Thursday, 11 December 2008

Who says scientists ain't got no culture?

Scientists are often accused of being limited culturally. When I recently mentioned I was hoping to sing at the Oxford University Physics Department carol service, it caused amusement and surprise. Yet when I was at college, about half of the active musicians were scientists. And I'm currently reading an excellent novel by an active scientist, of which more later when I've finished it.

However, I recently threw down a challenge on the science online network Nature Network by giving the opening line to a poem:

'Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the lab

... I have to say I'm delighted by the response. You can watch this monster growing live (including an animated reading of part of it) at this blog entry. To give a feel for the progress so far, I've accumulated the lines below. Bearing in mind the way it has been assembled, and overlooking the inevitable in-jokes (including the intentionally mis-spelled girrafe) and the need for a little editing to make it scan better, I think it's going rather well:

’Twas the night before Christmas and all through the lab
Not a Gilson was stirring, not even one jab.
On the bench, ’twixt a novel by Jennifer Rohn
And the paper rejected by Henry’s iPhone
Lay a leg, still trembling and covered in gore
And Frankenstein sighed ‘I can’t take this no more’.

He exclaimed panic struck, as he took in the scene,
of horrendous results from NN’s latest meme.
‘having one extra leg wasn’t part of the plan
to create a new species, 'anatomized man’.
And then out of the blue, ‘twas a bump in the night
A girrafe ’pon a unicycle, starting a fight
Held back by a keeper smiling with glee,
It was then that I knew it was Santa Gee.

His iphone, how it jingled, his crocs how pink,
It was all I could do to stammer and blink.
‘There you are’ cursed old Frank’stein, approaching the Gee,
‘Call off the girrafe, and hand over the fee’
“The Beast” then leaped up, from O’Hara’s new leg
Attacked Santa Gee and his elf, Brian Clegg.
One sweep of the sack and the beast was laid out
When the hoof of the girrafe gave a terminal clout.


  1. It was going OK until those last couple of line. Harumph.

  2. Note for non Nature Network readers - 'The Beast' is Bob's cat, so he probably feels a touch defensive.

    However, later developments in this evolving rhyme have shown the Beast to survive the attack - the 'terminal' bit refers to the leg, it seems.