When you gather round the piano this Christmas, simultaneously educate yourself in biochemistry with some ditties from the The Biochemists' Songbook.
What better way of making use of that dead time at departmental parties than exposing yourself to the body's major metabolic pathways? If you memorise all the songs in the book, says its author Harold Baum, professor of biochemistry at Kings College, London, you will have mastered elementary biochemistry - and you could even pass a first-year undergraduate exam in metabolism.
Professor Baum writes his songs while travelling on London buses. His first creation was a setting of the Krebs Cycle (which describes the breaking down of food in body cells) to Waltzing Matilda. Hans Krebs was delighted at the setting.
The ensuing cascade of metabolic melodies has been more popular than his musical version of the entire O-level biology syllabus. The difference, he says, is that the biochemical songs make use of well-known tunes. That, he thinks, is why the first edition of his biochemical songs, published 13 years ago, sold about 20,000 copies. All the old songs are included in his new edition published by Taylor & Francis, price Pounds 6.99.