5 Famous Songs That Prove Musicians Don't Understand Science
Songwriters like to use metaphors in their lyrics, and the natural world lends itself easily to prose. It's so much more effective at tugging the heartstrings to compare your relationship to a volatile chemical or the listener to a colorful pyrotechnic display than to say what you mean straightforwardly. Of course, we don't expect our musicians to moonlight as physicists -- hell, we're lucky if they finish high school. So sometimes they get their science wrong.
Incredibly, laughably wrong.
"Promise of a New Day" by Paula Abdul
Eagle's calling and it's calling your name
Tides are turning, bringing winds of change
Paula sings of changing the world and loving one another, evoking progressive imagery such as the Earth moving under her feet, being singled out by the bird of freedom, the winds of change being churned out by the tides ...
In fact, it's the wind that causes the waves when it blows upon the surface of the water, not the other way around.
Much like hot girls in swimsuits, wind is prevalent near large bodies of water. Unlike hot girls in swimsuits, this is because water absorbs heat, and the warmer air over the land rises above the cooler air over the water. (The girls are there to tan and stuff.)
"Perfect" by Hedley
Falling at 1,000 feet per second
You still take me by surprise
Actually, an object falling through space will accelerate until it reaches a maximum speed, called terminal velocity, that will remain constant until the object is stopped. This maximum speed depends on a number of different factors, most prominently the surface area of the object, which causes drag and slows the object, and its weight. (Heavier objects fall faster.)
Let's apply this to an average-sized human: "A free-falling 120-pound woman would have a terminal velocity of about 38 meters per second," says Howie Weiss, a Penn State University math professor. For an object to reach a terminal velocity of 1,000 feet per second, it would need a mass of thousands of kilograms while keeping its surface area, among other factors, sufficiently low. Hedley must like their women like their black holes: incredibly dense.
"This Kiss" by Faith Hill
It's that pivotal moment, it's a feeling like this
It's centrifugal motion, it's perpetual bliss
Did you ever ride the Gravitron when you went to the carnival? That was the ride where you stood against the walls of a circular room that spun around and around at a dizzying rate. Do you remember how your body held tight to the walls even as the room spun around you, pressed stronger and stronger as the room spun faster? Bam, centrifugal force.
What's hilarious about these lyrics is that they're not just wrong, but describing a force that is the opposite of what centrifugal force does: push an object outward from the center. Faith Hill is basically saying that she feels repelled from her lover.
Or, more likely, she actually means centripetal force, which is the "center-seeking" force required for an object to accelerate along a curved path. We're sorry to do this to you, Ms. Hill, but we're going to have to release the angry nerds.
"Dreams" by Fleetwood Mac
Thunder only happens when it's raining
If you've ever lived in a tempestuous climate, you've no doubt experienced something called a dry thunderstorm. It happens when either no precipitation is produced in the storm or, much more commonly, the precipitation that does occur evaporates before it hits the ground, due to a very dry atmosphere. This type of precipitation is called virga, presumably to make meteorologists sound even more stupid.
You see, thunder occurs as a response to lightning, and lightning happens when the balance of electric charge in the atmosphere is disrupted, usually by particles of rain and ice. So there will almost always be rain involved at some point in the process, but if it's dry on the ground, you can hardly say it's raining, Stevie.
"Save the Best for Last" by Vanessa Williams
Sometimes the snow comes down in June
Sometimes the sun goes 'round the moon
The sun is really, really big.
"The radius of the sun is about 700,000 kilometers (435,000 miles)." In comparison, the distance between Earth and its moon is 384,400 kilometers, or 238,855 miles. It doesn't take a degree in physics to understand the problem here. Sure, sometimes the sun appears to obscure the moon, in cases such as a lunar eclipse, but it takes an Insane Clown Posse level of not understanding how things work to think that the sun is actually orbiting the moon. We won't even touch on the catastrophe it would be if the solar system were somehow knocked off its axis in such a way that the sun began revolving around planets (or their moons!) instead of the other way around.
Audiences didn't seem to notice or care either. The song spent five weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard Top 100 in 1992 and went on to be one of the biggest hits of Williams' career.
And that's why scientists aren't songwriters.