The Melody of Science

Two times during the last few weeks, my wife has been asked to write a song. A very specific song that is, a song for special occasions when a person is celebrated e.g. for a 50th birthday or a Confirmation. The way to produce songs of this type is to use keywords from a person’s life that one way or other sums up his/her main events and achievements, and to fit it into the melody lines of a familiar song – often a very simple and somewhat traditional melody. I’m sure this must be common tradition in other countries too.

Let me summarize the main ingredients that were gathered for one of these songs: “Childhood friends, the parents’ house, boyfriends, school, marriage, kids, working at X, likes reading and picking berries”. When I saw this list, I couldn’t help thinking: Is that it? My wife is good at this stuff, but even she protested about the apparent dullness and ordinariness of the keywords. There must be more to a life than that. The question is what the keywords for the song about your life would look like.

I thought about the song and the keywords for a while, and put myself in that situation. If my wife should write a song about me, how big part of that song would my science activities occupy? What do my friends and family know about my university activities that can be translated into a tribute? And being sung afterwards without sounding like my life flashing before my eyes?

The temptation became too big. I had to think about some keywords for my life in Science as my wife potentially could see it. Actually, this wasn’t a bad idea, I thought, as I have spent half my life studying and researching at a university. This could be a nice opportunity to wrap up.

These are the keywords:

  • Studied in Oslo, stayed in Oslo (I did actually spend a long time in Leeds)
  • Girlfriends, yea, but eventually happily married (Im not sure if she would add this part)
  • The son likes volcanoes and fossils, father-son relation (he is still too young to come with me to fieldwork)
  • Collecting rocks, analyses, volcanoes and mass extinctions (I would say Large igneous provinces, but that’s likely too complicated to add in a song like this)
  • Works a lot, work, work (this is not true, but she probably sees it this way, so ok)
  • Expeditions to remote places, Siberia (yes!)
  • Give talks in the weekends (only recently and actually not all weekends)
  • Permanent position soon, we are sure! (well I’m only 42, so no rush)

I don’t think the list would be much longer than this. No, this is it, when judging as an outsider. Science activities can be hard to understand when you are not into it yourself. For some, it may sound strange that you are paid to collects rocks and analyze them afterwards. But this is the easiest way to wrap up the science activities. The number of paper or citation doesn’t matter to outsiders I’m sure, the same for grants and proposals.

The question becomes if I would rather have the traditional song covering my non-scientific life (hometown, childhood friends, studies etc.), or this one? I would say it depends. Depends on the melody of the song, the melody of science. It would have to be a pretty groovy one. “He gives talks in the weekends, yeah, yeah, yeeeaahhh.”  

This blog post is also published at EAG Blogosphere,


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