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Maths and science songs

This intro is boring, take me to the songs.

I've watched and listened to a lot of maths or science songs, and this page is my attempt to have all the ones I like in one place, in approximate rank order of how much I like them. The most useful source has been the Sing About Science & Math database; I semi-systematically played the videos it listed whose age range included any years 18 or above. Occasionally I played a high-school level song and liked it enough to include it.

All other things equal, songs are funnier if the subject matter is more technical. Since my background is maths and physics, this introduces a bias into my rankings: I can pick a highly technical maths or physics song, and therefore find it entertaining. But anything from first-year biology onwards appears as an amorphous mess of words I don't know, so my appreciation of bio videos is often limited to how well the video is put together, the quality of the singing, etc.

A second bias is how much I like the song being parodied, or the style of music if I'm listening to an original song. In my rankings, this disadvantages rap while advantaging parodies of Breakfast at Tiffany's.

There are a lot of maths or science songs on YouTube, and most of them aren't very good. It seems unfair to single anyone out, but this Bolzano-Weierstrass rap has over 20,000 views, so hopefully it's not too mean to pick on it. With some decent accompaniment, and people who actually wanted to be there, it could have been the greatest Bolzano-Weierstrass theorem song ever made. Well of course, it still has that distinction, but it'll lose it once someone else sings or raps about that topic.

Nevertheless, I appreciate all of the science songs on YouTube, terrible or otherwise. I went to a few annual poetry nights at the UQ physics club, and most of the poems or songs were pretty terrible, but there were always a couple of good ones and overall they were fun evenings. It's just that once you film a physics song and put it on YouTube, you stop comparing it to the low-quality output of undergrad physics students and start comparing it to properly good YouTube videos designed to make you laugh, like something by Tim Minchin.

And despite those comparisons being almost always unfavourable, still there are a heap of science people out there (usually but not always students) who post their videos anyway, YouTube dislikes and low view counts be damned. And I'm glad that all these people exist, deriving enjoyment from putting science words into melodies and hoping that we might enjoy their words and melodies too.

I want to talk about one video in particular. It's called Les Miserables Larides, an adaptation by some Cornell students of Les Mis to their seagull (family name Laridae) research. The singing is not always in key, and there's no really fancy production involved. I give it a rating of 3.5 out of 5 in the table below, and it's languishing on just over a thousand views. It goes for over 18 minutes, and I've watched it straight through twice. I came away with two strong impressions:

It makes me happier about the world to know that there are people who care this much about seagulls, dedicating years of their lives to their study, filming them for minutes on end as part of that research and then singing Les Mis songs over that video.

The song list follows. The rank ordering is not perfect, and sometimes descends into something approximately alphabetical when I can't really say which ones I like better.

Rtg Title Artist Melody Comments
5 Finite Simple Group (of Order Two) The Klein Four Original The funniest bit is the most advanced term you know how to define. My heart was open but too dense. / Our system was already directed, to have a finite limit in some sense.
5 William Rowan Hamilton Tim Blais et al. Alexander Hamilton I love Hamilton and am very biased towards it, but this is an incredibly well done parody. William Wordsworth, his pal, said "This verse is just OK, man."
5 Entropic Time Tim Blais The Longest Time An incredible video, lip-synching backwards and playing the video backwards.
5 Bohemian Gravity Tim Blais Bohemian Rhapsody Previously Blais's best video and probably still my favourite lyrics of his.
5 Bad Project Zheng Lab Bad Romance I want good data, a paper in Cell / But I got a project straight from Hell.
5 Animalia Chorus Tim Blais Hallelujah Chorus
5 A Biologist's Mother's Day Song Adam Cole Original The audio works pretty well on its own, but the graph at 1:05 in the video helps understanding.
5 The Science of Love Tim Blais Somebody to Love
5 (A Biologist's) St. Patrick's Day Song Adam Cole Original
5 The PCR Song Bio-Rad Original
5 The World Is Just Awesome (Boom De Yada) Discovery Channel I Love the Mountains Just don't actually watch the Discovery Channel.
5 Some Budding Yeast I Used to Grow Nate Krefman Somebody That I Used to Know
5 The Surface of Light Tim Blais Circle of Life
5 Rolling in the Higgs Tim Blais Rollin' in the Deep The complex scalar elusive boson / Escaped detection by the LEP and Tevatron.
5 NASA Johnson Style NASA students Gangnam Style Got Japanese and Russians and that European charm / Throw 'em up like the Canada Arm.
4.5 Galaxy Song Monty Python Original
4.5 El Corazón Hard 'n Phirm Original Apparently best for those who speak English and not Spanish.
4.5 Waking Up Is Hard To Do The Laryngospasms Breakin' Up Is Hard to Do
4.5 Breathe The Laryngospasms All I Have to Do Is Dream
4.5 Ring of Fire The Laryngospasms Ring of Fire
4.5 The ESO Song Noe Kains et al. Ruby Made by ESO people and the video contains some lovely timelapse sequences.
4.5 The tale of a Post Doc James Clark Bohemian Rhapsody
4 Glucose, Glucose Science Groove Sugar, Sugar
4 Sporulation Allison Madison Wagon Wheel Rock me mama, I'm your endospore.
4 Lactose Intolerant Cyndi Lauper Time After Time Singing to David Letterman.
4 You're My Null Will Crowley Original A proposal written by Greg Crowther.
4 Hotel Mauna Kea Kelly F. Hotel California Any time of year / If the night is clear.
4 Puffed Up Cores Tim Blais Pumped Up Kicks Co-written with Luke Bayly.
4 The Elements Tom Lehrer Major-General's Song It feels almost sacrilegious giving Tom Lehrer a rating of only 4, but the lyrics aren't as interesting as the songs I've given 5/5.
4 Salmonella @ryeh (ft. Jarns) Umbrella Would you catch my Salmonella, ella, ella, hey, hey, hey.
4 Breakfast at Glenfield Tapas Mukherjee Breakfast at Tiffany's About the asthma guidelines at Glenfield Hospital.
4 The Nano Song Glory Liu Original Written by Ryan Miyakawa.
4 The Safety Song Glory Liu Original Written by Ryan Miyakawa and Angelica Zen.
4 Eminemium (Choose Yourself) Tim Blais Lose Yourself
4 Walking through the Genes Francis Collins Runaway Collins, Director of NIH.
4 Sound Charlie McDonnell Original
4 Funk Toad Rey Ayon, Josh Greenwell, Rachel Trudeau Play That Funky Music Toads are more toxic, and frogs won't even eat them 'cuz they'll die.
4 I Wanna Be a Biochemist Karly Uhl Billionaire
4 I Wanna Be an Engineer Only Won Billionaire
4 Lament for the Passing of the Trilobites Nigel Hughes Original This is someone who really likes trilobites.
4 Myofibrils Science Groove My Sharona
4 Necessary But Not Sufficient Science Groove Original "A musical summary of the control of glycolysis in contracting skeletal muscle".
4 This Is Engineering Purdue Engineering Thirft Shop I'm gonna type some coooode.
4 Ode To Quantum Mechanics Casual Entropy Original Uncertainty is not so odd, as long as we're aware / Position and momentum are a Fourier transform pair.
4 Phineas Gage Hank Green Original
4 Resistant to Base! Scott Johnsgard Jr Addicted to Love
4 New Math Tom Lehrer Original
4 Rock song Sam Johnson The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll This deserves a better recording.
3.5 Somatic Cellular Friends Elliott Kimmell I'll Be There for You
3.5 Physics Love Song Princess Clemente Original Think 'Finite Simple Group' but with high school physics.
3.5 Strange Charm Hank Green Original
3.5 Modern Quantum Theory Quark Emily Hecht Major-General's Song
3.5 Neutrons Northwest Area HS students My Girl Such enthusiasm!
3.5 Tadpole and Fish Richard Milner Original More on the YouTube channel.
3.5 Large Hadron Rap Kate McAlpine Original
3.5 N3UROCH!P Rap Kate McAlpine Original
3.5 Les Miserables Larides Shoals Marine Lab students Les Misérables Almost 20 minutes long!
3.5 The Gibson Assembly Song iGEM Cambridge Breakfast at Tiffany's
3.5 Oxidate It Or Love It / Electron to the Next One Tom McFadden, Derrick Davis Hate it or Love it, On to the Next One
3.5 Schek's Yours Nate Krefman I'm Yours
3.5 First and Second Law Flanders and Swann Original The skit as a whole is worth at least an extra half-point. The song starts at 2:10 of the linked video.
3 The Sound of Science ? The Sound of Silence I feel the title deserves a song that isn't about arguing with Creationists on the Internet. Still, it is well done and I'll pay the line that goes They'll take the words of the prophets over fossils that were really found.
3 In PLOS D-Lab Applause
3 Engineering Paradise John Cohn Gangsta's Paradise If you be a gamer, you can't give me no lip / 'Cuz when you be fraggin' your homies, you be using my chip.
3 Massless Tim Blais Madness
3 MSTP MSTP students For the Longest Time
3 Doppler Shifting The Chromatics Original The good cop's gun shoots out only radar / And the beam bounces back off Susan's car / And assumin' that policeman is standing in range / His gun tells him all about the frequency change.
3 High Energy Groove The Chromatics Original
3 The Sun Song The Chromatics Original
3 Breaking the News: Crohn's Disease Asher Wycoff Original
3 The Particle Physics Song CERN Choir The Hippopotamus Song
3 I Will Derive! MindofMatthew I Will Survive I tried to think, control my nerve. / It's evident that speed's tangential to that time-position curve.
3 Party in the LAB Michalia Root Party in the USA
3 Ecological Dynamics Rap ? G Code
3 Graphene Paul Neitzel Cocaine
3 Hey There You Structure Josh Szabo Hey There Delilah Let down by a chorus that doesn't scan very well.
3 I Wanna Be a Physicist tas00006 Billionaire
3 I Wanna Be a Pharmacist tas00006 Billionaire
3 I'm Bringin' Stickleback Nate Krefman SexyBack
3 ISS Baby NASA students Ice Ice Baby
3 Quantum Decoupling Transition in a One-Dimensional Feshbach-Resonant Superfluid Jonathan Mann Original The abstract of a PRL paper.
3 Sweet Home Apparatus Professor Science Original Surprisingly not based on the Lynyrd Skynyrd song.
3 TCA (Kreb's) Cycle Rap Wilson Lam Thrift Shop
3 Twinkle Twinkle Science Groove Twinkle Twinkle Little Star About T2*, the "time constant for the decay of signals measured by NMR".
3 Down Doo Bee Doo Richard Alley Breakin' Up Is Hard to Do
3 GeoMan Richard Alley Piano Man
3 Peaceful Easy Obduction Richard Alley Peaceful Easy Feeling
3 Ring of Fire Richard Alley Ring of Fire
3 The Biggest Eruption in the Whole USA Richard Alley Happiest Girl In The Whole USA
3 Gluconeogenesis Kevin Ahern's students Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious
3 Hark the Sucrose Kevin Ahern's students Hark the Herald Angels Sing
3 Hemoglobin's Moving Around Kevin Ahern's students Santa Claus Is Coming to Town
3 Don't Stop B-cell-ievin' Rick Bungiro Don't Stop Believin' More on his YouTube channel.
3 Wanna Do Transcription Splice Girls Wannabe Included for the band name.

Posted 2014-09-06, last updated 2016-08-25 (recent Tim Blais songs).

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