Songs of Science: They’ll Make You Think, Laugh and Learn

Found on unsplash.com photo credit to Marcus Neto.

Found on unsplash.com photo credit to Marcus Neto.

Search the web for ‘science songs’ and you’ll probably be disappointed. I was. The lists I found were short and filled with many of the old ‘expected’ tunes…and I knew there was so much more out there.

A while back I polled my Facebook friends, scoured by personal music library and asked for input on Twitter. This list came from that effort, but it’s not complete.

Now it’s your turn to help add to this list so it can become the best collection of science-inspired songs on the web.

Leave your suggestions in the comments below, or tweet them to me @kirkenglehardt

I am looking forward to hearing your song choices.


1. She Blinded Me With Science – Thomas Dolby

2. She Blinded Me With Science – William Shatner Version

This may even be better than the original.

3. Why Does the Sun Shine? – They Might Be Giants

TMBG has dozens of science-themed songs. In fact, the dedicated an entire album to science. The following are a few of their best science cuts.

4. Roy G Biv – They Might Be Giants

5. Mammal – They Might Be Giants

6. Meet the Elements – They Might Be Giants

7. Cells – They Might Be Giants

8. I Am a Paleontologist – They Might Be Giants

9. Living With a Hernia – Weird Al Yankovic

10. Werhner von Braun – Tom Lehrer

Tom Lehrer is/was a comedy genius. I first heard his songs while listening to the Dr. Demento radio show as a kid. Buzzfeed recently posted a feature about him. There is also a YouTube channel dedicated to his work.  Here are a few of his finest pieces.

13. The Elements – Tom Lehrer

…or the Daniel Radcliffe version.

14. New Math – Tom Lehrer

15. Love is Like Oxygen – Sweet

16. Manhattan Project – Rush

Rush has dozens of science themed songs spread across its albums. The two below are standouts, but you should also check out Analog Kid, Digital Man, Chemistry and others.

17. Countdown – Rush

18. Sounds of Science – Beastie Boys 

19. Mr. Roboto – Styx

20. Space Oddity – David Bowie

21. Space Oddity (David Bowie) – Performed by Chris Hadfield

An amazing version of the David Bowie classic, performed on the International Space Station by astronaut Chris Hadfield.

22. Walking on the Moon – The Police

23. A Glorious Dawn – Carl Sagan

24. Symphony of Science – Featuring Sagan, Feynman, deGrasse Tyson, & Nye

25. Mr. Spaceman – The Byrds

26. Experiment IV – Kate Bush

27. Einstein A Go-Go – Landscape

28. We are All Made of Stars – Moby

29. Chemistry – Semisonic

30. I Am a Scientist – The Dandy Warhols

31.  Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft – The Carpenters

32. It Came Out of the Sky – Creedence Clearwater Revival

33. Quark, Strangeness and Charm – Hawkwind

34. The Galaxy Song – Monty Python

35. Calculus Rhapsody – Mike Gospel & Phil Kirk

This is more of a math song, but it is too awesome not to include in this list.

36. 21st Century Digital Boy – Bad Religion

37. I Love My Computer – Bad Religion

38. Analog Man – Joe Walsh

39. Space Station #5 – Montrose

40. Marching to Mars – Sammy Hagar

41. Edison’s Medicine – Tesla

42. 905 – The Who

43. Weird Science – Oingo Boingo

44. What We Need More of is Science – MC Hawking

(Recommended by David Smith)

45. Entropy – MC Hawking

(Recommended by David Smith)

46. Big Bizang – MC Hawking

(Recommended by David Smith)

47. The First and Second Law – Flanders and Swann

(Recommended by By Robynn O’Leary)

48.  I Lost My Heart to a Starship Trooper – Sara Brightman & Hot Gossip 

(Recommended by Anthony Cummings)

49. Can You Feel The Force – The Real Thing

(Recommended by Anthony Cummings)

50. St. Patrick’s Day – The (Biologist’s)

(Recommended by Jacqueline Townsend, Ph.D.)

51. I’m Your Moon – Jonathan Coulton

(Recommended by Jacqueline Townsend, Ph.D.)

52. Space Doggity – Jonathan Coulton

(Recommended by Jacqueline Townsend, Ph.D.)

53. Still Alive – Jonathan Coulton

(Recommended by Jacqueline Townsend, Ph.D.)

54. Mandelbrot Set – Jonathan Coulton

(Recommended by Jacqueline Townsend, Ph.D.)

55. 98.6 – They Bystanders

(Recommended by Kirk Janowiak)

56. Solubility Rules – Michael Offutt

(Recommended by Jo King)

57. Amadeo Avogadro – Michael Offutt

(Recommended by Jo King)

58. They Call Me a Chemistry Nerd – Michael Offutt

(Recommended by Jo King)

59. We Dig Chemistry – Michael Offutt

(Recommended by Jo King)

60. Survivor – Destiny’s Child (used in class to teach adaptation)

(Recommended by Nial Pickering)

61. Coldplay – The Scientist

62. Parliament – Mothership Connection

(Recommended by Sean Gonsalves)

63. B52’s – There’s a Moon in the Sky Called the Moon

64. Elton John – Rocket Man

or this gem…by William Shatner

65. Rush – Red Tide

(Recommended by David Bradley)

66. John Mayer – Gravity

(Recommended by Sabrina Erickson)

or

Gravity – Sara Bareilles

(Recommended by Diana Crow)

67. Counting Crows – Einstein on the Beach

(Recommended by Jason Krams)

68. David Bradley – Shake of Flies

69. David Bradley – Escape to the Stars

70. Rush – Second Nature

(Recommended by David Bradley)

71. Rush – Vital Signs

(Recommended by David Bradley)

72. Soul Coughing – So Far I Have Not Found the Science

(Recommended by @m_wall and @sciencebase)

73. John Otoway – Bunsen Burner

(Recommended by @m_wall)

74. OK Go – This Too Shall Pass (This band has mastered the art of the viral video. While the songs may not be about science, the videos require a deep understanding of science to pull off.)

75. OK Go – Upside Down and Inside Out (in zero gravity)

76. OK Go – The Writing’s On The Wall

New adds…on June 27, 2016

77. A Capella Science – Bohemian Gravity!

(Recommended by Guy Kimberly)

78. The Chromatics’: The Sun Song

(Recommended by Peter Schoch)

79. The Chromatics’ – Noctilucent Clouds

(Recommended by Peter Schoch)

80. Chris Smithers – Origin of Species

(Recommended by Mike Spear)

81. A Cappella Science – Pluto Mars – Outbound Probe (more from this artist here)

(Recommended by Jocelyn Bosley)

82. The Human Periodic Table Sings Tom Lehrer’s “The Elements”

(Recommended by Jocelyn Bosley)

83. Epic Rap Battle – c vs. Pi

(Recommended by Jocelyn Bosley)

84. CHVRCHES: Science/Visions

(Recommended by Nathalie)

85. Marvin Gaye: Mercy, Mercy Me

(Recommended by Mark Griep)

86. Eric Idle – Meaning of Life

87. Animaniacs – “Be Careful What You Eat”

88. Blackalicious – Chemical Calisthenics

89. Keith Smolinski – The Cell Song (more of his science songs here) 

90. Renee & Jeremy – [I Wanna Be Like] Madam Curie

91. Mark Grabiner – (The Lab Is) Where It’s At (Beck Parody)

92. Scott Crawford – What is Statistics? (more of his songs here)

93. Adam Cole – A Biologist’s Mother’s Day Song

94. Born This Way – Biology Song

95. CohenfordMU – The Lab Song (Bruno Mars Parody)

96. Zheng Lab – Bad Project (Lady Ga Ga Parody)

97. JFCoburn2010 – Chromosome (Lady GaGa Parody)

98. University of Maryland School of Medicine 2015 Junior Jollies – Do You Want To Be A Surgeon? (lots more here)

99. Christine Nguyen – Alkenes Are Used For These (Eurythmics Parody)

100. Bill Nye – Light Color

101. Schoolhouse Rock – Electricity, Electricity

102. Mr. Parr – Geologic Periods Song (Timberlake Parody) (many more songs here)

103. Duran Duran – Planet Earth

(Recommended by Christine Lauer)

104. Greyson Square – Omnivores (more songs here)

(Recommended by @FargoWells)

105. Glen Phillips – Solar Flare

(Recommended by Tara Smith)

106. Glen Phillips – The Spirit of Shackleton

(Recommended by Tara Smith)

107. Glen Phillips – Space Elevator

(Recommended by Tara Smith)

108. Josh Ritter – Stuck To You

(Recommended by Tara Smith)

109. Cosmo Sheldrake – Tardigrade Song

(Recommended by Diana Crow)

110. Midnight Oil – River Runs Red

(Recommended by Dr. Manu Saunders)

…New Adds – June 28, 2016.

111. Flaming Lips – Race for the Prize

(Recommended by Eva Amsen – 111-127)

112. Ben Folds – Janna Levin’s ‘Black Hole Blues’

113. Nimble weed – Idealized Science Ditty

114. Karine Polwart – We’re All Leaving (more from the Darwin Song Project 2009)

115. Brad Paisley – Geology

116. Punch Brothers – Magnet

117. Barenaked Ladies – Theme to The Big Bang Theory

118. Helen Arney – Statistically I Love You (more of her songs here)

119. Baba Brinkman – Performance, Feedback, Revision

120. Sound of the Ladies – Doing the Real Science Here

121. Diane Nalini – Songs from Outer Space

122. Hank Green – I Love Science

123. ASAP science – Science Wars

124. The Amygdaloids – Map of Your Mind (more about this band here)

125. Uri Aloi – Peer Review Song

126. Uri Aloi – Scooped Again

127. Richard Flavell – Rejected

https://youtu.be/vQLKoGNFXgU (still trying to get this clip to show up here)

128. Bjork- Mutual Core (some great clips from this Guardian post – 128-138)

129. The Cure – Jupiter Crash

130. Kate Bush – Cloudbusting

131. The Flaming Lips – What is the Light?

132. Kate and Anna Mpcgarrigle – NaCl

133. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – Higgs Boson Blues

134. Josh Ritter – The Temptation of Adam

135. Jarvis Cocker – Quantum Theory

136. Arcade Fire – Reflektor

137. Joanna Newsom – Emily

138. B.o.B. – Flat Earth (an anti-science piece)

139. The Cat Empire – Protons, Neutrons, Electrons

(recommended by Mackenzie Myers)

140. Van Der Graaf Generator – Interference Patterns

(recommend by Mikhail)

141. Van der Graaf Generator – Mathematics

142. Aly & AJ – Chemicals React

(recommended by @DocMarro 142-147)

143. The Pointer Sisters – Neutron Dance

(recommended by @WordChem)

144. Huey Lewis and the News – I Want a New Drug

145. Carole King – I Feel the Earth Move

146. Klein Four Group – Finite Simple Group (of Order Two)

147. Bad Religion – Unacceptable

(The Following Were Added January 1, 2017)

148. McGarrigle Sisters – Nacl Sodium Chloride

149. Jonathan Coulton – Code Monkey

150. Flight of the Conchords – The Humans are Dead 

151. Blondie – Rapture

152. Mose Allison – Your Molecular Structure

153. Donald Fagen – I.G.Y.

Scientific American Songs: Earth Day by Johnathan Edwards

Check out a Spotify Playlist I put together with most of the songs included in this post.

(Does not yet include those added after the original post.)

NOW IT’S YOUR TURN!

Please leave your suggestions in the comment section of this page or tweet me @kirkenglehardt.  I look forward to hearing your songs. 

30 thoughts on “Songs of Science: They’ll Make You Think, Laugh and Learn

  1. A couple of music videos from my posse of highly gifted middle-school students in Lincoln, Nebraska — the first is our interpretation of Tom Lehrer’s “The Elements,” and the second is an original rap battle between pi and the speed of light!

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  2. Ok so they left off a few–a lot–I have made several CDs-Space 1, 2,3 & 4, Electricity, & Magnetism, Chemistry 1 & 2, Environmental, Evolution and Biology–used to play them in class while in NC and at Sequoyah, …
    some notable songs left off this science mix–“Planet Earth” Duran Duran, “Magnet & Steel” Walter Egan, “Elvis is Everywhere” Mojo Nixon (a bit of a stretch but fun) “Gravity” by John Mayer (even though I have not liked him since he is bigger than his body), Chemical Brothers stuff, “Break-up the Concrete” and “Ohio” by Chrissy Hynde….so many….BUT this was a good list–better than many.

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  3. I really enjoyed your list and found a few songs I’m surprised I never heard before.

    On my “Music & Chemistry” page, I’ve created a list of (mostly) popular songs that I play before my chemistry class starts. Only a handful of these made your list.

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  4. I realized I should also mention Baba Brinkman’s “Rap Guide to Evolution,” a “scientifically peer-reviewed hip-hop album exploring Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution by means of natural selection.” Here’s one of my favorite tracks:

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  5. This list is awesome, and very much up my alley! I have been geeking out for the past few years about the overlap of scientists and musicians, and that includes making both mental and actual notes when I come across music inspired by science, so I’ve got a few more for you below.

    Some of the songs I listed are examples from larger bodies of work (albums or stage shows). I mention it when there’s more to be found. And if I may do a shameless plug, some of these have been featured in my Musicians and Scientists quarterly newsletter. http://tinyletter.com/musisci (Next one comes out in August.)

    Okay, get ready for SCIENCE MUSIC:

    The Flaming Lips – Race for the Prize. This is my personal favourite science-inspired song, and how is it not on the list already!!?? The opening lines are “Two scientists were racing, for the good of all mankind. Both of them side by side, so determined.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bs56ygZplQA

    Ben Folds recently wrote a piece of music inspired by a passage of Janna Levin’s book Black Hole Blues: https://vimeo.com/165435809

    You have Adam Cole in your list above, but not Nimbleweed, a band with which I’m sure he was at some point also affiliated. They did an entire album about science once, and this is one of the songs: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hiUAtRg-wbU

    In 2009 a group of folk musicians all wrote songs inspired by Charles Darwin. Here is one of them, by Karine Polwart, who sings about Darwin’s daughter: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=22PP3Lnm6y4

    Here’s country musician Brad Paisley singing a song called Geology on an episode of A Prairie Home Companion: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qF0iC6DXMQ8

    Speaking of which, incoming APHC host Chris Thile’s band Punch Brothers has a song called Magnet, which they like to introduce as a “song about physics”, but is alluding to a different kind of magnetic attraction/repelling… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yBeOtEMo0XU

    Canadian band Barenaked Ladies wrote the theme song for the Big Bang Theory: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CMSYv_Z4SI8

    Helen Arney has a whole repertoire of science-themed comedy songs. Here’s one of my favourites: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uggtGH0d97k

    Baba Brinkman raps about evolution and other controversial academic topics. Performance, Feedback, Revision: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ROgR3nK6ayk

    The Sound of the Ladies performing Doing the Real Science Here, written for a scientific cabaret: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WZBNBtchSVw

    Physicist and jazz musician Diane Nalini has some science-inspired music, which she talks about (and performs) in this TEDx talk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a3o2kGFU8iI

    YouTuber Hank Green (one half of the Vlogbrothers) has written and performed some songs about science. This one is inspired by IFLS: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RECuQaaGGfA

    You’ve got a bunch of science-themed parodies of other songs already up, but here’s another one, by the ASAPscience guys: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LTXTeAt2mpg

    (By the way, that style of music, of replacing the words of a popular song with something science-related, is very similar to a style of music called “filk”, which does this for science fiction. I talk about that in this blog post: http://easternblot.net/2016/04/27/science-songs-why-so-silly/ )

    Okay, now on to some musical biology researchers:

    The Amygdaloids is probably the best-known researcher-led band. They have a Wikipedia page and a record deal and a list of impressive collaborations (including Daniel Levitin and Rosanne Cash). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Amygdaloids Their music is very much inspired by neuroscience. Here is Map of Your Mind: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eH_HSj5ysy0

    Uri Alon is a biologist who often brings his guitar to conferences and sings about what it’s like to be a researcher. Here’s his Peer Review Song https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=txTH81HbTNU and Scooped Again https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Pf8a1a6Ak0

    Another scientist, Richard Flavell (who also has a band of Yale neuroscientists called Cell Mates) entertains with similar musical fare at conferences. Here he sings Rejected https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vQLKoGNFXgU

    But wait, there’s more:

    There are some more science-themed songs on this Guardian list, which is not exhaustive, but very well curated. Until you started this list, it was the best one out there.
    https://www.theguardian.com/music/2016/feb/14/the-lab-playlist-16-great-songs-about-science-and-a-bad-one
    That list includes (among many others) Bjork (who made an entire album about science) and The Cure, neither of which are on your list yet. There’s also another Josh Ritter song on there.

    And even more that I jotted down over the years in my little red music/science notebook, without video links:
    Dark Honey – Nancy Kerr (inspired by her learning that city bees who drink dark soft drinks make dark honey. According to my notes she also has a song about fracking, but I don’t know the title of that.)
    The Planets – Gustav Holst (video easy to find, but it’s not so much a song as a whole symphony)
    GZA (of Wu Tang clan fame) has a hip hop album all about science coming out this year. It will be called Dark Matter.
    If you’re looking for some more abstract music inspired by scientific ideas, there’s a lot out there, like Iannis Xenakis or Steve Reich or Philip Glass. All instrumental, and not particularly easy to listen to.

    Finally, as a reward for reading all of this (or for skipping to the bottom), a fun fact about scientists and musicians: UT Southwestern researcher Eric Olson leads a band of scientists called The Transactivators. They play at university parties and conferences and such. So far, no different from many otehr such lab bands, however, this particular lab has another musical connection: Olson’s faculty position is funded by country legend Willie Nelson! http://www4.utsouthwestern.edu/olsonlab/Willie.html

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    • WOW! This is amazing. I added a bunch of the songs you suggested. Thank you so much for including the URLs too! I need to poke around Youtube a bit more to check out the artists you mentioned at the end, but I can’t thank you enough for the help thus far. This is a much improved list thanks to all of these wonderful suggestions.

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  6. Pingback: STEM Educators: Listen and Learn | STEM Career

  7. Wow, brilliant list, thank you!
    I’ve been mostly delving into classical music inspired by science, but on the way I’ve come across some more popular pieces as well. Not sure if these are quite what you’re looking for – most of the individual pieces on my list either have already been mentioned, or are in Finnish – but here’s something I didn’t yet find on the list or in comments:

    Full albums inspired by science:
    Björk: Biophilia

    Nightwish: Endless forms most beautiful (Inspired by theory of evolution)
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VUb1p8fm7Ag (the title song)

    Ballads for the age of science, a set of 6 CDs:
    http://www.argosymusiccorp.com/Science/Science.html

    Playing God, a rock opera about bioethics, something of a result of a research project, and co-operation between two Finnish scientists and Corky Laing:
    http://playinggodrocks.com/

    And then some other sources:

    I hope you’re aware of the Sing About Science database:
    http://singaboutscience.org/wp/findandaddsongs/

    Andrew Fraknoi has made listing of all sorts of music related to astronomy, although the lists include some pieces of a more astrological inspiration too. One publicly available listing can be found here: https://www.astronomy2009.org/static/resources/iya2009_music_astronomy.pdf

    There’s also a blog about ecology-themed rock lyrics:
    http://rockandecology.blogspot.fi/

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