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article imageHow many Bob Dylan lyrics in science papers?

By Tim Sandle     Dec 20, 2015 in Science
Many scientists, it seems, are Bob Dylan fans. Since 1970 the singer-songwriter's lyrics have been cropping up in exact or paraphrased form. To date, 727 papers have been tracked as featuring the bard's verse.
Examples of Bob Dylan in science include a stem cell investigation titled “Like a rolling histone” and a germination study titled “Knockin’ on pollen’s door." The answer, my friends, is some of the insertions of Dylan's lyrics work better than others.
Here are some others:
Blowin’ in the Wind – The BMJ editorial title about the risk of hang gliding
The Times They Are A-Changin’Burns journal article starts by paraphrasing Dylan with “Come editors and authors throughout the land.”
The first example of Dylan lyrics in a peer reviewed paper, The Times reports, can be traced to an 1970 edition of the Journal of Practical Nursing. The paper here had the running title "The Times They Are A' Changin'."
While there are many examples of Dylan lyrics, originality doesn't feature too strongly. The Times They Are A-Changin’ tops the list with 135 articles; followed by 36 occurrences for Blowin’ in the Wind, according to the Doctor Portal.
The review of Dylan citations has been compiled for the Christmas edition of the British Medical Journal. At this time of year the BMJ publishes more whimsical pieces. The journal notes that the references to Dylan were steady between 1970 and 1990; however, since 1990 the rate of mentions has increased substantially, perhaps reflecting the demographic of the scientists writing the papers.
Would Dylan himself approve? Possibly. In his song Don't Fall Apart On Me Tonight, Dylan laments:
"I wish I'd have been a doctor / Maybe I'd have saved some life that had been lost / Maybe I'd have done some good in the world / 'Stead of burning every bridge I crossed."
You can read the BMJ paper, which had no choice but to borrow another Dylan lyric ("Freewheelin’ scientists:
citing Bob Dylan in the biomedical literature"), on-line for free. It is written by Carl Gornitzki and others from the Karolinska Institutet University Library.
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