Bohemian Gravity: Canadian grad student uses music to explain string theory
Tim Blais performs Bohemian Gravity in this image from video (YouTube)
Fan-Yee Suen, CTVNews.ca
Published Saturday, September 28, 2013 8:30AM EDT
Rocking out to his own rendition of the hit song "Bohemian Rhapsody," a Canadian physics student's online music video explaining the concept of string theory has attracted the attention of Queen guitarist Brian May, who happens to hold a PhD in astrophysics.
With its heavy-duty science lyrics and smooth harmonies, McGill University student Tim Blais, who recently submitted his master's thesis, says the reception to his "Bohemian Gravity" has been "fairly incredible."
"That was a really nice feather in my cap. I was really hoping that (May) would see it," Blais told CTVNews.ca on Friday.
In the parody music video, Blais rocks out to the finer points of the complicated string theory, which, at its most basic level, proposes that all fundamental particles in the universe are made of oscillating filaments. According to the theory, these vibrating "strings" determine the charge and mass of a greater particle.
"Guess Einstein's theory wasn't complete at all," Blais belts out, before an animated puppet version of the famous scientist appears on screen. He's surrounded by 16 panels of Blais singing backup.
The self-professed musical-science geek says his love for all things lab-related partly comes from William "Bill" Nye, the host of the popular educational television program, "Bill Nye the Science Guy."
"He was sort of the reason I went into science. He always had these musical parodies at the end of each episode," Blais said.
But "Bohemian Gravity" isn't Blais' first foray into science-musical greatness.
Last year, Blais released "Rolling in the Higgs," a parody of Adele's chart-topping song "Rolling in the Deep," which he composed in honour of last summer's announcement that scientists at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) had discovered a particle which they described as Higgs-like.
Physicists later announced that the search for the elusive subatomic particle -- also known as the "God particle" -- was over after scientists said this year that the data "strongly indicates that it is a Higgs boson."
The Adele parody video earned Blais a spot on the popular social and entertainment website Reddit and he was mentioned in a Scientific American blog.
But Blais' real musical masterpiece is the "Bohemian Gravity" video, which he said he began working on before "Rolling in the Higgs."
"I very quickly realized that it was going to be a massive project."
He said after a few days "Bohemian Gravity" was posted on YouTube, his thesis advisor messaged him: "Hey, congratulations. I see that you're famous again."
Blais, who says he comes from an "incredibly musical" family, says he plans on taking a break from research and nurture his creative side. He plans on writing more science-based music as well as releasing an album of original compositions.
"When you allow yourself to be creative with the things you love, it really keeps the research fresh."