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LHC rap! July 28, 2008

Posted by dorigo in internet, news, physics, science.
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This youtube video is a MUST SEE. Kudos to Alpinekat (to whom I ask to leave here an email contact) and colleagues for the huge contribution to the popularization of particle physics and Science in general!!!

Update, July 29th: Thanks to Dennis Overbye, I now know the name of the artist who wrote the lyrics and sang it in the video. Her name is Katie McAlpine, a science writer working at CERN. DUH! How’s that for a deceiving nickname ?


1. Big Vlad - July 28, 2008

oh my god

2. Kea - July 29, 2008

COOL!!!! I linked it on my blog too.

3. Marco - July 29, 2008

OMG! πŸ™‚

4. goffredo - July 29, 2008

I lost my audio on my lap-top and looked at it mute. By following the text I could imagine the rapping (heard enough and still listen to good texts and I have some talent with words, finding ryhms and rythms.)

My wife says I am getting old (inpite of my ryhmings and rythmics) as my patience has worn down. But I have never been patient with such things. I must be franck!

I found the whole thing embarrassing! Somewhat of a surprise that physics students (hope no post-docs) could stoop so low. I know for certain they could have made a better use of their time. To try to convey enthusiasm for science and physics in particular is a noble thing, but why stoop low just to suck up to trendy fashions in an insipid and spinless way rather than reiterate with pride that there is more to life than herding. Physicist should emerge and help others emerge by setting an exmaple. To see some dorky looking guys and gals with bump caps, with or without glasses and white coats move their bodies is just ridiculous. What is the message? That physists are just ordinary guys and gals? Bull shit! What it the goal? Get the attention of rap-loving kids that could otherwise care less about studying anything, let alone science? Gigantic bull shit! Do you really think this works or is it more likely these kids will think that the guys and gals in the video are real dorks!

5. dorigo - July 29, 2008

Jeff, I am with your wife on this one. And if you missed the audio, you missed the whole thing.

In any case, popularizing science is a must. There is simply no other way.


6. oneoverbeta - July 29, 2008

More about alpinekat: http://www.symmetrymagazine.org/breaking/2008/07/29/rapping-the-lhc/
Done on her own time while working as a science communicator at CERN, for fun and in the hopes of getting some (perhaps) new people to care about the LHC. Not a bad goal…

7. goffredo - July 29, 2008

I will make the effort to hear the audio. But I fear I will be even more disgusted as I hate lousy rap; i.e. rap that has nothing to do with what rap is all about.

By saying what my wife thinks, I was of course putting up front what is anagraphically true. And I gave you a dud bullet. I spent it, I used it, before you did. An old trick.

Of course I do not belong to the generation of high school students and not even to the generation of the lovable physics students that made the video. But I really do feel young on this one; i.e. full of energy in criticizing this, what I find, a truely foolish way of popularizing science.

And I do not think that popularizing science is a must. Any scientific basis for this claim? or is it just ideology all the way?
I fear you haven’t thought hard enough about it or haven’t had teaching experince or even spent time reading about how difficult it REALLY is to teach science, to break through cognitive walls and reshape ways to look at the world. If you did then you would realized how most popularizations teach really very little if anything and some can do more damage than good as they project the wrong message.

Being, this video, an attempt to popularize does not make it good by default. In my opinion it is a cheap and spineless attemp to popularize and a waste of time and money. I hope they paid for it with their own money! They certainly spent their time. They are young and have time. But then do they really (have time)?

Popularizations such as this one do not really make a difference; i.e. they do not get more people interested in doing science. The small fraction of kids that see such a video or popularization will approach science even if the approach had been diametrically opposite, i.e. some people excel inspite of their teachers. Do you really think the rapping is all it takes to make swarms of youngsters want to do science, or do you maybe think the cool images and computer animations will do the trick. Indeed if you cann’t do real service to those that need proper attention, then what the fuck are you doing? Wasting time and money.

Jeff, an old young grouch

8. Everything you always wanted to know about LHC… « Gravitas Free Zone Weblog - July 29, 2008

[…] tip to Dorigo, for pointing out in his blog the video above, an LHC rap shoot on location at CERN. At least from […]

9. Roberto - July 29, 2008

Tommaso, I’ve found it nice – linked.

Goffredo, as I said in my repost, I find the text more accurate than most articles on LHC appeared in newspapers – Italian ones, at least. And this should already be meritorious.
On science popularization, I limit myself in mentioning my own personal experience: without having been inspired by a few popular science sources, I’d never tried to do science myself. Which could have been beneficial to science, I admit, but the same is not true in most other cases.
Finally, about (free) time, you seem to have a lot of it yourself in order to write your comments.
Again, I can’t deny it is the same for me πŸ˜‰

10. goffredo - July 29, 2008

Caro Roberto
I do have free time. I earned it.

11. Guess Who - July 29, 2008

Goffredo, please… after two decades of Les Horrible Cernettes, it was about time for the LHC to meet rap!

A little more seriously, I’d like to make two points:

1) Think what you will of popularisation, but you have to start somewhere. I presume you agree that people, kids in particular, don’t start out reading research papers. Or even textbooks. Or even knowing that there is such a thing as science. School? Generally sucks, and by the time it gets around to “oh by the way, there’s this thing called science” it’s already too late for the obnoxiously bright and precocious little brats which you should want most of all. Some of them may get interested in science by accidentally coming across magazines or books – popular ones, that is. Others may catch the first glimpse of it by watching TV. But that’s old, dying media now. Get with the times: today’s kids are more likely to be browsing the web, YouTube included, than to be watching documentaries on the old tube. Put this video in front of them, and they’ll start asking Google all sort of questions. Then they’ll be hooked.

Poor bastards. OK, I almost talked myself out of this one now. πŸ˜‰

2) The suffocatingly stuffy attitude that having some innocent fun by making a rap video about physics is to “stoop low” is one of the Big Turn Offs of academia. It just reeks superiority complex: “We are all Spocks here, perfectly rational creatures of God-like elevation above the silly little concerns and pastimes of you dumb little ones and your pointless little lives”. Great image to project if you want to attract young people and maybe even a little bit of funding.

12. goffredo - July 29, 2008

Guess Who.
OF COURSE I am not suggesting that the approach should be arrogant. I am suggesting that the approach should be challenging. Challenge the kids, don’t stuff gee wiz notions down their throats like they were stupid and passive geese or try to fool them with cheap “Hey we are normal guys, and like rap just like you”.

And YES you really did almost(?) talk yourself out of the first one, for I find it very hard to believe the scenario of legions of kids not liking school, spending time on internet, watching youtube, and yet getting hooked on science by seeing some dorky video. And then… When they get to college they suddenly and painfully discover that they don’t know how to study, cann’t tollerate frustrations, succumb to peer pressure, cann’t write a decent report, have an attention span that is measured in seconds, don’t know how to organize their confused thoughts, etc etc.. Are these poor bastards to be the next generation of scientists? Of course not.

The next generation of scientists are those kids that liked at least some subjects in school, learned early how to study and to organize their thoughts. They make a choice for their future because they have a passion. But I acknowledge that their passion may have started years earlier for weird and personal reasons (comic books, scifi books, movies, even vidoes, a headline news, a relative, a father giving his kid his first science book at the age when kids look up to their dads,…). So I acknowledge that maybe this video might even get some kid hooked. And that would truely be a wonderful thing. I just find it unlikely (in view of the dorky impression the physicists give).

And I do think there are better ways of exposing people to science where everyone learns something, including the physicist that learns something about psychology, cognitive science and even philosophy. The GEE WIZ approach to popularizing science is not only useless, it is superficial and not even wrong. Indeed it is completely artificial and has no basis in everyday life nor in serious physics labs. It seems only to exist at the interface between scientists (frequently naive and ignorant of real life elements of sociology) and the public, be it jounalists, politicians, tax paying adults, parents and of course swarms of hormonal school kids.

13. Fred - July 29, 2008

A very noble and entertaining effort. I put it in the same category as the “Rocket Man” Saturday sci-fi matinee shorts and the ‘build your own rocket ship’ comic book ads enjoyed by the millions of kids in a by-gone era. If alpinekat and her cohorts influence just one youngster to consider being involved with the scientific community at a later date the video was well worth it. Who knows, that one person could be the straw who stirs the drink to determine the future budgets in the seemingly remote world of physics with its isolated dreams. I also appreciated the humor, the related graphics and the continuity of the final edit. I second GW’s motion. Female rapping physicists rock! Goffredo, you play the devil’s advocate very well but we secretly know that you love your students and their precociousness dearly.

14. Guess Who - July 29, 2008

Goffredo, I think you pretty much got the gist of my point (1). When I say that school “sucks”, I don’t necessarily mean to say that (bright) kids loathe it, just that the quality of public education is generally very low, and by its nature no match to the outliers. School “sucked” for me, in the sense that for roughly a decade, my interest in science was essentially unrelated to it. I aced it, of course, but that was no big deal. πŸ˜‰ A mix of TV documentaries, popular magazines (SciAm above all) and books lured me into nerdom long before school got to it. If I were an equally precocoius and curious kid today, I would probably be getting the equivalent indluences online. I agree that you don’t learn much from “gee wiz”, but if it gets you started wondering about things, that’s good enough. It only becomes a problem if people get stuck at the “gee wiz” stage and don’t grow beyond it. So for instance, somebody watching that same LHC video for the tenth time might want to do something else now… you hear me, TD? πŸ˜‰

15. dorigo - July 29, 2008

Of course I am hearing. I am all ears. I liked the way you put it, and agree with all you have said about the matter.

To me, popularizing science is a must not just for kids, but also for those who “stir the drink”, as Fred nicely put it, to continue funding scientific advancements in pure research -that which is always unable to explain its value to a businessman. A product like this video has a lot of potential, and I know what I am talking about… Wait until D., a reknowned player in the publishing world, acts on this thing, and you’ll see.


16. goffredo - July 30, 2008

Fred wrote
“Goffredo, you play the devil’s advocate very well but we secretly know that you love your students and their precociousness dearly.”

FRED! You made me blush!

17. Particle physics rap: Making the Large Hadron Collider sing « Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub - July 30, 2008

[…] Particle physics rap: Making the Large Hadron Collider sing In the tradition of Richard Feynman’s ode to orange juice, but spiced with actual information: Tommaso Dorigo at A Quantum Diaries Survivor found a video on YouTube showing a rap about the Large …. […]

18. Tony Smith - August 1, 2008

the rap LHC video is fun and highly rated on YouTube,
so thanks for mentioning it.
You said “… Wait until D., a reknowned player in the publishing world, acts on this thing …”.

What about Berlusconi? His magazine Science et Vie gave a cover story (January 2008) about Garrett Lisi’s E8 model, declaring (on the cover):
“… Theorie du tout Enfin!
Un physicien aurait trouve la piece manquante ..”,
with a cover illustration showing the missing piece of the puzzle being found and falling into place.

Whatever you think of Garrett Lisi’s E8 model, and whatever you think of other aspects of Berlusconi, the Science et Vie cover story shows that Berlusconi is interested in popularizing physics,
and maybe your “D.” might act similarly.

Tony Smith

PS – Although I don’t have a YouTube account,
and so have not ever put anything up on YouTube,
I recently also made an effort towards a 4-minute (roughly) video
about physics, but with some history etc thrown in.
Mine is on the web as a 17 MB .mov file at


My audio is not as contemporary (mine is part of Beethoven String Quartet Op 131),
and since I am too old and ugly to appear in person, I made the video out of a science/history slide show,
so my effort is probably not so popularly accessible,
but maybe somebody somewhere might find some part of it to be of interest.

19. alpinekat - August 5, 2008

Hi Tommaso – Thanks for posting and defending the rap video!

I’m reachable at kate.mcalpine at gmail.com.

And Goffredo – Our dorky getups were aiming for “nerdcore.” Like it or not, budding scientists get saddled with the “nerd” stereotype early on (me included) and some keep their enthusiasm about science quiet trying to avoid it. Nerdcore is all about embracing nerdiness instead of running from it, usually poking fun at the stereotypes simultaneously. The video took a fair amount of my spare time, and a few hours from other people (maybe more from beat man Will), but this was a zero-budget film. Even the camera was borrowed, and the clips were edited in Windows Media Maker. No physics resources wasted here πŸ˜‰

20. goffredo - August 5, 2008

Dear Alpinekat
You were “aiming for nerdcore”? You speak of the need to “embrace nerdiness instead of running from it”?

Many budding scientists don’t think of themselves as nerds. I certainly didn’t and any SOB that made fun of me because I liked studying, loved science (physics in particular) and adored Bach was instantly silenced by cutting remarks. I learned to defend myself. But you need to defend yourself from a very dangerous enemy that was never mine: yourself! I was always indifferent to the need to be accepted (peer pressure) and actually got greater inner strength the more I was surrounded by herds of mindless idiotic sheep (people tend to behave like idiots once they are sheep and move in groups).

Very warm suggestion. Keep secret the motivation for making the video. Nobody is reading this thread anymore so I don’t think any damage was done. And also keep from telling people what you think about yourself; at most tell it to close friends.

Sincerely patronizing


p.s. I kind of hope you tell me to shove it. It would show you have balls.

21. goffredo - August 5, 2008

AlpineKat. I wish to point out, as it might not be completely obvious to all, that I hope you have metaphorical balls. That IS as far as my very limited sense of PC will allow me to go.


22. Giorgio. - August 9, 2008

Goffredo, you probably do not realize this, but you are making a fool of yourself with your posts.

We live in a world were “communication” is now the most important factor in promoting ideas and this video is a great way to bring the attention of young people to the world of science.
Show a young kid something new that is fun and he will google the hell out of it until he will know everything about it.
This is how you spread ideas in today’s world.

Get a grip on reality Goffredo, I do also love classic music, but we are not anymore in the year 1800….

Alpinekat, keep promoting science, every effort counts.


23. Gribble - August 9, 2008

What an amazingly unpleasant and silly man you are, Goffredo. I would hope for your sake you learn to enjoy life a little before it’s too late.

Alpinekat, I applaud your efforts. The video was entertaining. It was fun. And it may have inspired a few kids to take a closer look at what CERN is trying to do. What more could you ask for?

24. alpinekat - August 12, 2008

Giorgio and Gribble — thanks for your kind words. I’ve already gotten a few emails from teachers who want to show it in classrooms, and that’s the highest praise I can receive.

And Goffredo, I don’t want a fight. Cutting remarks ain’t my style. I’ve done alright being my nerdy self, though πŸ™‚

25. dorigo - August 12, 2008

Hello Katie,

I also pointed a high-school physics and math teacher to your video, and he’ll use it.

Keep up with the good work!


26. tulpoeid - August 12, 2008

Dear all and especially alpinekat and dorigo, you’d be interested in knowing how I came across the video (unless you already know). Couple of hours ago, been posted on the CMS-commissioning forum and mailing list. I’m still stunned!
Kudos and keep the great work!!!

(Goffredo: there are two very practical reason for popularizing science. First, otherwise money’ll stop coming. Second, after a while we’ll be looking for ways to avoid get burned atop a nice heap of books, nailed on a friendly tree.)

27. Krys - August 13, 2008

Nice! Finally some nerdcore that isn’t all ego stroking! πŸ˜€

28. goffredo - August 25, 2008

Giorgio. I’ve been on vacation and I am sure nobody is reading this thread any more. I know I make a fool of myself sometimes. But that is my problem, not yours! Indeed you comments relieve me somewhat for as as long as I am criticized by the likes of you then I don’t get worried. I haven’t read anything that changes my mind about this. Indeed I am even more convinced that none of you have any idea of what it means to communicate science to non-scientists nor potential ones. Get some teaching experience first then you will realize how useless these ways are. Get some real life experience and you will realize how they tick off the average tax-payer and average politician.

best regards

29. Giorgio. - August 27, 2008

Goffredo, I will leave now for vacation and I doubt I will ever check againg this post, just let me explain you something:
I understood that you are a teacher in an university, which means that you are communicating to people willing to learn. This is a LOT different than what it takes to “involve” people into making them “willing” to learn or even consider what science is and does.

You should get out of your university rooms and meet some kids in the real world, than you might understand what I mean.


30. goffredo - August 28, 2008

Its funny because I feel that you and others are not in touch with real people! I feel you should meet people of all extractions and ages. I do meet high school kids and believe me there are students in the University that do not know why they are there! I am more in contact with the outside world and always have been interested in communicating science, in the sociology of science and how science is percieved by society. And it is almost funny to see how young and enthusiastic scientists make the same mistakes over and over again.


31. williamgeorge - November 3, 2008

Did you know there’s a course that teaches you to write, record and promote rap?
Learn how to rap fast here.

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