Chemists Can Break It Down

After losing out to physicists last year, chemists have stepped it up to win the 2012 Dance Your Ph.D. contest, organized by Science magazine. More specifically, Peter Liddicoat, a materials scientist at the University of Sydney, in Australia, won with his dance rendition of the chemical nanostructure of aerospace aluminum alloys. "The dance describes the classic engineering problem of combining lightness and strength and how it could be solved using atom scale microscopy to produce a super-alloy," explains Liddicoat, who played "The Scientist" in the circus-style silent movie. Dancers embodying lightness and strength transform into a super-alloy--a lightweight aluminum alloy with the strength of heavy steel, whose crystal lattice structure is represented in a group dance number. "We've had an amazing response," Liddicoat says. "My favorite part of the movie is where I pull out the baby-sized microscope to study a juggling ball--that, and spinning the rainbow umbrella." See for yourself: To create the winning performance, Liddicoat enlisted the talents of his lab colleagues: choreographing, juggling, clowning, and, of course, dancing. Because it was such a team effort, Liddicoat says he felt uncomfortable receiving the $1,000 prize money. So he and the team decided to put it toward their newly launched Biomedical Atom Microscope project. This crowd-funding "experiment"--much like sites devoted to raising money to build a Tesla Science Center or an e-paper watch--was inspired by the science-funding problems that exist around the world. "Crowd funding has just started hitting million-dollar projects, and in a few years, it will be as common knowledge as Youtube and Facebook," Liddicoat predicts. "High-impact science is yet to really try it out, so my project is itself an experiment!"   Check out our Newscripts about crowd funding for the Tesla Science Center here.  

Author: Sophia Cai

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  1. Love this article, love the video. Now I gotta know exactly how many scientists around the world actually choreographed “dance your phd” renditions? For all the work that went into this one, the team deserved more than $1000!! …Could it be the next big reality TV show–Dancing With the Scientists??? Love it!