Songs From the Science Frontier

by Monty Harper

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1.
Do you look upon the universe with wonder in your eyes? Do you tingle with attention when you’re taken by surprise? If a problem should perplex you, does it put your brain in gear? Then you’re ready for adventure on the science frontier! The science frontier The science frontier You can always be a pioneer On the science frontier All our continents are mapped, and all our shipping lanes are known So our planet doesn’t want another Ponce de Leon But we do need great explorers with the strength to persevere Blazing off in new directions through the science frontier The science frontier The science frontier You can always be a pioneer On the science frontier Beyond the reach of scientific law You’ll find a land of untamed facts and rogue phenomena Dark matter and dark energy, entanglement of light Pluripotent stem cells, the origins of life Cancer-fighting nanobots, magnetic monopoles Extremophile biology, the centers of black holes Genomics, climatology, the rise of human kind Informatics, wind energy, the nature of the mind And for every mountain conquered brand new vistas will appear May we never see the boundary of the science frontier The science frontier The science frontier You can always be a pioneer On the science frontier The Science Frontier
2.
Molecular biologists who study the cell Tease apart the functioning of each organelle Their minds are down exploring all that microscopic scenery Puzzling out the pieces of the cellular machinery To get at how a nano-worker tackles its task There's one million dollar poser they inexorably ask: What is the shape of the molecule? The protein molecule in question We need the shape of the molecule To understand how it works! Quite often biochemists like to lend expertise To finding brand new substances that hinder disease See that pathogenic enzyme? To the virus, it’s vital So they’re seeking an inhibitor to keep that thing idle And trial after trial makes their brains a little weary Just looking for the chance to raise that million dollar query Repeat Chorus From the DNA to the RNA to the ribosome to the amino acid chain Every biologist knows that's how the process goes And when a protein is assembled, it’s contents are plain But Nature plays her trick, and she is oh so quick It is impossible to follow her with any success Each protien twists and folds until the form it holds Becomes a complicated structure that we cannot guess That's why we need to use clever tools To figure out the shapes of these molecules! An x-ray crystallographer has tricks she applies To isolate a protein and make it crystalize Then she puts the protein crystal in an x-ray apparatus A pattern of reflections forms beyond the crystal lattice Computers do the math based on the way the x-rays scatter That's one technique for getting at this million dollar matter Repeat Chorus
3.
Acrocanthosaurus Acrocanthosaurus buried underneath the ground One hundred twenty million years you waited to be found Your bones reveal the tale Of claws that would impale And jaws that would avail a preditory carnivore Still you keep your secrets My Oklahoma dinosaur Acrocanthosaurus with your vertebrae so unique A scientific mystery, they give you your mystique Like dominoes in a row Were they more than just for show? We’d very much like to know what you evolved to grow them for Still you keep your secrets My Oklahoma dinosaur Swing your mighty tail bone; Snap your toothy jaws Stomp your plodding foot bone; Spring your sharpened claws Shake your spiny back bone; Sing your lonesome roar Acrocanthosaurus My Oklahoma dinosaur Acrocanthosaurus with your headdress down your spine We formed a few hypotheses about your cool design Maybe it kept you warm? Maybe it made you strong? Maybe we’re right or wrong but we'll continue to explore As long as you keep your secrets My Oklahoma dinosaur Swing your mighty tail bone; Snap your toothy jaws Stomp your plodding foot bone; Spring your sharpened claws Shake your spiny back bone; Sing your lonesome roar Acrocanthosaurus My Oklahoma dinosaur
4.
Super Scientist Pseudomonas Aeruginosa Bacteria that seem to do no harm But then a secret message signals them to form a biofilm And they organize a syndicate Invincible and poisonous And none can stop their deadly tricks None but the super scientist Go, Super Scientist, go! Break that code Go, Super Scientist, go! Find your answers Do the things you need to do to make the data speak to you Go, Super Scientist, go! Change the world She's not your average super hero She cannot fly; she cannot see through walls Dedication, Perseverance and Patience are her powers She never needs to use a fist When facing down her nemesis She punches by hypothesis She is a super scientist Go, Super Scientist, go! Break that code Go, Super Scientist, go! Find your answers Do the things you need to do to make the data speak to you Go, Super Scientist, go! Change the world She wants to stop them forming biofilms To stop the biofilms she’ll block their secret signal To block the signal she needs to know the pathway To know the pathway she needs to find the proteins To find the proteins she must test a list of suspects Knocking out one gene each time to form a mutant PA spy While each test takes six months to do Dedication, Perseverance and Patience see her through Go, Super Scientist, go! Break that code Go, Super Scientist, go! Find your answers Do the things you need to do to make the data speak to you Go, Super Scientist, go! Change the world Go, Super Scientist, go! Change the world!
5.
Once he took a submarine to an undersea ravine to explore a hydrothermal vent Life had never yet been found in the place he poked around near the superheated effluent Yet there were some critters there gladly munching on the fare in their sulphurous cafeteria He took em home to his retreat, but they died without their heat; they were thermophilic bacteria He's a mi - crobe hunter Exploring the great unknown He's a mi - crobe hunter Adding brand new branches to the tree of life mighty different from our own He was good and lost on the Russian permafrost where there ain't no trees nor herbivores With a tubular device he dug down into the ice and he pulled up ancient sample cores In the unforgiving cold frozen life had taken hold; the oldest bugs in Siberia He tried to take em back, but they melted in his pack; they were cryophilic bacteria He's a mi - crobe hunter Exploring the great unknown He's a mi - crobe hunter Adding brand new branches to the tree of life mighty different from our own Well he went for a fling to the Zodeltone Spring on an Oklahoma mountainside It was such a crazy brew that the critters that it grew were incredibly distinct and rarefied We can be assured the excitement they stirred was more than mere hysteeria For the NSF sent him one enormous check to isolate the new bacteria He's a mi - crobe hunter Exploring the great unknown He's a mi - crobe hunter Adding brand new branches to the tree of life mighty different from our own From their RNA he can tell you right away if the critters he's caught are novelties If they've never been seen he will sequence every gene, finding clues to what puts them at their ease In a culture dish he’ll try and grant their every wish, meeting metabolic criteria And if the buggers up and die, he'll take another try until he grows the new bacteria Cause he's a mi - crobe hunter Exploring the great unknown He's a mi - crobe hunter Adding brand new branches to the tree of life mighty different from our own Adding brand new branches to the tree of life mighty different from our own
6.
02:34
Bat Man There are books full of bats from all over this world Eleven hundred species or so They've been identified, named, described and preserved But it's their history that we still don’t know And though he'd love to go trapping in Mozambique It really wouldn't bring back the knowledge we seek So the bat man labors in his lab all day Analyzing DNA Cause he's a bat man Yeah he's a bat man Working on the mystery of life's history He's a bat man Bat bodies built with itty bitty brittle bones Don't fossilize very well And many kinds of bats look exactly alike So just by peeping at em we can't tell But deep in every cell there are molecular clues A record of change that the bat man can use When the bat man sees a difference in a couple of genes He knows just what that means Repeat Chorus Some genes change every generation Older genes show vary little variation Genomes are like a kind of history book The trick is learning where to look Around the world thousands of biologists Are working in a similar vane Each one checking out a different niche Every species under every domain And with molecular clues new contributions are rife To this planet sized puzzle we call the tree of life And when we put it all together think of what that's worth We'll know the history of life on Earth Yeah we will, we'll know the history of life on Earth Repeat Chorus
7.
Baby’s in the high chair Her food is on the floor She's testing a hypothesis And she needs to know more Square and orange will stick she predicts Round and green will bounce like a ball Her carrots and peas fly one by one Until the outcome becomes predictable We are born to do science A baby can do it and so can you We are born to do science Just figuring out what's true Baby’s out of juice now. And so she throws her cup. It makes a happy clatter! And her Daddy picks it up! How can she make him do that again? The need for data is evident She giggles with anticipation As she launches her new experiment... Come on, Daddy... Pick up the cup... Hmmm… Maybe if I cry-yi-yi We are born to do science A baby can do it and so can you We are born to do science Just figuring out what's true Human Beings are wired to investigate Baby’s brain will calculate, analyze and formulate That’s why she tries to crawl into her Momma’s tote Play with the TV remote, Find out if car keys float It's what we're all about; we love to figure it out! We are born to do science A baby can do it and so can you We are born to do science Just figuring out what's true
8.
Like a moth I am drawn when the light falls upon me I am a phototaxic bacterium Where there’s light I can tell and I spin my flagella To propel me toward those rays of sun I’ll bet you thought something tiny as me could never see. How can this be? My molecular eye Flips for a photon, Kicks out a proton and registers light My molecular eye Shows me the whole scene, One mighty protein gives me the sight My molecular eye I admit I am proud when I sense that it’s cloudy Using photocyclic chromophores With my fine protein eyes it is hardly surprising I’ve survived where others died before I’ll bet you’d love just to bask in its glow, and you’re dying to know what makes it go. My molecular eye Flips for a photon, Kicks out a proton and registers light My molecular eye Shows me the whole scene, One mighty protein gives me the sight My molecular eye I spy with my tiny eye My molecular eye My molecular eye My molecular eye
9.
My mother says she thinks I probably ought to stop talking to my very best friend She says it stresses me out She calls it - co-rumination I told her that I really couldn't see how it could hurt me to be talking to a friend In fact it makes me feel good I call it - someone to listen Then Mama said, "One of us may be right. Good old science will shed some light." Chorus: It's not fair when your mother is a scientist It's even worse when your mother is a developmental psychologist We never have a normal argument Cause she'll just run an experiment She gathers up data and evidence And who ever comes to my defense? It's not fair when your mother is a scientist My mother ran a study using pairs of volunteers she put in two different groups The controls did a task The others did co-rumination She took before and after sample spit from each participant in each of the groups To measure cortisol scores Cause that's a - stress indication When the cortisol charts came back from the lab, all I could say was, "Dag-nab!" Repeat Chorus But Mom, I told her, you know you haven't proven a thing (haven’t proven, really haven’t proven) Your study isn't published. It hasn't been reviewed by your peers (it hasn’t been peer reviewed) You can't say for certain if co-rumination is a cause of stress Your results have not been duplicated, and that could take many years Mom said, “It’s not fair when your kiddo knows about scientists It's even worse when your kiddo is a teenage know-it-all smarty pants I never win a single argument Cause even when I run an experiment And gather up data and evidence My kid still invents some brilliant defense It's not fair when your kiddo knows about scientists” Well, it's not fair when your mother is a scientist No Fair! No Fair! No Fair!
10.
04:06
This is the sun shining down on Earth. This is the warmth of the sun shining down on Earth. This is the air rising up through the warmth of the sun shining down on Earth. This is the wind blowing in beneath the air rising up through the warmth of the sun shining down on Earth. This is the rotor spinning in the wind blowing in beneath the air rising up through the warmth of the sun shining down on Earth. This is the generator running on the rotor spinning in the wind blowing in beneath the air rising up through the warmth of the sun shining down on Earth. This is electricity flowing from the generator running on the rotor spinning in the wind blowing in beneath the air rising up through the warmth of the sun shining down on Earth. This is the light from the lamp I lit with electricity flowing from the generator running on the rotor spinning in the wind blowing in beneath the air rising up through the warmth of the sun shining down on Earth. This is the book I'm reading in the light from the lamp I lit with electricity flowing from the generator running on the rotor spinning in the wind blowing in beneath the air rising up through the warmth of the sun shining down on Earth. What is the title of the book I'm reading in the light from the lamp I lit with electricity flowing from the generator running on the rotor spinning in the wind blowing in beneath the air rising up through the warmth of the sun shining down on Earth? This is the Sun Shining Down on Earth is the title of the book I'm reading in the light from the lamp I lit with electricity flowing from the generator running on the rotor spinning in the wind blowing in beneath the air rising up through the warmth of the sun shining down on Earth. This is the sun shining down, shining down on Earth. This is the sun shining down on Earth. Wind energy, wind energy! Capture the wind! Wind energy!
11.
I am a small grain of sand I am a piece of the land A crystal of quartz; A time-piece of sorts Absorbing the energy at hand A patient and ancient grain of sand Once I was blocked from the sun My time as a clock had begun Each radiant spark that strikes in the dark Knocks one more electron undone I trap them. I store them one by one Now I am lifted away from my site Suddenly dazzled with blinding blue light My trapped electrons all flow back where they belong They glow as they go You count the photons; You calculate my dose Your machine lets you know How many millennia I spent collecting Electrons for you Now I am reset and waiting for darkness To start me anew I am a small grain of sand I am a piece of the land A crystal of quartz; A time-piece of sorts Absorbing the energy at hand A patient and ancient grain of sand
12.
Behold the Oklahoma plain Planted with a single strain A blanket spun from golden grain A trillion stalks of wheat On every stalk a perfect head The kernels keep the combines fed Then off to manufacture bread So everyone can eat Ain't it beautiful; Ain't it clever Ain't it just about the best news ever A farmer feeds a nation's needs When man and nature work together About a half a world away An Afghan farmer starts his day He swings a scythe to cut his hay He threshes it by hand He grows a mix of wheat out here And when the weather turns austere A strain or two may persevere Enough to meet demand Ain't it beautiful; Ain't it clever Ain't it just about the best news ever A farmer feeds a family's needs When man and nature work together Back in Oklahoma, disaster in the fields Farmers ponder pesticides while Russian aphids cut their yeilds But scientists have a weapon to help us fight this pest The USDA wheat gene bank has more than fifty thousand types to test And they find resistance built right in To a plant from our Afghan farmer friend They cross it with our own and spin A strain that can't be beat And so the Oklahoma plain Ripples proudly once again A blanket spun from golden grain A trillion stalks of wheat Ain't it beautiful; Ain't it clever Ain't it just about the best news ever How science feeds our global needs When man and nature work together

about

“Do you look upon the universe with wonder in your eyes?” asks the opening lyric of Oklahoma songwriter Monty Harper’s new CD of songs about science for learners age eight and up. If so, sings Harper, “then you’re ready for adventure on the science frontier!”

The CD is adventurous indeed, taking listeners to the cutting edge of scientific exploration with subjects like phototaxic bacteria, acrocanthosaurus, stress hormones, wheat genomics, bacterial biofilms, bat taxonomy, x-ray crystallography, wind energy and luminescence dating. “These aren’t typical topics for kids’ science songs,” Harper admits. “But I’m not trying to teach textbook content here. I really want to celebrate the purpose and process of science.”

Harper’s unique approach grew out of the “Born to Do Science” program he hosts at his local library, in which scientists speak with children about their current research. In-depth interviews with his guest speakers formed the basis for most of the songs on the CD. “Scientists are heroes to me,” says Harper. “They have the patience, curiosity, and courage to explore nature and generate new knowledge, all with an eye toward improving the human condition. It’s such fascinating and important work. Everybody should know something about it!”

With this mission in mind Harper set out to make a recording that families would want to hear over and over again. He raised the necessary cash with a “crowd-funding” campaign on Kickstarter.com that brought in over $9,000. More than 140 backers contributed to the campaign. “I was blown away,” says Harper. “Not only friends, family and fans, but total strangers gave generously because they believe in the need for fun, engaging, informal science education.”

Harper put the money he raised to good use, hiring Chris Wiser of the Oklahoma City band, the Sugar Free Allstars, as his producer. The SFA are widely known for their fun and funky organ and drum kids’ rock, which supports Harper’s own Beatle-influenced acoustic sensibilities throughout the CD. Says Colin Thornton, of Cincinnati, OH, one of the CD’s backers and father of two girls, “The album is so good that you forget you're learning about science. The songs are as catchy as They Might Be Giants, as smart as the Decemberists, and as creative as Bright Eyes.”

credits

released November 11, 2010

@ 2010 by Monty Harper
Monty Harper: vocals, acoustic guitar, concertina, melodica
Rob "Dr. Rock" Martin: drums, percussion
Chris "Boom" Wiser: keyboards
Dave Spindle: bass, electric guitar
Produced by Chris Wiser
Recorded at Bell Labs Recording Studio, Norman, OK
Additional recording at 20 Sparrows Recording Service, OKC, OK
Engineered by Trent Bell
Mastered by Garrett Haines at Treelady Studios
Cover design by Monty Harper and Paul Fleming
Funded through Kickstarter.com
Boom and Dr. Rock appear courtesy of the Sugar Free Allstars

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Monty Harper Stillwater, Oklahoma

Monty Harper is a children's musician in Stillwater, OK. He performs for elementary schools and libraries, helps kids write their own songs in workshops and residencies, does informal science education, and writes songs for clients.

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