A few days ago, the winners of the second annual AAAS/Science Dance Contest were announced after a six-week battle pitting chemists against biologists, physicists against neuroscientists, and Fosse against Balanchine. Responding to a challenge by Science Contributing Correspondent John Bohannon (a.k.a. “The Gonzo Scientist”), several dozen researchers in various fields choreographed dance interpretations of their Ph.D. theses, filmed their performances, and submitted them to YouTube. The winners were announced in four categories: Graduate Students, Postdocs, Professors, and Popular Choice (determined by number of views).
The winning videos are all available here, but I have to highlight my personal favorite: “The role of vitamin D in beta-cell function,” as performed by Ph.D. candidate Sue Lynn Lau. I can’t explain why I love this video so much, but I do. It may have something to do with the fact that the last ninety seconds are filled with a goofy, unbridled, and infectious happiness-in-dance-form that I honestly did not believe was possible anywhere outside of the end of A Charlie Brown Christmas. I think I have a dorky crush both on Lau and the guy who plays The Sun in her piece (it can’t be easy to dance that enthusiastically with a flashlight strapped to your head)...
Wasn’t that kind of great? I really hope this catches on and comes back bigger and even better next year. In fact, I don’t think we should stop until M.I.T. is the new Studio 54. Why hasn’t anyone combined science and dance before, when it’s clearly so entertaining? We have been missing out, people! We could have had Einstein explain relativity while doing the Robot (which would be especially sweet now that his theory’s just been proven—you got served, Newtonian Physics!). Wouldn’t everything have been better if Niels Bohr and Werner Heisenberg could have worked out all their ethical dilemmas over the course of a sexy tango? We could’ve had Copenhagen: The Musical! And don’t get me started on Richard Feynman, who probably had some sweet, sweet disco moves somewhere in his crazy bag of tricks.*
So, scientists: a plea from me to you...continue teasing out the secrets of the universe and explaining them to the rest of us; we appreciate that. But now we want you to do it whilst poppin’ and lockin’—or line dancing, tap dancing, swing dancing, doing the Worm, the Foxtrot, the Sprinkler, the Twist, the Mashed Potato, the Cabbage Patch—whatever you want, really. As long as it’s not the Electric Slide. Or the Alley Cat. For those dances must only be performed shamefully by very drunk people at weddings, and have no benefit to Science, or humanity at large. Thank you.
*Apologies for the fact that I’m a physics groupie; please feel free to substitute your own favorite scientists from your field of choice, and also better jokes.