Just for fun
The multitalented Merritt Moore (photo by James Glader, courtesy Moore)

For the past decade, Merritt Moore has been living a double life as both a professional ballerina and a quantum physicist. While dancing with Zurich Ballet and Boston Ballet, she received her undergrad degree from Harvard in physics, and she's currently pursuing a PhD in quantum physics at Oxford while performing with English National Ballet and London Contemporary Ballet.

Now, Moore is hoping to add another ball to her juggling act: becoming an astronaut. She's one of 12 contestants competing on the BBC reality show " Astronauts: Do You Have What It Takes?" For six weeks, Moore and her competitors face a series of demanding physical and psychological challenges to see if they're astronaut material. (Show mentor Chris Hadfield, former Commander of the International Space Station, will recommend the winner to space agencies recruiting for astronauts.) Even in a cast of extremely accomplished people—the contestants include a military pilot, a surgeon, and a dentist who has summited Mount EverestMoore's unusual combination of skills stands out.

We leveled with the renaissance woman about how she's managed to pursue all her different passions.

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Popular 2012 submission by Rianne t'Hoen

If “to dance is to live; to live is to dance,” then who better to explore movement than scientists, those inquisitors of life? This year marks the 5th annual international “Dance Your PhD” contest, sponsored by Science magazine. Those eligible are PhD candidates whose studies fit, if only loosely, under the contest’s categories of physics, chemistry, biology or social science. They must make video submissions. While the solo and group dance submissions are not limited to any particular genre, the goal is to express the significance of a PhD thesis through movement, so the style has been deemed “interpretive dance.”

Scientific ideas can get pretty complex for those of us who don’t frequent the library or laboratory. That’s why this contest works for everybody. Viewers of the videos might grasp a tricky concept once they’ve seen it presented from a different angle. Scientists, who engage in mostly left-brain problem solving, can embrace this opportunity for right-brain thinking and exploring a new art form. The winner of each category will be awarded a $500 cash prize, and the overall winner receives an additional $500. It’s safe to hypothesize that this marriage of science and dance will promote interdisciplinary collaboration and yield positive results, only to be replicated each year. Entries are due October 1, 2013. Click here to apply!

Take a look at last year's winning entry, about creating a strong but light aluminum super-alloy!

Photo: Dutch Institute for Fundamental Energy Research


Think humans are the only ones who like to get down? Think again. While many animal mating rituals have long been compared to dancing, science never suggested that they enjoy moving to music the same way humans do. Until now, that is.

Recent research—and a slew of dancing animal videos—suggests 15 species can really dance. That is, they time their movements to the beat of music. 14 of the 15, it turns out, are different kinds of parrots.

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