Winner of Dance Your PhD video contest is very atmospheric, the physics of cooking an egg

Physics

Does your PhD thesis make you want to dance? An atmospheric scientist from the University of Helsinki has bagged this year’s top prize of $2750 in the annual Dance Your PhD contest. Organized by the American Association for the Advancement of Science and sponsored by the artificial intelligence company Primer, the competition is in its 13th year and asks postgraduate students to explain their research through dance.

With the help of several friends, Jakub Kubecka brought his studies to life with a rap about atmospheric molecular clusters. With trash-talking lyrics like “I’m the first author, you’re just et al”, Kubecka and his mates also carried out some crude dance moves accompanied by computer animations and drone footage.

“To prepare for recording the lyrics, I was running with headphones playing the music at least 30 times per day for the whole month to get it into my blood,” says Kubecka. “We always stayed close to our main goal of showing non-scientific muggles that science can be fun, silly and exciting. And of course, we also didn’t want to miss our opportunity of spitting some scientific roasts.” You can watch the video — filmed while honouring local COVID-19 restrictions – above.

Linking proteins

One thing that has always fascinated me about cooking eggs is why unlike most other liquids, egg whites solidify when heated rather than becoming runnier or evaporating. The reason is that the protein molecules unfold in the heat, enabling them to link up to form a solid. Now Nafisa Begam at the University of Tübingen in Germany and colleagues have used X-ray scattering to gain a better understanding of this process.

One thing they found is that after the white solidified, which takes a few minutes, there is no further solidification. You can read more about their study in “Watching an egg cook with X-rays”, and who knows, maybe it will help you make the perfect poached egg.

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