World’s best geeky songs

Now that I am using a text editor that colour codes things based on which programming language you are using, I feel free to unleash a bit of geekishness upon you all.

In that spirit, what verse from a song can compete with the following? (Naturally, it is sung to the tune of “I am the Very Model of a Modern Major General.”)

There’s antimony, arsenic, aluminum, selenium,
And hydrogen and oxygen and nitrogen and rhenium
And nickel, neodymium, neptunium, germanium,
And iron, americium, ruthenium, uranium,
Europium, zirconium, lutetium, vanadium
And lanthanum and osmium and astatine and radium
And gold, protactinium and indium and gallium
And iodine and thorium and thulium and thallium.

That is from Tom Lehrer’s “Element Song” which, unfortunately, is no longer up to date. Readers who prefer their science delivered in musical format should also try to find copies of the following:

“Photosynthesis” by Moxy Fruvous

I will be the first to admit that this is not the most musical song in the world (though it is a far cry better than the Monty Python “Oliver Cromwell” song). That said, it will probably teach you something about the most essential chemical process for the maintenance of life as we know it on earth. Not something you can say about Bach or Britney Spears.

“The Galaxy Song” by Monty Python

Can’t remember the rate at which the outer spiral arm of the Milky Way which contains our sun rotates the galactic core? This song is for you. A shame that none of the measurements given are in metric.

“The Transcendental Deduction” by Paul L. Fine

Not scientific, per se, but decidedly educational. How can anyone deny the merit of a song that fits in the lyric: “Now, reason gives us concepts which are true but tautological; sensation gives us images whose content is phenomenal?”

“Doppler Shifting” by The Chromatics, from the album Astro Cappella

Unambiguously, the finest a cappella song about the Doppler Shift, this song will increase your understanding of highway speed traps, the nature of the universe, and much else besides.

Can you name a geekier song? If so, please leave a comment. Even better, send me a copy.

Author: Milan

In the spring of 2005, I graduated from the University of British Columbia with a degree in International Relations and a general focus in the area of environmental politics. In the fall of 2005, I began reading for an M.Phil in IR at Wadham College, Oxford. Outside school, I am very interested in photography, writing, and the outdoors. I am writing this blog to keep in touch with friends and family around the world, provide a more personal view of graduate student life in Oxford, and pass on some lessons I've learned here.

21 thoughts on “World’s best geeky songs”

  1. “Materialist,” “American Jesus,” and “Kyoto Now” by Bad Religion all have pretty sophisticated lyrics and messages. For instance:


    “The process of belief is an elixir when you’re weak
    I must confess, at times I indulge it on the sneak
    But generally my outlook? not so bleak (and I’m not meek!)
    I’m materialist, call me a humanist
    I guess I’m full of doubt”

    American Jesus

    “I feel sorry
    For the earths population
    cuz so few
    Live in the u.s.a.
    At least the foreigners
    Can copy our morality
    They can visit but they cannot stay
    Only precious few
    Can garner the prosperity
    It makes us walk
    With renewed confidence
    Weve got a place to go when we die
    And the architect resides right here”

    Kyoto Now

    “The media parading, disjointed politics
    Founded on petrochemical plunder, and were its hostages
    If you stand to reason youre in the game
    The rules might be elusive but our pieces are the same
    And you know if one goes down we all go down as well
    The balance is precarious as anyone can tell”

  2. The Elements Song (Tom Lehrer)

    There’s antimony, arsenic, aluminum, selenium,
    And hydrogen and oxygen and nitrogen and rhenium,
    And nickel, neodymium, neptunium, germanium,
    And iron, americium, ruthenium, uranium,
    Europium, zirconium, lutetium, vanadium,
    And lanthanum and osmium and astatine and radium,
    And gold and protactinium and indium and gallium,
    And iodine and thorium and thulium and thallium.

    There’s yttrium, ytterbium, actinium, rubidium,
    And boron, gadolinium, niobium, iridium,
    And strontium and silicon and silver and samarium,
    And bismuth, bromine, lithium, beryllium, and barium.

    There’s holmium and helium and hafnium and erbium,
    And phosphorus and francium and fluorine and terbium,
    And manganese and mercury, molybdenum, magnesium,
    Dysprosium and scandium and cerium and cesium.
    And lead, praseodymium, and platinum, plutonium,
    Palladium, promethium, potassium, polonium,
    And tantalum, technetium, titanium, tellurium,
    And cadmium and calcium and chromium and curium.

    There’s sulfur, californium, and fermium, berkelium,
    And also mendelevium, einsteinium, nobelium,
    And argon, krypton, neon, radon, xenon, zinc, and rhodium,
    And chlorine, carbon, cobalt, copper, tungsten, tin, and sodium.

    These are the only ones of which the news has come to Havard,
    And there may be many others, but they haven’t been discavard.

  3. Let us first divide cognition into rational analysis
    and sensory perception (which Descartes considered valueless).
    Now reason gives us concepts which are true but tautological;
    sensation gives us images whose content is phenomenal.

    Whatever greets our senses must exist in space and time
    for else it would be nowhere and nowhen and therefore slime;
    the space and time we presuppose before we sense reality
    must have innate subjective transcendental ideality.

    Thus space and time
    are forms of our perception
    whereby sensation’s synthesized in orderly array;
    the same must hold
    for rational conception:
    in everything we think, the laws of logic must hold sway.

    But a problem here arises with respect to natural science:
    while empirical in method, on pure thought it lays reliance.
    Although for Newton’s findings we to Newton give the glory
    Newton never could have found them if they weren’t known a priori.

    We know that nature governed is by principles immutable
    but how we come to know this is inherently inscrutable;
    that thought requires logic is a standpoint unassailable
    but for objects of our senses explanations aren’t available.

    So let’s attempt
    to vivisect cognition
    by critical analysis in hope that we may find
    the link between
    pure thought and intuition:
    a deduction transcendental will shed light upon the mind.

    You may recall that space and time are forms of apprehension
    and therefore what we sense has spatiotemporal extension;
    whatever is extended is composed of a plurality
    but through an act of synthesis we form a commonality.

    If we are to be conscious of a single concrete entity
    each part of its extension must be given independently
    combining in a transcendental apperceptive unity
    to which I may ascribe the term “self-conscious” with impunity.

    The order of
    our various sensations
    arises from connections not beheld in sense alone;
    our self creates
    the rules of their relations
    and of this combination it is conscious as its own.

    While these rules correspond to scientific causal laws
    the question of their constancy remains to give us pause;
    but once we recollect the source of our self-conscious mind,
    to this perverse dilemma a solution we may find.

    The self is nothing but its act of synthesis sublime;
    this act must be the same to be self-conscious over time.
    The rules for combination of its selfhood form the ground
    so what we perceive tomorrow by today’s laws must be bound.

    These constant laws
    whereby we shape experience
    are simply those which regulate our reason: that is plain.
    So don’t ask why
    the stars display invariance —
    the Cosmos is produced by your disoriented brain!

  4. The PCR Song

    Filmed in the style of a celebrity benefit, this music video is a commercial for a BioRad thermocycler, which is essentially a DNA copying machine. During the song, there are tons of great jokes about the particulars of reproducing the genetic material. My favorite: “PCR: When you need to know who the daddy is.” hints that the reaction can be used in paternity testing.

  5. Poem by an ex-Python:

    Ode to Sean Hannity
    by John Cleese

    Aping urbanity
    Oozing with vanity
    Plump as a manatee
    Faking humanity
    Journalistic calamity
    Intellectual inanity
    Fox Noise insanity
    You’re a profanity

  6. Quite possibly the only song dedicated to mitochondria, ever!

    Category: Music for discerning science geeks • The Art/Science (Non?)Divide Building
    Posted on: May 8, 2009 10:44 AM, by David Ng


    Floating round in a cell,
    making A T P
    In your own kind of hell
    in the cytoplasmic sea

    You got own DNA
    Came maternally
    Never sure how you stayed

    Mitochondria, Mitochondria, Mitochondria, Mitochondria
    Mitochondria, Mitochondria, Mitochondria, Mitochondria

    Inner membrane, oxidation, many cristae, metabolism
    Electron transportation chain!


  7. The Sun Is a Miasma of Incandescent Plasma

    By Upton O’Good on tmbg

    …the lyrics to that last song were basically taken from an encyclopedia written in the 50s, and since the 50s, some remarkable things have happened…

    In 1959, a number of songs about science were released on an album called Space Songs. One of these was later covered by the band They Might Be Giants: Why Does The Sun Shine? (The Sun Is A Mass of Incandescent Gas). Only one problem: it isn’t–the song was based on an incorrect text from 1951. So they wrote an answer song to themselves: Why Does The Sun Really Shine? (The Sun Is a Miasma of Incandescent Plasma). Bonus link: see for yourself! (previously)

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