Science comes to Carnaval

How much can science and popular culture intertwine?  A lot, apparently, at least if some of the floats in this recent Carnaval, the sensual, samba-ridden, sexually ambiguous Brazillian festival before Lent, are an indication.

Carneval_1 “[I]n 2003, a talented young carnavalesco (the designer of a carnaval parade; yes that’s a profession in Brazil) named Paulo Barros proposed to one of the less affluent samba schools, the Unidos da Tijuca, a science theme for the February 22, 2004 parade. No one had gone down this road before—typical Carnaval themes are Amazonia, African or Portuguese heritage, sex, the sea, television stars et cetera. Unidos da Tijuca agreed to the plan, and began preparing for ‘The Dream of Creation and the Creation of the Dream: Art and Science in the Age of the Impossible.’

Paulo Barros then approached the science-outreach group, called Casa da Ciência, at the Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ). The enthusiastic Casa da Ciência crowd loved the idea, and worked with the samba school for a year to get ready. The results showed, from the words of the theme samba to the costumes.

. . .

The vast majority of Brazilian scientists, even some who usually left town during Carnaval, were supportive of this incredible opportunity for science to interact with popular culture. The United States equivalent might be a science-themed halftime show at the Super Bowl.”