Science Songwriter of the Future! RESULTS!

SSotF medals

The day is upon us! Yes, today we announce the results of The Science Songwriter of the Future! competition that we’ve been running over the summer. And those right there are the medals – lovingly crafted by Lynn at Tuck Shop – that our winners will soon be receiving… But before we get down to it, a massive thank you to EVERYONE who has been involved in organising, supporting and judging SSotF. We’ve had oodles of fun, but it’s involved lots of people’s time and energy, some fervent head-scratching and some very long Skype conversations.

In particular, we at Geek Pop would like to thank: co-organisers Sociable Physics, Institute of Physics, I’m A Scientist Get Me Out of Here, Green Man Festival, House of Strange and our magnificent panel of judges.

Of course, deciding on a winner has been made all the more head-scratchingly difficult by the influx of brilliant entries we’ve had from talented, enthusiastic and generally awesome young people. The aim of SSotF was to get you guys writing about, singing about and having fun with science and we’re so pleased to see that all of those things have been happening! You’re all winners in our eyes (no cheese intended). *Virtual hugs!*

“Just tell us who has WON!” you cry! Alright, alright. So…

FIRST PRIZE: The LHC Song by Jamie Ough

Jamie told us:

“I’m glad you thought my song about particle smashing was particularly smashing. I’m 18 (just left school), and from Hertfordshire. I used free software (Mixcraft) to make the song… I played and recorded the ukulele and accordian, the glockenspiel and hand claps were synthesised through Mixcraft. It’s hard to say where exactly the idea came from. I guess it’s something to do with how much the awesome stuff happening at CERN has been in the news recently.”

And judge Tom Robinson was mighty impressed:

“Crisp, focussed and memorable. Like the best scientific laws & formulae it’s brief and to the point…  I’d play this on the radio.”

CONGRATS! Jamie wins tickets to Green Man Festival to see some awesome bands, and also to attend a special science songwriting workshop in Einstein’s Garden. PLUS, he’ll get the chance to record his song at the incredible House of Strange studios, which have hosted the likes of Mumford and Sons, Noah and the Whale, Ash and Emmy the Great. Talk about in good company!

SECOND PRIZE: Lab 13’s science song

THIRD PRIZE: Zero Air Resistance by Alannah Cowley

SOCIAL PHYSICS PRIZE: Infinite by Ben Lambert and Furat Aziz

Judge for the Social Physics category Helen Arney said:

“Marvellous… It has a few nice touches of humour and I enjoyed the structure and style – it broke out of classic verse/chorus/bridge placement.  The overdubs at the end I also really liked, where he’s trying to get across two ideas at once and that’s really hard to do.”

iTunes vouchers will be winging their way to Lab 13, Alannah, Ben and Furat very soon! Well done!

And it’s not over yet… Expect some words about the winners from our judges, field reporting from the songwriting workshop in Einstein’s Garden and the all singing, all dancing, fully produced-up version of Jamie’s LHC Song a la House of Strange. Too much excitement!

Image: Tuckshop

Science Songwriter of the Future! 2012

Science Songwriter of The Future! is a national competition, run by Sociable Physics and Geek Pop, to find Britain’s best science songwriters aged 18 or under. Simply record a song about science and submit an mp3 to us at by July 13th.

We’ve roped in some experts from the worlds of science and music to judge your songwriting skills. And there are some AWESOME prizes on offer. This year, there’s also a special Institute of Physics category for the best song on the topic of “The Social Physicist”, with its own mini-prize.


Grand Prize:
Weekend-long tickets and train fares for the winner and a guest (or guardian) to go to Green Man Festival and take part in a science songwriting workshop in Einstein’s Garden.

A recording session at London’s House of Strange studios – to record the winning entry in style.

2nd Prize: £50 iTunes voucher

3rd Prize: £25 iTunes voucher

“The Social Physicist” prize: £50 iTunes voucher


Isy Suttie is not only a star of Channel 4’s Peep Show, she’s also a very talented musician and comedian, and she’s been taking her mini-musicals to the Edinburgh Fringe since 2007. Her 2011 show, Pearl and Dave, made her audiences laugh and cry, so we’re hoping Isy will pick out a song with the elusive Smile Factor.

Tom Robinson is a veteran of the UK punk and new wave scene. He’s a Sony-award winning broadcaster and has DJed on all six of the BBC’s national radio stations. Since 2007, Tom has been a tireless champion of new music via his Fresh on The Net show. He can spot a good song at fifty paces with his hands tied behind his back.

Helen Keen, star of stage and radio, wrote and presented BBC Radio 4’s recent series It is Rocket Science, based on her one-woman show of the same name. She runs Spacetacular, a monthly science and comedy night, and this year takes her show Robot Woman of Tomorrow to Edinburgh Fringe. Helen has forgotten more about space than we’ll ever know.

MJ Hibbett has been writing and performing music for 15 years. His second studio album, This Is Not A Library, was named album of the year by Rolling Stone magazine. In 2009, he started performing a one-man stand-up show about dinosaurs that morphed into the two-man rock opera, and later album, Dinosaur Planet. If you’re thinking about writing a song about dinosaurs invading the Earth, make sure he hasn’t done it first.

Tom Whyntie is a real, honest-to-goodness CERN physicist, musician and performer. He’s a FameLab winner, and has appeared on Channel 4 and at the Cheltenham Science Festival, and will be looking out for songs that make science accessible, fun and interesting.

And judging the “The Social Physicist” category…

Martin Austwick researches social physics (using maths to understand human behaviour) at the UCL Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis, and is a keen science songwriter. This prize is especially close to his heart; he wants to use it to convince his friends that physicists aren’t so bad after all.

Hayley Birch curates and commissions music about science for Geek Pop, and manages the Solar Stage in Einstein’s Garden at Green Man Festival. Her day job is writing about science but she’s listened to more physics songs than you’ve had hot dinners and knows a quark when she hears it.

Once upon a time, Helen Arney was a lowly physics student – now she’s a science songstress, and something of a wizard on the ukulele. She is one third of Festival of the Spoken Nerd and has shared stages with the likes of Brian Cox and Tim Minchin. Helen will be on the look out for the kind of wry, bittersweet songwriting she’s known for herself.


Who is it open to?
Anyone who is 18 or under (so is at school or has just left school/sixth form college) and lives in England, Scotland or Wales. And you must be able to come to the Green Man festival (August 17-19th 2012).

If you win, and are under 18, you must use your second ticket for an accompanying adult (over 21) to attend Green Man Festival.

What do we want?
Science songs, written by you, and recorded. Your song can be about anything related to science – good science, bad science, famous scientists, discoveries, inventions, your favourite science fact, anything.

When do we want it?
By July 13th, please.

What’s this “Social Physicist” prize?
It’s a prize for the best song about “social” and “physics”! This could be about a friendly physicist, a way physics has affected society, or how you can use physics to understand society (which is sort of what judge Martin Austwick does at his home in UCL-CASA)… You can interpret this any way you want. We want to show that physicists think about people as well as physics and can be useful (at least sometimes)…

How do I submit my song?
Send your finished song as an MP3 to, along with the lyrics. You could alternatively send a download link if you prefer.

When will I know whether I’ve won?
We’ll announce the winners by July 27th. But hopefully before then.

Does the song have to have words?
Yes please.

Does the song have to have instruments?
No. It can be just people singing. Or rapping. Or rap-singing. (Is rap-singing a thing?)

What will songs be judged on?
Sciencey-ness. Music-y-ness, including melody, lyrics and rhythm. And the all-important Smile Factor. You won’t be judged on the production values of your recording.

Does it have to be professionally recorded?
No, we’re interested in the quality of the song not the quality of the recording. Of course, we want to be able to hear it! But a recording on a phone is fine if you don’t have professional equipment.

Can I get help?
Of course! You can write the song yourself, and ask a friend to sing it. And if you’re in a band, you can play a song together. But the prize is for the songwriter, so you should write the song.

But then who wins the prize?
You must nominate a songwriter who will win the prize if your song is picked. We only have so many prizes, sorry!

Do I have to bring my mum/dad/guardian if I win?
If you’re under 18, I’m afraid you do. They’ll have a lovely time.

Can I take a famous/existing song and just change the words?
No, please don’t do that. Songwriting is writing music as well as words. If we think your song is too much like a popular song we won’t like it as much and it probably won’t win.

Can I submit a song from my 1982 album Disco Science?
Ha! Trick question! If you were around in 1982 you’re TOO OLD to enter! But more generally… your song must not have been released (or otherwise made widely available) before the competition deadline. If it’s been in your attic for a year, no probs. If it went double platinum in 2010, not so much.

Can I swear and schnizet?
Please don’t. (Is “schiznet” a swear?) Nothing that would upset your grandmother.

Is the judges’ decision final?
It sure is. MWAH HAH HAH HAH <splutter>

Who are the people who have made this wonderful thing possible?
Why only Martin Austwick at Sociable Physics, Hayley Birch at Geek Pop, Einstein’s Garden at Green Man Festival, I’m A Scientist Get Me Out of Here!, the Institute of Physics and House of Strange. Not to mention our lovely judges.

Photo credits:

Isy Suttie by salimfadhley (licensed under the terms of the cc-by-sa-2.0.). MJ Hibbett by W Stone. Hayley Birch by Alex Davis. Helen Arney by Idil Sukan.

Summer songwriting competition is back… in new and younger-looking format!

You may remember us running a songwriting competition over the summer a couple of years ago. We had some unbelievably good entries and crowned a worthy winner in comic book illustrator Naomi Fearn, who went on to join the line-up for the Geek Pop 2011 festival.

Well, the songwriting competition is back, but this time we’re working in collaboration with friend, sociable physicist, fellow podcaster and star of Geek Pop festivals past, Dr Martin Austwick. And we’re on the hunt for the science songwriters of the future – you have to be 18 or under to take part. (Sorry, everyone else!*)

The prizes are going to be bigger and better than before. Thanks to our links with Green Man Festival, we’re able to offer two free tickets for the festival this August. The winner (accompanied by a guardian) will get to join a special science songwriting workshop in Einstein’s Garden, the tippest, toppest, artsiest science garden you ever did come across at a music festival… And most probably anywhere else.

And if that’s not enough, we’ll play the winning song on the Geek Pop Podcast. Fame and fortune await!

Songs can be based on any scientific topic, but there will be a bonus prize for songs about “sociable physics” – that’s the Dr’s specialist area and he’ll be explaining more about it when we announce full details in the next week or so. For now though, get writing… You have about two months to put together your science songs! For inspiration, check out our archives of songs from the podcast and festival.

Thanks to the Institute of Physics and I’m a Scientist, Get Me Out of Here! for supporting the competition.

*If you have a science song you’d like us to hear and you’re over 18, why not send it in for us to play on our podcast?
Image: Didi90

Introducing: Naomi Fearn

NaomiWe’d like to introduce you to Naomi Fearn, the budding geek song writer who won our Summer Song Writing Contest. (Results announced yesterday in the September Podcast).

Here’s Naomi’s winning entry, UnGoogleable You:

UnGoogleable You – Naomi Fearn

Judges’ comments:

“A total treat, the teenage laurie anderson and bill gates dancing at the senior prom. Touching, tender, nerd and sweet.”

“I’d buy an album of this. Wonderful structure, very nice original melody, extra geek & smile points for the 140 character solo. Really nice tempo & melody variation.”

“A fully-formed indie pop song, this wouldn’t be out of place on the playlist of an independent radio station. And it has the potential to become the new stalking anthem that could finally replace “Every Breath You Take” by Police – at least, I hope so…”

“Pulls at the heartstrings as well as the nerd… strings. Fab.”

Naomi’s website is here and as she says in the song, you can easily find her Twitter feed. Naomi also asked us to mention David Deery, who helped her record the song.

We also want to mention a couple of other song writers who didn’t quite win, but did impress us muchly with their creations:


The Astronomer’s Love Song – Andrew Pontzen


“Growing 29000 plants was not the only trick, You still had to perform some Mendel arithmetic”

Mendel – Rishi Nag

Read Rishi’s blog post about writing his song, including lyrics, here.

AND THANKS ONCE AGAIN TO: Graphic Science for sponsoring that prize.

Introducing: The Judges

Right. These are the people you need to impress/bribe to win that song writing prize.

Judge Helen

Helen Arney, geek songstress

Helen is a comedian, singer-songwriter, ex-physicist and geek. She has performed her unusually funny original songs at Geek Pop Live and the Cheltenham Science Festival, as well as in her own bedroom and on YouTube. A veteran of two Edinburgh Fringe festivals, she’s taking a new solo show there for 2010: Helen Arney’s Songs for Modern Loving. Expect songs, laughs and Venn diagrams.

Judge Hayley

Hayley Birch, Creator, Geek Pop

One of our resident nerds, Hayley is in charge of our annual festival and co-hosts the Geek Pop podcast in her spare time, whilst somehow managing to hold down a “proper” job as a science writer. Despite being able to play odd bits of everything from Fleetwood Mac to Green Day, she’s never quite sat down long enough to learn a whole song.

Judge Ben J

Ben Johnson, Director, Graphic Science

Ben is director of the science communication consultancy Graphic Science. He’s something of an expert in innovative ways of delivering scientific content and thus singing about it is right up his street. Graphic Science sponsors the “Most Contrived Rhyme” prize.

Judge Ben V

Ben Valsler, Producer, Naked Scientists

Ben is a professional audio whizz. He’s also a latent musician, with several guitars gathering dust at home while he spends his days producing for the BBC radio show The Naked Scientists. He’s a fan of Pink Floyd, Tom Waits and Joanna Newsom, but his Shakira fetish sometimes gets the better of him.

Summer song writing challenge

This fella's having a good go. Shame he couldn't clean his vest.Listen up! We’re putting your song writing skills to the test. Your task is to write and record your very own geek summer hit single. You can cover any geek-related topic you like – think particle accelerators, Dr Who, trigonometry – but it must be all your own work. (You don’t have to be a musical genius, but we will award bonus points if you make us laugh.)

You’re encouraged to enlist the help of your entire office, science class or lab. Once you’ve penned your masterpiece, record it and send it to us in the form of a digital music file, You Tube video or plain old physical CD.

WHAT DO I WIN? Thanks to the donations of some awesome folks at The Economist, Deafness Research UK, Naked Scientists and Graphic Science, the top prize is nothing less than immense.

Not only will we play the winner’s song, in full, on the Geek Pop podcast, we’ll send you: £75 of Gadget Shop vouchers, a coveted Geek Pop Square t-shirt, 7Digital music vouchers for ten free downloads, Geek Pop pin badges for you and up to ten co-writers and an assortment of popular science books, including Poseidon’s Steed by Helen Scales, a signed copy of Big Bang by Simon Singh, Crisp Packet Fireworks by Chris Smith and Dave Ansell, and the “Introducing” series books for Stephen Hawking, Time and Darwin. Oh and of course, you get a big ol’ slice of glory pie. Mmm-mmmm.

PLUS! Extra prizes! The Graphic Science Most Contrived Rhyme Prize winner will receive £25 of Gadget Shop vouchers. And we at Geek Pop will award a Geek Pop pin badge to the songwriter of each valid entry.

HOW DO I ENTER? Send your MP3 file or You Tube link to or ask us for a postal address to send a CD. The deadline is 17:00 BST on 31 August 2010.

If you know anyone else who might be up to the challenge, why not share this with them using the button at the bottom of this post?

Hey, and make sure you do your homework: check out the songs we’ve featured previously on the podcast for inspiration, and who you need to impress to win.

Some rules:

1. Songs must not have been released, or otherwise made widely available, before the competition deadline.

2. Instruments are not essential – the prize is for song writing. So feel free to record a capella, or even get someone with superior vocal talents to sing it for you.

3. Explicit lyrics are okay, but please provide a clean or “bleeped” version too.

4. No “borrowing” from other artists.

5. The judges‘ decision is final. MWAH HA HA HA.

6. Bribes may be accepted, but only if they are really, really good.


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