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10 Songs Bill Nye Made Educational

Bill Nye may have graduated from Cornell University with a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering, but it wouldn't be too surprising if the Science Guy picked up a minor in parody songwriting along the way. For all but four episodes of his five-year stint on PBS, Nye capped off his show with a music video spoofing a pop song with an educational spin. With the 20th anniversary of his show (September 10) just in the rear-view mirror, here are 10 of fictional Not That Bad Records' greatest hits from the not-actually-real album "Soundtrack of Science."

1. Nyevana — "Smells Like Air Pressure"

For the show's 1993 pilot episode, Nye drew inspiration from the Seattle grunge rock scene, borrowing a page from the Kurt Cobain songbook to explain the properties of air pressure. "Smells Like Air Pressure" tips its metaphorical cap to the iconic "Smells Like Teen Spirit" music video, cheerleaders and all. Nyevana's shaggy blonde mane-sporting Cobain lookalike pumps the rock star's famously incoherent slurs with some serious educational clout — the chorus rambles with the lines, "Air has pressure, and it's moving / All around us, and it's grooving."

2. Bill Nye — "There's Science in Music"

Instead of employing a parody band to spoof The Rocky Horror Picture Show's "Time Warp," Nye flexed his own pipes in a musical number about sound waves titled, appropriately, "There's Science in Music." The Science Guy plays off Richard O'Brien's vocal delivery from the original "Time Warp," deadpanning the opening lines: "It's vibrations / Sonic sensations." And with a spot on the Dancing with the Stars roster for the show's 17th season, Nye proves he can cut a rug with some wobbly moves in the music video.

3. Sure Floats-a-Lot — "Bill's Got Boat"

An ode to the backside doesn't seem like spoofing material for a song about buoyancy, but while Sir Mix-a-Lot outed himself as a fan of female posteriors in his 1992 hit, Sure Floats-a-Lot gets "psyched" about learning how boats stay afloat in "Bill's Got Boat." The rap explains water displacement in a second-verse stanza that features some true hip-hop rhymesmithing: "Buoyancy's the name of this song / Don't even try to tell me I'm wrong / When something's placed in the water / It gets pushed down with this weight / Then gravity pulls / Science rules."

4. Momentisey — "The Faster You Push Me"

Nye's elastic sense of humor and off-the-wall personality don't exactly scream "let's parody Morrissey," but that didn't stop the Science Guy from riffing on the morose Smiths frontman's bleak "The More You Ignore Me, The Closer I Get" in an episode about momentum. Retitled "The Faster You Push Me" and shot entirely in black-and-white, and the show's Moz impersonator forces a British accent when he croons, "The faster you push me / The farther I get / You're adding velocity."

5. Steven Odd — "50 Fifty"

Having a song that teaches science students about probability through flipping coins be a "Loser" (alternative rocker Beck's 1993 hit) takeoff is a little oxymoronic—after all, there's only a 50 percent chance of being a loser when calling heads or tails in the air. But "50 Fifty" draws influence from Beck's laid-back flow and slide guitar instrumentation to inform viewers that "Probability depends on the circumstances / If I figure 'em out, then I'll know the chances."

6. Third Nye Blind — "Atoms in My Life"

Only Bill Nye could take a Third Eye Blind hit about battling a crystal meth addiction and reimagine it as a squeaky clean pop-rock romp about atoms and molecules. The Nye-ified educational revamp features lyrics like, "Those atoms are so tiny you never see them / Like hydrogen and carbon and oxygen," which are leaps and bounds more school-friendly than the original's not-so-oblique "The sky was gold, it was rose / I was taking sips of it through my nose."

7. Alice in Genes — "It's Called Genetics"

The band name spoof might be a little misguided (it riffs on Alice in Chains, though the song itself is a send-up of Rage Against the Machine's "Killing in the Name"), but Nye's musical explanation of genetics proved the show wasn't afraid to bust out some hard rock guitar licks for the elementary school crowd. Though G-rated compared to Rage Against the Machine's notoriously F-bomb laced anthem, the song finds ways to pump lines like "DNA makes you what you are / The apple from the tree doesn't fall very far" full of pre-teen venom.

8. The Bent Wavelengths — "Light and Colour"

A homage to Rage Against the Machine wasn't Nye's only foray into scholastic thrash metal, nor was it the first: the music video for the show's 16th episode ("Light and Color") paid tribute to Megadeth's "Sweating Bullets." The very Britishly-spelled "Light and Colour" (Megadeth hails from Los Angeles, oddly enough) features shredding guitar riffs and a yowling chorus of "Light, color / Talking about the spectrum, brother," sung by a wig-doffing Dave Mustaine double.

9. J.A.C.— "Water Cycle Jump"

What better way to explain the water cycle and the process of precipitation than in a goofy homage to Kriss Kross? "Water Cycle Jump" packs in some Bill Nye background dancing and zingers like "Your brain is on vacation / If you don't know about precipitation" in its minute-and-a-half run time, but Kriss Kross purists can sleep easy knowing that the original's "wiggity wiggity wack" line is well preserved. In the context of the water cycle, J.A.C. explains that when condensation falls, it's "riggida riggida riggida rain."

10. Slow Moe — "All in Motion"

Five years and 19 Emmy Awards since spoofing Nirvana, Bill Nye closed out his 100-episode run on PBS with the series finale about motion, and in it, a parody of Van Halen's "Hot For Teacher" called "All in Motion." A feature-length music video (spanning three minutes and twenty seconds), the song jumps from an acoustic guitar ballad to a squealing guitar solo voiced over by Nye. The song isn't as racy as the Van Halen original, but it does have lyrics like, "The more the mass / The more force you need / The more inertia / The more force you need."

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5 Quick Facts About the Hashtag
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The use of the hashtag as a Twitter tool to denote a specific topic in order for the masses to follow along turns 10 years old today, having first been suggested (in a Tweet, naturally) by Silicon Valley regular and early adopter Chris Messina back in 2007. Here’s a little history on its evolution from the humble numerical sign to the social media giant it is today.

1. IT COMES FROM THE LATIN TERM FOR “POUND WEIGHT.”

There’s no definitive origin story for the hash (or pound) symbol, but one belief is that when 14th-century Latin began to abbreviate the term for pound weight—libra pondo—to “lb,” a horizontal slash was added to denote the letters were connected. (The bar was called a tittle.) As people began to write more quickly, the letters and the tittle became amalgamated, eventually morphing into the symbol we see today.

2. IT SHOULD ACTUALLY BE CALLED AN OCTOTHORPETAG.

The symbol portion of the hashtag eventually made its way to dial-button telephones, the result of AT&T looking forward to phones interacting with computers. In order to complete a square keypad with 10 digits (including 0), they added the numerical sign and an asterisk. AT&T employee Don MacPherson thought they sign needed a more official name, so he chose Octothorpe—“octo” because it has eight points, and “thorpe” because he was a fan of football hero Jim Thorpe.

3. TWITTER WASN’T BIG ON THE IDEA AT FIRST.

When web marketer Messina had the notion to add hashtags to keep track of conversations, he stopped by Twitter’s offices to make an informal pitch. He came at a bad time: co-founder Biz Stone was trying to get the software back online after a crash and dismissed the idea with a “Sure, we’ll get right on that” burn. Undeterred, Messina started using them and the habit caught on.

4. IT’S IN THE OXFORD DICTIONARY.

By 2014, respect for the hashtag had grown to the point where the venerable Oxford English Dictionary gave the word its stamp of approval. Their entry: "hashtag n. (on social media web sites and applications) a word or phrase preceded by a hash and used to identify messages relating to a specific topic; (also) the hash symbol itself, when used in this way."

5. THERE ARE SOME HASHTAG ALL-TIMERS.

Hashtags can highlight interest in everything from political movements to breaking news stories, but the frequency of their use is often tied into popular culture. The most popular TV-related tag has been #TheWalkingDead; #StarWars sees a lot of action; and #NFL dominates sports-related Tweets.  

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12 Sharp Facts About Hellraiser
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In 1987, the New World Pictures released Hellraiser, a horror film about a family who opens a puzzle box and invites hell in their lives in the form of pleasure-pain creatures known as Cenobites, who are lead by Pinhead (played by Doug Bradley). Unlike many other horror films at the time, Hellraiser wasn’t a slasher film, and Pinhead wasn’t a boogeyman.

British novelist, playwright, and screenwriter Clive Barker wanted to direct a feature film, so he adapted his 1986 horror novella, The Hellbound Heart, into Hellraiser. Despite the graphic nature of the film, it’s really a love story between Julia Cotton and her demented—and skinless—lover Frank  ... whose relationship just so happens to revolve around sadistic torture.

Hellraiser was produced for around a $1 million and grossed $14 million, making it lucrative enough to spawn nine sequels, including this year’s Hellraiser: Judgment. (Bradley hasn’t starred in a Hellraiser film since 2011’s Hellraiser: Revelations, and Barker didn’t direct or write any of the sequels, most of which were direct-to-DVD releases.) As we near the 30th anniversary of its release, let's take a look back at this horror classic.

1. THE ORIGINS OF PINHEAD CAME FROM A 1973 PLAY.

Before Doug Bradley uttered the catchphrase “We’ll tear your soul apart,” Clive Barker directed him in a 1973 play called Hunters in the Snow, in which Bradley played the Dutchman, a torturer who would become the basis for Pinhead.

“The character I played in Hunters, the Dutchman, I can see echoes of later... Pinhead in Hellraiser," Bradley said. "This strange, strange character whose head was kind of empty but who conveyed all kinds of things.”

Barker’s mid-1980s short story “The Forbidden”—which was adapted into Candyman—from his "Books of Blood" series, featured the first incarnation of Pinhead’s nails. “One image I remember very strongly from 'The Forbidden' was that Clive had built what he called his nail-board, which was basically a block of wood which he’d squared off and then he’d banged six-inch nails in at the intersections of the squares,” Bradley said. “Of course, when I saw the first illustrations for [Pinhead], it rang a bell with me that here was Clive putting the ideas that he’d been playing around with the nail-board in 'The Forbidden,' now 10, 15 years later. He’d now put the image all over a human being’s face.”

2. CLIVE BARKER CAST “REAL ACTORS.”

Unlike many other horror movies of the time, which were more concerned with gore than great acting, Barker insisted that they look for real talent in the casting. “I’m not just taking the 12 most beautiful youths in California and murdering them,” Barker told The Washington Post in 1987. “I’ve got real actors, real performers—and then I’m murdering them.” The “real” refers to British theater actors like Bradley, Clare Higgins, and Andrew Robinson.

3. PINHEAD WASN’T SUPPOSED TO BE ON THE POSTER.

New World Pictures

Bradley said the filmmakers wanted skinned Frank to be on the poster, but the studio said no to the grotesque imagery, so Pinhead was used on the poster instead. “Maybe that came from Clive, because what we get in that image of Pinhead with the box is the heart of the Hellraiser mythology,” Bradley said. “If you put The Engineer or the skinned man on the poster, it’s an amazing image but it’s just an image, and it could come from any movie.” Bradley thought using Pinhead’s face made more sense. “The big success of Pinhead is because the image is so original, so startling. It is just an incredible image to look at, and that made a big difference in terms of the public's perception of the movie.”

4. NO ONE KNEW THAT DOUG BRADLEY WAS PINHEAD.

Bradley’s Pinhead mug was everywhere—on the cover of magazines and on the movie’s poster—but no one mentioned his name. “It was great to be so heavily featured, but there was no way to prove to anyone that it was actually me,” Bradley said. “Those who were following Hellraiser at the time were wondering where the guy with the pins was! Well I can tell you where I was—I was sitting at home in England, watching it all happen from the sidelines.”

5. THE CENOBITES' DESIGN WAS INSPIRED BY S&M CLUBS.

In the box set’s liner notes, Barker wrote that the Cenobites's “design was influenced amongst other things by punk, by Catholicism, and by the visits I would take to S&M clubs in New York and Amsterdam.” Costume designer Jane Wildgoose created the costumes, based on Barker’s instruction of “repulsive glamour.”

“The other notes that I made about what he wanted was that they should be ‘magnificent super-butchers,’” Wildgoose said.

As for Pinhead, Barker said he “had seen a book containing photographs of African fetishes: sculptures of human heads crudely carved from wood and then pierced with dozens, sometimes hundreds, of nails and spikes. They were images of rage, the text instructed.”

6. IT'S REALLY A LOVE STORY.

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Julia is forced to bring men back to her house and murder them for Frank so that he can replenish his flesh. Barker looked at Hellraiser as more of a love story, with Julia committing these heinous acts in the name of love, not just to be brutal for no reason.

“She’s not committing murder in the way that Jason in the Friday the 13th films commits murder—just for the sake of blood-letting —she’s doing it for love,” Barker told Samhain. “So there is a sympathetic quality about her, enhanced hugely in my estimation by the fact that Clare Higgins does it so well.”

7. BARKER’S GRANDFATHER INSPIRED THE PUZZLE BOX.

When a person twists the box, known as the Lament Configuration, it summons the Cenobites from the gates of hell into the individual's world. “I wanted to have access to hell in the book and in the first movie, explored by something rather different than drawing a circle on the floor with magical symbols around it,” Barker told WIRED. “That seemed rather stale and rather old.”

Barker explained his grandfather was a cook on ship and brought back a puzzle box from the Far East. “So when I went back to the problem of how to open the doors of hell, the idea of [using] a puzzle box seemed interesting to me. You know, the image of a cube is everywhere in world culture, whether it’s the Rubik’s Cube or the idea of the [Tesseract] in The Avengers movies. There’s a lot of places where the image of a cube as a thing of power is pertinent. I don’t know why that is, I don’t have any mythic explanation for it, but it seems to work for people.”

8. ROGER EBERT WASN'T A FAN OF THE FILM.

Roger Ebert gave Hellraiser just a half star when he reviewed it in 1987. “Who goes to see movies like this? This is a movie without wit, style, or reason,” he wrote, adding that, “I have seen the future of implausible plotting, and his name is Clive Barker.”

9. SOMEONE HAD THE JOB OF MAGGOT AND COCKROACH WRANGLER.

In England, there was a law in which cockroaches of both sexes weren’t allowed on set, because they could have mated and caused an infestation. So Barker had to hire someone to oversee the situation. “The wrangler, this is the honest truth, had to sex the roaches,” Barker told an audience at a Hellraiser screening. “They were all male. And we had a fridge. They move very fast, so the only way to slow them down was to chill them. We chilled the maggots and the roaches. We'd open it up and it was all reassuring. It was fun.”

10. BARKER PREFERS "HELL PRIEST" TO "PINHEAD."

In The Hellbound Heart, the Cenobite with pins sticking out of his head is called The Hell Priest. One of the special effects guys who worked on the movie gave the character his nickname. “I thought it was a rather undignified thing to call the monster, but once it stuck, it stuck,” Barker told Grantland.

In 2015, Barker published a sequel to The Hellbound Heart, The Scarlet Gospels, which features Pinhead getting annoyed when people call him that—as well as Pinhead’s demise. “He will not be coming back, by the way," Barker said. "That I promise you."

11. A HELLRAISER VS. HALLOWEEN MOVIE ALMOST HAPPENED.

In an interview with Game Radar, Bradley said the success of Freddy vs. Jason led Hellraiser distributor Dimension Films to flirt with a Hellraiser vs. Halloween film. “I was actually getting excited by the prospect of this because Clive said he would write it and John Carpenter said he would direct it,” Bradley said. “I actually spoke to Clive about it a couple of times and he was interested in finding the places where the Halloween and Hellraiser worlds intermeshed.” But Moustapha Akkad, who owned the rights to Halloween, extinguished the idea.

12. THE BRITISH BOARD OF FILM CLASSIFICATION HAD TO CHECK THAT NO RATS WERE HARMED IN THE MAKING OF THE MOVIE.

While the MPAA requested that a spanking scene be cut for its American release, England's BBFC agreed to release the movie as it was, if they were assured that the rats used in the film weren’t hurt. “I had to bring three remote-control rats into the censor’s office and make them wriggle about on the floor,” producer Christopher Figg told The Telegraph. “They wanted to be sure we hadn’t been cruel to them.”

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