Why does the sun shine? What is a shooting star? Where have all the flowers gone? They Might Be Giants relentlessly crisscrosses America in our chartreuse microbus, asking the kind of probing musical questions that have earned us all those obscene, angry letters from high school science teachers. Arguments routinely break out en route to our next gig about the nature of the Van Allen radiation belts or whether a human could subsist only on Nutella. Most of us didn't do all that well in school and it is perhaps for this reason that there are never any ultimate conclusions as we careen down the interstate. One of our longer running bus arguments was about how the hell a geostationary orbit works. Nobody was really sure of the correct answer, though we each talked as if we were, which made the debate all the more intense.
Perhaps unfairly, we have been given the opportunity to present our explanation of various scientific matters on a new DVD for truth seekers of all ages called 'Here Comes Science.' Up until this point, TMBG's output has consisted almost entirely of unverifiable poetic assertions such as 'The Statue Got Me High,' 'I Can't Hide from My Mind' and 'Youth Culture Killed My Dog.' With our new release, we have been forced to fact check each claim using methods beyond our old standby "because I said so."
Somehow the ability to entertain while singing about testable information wins the day and our imperfect grasp of the subject is forgiven. Maybe we even score points with the rest of the laymen for our charming naiveté. This might explain why Ira Flatow, who hosts 'Science Friday' on National Public Radio was so friendly to us as we chatted it up with him and played our songs on his show recently. He even deigned to pose for a picture I took of him and Mr. Flansburgh with my old fashioned 3D camera, a 1955 Stereo Realist, which takes a pair of images a few inches apart. To view a stereo photograph in 3D one normally looks through a viewer that merges the two images by sending each to one of your respective eyeballs. There is, however, a way you can enjoy the effect without a viewer but with a little effort. By leaning slightly away from your computer screen and crossing your eyes until the two pictures overlap many of you will be able to see Ira with all the depth he actually possesses in person when he's behind the microphone. Don't worry if you don't get it right away. Stare at the picture and relax. Oh my god! It's like he's right there!
Next week: Fast and Bulbous