Fact-checking The Galaxy Song

This song from the Monty Python film The Meaning of Life is an extraordinarily good one, inviting us to marvel at the wonder and vastness of the universe and putting into perspective our place in it.

I knew that the facts in the song were roughly correct but Bill Andrews has done a detailed, line-by-line, fact check and finds that it is remarkably accurate except for two or three items. Pretty good, Eric!


  1. lorn says

    It helps to remember that that sketch starts with the assertion that: ‘We’ve come for your liver’.

    Without checking I always assumed that it was fairly close to the known values of the day.

    As for intelligence and “bugger all down here on Earth’. My assessment of accuracy varies, depending on what kind of day I’m having.

    On that issue there is also the Douglas Adams observation that most agree on two points:
    A) The Universe is huge. And might be infinite.
    B) That intelligence is, if can be said to be present at all, is quite limited.
    That a smallish, and quite finite, number divided by a huge number, possibly infinity, gives you a vanishingly small number that tends to disappear entirely if rounded to a reasonable number of digits. That, because of this, it can be said that there is, on average, no intelligent life in the universe.

    Which, keeping with the theme of the sketch, of applying cosmic scale observations to local events to calm people down, does seem to go a long way to placing into nearly acceptable context Donald Trump, and the rest of the useless, and completely unnecessary nonsense of modern life that serves no purpose but to cause suffering. After I saw the Python movie I would sometimes catch myself humming that song to myself while some bloviating authority figure explained in great detail how much of a world of shit I was in and exactly how they were going to make me suffer.

    After a few rounds of that song ‘We’re here for your liver’, your house is being demolished for a highway exit, your planet is being vaporized to make a hyperspace bypass, the job changed and you have to it in half the time without proper tools, and some asshole yelling that he is going to fire me and I will never work in this town again … all of them seem like background noise.

  2. jazzlet says

    I don’t know what Eric studied at Cambridge, but he clearly has an interest in science, he wrote the theme tune for Brian Cox and Robin Ince’s ‘Infinite Monkey Cage’ on BBC Radio 4 which is a science programme, and has done christmas specials with them.

  3. sonofrojblake says

    It’s good enough he bothered to update it. As of late 2016, there’s a version of “The Galaxy Song” with updated figures: the galaxy containing 500 billion stars instead of 100 billion; the galaxy rotation speed of 500,000 mph instead of 40,000; the galaxy thickness as 6,000 ly instead of 16,000, and a spiral arm thickness of 1,000 ly instead of 3,000

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