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Everyday science

Astronomer picks music that is out of this world, cycling around the LHC, airborne basketball

10 Aug 2018 Michael Banks

The Harlem Globetrotters are a much-loved exhibition basketball team that has been entertaining audiences for nearly 100 years with zany gags and amazing skills. In their latest stunt, Globetrotter Bull Bullard has sunk a basketball from a flying aeroplane. Watch the above video to see for yourself – and pencil and paper ready to calculate the projectile in what is a text-book physics problem.

Retired US astronomer and teacher Andrew Fraknoi has painstakingly put together a collection of musical pieces inspired by astronomy. Featuring over 250 tunes – including both classical and popular music – the collection is organized into 32 topics such as galaxies, comets, exoplanets and meteors.

Franknoi says the pieces have connections to real science rather than just mentioning astronomical terms. The Beatles’ song Across the Universe, for example, doesn’t make the cut because there is not enough “serious” astronomy. He told Physics World that he has been putting together the collection for over 30 years and even plays excerpts of the music “at appropriate moments” when teaching.

“I believe that it’s helpful for non-science students studying science for their general education to see that there are inspired connections between the humanities and the sciences,” he says. “What I am impressed by [in the collection] is the variety of pieces, and the way so many different ideas from astronomy can serve as inspiration for composers.”

Circular cycling

CERN press officer Sarah Charley has just cycled the “Passport to the Big Bang” route, which approximates the LHC’s subterranean path on the nearest roads and trails. You can read about her odyssey through Switzerland and France in “Tour du LHC” on the Symmetry website. Highlights of her journey include a tour of the LHCb cryognenic control centre and an encounter with an agitated peacock.

This is not the first time someone has done a travelogue based on the LHC. A few years ago the author Will Self recorded a very funny radio programme called “Self orbits CERN” for the BBC.

Related journal articles from IOPscience


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