The Rap About Science

Science merging with rap posted on YouTube–it’s a mashup for the zeitgeist.

The latest version of this phenomenon is the popular “Large Hadron Rap,” viewed on YouTube 1,200,000 times.

The video was produced by Kate McAlpine, 23-year-old Michigan State University graduate and science writer.

Her rap video focuses on what’s been called the world’s largest scientific instrument, the Large Hadron Collider  at the CERN laboratory near Geneva, Switzerland. The LHC is in the news this week because the first attempt to circulate a beam of particles around its 17-mile circular tunnel is set for Wednesday. In coming weeks scientists plan to accelerate two beams in opposite directions to more than 99.9% the speed of light.


“Smashing the beams together creates showers of new particles for physicists to study,” is how CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research) puts it in its official brochure about the LHC. Doomsday sayers fear the consequences of such an experiment. Scientists who reviewed the safety of the LHC said it will not create a black hole or any other cataclysm.

“The things that it discovers will rock you in the head,” is how McAlpine describes the LHC in her rap video

“Rap and physics are culturally miles apart,” she told the Lansing State Journal, “and I find it amusing to try and throw them together.”

“We love the rap, and the science is spot on,” CERN spokesman James Gillies told the Journal. “I have to confess that I was skeptical when Katie said she wanted to do this, but when I saw her previous science rapping and the lyrics, I was convinced,” he added. “I think you’ll find pretty close to unanimity among physicists that it’s great.”

Science Communication researcher Jonathan Chase has also produced a rap video for YouTube. His production for Astrobiology Magazine European Edition focuses on the notion of life in the universe.

“His main focus is on exploring new and alternative methods of engaging the public with science, and demonstrating the various ways that science impacts upon our knowledge of the world,” Astrobiology says on its site. “Jon’s approach is light-hearted, informative, and entertaining. It uses ‘rap’ in story form. Just as science fiction narrative comments on the world through a ‘hard’ or ‘soft’ science lens, rap comments on the world through a ‘hard’ or ‘soft’ emotional lens.”

Want to know what it’s like to go to sea with the Coastal Ocean Observing Center at the University of New Hampshire?

“Cruise Cruise Baby” is their music video that “sums it up well,” according to their site. “The song encompasses some typical and atypical events we have experienced on our oceanographic cruises. We have truly lost communication with our equipment, lost our equipment, and lost our lunch while working with equipment. Fortunately we can usually reestablish communications, find our equipment, and eat more lunch.”


Changing Planet

Meet the Author
More than forty years in U.S., UK, and South African media gives David Max Braun global perspective and experience across multiple storytelling platforms. His coverage of science, nature, politics, and technology has been published/broadcast by the BBC, CNN, NPR, AP, UPI, National Geographic, TechWeb, De Telegraaf, Travel World, and Argus South African Newspapers. He has published two books and won several journalism awards. In his 22-year career at National Geographic he was VP and editor in chief of National Geographic Digital Media, and the founding editor of the National Geographic Society blog, hosting a global discussion on issues resonating with the Society's mission and initiatives. He also directed the Society side of the Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellowship, awarded to Americans seeking the opportunity to spend nine months abroad, engaging local communities and sharing stories from the field with a global audience. A regular expert on National Geographic Expeditions, David also lectures on storytelling for impact. He has 120,000 followers on social media: Facebook  Twitter  LinkedIn