"Our poets do not write about it; Our artists do not try to portray this remarkable thing. I don't know why. Is no one inspired by our present picture of the universe? The value of science remains unsung by singers: you are reduced to hearing not a song or poem, but an evening lecture about it. This is not yet a scientific age."

--Richard Feynman

How Teachers Can Use This Music in Classes?

I use the astronomy songs in several astronomy and physics classes and also in outreach programs. I have found teaching in an urban university where students have to drive through traffic to get to class, then fight for a parking spot, need a period of mental adjustment. It is not entirely worthwile to jump right into difficult astronomical concepts before the students have "calmed down" from the the stress of life outside of classroom. Thus, I arrive at my class about 10-15 minutes early and have music playing as they come into class. Not just music, but astronomy music. This music, coupled with the "Astronomy picture of the Day" sets the stage for what is to come in the class. It has been shown that music helps to create a classroom climate conducive to learning by reducing stress levels and putting students at ease (Blanchard 1979, Davies 2000, Russell 1992). Music has also been shown to have the potential to improve students' interest in and attitude toward the material they are learning (Ahlqvist 2001). If they are intrigued by the topics in the songs, they are more likely to want to find out more during class.

For instance, if the topic of the day is "Black Holes", I start out class with the Black Hole Song. During class, when we get to the topic of "ergospheres" I explain to them about the cosmonaut we heard about earlier encountering that very region around a spinning black hole. When I talk about cosmology, The Grand Scheme of Things sets the stage for the more descriptive lecture to follow. So the music can be scripted with the lecture.

I also show up one day a semester with all my guitars and my amplifier and have a "concert class" where I perform the astronomy slongs live. Students frequently comment on the music in my faculty evaluations at the end of the semester. Comments such as: “… and I loved that he sang his galactic songs …”; “I love your guitar and singing session!!”; “Amazing teacher and great music”; “… Webb rocks and so does astronomy” are frequent. I have also received numerous positive comments about the music after concerts at star parties and planetarium shows as well.