Thinking and Linking by Joanne Jacobs
“Harry Potter” actor Daniel Radcliffe sings Tom Lehrer’s “The Elements,” on a BBC show.
Via Cosmic Log and Instapundit.
I think he left out Seaborgium.
Seaborgium was named much more recently than the song was written, wasn’t it? Wikipedia says the name was proposed in 1994 and formally adopted in 1997, and that sounds about right; I heard Seaborg speak at Lawrence Livermore National Lab when I was working in Pleasanton (just down the road), and that would be between Feb.1995 and June 1997. I vaguely recall he mentioned the proposal had been made but hadn’t been adopted. Not sure how old the song is, but a lot earlier than that. Lehrer stopped writing songs around 1970 or so. Some of his songs were updated, but it’s hard to see how you’d do that with “Elements.”
(Speaking as someone who owned the first Lehrer LP, 10-inch, not long after it came out. Mathematicians didn’t have a lot of popular icons, and word got around.)
Actually he left out the entire last line that appears in most versions of the updated song.
I suspect it was because by that stage is was all a bit too much for the other guests on the programme who looked rather uncomfortable with all this geeky stuff.
Good on him for promoting science. And just to promote the study of the periodic table a little more can I suggest reading my recent book,
Eric Scerri, The Periodic Table, Its Story and Its Significance, Oxford University Press, 2007.
Having grown up loving Tom Lehrer’s work from an age before I was able to actually understand most of the songs, I have to say that was Sofa King awesome.
“The Elements” only goes up through nobelium, element 102. Anything from lawrencium onward isn’t included.
Eric S. Raymond noted Radcliffe’s performance, and there are these in the comments:
# Jeff Read Says:
November 17th, 2010 at 11:00 am
Worth noting that They Might Be Giants recently released their elements song. Not as clever or complete as Lehrer, but rather poetic. And yes, it made my geek heart happy to see TMBG make science-themed music.
. . .
# Ken Burnside Says:
November 17th, 2010 at 8:48 pm
Anyone can sing Lehrer’s The Elements.
But can you sing the extended version, that adds two more versus for the elements added since he composed it?
How about backwards?
Oh, and Eric – don’t look too closely at Lehrer’s politics. You may spoil your enjoyment of his music.
Eric asked where the extra verses could be found, and I would have if he didn’t.
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