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Scientific song and dance

What started as a creative idea for a video contest about nanotechnology is now growing into a full-fledged science music video production team. Composed of four University of California, Berkley, students and one alumnus, linkurl:The Sounds of Science;http://thesoundsofscience.com/index.html is making a quite a splash with its Broadway-style musical numbers, which enliven the realities of the laboratory through song, dance, and puppetry. Glory Liu and her puppet studentsImage: The Sounds of S

By | November 5, 2009

What started as a creative idea for a video contest about nanotechnology is now growing into a full-fledged science music video production team. Composed of four University of California, Berkley, students and one alumnus, linkurl:The Sounds of Science;http://thesoundsofscience.com/index.html is making a quite a splash with its Broadway-style musical numbers, which enliven the realities of the laboratory through song, dance, and puppetry.
Glory Liu and her puppet students
Image: The Sounds of Science
"I think that's a great idea," says David Kirby, a University of Manchester lecturer in science communication. "They [are] taking something that they love -- music -- and applying it to something else that they love -- science." The group created their first video, "Nano Nano," as an entry to the American Chemical Society's (ACS) NanoTube Contest, which called for video submissions to answer the question, "What is 'nano?'" The contest offered $500 cash prizes to winners of the "Critic's Choice," judged by an ACS panel, and "People's Choice," determined by popular vote. Nano Nano won in both categories. Their second video, "The Safety Song," which made its YouTube premier last month, has already accumulated more than 30,000 hits. Both videos feature handmade puppets as hungry-minded students and Glory Liu as their patient, and musically gifted, teacher. Kirsten Sanford, a science communicator at the Science Channel, sees potential for these videos in the classroom. "I think that the songs are catchy, and they're definitely the type of thing that can increase kids' interest in science and make it look fun and not intimidating." Aaron Rowe, a biochemist who writes for Wired Science, agrees. "Music videos like this could be a boon for science education," he wrote in an email to The Scientist. "They cram a lot of information into a short and entertaining message." Indeed, while The Sounds of Science hopes to reach audiences of all ages, the group's motivation for making their music video about lab safety arose during a summer program for high schoolers. Three of the group members who worked at the camp were required to give a safety lecture to the kids. "We joked, 'Wouldn't it be funny if we had a song for this? We wouldn't have to give the lecture!'" recalls group member Ryan Miyakawa, a fifth-year grad student in the Applied Science and Technology program at UC, Berkley. "We had a lot of fun doing the nano song, so we thought, 'Well, we'll just give it a shot.'" Both videos are available on YouTube and free for teachers to use in their classrooms -- something the group encourages. "We've gotten lots of positive feedback from [middle and high school] teachers," Miyakawa wrote in an email. The flip side, of course, is the amount of time and energy that goes into making these videos, says Marc Friedmann, CEO of science video sharing website SciVee. "I can imagine each one -- to write the words, create the music, and then layout the sequence, and [film] the video -- that's quite a bit of effort." "We put in a lot of man hours," admits group member Patrick Bennett, a third-year grad student in the same program as Miyakawa. Bennett says that a lot of the work gets done during research "downtime," such as waiting for the evaporators and other machines to run their samples. "And the weekends," he adds. But the motivation for creating these videos is much more than killing time, Bennett says. "It's an activity that everyone in the group enjoys," he says. Making the videos allows the group to explore their non-scientific interests, he says, including music and video editing. "These are things we'd be doing regardless of these projects." It's also an attempt at surviving the stress of graduate school, says Miyakawa. "If you're just doing work 24-7, you can burn out. Doing this kind of stuff keeps you sane as a grad student." In addition to winning the ACS contest for which it was made, Nano Nano received 3rd place in linkurl:Wired Science's Top 10 Scientific Music Videos;http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2009/07/sciencemusic/ and has been featured in a number of popular science news outlets, including a linkurl:Nature blog;http://blogs.nature.com/news/thegreatbeyond/2009/02/songs_about_science_xiv_nano_v.html and linkurl:Scientific American.;http://www.scientificamerican.com/blog/60-second-science/post.cfm?id=nanosong-breaks-down-the-miracle-of-2009-02-23 The group says they have ideas for future videos, and plans to use what's left of their ACS winnings to bring them to life. "There aren't nearly enough educational videos on the web," says Rowe, who helped vote Nano Nano into their Top 10 Scientific Music Videos. "Universities and non-profits should support more projects like this."
**__Related stories:__***linkurl:A cancerous melody;http://www.the-scientist.com/blog/display/55998/
[25th September 2009]*linkurl:The Amygdaloids: Scientists who rock out;http://www.the-scientist.com/news/home/53043/
[30th March 2007]*linkurl:The Lab Is Alive, With the Sound of Music;http://www.the-scientist.com/article/display/13696/
[7th April 2003]

Comments

Avatar of: harsh rao

harsh rao

Posts: 6

November 11, 2009

I am really happy and looking forward to this full-fledged music production team to come with such eye-treat so that layman understands that how wonderful and exciting is science.
Avatar of: anonymous poster

anonymous poster

Posts: 2

November 11, 2009

I would like to read the scientific and dance

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