Moby Dick-Head, King of the Hipster Douchebags

On last week’s episode of King Of The Nerds (S03E04), one of the judges for annual “Nerd Song” competition is Moby.

Moby takes issue with some of the lyrical content of one of the songs, saying:
“I took issue with ‘Like newton’s laws of motion we don’t hypothesize’, because I feel like in a quantum world, most of newtonian physics has sort of been cast aside.


Moby, you’re such a dick!

Now, I’m no string theorist – I don’t even know one of Newton’s equations from memory, but even I can tell you quite definitively that newtonian physics has not been “cast aside”.

OK, sure, so Quantum Mechanics does have some bearing on Newton’s work, but Newton’s laws are still valid in the vast majority of everyday circumstances. If you were to say that Newtonian physics has been refined, then you’d be spot on – Relativity and Quantum mechanics have both refined newtonian physics immensely, but that doesn’t mean that newtonian physics have been “cast aside” – not by a long shot – Newton’s equations are still very valid if you want a simple-to-calculate, approximate solution to many, many, many problems – they only become inadequate in certain circumstances, such as calculating the precession of Mercury’s perihelion, working with subatomic particles, or dealing with relativistic speeds and/or very curved regions of spacetime (big gravity wells).

The Apollo Missions, for example, didn’t need to use relativistic or quantum equations. If they had, the moon landings never would have happened – an astronaut can plug the numbers into newton’s equations and work them out with a slide-rule or maybe even in his head. If he had to do quantum mechanics or relativistic equations to figure out a descent or rendezevous burn, it would never have happened before the microprocessor was invented – we just didn’t have the computing power back in 1969. Missing the CSM by a couple of hundred metres on the way back up or slamming into the lunar surface because you’re busy trying to do quantum mechanics but struggle with the math would probably not be considered a particularly successful mission. The Saturn V rocket is the ultimate embodiment (so far) of Newton’s Third law of motion, and it sure seemed to work. I’d also note that 1969 was a good 40-or-so years after the establishment and general acceptance of Quantum Mechanics – it’s not like they didn’t know all about quantum theory and got lucky – they knew all about it, and they knew they could ignore it.

So, Moby, to summarize: I don’t think “Quantum Theory” means what you think it means.

Moby then goes on to criticise one of them for claiming in the song that he read Hamlet in the Original Klingon, asking “did you really read Hamlet in Klingon?”.

Now, In Moby’s Song Run On, he states:

Michael spoke and he sound so sweet
I thought I heard the shuffle of angels’ feet
He put one hand upon my head
Great God Almighty let me tell you what he said

Saying quite specifically that the Archangel Michael has personally spoken to (and physically touched) him. I kinda doubt this, what with the whole “fictional character” bit. But I suppose Moby might not actually be lying – he could simply be delusional. Incidentally, the same song also implies that he’s met jeebus, something I’m also doubtful of.

Setting aside how incredibly petty it is to criticise someone because what they say in a song isn’t literal truth (it’s called “metaphor”, “simile”, or “A direct reference to Star Trek VI”, look it up), I think that this is a somewhat hypocritical stance for Moby to take given the lyrics to just this one song (Note: this was the first moby song I thought of and looked up the lyrics for, I’m sure his whole body of work is rife with this kind of stuff, as is the work of just about every songwriter ever – I don’t think that Bonnie Tyler literally falls apart every now and then – that would be a strange medical condition, and I don’t actually want to hunt and torture stupid people, because I’m not actually a psychopath)

One of the members of the other team didn’t think so though – she thought it was cool to see moby dissing the other team for no real reason, and chimed in with something to the effect of “Um, I don’t even think Hamlet has been translated to Klingon – there’s not enough vocabulary for it!”

This immediately caught my attention, since being a Star Trek fan I know how mental some of us get, so my immediate reaction to that was “Yeah, I wouldn’t be so sure about that”, with visions of committees of nerds arguing over usenet as to what was an appropriate klingon word to use for “cutlass” (in fact, that’s probably an easy one which didn’t cause much debate – it’s a weapon, so there was probably already a Klingon word for it)…

…So, tonight, I do a search, and Lo and behold!

I was talking to a friend about this, and he put it elegantly:
“You’re suprised by Moby being a pretentious hipster douchebag? Didn’t you know that Moby invented ‘hipster douchebag’?”

Well, yeah, I did. But at least I thought he’d bother to be correct. Apparently not.

(BTW: I’m actually rooting for the other team which Moby didn’t criticise as much – specifically for Kaitlin, because she’s awesome, and I think that in the end Moby and the other judges did make the correct decision – the other song was better. But I do take issue with moby being such a dick, and I think that his criticisms were totally unfair)

As Usual, TISM turn out to be prophets – De Rigeurmortis – Track 10:


Dear Moby,
Having read you liner notes, I now violently oppose pain, death, famine, disease, slaughter, war, youth suicide, pollution, hitting your finger with the hammer, parking in disabled car parks, the industrial military complex, the death of innocent third world people, especially the children, by the way, I’d like to thank Mohammed and the Dalai Lama, safari suits and stating the fucking obvious.

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