With his rendition of the Monty Python classic "The Galaxy Song," theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking not only offers up a humorous sense of cosmic perspective, he has also added another star to the firmament of extremely silly yet highly informative science songs.
Even NASA was happy to learn of Professor Hawking's remake.“It’s always good to see well known people take an interest in science, technology, education, math, as well as, space exploration, and encourages others to learn more about them,” says Allard Beutel of NASA's Office of Communications in an email. “And if Dr. Hawking’s remake informs people while it entertains them, that’s a win-win.”
The song, written by Python’s Eric Idle and John Du Prez, was originally created for the 1983 film, “Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life.” Both the original and the Hawking remake serve as a lecture on the unfathomable size of the cosmos.
Writing for the San Jose Astronomical Association, astronomy buff Paul Kohlmiller fact-checks the numbers in the song. His conclusion, most of them are in the ballpark, except for the speed of the rotation of the Milky Way, which moves at about six million miles a day, not one million miles a day.
In 2012, Mr. Idle performed the song again with reworked lyrics for the BBC Two series Wonders of Life, hosted by physicist Brian Cox. The new lyrics focus on the scientific wonders on, rather than off, planet Earth.
Singing about science is a tried-and-true method of bringing the general public into the STEM universe. Here are five favorite videos (and a few extras via hyperlink) for those who just can’t get enough of being, as Thomas Dolby put it, “blinded with science.”
1. Recently, on Ultimate Pi Day, March 14, The Pi Song by Hard ‘n Phirm made its annual resurgence.
2. If you're a Gen X'er who is feeling nostalgic, check out the 1979 Electricity SchoolHouse Rock song, which describes how power plants operate.
3. For a more nuanced view of nature's fundamental forces, here's the Large Hadron Rap, performed by scientists at CERN's Large Hadron Collider.
4. The 2008 video 'A Glorious Dawn,' which combines Auto-Tune with footage from Carl Sagan's 1980 series Cosmos, and the 1997 series, Stephen Hawking's Universe, proved wildly popular on YouTube when it first launched. Its creator, John D. Boswell, has gone on to produce several more Symphony of Science music videos, including one on the Quantum World that features Morgan Freeman along with several prominent theoretical physicists.
5. The Science Love Song by ASAP Science might be the world's geekiest Valentine.