Top 10: Science Pop Songs
With the help of you, lovely reader, we would like to solve one of science’s most intractable problems – one that is more controversial than the existence of dark matter, more pressing than global warming – namely: What are the top 10 science pop songs?
From the threat of nuclear war: You’d better watch out, you’d better beware, Albert says that E equals MC squared; to the wonder of heterosexual love: XX XY, That’s why it’s you and me. Your blood is red, It’s beautiful genetic love ? I need your DNA, the pop song reaches places other science fears to tread ? namely, the intimate headspace of a brooding teen.
Armstrong and Aldrin spoke to me/From Houston and Cape Kennedy/And I watched the Eagle landing/On a night when the Moon was full/And as it tugged at the tides, I knew deep inside/I too could feel its pull/I lay in my bed and dreamed I walked/On the Sea of Tranquillity/I knew that someday soon we’d all sail to the moon/On the high tide of technology/But the dreams have all been taken/And the window seats taken too/Now that the space race is over/It’s been and it’s gone and I’ll never get to the moon
It?s a far cry from the 1983 Billy, whose philosophical space-concerned song included: I saw two shooting stars last night/I wished on them, but they were only satellites/Is it wrong to wish on space hardware?/I wish I wish I wish you’d care.
Love, of course, is what makes the pop song sing, as Thomas Dolby’s She Blinded Me With Science (and thrilled me with technology) makes clear. But on a more neuroscientific level: Does the body rule the mind/or does the mind rule the body?/I dunno, conclude The Smiths. Entering the nature v nurture debate, Girls Aloud proclaim: You can’t mistake my Biology/The way that we talk/The way that we walk/it’s there in our thoughts. Jarvis Cocker sang about parallel dimensions in Quantum Theory, basically a love song, which has been movingly added to Dr Who footage here, and topped only by Air’s Biological.
Among the best and strangest science songs are surely the Beastie Boys’ Sounds Of Science, Kool Keith’s version of Ego Trippin’, MC Hawking’s What We Need More Of Is Science, Sweet’s Alexander Graham Bell, Einstein A Go-Go by Landscape and E=MC2 from Big Audio Dynamite. Oh and of course, Monkey vs Robot.
But there’s also Kraftwerk’s Computer Love, Big Science by Laurie Anderson, pharmaceutical trial procedure described in Siouxsie and the Banshees’ Placebo Effect, Blur’s Chemical World, Electricity courtesy of Suede (also OMD), Atomic by bombshell Blondie, Genetic Engineering by OMD (and X-Ray Spex), and what list would be complete without Diana Ross’s Chain Reaction (less ably repeated by Steps)?
This is one for all those pedantics who point out the mistakes in songs. Simon Singh got Katie Melua to re-record Nine Million Bicycles due to its scientific errors.
The problematic verse in the original version of Nine Million Bicycles is: We are 12 billion light years from the edge/That?s a guess/No one can ever say it?s true/But I know that I will always be with you.
The new, more scientifically accurate verse by Simon Singh, recorded here goes: We are 13.7 billion light years from the edge of the observable universe/That?s a good estimate with well-defined error bars/Scientists say it?s true, but acknowledge that it may be refined/And with the available information, I predict that I will always be with you.