famous punk songs about climate change and optimization
Posted by Laura McLay on September 3, 2013
At a conference this summer, one of my blog readers expressed disappointment about my blog’s lack of punk rock coverage and my lack of a serious punk look, complete with tattoos. I won’t fix the latter, but today I will address the former.
The Wall Street Journal reports that The Clash’s song “London Calling” written in 1979 was about global warming.
The initial inspiration for the song “London Calling” wasn’t British politics. It was our fear of drowning. In 1979 we saw a headline on the front of the London Evening Standard warning that the North Sea might rise and push up the Thames, flooding the city. We flipped. To us, the headline was just another example of how everything was coming undone.
If you’ve listened to “London Calling” before, this may not be a surprise. What may be more surprising was that The Clash’s fascination with optimization inspired another song. In “Should I Stay or Should I Go”, The Clash poses an optimization problem with a single binary decision variable: going (1) or staying (0). Both choices are feasible. Going is naturally always feasible. Staying is likewise feasible as noted by the lyrics:
If you say that you are mine
I’ll be here til the end of time
However, the chorus encourages the punk rocker to work through the simple mathematical details and correctly conclude that going is the optimal solution.
Should I stay or should I go now?
If I go there will be trouble
And if I stay it will be double
For more reading:
- optimization poetry (this one, I assure you, is real)
Thanks @iamreddave for posting the optimization joke ages ago as a comment on this blog. It was definitely my inspiration here.