Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Lyrical Physics

Today, I’d suddenly noticed physics in a song I’d heard dozens of times. “First” by the Cold War Kids is rock ballad invigorated with a commanding beat and emotional melody which summates to express confusion behind a failing relationship. While earlier, I’d loved this song for its intensity, now I have a new reason to love it: the mention of physics! Listening to the words today I hear the lines:

“Flying like a cannonball, falling to the earth, / heavy as a feather when you hit the dirt.” 

And suddenly the song takes on a whole new meaning as real world use of projectiles and gravity as means to cope with a disappointing relationship. On the surface, these lyrics express the struggle of feeling like you are lost in a freefall when someone is not the person you thought. Once hearing these lyrics though, I had to use our physics skills to unearth what the artist was actually trying to say. Based on the lyrics, the artist is comparing the similarities between a cannon and a feather in a free fall. The first concept to address is the force gravity. The force of gravity is acting on both the cannon and the feather. If we disregard air resistance, these objects would fall at the same acceleration, -9.8 m/s2. In the context of the song this means that metaphorically, both a cannon and feather can experience the same relationship struggles. The interesting part of the lyrics though is the last line of “heavy as a feather when you hit the dirt.” Cannons and feathers obviously have different masses. This means that they have different weights because Fg=m*g. Therefore, the cannon could not be “heavy as a feather” at the end of a freefall because the mass is not changing. Since the mass of the cannon is not changing, it should have the same force of gravity acting on it at the top and bottom of its freefall. In order for the second part of the line to be true, the mass of the falling object would need to change over the course of the freefall in order for the falling object to be as “heavy as a feather.” If this were the case, in a deep way, maybe the artist saying that the freefall of this relationship as caused him to loose a piece of himself (some mass) so that he is now experiencing the same force of gravity as a feather by the time the relationship is through.


In all, understanding this concept of physics has immensity increased my appreciation of this song. Who’d of thought that metaphors involving physics could access a new perspective of relationships, allowing them to seem even more beautiful and tragic than before.

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