Dance helps physicists to grasp the Higgs

by Sharon Ann Holgate
July 2013

Sharon Ann Holgate explores a project that links physics and dance.

In a world where arts-science collaborations are almost becoming the norm, the Yale University-based project Discovering the Higgs through Physics, Dance and Photography, which began in January and concludes this month, really stands out. 

The project is not only using dance and photography to help explain complex physics to the public. It will also feed back into physics teaching and dance research via videos and photographs of CERN particle physicists explaining their research, and the process of interpreting these ideas through a work of choreography. Interactive workshops and online publication of the films and images aim to bring the work to a wide audience.   

Discovering the Higgs is the brainchild of Sarah Demers, an assistant professor of physics at Yale who studies tau polarisation at the LHC, and Emily Coates, a lecturer in theatre studies at Yale who spent six years as a ballerina with New York City Ballet.  

Coates and Demers were previously paired as part of a drive to revitalize the Yale science curriculum for non-science majors, resulting in the 2011 Physics of Dance course. This teaches the principles of movement and dance technique before enabling students to use their bodies to help understand classical mechanics. It also investigates how movement can provide a metaphoric representation of modern physics concepts. This and the discovery of the Higgs boson provided the inspiration for Discovering the Higgs, funded by the Arts Council of Greater New Haven Reintegrate initiative.        

“When designing the Physics of Dance course, we both felt very strongly about advocating for the intellectual, creative, rigorous research potential of our two fields, and everything we’ve done since then is also based on that fundamental belief,” explains Coates,….(the full article can be found on page 9 of Interactions, July 2013). 

© Institute of Physics 2013. Reproduced with permission.