Symphony of Science: A Wave of Reason

In the seventh "Symphony of Science" installment by John Boswell, Carl Sagan sings: "Science is more than a body of knowledge: it's a way of thinking; a way of skeptically interrogating the universe. If we are not able to ask skeptical questions, to be skeptical of those in authority, then we're up for grabs." That's the theme of the song/video, which features Sagan, Bertrand Russell, Sam Harris, Michael Shermer, Lawrence Krauss, Carolyn Porco, Richard Dawkins, Richard Feynman, Phil Plait, and James Randi. Enjoy:

For all the videos (plus lyrics, downloads, remixes, etc.), check out the Symphony of Science website. I've posted the lyrics for this one below the jump as they're a little hard to hear in parts. Incidentally, if you have no idea what this is, you owe it to yourself to watch the original video (and still the best): A Glorious Dawn, featuring the now-famous lyrics (by Carl Sagan) "If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe."

(Carl Sagan's lyrics written by Carl Sagan, Ann Druyan and Steven Soter)

Bertrand Russell:

When you are studying any matter

Or considering any philosophy

Ask yourself only: what are the facts,

And what is the truth that the facts bear out

Carl Sagan:

Science is more than a body of knowledge

It's a way of thinking

A way of skeptically interrogating the universe

If we are not able to ask skeptical questions

To be skeptical of those in authority

Then we're up for grabs

Michael Shermer:

In all of science we're looking for a balance

between data and theory

Sam Harris:

You don't have to delude yourself

With Iron Age fairy tales

Carolyn Porco:

The same spiritual fulfillment

That people find in religion

Can be found in science

By coming to know, if you will, the mind of God

Lawrence Krauss:

The real world, as it actually is,

Is not evil, it's remarkable

And the way to understand the physical world

is to use science

Richard Dawkins:

There is a new wave of reason

Sweeping across America, Britain, Europe, Australia

South America, the Middle East and Africa

There is a new wave of reason

Where superstition had a firm hold

Phil Plait:

Teach a man to reason

And he'll think for a lifetime


Cosmology brings us face to face with the deepest mysteries

With questions that were once treated only

in religion and myth

The desire to be connected with the cosmos

Reflects a profound reality

But we are connected; not in the trivial ways

That Astrology promises, but in the deepest ways

Richard Feynman:

I can't believe the special stories that have been made up

About our relationship to the universe at large

Look at what's out there; it isn't in proportion


Never let yourself be diverted

By what you wish to believe

But look only and surely

At what are the facts

James Randi:

Enjoy the fantasy, the fun, the stories

But make sure that there's a clear sharp line

Drawn on the floor

To do otherwise is to embrace madness

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Kevin Winter, Getty Images
Pop Culture
How Phil Collins Accidentally Created the Sound That Defined 1980s Music
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Kevin Winter, Getty Images

Unless your technical knowledge of music runs deep, you may have never heard the phrase “gated reverb.” But you’ve definitely heard the effect in action: It’s that punchy snare drum sound that first gained traction in music in the 1980s. If you can play the drum beat from “I Would Die 4 U” by Prince or “Born in the U.S.A.” by Bruce Springsteen in your head, you know what sound we’re referring to.

But that iconic element of pop might not have emerged if it wasn’t for Peter Gabriel and Phil Collins. As Vox lays out in its new video, the discovery was made in 1979 during the studio recording of Peter Gabriel’s self-titled third solo album (often called Melt because of its cover art). Gabriel’s Genesis bandmate Phil Collins was playing the drums as usual when his beats were accidentally picked up by the microphone used by audio engineers to talk to the band. That microphone wasn’t meant to record music—its heavy compressors were designed to turn down loud sounds while amplifying quiet ones. The equipment also utilized a noise gate, which meant the recorded sounds were cut off shortly after they started. The result was a bright, fleeting percussive sound unlike anything heard in popular music.

Gabriel loved the effect, and made it the signature sound on the opening track of his album. A year later, Collins featured it in his hit single “In the Air Tonight,” perhaps the most famous example of gated reverb to date.

The sound would come to define music of the 1980s and many contemporary artists continue to use it today. Get the full history of gated reverb below.

[h/t Vox]

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Keystone/Getty Images
‘Total Eclipse of the Heart’ Could Have Been a Meat Loaf Song
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Keystone/Getty Images

Imagine a world in which Bonnie Tyler was not the star performer on the Royal Caribbean Total Eclipse Cruise. Imagine if, instead, as the moon crossed in front of the sun in the path of totality on August 21, 2017, the performer belting out the 1983 hit for cruise ship stargazers was Meat Loaf?

It could have been. Because yes, as Atlas Obscura informs us, the song was originally written for the bestselling rocker (and actor) of Bat Out of Hell fame, not the husky-voiced Welsh singer. Meat Loaf had worked on his 1977 record Bat Out of Hell with Jim Steinman, the composer and producer who would go on to work with the likes of Celine Dion and Barbra Streisand (oddly enough, he also composed Hulk Hogan’s theme song on an album released by the WWE). “Total Eclipse of the Heart” was meant for Meat Loaf’s follow-up album to Bat Out of Hell.

But Meat Loaf’s fruitful collaboration with Steinman was about to end. In the wake of his bestselling record, the artist was going through a rough patch, mentally, financially, and in terms of his singing ability. And the composer wasn’t about to stick around. As Steinman would tell CD Review magazine in 1989 (an article he has since posted on his personal website), "Basically I only stopped working with him because he lost his voice as far as I was concerned. It was his voice I was friends with really.” Harsh, Jim, harsh.

Steinman began working with Bonnie Tyler in 1982, and in 1983, she released her fifth album, Faster Than the Speed of Night, including “Total Eclipse of the Heart.” It sold 6 million copies.

Tyler and Steinman both dispute that the song was written specifically for Meat Loaf. “Meat Loaf was apparently very annoyed that Jim gave that to me,” she told The Irish Times in 2014. “But Jim said he didn’t write it for Meat Loaf, that he only finished it after meeting me.”

There isn’t a whole lot of bad blood between the two singers, though. In 1989, they released a joint compilation album: Heaven and Hell.

[h/t Atlas Obscura]


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