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Dance Your Ph.D.: When Science People Shake A Tail Feather, Everybody Wins

Filed by KOSU News in Science.
October 20, 2011

UPDATE: The grand prize winner is Joel Miller, for his “Microstructure-Property relationships in Ti2448 components produced by Selective Laser Melting: A Love Story.” See that and the other winners here.

Every now and then, you learn about something so amazing that you’re instantly (1) cheered that you know about it now, and (2) sad for yourself that you never knew about it before.

That’s how I felt when Andrew Prince at NPR’s science desk told me about Dance Your Ph.D., a contest in which people who work in the sciences — physics, chemistry, biology and social science — create videos of dance interpretations of their Ph.D. theses, and they compete for a $1,000 prize. (NPR covered the contest back in 2008; I was somehow in bed at the time.)

Now, the risk, naturally, is that this will just become a contest to make the most slickly produced music video, so they have a rule. As stated in the FAQ, “The author of the Ph.D. thesis has to be one of the dancers.” So there’s no hiring all your hot friends to do the dancing while you do the thinking. No no! This is Dance YOUR Ph.D., not Dance Your Less Coordinated Friend’s Ph.D.

This year’s winner is being announced today in Brussels (where else would you do it?). You can watch the finalists here, including this man-teaches-robot-to-dance video that utterly delighted me. The technical title is “Human-Based Percussion and Self-Similarity Detection in Electroacoustic Music.” You can probably tell that from the dancing, though.

Then there’s this one. I don’t understand it, but I like it. “The Effect Of Western-Style Diet Consumption On Epigenetic Patterns.” (So don’t steal that title for YOUR YouTube video.)

Later this afternoon, we’ll be back with an update on the winner. But let’s face it: these people are all winners already, and I mean that with nothing but sincerity. [Copyright 2011 National Public Radio]

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