Stories tagged songs


singing songs of science at the Dana Centre in London
singing songs of science at the Dana Centre in LondonCourtesy Gaetan Lee
It's almost Friday, and if that thought alone doesn't brighten your day, this certainly will:

The British Society for the History of Science (apparently not as stuffy as it sounds) has just announced its annual competition to find the world's most imaginative and poetic songs about science. You can read all of the details about how to enter the competition here - and I really think you should, if only because studies show that making music is good for you!

The basic idea with this contest is to take a familiar tune like 'Yankee Doodle Dandy' or 'Clementine' and rewrite the words, but more original efforts will be welcomed, if not by the BSHS, than by Science Buzz readers! Feel free to post your ideas and inspirations here for a critique! The contest organizers are also encouraging people to submit videos of themselves and their friends performing their songs in a creative manner similar to the Dance Your PhD Thesis contest that happened in Vienna last year. Who knew?

To get you all started on your award winning compositions, I suggest listening to these 1950's tunes sung by Tom Glazer and Dottie Evens, then do the Constellation Jig!

Researchers are converting volcanic seismic data into frequencies able to be heard by human ears. These so called “songs” assist researchers in detecting patterns that may warn of future eruptions.


Humpback Whale: A Humpback Whale dives beneath the surface Courtesy NOAA

Scientists Ryuji Suzuki, John Buck, and Peter Tyack used information theory to prove that humpback whale songs have syntax--rules that govern the structure of language.

Like humans, the whales use a hierarchy of communication: they make sounds to build phrases that they can combine in different ways to create songs that last for hours.

The scientists wrote a computer program that breaks down the elements of the whales' songs (moans, cries, and chirps) and assigns a symbol to each one. Then they analyzed the structure of the songs.

Suzuki says,

"Information theory was the right choice because it allows one to study the structure of humpback songs without knowing what they mean."

Sight and smell are limited in marine environments, so sea mammals often use sound to communicate. During the humpback whale breeding season, all the males in a population sing the same song. And the song evolves over time.

Suzuki says,

"Humpback songs are not like human language, but elements of language are seen in their songs."