Newscripts | May 30, 2005 Issue - Vol. 83 Issue 22 | Chemical & Engineering News
Volume 83 Issue 22 | p. 80 | Newscripts
Issue Date: May 30, 2005

You oughta be in pictures, Geeksta rap, Cartoon guide to chemistry

Department: Newscripts

You oughta be in pictures

American film critic Pauline Kael wrote a book of movie reviews called "I Lost it at the Movies: Film Writings 1954-1965." A number of scientists and engineers may actually find "it" at the movies.

For the second year in a row, the American Film Institute is inviting scientists and engineers to apply to participate in a workshop to learn about writing for the movies. Applications should be postmarked by June 3.

Last year, 15 participants had the opportunity to learn about the business and craft of writing for the movies (C&EN Online Latest News, May 26, 2004). The U.S. Air Force Office of Scientific Research is underwriting the film institute program in hopes of more accurately portraying science in movies and television shows.

Geeksta rap

You've heard of gangster rap; now get ready for geeksta rap.

Rajeev Bajaj, a 39-year-old chemical engineer from Fremont, Calif., wanted to introduce the geek world to nongeeks. So he invested $15,000 to hire musicians to perform four rap and hip-hop songs he wrote to bring science and engineering to the masses. The album, produced on an independent record label Bajaj formed, came out last October and is called "Geek Rhythms."

His lyrics eschew the scatology of the more fashionable gangster rap. "Enjoy the Ride" features the following lyrics:

In a machine made of silicon and steel
My brothers in mechanical, electrical,
and chemical field

Created a chip with 50 million transistors
Lots of capacitors and resistors
CPU, math coprocessor, and graphics engine
Rely on transistor switching fine
It takes electrons flowing across the gate
A short distance from source to drain
A journey obviously not made in vain.

Sit back and enjoy the ride
Computer geeks have arrived.

Bajaj, whose day job is running a semiconductor materials start-up company called SemiQuest, has continued to moonlight at the fringes of the entertainment industry in hopes of convincing the young and the restless that engineering careers are cool. Earlier this year, Bajaj began collaboration with an Ohlone College multimedia instructor and his students to make an animated video of "Geek Dreams" from the "Geek Rhythms" album. Bajaj hopes high-tech companies or the music video channel MTV will use the videos to prove that smart can also be sexy.

As word spreads, geeksta rap is catching on. "Geek Rhythms," available through the online vendor Amazon, now ranks 53,260 on the sales chart. The album was at 231,392 at the end of January. One reviewer opines on the Amazon site: "This is the best thing to happen to geeks since Bill Gates."

Cartoon guide to chemistry


If geeksta rap doesn't capture the young and the restless, then the just-published Cartoon Guide to Chemistry might do the trick. Intended as a fun supplement to standard chemistry texts, the guide is a product of Stanford University associate professor Craig S. Criddle and award-winning cartoonist Larry Gonick.

Gonick and Criddle's $16.95 paperback guide covers the history of chemistry, atomic structure and the periodic table, chemical bonds, reactions, heat and energy, and more in 256 pages published by HarperCollins. "We mainly aimed for high school and first-year college chemistry students," Criddle says.

In one chapter of the guide, Criddle's alter ego and a wise-cracking sidekick assemble wood, seashells, and bat excrement to make things like emergency flares and pottery. Of course, the text also supplies the appropriate balanced chemical equations.

This week's column was written by Marc Reisch . Please send comments and suggestions to


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