 567927 )
    Reminds me of Fourier's Song [] that we got to listen to in class this year.
  • (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Pendersempai ( 625351 ) on Sunday December 04, 2005 @03:11PM (#14179412)
    I highly recommend taking a look at . It's full of fantastic songs about physics.
  • One of my physics professors was interviewed several times with a number of articles written in major newspapers like the New York Times for his physics songs. One such article can be found at px []. All his songs can be found at []. He usually has a song for each major subject in the syllabus, and, unlike the students in TFA, we were usually quite receptive, to the point where we would write our own songs. Some i
  • No discussion of this can be complete without a mention of the Klein Four [], and a capella group from Northwestern University.

    My favorite song of theirs is Finite Simple Group of Order Two, for the sheer audacity of cramming so many math puns into so few words. First three verses:

    The path of love is never smooth
    But mine's continuous for you
    You're the upper bound in the chains of my heart
    You're my Axiom of Choice, you know it's true

    But lately our relation's not so well-defined
    And I just can't function without

  • We love DNA, Made of nucleotides, A phosphate, sugar and a base, Bonded down both sides. Adenine and Thymine, Make a lovely pair, Guanine without Cytosine, Would be rather bare.
  • "Let's name the zones, the zones, the zones.
    Let's name the zones of the open sea!"

    I have watched Finding Nemo entirely too many times.
  • Who can forget Flanders and Swann's The First and Second Laws of Thermodynamics []

    "The First Law of Thermodymamics:
    Heat is work and work is heat"

    "The Second Law of Thermodymamics:
    Heat cannot of itself pass from one body to a hotter body"
  • so many songs (especially in math) have helped me remember things well (such as the song for the quadratic equation), but i can't see using the technique in excess to be beneficial.

    songs are great for memorization of long equations and similar things that are too long to really remember in a short way, but have to be memorized nonetheless. singing whole lectures, that's probably just going to get really annoying.

    and i hope this professor is a good singer.
  • My chem teacher in high school delivered his lecture on "solvation" in the form of a "salvation" sermon. It was fantastic.
  • One of my lecturers back when I was at uni, did a technically correct rap about c#. Microsoft filmed it, but never made it available. I did film it. I'm just trying to dig it out.
  • From the song "Why Does the Sun Shine" made famous by They Might Be Giants (though it's not their song... it's from a 1959 educational record called "Space Songs" on the Singing Science Records series from Motivation Records).

    "The sun is a mass of incandescent gas,

    A gigantic nuclear furnace,

    Where hydrogen is built into helium

    At a temperature of millions of degrees."

    So, nothing new really...


  • Anyone remember that episode of Cheers where Coach uses song to pass a geography test?

    Albania, Albania, you border on the Asiatic . . .

    Sung to the tune of "When the saints go marching in." Who can complete it without Google? ;)

    I haven't watched Cheers in decades but I can still remember that (&*^ song. I've used similar song based mnemonics for passwords and other rote, just have to memorize it type of things and it works for me.
  • Didn't Jack Black do this (or pretend to) in School of Rock?

    Also , never forget the Animaniacs' Warner Bros (and sister!) doing the countries of the world, among others ( []).
  • Just wondering...
  • Great party! But could you please play that song about the electron transport chain for me?
  • In highschool, my extremely flamboyant chemistry teacher used to dance around the classroom. He called it the water molecule dance -- he'd barely move at all for the frozen part, bop around more merrily for liquid, and be all over the place for gas. And while it isn't exactly a real science, one of my computer science profs has been known to sing "Lambda Bound" to the tune of "Homeward Bound" and has promised us that he will sing us some other unspecified song by the end of the year, presumably at the par
  • Our professor brings his electric guitar to the lab, and plays blues, rock, along with songs about DNA and cloning. He gives extra points for writing haiku about DNA as well. It's not for memorising, but to have fun and like the class. Once you are not bored you really learn something! A Man named Taq: Let me tell ya story 'bout a man named Taq Always priming forward never looking back Amplifying sequence for the research mind Extending off the primers on the PCR line Born near a thermal
  • ..being that I cannot actually remember ANY song lyrics in the world. Take the simplest child song you have and I'll mess it up when I'll try to repeat it, so this is really bad news for me.

    The good news for me is that I can remember hard facts tho, and second best thing is that I'm actually a retired computer programmer, now working with craft..

    It goes the same for quotes, even if I love movie quotes, I always mess them up.
    • That is exactly the same for me. I was at a party yesterday and I was trying and failing to sing the lyrics to songs I've heard a hundred times over. Even though I can remember what it's about, the specific words elude me.
  • My favorite is Moxy Früvous's "Entropy". I found that I knew all of the lyrics to it when I remembered it several years after I first heard it, and then I played it back in my head and thought about the lyrics and now I realize that I know things like that James Joule developed the Law of Conservation of Energy. (Boy I hope that's correct now that I said it!)
  • Of course we all rememeber Tom Lehrer's The Elements. If you haven't see the flash animation that was made to it, you should, so here it is. []
  • I'll never forget my calc techer in college and his mnemonic for memorizing the sin and cos for the summation of two angles:
    sin(x+y) = sin(x)cos(y)+cos(x)sin(y)
    cos(x+y) = cos(x)cos(y)-sin(x)sin(y)

    You have to imagine a VERY large, balding, ex-marine jumping up and down in front of the blackboard squealing at the top of his voice in his best cheerleader impression:
    Cos! Cos!
    Sin! Sign! Sin!

    It doesn't translate as well in text but in was absolutely hilarious and somewhat frightening...
  • As a casual musician and a professional entomologist I think it's great. I was surprised that they were actually quite good at their musical composition! Now, if I can only figure out how to substitute in trehalos (i.e., insect blood sugar) for glucose.
  • 'When a body is totally or partially imersed in a fluid

    the apparent loss of weight

    is equal to the amount of fluid displaced'

    I forever remember these words after seeing my physics teacher prancing around the lab with his viola singing this ditty. Trouble is I have no idea what it means.

    • It's Archimedes Principle, it gives the amount of upthrust a body will exprience when immersed in a fluid. And singing lectures do seem to be popular with biologists, I'm told that one of the biology lectures at Cambridge near the end of term is done entirely in song.
  • I wish I would have read this article earlier.

    This professor was famous on campus for these sets of mp3s that have apparently been praised in some publications.

    Al White, University of Wisconsin - Manitowoc Center. htm []
  • by kimvette ( 919543 ) on Sunday December 04, 2005 @06:03PM (#14180358) Homepage Journal
    Maybe he got the idea from Happy Days whre the student (Potsie) sings - anyone remember this episode? []

    (scroll down to "Pump Your Blood")

  • []

    These are the only ones of which the news has come to Harvard...
    ...and there may be many others but they haven't been discovered!
  • serious doubts (Score:2, Interesting)

    I think we can all agree that remembering something has nothing to do with understanding it. That's why I have serious doubts about this kind of "educational practice", because it focuses on memory. Well, if the main purpose of the class is passing the test and getting a grade, I guess it's ok. If the guy actually wants to *teach* something, it's gonna take more than funny songs to put _knowledge_ in people's brains.
  • ObPotsie (Score:3, Informative)

    by volpe ( 58112 ) on Sunday December 04, 2005 @07:07PM (#14180706)

    Pump, pump, pumps your Blood.

    The right atrium's where the process begins, where the CO2 Blood enters the heart.

    Through the tricuspid valve, to the right ventricle, the pulmonary artery, and lungs.

    Once inside the lungs, it dumps its carbon dioxide and picks up its oxygen supply.

    Then it's back to the heart through the pulmonary vein, through the atrium and left ventricle.

    Pump, pump, pumps your Blood.


    Pump, pump, pumps your Blood.

    The aortic valve's, where the Blood leaves the heart, then it's channeled to the rest of the bod.

    The arteries, arterioles, and capillaries too bring the oxygenated Blood to the cells.

    The tissues and the cells trade off waste and CO2, which is carried through the venules and the veins

    Through the larger vena cava to the atrium and lungs, and we're back to where we started in the heart.

    Pump, pump, pumps your Blood
  • Same idea - I use's Entropy to read the laws of Thermodynamics.
  • This [] is a professor too, isn't it?
  • I can't believe that no one has posted a link to Eric Siegel's songs [] for teaching Computer Science. He has published a paper about them [].
  • Give the man credit; he's a crack parodist.

    His line "I believe in spiracles!" to the tune of Sexy Thing by Hot Chocolate is pretty def shit. So is the opening to his Beach Boys parody, which goes:

    Well, since she left me flat,
    I've been living in another dimension.
    I've been feeling as alone
    As an angle at a circle convention.

    But if you had to sit through this...

    Help me, Rhombus, help, help me, Rhombus.
    Help me, Rhombus, help, help me, Rhombus.
    Help me, Rhombus, help, help me, Rhombus.
    Help me, Rhombu

  • Cheats: IMDB link []

    They write a song to the tune of Beethoven where each word is the answer in a multiple choice exam.

    The song: [] Start at the line: Crippled elves do dance around

  • To "The Flintstones" theme:

    Meet the sponges.
    They're animals that live in the sea.
    They're all
    Spongeocoel's the central cavity.
    They have
    A mouth called the osculum
    And they
    Feed with their choanocytes.
    When they
    Go reproduce
    They'll have a hermaphroditic time
    'aphroditic time
    They'll have a gay old time
    (da, da da, da Da da da, da DaDa, da DaDa, da DaDa da, Da)

    (probably spelled most of the terms wrong, I got some extra credit singing that in front of my high school biology cl
  • Biochemists songbook [] The Horror is not to be underestermeated (I bought the cassette 10 years ago... some songs live with me still <sob>)

"Conversion, fastidious Goddess, loves blood better than brick, and feasts most subtly on the human will." -- Virginia Woolf, "Mrs. Dalloway"