Need a study break, but still want to stay in the zone? Maybe something kidlike, fun, or silly will fill the bill! You can warm-up your mind for everything from photosynthesis to DNA to computer-assisted design to speed and velocity to outer space with They Might Be Giants' latest children's album, "Here Comes Science": (and here's a video interview by Time magazine). A review in boingboing states flat-out that "this is the album They Might Be Giants was put on Earth to record," and throws out the possibility that the song "Put It To the Test" is "possibly the best kids' song ever written about falsifiability in hypothesis formation" (heh!). To top things off, they model the self-correcting nature of science by offering not only "Why Does the Sun Shine? ("the sun is a mass / of incandescent gas") but correct themselves in the follow-up tune "Why Does the Sun Really Shine?" -- it turns out that "the sun is a miasma of incandescent plasma / the sun's not simply made out of gas / . . . forget what you've been told in the past"). Some of the songs are so catchy you may find yourself chirping away at the oddest moments to "I am a Paleontologist," "The Bloodmobile," or "Electric Car." Works better than caffeine to perk up the brain cells, guaranteed!
If you're working on biology, how about The Rap Guide to Evolution, from the minds of Charles Darwin and Baba Brinkman? You can listen to cuts on "Natural Selection" ("the weak and the strong / Darwin got it goin' on"), "Artificial Selection," "Unity of Common Descent" and more at his website, and download the album by naming your own price. For a review of Brinkman's theatrical performance of his songs, see Olivia Judson's essay in the New York Times for May 4, 2010, which is where I got the tip. Judson writes that Brinkman spreads the word on evolution:
. . . not by attacking its deniers, but by revealing the subject’s scope, from natural selection to the evolution of human culture and language. At the same time, he teases the audience, sends up post-modernism, mocks himself and satirizes the genre of hip-hop, all with fizzing energy and spell-binding charisma.
Sounds like he deserves an end-of-the-semester A!
Are you less aural, and more a visual hands-on kind of learner? Then what about Crayon Physics, a 2-D Puzzle / Sandbox Game (the Grand Prize Winner at the Independent Games Festival in 2008)? Created by Petri Purho, then a 24-year old student from Helsinki, Finland, Purho explains that "It's a game where your crayon drawings come to life... You draw stuff and your drawings behave physically correctly. As soon as you release the last button, the laws of physics are applied to your drawing." For more, see the game in action, excerpts from some reviews, or the game's forum; you can download a demo or buy it for $20. For fans of doodling and/or mass, acceleration, gravity and the like, it may get those creative energies jumping when you've come to a standstill.
Any readers out there? I'm stocked up for the summer, with the likes of the Jane Austen mash-up Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters (1811 and 2009 -- Jane is joined by Ben H. Winters) -- two of my favorite things brought together at last! It's got a giant rampaging mutant lobster, octopi with glittering tentacles, and lots and lots of pirates -- summer reading at its most memorable!
Got any ideas to share? If so, you can add them right here! In any case, best of luck to everyone on their finals and congratulations to those who are graduating this May!
Everyone else, see you back here in August for Fall 2010 and more history of science, technology and medicine media tips!