Why do we Sing about Science?

Presented by

Eva Amsen, PhD, Freelance / Institute of Cancer Research (UK)


Why do people sing about science? Science songs can be used as educational tool, but sometimes a science song has a different purpose. Singing about science can generate a sense of community, to build a connection with other scientists and science fans. In 2011, scientists widely shared a YouTube video of the Zheng lab at Baylor College of Medicine performing a science-themed parody of a Lady Gaga song. It was popular not just for the impressive performance and the well-known melody, but because it described familiar situations for anyone working in a biomedical lab. This sense of community building through STEM music is a bit like "filk" – a style of music originating at science fiction conventions, where fans create songs about their favourite sci-fi and fantasy universes. To what extent science songs and filk music overlap is a matter of debate, but comparing the filk and science songs communities may give us a better sense of the cultural role of science music.


There are a fair number of scientists who filk but are not known for their songs about science. Bob Kanefsky is a very well known parodist in the filk world, and also works at JPL, but rarely sings about his work. The late Jordin Kare was also in space science.

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