Why are so many scientists also musicians?

Over the last ten years I’ve interviewed several people about their adventures in music and science, and I often asked them why they thought that music was a popular activity among scientists. “Wait,” I hear you ask, “is it, though?”. Yes. Although there are not very many formal studies, all…

A strange time to visit the Herschel museum

The day after the Brexit referendum I visited a museum dedicated to two German immigrants, and some of England’s most prolific astronomers. Siblings William and Caroline Herschel lived in Bath during the 18th century, in New King Street. Two and a half centuries later, the street was quiet, with recycling…

Science songs – why so silly?

Why are songs about science often so silly? You know what I mean. They try to fit long words in the lyrics for the sake of scientific accuracy, they’re reductionist and literal, and they’re often parodies of existing songs with the words changed to be about science. Some of them…

Wellcome Collection event about music

If you’re in London this coming weekend, you should drop by the “Why Music?” events at the Wellcome Collection, organised in collaboration with BBC3. The weekend is packed full with three days of talks, workshops and performances all about how music shapes us. Some events are ticketed, but there are…

Festival of the Spoken Nerd – Full Frontal Nerdity

Last week I finally cleared out my inbox and among lots and lots and lots of mailing lists, ads, and other irrelevant things I found the review copy of Festival of the Spoken Nerd‘s Full Frontal Nerdity, which has been on sale for WEEKS now. Whoops. I watched it almost…

The Musisci List

In the music and science survey earlier this year, I asked people to “name a musisci”. More than half of the participants answered this question, and several people gave more than one answer. Some were obvious jokes (Olivia “Newton” John; Obama), others I had to check, and some wrote out…

Daniel Levitin at BBC Proms

It’s BBC Proms time again! Every summer, the BBC hosts several weeks of concerts at the Royal Albert Hall, culminating in the popular Proms in the Park event. Last Friday was the First Night of the Proms, and on Saturday afternoon, I made my way to South Kensington to attend…

Martha Meets Shakespeare

Way back in December, the Doctor Who Fan Orchestra released “Martha Meets Shakespeare”, the ninth collaboration between musicians around the world performing the music of Doctor Who. I’m in this video a few times, playing alto recorder in a Tardis dress and playing violin dressed as one of the Carrionites…

Cell biology text books and The Beatles

When the third edition of the popular text book Molecular Biology of the Cell (MBOC) came out in 1994, the author photo on the back cover showed the six authors walking across the famous crosswalk near the Abbey Road studios in North-West London. Like many tourists who visit the spot,…

Interrailing through Europe with Borodin and Mendeleev

This post first appeared on The Finch and Pea.   Long ago, in a kingdom that no longer exists, a bohemian traveller was mistaken for a fugitive revolutionary, and arrested. The traveller was Russian chemist and composer Alexander Borodin, who was on his way to Italy with his friend Dmitri…