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Monday, 12th November 2012
Professor Brian Cox helps rewrite Monty Python's Galaxy song 
Eric Idle enlists famous physicist's help to make it more factually correct 

It seems that some scientific comedy songs aren’t all that scientific after all. That the comedians responsible just hadn’t put in the proper research. I know. Can you believe it?

One such villain, it seems, is Eric Idle, with his factually incorrect, but entertaining, let’s not deny it, Galaxy Song from the film the Meaning of Life.

We are being unfair here, when it was written in 1983 it was correct according to the observations at that time, but time and scientific understanding moves on.

Brian Cox to the rescue

To help rectify this, he has made amends by consulting the keyboardist from D:ream (the band that sand ‘Thing can only get better’), who is now better known as ‘him off the telly what makes science and astronomy simple’. Or to his friends, Professor Brian Cox. Or, probably, Brian*.

That's not to say this is how the meeting started off. As Mr Idle wrote, when he met Professor Cox, he wasn’t expecting the criticism of his song to be about science:

'There's just one thing that is problematic,' he [Cox] said, after listening to the track. And remember, this was the keyboard player from D:Ream. Was he going to dislike the way I sang it? The backing? What?

“'It's the number of stars in the Universe. You say 'Two thousand billion suns.' It doesn't seem right to me. It seems way under, I mean there are fifty billion galaxies and if each has a hundred million stars.'

“He picked up a pencil from the control desk and started to work on some figures. Andre and I exchanged an amazed look. Were we really seeing this? After a moment or two he said 'that's more like a billion trillion suns.'”

'Oh, that's much better' I said, 'I like that.'

The new lyrics

Here are the first two factually correct verses (you can see the full version in all its glory on Eric Idle’s blog):

Just remember that you’re standing on a planet that’s evolving
And revolving at 900 miles an hour,
That’s orbiting at 19 miles a second, so it’s reckoned,
A sun that is the source of so much power.
The sun and you and me and all the stars that we can see,
Are moving at six million miles a day
In an outer spiral arm, 200,000 miles an hour,
Of the galaxy we call the Milky Way.

Our galaxy itself contains 300 billion stars
It’s 100,000 light years side to side.
It bulges in the middle 16,000 light years thick
But out by us it’s just 3 thousand light years wide
We’re 30,000 light years from galactic central point,
We go round every 200 million years
And our galaxy is only one of millions and billions
In this amazing and expanding Universe.

And just for the fun of it, here's the original again:

Galaxy Song by Monty Python from the album Monty Python Sings

Buy Galaxy Song by Monty Python from 7Digital, Amazon MP3 or iTunes

* Hang on a minute, Brian? Monty Python? Brian? I’ll stop now.

Monty Python  The meaning of life  Science  Accuracy  Brian Cox  Universe  British  

Monty Python CDs
Monty Python - Monty Python Sings (CD)
Monty Python
Monty Python Sings
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Monty Python - Monty Python's Contractual Obligation Album (CD)
Monty Python
Monty Python's Contractual Obligation Album
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Some great comedy singers' DVDs
Tim Minchin - Ready For This? (DVD)
Tim Minchin
Ready For This?
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Adam and Joe - The Adam and Joe DVD (DVD)
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The Adam and Joe DVD
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