“There are going to be real musicians here tonight!” declared physics professor Christoph M.E. Paus — harnessing the energy in the room.
“Not those with the leisure to drown in bath tubs in Paris,” added Peter Fisher, physics professor, referencing the dramatic death of Jim Morrison, the lead singer of the Doors.
The two professors, dressed in black suits and ties, introduced themselves as Professors K and J, or the “Professors in black.” Sunday night they co-hosted the Physics Rock Concert held in 54-100. About 60 people attended. The audience included mostly students, but some faculty and performers’ families also came.
Why would a bunch of physics professors put on a rock concert? Before the show, Fisher stated, “It’s what we do.”
He and Paus laughed, joking that Phil Specter and Mick Jagger were going to show up. A moment later, Fisher added to ask him again after the show.
Tensors and Tangos
In addition to music, the show included a tango and some backflips.
It opened with the Quantum Beats, a group Paus joked illustrated the depth of physics: “You might hear some random beats” in the music he said, referencing the random nature of quantum physics.
The band played four songs; during the first one, several audience members dashed to the stage and danced along with the performers. The following song featured a mandolin solo by Ben Sena, a freshman in Course 16.
“Not very long,” said Sena, asked about how long he’s played the mandolin. “I’ve played guitar for a while,” and playing the mandolin was just a question of “using my guitar experience and knowing the difference” between the two instruments. He chose to play mandolin instead of guitar during the performance since the band started with six guitars. As he described it, the choice was an attempt to “alleviate the pressure of the guitar density.”
Praising the Quantum Beats, Fisher said that it was good to know that MIT physicists had “something to fall back on when physics tanks.”
Paus introduced Professor Vladan Vuletic, who works with atomic collisions and was going to tango with his wife, as a “diatonic molecule” for the evening.
More undergrads rock out
One of the highlights of the evening was certainly the “Mystery Act”, a trio comprising of Yan Zhu ’12 on drum and vocals, Cappie Pomeroy ’13 on keyboard and vocals, and Scott Johnston ’13 on cello. They performed two songs, introducing the first as the “rock part of the concert” and the second as the “physics part.”
“We came up with this last night,” said Zhu. Pomeroy later confirmed this as true.
“Granite is not an edible rock,” sang Pomeroy, “Not like pop rocks or those other tasty candies.”
The blues song was an amusing compilation of puns and Doppler shift jokes: “I’m so blue-shifted that my force space vector is null,” they sang. The two songs were met with considerable laughter from the audience and gratuitous applause at the end.
Before the next act, there were some technical difficulties: The two professors fidgeted on stage nervously.
“Peter, tell a joke,” said Paus. A moment later he realized his mistake, “Oh… I meant Professor K.”
Fisher stood speechless, “I can’t just tell a joke…”
Fortunately, the MCs were saved the by the AV coming through. Javier Sanchez-Yamagishi G did a hip hop dance, apologizing beforehand for being “out of shape.” “Graduate school takes the energy out of you,” he said.
Before the break, Javier Duarte, a senior in Course 8, “learned” to do a backflip. After seeing a friend do a flip, Duarte asked him to teach him the trick. When the friend explained the basics of jumping and tucking in, Durate refused to try, saying it sounded “too complicated.” Once the friend explained it in physics terms (including writing several equations anyone who’s taken 8.01 is sure to recognize) Duarte exclaimed, “Why didn’t you say so?” and immediately executed a flip.
The final act
The final act, Asymptotic Freedom, sang a number of songs. Their rendition of the classic La Bamba once again brought the “Course 8 dancers,” as the professors had nicknamed them, to the stage. This time they were joined by a number of other people in the audience, including the two MCs. The group danced for a while and eventually formed a conga line and paraded around the stage.
Matthew Celaya, a student in 8.02 L06, Fisher’s Electricity and Magnetism section, said he thought that seeing his professor dance on stage was “hilarious. I want to see it all the time.”
The night ended to great applause. Paus joked about using a neuralizer to wipe the audience’s memory. Putting on sunglasses and pulling out a camera, he took a picture of the audience, and then immediately declared the show was over.
After the show, Fisher revealed why the physics rock concert was put on this year: Gesturing towards Paus who was standing on the other side of the room, Fisher said “I wanted to do something with my friend Christoph. It sounds goofy, but I work with all of these people,” he said. Putting on a show together allowed him “to see an entirely new side of everybody,” he said, He gave the example of Yelena S. Bagdasarova ’11, who sang with Asymptotic Freedom and is a Teaching Assistant in L06: “I didn’t know she sang,” he said.
“That’s why we do these things,” Fisher continued, “There’s a reason we stay at a university.”
He finished, “the people are more exciting.”