Have you ever seen an amino acid really get down? If not, now is your chance. The winning video produced for Science‘s Dance Your PhD contest features an amino acid that knows how to shake its molecules. The contest asks brave researchers to explain their PhDs in the language of dance.
This year’s winner is Maureen McKeague, a chemistry Ph.D. student at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada. She’ll collect a $1,000 prize ($500 for being a finalist, $500 for winning) from Science. With no further ado, here’s the video:
Did you get all that? If a little more explanation would help, here’s how ScienceNOW sums it up:
The lab is exploring a chemical technique called SELEX–systematic evolution of ligands by exponential enrichment–which generates short segments of DNA and RNA called aptamers. These nucleic acids can be designed to stick to almost any target molecule. For McKeague’s Ph.D. research, the target molecule–played by undergraduate student and Scottish folk dancer Charlotte Bradley–is the amino acid homocysteine. High levels of this amino acid are an indicator of cardiovascular disease. McKeague’s aim is to use SELEX to create aptamers to cheaply and accurately measure homocysteine in blood samples.
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The warbling robot, with the Star Wars-esque designation HRP-4C, stands at about five feet, two inches (1.58 meters) tall. It has the appearance of a young Japanese girl, although one admittedly wearing a RoboCop suit minus the helmet.
In its third year, the Dance Your PhD contest is proving that maybe, just maybe, scientists can dance. From the contest’s website:
The dreaded question. “So, what’s your Ph.D. research about?” You take a deep breath and launch into the explanation. People’s eyes begin to glaze over…
At times like these, don’t you wish you could just turn to the nearest computer and show people an online video of your Ph.D. thesis interpreted in dance form?
Researchers say they have uncovered the dance floor moves to make the ladies go wild–at least if you’re a naked, faceless, non-gendered avatar. After recording 19 men, aged 18 to 35, with a 12-camera system as they danced in a laboratory, the researchers projected each man’s individual moves onto a computer model and asked 39 women what they thought.
Research published yesterday in the online edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests babies are born to boogie.
Researchers exposed 120 infants to a variety of music and recorded their reactions on video, using 3D motion capture technology. The parents holding their infants were given headphones to wear so they wouldn’t influence the babies’ behaviors by, say, tapping toes or bopping to the beat.
The results showed that infants react with rhythmic movement to music more than they do to speech, and that infants do indeed have rhythm (as the tempo was accelerated, the babies’ movements quickened). Finally, the researchers found that the better the rhythm, the happier the jammin’ baby; the better the babies were able to synch their movements with the music, the more they smiled.
Wrote the researchers:
The findings are suggestive of a predisposition for rhythmic movement in response to music and other metrically regular sounds.
Something this baby’s been trying to tell us for more than a year now:
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