Deconstruction: Fermilab rap
Rapbassador for science
By Tona Kunz
|Photo courtesy of funky49|
If there's one form of music instantly recognized around the globe, it's rap. The American genre informs, entertains, and has a low barrier to participation. You don't need a large vocal range or a backup band. You just need a message, delivered rapid-fire with style and bravado.
For a growing number of so-called Nerdcore rappers, the message is that people need to support basic research and math and science education if they want to hand future generations a nation worth bragging about. Rather than rapping about drugs, guns, and thug life, they take rap back to its roots as a tool for enlightenment and political discourse, with science and technology as common themes. The most famous example in the particle-physics world is "The Large Hadron Rap," which has racked up more than five million hits on YouTube; but there are plenty of others celebrating astrobiology, orbiting planets, computer codes, even E=mc2.
Steve Rush, aka funky49, a science enthusiast from Florida and Wired magazine Nerdcore Hip Hop All-Star, gained notoriety in 2009 when he was commissioned by the Tampa Museum of Science and Industry to make the album Rapbassador. He came to Fermilab in August to premier a song, "Particle Business," about experimenters racing to discover the Higgs boson at the lab's Tevatron Collider. Dan Lamoureux, producer of the documentary Nerdcore For Life, filmed funky49 rapping in front of Wilson Hall, in the CDF experimental hall and the Tevatron main control room, and next to the Cockcroft-Walton particle accelerator.
When he's not rapping, funky49 works for a medical imaging company that uses MRI, a technology based on powerful magnets made of superconducting wire and cable that were developed in the 1970s to meet the needs of the Tevatron. "I have a job because of magnetic fields," he says. "I have a job because of science."
Here are funky49's lyrics. Click the links for commentary.
by funky49 (a.k.a. Steve Rush)
Tevatron, OG atom smasher
To me, triple beams don't mean
Let's be liftin', Positive like positrons
1Physicists from the Collider Detector at Fermilab, or CDF, experiment have a 20-year tradition of playing in a rock band called Drug Sniffing Dogs, which was featured in the 2008 documentary The Atom Smashers. (See "Physicists Rock!" Jan/Feb 08.)
2Quarks exist in six types: top, bottom, up, down, strange, and charm.
3A common rap term, OG is short for original gangster but has also come to mean authentic or the first incarnation of something.
4A reference to the J.R.R. Tolkien book series and how the Tevatron, once the world's highest-energy accelerator ring, ceded its title last month to the much bigger and more powerful Large Hadron Collider.
20Through popular science books and a TV series, Carl Sagan educated people about astronomy, astrophysics, and other natural sciences. The Greek composer Vangelis created the music for Sagan's TV series.
21On high-school proficiency tests, American science and math scores lag behind those of most other developed nations. Elementary and middle-school scores have been rising in math but have stagnated in science since the mid-1990s, according to The Condition of Education 2009, a report from the National Center for Education Statistics.
22Positrons are the antimatter equivalents of electrons, with positive rather than negative charge.
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