Have you seen it? Okay, there’s no such show called “Science: The Musical.” Not yet, anyway. But writing, performing, and recording songs about science isn’t as uncommon as it sounds. Actually, we’re willing to bet you’ve heard more than a few—though you may not have realized it.

One science tune is currently being heard every week by several million people: “The History of Everything,” also known as the theme song for the hit television show The Big Bang Theory. The song, penned and performed by the Barenaked Ladies, details the entire history of universe in 1 minute, 46 seconds. If you think that’s brief, the theme song is an even briefer 32 seconds. “The creators Chuck Lorre and Bill Prady were big fans of the band and they called,” remembers Barenaked Ladies’ singer/guitarist Ed Robertson.

In an interview with spinner.com, Robertson explained the history of the song: “They said, ‘We love your writing. All we need from you is sort of a history of everything in about 32 seconds.” The full-length version came later but Robertson was more than happy to lengthen the song. “I’m a total science geek and I had just read a book by Simon Singh calledBig Bang: Everything You Need to Know About the Most Important Discovery of All Time,” he says. “It’s kind of a layman’s explanation of every scientific discovery that led up to cosmological theory. So I had just read that and then I got asked, ‘Would you be interested in writing a theme song for a show called The Big Bang Theory?’ ‘Yes! Yes!’ So yeah, it was really fun.” [Spinner.com]

The Barenaked Ladies aren’t the only band to veer into science territory. Another band, They Might Be Giants (TMBG), made a breakthrough with its science-themed songs initially aimed at children. You might recognize the band’s most familiar tune “You’re Not the Boss of Me,” the theme song of the (now-cancelled) sitcom Malcolm in the Middle. The Grammy-winning band’s 2009 album for children is title Here Comes Science, with song titles that range from the scientific “Meet the Elements” to the silly “My Brother the Ape.”

Though TMBG writes the majority of their own songs, Here Comes Science includes two songs: “Why Does the Sun Shine?” and “What Is a Shooting Star?” that were written more than 50 years ago by Lou Singer and Hy Zaret. Singer and Zaret became famous in the 1950s for collaborating on a six-album series called Ballads for the Age of Science—but that was after Zaret co-wrote a song that’s become one of the most famous and recognizable tunes of all time, “Unchained Melody.”

Popular songs about science include those that either contain the word “science” in their titles or among their lyrics, or mention science-related theories or terminology. Sometimes it’s surprising what words turn up where. One of the songs from the popular animated series Phineas and Ferb contains the lines:

“…and we don’t need to break the laws of physics to make a day that’s longer than a day. We can follow that old sun around the circumference of the globe…”

There’s also a cute story about a song by British songstress Katie Melua. The original version of her song, “Nine Million Bicycles,” contained an error; specifically the reference to the number of light years was incorrect. The mistake was caught by science writer Simon Singh, who discussed it in a column in the Guardian. Melua was embarrassed by the blunder and decided to re-record the song with different lyrics. Both the original and corrected versions can be heard here.

With some help, The Exchange put together a list of popular science-related songs. Tell us your favorites and let us know if we’ve overlooked any that should be included. Enjoy!:

The Books “Beautiful People”

Thomas Dolby “She Blinded Me With Science”

Carl Sagan featuring Stephen Hawking “A Glorious Dawn”

The Apples in Stereo “Energy”

Blondie “Atomic”

Landscape “Einstein A Go Go”

The Knife and Hotel Pro Forma “Tomorrow, in a Year” (A Darwin Electro-Opera)

Oingo Boingo “Weird Science”

Coldplay “The Scientist”

The Grates “Science Is Golden”

Blackalicious “Chemical Calisthenics”

Big Audio Dynamite “E=mc2”

Depeche Mode “Everything Counts in Large Amounts”

Symphony of Science “We Are All Connected" Sagan, Feynman, deGrasse Tyson, Bill Nye

Baba Brinkman “Off That (Rationalist Anthem)” album Rap Guide to Evolution

Timbuk 3 “The Future’s So Bright”

Flight of the Conchords “Robots”

Tom Lehrer “Chemistry Element Song”

Hawkwind “Quark Strangeness and Charm”

Grafton Primary “Relativity”

Billy Bragg “The Space Race Is Over”

Beastie Boys “The Sounds of Science”

MC Hawking “What We Need More of Is Science”

Laurie Anderson “Big Science”

Siouxsie and the Banshees “Placebo Effect”

David Bowie “Space Oddity”

Elton John “Rocket Man”

The Shins “A Comet Appears”

Pat Benatar “My Clone Sleeps Alone”

John Otway “Bunsen Burner”

Neil Young “Sedan Delivery”

Monty Python Troupe “The Galaxy Song”

R.E.M. “Man on the Moon”

The Flaming Lips “Race for the Prize”

Cat Empire “Protons Neutrons Electrons”

Sam Cooke “Wonderful World (Don’t Know Much)”

Elvis Costello “Chemistry Class”

Guided by Voices “I Am A Scientist”

Freezepop “Science Genius Girl”

System of a Down “Science”

 

 

 

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