Over the years, popular music has posed several enduring questions, but few have ever been approached using the scientific method. “Rigour” is my middle name. Well to be strictly factual, it is my fifth middle name from the right, just after “Peregrine” and right before “Van Helsing”. I’m taking “Van Helsing” there as one middle name, rather than two. Anyway, in the spirit of enlightenment I have attempted to shed new light on a few old favourites. If you have any examples of your own with which we could extend this thread, please don’t hesitate to post them in the comments section. I will be happy to help.
This is potentially one of popular music’s most alarming questions, raising, as it does, the possibility that a casual passer-by is having some toxic, or soporific, effect on avian-kind. In a worst-case scenario this would constitute a biohazard.
Very well then. Before we all rush to the clean room to put on our Hazmat suits, let’s examine the evidence.
Our first line of enquiry should be to distinguish between causation (the subject of the song is the reason birds fall down from the sky) and correlation (the subject of the song lives, or often walks, in an area where a significant number of birds fall down from the sky on a regular basis). The song tends to indicate the former, but without scientific testing we would be unwise to rely on the subjective observations of the questioner, who reveals a definite bias in her explanatory note: “Just like me, they want to be close to you.” Is, perhaps, the observer conflating “falling” and “swooping”? Are the birds predominately seagulls? Does the subject have birdseed in his or her back pocket, or otherwise smell of mealworms?
These are all pertinent questions. The situation is further confused by the next question:
Why do stars suddenly appear every time you are near?
There is no information as to what type of stars are being seen. Unless the subject predominately prefers to walk in the late twilight, it seems unlikely that this is a reference to the sudden onset of a night sky. It would, perhaps, have been helpful if the song had seen fit to include spectral analyses and some indicative magnitudes of the stars involved, but the opportunity was missed and there’s no point crying over spilt milk. What’s done is done.
A more credible hypothesis is that the subject is a celebrity who associates with other celebrities whilst indulging in perambulation. The observer is literally “seeing stars”. If so, the question seems somewhat naive. It would be like asking “Why does Brad Pitt turn up every time George Clooney throws a house-party?”
A third possibility is that the observer is affected in some way by the same toxin or soporific that makes the birds fall down from the sky. Visual disturbance would be a likely side effect. All in all, I fear there is insufficient data to posit a credible theory at this stage. Clearly the testing undertaken thus far has been amateurish in the extreme. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: that’s what happens when you send Arts students to do a Science student’s work.
My conclusion: more research needed.
Why does it always rain on me? Is it because I lied when I was seventeen?
I’m afraid that this is demonstrable nonsense. Even were the subject of the song living permanently outdoors in the rainiest region of the planet, the assertion that it always rains on him could not conceivably hold true (although it might explain his predilection for hats).
What, then, of the possibility that perpetual rain might be considered a by-product of an act of mendacity at the age of seventeen? Frankly, this disregards even the most basic tenets of climate mechanics. With all due respect to proponents of the butterfly effect and chaos theory, this conclusion doesn’t stand up to even a moment’s scrutiny.
My conclusion: “it doesn’t”. And “no”.
It’s not all about you, Fran.
Who let the dogs out?
Means: who was capable of letting the dogs out? Were the dogs under lock and key, or some other form of secure detention. If so, then our enquiries must, of necessity, concentrate on those with access to the keys or the codes.
Motive: who benefits from the dogs’ egress? A neighbour irked by their incessant barking? An animal rights group freeing them from a medical research test? A dog warden business fallen upon hard times?
Opportunity: within which window of time was the foul deed perpetrated? We are told it was when “the party was nice and the party was bumpin’ and everyone having a ball”. This is instructive. Who was missing at this critical period? Witnesses say the alarm was raised by a poor man shouting. Who was this man? How poor was he in reality? Are there, in fact, any number of suspicious payments into his bank account?
My conclusion: it’s either the poor man, the Benji man or the man in white shorts. Arrest all three and beat the truth out of them with a rubber pipe. Harsh but fair.
Are friends electric?
My conclusion: yes.
Where did who come from? Me? Mankind? Is this a question about the origin of life itself?
Where did you go?
Where did who go? And when? Please be more specific.
Where did you come from, Cotton Eye Joe?
Okay, now we’re getting somewhere. Let’s try and make our questions a bit more focused, okay?
Where did you come from?
Are we still talking about Cotton Eye Joe?
Where did you go?
I’m not usually given to ad hominem attacks but if you don’t stop repeating the same stupid questions I’m going to punch you in the face.
Where did you come from, Cotton Eye Joe?
Oh wait, you’re Swedish. I see what the problem is.
My conclusion: Swedish. Need a translator.
Why d’ya have to go and make everything so complicated?
Science is complicated, Avril. Even simple questions may have complex answers. Like “why is the sky blue?” or “how has Piers Morgan not been murdered in his sleep yet?” I know it’s frustrating, but a good grounding in the Sciences will help. Seems you took a bit of a wrong turn when you went the Arts route. Still, what’s done is done. No use crying over spilt milk.
My conclusion: must try harder.
Is this the way to Amarillo?
Seriously, Tony? You want to waste my valuable time on this?
Do you know the way to San Jose?
Et tu, Dionne? Turn left at Amarillo, then buy a bloody map, FFS!
Won’t you show me the way, everyday?
Peter, I fear this would only breed dependency. Some things you just have to work out for yourself. Maybe you, Dionne and Tony could put your heads together and form some sort of self-help travel group.
My conclusion: Testable hypothesis: pop stars suck at Geography
Hello. Is it me you’re looking for?
Not sure, Lionel. Do you perchance live in Amarillo or San Jose? Do you know Tony, Dionne and Peter? If so, I may be able to help.
My conclusion: may have solved one of them
How many roads must a man walk down before you can call him a man?
Oh, Bob! You and your stupid puzzles! Here’s one for you: what do you call a bloke floating in the water? Bob! Geddit? Bob! No? Oh, come on! That was way better than yours.
My conclusion: blowing in the wind…