Wednesday, April 03, 2013

PODCAST: The Annual Physics Sing-Along

This week on the podcast we're talking about the annual Physics Sing-Along, which takes place every year at the APS March Meeting. Go listen to it!

Some of us are still recovering from the awesome intensity of the APS March Meeting, where we learned about such things as the physics of mosh pits; a new device to keep your moonshine safe; and a language map of New York City, constructed using data from Twitter.

Walter Smith and 95 Blues Berry Way at the 2013 Physics Sing-Along
L to R: Eugene Borovikov, Walter Smith, Victor Yakovenko and Sergey Yershov
If you've ever attended the meeting you know it's a whirlwind of amazing new physics, but it can also be mentally exhausting. Packing new information into your brain 8 hours a day for 5 straight days requires stamina, and it's important to take a break and unwind. And what better way to do that than by singing? And if you can sing about physics, well that's all the better!  

Which brings me to one of my favorite events at the March Meeting: the Physics Sing-Along. This is an event hosted by Walter Smith, who is a professor of physics at Haverford College. Smith and his wife, Marian McKenzie, started writing physics songs that Smith could use as a teaching tool in his undergraduate classes, but 8 years ago he decided to start the sing-along as a social activity at the meeting. The result is one of the most awesomely nerdy things I've ever seen.

What's really surprising about this story is that Smith is not alone in his physics song writing. In fact, all the way back to the mid-19th century, there is evidence of physicists taking established songs or poems and changing the words to be about physics. Even James Clerk Maxwell found this to be a worthy pass-time. Smith's website,, has songs from physicists all over the US and beyond.

You can see the complete Sing-Along program here

The one downside to the night was the creepy guy who kept sneaking around taking pictures of everyone.

We were unable to catch this guy before he left, so as far as we know he's still at large. 

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