[mix tape] Geeky Grooves from the Force behind Cocktail Party Physics

May 13, 2009


Created by the contributors to Cocktail Party Physics, this mix tape features selections from Allyson Beatrice, Calla Cofield, Lee Kotter, Diandra Leslie-Pelecky, and Jennifer Ouellette.  It’s an eclectic mix that reflects the diverse personalities of the CPP bloggers. :)

The liner notes alone prove why Cocktail Party Physics should be bookmarked in your favorites, on your Google reader, or other RSS feed.  (Plus, the mix features two more songs.  Read on to find out about pick 24 and 25.)



I’ve been working for scientists involved in Metrology (the study of time) for almost eight years, so my world is filled with clocks, time, and frequency. It’s a shrinking field, I think because precise time measurement doesn’t sound sexy enough when compared to astrophysics or cosmology. But what is sex about if not the timing and frequency thereof? My playlist provides proof for my assertion that time is in fact way sexy. No one sings songs about astrophysics, yo.

“Not Enough Time,” INXS
Michael Hutchence. He’s still the sexiest rock star on the planet, and he’s dead. His rotting corpse is sexier than any rock star alive. This is his sexiest song, and it’s about time, or at least his perception of it, when sex is involved. Bless.

“Make a Circuit With Me,” The Polecats
A dirty little rockabilly song featuring the lyrics, “I’ll be your diode cathode electrode overload generator oscillator – make a circuit with me!”

“It’s About Time,” The Lemonheads (iTunes only has a live video! It's About Time (Live))
The Lemonhead’s Evan Dando was adorable, and then he was a crackhead, and now he’s adorable again. Anyway! I heard somewhere that this song is about his relationship with Juliana Hatfield, and how they were friends, but it was about time that they slept together. As a bonus, Hatfield’s signature babygirl voice makes an appearance on the track. This is a good thing. It adds a cherry kool-aid sweetness to what could have been a really creepy song, but ended up being ridiculously charming.

“Time After Time,” Cindy Lauper and Sarah McLachlan
Not an inherently sexy song, but a great duet and reminds me of the ridiculously romantic scene in one of my favorite films, Strictly Ballroom, when the romantic leads were dancing to it on a roof in front of a Coca Cola sign. Later, Paul Mercurio slid across the dance floor in a sparkly matador jacket. Hooray!

“Entropy,” Mary Abraham
In metrology, references to entropy concern the wackiness  that is Arrow of Time. Abraham’s clever lyrics are about time, chaos and heat: ” You give me light,you give me heat, but you never let me feel the warmth, it’s entropy.” This describes my last five relationships, as well as the second law of thermodynamics.


“I Am a Scientist,” Guided by Voices
Both an anthem and a confession, it goes on to say ‘I am a
journalist…” Oh wow.

“Atom,” British Sea Power
Physics as metaphor for life…aaahhhh.

“The Universe,” Do Make Say Think
Should I ever take a journey through the Universe in less than 5
minutes, I will crank this over the loud speaker.

“Dark Center of the Universe,” Modest Mouse
Chaotic and hypnotic – how I imagine the dark center of the universe would be.

“Big Star Baby,” Mojave 3
I think he’s referring to a rock star here, but whatever.

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Like our illustrious leader, Jennifer, I’m an English major who loves science and writing about it. Although I love fiction of most kinds, science fiction is my real love because, at its best, it both spurs progress and warns us of the potential consequences. It also reminds us of the human element in science and discoveries: passion, jealousy, ambition, our desire to be loved and accepted. I try to do the same thing in my posts at CPP, and ask myself what’s the human element in this scientific fact? My two favorite science topics are space science and marine biology, but for this playlist, I’m sticking to the former in the glam rock and psychedelia I grew up with when both the Gemini and Apollo programs were in full swing, and the “space music” I discovered in graduate school.

“Rocket Man”: Elton John
“Space Oddity”: David Bowie
I love both of these because they poke a little fun at the romantic sense of human exploration and daring in the space program, and the crass commercialization of our heros back on earth.

“Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun”: Pink Floyd
Pink Floyd forms a nice bridge between the psychedelia/glam rock and the synthesizer-heavy, computer-generated space music. It’s trippy and futuristic with that rock beat just barely controlled underneath it, threatening to bust out.

“Stars”: Brian Eno (from the album Apollo)
“Earth Shadow”: Deuter (From East of the Full Moon)
Both of these selections are great examples of the way music captures the emotions evoked by both stargazing and some of the moon shot photos, seeing our own pale blue dot rising over the horizon of the moon, or the constellations wheeling through the seasons from my front lawn.


The symmetry between science bloggers and blogging scientists in CPP is interesting – I wonder if someone who didn’t know us could guess which of us fall into which category just from our writing.  I study nanomagnetism – try finding songs about that.  Magnetism can be attractive or repulsive: sort of like our relationships. I have one of the classic “problems” in science – a scientist husband, which really complicates logistics.  It’s frequently called the “two-body problem”, so it shouldn’t be too surprising that all my songs have to do with two-body interactions.  I also have a really short attention span, which probably explains my quirky selections.

“So Far Away,” Carole King
Sometimes we get so busy that we have time only to wave to each other as we pass by.  This song always reminds me that we should count our blessings when we’re lucky enough to have the people we care for nearby.  I just ended a ten-year Nebraska-Massachutsetts commuting relationship by both of us moving to Dallas, but I remember hearing this song coming back from work late one night while we were apart and just crying the whole way home because I knew there was no one waiting for me.

“I Just Got Started Loving You,” James Otto
Songs mark particular events for me.  I’m not saying anything more about what event this song marks, but it was a heck of a lot more fun than the story behind the first song!

“Santa Claus Wants Some Lovin’,” Tinsley Ellis
The Rocket Scientist played this song for me just before Christmas last year.  We were on our way to a meeting that we knew in advance was going to be a disaster.  He slipped this in the CD player, made me laugh and opened up a whole new world of music by introducing me to Alligator Records.

“This Kiss,” Faith Hill
I’ll overlook the use of the word ‘centrifugal’ because the song just brings back such good memories.  I was coming back from dinner with my department chair and his wife and this came on the radio.  I stopped at Target and bought the CD to mail to my sweetie.

“Mother of Pearl,” Nellie McKay
Finally, lest Jen-Luc get upset at not having been asked to contribute, this is exactly the sort of song I think she would like just because it’s so wonderfully snarky.


“Protons, Neutrons, Electrons,” The Cat Empire
A cheery little ditty about how life is short and death is just a giddy transformation from one form of matter to another.

“Never-Ending Math Equation,” Modest Mouse
A theme song for all of us who felt like math class would never end. It’s tough to make out the words lead singer Isaac Brock is growling out, as if it physically hurts him to enunciate because he has a mouth full of gravel or something. Fortunately, Google knows all: “The universe works on a math equation/That never even ever really even ends in the end/Infinity spirals out creation…” Yeah, that clarifies things. Sing it, Isaac!

“Relativity,” The Pale Pacific (Not available on iTunes)
Not sure what, if anything, this tune has to do with relativity as the term is usually meant. But it’s haunting and memorable, nonetheless…

“Physics,” Park Like Setting
Geek rappers Park Like Setting have a whole set of tunes about school. This one is pretty darned scientifically accurate and weaves some clever metaphors out of the concepts.

“Algebra,” Soul Hooligan (Not available on iTunes)
While other hip-hop groups are obsessed with sex and violence, Soul Hooligan is rapping about, well, math class as a metaphor for life. How could you not groove to this smokin’ tune?

http://nonpretentious.com publishes mix tapes every Wednesday in its [mix tapes] column. Our goal is to create a digital version of trading mixes, sharing music, etc. AND also publicize the work of “common people” (i.e. not superstar celebs but celebs nonetheless) who are doing cool things around the globe.

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2 Responses to “ [mix tape] Geeky Grooves from the Force behind Cocktail Party Physics ”

  1. revisingproust on June 4, 2009 at 3:09 am

    I want Jennifer Oullette's library! I love all of her songs.

    (Sorry! Had to pick a fave…)

  2. Career Forum on April 1, 2012 at 12:52 am

    I just couldn’t depart your site prior to suggesting that I really loved the usual information a person supply to your visitors? Is gonna be back regularly to inspect new posts

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