Physicist rhapsodizes string theory and turns to a life of music

Hudsonite Timothy Blais has hit fame and possibly a dramatic career shift after combining two of his passions – science and music – in a YouTube video that has gone viral.

“Is string theory right? Is it just fantasy?” is the sweet opening of a new a capella parody of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody. Blais’ take, called Bohemian Gravity, has been viewed over one million times since its mid-September upload to YouTube.

Star Trek’s George Takei, actor Russell Crowe, and even Queen guitarist and astrophysicist Brian May have shared Blais’ video. “The wonderful thing about the internet is, you’re connected to everybody,” said Blais, 23. “It took surprisingly little time for all of this to happen. It takes about eight minutes to watch the video, then if someone likes it, they share it, and it’s boom-boom, down the line.”

Bohemian Gravity is a whirlwind foray into the world of string theory, the lyrics of which, Blais admits, most people, unless they have some grasp of physics, won’t understand. But cleverly compiled phrases, like “infinities will make you cry, unless you can renormalise your model, of baryons, fermions, and all other states of matter,” and “guess Einstein’s theory wasn’t
complete at all,” might make viewers giggle, especially when an Einstein puppet, made by a friend of Blais, takes centre-stage around the operatic middle.

The parody was composed while Blais, who was homeschooled until Grade 10, was completing a master’s degree in theoretical physics at McGill University. “I wrote it mostly for myself … having been immersed in string theory, and just living and breathing this stuff . I just wrote things I felt were clever and soft-of made me laugh,” he says.

“It took about a year to make, and the process of writing it was really fun, and very much me geeking out, ” said Blais, who applied his musical background in singing and piano to weave together a complicated yet air-tight lyrical landscape, what some media outlets are calling ‘the most intelligent parody ever.’ So far, Blais has been featured in the Huffington Post, NPR, CTV, Global, and CBC, where his song has received some airtime, and an October 1 television interview with CBC’s
Ian Hanomansing.

Blais has hit YouTube gold, and he hopes to continue producing content on his channel, A Capella Science. After five years of hard work earning a graduate degree in quantum physics, Blais is turning to music rather than the pursuit of academia. “This year, I’m definitely taking to be creative, and to be honest, a career in something musical seems a lot more fun to me. I want to explore all the different lives I can lead. The only life I’ve explored so far is the academic path,” he says.

It’s his upbringing, nurturing a love of science and being allowed to learn creatively at his own pace, Blais says, that has inspired this dramatic shift in livelihood. “I’m really thankful my parents have always said ‘education is good for you no matter what, see what makes you happy.’ Without that, I wouldn’t have conceived of this as a career.”

Watch Blais’ parody here:

This article was published on October 3 2013 in Your Local Journal

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