01/01/2021

They Might Be Giants With A Timely Reminder: “Science Is Real”

27:27 minutes

John Linell and John Flansburgh of They Might Be Giants join Ira in the studio in 2009 to perform some science songs.

Fans of the band They Might Be Giants are likely to be familiar with the band’s version of the 1959 Tom Glazer song “Why Does The Sun Shine?” As they sing, “The sun is a mass / of incandescent gas / a gigantic nuclear furnace.”

In their album “Here Comes Science,” the band revisits that song, and follows it with a fact-checking track titled “Why Does the Sun Really Shine?” In the lyrics, they describe the science of plasma. The album also includes an ode to the elements, descriptions of what blood does in the body, and songs describing the scientific process. In a reminder that resonates for the start of 2021, one song is titled “Science is Real.”  

In this archival segment from 2009, John Linnell and John Flansburgh of They Might Be Giants join Ira in the studio to discuss the album, and to play some science songs.

Donate To Science Friday

Invest in quality science journalism by making a donation to Science Friday.

Donate

Segment Guests

John Flansburgh

John Flansburgh performs on “Here Comes Science” (Disney Sound, 2009) and is a member of They Might Be Giants in Brooklyn, New York.

John Linnell

John Linnell performs on “Here Comes Science” (Disney Sound, 2009) and is a member of They Might Be Giants in Brooklyn, New York.

Segment Transcript

IRA FLATOW: Now to really turn on the Wayback Machine– dialing it back to September of 2009. Because when we thought about what message we really wanted to start the new year with, we decided you couldn’t do better than a reminder that science is real.

[MUSIC – THEY MIGHT BE GIANTS, “SCIENCE IS REAL”]

(SINGING) Science is real, from the Big Bang to DNA. Science is real, from evolution to the Milky Way. I like those stories about angels, unicorns, and elves. Now I like those stories as much as anybody else, but when I’m seeking knowledge, either simple or abstract, the facts are with science. The facts are with science.

Science is real. Science is real. Science is real. Science is real, from anatomy to geology. Science is real, from astrophysics to biology.

A scientific theory isn’t just a hunch or guess. It’s more like a question that’s been put through a lot of tests. And when a theory emerges consistent with the fact, the proof is with science. The truth is with science. Science is real. Science is real. Science is real. Science is real.

We sure hope so, because you’re listening to Science Friday and that was “Science is Real” by the band They Might Be Giants. And joining me now in the studio here in New York is John Linnell and John Flansburgh, also on drums Marty Beller in the background. We’ll be playing a lot of music. Welcome to Science Friday.

JOHN LINNELL: Thank you.

JOHN FLANSBURGH: It’s very exciting to be here.

IRA FLATOW: Why would you do songs about science? I mean, I thought only geeks like me like science.

JOHN FLANSBURGH: Because we’re like you.

[LAUGHTER]

IRA FLATOW: Are you? Do you do a lot–

JOHN FLANSBURGH: Well, we love that– you know, this is really a big thrill for us because we’ve been listening to the show for a long time. It’s like suddenly like we’re inside the TV set or the radio. This is very– it’s kind of trippy.

IRA FLATOW: Were you sciency geeks when you were in school?

JOHN LINNELL: Not exactly, no. I mean, it’s actually a little bit of a stretch in a way for us to declare ourselves to be authorities on science.

JOHN FLANSBURGH: This is the Peter Principle in–

JOHN LINNELL: Exactly

JOHN FLANSBURGH: Full bloom.

JOHN LINNELL: Yeah, Yeah.

IRA FLATOW: And you’re stepping into a little quagmire by naming a song “Science is Real.” There are a lot of people who don’t believe science is real.

JOHN FLANSBURGH: Well, you see, that’s not controversial for us.

IRA FLATOW: Not for you.

JOHN FLANSBURGH: No, no.

IRA FLATOW: But have you heard any reaction from people who say, well–

JOHN FLANSBURGH: Well, you know, I don’t think judging by YouTube flame comments you can really get an accurate gauge of what the– in general, it seems like people are actually quite positive about the whole prospect.

JOHN LINNELL: People we meet face to face are like you, pretty much.

IRA FLATOW: Well that’s good. Name the songs on the album.

JOHN FLANSBURGH: Well, “Meet the Elements,” “Photosynthesis,” “My Brother the Ape,” “I Am a Paleontologist,” “Roy G. Biv,” which is about the color spectrum– light spectrum. And, I don’t know, John. What other–

JOHN LINNELL: “Cells”

JOHN FLANSBURGH: “Cells”

IRA FLATOW: “Why Does the Sun Shine”

JOHN LINNELL: Yeah, “Why Does the Sun Shine”, “Speed and Velocity.”

IRA FLATOW: Now these all sound like kid songs. Are these aimed at kids?

JOHN FLANSBURGH: Well, it’s sort of a mixed bag. There are some songs that are very simple that are kind of– that are good for little kids.

IRA FLATOW: Right

JOHN FLANSBURGH: And then there are songs that are more fact-packed that probably would be a little bit too complicated for a toddler, but if you’re– I mean the song we’re going to play–

IRA FLATOW: Let’s play it now.

JOHN FLANSBURGH: The song “Meet the Elements,” like if this existed in my freshman year of high school, it would have been an incredible godsend for my grades.

IRA FLATOW: Well, when I hear a song “Meet the Elements” who am I thinking of? Not of you guys. Way before you guys were born– Tom Lehrer, right? Remember “The Elements” song. Do you remember Tom Lehrer?

JOHN LINNELL: No, actually–

JOHN FLANSBURGH: I know the “Pollution” by Tom Lehrer.

IRA FLATOW: He did a whole song on the elements, but much different than yours.

JOHN LINNELL: Probably more satirical than ours.

JOHN FLANSBURGH: I can’t believe that guy like invented a time machine and went backwards and stole our ideas. Yeah, no, I’m not familiar with that song.

IRA FLATOW: He just go rattles through the table of– periodic table of elements.

JOHN FLANSBURGH: Well that’s kind of what we’re doing.

JOHN LINNELL: That’s what we’re doing.

JOHN FLANSBURGH: That’s what we’re doing.

IRA FLATOW: What made you–

JOHN FLANSBURGH: Imagine our disappointment that we find–

[LAUGHTER]

But you know, that’s–

IRA FLATOW: He was a folk singer.

JOHN FLANSBURGH: No, no, no.

IRA FLATOW: What made you write this song? Tell us a little bit about the genesis of this song.

JOHN LINNELL: Well, we were working on our science album, and I guess the thing is we wanted to cover all of the different areas of science. So we’re thinking chemistry, biology, physics, Earth science, applied science, you know. We’re just stepping into each one, and I find the periodic table of the elements to be kind of a great organizational– an amazing inspiration, actually. That–

IRA FLATOW: Do you?

JOHN LINNELL: Yeah, that it’s a grid. You can just look at it and say, oh, it’s all laid out simply. It’s like a lot simpler than a lot of other science charts that you have to study. So this one seemed like it was something you could stare at and write a song based on.

IRA FLATOW: I’m Ira Flatow. You’re listening to Science Friday from WNYC Studios. This is an interview from our archives, recorded in September of 2009.

And we’re going to hear a cut from the album. Here they are, They Might Be Giants playing–

JOHN LINNELL: “Meet the Elements”

IRA FLATOW: “Meet the Elements”. Let’s meet them now.

[MUSIC – THEY MIGHT BE GIANTS, “MEET THE ELEMENTS”]

(SINGING) Iron is a metal. You see it every day. Oxygen eventually will make it rust away. Carbon in its ordinary form is coal. Crush it together and diamonds are born. Come on, come on, and meet the elements. May I introduce you to our friends the elements.

Like a box of paints that are mixed to make every shade they either combine to make a chemical compound or stand alone as they are. Neon’s a gas that lights up a sign at a pizza place. The coins that you pay with are copper, nickel, and zinc. Silicon and oxygen make concrete, bricks, and glass. Now add some gold and silver for some pizza place class.

Come on, come on, and meet the elements. I think you should check out the ones they call the elements. Like a box of paints that are mixed to make every shade they either combine to make a chemical compound or stand alone as they are. Team up with other elements, forming compounds when they combine, or make up a simple element formed out of atoms of the one kind.

Balloons are full of helium, and so is every star. Stars are mostly hydrogen, which may someday drive your car. Hey, who let in all these elephants. Don’t you know that elephants are made of elements? Elephants are mostly made of four elements. And every living thing is mostly made of four elements. Plants, bugs, trees, worms, bacteria, and men are mostly carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, and oxygen.

Come on, come on, and meet the elements. You and I are complicated, but we’re made of elements. Like a box of paints that are mixed to make every shade, they either combine to make a chemical compound or stand alone as they are. Team up with other elements, forming compounds when they combine, or make up a simple element formed out of atoms of the one kind.

Come on, come on, and meet the elements. Check out the one’s they call the elements. Like a box of paints that are mixed to make every shade they either combine to make a chemical compound or stand alone as they are.

IRA FLATOW: Wow, that was great.

JOHN FLANSBURGH: Thank you. Thank you.

IRA FLATOW: That was nothing like– that was much better. That’s a great song.

JOHN LINNELL: We haven’t heard the Tom Lehrer song–

IRA FLATOW: No–

JOHN LINNELL: So I can’t possibly comment.

IRA FLATOW: This was just terrific. How long did it take you to write that song? Months, years, decades, lifetimes?

JOHN FLANSBURGH: That’s a secret. I can’t– because then people are going to– if we do like some kind of theme for somebody they’re going to want to pass less if we reveal how quickly you can write a song.

IRA FLATOW: Well, just to remind our audience, we’re talking with the band They Might Be Giants, and their new album is Here Comes Science. Is it out now?

JOHN FLANSBURGH: It is out–

IRA FLATOW: Is it on iTunes?

JOHN FLANSBURGH: As of yesterday it is out everywhere. You can buy it at Target.

IRA FLATOW: No kidding.

JOHN FLANSBURGH: Yeah–

IRA FLATOW: And you can download it.

JOHN FLANSBURGH: Right next to Miley Cyrus.

[LAUGHTER]

IRA FLATOW: We’re going to take a break on this New Year’s day and come back with more from my 2009 conversation with John Flansburgh and John Linnell of They Might Be Giants, who spoke with us the day after the release of their album Here Comes Science.

This is Science Friday. I’m Ira Flatow, taking a New Year’s trip into the sci-fi archive vault to revisit an interview with John Flansburgh and John Linnell of They Might Be Giants, recorded way back in September of 2009.

This is Science Friday. I’m Ira Flatow, sitting in– I used to play the accordion.

JOHN FLANSBURGH: Man, start jamming. Feel free.

IRA FLATOW: With the band They Might Be Giants, and the new album is out– just out yesterday, Here Comes Science with John Flansburgh and John Linnell. Also, they’re playing the music for us. And not to be outdone, Marty Beller is here with the drums.

JOHN FLANSBURGH: The king of the drums.

IRA FLATOW: The king of the percussion.

JOHN FLANSBURGH: Marty is actually playing an electronic drum kit, which is brand new. It’s this brand new thing.

IRA FLATOW: That explains why I tried to go over and use my fingers–

JOHN FLANSBURGH: Oh, yeah.

IRA FLATOW: And nothing happened. It’s electronic, huh?

JOHN FLANSBURGH: You need the magic of electricity.

IRA FLATOW: What an age we live in. And I’m surrounded by, I guess I’d call them, music geeks, music science geeks because they’re writing albums about science. And what’s the next song we’d love to hear from you?

JOHN LINNELL: Well this has a little story behind it. We used to cover a science song– in fact, we still do– called “Why Does the Sun Shine,” which is from a bunch of science– it’s a collection of science songs that came out when we were kids with Tom Glazer. And I don’t know if you’re familiar with this record, but the song was called “Why Does the Sun Shine,” and in parentheses, “The Sun Is a Mass of Incandescent Gas.” And what we found out was that subsequently they figured out that the Sun is not actually made of gas after this song had become popular among kids.

IRA FLATOW: Sure it is.

JOHN LINNELL: Well, apparently it’s not.

IRA FLATOW: Well, I better re-learn something else.

JOHN LINNELL: We’re here to tell you that there are four states of matter, and the Sun is actually super excited gas, which is called plasma where the electrons have–

IRA FLATOW: Stripped off.

JOHN LINNELL: Been stripped off. Precisely. And so we were forced to write this answer song to our own very popular “Why Does the Sun Shine.”

JOHN FLANSBURGH: Which is something we only do reluctantly. This whole fact-checking thing is very difficult for a rock band.

JOHN LINNELL: Yeah, yeah.

IRA FLATOW: Well, you know, yeah. Musicians don’t normally care about whether there’s plasma or gas there.

JOHN LINNELL: We care about beauty and poetry.

JOHN FLANSBURGH: Yeah.

JOHN LINNELL: Those are our main concerns.

JOHN FLANSBURGH: All our lies are in our past.

[LAUGHTER]

We’re forgetting about the lies.

IRA FLATOW: But it speaks very highly of you that you want to change the song to get it right.

JOHN FLANSBURGH: It was just sort of fun too. I mean, basically, an engineer we were working with– we were actually talking about the conundrum of the whole thing because we had already rerecorded this famous song from our repertoire for this album. And we were just like, well, what are we going to do? It’s outdated. Science has evolved. The consensus has moved on from the idea of the song. And this engineer Jon Altschuler actually said, “Why don’t you just write a song called, ‘The Sun is a Miasma of Incandescent Plasma'”? And that’s what we did.

IRA FLATOW: Is that the name of the song we’re going to–

JOHN LINNELL: Yeah. That is the song.

IRA FLATOW: All right. Here it is–

JOHN LINNELL: Plasma

IRA FLATOW: Here they is with a song–

JOHN FLANSBURGH: Here they is.

IRA FLATOW: Here they is. They Might Be Giants from their album Here Comes Science.

[MUSIC – THEY MIGHT BE GIANTS, “WHY DOES THE SUN REALLY SHINE?”]

(SINGING) The sun is a miasma of incandescent plasma. The sun’s not simply made out of gas, no, no, no. The sun is a quagmire. It’s not made of fire, forget what you’ve been told in the past. Plasma. Electrons are free. Plasma. Fourth state of matter. Not gas, not liquid, not solid. The sun is no red dwarf. I hope it never morphs into some supernova’d collapsed orb, orb, orb, orb.

The Sun is a miasma of incandescent plasma. I forget what I was told by myself. Plasma. Electrons are free. Plasma. Fourth state of matter. Not gas, not liquid, not solid. Plasma. Forget that song. Plasma. They got it wrong. That thesis has been rendered invalid. Forget that song.

IRA FLATOW: Wow. That’s great. That’s great.

JOHN FLANSBURGH: Ira, I have to say, we’ve been on a million radio shows and the reverence with which you show the length and ending of a song is truly a recessive trait in DJs, hosts, radio people.

IRA FLATOW: You want to know why that is?

JOHN FLANSBURGH: It was beautiful. Like when you actually at the top of the thing where you played the entire song “Science is Real,” like typically people just hit the fader 30 seconds in, but right before it ends it’s like oh, we don’t have that kind of time.

IRA FLATOW: I will tell you why that is.

JOHN FLANSBURGH: That’s why I love–

IRA FLATOW: I come from–

JOHN FLANSBURGH: I love Public Radio.

IRA FLATOW: I come from, yes– I come from a public radio FM classical music background. And when I was in my learning days at WBFO in Buffalo, if I ever faded down one–

JOHN LINNELL: Yeah.

IRA FLATOW: One note of a classical music– I once had an argument that– I was the news director. I wanted to fade down the music so I could get a bulletin in there. “You can’t run a bulletin, you can’t interrupt an FM radio.”

JOHN FLANSBURGH: Right, right. So you were like the king of dead air.

IRA FLATOW: So you’d just let the song go all the way.

JOHN FLANSBURGH: Exactly.

IRA FLATOW: You wrote the whole song, why don’t we hear the whole song?

JOHN LINNELL: You actually let a little silence in after that.

IRA FLATOW: Absolutely.

JOHN LINNELL: Our guy in Boston, I guess, was Robert J. Lurtsema. It would seem like he’d fallen asleep. It was this quiet–

IRA FLATOW: I remember him.

JOHN LINNELL: Moment. Yeah, it was like, “that was.” But it suggests a whole different kind of lifestyle. It’s fantastic.

IRA FLATOW: I have a suggestion for a song for you.

JOHN FLANSBURGH: Oh, sure.

IRA FLATOW: You know, you talked about the mistake with the makeup of the Sun. How about something about Pluto not being a planet?

JOHN LINNELL: Oh, well we do have a song we haven’t learned how to perform in this group with this arrangement.

IRA FLATOW: Oh, is that right?

JOHN LINNELL: But we do have a song called “How Many Planets” where we dodge the question of how many planets there are by simply enumerating everything planet or not in the course of the song.

JOHN FLANSBURGH: Let the people decide.

JOHN LINNELL: Let the people decide. Yeah, yeah.

JOHN FLANSBURGH: What’s your opinion on that, Ira?

IRA FLATOW: I don’t think it really matters, you know. I don’t think that it matters that Pluto is–

JOHN LINNELL: Well then we’re in agreement then, yeah. That’s more or less what we’re expressing in the song. Who cares?

IRA FLATOW: If I were pressed, I’d have to say yes, there are eight planets. But it doesn’t really matter that Pluto has been demoted because it’s just a name for something.

JOHN LINNELL: Yeah. Yeah, I think everybody kind of feels for Pluto a little bit though.

IRA FLATOW: Yeah, Yeah.

JOHN LINNELL: I think Woody Harrelson should be a planet too so, that makes nine.

[LAUGHTER]

IRA FLATOW: Well, there are people who are space cadets, but what’s–

JOHN FLANSBURGH: What’s that email address again, Ira?

IRA FLATOW: Don’t send it to me. Don’t send it to me. Send it to John Linnell. He’ll take all–

JOHN LINNELL: That’s right. I’ll take questions. Go ahead, go ahead. I’m willing to debate.

IRA FLATOW: Do you have a– you never ask anybody this question, but I’ll– you know, you never ask anybody, who’s your favorite kid, right? And you ask musicians, what’s your favorite song that you have?

JOHN LINNELL: It’s funny, yeah, we do get that. And we are, yeah, it’s like insulting, you know?

JOHN FLANSBURGH: How could you ask that? Oh, I’m appalled.

IRA FLATOW: I remember there was a radio station that used to advertise itself as one of two of America’s great radio stations, so you never had to ask what the second one is.

JOHN LINNELL: Well, if we said it’s a Tom Lehrer song we would suddenly reveal something.

[LAUGHTER]

IRA FLATOW: Let’s see if we can get another song in.

JOHN FLANSBURGH: There’s a laughter epidemic.

JOHN LINNELL: What should we do?

IRA FLATOW: Come on.

JOHN FLANSBURGH: Oh, let’s do “My Brother The Ape.”

JOHN LINNELL: “My Brother The Ape”

IRA FLATOW: My brother– here are They Might Be Giants.

JOHN FLANSBURGH: About evolution, that controversial fact.

[MUSIC – THEY MIGHT BE GIANTS, “MY BROTHER THE APE”]

(SINGING) Well, I got the information that she sent to everyone, and I told you family picnics aren’t exactly my idea of fun. You replied that everyone but me said they were going to come. And that’s how you talked me into going to the reunion. When you said everyone you really meant it.

My brother the ape. My brother the ape. I received the photos you sent, and I don’t regret that I went, or the site of everybody stiffly posing under one tent. But I don’t feel I belong and I keep wanting to escape. And I fail to see the likeness between me and my brother the ape.

They all kept saying– they all kept saying– how much we look alike– we look alike. I don’t think that we look alike at all but I’ll admit that I look more like a chimp than I look like my cousin, the shrimp, or my distant kin the lichen or the snowy egret or the moss.

And I find it hard to recognize some relatives of ours, like the rotifer, the sycamore, iguanas, and sea stars. My brother the ape. My brother the ape. My brother they ape. My brother the ape. My brother the ape.

IRA FLATOW: Terrific. They Might Be Giants, the new album Here Comes Science– John Flansburgh and John Linnell here in the studio with us rocking away and also on the drums Marty Beller back there. Not saying very much. A silent party. Any other folks you play with? Any other people in your band?

JOHN LINNELL: Yes.

JOHN FLANSBURGH: Yeah. We’re just about to go out on tour. We’re doing some family shows as well as a Flood show where we’re playing our 1990 breakthrough album Flood in sequence. And that’s kind of a once in a lifetime deal for us, and then we’re doing this whole new show for adults.

But joining us onstage is this fellow named Ralph Carney, who’s famous among musicians for being the guy who plays on all the Tom Waits sort of the classic Tom Waits middle period circus music albums. He’s a multi-instrumentalist. He plays a lot of different kinds of horns. And he’s going to be joining us. And it’ll be very interesting working with somebody who’s got such a clear voice as a musician.

JOHN LINNELL: Unlike the rest of us.

JOHN FLANSBURGH: Yeah, we’re just hacking.

JOHN LINNELL: We also have– Dan Miller plays guitar and Danny Weinkauf plays bass, so it’ll be a six-piece, basically.

IRA FLATOW: And where are you going to be? Where can people see you?

JOHN FLANSBURGH: Everywhere.

IRA FLATOW: You got a schedule at all I could tell– I guess your next stop.

JOHN LINNELL: I would say go to our website, They Might Be Giants.

JOHN FLANSBURGH: Or go to Facebook. Facebook has got all that information. And also there are all these videos, if people want to see videos of these songs, entire album Here Comes Science has been made into a DVD. And so there are all these animated videos accompanying the music, and they’re really– some of them are really quite remarkable.

IRA FLATOW: So we might see you in an MTV Video.

JOHN FLANSBURGH: I don’t think MTV is playing videos anymore, but–

IRA FLATOW: Shows you how old I am.

JOHN FLANSBURGH: But if they were, they certainly– no, I mean it’s shocking to everyone.

IRA FLATOW: Right, I know what’s on there–

JOHN FLANSBURGH: Especially musicians.

IRA FLATOW: I have two daughters. I know what’s on that–

JOHN FLANSBURGH: It’s more of a lifestyle. Music is more of a lifestyle expression these days. But no, I don’t know if they’d really warm up to science that much.

IRA FLATOW: I’m Ira Flatow and this is Science Friday from WNYC Studios.

JOHN FLANSBURGH: We’re on the radio guys.

IRA FLATOW: I’m Ira Flatow.

JOHN FLANSBURGH: It’s unbelievable.

IRA FLATOW: Have you never been on the radio before?

JOHN FLANSBURGH: Not on Science Friday. This is a big deal.

IRA FLATOW: Wow, I’m very flattered. Because we all wish we could do something else. I wish I could play a musical instrument, you know.

JOHN LINNELL: I think you can play a musical instrument.

JOHN FLANSBURGH: I was just hoping that we’d be on Science Friday.

[LAUGHTER]

IRA FLATOW: Well, one of us got our wish.

JOHN LINNELL: Exactly.

IRA FLATOW: Right, and is there a topic you’d like to take on that you haven’t done yet– a subject matter?

JOHN LINNELL: We’re tossing around ideas for the next Disney-produced Giants record instructional music for young people. We’re thinking maybe “there goes your civil rights” could be the next one– that was one idea I think Flansburgh had.

JOHN FLANSBURGH: Yeah. We have “here come the syndicalists.” We could do like a history, like sort of a people’s history of America.

JOHN LINNELL: People’s history of America, yeah

IRA FLATOW: Well, we’ve got about two and a half minutes left have you got a quick song you could sing. We could take it out?

JOHN FLANSBURGH: Sure. What should we do?

JOHN LINNELL: Do you want to hear a non-science song?

IRA FLATOW: Sure. Sure. Whatever. We only got a couple of minutes left.

JOHN LINNELL: I say that, but I don’t have anything in mind.

IRA FLATOW: Well, play us out to the end of the show, and–

JOHN FLANSBURGH: Why don’t we do a song that’s factually incorrect?

[LAUGHTER]

[MUSIC – THEY MIGHT BE GIANTS, “ISTANBUL, NOT CONSTANTINOPLE”]

(SINGING) Istanbul was Constantinople. Now it’s Istanbul, not Constantinople. Been a long time to gone, Constantinople. Now it’s Turkish delight on a moonlit night. Every gal in Constantinople lives in Istanbul, not Constantinople. So if you have a date in Constantinople, she’ll be waiting in Istanbul. Even old New York was once New Amsterdam. Why they changed it, I can’t say. People just liked it better that way.

So take me back to Constantinople. No, you can’t go back to Constantinople. Been a long time gone, Constantinople. Why did Constantinople get the works? That’s nobody’s business but the Turks. Whoa. Istanbul. Istanbul. Whoa. Istanbul. Istanbul.

Even old New York was once New Amsterdam. Why they changed it, I can’t say. People just liked it better that way. So take me back to Constantinople. No, you can’t go back to Constantinople. Been a long time gone, Constantinople. Why did Constantinople get the works? That’s nobody’s business but the Turks. Istanbul.

Science Friday’s in stereo.

JOHN FLANSBURGH: You really aren’t going to talk until the music stops.

IRA FLATOW: Wow.

JOHN FLANSBURGH: That’s amazing.

IRA FLATOW: I love that song. I know that song. It’s an oldie moldy.

JOHN LINNELL: Yeah, it’s super moldy.

IRA FLATOW: And that’s not on this album, though.

JOHN FLANSBURGH: No.

JOHN LINNELL: It is not.

IRA FLATOW: But it’s still a great song. And so if people go to watch you in concert, do you play other stuff besides–

JOHN FLANSBURGH: Oh yeah, yeah. No, I mean, these albums are only 40– even when we’re doing the Flood like sort of tribute to ourselves show– that’s only 40 minutes of the show and the show’s like an hour. The family shows are like an hour 15, the adult shows are like an hour 45, sometimes two hours when we’re feeling heroic and when we’re in our Bruce Springsteen mode and things start expanding into the mannerist period at the–

JOHN LINNELL: Yeah, I think we play more songs per show than Bruce, but probably only about half as long.

IRA FLATOW: I’m going to have to drop in the next–

JOHN LINNELL: Please do.

JOHN FLANSBURGH: Yeah, come on.

JOHN LINNELL: Please do.

IRA FLATOW: I’m going to have to drop in.

JOHN FLANSBURGH: Yeah, bring your accordion.

IRA FLATOW: Bring my– I try not to talk about that.

JOHN FLANSBURGH: Plenty of room. Actually, you can just use one of ours.

IRA FLATOW: I just have to bring my chopsticks is the only thing I have. I’m a frustrated drummer too. So, thank you, Marty, I won’t even try to do that. Well, we’ve run out of time, but you guys were terrific for coming.

JOHN LINNELL: Thank you. Thanks so much.

IRA FLATOW: You took up our whole studio with their musical instrument. You’re welcome anytime you want to come back.

JOHN FLANSBURGH: Well, thank you so much. It was really a pleasure.

IRA FLATOW: You’re welcome. John Flansburgh, John Linnell, also on the drums, Marty Beller– They Might Be Giants. The new album is Here Comes Science, and here goes science because that’s the end of our program. Thank you all for taking time to be with us today.

Copyright © 2020 Science Friday Initiative. All rights reserved. Science Friday transcripts are produced on a tight deadline by 3Play Media. Fidelity to the original aired/published audio or video file might vary, and text might be updated or amended in the future. For the authoritative record of Science Friday’s programming, please visit the original aired/published recording. For terms of use and more information, visit our policies pages at http://www.sciencefriday.com/about/policies/

Meet the Producers and Host

About Charles Bergquist

As Science Friday’s director, Charles Bergquist channels the chaos of a live production studio into something sounding like a radio program. Favorite topics include planetary sciences, chemistry, materials, and shiny things with blinking lights.

About Ira Flatow

Ira Flatow is the host and executive producer of Science FridayHis green thumb has revived many an office plant at death’s door.

Explore More

Why Do Songs Get Stuck in Our Heads?

Why some tunes lodge in our brains isn't so clear. Here are a few theories.

Read More