24 September 2011

Plus or Minus … Oh, Nevermind

I’m blasting Nirvana’s seminal album Nevermind as I write this … I have to stop every few words to rock out on my air drums and sing along to the chorus (“Hello, hello, hello, hello, hellllo”) of “Smells LikeTeen Spirit,” the album’s anthemic lead track. It’s hard to believe that it’s been 20 years since the album was released. Twenty years to the day, in fact, as it was released on September 24, 1991. And after that long, it still never fails to get my adrenaline flowing.

Authentic "grunge" apparel worn
by yours truly, circa 1991.
Actually, I should say after about 19 years and 9 or 10 months; I first heard SLTS over Thanksgiving weekend 1991 (or was it Christmas?) when my oldest brother — having returned home from college for the holiday — excitedly told me about this cool new song he’d just heard. What did I do? I did what any 12-year-old kid with a budding interest in popular music (and access to cable TV) did at that time … I turned on MTV, of course. When I flipped over to the station, there it was; the music video was just starting. Perfect timing. I was hooked.

I’ll leave the long homages and retrospectives to others better suited (See NPR’s coverage from this past week or the Experience MusicProject’s exhibit). But, as my own form of minor tribute, allow me to present one scientist’s guide to Nirvana, annotated with the relevant discipline with which I’m certain the band members were fascinated. Enjoy:

“School” (Bleach, 1989) – Where scientists go to learn their skills.
“Big Cheese” (Bleach, 1989) – Dairy science
“Smells Like Teen Spirit” (Nevermind, 1991) – Biology/Olfactory
“In Bloom” (Nevermind, 1991) – Botany, Horticulture
“Lithium” (Nevermind, 1991) – Chemistry
“On a Plain” (Nevermind, 1991; Unplugged, 1994) – Geography
“Scentless Apprentice” (In Utero, 1993) – Again with the olfactory.
“Heart-Shaped Box” (In Utero, 1993) – Anatomy
“Very Ape” (In Utero, 1993) – Zoology
“Radio Friendly Unit Shifter” (In Utero, 1993) – Engineering
“Jesus Doesn’t Want Me for a Sunbeam” (Vaselines cover, Unplugged, 1994) – Heliophysics
“Plateau” (Meat Puppets cover, Unplugged, 1994) – Geography
“Lake of Fire” (Meat Puppets cover, Unplugged, 1994) – Limnology perhaps?



  1. This was quite a stretch to science, Timothy. I guess it is plus or MINUS science, but still. What about neutrinos breaking light speed?

    Just kidding around, love your writing.

  2. Thanks buddy. Sometimes it's nice to mix topics up a bit. I am actually writing about neutrinos currently, although not the recent light speed neutrinos. Thanks for reading.

  3. Very entertaining. I love that you still have the shirt.