< PREVIOUS_________________________________________________________________NEXT >

Y IS FOR YOU

YOU

As I write these words, my daughter Thalia is about two and a half months old.  She was born during the time I was writing this show.  This song is about her.  But it is also about all people.

YOU ARE A MIRACLE: This is perhaps a strange word to be using in a show about science.  The strict definition of a miracle is “an event that cannot be explained by scientific laws”, so to a scientist, there is actually no such thing as a real miracle.  But “miracle” has a softer meaning as well – it can be used about things that just seem amazing.  And if there’s one thing in the world that is amazinger than pretty much anything else, it’s the feeling of becoming a parent.
THE ARROW OF TIME HAS POINTED IN YOUR DIRECTION: This statement contradicts something I said in my song for the letter P, where I make it clear that humans are not at the “top of the tree”, that evolution will continue after we’re gone, and that there is nothing special about us.  Again, though, “special” has a softer meaning, and when you have children, you will understand that it can feel like that child is the most important thing in the Universe, and that the Universe has been created especially for them, even if you know it’s not actually true.  There is a good evolutionary reason for this: human babies are very helpless, much more helpless than babies of most other species, so it’s important for parents to care for them.  If we’re genetically programmed to think that our babies are miracles, and are the most important things in the world, then those babies are more likely to survive and to carry those believe-your-babies-are-amazing genes to the next generation.  Understanding this trick of nature doesn’t change how you feel about your children.
EVERY ATOM IN YOUR BODY WAS ONCE IN A STAR: This is absolutely true.  The only way we know of to make carbon, for example, which is the element that is most important to life on Earth, is in the extremely high-temperature and high-pressure environment inside a star.  If you want to know more about this process, read a book called Stardust by John Gribbin.
GESTATE: This means to be carried inside the body before birth and to develop from a zygote into an embryo into a fetus.
UTERUS: This is an organ inside the body of female mammals (including humans) in which gestation takes place.
BRAXTON HICKS CONTRACTIONS: A contraction is what a pregnant woman feels when her stomach muscles squeeze together, to help the baby come out.  A Braxton Hicks contraction is a contraction that happens a long time before the baby is ready to come out, and they can sometimes trick women into thinking that the baby is ready.
50 TRILLION NEURAL CONNECTIONS: A neural connection is also called a “synapse” – these are the links between neurons in the brain – see under ‘N’.  Babies have far more synapses than adults, but not all of them are linked up.  As the child develops, synapses (and indeed whole neurons) will die off if they’re not being used.
SUPERPOWER: As with “miracle”, this is perhaps a strange choice of word for a science show.  A superpower is usually something that a fictional superhero has, something that by definition most humans don’t have.  Here, I’m using it to describe things that all (or at least most) humans have, but that I still think are super, such as the ability to survive in every climate on Earth, and the ability to fashion tools.  I guess the point I’m making is that these are skills that most animals don’t have, and that make humans special; so you could claim that the superpower of a dung beetle is being able to carry a thousand times its own weight, and the superpower of a magpie is to imitate the call of other birds.

Here are the lyrics.

< PREVIOUS_________________________________________________________________NEXT >