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Dance, photography, and physics: Discovering the Higgs Boson

Thu, 07/18/2013 - 12:04pm
Yale UniversityYale University

Photos: Discovering the Higgs Boson via dance

The first warm-up exercise involves moving randomly among a group of people using existing openings. It aims to get the group thinking about literal and metaphoric meaning.
Participants move at will ...
... while staying within the larger group.
Students are asked to simply lean to one side and then the other to test Newton's third law: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. The students learn that, order to shift your center of mass, there must be a net external force.
Emily Coates, director of Yale's Dance studies curriculum, explains how force is used to move an object.
For example, she notes, by applying force with one's foot against the floor a person can walk.
The group members are asked to snap their fingers at one-second intervals, while learning that during each second 40 million possible crossing of proton bunches can happen at the Large Hadron Collider.
Lines of participants move first with single steps and snaps ...
... and then in double-time. The double-time exercise introduces a rudimentary choreographic complexity, based on the 40 million/sec measurement translated into rhythm.
Sarah Demers, assistant professor of physics, explains the Higgs Boson. “No one can talk about the Higgs Boson with their hands in their pockets," says colleague Coates referring to a certain choreography that is created by explanation.
A gesture made during an explanation of Higgs Boson.
Demers takes questions from participants.
Coates introduces another basic choreographic exercise —movement generation and sequencing, asking participants to develop a dance "phrase" by having them suggest spatial images from Demers' explanation of the Higgs Boson kinesthetically and then performing them sequentially.
This particular phrase suggests "mass."
After working on phrases that create volume ...
... the large group split into smaller groups.
The volume of the gestures is minimized In a process referred to as micro-choreography.
Micro-choreography plays with the notion of volume manipulation, which is another choreographic device, explains Coates. In this case it is an attempt to illustrate the ultra-small scale of the subatomic world.
At the conclusion Coates and Demers engaged the students in a dialogue about what they had learned during the workshop.
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Reintegrate — a joint project by Yale particle physicist Sara Demers and dancer/choreographer/researcher Emily Coates — aims to translate the details of the discovery of the Higgs Boson particle in visual ways through interactive workshops using the artistic mediums of dance and photography — disciplines that weigh heavily toward the non-verbal articulation of ideas.

Recently they presented their workshop to students in the Yale summer SCHOLAR program, which brings 100 high school students from New Haven and West Haven public schools to live and study science for two weeks on Yale campus.

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