They Might Be Giants Release Educational Science Album for Kids

Nerd parent alert: new TMBG album of science stuff for kids available now! (iTunes Link)

Indie pop icons They Might Be Giants have long been known for embedding factoids in their songs. For example, their cover of "Why Does the Sun Shine" features the opening hook: "The sun is a mass of incandescent gas; A gigantic nuclear furnace; Where hydrogen is built into helium at a temperature of millions of degrees!" (To be fair, TMBG didn't write that tune; see the original version by Tom Glazer.) But then there's the presidential nerd material: TMBG wrote a detailed trivia-heavy song about the oft-forgotten president "James K. Polk," and the art trivia like "Meet James Ensor." And don't get me started on their cuneiform-heavy explanation of "The Mesopotamians."

So it comes as no surprise that TMBG has come out with a CD/DVD combo release called Here Comes Science (link opens iTunes), again combining facts with pop, but finally aiming their laserbeam of awesomeness at one of my favorite topics: science. From an interview with the Underwire blog, the two Johns say:

"We wanted to be sure to get our facts right, so we brought in a wonderful fellow named Eric Siegel, who is the director of the New York Hall of Science," Flansburgh said. "Hopefully, that vetting process was rigorous enough to stave off a cultural boycott from the scientific community. We covered mostly the classic stuff: the elements, astronomy, the circulatory system, cells, photosynthesis and the light spectrum. But there isn't a lot of material about applied science on the album, although there is a song about computer-assisted design that has a mind-bending video on the DVD."

And here's the charming video for "Electric Car" off the new release, featuring vocals from Robin Goldwasser:

More Awesome TMBG Stuff for Kids

TMBG have now done four albums aimed at kids. Links below open iTunes, though these are also available as CDs and in the case of Here Come the 123s as a CD/DVD set.

TMBG Kids Stuff: Here Come the ABCs -- the fun way to learn the ABCs; Here Come the 123s -- a video/audio combo for learnin' your numbers; and No! -- an album about being a kid and being different.

The Queen of Code: Remembering Grace Hopper
By Lynn Gilbert, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

Grace Hopper was a computing pioneer. She coined the term "computer bug" after finding a moth stuck inside Harvard's Mark II computer in 1947 (which in turn led to the term "debug," meaning solving problems in computer code). She did the foundational work that led to the COBOL programming language, used in mission-critical computing systems for decades (including today). She worked in World War II using very early computers to help end the war. When she retired from the U.S. Navy at age 79, she was the oldest active-duty commissioned officer in the service. Hopper, who was born on this day in 1906, is a hero of computing and a brilliant role model, but not many people know her story.

In this short documentary from FiveThirtyEight, directed by Gillian Jacobs, we learned about Grace Hopper from several biographers, archival photographs, and footage of her speaking in her later years. If you've never heard of Grace Hopper, or you're even vaguely interested in the history of computing or women in computing, this is a must-watch:

Why Are Glaciers Blue?

The bright azure blue sported by many glaciers is one of nature's most stunning hues. But how does it happen, when the snow we see is usually white? As Joe Hanson of It's Okay to Be Smart explains in the video below, the snow and ice we see mostly looks white, cloudy, or clear because all of the visible light striking its surface is reflected back to us. But glaciers have a totally different structure—their many layers of tightly compressed snow means light has to travel much further, and is scattered many times throughout the depths. As the light bounces around, the light at the red and yellow end of the spectrum gets absorbed thanks to the vibrations of the water molecules inside the ice, leaving only blue and green light behind. For the details of exactly why that happens, check out Hanson's trip to Alaska's beautiful (and endangered) Mendenhall Glacier below.

[h/t The Kid Should See This]


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