(Newton starts off shocked or less than impressed by the choice of his opponent, as there were many great minds during the "Age of Enlightenment", in which he played a part. His question continues next.)
They put Beaker in a bow tie up against me?
(Continuation: Bill Nye was chosen as his adversary, instantly recognized for his slim build and fondness for colorful bow ties. Beaker was the hapless lab assistant to Dr. Bunsen Honeydew from the franchise "The Muppet Show". He was slim like Nye, and would often act as the guinea pig for Honeydew's wacky experiments, usually getting blown up or otherwise maimed when the experiments backfired. On his show, Nye would often use wacky demonstrations to illustrate the science he taught, with a few gags for color. Newton mocks Nye, calling him a second-rate scientist in a bow tie.)
I'm a master; I discovered gravity!
(While Newton did not literally discover gravity, he is most well-known for discovering its laws and became the first to describe it scientifically and develop equations to calculate its exact effects. He says that he is a scientific expert for doing so. Newton also earned a master's degree and served as Master of the Mint (a job Nye derides later). This can also be inferred as Newton saying how he is a 'master', in contrast with Nye, who has only earned a bachelor's degree, which is mentioned later in his verse.)
I drop rhymes like they're falling from an apple tree!
(Newton is reported to have discovered gravity by watching an apple fall from an apple tree. He is making a metaphor of "dropping rhymes" to the apples dropping, and since an apple tree generally bears a lot of fruit, he says that he drops a lot of rhymes.)
You're no match for me! You got a bach degree!
(Nye graduated with a Bachelor of Science from Cornell University in 1977. Newton says that a bachelor's degree isn't enough to match his achievements. This might also be a play of words, as the word "bach" can also means to live alone, so Newton thinks that Nye's "no match" for him.)
I got a unit of force named after me!
(A newton is a unit of force. It is named after Newton for his work on classical mechanics. Nye has a degree which is nothing compared to having a unit of force named after him, as he "represents force" in a way, making him a powerful effect or influence. He says that there is no doubt about the high power he's bringing with his raps.)
You wanna battle, guy? That's a crazy notion!
(Notion is a common science term, as a synonym to hypothesis or theory. Newton finds the thought of Bill Nye wanting to rap battle against him ridiculous. "Guy" refers to Nye's show and nickname, "Bill Nye the Science Guy".)
When I start flowing, I stay in motion!
(This line references Newton's first law of motion, which states that an object in motion stays in motion and an object at rest stays at rest until acted upon by an outside force. Newton says that when he starts rapping against Nye, he can't stop.)
First law! Did you catch that? Or did it go too fast to detect?
(A reference to the line above, Newton says that he spit the reference to his first law of motion out with a flow so fast that Nye didn't have time to comprehend it.)
Perhaps it'd be better if I added in a bleep or a bloop or another wacky sound effect!
(Wacky sound effects are common in Nye's show "Bill Nye the Science Guy". Newton says that the only way for Nye to understand his above reference and his raps in general is to include wacky sound effects in his verse, implying that this is the only method Nye uses to teach science.)
I was born on Christmas; I'm God's gift!
(Isaac Newton was born on December 25th, which is Christmas Day. It is celebrated as the birthday of Jesus Christ, who is known as the son of God among Christians. "Isaac" is actually from the Hebrew for "laughter", and in the Book of Genesis, Isaac was gifted to Abraham and Sarah for the couple to populate the known world. "To be God's gift to [something]" is a way of bragging about one's talent, as Newton does here. In addition, Newton was a devout Christian, and as much a theologian as a scientist, in contrast to Nye's agnosticism.)
I unlocked the stars that you're dancing with!
(Newton was well-known for his work in physics, and through his theories on gravitational forces, he made contributions in astronomy and related sciences, thus "unlocking [the secrets of] the stars". Nye was a contestant in the seventeenth series of the show "Dancing With the Stars". He was injured during practice for the third week of competition and was eliminated that week despite his likability, as he was simply unable to dance.)
You waste time debating creationists,
(In February 2014, Nye debated with creationist Ken Ham about the origins of life. The debate was controversial, and some people believed this to be a waste of time. Also, as a Christian living before Darwin's time, Newton was probably creationist as well. Because of this, he could be saying that Nye was wasting his time debating against a theory that Newton thought was true.)
While I create the science you explain to kids!
(As "Bill Nye the Science Guy", Nye taught science to children, but Newton says that he discovered those very same teachings before Nye, and he just passes on Newton's discoveries.)
Yes, it's true. What I used to do is teach kids science on my PBS show,
(Nye previously hosted an educational TV show on PBS called "Bill Nye the Science Guy", where he taught kids various fields of science.)
But now I do what I gotta do to make sure scientific thought can grow!
(On his show, he taught kids about science, helping their 'scientific thought' grow. He has also been quoted to tell his own peers to stop pushing kids into religions, saying it holds them back from helping science progress. This is also a rebuttal to Newton's mocking him for debating creationists – Nye spends a significant amount of his time arguing with science deniers on subjects like creationism and climate change, using his celebrity status to advocate for scientific thought and methodology. In effect, he is doing what he's "gotta do" to ensure that science continues to evolve free of nonscientific influence. This could also be a jab at how Isaac Newton was religious.)
And I'm still in my prime, hitting my stride.
(Nye states that he is still relatively young ("in my prime") and has time to accomplish more, as opposed to Newton (see next two lines).)
What'd you do with the back half of your life?
(Nye says that Newton wasted his later years with no one to spend time with and doing things that were insignificant compared to his work on physics. This line can also be a reference to half-life, the amount of time required for a quantity to fall to half its original value, used in nuclear physics and nuclear chemistry.)
You freaked out, started counting coins for the bank, and you sure didn't have no wife! (Ooh!)
(In his later life, after an apparent mental breakdown, Newton became warden of the Royal Mint and soon after, the master. He left his job at Cambridge University to ensure that counterfeit and clipped coins were not in circulation. Nye also says that this nerdy activity deterred any potential partners for Newton, and he died alone.)
You wrote the book on gravity, but you couldn't attract no body.
(Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica, Latin for "Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy", was a book by Isaac Newton based on gravity; however, the people at the time were not interested in that book. Nye says Newton's book was a failure since nobody saw interest in this; once again, he references how Newton couldn't attract a partner. Attract no body is also a reference to how all celestial bodies attract all other such bodies, with a greater force of attraction for larger bodies.)
Your work on orbits was exemplary, but your circle of friends was shoddy!
(Nye gives Newton credit for his papers on orbits, but he says that Newton had no friends because he was so caught up in his work. Additionally, celestial bodies orbit others in an ellipse, a model which is often simplified to a circle, making a reference to physics like in the last line.)
You don't wanna mess with the guy, Bill Nye. (Why?)
(Once again, the "Guy" references his moniker, "Bill Nye the Science Guy". Nye tells Newton that he shouldn't try to battle him. He then rhetorically asks "why?", following up with an answer in the next line.)
I rap sharp like a needle in your eye! (Oh!)
(While studying optics, Newton came to the idea that color is infused by pressure on the eye. To prove this theory, Newton stuck a thin needle around his eye until he could reach the back of it. He calmly noted that he saw "white, dark and colored circles" as long as he kept stirring with the needle. Bill Nye says his raps are as sharp as the needle Newton used to conduct this experiment with. This could also be a reference to "The Eyes of Nye", a show that Nye hosted from 2005.)
Stick to drinking that mercury,
(When Newton died, his body was found to contain high levels of mercury, suggesting that mercury poisoning contributed to his later life eccentricity and death.)
'Cause I hypothesize that you're about to get beat!
(Hypothesizing is a step in the universal scientific method, in which you predict the outcome of a problem. Nye says the outcome is this battle is Newton losing to Nye.)
Well, I conclude that your methods are the wackest!
(Newton picks up on Nye's reference to the scientific method in the previous line and responds by referencing its final step, the conclusion, which is the result when a hypothesis has been rigorously tested. As scientific results are only as valid as the methods used to obtain them, Newton's conclusion is that Nye's work is fundamentally worthless.)
You wouldn't even pass in one of my classes!
(In 1669, Newton became the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics for Trinity College in Cambridge. Newton states that his classes would be too hard for Nye to pass if he ever took them.)
Every action has an equal and opposite reaction,
(This is a reference to Newton's third law of motion, which states that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.)
Except for when we both start rapping!
(Continuing from the line above, Newton says that the only time an action does not have an equal and opposite reaction is this rap battle, indicating that Nye's raps are unable to match to Newton's. Also, another Newton appears at his side as he says this.)
I accelerated the minds of mankind to a higher plane of understanding, and
(Newton's work heavily contributed to what we know about physics today. The term "accelerated" is a reference to "Acceleration = Speed Increase ÷ Time elapsed", a formula in physics to calculate how quickly an object is changing in speed.)
I can calculate the weight and the size and the shape of the shadow of the mind you're standing in!
(Despite Nye's popularity and intelligence, Newton says he's still standing in his shadow, of which he can calculate the mass, size, and shape. This is a reference to the calculus that Newton created, specifically the concept of integration. One way to conceptualize integration is as the area of the shadow cast by a line or surface. Newton says that, by taking the integral of his own brain, he can calculate the weight, size, and shape of its shadow, in which Nye is standing. This may also be a reference to Sir Issac Newton's actor "Weird Al" Yankovic, who had a song called "Fat" in which he states his shadow weighs 42 pounds.)
And I will leave you with a page from a book I wrote at half your age to rebut.
(As a closing display, Newton will leave Nye with a formula from a paper he wrote when he was much younger than Nye is now, showing that he was a better mind than him when he was far less experienced.)
The integral sec y dy from zero to one-sixth of pi is log to base e of the square root of three times the sixty-fourth power of what?!
(One of the problems solved in the early development of calculus was the integral of the secant - with a primitive, pre-calculus notion of the integral, earlier mathematicians had come up with a formula for the area better and better approximations of the area under the curve would approach, and one of Newton's professors, using known facts about similar manipulations of the sine and cosine, proved it was indeed the limit.
The exact problem given here comes not from a book by Newton, but from a calculus limerick which reads similar to Newton's line:
"The integral sec y dy (pronounced "seek y dee y'") From zero to one-sixth of pi Is log to base e Of the square root of three Times the 64th power of i"
In fact, the integral on the left-hand side of the equation is exactly equal to the natural logarithm of the square root of three, so i is one of 64 acceptable answers on the complex plane, including -1 and 1, which if this problem had come from Newton's day would have been the answer intended.)
(Neil deGrasse Tyson enters the battle by saying that his brain is just as great as Newton's, and that he should leave Nye alone, whose brain is seemingly inferior. There is a pun on the phrase, "Pick one's brain," meaning asking someone, so Tyson says he should have been asked the calculation. It also references a line from the children's rhyme "Way Down South": "Why don't you pick on someone your own size?")
We got a badass over here; plus, I got your back, Nye!
(Tyson is the subject of a meme in which a picture of him is associated with the phrase, "Watch out, we got a badass over here," which came from a video where he was discussing how Newton invented calculus before his 26th birthday. In this battle, he is backing Nye by going against Newton.)
Astrophysics black guy, Hayden Planetary fly.
(Hayden Planetarium is part of the American Museum of Natural History, and is currently directed by Tyson. Tyson is himself a rarity: a black astrophysicist in a science studied mainly by white people. Tyson also calls himself "fly", as in cool in a 1970s old-school fashion.)
By the way, the answer to your little calculation is "i",
(Tyson says that he has the answer to Newton's "unsolvable" equation, which he claims is i. i is the symbol for the square root of -1, an imaginary number that was accepted after Newton's time as a very real and practical unit of mathematics, with extensive use in electronics and motion control. Tyson demonstrates that modern science, exemplified by himself and Nye, knows of things that even the great Isaac Newton could not comprehend. He is also referring to himself, as explained in the next line. This also could refer to how he came into the battle after the equation had morphed on Isaac's chalkboard, creating him, making him the literal answer.)
As in I put the swag back in science,
(Tyson recently hosted the show Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, which is an update to Carl Sagan's Cosmos: A Personal Voyage. The show was very popular; thus, Tyson is putting popular interest back into science. He says the i in Newton's equation relates to him making science cool.)
While Isaac Newton was lying and sticking daggers in Leibniz
(Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz was a German mathematician and philosopher who developed calculus at the same time as Isaac Newton which he was said to have gotten the idea from Newton's letters to him, thus leading them to an argument. Tyson says that Newton betrayed someone who was once his friend and "stuck a knife in his back".)
And hiding up inside his attic on some Harry Potter business.
(Newton did most of his work in the attic. Several documents indicate an interest by Newton in the procurement or development of the Philosopher's Stone, a legendary alchemic substance said to be capable of turning base metals such as lead into gold. It was also sometimes believed to be an elixir of life, useful for rejuvenation and possibly for achieving immortality. It is also a reference to the opening book in the Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, in which the title character lived in a room which can allude to the conditions of typical attics: small, dusty and uncomfortable.)
The universe is infinite, but this battle is finished.
(Current observational data indicates that the topology of the universe is flat. This could mean that it is also infinite in size, if its geometry is not curved. This is a popular model among scientists. Tyson states that the very universe that we live in is infinite in size, unlike the battle, which he has just ended.)