Sunday, 26 August 2012

The Symphony of Science and its link to literature

Yesterday I took a trip down memory lane by listening to the Symphony of Science songs, which are absolutely brilliant, and I felt very inspired by them. These scientists somehow were able to talk about science, something so abstract and distant for many of us, as something inspirational and real. At times they talked about science much in the same way I would talk about books, which fascinated me. So I decided to pick out my three favourites and try and see why I feel so inspired by them and how I think they link to literature. Because believe it or not, this bookworm felt like picking up a science book after listening to these songs again. I might be nuts, but give me the benefit of the doubt.

My favourite is probably 'The Poetry of Reality' with my science-crush, Richard Feynman.

First of all, I don't really like Richard Dawkins. I think he makes very valid points about religion, yet sometimes goes to far in his rethoric in order to get his point across. But I absolutely adore him for calling science the 'poetry of reality'. Poems are often very intricate, honed down to the last comma, perfected over and over again. They really are a piece of art and hard work and I think the same can be said about reality. The way our world is put together is fascinatingly difficult, yet once you get into its intricacies, you can really appreciate its beauty on a whole new level, just like a poem. With this phrasing, Dawkins also, unawares, shows why scientists can be as obsessed with their subject as readers can be with their books. To be honest, I actually think that readers and scientists are quite similar. Neither of them are afraid to dive into a different, new world and be surprised by what they find there. Both love to ask questions, to wonder and to want to find out more and both of us would rather continue searching for the answer than finding it and having to end the adventure. Maybe that is why I love Feynman so much. His enthusiasm for his job is the same kind of enthusiasm I feel for reading.

I love Neil deGrasse Tyson's comment about being 'scientifically literate' because it again shows this link to us readers. Being able to "read" the Universe opens your mind and does indeed empower you to understand your own nature and surroundings better, just like reading a book allows you to understand humans and the way we behave better. Books and science do shine light into dark corners. Both allow us to explore, to search for that which is not known. The only difference is that books are written by humans, whereas science is rather a book written by nature. That is where the next song comes in.

Another amazing song is 'We Are All Connected' in which Feynman shows of some great drumming skills.

First of all, I love the message of this song. We are all connected by the way we have come into existence. And how brilliant would it be for Tyson to run up to you and ask you whether you have heard this? Also, how funny is Bill Nye, the guy who calls himself a 'speck'?

'Nature's imagination' might sound like a strange concept, but when you look around you, you have to admit it is true. Nature has created beautiful things that surpass any kind of human creation. We humans get all of our inspiration from nature. All novels are about humans, about our interaction with our surroundings and each other. And what is our imagination if not our ability to piece together different pieces of information, images and sounds to create one idea? Nature works no differently. And again, I think there is another link to literature here. The beauty of a book is not necessarily whether the main character is likeable or whether the setting is beautiful, but rather how all of these things come together to create something that takes your breath away. I believe a book cannot work if these things don't come together to create one idea in the same way an animal or plant couldn't live if not all of its molecules were put together properly by nature.

I think the idea of us being a way 'for the cosmos to know itself' is fascinating. I wonder whether enough sci-fi writers have picked up on this. In my head it is already developing into a storyline for a short story. I mean, us humans are probably nature's most fascinating creation. We are a bunch of molecules that work together in such a way we have become conscious of ourselves. Nature works through us yet also knows itself through us. It is a mind-boggling concept that would make for a very interesting novel. Yet I don't know whether any author could express it as beautifully as Carl Sagan and his amazing eyebrows.

And finally, here is a song I discovered this time around, 'Onward to the Edge'.

First of all, I love the music in this song and how beautifully soothing the chorus is. Yes, Brian Cox's voice still annoys me but I find this way I can actually learn from what he says.

Yet Neil deGrasse Tyson is, in my humble opinion, still the most prosaic of scientists. He has a way with words that make reaching for the other planets not something dry and boring that stuffy scientists in laboratories somewhere at NASA strive for, but something all of us could be inspired for. It is in our nature to explore the unknown, to look beyond the boundaries of what seems possible. Why do we read books if not to explore how life is for others? We want to know how the characters deal with life, just like we want to know how other planets came into existence and works. Tyson has a calm enthusiasm and dedication that I think is admirable.

'When I reach for the edge of the Universe, I do so knowing that along some paths of cosmic discovery, there are times when, at least for now, one must be content to love the questions themselves.' First of all, is this not a great closing sentence, not only to this song but to everything? We readers take on books, fully aware that while reading there will be a lot of questions, many of which will be answered in the end, some of which may not be answered at all. Yet does this mean we don't read? No, because the questions themselves are worth thinking about. To question is, I believe, one of the best things a human can do. Questioning is wanting to know, perceiving something as worth understanding and realizing there is something bigger out there.

I am always surprised by how much I love these songs. When I was taught science in high school it was a very dry subject that only came alive when I realized its presence all around me. Yet I had a teacher who was far from enthusiastic. And in these songs we see scientists who love their subject, who are able to find words and comparisons that are highly imaginative. For me, these songs are a great source of inspiration for writing. Not only is the music great, but here I find people driven to move forward, always curious to know more. As a fan of classic literature I am often in danger of being stuck in the past. Yet I find that nothing is as fascinating as what I don't know yet. Everything that is to come, all the things we will find out and discover in the future is tantalizingly interesting.

I highly advise anyone who likes these song to check them out on Youtube or go to the creator's website, where you can download them for free: Symphony of Science

Have you listened to these songs and are you inspired by them?

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