Science and samba mix in Brazil
[RIO DE JANEIRO] Brazil's annual carnival last week (17–21 February) played host to an unusual type of science communication in the form of samba parades and puppets.
Ildeu Moreira, head of the science communication unit at the Ministry of Science and Technology said science themes had been an increasing part of Brazil's carnival for decades.
"Since science has become more and more a part of everyday life for the people, it has also penetrated the universe of popular artists," he told SciDev.Net.
This year, the samba-school Rosas de Ouro gave the São Paulo carnival parade a scientific flavour, weaving a story about the evolution of life, from microscopic organisms to space exploration. Religious and scientific beliefs were included in the narrative, which depicted both creationism and the big bang, and drew attention to the destruction of the Amazon rainforest.
Metamorphosis was the main theme for the Vila Isabel samba school in Rio de Janeiro. They presented a story with "scientific, historical and cultural content" inspired by the "constant transformations" in our lives, according to the school's website.
And at the Pernambuco street carnival in northeastern Brazil, Albert Einstein mingled with some of Brazil's most famous scientists as 'big puppets', commissioned by the group Science in the Head and Frevo (Brazilian music) in the Feet.
"Carnival is the most popular festival in Pernambuco, so we designed this science communication strategy aiming to put science on the street," said José Antônio Aleixo da Silva of Pernambuco's Rural Federal University, one of the participants of the group.
Brazilian inventor Santos Dumont — who disputed the Wright brothers' claim to have made the world's first flight — and the physicist José Leite Lopes, who died last year, were amongst those depicted as puppets.
The Pernambuco initiative was launched by the regional Brazilian Society for the Advancement of Science, the science centre Espaço Ciência and the North-east Centre for Science Teaching, with support from the Ministry of Science and Technology and local governments.
Three years ago, scientific creation was the theme chosen by Rio de Janeiro-based samba school Unidos da Tijuca, which included a DNA float which appeared in newspapers around the world (see 'A Brazilian carnival of science' and 'Science goes to the carnival in Brazil' ).