New Trailer – New Website (coming soon) – New Era

As you may have noticed, we’ve been busy. Not many updates on the old Science With Tom blog. Luckily, it’s because we’ve been working really hard.

Here is a trailer for the new YouTube show that is in the works.

And even more importantly, here is the winning video of the “Older” competition! Congratulations to Ms. Crock’s class from Roosevelt high school in Portland, Oregon!

“Older” Crowd-sourced video competition, #ScienceFolder

Introducing “Older”, a parody of Drake’s “Over”, about science as a process rather than as a body of facts.

If you are a science student of any age, a teacher, a scientist, or a science lover, I want you to submit your visuals for some part of this video. (And if you’re a science teacher, this is a fun end of the year activity for your students).

Please share the song/competition with anyone who may be interested, and tweet about it using #ScienceFolder.

VISUALS: You have lots of creative freedom here. Your visuals can be drawings, animations, stop-motion, shots of you rapping with props, or anything you can dream up. If you’re short on time, you can even just submit a photo of you with your science folder or lab notebook.

LENGTH OF SUBMISSION: If you want to be considered for the grand prize, you need to submit at least one line of the song (for example, you could choose “Teacher talking. Tympanic membrane swayin’” and come up with a visual for that line). You are welcome to submit visuals for multiple lines, for a full verse, a chorus, or for the whole song. If you are working as a class, you can have different students in charge of different lines.

AUDIO: Here is an mp3 of my audio, to use while you are shooting.

LYRICS: Read the lyrics (or annotate them) on rap genius here.

GRAND PRIZE: For the very best submission, I will personally come to the venue of your choosing to perform a full science rap live show. If a school class wins, this could be at your school. If a scientist wins, this could be at your university.

HOW TO SUBMIT: Submit your name, email, video, and consent via this form.

DEADLINE: June 30, 2014 (or if you are a school class, whenever your teacher says).

Can’t wait to see what you all come up with! Feel free to write any questions in the comments section of the video, or of this blog post.

Cataracts Rap


Another amazing production out of our Science Rap Academy at the Nueva School. (An academy, at my school, is a weekly 1.5 hour class on anything a teacher wants to teach. It takes about eight academy sessions to pick a song/topic, research, write lyrics, record audio, and shoot the video).

The students chose to parody the song “White Walls” by Macklemore.

And what science term rhymes with Cadillacs? Cataracts of course. And “white walls” kind of sounds like “eye balls”.

Our deep dive into the world of eye problems and cataracts lead us to the offices of Dr. Andrew Iwach, who generously opened up both his exam rooms at the Glaucoma Center of San Francisco and the operating rooms at the Eye Surgery Center of San Francisco. Throw in some stylish grandparents, a friend’s Cadillac D’elegance, and some animations by the American Academy of Ophthalmology (and the hard working video production team at 3MotionCreative) and we had ourselves a music video.

Watch it here and share it with anyone you think might be at risk for cataracts.

Please note that there are captions (click on the “CC” on the lower right). We think the captions look best when you go into caption options and make the background 0% transparent. You can also make them bigger… if your vision isn’t so good.




Black Death vs. Yellow Fever

The fifth and final “Brahe’s Battles” video is complete! The 9th graders from SUMMIT San Jose tried a new take on “science history rap battles.” They personify two deadly epidemics, battling over which disease was more devastating, frightening, and consequential for human history.

In this corner: Yersinia pestis a.k.a. The Bubonic Plague a.k.a. The Black Death, a.k.a. that bacteria that wiped out an estimated 100 million 14th century Europeans.

Black death, personified by LJ The discovery of antibiotics has reduced the human impact of Yersinia pestis, a bacterium that can be transmitted in the guts of fleas (which, in turn, live on rodents). Although there are still outbreaks of plague in modern times, the disease can be cured if treated immediately with antibiotics. Terrifyingly, antibiotic-resistant strains of Yersinia pestis have been isolated in various parts of the world.

In this corner: from the genus Flavivirus, Yellow Fever a.k.a. Yellow Jack a.k.a. the RNA virus responsible for devastating pandemics in 19th century North America


The Yellow Fever Virus, spread by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, most likely evolved in Africa and was brought to the Caribbean via the slave trade. The horrifying disease spread through New Orleans, Philadelphia, and New York in the late 1700s and 1800s. To this day there is no cure for the disease, which can cause extreme bleeding, jaundice, and even hallucinations in the 15% of people who enter the “toxic phase.” Within that group there is up to 50% mortality. Luckily there is a safe and effective vaccine for Yellow Fever.

The students chose to parody the hit song “Black and Yellow” by Wiz Khalifa.

Extra Resources:

New science history battle rap! Tycho Brahe vs. Johannes Kepler

It’s the “sickest mustache in the 16th century” (Tycho Brahe) battling his assistant (Johannes Kepler) in a brand new astronomical rap dual, written and performed by 8th graders at San Jose Community Day.

According to legend, Tycho got his nose cut off in a dual over who was the better mathematician. He had a pet elk. He posted up in a big old palace called Uraniborg and got lots of accurate data with his big fancy instruments.

Uraniborg! Denmark.

Uraniborg! Denmark.

Meanwhile, Johannes Kepler had an amazing mathematical mind and came up with several far out theories involving harmonic spheres and muscial notes as he tried to find God’s order in the movement of the planets. Kepler was eventually hired by Brahe and went to Uraniborg to help Brahe interpret his data.  Brahe was attached to his “Tychonic model” of the solar system (which had other planets orbiting the Sun while the sun orbited Earth), while Kepler was convinced of the Copernican model (Earth one of several planets orbiting the Sun).

tychonic modelCopernican model

Brahe was  stingy with his data, since he wanted Kepler to support his own theory. It wasn’t until Brahe died (under mysterious and controversial circumstances… mercury poisoning from his nose? overindulgence? MURDER!?) that Kepler was able to make some progress. With unfettered access to Brahe’s data, Kepler was able to come up with three elegant rules for planetary motion, known as Kepler’s Laws of Planetary Motion.

* * *

Last year, the 8th graders from San Jose Community Day (and their teacher Mr. Spielberg) decided to immortalize this epic battle in rap music video form. This is the only song out of the “Brahe’s Battles” series that is not a parody – an all original track on top of an original Chase Moore beat. Hope you enjoy it. Watch it on YouTube or embedded at the top of the post.

For more information on this tale of scientific intrigue:

  • Cosmos. Carl Sagan. Episode 3: “Harmony of the Worlds”. This retells the whole story of Brahe and Kepler. (Vimeo link)
  • Two more thorough versions of Kepler’s Three Laws on Planetary Motion (short version, long version)
  • Lyrics to the Brahe vs. Kepler rap battle video (which you can explain/annotated) on Rap Genius.
A sneak peak of the Brahe vs. Kepler shoot.