Thursday, 21 May 2009

Scientific Lessons in Modesty

By Julie Walsh and Barry Sheils. Runner-up in the History of Science Songs Competition!

Tune - Yankee Doodle Dandy

In days gone by man stood in all his narcissistic glory,
Then he was dealt three wounding blows by scientific theory.
The first came with Copernicus,
The second from our mate Darwin,
Then came Freud’s Unconsciousness,
To stick the final nail in.

In the sixteenth century, just with his naked eye,
Nicolas Copernicus did turn towards the sky, (he)
considered the Celestial Spheres; their majesty, their wonder,
But what he saw revealed for sure old Aristotle’s blunder.
Copernicus did knock us from
The top of the cosmic hierarchy
In fact the earth goes round the sun
That’s heliocentricity!

Charles Darwin saw inheritance, variation and selection,
As making up the golden rule of species adaptation.
In 1859 he wrote the Origin of the Species,
Man’s descent from animals was the underlying thesis.
All life shares a common source
Mankind is no exception
Since Darwin we cannot divorce
Ourselves from natural selection

Finally Freud came along and undermined man’s ego,
He took it on himself to prove the force of our libido.
He looked into our dreams and saw our unconscious desires,
He laid us down upon his couch and showed that we are liars
Now we’ve seen the fall of man
Into his modern paralysis
Science brings its own demands
(Thank God) for psychoanalysis!

Is it a Clock?

By Shana Worthen. Runner-up in the History of Science Songs Competition!

Tune - Clementine

[Would work nicely accompanied by ticking and punctuating bell rings and gongs.]

In a sunbeam, from a gnomon,
was the shadow of a dial
promptly noting, from the day's dawn,
every hour, Roman style.

Oh, escapements, oh, escapements,
oh escapements make the clock!
What's a clock with no escapement?
It's a timepiece, not a clock.

Ground-up egg shells, scrubbed-up sand, and,
marble dust cleaned up with wine:
in a sandglass, falling as planned,
intervals of measures fine.

Water-clocks were dripped by many
from old Babylon and on.
By their hours, four and twenty,
monks awoke for Matins' song.

Verge escapements, oscillators,
pendula, and balance springs:
space and time mapped by Mercators
and clockmakers with their rings.

The Charles Babbage Song

By Alison Adam. Winner of the 2009 History of Science Songs Competition!

Tune - Clementine

Let us sing, now, of Charles Babbage
Let us have an oration
Shows that his was not a drab age
As he invented computation

Leibniz, Pascal, Boole and Turing
These are names that can’t compete
With the Analytical Engine’s luring
And Babbage’s amazing feat

Enchantress of Numbers, Ada Lovelace
First programmer’s not a chap
Looks down on, from some above place
Programming’s continued gender gap

Later folks lived in a lab age
Easier to make your kit
None approached it like Charles Babbage
Though he never quite built it

Then he wrote a Bridgewater Treatise
‘Twas a substantial contribution
Showed us God’s world seen through neat eyes
Paved the way for evolution

He thought science was declining
Wanted it to be reformed
As the Royal Society’s not shining
Said the establishment must be stormed

British Asses, glad of Babbage
And his role in their founding
Proves the truth of Groucho’s adage
Don’t be a member of the club you’re in

Let us sing, now, of Charles Babbage
Despite an occasional folly path
Shows the fab age, have a stab age
Of that splendid polymath

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Song Competition Results

The British Society for the History of Science Outreach and Education Committee is delighted to announce the results of its 2009 Song Competition.

In first place, winning the prize of £100, was 'The Charles Babbage Song', by Alison Adam (University of Salford).

The runners-up prizes of £50 were won by Julie Walsh (University of Cambridge) and Barry Sheils (University of Warwick) for 'Scientific Lessons in Modesty'; and Shana Worthen (Arkansas Little Rock/Canterbury Christ Church University), for 'Is it a Clock?'.

The performance category, and £50 prize, was also won by Julie Walsh and Mike Walsh, for 'Scientific Lessons in Modesty'.

The winning songs will be posted online here shortly; we hope recordings of all the songs will also be posted soon.

Many congratulations to all our winners!