Thursday, July 05, 2007


As a collector of Novelty songs and a math-person I was morally obligated to purchase Musical Fruitcake by The Klein Four, a band consisting of math grad students singing songs about math. They sing a cappella (without instruments). While you are not morally obligated to purchase their CD,you can. Or find out more about them (or go here for samples).

SO, how is their CD? I give each song a rating between 1 and 10, 10 being Excellent and 1 being unlistenable.

  1. Power of One: A love song that uses Math. Rather pleasant and clever. But the math is fairly easy. lyrics Rating: 8.
  2. Finite Simple Group of Order two: Their signature song, and their best known since its on You-Tube. Another love song that uses math, but much more sophisticated math. Better sung on the CD than on the video. lyrics Rating: 9
  3. Three Body Problem: Sung by a guy about losing his girl to another guy. Lots of Physics-Math involved. Touching. lyrics Rating: 7
  4. Just the four of us: Seems to be autobiographical and partially a Rap Satire. More fun for them than for me. lyrics Rating: 5
  5. Lemma: Lyrics are not online. Thats just as well. It sounds like its a song about liking a lemma- not funny enough for satire, not serious enough for--- how could a math song ever be serious? Rating: 4
  6. Calculating: The best song ever written about algebraic topology. lyrics Rating: 6
  7. XX Potential: Lyrics not online. About Women doing math (XX vs XY). Nice rythmes but not much math in the song. Rating: 6
  8. Confuse Me: About how confusing math can be. Mentions some math- mostly group theory. (A commenter corrected me on this- there is no group theory in this song. I was... confused.) lyrics Rating: 7
  9. Universal: Yet another love song that uses Math. The math used is intermediary between Power of One and Finite Simple Group. Tune is not catchy. Lyrics are as tedious as Category Theory. Lyrics not on line. Rating: 4
  10. Contradiction: Seems to be a guy singing about having lost his girlfriend. But its hard to tell- which is a problem. Also, no math except `contradiction'. Lyrics not on line. Rating: 4
  11. Mathematics Paradise: To the tune of Gangster Paradise by Coolio. Weird Al had the song Amish Paradise to that tune, and for a brief time Coolio was mad at him for that (they seem to have made up). I doubt Coolio has heard this album, but you never know. Anyway, this is the BEST song on the CD. Clever words, sung well (at least well enough). About the pain of being a 5th year grad student in math. Hopes, dreams, despair- its all there! lyrics Rating: 10
  12. Stefanie (The Ballad of Galois): Historically inaccurate, but kind of fun. Has a Country-Western Twang to it. Rating: 8
  13. Musical Fruitcake (Pass it Around) Mostly random words, but kind of interesting. Rating: 6
  14. Abandon Soap Mostly random words, but not so interesting. Title is like `abandons hope' Very short. Rating: 5

So, what is the final evaluation? I rate CD's by how many songs I really like. I like six of them which is very good. Based just on their Video I had written they shouldn't quit their day jobs- thought since they are grad students in math they probably don't have day jobs.. My current opinion is higher. Still, the math novelty song business is brutal- I wish them luck.

The number of times I've bought a CD because the artists had one really good song, and then found out that the one good song was there only good song is at least VDW(4,2). (Yes Arrogant Worms, singers of the brilliant CARROT JUICE IS MURDER but nothing else even half as good- I'm talking to YOU!).

As for other Math-novelty song- I'll have a post on that once I get a complete list of all that I know on this topic. Could take a while.


  1. Still, the math novelty song business is brutal

    That's a gem, well done.

  2. I wonder - what group theory is mentioned in "Confuse Me"? Seems to me like a strictly non-math song...

  3. Let us not forget the Jimmy Buffet classic, "Math Sucks." I'm not sure if he realizes just how smart the line "There are numbers to big to be named" is. Here's the lyrics:

    If necessity is the mother of invention
    Then I'd like to kill the guy who invented this
    The numbers come together in some kind of 3rd dimension
    A regular algebraic bliss.
    Let's start with something simple
    Like one and one ain't three
    And two plus two will never get you five
    There's fractions in my subtraction
    And X don't equal Y
    But my homework is bound to multiply

    Math sucks (math sucks)
    Math sucks (math sucks)
    I'd like to burn this textbook, I hate this stuff so much!
    Math sucks (math sucks)
    Math sucks (math sucks)
    Sometimes I think that I don't know that much--But math sucks!

    I got so bored with my homework
    I turned on the T.V.
    The beauty contest winners were all smiling through their teeth
    They asked the new Miss America "Hey babe, can you add up all those bucks?"
    She looked puzzled then just said, "Math Sucks!"

    Math sucks (math sucks)
    Math sucks (math sucks)
    You don't even have to spell it, all you have to do is yell it
    Math sucks (math sucks)
    Math sucks (math sucks)
    Sometimes I think that I don't know that much--But math sucks!

    Geometry, trigonometry, and if that don't tax your brain
    There are numbers to big to be named (too big to be named)
    Numerical precision is a science with a mission
    And I think it's gonna drive me insane

    Parents fighting with their children and the Congress can't agree,
    Teachers and their students are all jousting constantly
    Management and labor keep rattling old sabers,
    Quacking like those Peabody ducks

    Math sucks (quack quack)
    Math sucks (quack quack)
    You don't even have to spell it, all you have to do is yell it!
    Math sucks (math sucks)
    Math sucks (math sucks)
    Sometimes I think that I don't know that much--But math sucks!

    Math sucks, math sucks, math sucks the big one
    Math sucks, math sucks, math sucks the big one

    [repeat until end, fades out]

  4. Hi,

    This is off the topic, but I was hoping for some advice on learning computational complexity and this seemed like the place to ask. I have a computer Engineering background (doing my PhD), and I just took a course in computability, I was fascinated and decided I needed more. Unfortunately we don't have a complexity course in my school, so I will have to learn on my own. So my question is what is the best book (most recommended) for learning complexity on my own? Ideally I was wondering if there is a book with solutions to the problems in the book. Sorry for switching the topic.

    Thanks in advance.

  5. Michael Sipser's Introduction to the Theory of Computation, Second Edition
    is a somewhat standard introductory text.

  6. My favorite math song has always been:

    Where are the zeros of zeta of s?", to the tune of "Sweet Betsy from
    Pike"; words by Tom Apostol (As I recall it goes into minor key briefly for the verse about the Lindelof function :-)

    Where are the zeros of zeta of s?
    G.F.B. Riemann has made a good guess,
    They're all on the critical line, said he,
    And their density's one over 2pi log t.

    This statement of Riemann's has been like trigger
    And many good men, with vim and with vigor,
    Have attempted to find, with mathematical rigor,
    What happens to zeta as mod t gets bigger.

    The efforts of Landau and Bohr and Cramer,
    And Littlewood, Hardy and Titchmarsh are there,
    In spite of their efforts and skill and finesse,
    (In) locating the zeros there's been no success.

    In 1914 G.H. Hardy did find,
    An infinite number that lay on the line,
    His theorem however won't rule out the case,
    There might be a zero at some other place.

    Let P be the function pi minus li,
    The order of P is not known for x high,
    If square root of x times log x we could show,
    Then Riemann's conjecture would surely be so.

    Related to this is another enigma,
    Concerning the Lindelof function mu(sigma)
    Which measures the growth in the critical strip,
    On the number of zeros it gives us a grip.

    But nobody knows how this function behaves,
    Convexity tells us it can have no waves,
    Lindelof said that the shape of its graph,
    Is constant when sigma is more than one-half.

    Oh, where are the zeros of zeta of s?
    We must know exactly, we cannot just guess,
    In orer to strengthen the prime number theorem,
    The integral's contour must not get too near 'em.

    New verses:

    Now Andy has bettered old Riemann's fine guess
    by using a fancier zeta (s).
    He proves that the zeros are where they should be,
    provided the characteristic is p.

    There's a moral to draw from this sad tale of woe
    which every young genius among you should know:
    if you tackle a problem and seem to get stuck,
    just take it mod p and you'll have better luck.

    I went googling for it and found a copy on Robin Pemantle's website, he has a few more at:


    Lenore Cowen

  7. Good post, we always enjoy the feedback.

    By the way, I am the webmaster for the site. The lyrics to all the songs are posted under Music > Song Lyrics

    Let me know if you have any problems viewing these.

    Scott Bailey