Lab Tracks

Lab Track: Newton

26ScientistsVol2I do this thing where whenever anybody tells me something I should probably remember, I type it on this single file in my phone’s memo pad. As a result, the file includes hundreds of phrases with zero context (“Cavalier & Clay – Chabon / Play Hrab’s Atlanta / Mogami or Canare Cable” for example — I’m only aware of about 40% of the reason for why these items are there). It’s clear that this is a terrible approach to remembering things, since in addition to having no explanation for why I included something, the memo pad file only gets opened when I’m adding other items. It’s a disaster of disorganization, and it’s only getting bigger.

Luckily, when I saw the phrase “Artichoke – 26 Scientists” — something I’m fairly certain I added during a conversation with someone at either NECSS or CONvergence — I had the wherewithal to google those words. (If the person was you, please speak up!) (update: It was Jamie Bernstein! Hooray!) We should all be happy I did, because it brought us to today’s Lab Track.

The LA-based indie-pop band Artichoke has been working on a pretty ingenious project. They’ve created biographical songs about 26 scientists — one for every letter of the alphabet — and composed them in the style of various bands such as The Beatles, The Pixies, Beck, The Talking Heads, and Cake. Today’s lab track is their tribute to Isaac Newton. It explores not only his upbringing and tragic life, but…well, I’ll let Artichoke explain:

Newton was a socially awkward guy with immense powers of focus and concentration. I wonder if being a more balanced person might have made him happier but less far-seeing? Nobody can say for sure. In the song “Newton” I put forward a little hypothesis of my own – that coffee reached Europe and helped to trigger the Enlightenment. Perhaps somewhere there is already a paper on this idea, spawned no doubt by coffee.

26 Scientists comes in two volumes, which you can purchase for a measly $10 each here and here. Without further ado, I give you Newton. Enjoy!


Isaac Newton took a breath
Just as Galileo left
Early on a Christmas morn his father was dead so
Mother found another man
Left him there to tend the land
But Isaac was a genius and a terrible farmer
His grandma was head of the household
But Isaac did what he was not told
His grandma did everything she could
But Isaac was watchin’ the light

Fences lay in disrepair
Isaac didn’t seem to care
Animals were runnin’ where the animals wanted
Isaac made a list of words
Every planet every bird
Every stone he overturned to see what was under

They sent him to study at Cambridge
Which suited his nature obsessive
The canon was mostly a fossil
The classics back to Aristotle

Coffee reached Europe and many said “It’s the drink of Satan!”
Coffee reached Europe and put an end to the Middle Ages

Then there came bubonic plague
Londoners were diggin’ graves
Cambridge students went away their classes suspended
Isaac Newton went back home to his farmer’s house of stone
Contemplatin’ all alone happy and friendless

The prism dividin’ the light and
The shadows that move on the sundial
The cities were ringin’ their plague bells
But Isaac was watchin’ the light

Galileo and Descartes showed him where to make a start
Takin’ time and space apart slicin’ and dicin’
Newton headed up the mint his eyes were lasers heart was flint
If he found a coin was clipped there was a hangin’

So jealous of others’ success and
So needy to make an impression
He started with beautiful questions
He ended with venom and bile

Isaac loved his solitude hated Leibnitz had a feud
Bitter rivalries ensued over the math prize
Isaac was a bitter pill when he died he left no will
Probably a virgin still we’re lookin’ through his eyes

He never laid eyes on the ocean
But Isaac deciphered its motion
He died of a stone in the kidney
He died unloved and in pain

Ashley Hamer

Ashley Hamer (aka Smashley) is a saxophonist and writer living in Chicago, where she performs regularly with the funk band FuzZz and jazz ensemble Big Band Boom. She also does standup comedy, sort of, sometimes. Her tenor saxophone's name is Ladybird.

Related Articles


  1. It was meeee! A song from their 26 Scientists album came on in the car on the way back from CONvergence. Always happy to share my love of Artichoke with the world!

Leave a Reply

Back to top button