Steve Koonin, Under Secretary for Science at the US Department of Energy, was among those at Michigan State University on Friday for an event to celebrate the future of rare isotope research in the United States. (Here's an interview Koonin did on the subject.) For the most part Koonin was treated to what amounts to usual fare at these types of events--tours of the facility (in this case National Superconducting Cyclotron Laboratory); interviews with local media; and an audience with local, state, and federal officials, including both of Michigan's senators, Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow. However, one part of the program defied the norm.
Kate McAlpine, whose Large Hadron Rap has been seen 5 million times (and counting) on YouTube, premiered a new rap video, this one about (you guessed it), rare isotopes. And while it looks great on YouTube, particularly the HD version, the experience of seeing it on three elevated screens 14' across while the beat thumped through a high-end sound system was memorable, especially since one senior faculty member figures prominently in the video. That would be Brad Sherrill, MSU University Distinguished Professor and designated chief scientist of the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams, FRIB, which will be established at MSU over the next decade. (Here's Sherrill doing more conventional science communication about rare isotope research.)
Despite all the senior scientists and politicians on hand that day, McAlpine herself was the subject of several interviews. One local TV reporter even asked her is she thought a recording contract might be in her future.
McAlpine's answer: "I don't think that's going to happen anytime soon."
But with a few more of these, who's to say it won't?
Read more about rare isotope research in the symmetry feature "Probing the heart of the atom".