Creativity, Science

Mix Tape #2: Best Songs by Scientists — No one in the lab got science like us!

After the success of my collaboration with NotNicolajames here comes a new collection. This time it is Best Songs By Scientists: from frustrated love to educational propaganda and nerd-core!

A good place to start is Brian May – who looks more like Isaac Newton than most scientists and has left a career in astrophysics to compose sing-alongs:

Queen – We Will Rock You (1977)

“You got mud on your face\
Big disgrace-\
Somebody better put you
back into your place”

Or sing: We will graph you!

And to stay in physics: here comes an all-female pop group from CERN: Les Horribles Cernettes (hat tip Holger). CERN-ettes, get it? They even share their initials with the Large Hadron Collider, which is the topic of their first song:

Les Horribles Cernettes – Collider (1994)

“I gave you a golden ring
to show you my love/
You went to stick it in a printed circuit/
To fix a voltage leak in your collector/
You plug my feelings into your detector”

And being from CERN, they were one of the first bands to have a webpage – and, hell, does that look 90-ish. Better check out their youtube channel.

Bad project (2011) and Chromosome (2010)

Not everybody can rock complete stadiums, but those who can’t sometimes imitate those who can: We enter the thriving sub-genre of Lady Gaga parodies:

“I want good data\ A paper in Cell\
But I got a project straight from Hell\
I wanna graduate in less than five years\
But there ain´t no getting out of here”
“DNA wrapped around histones.\
It’s all in the chromosome.\
Everything in your genome:\
It’s all in the chromosome. “

Everybody who went through a PhD can connect to the first one, and the second one is actually quite educational. Just like the next ones:

Myofibrils (2010)

“My-my-my-y-y, woo!

Blame it on the DNA (2009)

“Blame it on the base pair/
If you got some red hair.”

And some are just short of outright propaganda! There is a whole Youtube channel devoted to a project called Symphony of Science.

Symphony of Science (2012)

the greatest show on earth!”

You can meet a whole community of science-musicians at, and if you’re into HipHop-science, have a look at the rhymebosome: “A ribosome translates mRNA into amino acids. A rhymebosome translates biology into awesomeness.” Sure!

Or maybe biology is not your thing, you rather like computer science. Try MC plus+ (and the empty set), aka Armand Navabi and friends from Purdue, and their nerd-core (hat tip Holger):

MC plus+ – Code Rage (2009?)

“Throw the mouse
at the keyboard
and curse the Lord\
Another bus error,
I might cut the cord.”

More nerdcore from rapper funky49 on his new album Dirty Apes Discover Science (even featured in Science). I’m not sure if he is a scientist himself, but as a self-described “science enthusiast” he deserves a place on this list:

Funky49 – Science Like Us (2012)

“i got sci, come fly
with me to the moon\
you don’t got sci, you fly to your doom\
funk in the lab, downloads
by the googleplex\
when it comes to learning
I say, What’s Next? “

And judged from the video he is also a Big Bang Theory enthusiast. That sure earns him another browny point (even though I’m not sure how cool the makers of BBT are with having their material used in the video).

SVD song (2011)

I might be biased as a mathematician, but this is one of my personal favorites:

“It had to be U/
U D transpose V/
I looked all around/
and finally found/
the SVD!”

While watching educational music videos should actually count as studying, the next two are about the day-to-day experiences of practicing scientists – and show that even world-leading systems biologists have problems like the rest of us:

Uri Alon: Sunday in the lab and Scooped again

“My wife she left me\
My mum disowned me\
The shrink pretends he doesn’t know me\
Because I can’t be myself\
Without some buffer on the shelf”
“I go down to the library\
Just to check out the journals of February\
I’ve been scooped again\
(Scoop! Scoop!)\
I’ve been scooped again!”

Well, Uri, let me tell you something: If you still go to the library to check out papers, it’s no surprise you’re a bit behind … I found the complete lyrics of Sunday at the lab at O’Really? by Duncan Hull, who also helpfully supplies a link to a paper called Workaholism: between illusion and addiction.

This list is obviously not complete. For example, I couldn’t find any video of Harold and Jacob Varmus’ “Genes and Jazz” performance at the Guggenheim (New York) and the Smithsonian Institute (Washington DC) in 2008/9 (with animations by Drew Berry from WEHI). But you can get a short impression here and read about it in the New Yorker. It seems to have been artsy and science-y at the same time. Nice!

And I also couldn’t find a video of ‘Lady X and the Positive Eigenvalues‘, a band full of Berkeley professors including Michael Jordan (the machine learner, not the basketball player), only some pictures at In Theory and

Before we come to the end, here is one last pick for today: a commercial for a PCR machine (full lyrics). Don’t worry … it’s much more fun than it sounds!

Scientists for Better PCR (2008)

“Just mix your template with a buffer and some primers,\
Nucleotides and polymerases too.\
Denaturing, annealing, and extending,\
Well it’s amazing what heating and cooling and heating will do.”

Why can’t all ads be that much fun?

Collecting science-themed music is getting quite addictive, I will keep you updated on all other gems I find.

Look up the tag mixed tape for a list of all science-themed music collections at Scientific B-sides.


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