Funny things about ‘Girl Talk’

I’m usually not good at girl talk (obviously), so you’re probably wondering why I’m writing about Girl Talk.  Actually, I should note, we’re not going to talk about girl talk like this girl talk:


we’re not going to talk about this

We’re going to talk about Girl Talk.  Girl Talk looks like this:


This is Girl Talk

Girl Talk is actually Gregg Gillis.  Now if you’re unfamiliar with Gregg, you’d be surprised to know that it’s likely you’ve heard some of his work.  Or really some of the work that he uses.  Girl Talk is a mashup artist from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  Mashup is a type of music that evolved in the late 1990s.  What mashup artists do is actually steal other artist’s work…in a sense.  Mashups are songs that are created by taking the vocal part of one song and putting it on top of (called ‘overlaying’) the instrumental track of another song.  For instance, if I were to take the beautiful song ‘Jigglin’ by the Ying Yang Twins and combine it with the ever-so elegant ‘Can’t Stop’ by Red Hot Chili Peppers, I’d get this: mashup (I made this in 10th grade with a friend, don’t laugh).  Simple, right?

Thanks for making me famous guys.

Thanks for making me famous guys.

But, creating mashups are actually quite complex.  It takes a lot to overlay tracks at the same bpm, key, get the right volume on the tracks, and then mix all of these samples together into one song.  And Girl Talk has done a pretty good job at it thus far.  Actually, he’s become one of the most famous mashup artists in the world, and it takes a special mind to do something like this.  Well…it takes the mind of an engineer.  See, before becoming a mashup artist, Girl Talk actually went to Case Western to study Biomedical Engineering (hey that’s what I do), with a focus in tissue engineering.  And, funny thing is, even after becoming an artist Girl Talk stuck with his engineering work.  Until 2007, Girl Talk worked a day job in an engineering company where he created medical devices before focusing solely on music.  He actually even kept his ‘night’ work secret for quite a bit, by not allowing Pittsburgh papers to publish his real name next to his stage name.

Girl Talk during the day

Girl Talk during the day

...and then at night.

…and then at night.

If you want to learn more about Girl Talk, you can find his music here: Girl Talk.  He usually posts his music online for free (which is pretty cool…though of course I’m not a proponent of getting music for free off the internet), so you probably won’t have to look too hard if you actually want to download it.

So the mind of an engineer can evolve to become a revolutionary music artist.  Now, maybe you wouldn’t call Girl Talk’s music beautiful, but he is pretty talented.  For me, that’s beautiful enough.



“Spoke”-en Differently

This one’s a little weird.  It’s about using things…unconventionally.  Unconventional inventions are nothing new to nerdy engineers likes us though.  For instance in 1905, 11-year-old Frank Epperson accidentally left a wooden stick outside sitting in a cup of soda.  That night, the temperature dropped below freezing.  He came outside the next morning and removed the soda+stick creation, which later became known as the popsicle.

What Frank found outside of his house

What Frank found outside of his house

Velcro was invented in 1941 by George de Mestral after getting annoyed at the burs of the burdock flowers that kept getting stuck to his jacket and dog’s fur.  He ended up looking at them under a microscope and noticed they resembled tiny hooks.  And thus, the velcro Air Jordan’s were invented (obviously):

and 50 years and you get...

add 50 years and you get… Thanks Georgethese. Thanks George!

But we’re not going to talk about popsicles or shoes.  We’re going to talk about bicycles.

Bicycles were the first human invention to move people using a two-wheeled object.  Originating from the ‘Dandyhorse’ (yes, they really named it Dandyhorse) created by Germany’s Baron Karl von Draise, the vehicles were a response to the large death of horses that occurred due to crop failure in 1816.  But of course, the invention of the bicycle actually comes from years of innovation.  Bicycles are ruled by the laws of physics.  To not get into anything too mind-numbing, when I pedal on a bike, the chain causes the back tire to rotate forward, giving it an angular velocity.  In turn, the back tire pushes backwards on the ground.  We know by Newton’s third law that if you push on something, it’ll push back on you.  Therefore, the bike and the ground create an ‘action-reaction’ pair: the bike pushes backwards on the ground, and the ground pushes you forward.  Yes, there’s actually a little more that’s involved in the process, but you get the gist.

This is me back in the 1800s riding a Dandyhorse

This is me back in the 1800s riding a Dandyhorse

But…recently, someone else found a different way to use a bicycle.  A composer called Johnyrandom decided to turn one of his favorite inventions into a musical instrument…and it worked pretty well.  By doing things such as hitting the rims with mallets, grazing the chain with a slide, and bowing the brake cables, Johnnyrandom created an entire music-soundtrack-esque composition with a bicycle.  You can check a sample out here, and even buy his single on iTunes for only $1:

Bespoken Preview

The single is titled ‘Bespoken’, and I would have never guessed that the sounds were created from a bicycle because they end up sounding beautiful on their own.  The fact that you can create music from everyday objects, invented for completely different purposes, is kind of amazing.  It shows that looking at things in an unconventional manner is the first step to innovation, newfound creativity, or in this case, art.

Queen gets me.

Queen gets me.

So next time you’re riding a bike, or drinking an ICEE, or maybe playing basketball, take a moment to pause and think about how your food or your shoes exist.  Think about how you can be unconventional yourself, and maybe I’ll be looking through the world in your eyes as I use your invention 50 years from now.  Now that’s something beautiful to think about.






To provide a little explanation…

This is a blog about two things.  One is the field of engineering, which is seen as a rigorous discipline combining the two wonderfully interesting (depending upon your personality) fields of math and science.  The other, is the beautiful.  But just to spark your interest as to why I might be writing about engineering and the beautiful we can play a little game.  Let’s look at two images.  The first below:


Books courtesy of Google Images

and the second…

You're crazy if you like this

You’re crazy if you like this

Now…raise your right hand if you thought the word beauty sits with the first image better than the second, and your left if you think the opposite.  I could guess where about 95% + of you would fall into place.  The first image is obviously a collections of Dickens book, written by one of the greatest authors of all time, and the second, if you didn’t know…is a case of Euler’s Identity.   Now we all know the beauty in Dickens (some of you might not be the biggest fan of his long descriptions though), but what makes the second image beautiful?  Is it really possible to call Euler’s Identity a beautiful work?

Euler’s identity relates what is considered to be the five most important numbers in mathematics, thus being e, i, pi, 1 and 0 if you think of the formula e^(i*pi) + 1 = 0.  It also relates some of the most important functions we use on a daily basis, including the exponential (e), sine (sin) and cosine (cos).

Now some of you might not be convinced yet that relating all of these things could be considered beauty…but I’ll try to add some more insight.  Without these functions we wouldn’t know anything about this:



nor would we be able to describe this:

A place that's much more appealing than the northeast US right now

A place that’s much more appealing than the northeast US right now

or you wouldn’t be able to make more of these quite as fast:

Courtesy of under Walter White's floorboards

Courtesy of under Walter White’s floorboards

…and let’s be honest, the solar system, a day at the beach, and some dolla dolla bills (y’all) are beautiful things.  Euler’s Identity relates numbers and functions that can model the rotation of our planets, help show the oscillations and cycle of tides, and show how we can accumulate compound interest when we make a bank deposit.  Though the numbers on the page may not be beautiful themselves, the implications of Euler’s Identity produces beauty…and it’s pure simplicity almost makes it beautiful in itself.

So you might not be convinced, and maybe you’ll never be.  But, if you stick with me a little bit, maybe I can help find an engineering topic of interest that you might find some beauty in as well.