14 April 2014

Happy Birthday, Mr Lehrer

Today is Tom Lehrer’s 85th birthday. In view of recent developments in the Korean peninsula two of his songs in particular seem appropriate. Currently there are rumours of a fourth nuclear test being carried out by the North Koreans before long, so first, We Will All Go Together When We Go:

And also a missile launch, helped by who knows who, may be on the cards for Kim Il-sung’s birthday on 15 April, so second, Wernher von Braun:

And finally, my STEM favourite, The Elements:

which ends:

… There's sulfur, californium, and fermium, berkelium,
And also mendelevium, einsteinium, nobelium,
And argon, krypton, neon, radon, xenon, zinc, and rhodium,
And chlorine, carbon, cobalt, copper, tungsten, tin, and sodium.

These are the only ones of which the news has come to Ha'vard,
And there may be many others, but they haven't been discavard.

In 1959 Lehrer included 102 chemical elements in his song, since when numbers 103 to 118 have been identified, though not all have been finally named. Sadly there is little chance of any new element ever being named Lehrerium.

On 6 April BBC Radio 4 broadcast Tom Lehrer at 85, made for them by Pacificus and available on iPlayer until 13 April.

UPDATE 14 April 2014

A year later and Mr Lehrer is 86 - congratulations!  To mark his birthday, an article, Looking For Tom Lehrer, Comedy’s Mysterious Genius, was published on BuzzFeed by Ben Smith - definitely worth reading.

North Korea is just as problematic as it was a year ago.

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