IceCube After Dark

Posted by Bill Andrews
on Friday, May 6, 2011

My colleague Liz Kruesi did a great job covering some of last week’s highlights at the Antarctic Science Symposium and IceCube and particle physics symposium, but unfortunately she couldn’t stay for the final event. That’s too bad, because it was mostly just a celebratory conclusion, complete with free food and beer. But since the conference took place in Madison, Wisconsin, where I live (while Liz had to drive more than an hour home afterward to rescue her dog), I graciously volunteered to cover the party. Anyone familiar with our video series shouldn’t be surprised.

Antarctica is home to countless scientists who can get down and party just as hard (practically) as your typical college student. // Photo by NASA
To put things in perspective, I’ll remind you that Madison is a college town, home to, not surprisingly, the University of Wisconsin-Madison. It might have been nice if someone had reminded the symposium’s planners that this past weekend was also the date of one of the city’s two biggest parties of the year. I’m sure poor Liz wasn’t the only one befuddled by hordes of drunk college students, a lack of parking, and the general debauchery in the air she witnessed before she departed Saturday afternoon.

Perhaps it was all part of the planners’ … plans. This final event, called IceCube After Dark, took place at The Majestic, a somewhat raucous theater that occasionally puts on performances of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. The free beer and hors d’oeuvres made the concluding event feel like the scientific equivalent of the partying a few blocks away.

After about a half-hour of mingling and jazzy standards playing in the background, the main presentation began. Mark Krasberg of UW-Madison gave a PowerPoint talk broadly outlining the IceCube experiment and what it is trying to do. Unfortunately, either the attendees’ familiarity with the subject or their alcohol consumption often forced Krasberg to wait for the chatter to die down, frequently lamenting how it impaired his concentration. I didn’t blame him, and vowed to speak more quietly.

When Krasberg moved from the science and schematics to pictures of penguins, the crowd instantly hushed. Sea lions, whales, various penguins, the auroa australis, and Antarctica’s frozen beauty kept the audience rapt for the remainder of the talk, which ended with standing ovations and cheers.

Next up were selections from the 2005 South Pole International Film Festival (SPIFF), which were variously hilarious, musical, and hard to understand (the Norwegian film).

SPIFF marked the night’s official end, but the symposium’s planners had one final surprise. The Majestic’s famed “80S VS 90S” night would supposedly feature a heavy dose of notoriously scientific rapper Ice Cube. I left before I could verify this, however. If I’m going to dance to rap music slightly buzzed, I might as well do it with 20,000 others outside.

We missed you, Liz!

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