The (Geo)chemistry Christmas Chart

Dec 12, 2013 5 Comments by 4277 views

During my childhood a massive part of the pre-Christmas hype was about who would make it to the coveted number 1 spot in the UK charts. I remember waiting in anticipation to see whether Cliff Richard would strike again, or whether the likes of Mr Blobby or East 17 would beat him to it. I have to confess that my interest in the singles chart has waned a bit since then, both due to the dominance of the X-factor releases and a general improvement in my music tastes (a fact that’s not open to debate, contrary to what my colleagues may say in the lab…). Nonetheless, as debate starts up again over who will be this years #1 (apparently Lilly Allen, the X-Factor winner and AC/DC are all in the running), I got to wondering what would be voted the all-time greatest geochemistry-related song.

A quick trawl through my iTunes library revealed a surprising number of bands, albums and songs that contain scientific references (admittedly not that many deal with geology or geochemistry, but we can’t have everything), and a few other classics were quickly found in YouTube. I’ve listed my top 10 in reverse order (according to their scientific relevance), and I encourage you to add any that I may have overlooked. Geeky I know, but also fun & strangely addictive once you get thinking about it!


No. 10: Nirvana – Lithium

Great band and a great song. The title is about as chemical as it gets though.


No. 9: Coldplay – The Scientist

Another song that’s made it in on its title alone.


No. 8: Kings of Leon – Radioactive

My final slightly more quirky title-based entry.


No. 7: Chemical Brothers – Chemical Beats

No top 10 of science-related tunes would be complete without something by the chemical brothers and this is about as chemical as they come.


No. 6: LemonJelly – Experiment Number Six

Admittedly more of a biological/medical song, but you hope that your students paid as much attention during their experiments.


No. 5: Beastie Boys – The Sounds of Science

In my opinion anyone who raps about Isaac Newton deserves to be in the top 5, and with both a song and album entitled ‘The Sounds of Science’, the Beastie Boys have certainly earnt their place.


No. 4: Muse – The 2nd Law: Unsustainable

The most recent release to make it into my list, and the only song that deals with the laws of thermodynamics. Great music, great video and entropy – what more could you ask for?


No. 3: Jurassic 5 – Lesson 6: The Lecture

‘For many of our students, this is the lesson you’ve been waiting for’ – Any song that starts off with the chemical definition of a compound, mixture and solution quite simply has to make it into the top three.


No. 2: Blackalicous – Chemical Calisthenics

Almost unrivalled for both its scientific content and vocal delivery. Rap may not be everyones cup of tea, but in this case you should definitely make an exception. For those struggling to catch each word you should check out the brilliant lyrics:

No. 1: Tom Lehrer – The Element Song

The all time classic and a song that even Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter) knows off by heart! (see him recite it on the Graham Norton show: Quite simply a must see for you, your students, and anyone else you may know with a vague interest in the periodic table.


About the author

Christopher Pearce is a marine geochemist at Southampton University and has only recently turned to the world of blogging to find out what other people do when not sitting inside a lab. Chris gained his undergrad degree from Oxford University and PhD from The Open University, before embarking on an academic career with postdoctoral positions at the Observatoire Midi Pyrenees (Toulouse) and back at The Open University. In his current fellowship Chris uses various isotopic systems to investigate changes in the composition of seawater through Earths history. Like all geologists, Chris enjoys getting out and about as much as possible and goes scuba-diving, snowboarding, and hiking all over the world. Chris lives with his fiancée, Melanie, who’s a volcanologist and is therefore far cooler than he is.

5 Responses to “The (Geo)chemistry Christmas Chart”

  1. Johnny White says:

    You should add Kraftwerk and their work “Radioactivity”!

  2. Dan Murphy says:

    While it isn’t about chemistry, and it is a parody song, here is a great song about getting an advanced degree in the natural sciences:

    Personally, I like the lyrics:

    I want good data,
    A paper in cell,
    But I got a project straight from Hell.
    I wanna graduate in less than 5 years,
    But there ain’t no gettin’ out of here.

    And of course there is The Elements by They Might be Giants:

    Actually every song off They Might Be Giants album Here Comes Science! Enjoy listening to that one. A number of them are truly great. Like “The Sun Is a Miasma of Incandescent Plasma”.

  3. Paul Dennis says:

    A long time after the blog post but surely an isotope geochemist has to have

    Isotope by Joe Henderson on his top ten!

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