Join 3,497 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


The Sun Is a Miasma of Incandescent Plasma
September 6, 2009 9:49 PM   Subscribe

...the lyrics to that last song were basically taken from an encyclopedia written in the 50s, and since the 50s, some remarkable things have happened...
In 1959, a number of songs about science were released on an album called Space Songs. One of these was later covered by the band They Might Be Giants: Why Does The Sun Shine? (The Sun Is A Mass of Incandescent Gas). Only one problem: it isn't--the song was based on an incorrect text from 1951. So they wrote an answer song to themselves: Why Does The Sun Really Shine? (The Sun Is a Miasma of Incandescent Plasma). Bonus link: see for yourself! (previously)
posted by Upton O'Good (35 comments total) 31 users marked this as a favorite

 
That one is going to be a lot harder to get my 3-year-old to sing along with.
posted by The World Famous at 10:01 PM on September 6, 2009


♫♪ Knowledge exploring is oh-so-lyrical when you think thoughts that are empirical. ♫♪
posted by Rhaomi at 10:23 PM on September 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


I consider the fact that my two little girls are TMBG fans to be my greatest accomplishment as a father.
posted by ColdChef at 10:28 PM on September 6, 2009 [14 favorites]


Hmm. But isn't that whole miasma idea also a little out of date?
posted by washburn at 10:30 PM on September 6, 2009


Yes, I've linked to this video previously, but for those who haven't seen it, it's relatively easy to make your own incandescent plasma.
posted by Tube at 10:35 PM on September 6, 2009


I love that the clip of the second song includes the annoying jerk who knows the joke and can't resist completing a phrase slightly before the performer does.

I am very sorry for all the times I did this. I couldn't help it then but I know better now.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 10:37 PM on September 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


A Miasma? Seems like an odd term to apply to the sun.
posted by delmoi at 10:45 PM on September 6, 2009


I love love LOVE the Singing Science records. Total artifact of my childhood, and so much of their content still sticks with me to this day. Between those and the Schoolhouse Rock songs, I think a good part of my actual education was totally linked to melodies. Maybe if we brought back that kind of mnemonic triggers into education, we'd boost education and wouldn't find we're leaving quite so many kids behind.
posted by hippybear at 11:09 PM on September 6, 2009


Hmm. But isn't that whole miasma idea also a little out of date?

The miasma theory of disease may be outdated, but miasma still exists.
posted by Phssthpok at 12:22 AM on September 7, 2009


Both tracks appear on TMBG's latest album, Here Comes Science!
posted by Jon_Evil at 12:27 AM on September 7, 2009


My five-year old listened to the Energy & Experiments and Weather discs on his CD player almost every night last winter. It's really cool that something from 1960 can still get so much mileage now, and disappointing that the people who did the albums remained relatively unknown.

My wife and I still use the perky "What IS energy?" thing as an icebreaker sometimes. Mama mia, what is this chemical energy? Man, good stuff.
posted by crapmatic at 1:53 AM on September 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


Classic album, which i found in a thrift store. I appreciate the scientific correction, too....
posted by BriMaxx at 2:05 AM on September 7, 2009


Also, Constantinople discovered to be not exactly the same place as Istambul.
posted by qvantamon at 2:37 AM on September 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


Also, Constantinople discovered to be not exactly the same place as Istambul.

Istambul was Comspampimotle.
posted by The World Famous at 2:47 AM on September 7, 2009 [5 favorites]


I'm a TMBG fan. They seem to go touring every fall, probably because they get good crowds at colleges. They'll be in my area next month (which is also a signal to me that new South Parks are imminent), and for the second year in a row, I snagged row A center (balcony), seats 1 and 2. And 'Istanbul (not Constantinople)' may actually be my favorite song of theirs, possibly because the one time I was in Istanbul (a one-night layover as I headed back to the States from Izmir, Turkey), I took a taxi to the center of the big bridge there and just stood in the middle of the bridge, one foot in Asia and one foot in Europe.
posted by jamstigator at 3:12 AM on September 7, 2009


Maybe now they'll get around to fixing 'The Moon Has Vast Seas of Viridian Cheese'.
posted by pracowity at 4:06 AM on September 7, 2009 [5 favorites]


As much love as I have for John and John, are they planning on releasing a new grown-up album any time soon?
posted by Faint of Butt at 4:36 AM on September 7, 2009


Look Around You: Music

disclaimer: you may have needed to watch british educational tv programmes of the 70s/80s to fully appreciate
posted by jzed at 5:09 AM on September 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


sorry Faint of Butt
but... for all those with kids, they are releasing the next in the "Here Comes the" series next week with "Here Comes The Science"
I know my kids are REALLY looking forward to it...and I like it because of the videos they have on the DVD that comes with it.
posted by ShawnString at 5:40 AM on September 7, 2009


and Jon_evil I JUST saw yr comment....but still here is the link for their video for Why the Sun REALLy shines
posted by ShawnString at 5:42 AM on September 7, 2009


I was tickled to learn / realize recently that "Istanbul" isn't a different name, it's really just shitty Turkish pronunciation of the word "Constantinople".
posted by Meatbomb at 6:08 AM on September 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


Also covered by Sting, it seems.
posted by The White Hat at 6:38 AM on September 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


I was tickled to learn / realize recently that "Istanbul" isn't a different name, it's really just shitty Turkish pronunciation of the word "Constantinople".

Er - not according to Wikipedia, it isn't.
posted by creeky at 6:40 AM on September 7, 2009


Here Comes Science! was actually released last week on Amazon and iTunes, and it is kick ass. It's amazing and more than a little sad that those old singing science songs seemed so universal and informative, while it's hard not to see Here Comes Science as politically charged, with an opening track Science is Real that talks about what a theory is and dares to list evolution among real things and angels among not real things. Also the utterly kickass Electric Car is clearly supporting what some would consider to be one side of a so-called political spectrum.

It's totally awesome, and it's almost impossible to imagine a part of TMBG's enormous fanbase that would have a problem with any of this, but I can't help but wonder if a big fundie shoe is going to drop on this release and what the suits at Disney Sound thought about it. It's really a very brave release and it's very sad that it's very brave.
posted by ulotrichous at 7:44 AM on September 7, 2009 [3 favorites]


Jesus, those songs ("Science is Real" and "Electric Car") are great. Being a nerd-American of a certain age, I am a TMBG fan of the highest order; and really, I have nothing to say but that I love those guys so much.
posted by Frobenius Twist at 8:48 AM on September 7, 2009


It's totally awesome, and it's almost impossible to imagine a part of TMBG's enormous fanbase that would have a problem with any of this, but I can't help but wonder if a big fundie shoe is going to drop on this release

Read the comments on the Amazon page for a sneak preview of this.
posted by escabeche at 9:28 AM on September 7, 2009


I sang this song for my father-in-law the physicist several years ago and he pointed out that the sun is a plasma not a gas.

And so whenever I did the song after that, I would do a little vamp at the end and say something about my physicist father-in-law and then launch into the chorus one more time singing "The sun is a miasma of incandescent plasma."

I've done it that way for years, but alas, no youtube videos so it didn't happen. Nevertheless I just about exploded with delight when I saw that song on the new TMBG album.
posted by straight at 10:17 AM on September 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


I ran across that "Electric Car" clip this week and have been humming it for two days. Which is a great way to drown out the incessant old-time-piany sound of the Thomas the Tank Engine theme music.
posted by emjaybee at 12:52 PM on September 7, 2009


I am on both pins and also needles waiting for Here Comes Science. The ABC/123 albums are huge hits. And I agree about the bravery and sadness in re: same. At least there's little fear (unless I'm naive) that they will be forced to back down or suck up. TMBG are smart enough to have seen fundie backlash coming and popular enough to survive being shunned by religious nutjobs.
posted by DU at 6:59 PM on September 7, 2009


"Istanbul (Not Constantinople)" is a cover of The Four Lads' original.
posted by kirkaracha at 9:31 AM on September 8, 2009


Istanbul is also not Byzantium and not New Rome.
posted by kirkaracha at 9:35 AM on September 8, 2009


escabeche: I can't find comments on the Amazon page?
posted by wilberforce at 11:18 AM on September 8, 2009


Whoops, found 'em!
posted by wilberforce at 11:21 AM on September 8, 2009


I was just playing these songs to my daughter, and she told me about Photosynthesis.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 11:21 PM on September 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Dammit, how do I miss threads like this?
posted by JHarris at 11:40 AM on September 30, 2009


« Older Are Froot Loops a Smart Choice? The New York Times...  |  As many as 40 new species may ... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments