"A flasK has a necK." And Bill has moves.
September 19, 2013 6:04 AM   Subscribe

Bill Nye on Dancing with the Stars. Perhaps the first time Dancing with the Stars has produced something truly delightful.
What can ballroom dance teach us about science? Is there any crossover there? Many people ask me this. My response is ‘Are you KIDDING?!’ First of all, just watching it, it’s all forces and torques, conservation of momentum. You’ve seen [if an] ice skater has her arms out, she pulls ‘em in, she spins faster. That’s not magic. That’s physics, or study of motion. And then, the other thing, for me, in biology,—we humans respond to music, respond to this timing and beats. Richard Feynman—I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of him—famous Nobel Laureate, after whom the Feynman diagram is named…Anyway, he used to have contests with people about keeping time [like] a clock. And most of us are actually pretty good at it. And so there’s something really deep within us that way.
posted by ocherdraco (27 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
 
I found him a bit scary and intense at the beginning. Like, a little too flirty. Back off, dude. Weird.
posted by sweet mister at 6:09 AM on September 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


The key question for dancing that I don't quite get is this. Dancing seems to involve roughly oscillatory movements that correspond in some way to the beat of the music. If this is the case, then one would guess that either displacement, velocity, or acceleration is (at the time of the beat) either zero or at a maximum. What is this correspondence?
posted by Jpfed at 6:18 AM on September 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of him...he's famous.
posted by cjorgensen at 6:19 AM on September 19, 2013


I was prepared to love this, and I would watch a season of DWTS where Nye was a serious competitor, but then they made him wear a lab coat and gyrate to Weird Science and he looked like a sad stooge. Ugh.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 6:21 AM on September 19, 2013 [6 favorites]


Eh, I'll allow it. Nye's at least 50% ham, ever since his Almost Live! days. He started in improv and sketch comedy after all. I'm surprised he hasn't adapted speedwalking to his dance routine. Maybe in a later episode.
posted by bonehead at 6:39 AM on September 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Bill Nye, while delightful, will likely get eliminated next Monday. His scores were just too damn low.
posted by Ber at 6:47 AM on September 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Ha. I actually watched this while visiting my grandma, who was adorably snoring on the couch next to me. Bill Nye was awkward but I thought the judges were extra harsh. They didn't seem to get that he was taking his gangly nerdiness and turning it up to make it work for him as a dance style. Whereas some of the other male contestants played it totally straight edge and came off as just plain awkward. They got higher marks, the heck?
posted by iamkimiam at 7:15 AM on September 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


I was so hopeful that it wouldn't be the typical dude-stands-around-whilte-the-professional-lady-gyrates dance. And then I was disappointed.

I did enjoy the chanting of "Bill Bill Bill" though.
posted by vespabelle at 8:18 AM on September 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also, there's a paycheck.
posted by grubi at 8:37 AM on September 19, 2013


@Jpfed: great question. On the beat, the displacement of the foot is zero: it's down and has received weight, so it's not going anywhere. What the velocity and acceleration are doing at that moment depends on the dance style.

Interestingly, good dancers do not follow allow their bodies as a whole to come to a zero displacement or velocity (except for specific circumstances, like hitting a break in the music and freezing). Instead, they continue their body's movement so that they don't look robotic. If the body is progressing (through rolling through the foot or some other mechanic), then we call it "body flight"; if the body is relatively stationary, they still add some movement such as a hip settle, a shoulder roll, or any number of other motions so that the dancing appears fluid throughout.
posted by philosophygeek at 8:40 AM on September 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Watching him gave me visceral flashbacks to dancing with other guys who were tall, lanky, and stiff.
posted by Akhu at 8:51 AM on September 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


The dude is an engineer and finally had an opportunity to discuss and demonstrate a subject he actually knows something about rather than the topics like evolution, creationism and religion that he seems so fond of discussing on national television these days even though he conspicuously lacks even a basic undergraduate level understanding of them. Instead of something cool that would show off the physics of dancing, or even just showing that you don't need to be impossibly awkward to be a scientist, he gets pedantic about glassware, awkwardly hits on the woman whose job it is to babysit him, and does little more on stage than exaggerate an even more ridiculous parody of himself with props that mean nothing.

Most of what the character that Bill Nye plays on TV has ever done is celebrate a hollow cargo-cult-like impression of science with a little bit of education; beakers without things to mix or measure, fuming liquid nitrogen without things to keep cold, experiments without questions to answer. Now that the show is gone, and he has somehow come back to the spotlight, that is all that is left and its depressing.
posted by Blasdelb at 8:54 AM on September 19, 2013 [8 favorites]


Agree completely, Blasdelb. And yet he makes more money than you and I ever will put together. Sigh.
posted by Melismata at 8:59 AM on September 19, 2013


"I found him a bit scary and intense at the beginning. Like, a little too flirty. Back off, dude. Weird."

A little? The dude waited until they were on camera and using set time to get all manslainey about flasKs and confide in the audience about how attractive he finds her rather than her clearly amazing skill in making his stiff awkwardness look as good as she did. That kind of shit is at best pretty not ok with people you have an exclusively professional relationship with, and pretty much never ok with an audience.

Also his aggressively cutesy mnemonic does not hold true for retorts or dewar flasks.
posted by Blasdelb at 9:13 AM on September 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


Today I learned that there are people out there who don't like Bill Nye, and they actually have some pretty good reasons.
posted by gohabsgo at 9:36 AM on September 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


Next, he's gonna haul ass to Lollapalooza.
posted by anazgnos at 9:44 AM on September 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Today I learned that there are people out there who don't like Bill Nye, and they actually have some pretty good reasons.

It's also possible that Blasdelb is actually Paul Zaloom (AKA Beakman) IRL.
posted by Atom Eyes at 9:54 AM on September 19, 2013 [8 favorites]


"They didn't seem to get that he was taking his gangly nerdiness and turning it up to make it work for him as a dance style. Whereas some of the other male contestants played it totally straight edge and came off as just plain awkward. They got higher marks, the heck?"

...But it didn't work for him, and it isn't a dance style. Refusing to learn how to dance in a professional way that looks good misses the point of the show, which is all about demonstrating that even seemingly awkward and uncoordinated people can pick up dancing as a skill and look good. It allows viewers to feel as if this is a thing they can do too, which is awesomely even true, while being entertained by recognizable people learning how to look good. Bill Nye, in hamming up his inability to dance rather than learning how to and giving his partner something real to work with, defeats the premise of the show in all the ways in which he could have been its platonic ideal, if he weren't so much of a self-satisfiedly ignorant prick hiding behind a bowtie.
posted by Blasdelb at 10:07 AM on September 19, 2013


Video: ho hum, cha-cha danced with bent knees. Guess the swing dancing doesn't help with that.

"But in social dancing in the United States you literally start on the other foot." Whut?

On acceleration and whatnot: this guy did some measurements (for salsa and lindy) but it's pretty hard to correlate instantaneous acceleration with the video.
posted by pw201 at 10:58 AM on September 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Now that the show is gone, and he has somehow come back to the spotlight, that is all that is left and its depressing.

I actually think a lot of the "depressing" bit comes from the show itself - I've never been a huge fan of the whole "dancing with the stars" thing because it's always felt kind of like a "last gasp of the has-been" move for someone to be on it.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:31 PM on September 19, 2013


It's also possible that Blasdelb is actually Paul Zaloom (AKA Beakman) IRL.

In all honesty, I was partial Beakman's World. It delivered scientific content with a sort of zany, Zappa-esque surrealism that I really appreciated as an 8-year old.
posted by gohabsgo at 12:49 PM on September 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


EmpressCallipygos: I actually think a lot of the "depressing" bit comes from the show itself - I've never been a huge fan of the whole "dancing with the stars" thing because it's always felt kind of like a "last gasp of the has-been" move for someone to be on it.

Yah -- I will tune in to Dancing with the Stars when there are some fucking stars on it. I don't think there's been a single contestant in however many years this has been running I would consider a "star" -- or even a "has-been." Mostly "famous for being famous"ers or "never-was"ers. Jeez, even C-listers or "Hey It's That Guy"s would be more apt to be called "stars" than the people who have been featured on this show.

Now, if they called it "Dancing with People You Might Have Seen or Heard About for One Reason or Another," I'd have no beef with it.
posted by tzikeh at 12:59 PM on September 19, 2013


"A flasK has a necK."
and flo has a round bottom.
posted by plinth at 1:25 PM on September 19, 2013




Bill Nye injured on DWTS

Wait a minute. This show has been on for 17 years?! When did that happen?!
posted by Melismata at 8:06 AM on September 25, 2013


It's been on for 17 seasons. There are multiple seasons of the show in a year.
posted by Green With You at 8:40 AM on September 25, 2013


*checks Wikipedia* Ah, my bad. Still, 9 years is a good run!!
posted by Melismata at 1:33 PM on September 25, 2013


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