Dance of the Rare Isotope Beams

By: Tristyn Walton, MSU CCED, Research Assistant,

The Dance of the Rare Isotope Beams is a collaborative project which seeks to demonstrate that art can be used to facilitate scientific understanding. As both art and science involve research, discovery, imagination, observation, and interpretation, there remains untapped potential in projects involving art-science collaborations, with particular benefits in terms of public understanding of the true nature of science as a discipline of process, inquiry, and discovery rather than a collection of facts and principles. The Center for Community and Economic Development (CCED) is working together with MSU's National Superconducting Cyclotron Laboratory (NSCL) and its Facility for Rare Isotope Beams (FRIB), the Wharton Center for Performing Arts, and the Office of VP Research & Graduate Studies in this endeavor. Additionally, the CCED has formed a unique partnership with the National Dance Exchange at MSU to demonstrate this concept. The Dance Exchange is an intergenerational company of artists that creates dance and engages community members in making art. For 40 years the mission of Dance Exchange has been to ignite inquiry, inspire change, and connect people of all ages more deeply with questions at the heart of our lives through dance making and creative practices. Dance Exchange functions across generations, disciplines, and communities to channel the power of performance as a means for dialogue, a source of critical reflection, and a creative engine for thought and action.

The NSCL and FRIB are scientific resources at MSU where innovative knowledge of nuclear physics is being produced that has great potential in transforming lives and benefiting society. The Facility for Rare Isotope Beams at Michigan State University will enable scientists to make discoveries about the properties of rare isotopes (that is, short-lived nuclei not normally found on Earth), nuclear astrophysics, and their fundamental interactions and applications for society, including in medicine, homeland security, and industry. As the next-generation accelerator for conducting rare isotope experiments, FRIB allows scientists to advance their understanding of the fundamentals of nuclear structure, the origin of the elements in the cosmos, and the forces that shaped the evolution of the universe.

The Facility for Rare Isotope Beams will be used as a community resource to teach concepts of nuclear physics to diverse public audiences through the medium of dance. FRIB will provide resources, research content, staff, and scientists who will share a vast array of knowledge on STEM content that will be disseminated to the public through this project. FRIB involvement will be led by Artemis Spyrou, Associate Professor of Physics at MSU and Associate Director for Education and Outreach at the NSCL, and Zachary Constan, Outreach Coordinator. They will also be involved in outreach to area middle and high schools and the effort to identify schools where workshops will occur. FRIB and MSU partners will also be responsible for sharing knowledge about the rare isotope research and investigations being explored by project partners, and performing during the Family Physics Day performance alongside Dance Exchange, MSU faculty, students, and community members. The Dance of Rare Isotope Beams involves informally teaching scientific concepts such as nuclear physics to diverse public audiences through dance, using FRIB as a main resource. This collaborative project is likely to span five-years, and once completed, will enhance MSU's "Boldness by Design" strategic initiative and the University's local and national reputation as a world grant institution.

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