Considering how much pleasure science gives, it’s astonishing that many people don’t have a greater passion for it. No doubt this is partly down to its demanding more mental effort than do novels, movies, sport or sex. What’s worse, Mary Shelley’s ‘Frankenstein’ has unintentionally done lasting damage by providing a fashionable shibboleth for Romantic anti-rationality. In this age where we patently depend on science and technology for our very survival, this is a Very Bad Thing.
Broadcast documentary-makers and popular-science writers have made outstanding efforts to counter society’s unscientific bias. But there is still a mountain to be climbed. Arts graduates abound despite society’s great need for scientific competence. Female science graduates are a comparative rarity. Scientific illiteracy persists worryingly even among educationalists and politicians. Ideologically and religiously driven anti-science is an increasingly threatening force – notably in the USA, the bastion of science in the last half-century.
Contrast that with music, whose ability to charm and calm has been taken for granted everywhere in recorded history. Music is universally popular precisely because it corresponds so well to the human mind’s natural machinery. Scientists are now uncovering music’s special power to engage with and influence our brains beneficially in ways we can scarcely have imagined, including its surprising abilities to heal and to console. Having learned about itself from science, maybe music can repay it by spreading the word about the joy of science?
That was the start point for SiM: a project to explore and exploit music’s power to educate about science. SiM seeks to enhance the pleasure of learning by evoking scientific ideas musically and in lyrics. Put simply, if you can learn about science by reading or watching intently, how much more pleasantly can you benefit if the medium is music?