Lower Case
Tim Griffin

If you could be a watt, all the power that you got

Could be written as a number on your head (like a light bulb)

We used to say joules per second but eventually we reckoned

It was easier to say watts instead

We named it after James, you know Watt was his last name*

The industrial age’s greatest engineer

The steam engine made more sense with a separate condenser

And Watt was a power pioneer.


If you could be a kelvin, then you wouldn’t be a lord

But a temperature in absolute degrees

We named it for a hero who said absolute zero

Is the temperature where even atoms freeze

Two seven three below is where the zero ought to go**

When we want a proper thermometric scale

Lord Kelvin was the man who defined thermodynamics

And for temperature, the kelvin tells the tale.


If you could be a curie, then I’d really start to worry

‘Cause too many curies could be pretty bad

We named it for Marie who studied radioactivity

All the scientists agree she was rad***

Radiation is reckoned in activity per second

Madame Curie was the finest in the field

And her work was so nice she won the Nobel twice

Found new elements twice

Founded medical institutes in Paris and Warsaw

And invented a mobile X-ray machine…

And some curies can cure you but too many more could kill you

So you’d better count your curies carefully!


There are scientific crowns for the names of great renown

Written down at every university

Like Newton and Ohm, Tesla and Coulomb

But that isn’t how they want their names to be

For Faraday and Joule, winning accolades was cool

But they’ll never need a trophy in a case

Because a Nobel’s nifty but the very greatest gift

Is when

We write

Their names

In lower case.


*Line 5 may cause confusion, with somebody asking:

“So, Watt was his last name?”

And I say, “Yes, that’s the point of the song.”

And they say, “Okay, but Watt was his name?”

And I hesitate before saying, “That is correct.”

And we both stand there awkwardly, wondering Watt is the problem?


**Absolute zero is -273 degrees celsius. Celsius was a scientist, of course. So was Joule.


***This terrible pun is not my fault; blame Jeff Bohnhoff.