The world of science is a multi-dimensional universe that’s difficult enough to grasp. Lucky for those of us who are not blessed with the ability to understating the theory of relativity, how to build a robot, or even what the sun is made out of, some smart musicians have done a great job of breaking down the stuff flying over our heads in science class. This list stays away from sci-fi (alien invasions or life after the apocalypse is not mentioned) and instead names songs whose science-based lyrics radiate and even manage to teach listeners a little something.
1. “History of Everything,” Barenaked Ladies
The problematic, yet, super popular CBS show The Big Bang Theory has one of the catchiest themes songs currently on television thanks to the Barenaked Ladies. Arguably their most recognizable output since some cuts off of their 1992 record Gordon, BNL trace about 14 billion years worth of history in well under two minutes. With super speed they cover evolution, the fate of the dinosaurs, the ice age, and much more while sneaking in this rhyme: “Australopithecus would really have been sick of us.”
2. “She Blinded Me With Science,” Thomas Dolby
This ‘80s one-hit-wonder gets better with each dramatic exclamation of “she blinded me with science!” This ultra-cheesy synth-pop track tells the story of the narrator’s infatuation with his teacher, Miss Sakamoto. Despite how much he thinks she’s beautiful, Miss Sakamoto does the right thing and fails him in biology and geometry, and finally hits him with technology that’s hopefully heavy. Breaking Bad fans will recognize this as Creepy Todd’s ringtone.
3. “The Elements,” Tom Lehrer
Humorist/musician/professor Tom Lehrer bravely put the periodic table of elements to song, actually to the tune of “Major-General’s Song” from The Pirates of Penzance, in 1959. Naming all but one of the elements, “The Elements” is an incredibly difficult tongue twister but if you’re Daniel Radcliffe, reciting it doesn’t seem that hard.
4. “Imitosis,” Andrew Bird
One of many science-inspired cuts from Andrew Bird’s 2007 record Armchair Apocrypha, “Imitosis” gets the spot because of this standout line: “despite what all his studies had shown, that’s what’s mistaken for closeness is just a case of mitosis.” As this lyric hints, “Imitosis” is a clever narrative about a professor trying to find out if there’s more to human behavior than just cells at work.
5. “Natural Science,” Rush
“Natural Science” from Rush’s 1980 album Permanent Waves is broken up into three guitar wielding, typical Rush sounding sections: I. Tide Pools, II. Hyperspace, and III. Permanent Waves. In section I. lyricist Neil Peart starts at earth’s beginnings where eventually “all the busy little creatures chasing out their destinies, living in their pools, they soon forget about the sea.” Section II, “a quantum leap forward,” is a look at contemporary life, “a mechanized world, out of hand,” and section III looks to the future and Peart warns how powerful nature can be. Rush’s compact summary of life leaves a lot of room to fear the future.
6. “Stuck To You,” Josh Ritter
“Stuck To You,” from Josh Ritter’s 1999 self-titled debut album, is an amusing take on love that finds Ritter deconstructing romantic clichés by using basic science. Equal parts enlightening and funny, and just a little bit bitter, Ritter erases romantic idealism with lyrics like, “It is not love that makes the flowers grow but a complex electron transfer process known as photosynthesis when chlorophyll reacts with the light of day.”
7. “Chemical Calisthenics,” Blackalicious
The tongue-tying, linguistic luminaries Blackalicious can give high school science teachers a run for their money. The hip-hop duo have a triumph in science inspired lyrics with “Chemical Calisthenics” thanks to verses like this: “C-O-H-O-2 wine water solution of calcium hydroxide. Slobbin it, C-A-O lime will make bleach powder. Galvanic metal beats stomp out louder. Dried ice, C-0 squared refrigerant.” Pull up a chair and learn a thing or two from Blackalicious.