World’s best geeky songs

2006-12-22

in Geek stuff, Music

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.

{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

R.K. December 23, 2006 at 12:10 am
Mike Kushnir December 23, 2006 at 9:23 pm

“sympathy for the devil” by the rolling stones is pretty geeky when you think about it.

m.

Erica December 25, 2006 at 2:28 pm

Don’t forget They Might be Giant’s cover of “Why does the sun shine?”
taken from Space songs by John Glazer. There’s also this one from the cartoon Animaniacs.

Milan December 25, 2006 at 2:32 pm

Erica,

Thanks. Yakko’s Universe might be the most musical song listed here so far. The Isaac Newton ballad is also quite good.

Also from Animaniacs: Countries Of The World.

Quite a bit like the element song, really.

R.K. December 25, 2006 at 3:17 pm

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

Materialist

“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”

Kate D December 27, 2006 at 2:36 am

Speaking of Moxy Fruvous, the song “Entropy” is also excellent.

Milan December 27, 2006 at 11:35 am

Kate,

I don’t have that one: obviously a situation in need of alteration.

Anon December 3, 2007 at 3:54 pm

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.

Anon December 9, 2007 at 4:42 am

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!

Anonymous March 2, 2008 at 9:02 pm

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.

. March 25, 2008 at 11:17 am

A very geeky song is linked at the end of this entry about rainbow tables.

. May 31, 2008 at 2:31 pm
Milan August 20, 2008 at 11:22 pm

Here is an excellent new addition to this collection: the Large Hadron Rap.

Anon October 10, 2008 at 2:42 pm

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
Hannity

. May 9, 2009 at 3:59 pm

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

MITOCHONDRIA!

(verses)
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
Endosymbiotically

(Chorus)
Mitochondria, Mitochondria, Mitochondria, Mitochondria
Mitochondria, Mitochondria, Mitochondria, Mitochondria

(Bridge)
Inner membrane, oxidation, many cristae, metabolism
Electron transportation chain!

REPEAT VERSES

. September 9, 2009 at 1:04 pm

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)

. November 24, 2009 at 8:44 pm
. April 27, 2011 at 9:16 pm
. September 18, 2011 at 9:36 pm

MC Frontalot’s latest nerdcore album: SOLVED

Posted by Cory Doctorow on Tuesday, Aug 23rd at 11:44pm

Jenish C December 13, 2011 at 8:55 am

On the more mathematical side, this is one of the finest that i have come across: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UTby_e4-Rhg

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