Matin Durrani - Science Journalist

Spotify playlist - Furry Logic: Heat

Posted by Matin Durrani on 25 September 2016

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spotify heat imageHaving just written a new popular-science book Furry Logic: The Physics of Animal Life with Liz Kalaugher, we're both keen to drum up interest in our amazing physics-meeets-animals mashup.

It's been great to have a copy finally in my hands sent by those lovely people at Bloomsbury, and while flicking through our tome, I hit upon the cunning idea of creating Spotify playlists for the animals in each chapter.

It's a marvel of physics-based technology that you can have the world's music at your fingertips via your smartphone - no, it's not fairies that run the device, but semiconductors, lasers and quantum physics.

So what better way to celebrate physics and biology than through my Spotify playlists? And for someone who grew up in the 1980s making dodgy compilations on cassettes from songs taped off the Radio 1 chart show - there was an art to hitting the pause button that split-second before Bruno Brookes blabbered over the end of a Haircut 100 hit - there's a beauty and simplicity to making Spotify playlists.

Some chapters are going to be easier to fill than others - before you ask, yes "Love Cats" by the Cure is going in chapter 3 on fluids, where the book examines how cats drink. And Adam and the Ants is simply going to have to be in chapter 6 where we find out how these tiny insects find their way home using light.

For many of the animals, however, I openly admit I'll be finding suitable tracks just by using Spotify's marvellous search function. That means I won't be in love with every song I chose, but hopefully they'll all be above some minimum taste threshold. And maybe you, like me, will come across some hidden gems too. It's always good to be open-minded music-wise.

For the opening chapter on heat, you can find the Spotify playlist via this link.

If you haven't got Spotify or just want to know more about the songs, here's some background on the six on heat.

* Feel Alive by The Red-Sided Garter Snakes - amazingly, there's a band with the name of the animal that opens Furry Logic. These snakes are incredible creatures... not only do they spend nine months underground hibernating from the freezing northern Canadian plains, but when they do emerge in spring, the animals writhe around in mysterious, giant balls that have puzzled biologists for years. Feel Alive seems the most appropriate track from the band's 2016 album Endless Sea.

* Dogs by Damien Rice. Never heard of this Irish singer-songwriter before, but this song from his 2006 album 9 is pleasantly mellow despite featuring the strange lyric: "She lives with an orange tree and a girl that does yoga/she picks the dead ones from the ground when we come over".

* Mosquito by Romeofoxtrott. Not entirely sure who this lot are but there's a nice mosquito overlay at the start so in it goes. Mosquitoes can treble in body weight when they suck blood, which is, er, bloody dangerous as they can overheat. In our book, we look at how certain mosquitoes cool off by expelling drops of blood and water from their bums. Evaporation cools the drop, which draws heat away from the mosquito's body.

* Honeybee by Steam Powered Giraffe - from the 2015 album Music From SteamWorld Heist by this band from the San Diego "steampunk subculture" whatever that is. Cheesily dramatic, rather like the Japanese honeybees in our book that can gang up in giant balls to kill enemy hornets by cooking them to death.

* Squirrel vs Snake by The Posies - the perfect song for Furry Logic from this year's Solid States album (ooo, another physics reference) by this US "power-pop" group and my favourite on this playlist. In our book we look at how the California ground squirrel and the Pacific rattlesnake have been squaring up for centuries - you might think the snake will easily outdo a squirrel, but not so. And the squirrel has a clever trick too - it pumps blood into its tail, which warms up and therefore gives off an unusual infrared signal. The Pacific rattlesnake, you see, has special "pits" that let it see not just ordinary visibile light but infrared light too. If the squirrel hoists its hot tail, the snake gets confused by the unusual signal and backs off.

* Fireebeetle by David Schweitzer - again not entirely sure who this guy is but a spookily scary song that's perfect for the mysterious fire beetles, which have cunning heat-detecting sensors that can locate trees that have burnt down by lightning. Seems an odd hobby, but then the dead trees are ideal places for the firebeetle to lay its eggs.

Remember for more information on the book Furry Logic, please visit