Explanatory ‘Nano Song’ becomes mega-hit on Youtube

Vocalist Glory Liu poses with a muppet

How would you explain “nanotechnology” to a science novice? A group of US-based students from the University of California, Berkeley, have answered this call with a pint-sized video - part Sound of Music, part Muppets, part science class. Its online reception, though, has been anything but small!

The Nano Song features music and lyrics by 27-year-old Ryan Miyakawa, a pianist-composer and engineering graduate student. Glory Liu - a classics and political economy major with three years of classical music training - lends voice to the lyrics, cheerfully explaining nanotechnology to a band of puppets: “A million nanometres that are lined up in a row/Are just about as long as a single flake of snow….”

Image representing YouTube as depicted in Crun...Image via CrunchBase

The piece went online on February 22, when the group submitted it to the American Chemical Society (ACS), as part of its competition to explain nanotechnology in no more than three minutes.

Fame wasted no time. By early March, The Nano Song had spread virally, with mentions by PhysOrg.com, Scientific American, WIRED, and boingboing. When YouTube featured the video on its home page, it quickly racked up over 3,00,000 hits, along with a mountain of comments from viewers, like: “‘Nano Song’ is rocking the globe!”

“I turned comments off after the first 200,” says Miyakawa.

Nanotechnology is a hot topic in science and engineering, but experts in the field have trouble explaining it to the uninitiated, he notes.

“Therefore, I wanted to do something fun that would be acceptable to the public,” he says.

To Miyakawa, a silly yet edifying song seemed to be in order. He spent a day composing a tune - using music software to lay down a big orchestral sound - and writing lyrics with across-the-board appeal.

The refrain goes: “Nano, nana, nano/ What a wonderful surprise/That ordinary is extraordinary/When you make it nano size!”

Turning the snappy ‘Nano Song’ into a video was challenging; complete with its troupe of students and alumni, who built and manipulated puppets for the shoot.

The Nano Song is currently the top-rated and most-viewed contest submission, with more than 12,000 views on the ACS site.

To see the video itself, ‘behind the scenes’ photos of its making; or to download an MP3 of the song, visit www.nanosong.com.

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