Professor, Cheerleaders Unite to Teach Science

A physics professor who says he’ll do “anything” to get people interested in science is teaming up with the Philadelphia 76ers cheerleaders to offer online lessons on magnetics, mass and matter — all through the magic of miniskirts.

James Trefil said it made sense for him to use “a little sex appeal” in his effort to reach and teach nonscientists.

“Why not cheerleaders?” asked Trefil, the Robinson Professor of Science at George Mason University. “My own philosophy is, any way you can get the scientific message across, that’s a good thing.”

The website,, is the creation of science advocate Darlene Cavalier, a Master of Science Policy who has spent a decade working for Discover Magazine and was also one of the original 76ers dancers.

The theory behind the project is that people might actually think about the way the universe works if it comes with pom-poms.

“It’s also partly about breaking down stereotypes,” says Cavalier. “The quintessential ditz is often pictured as a cheerleader, while the king geek is donned in a lab coat. Yet 10 percent of the gorgeous Tennessee Titans cheerleaders, for example, hold formal science degrees.

“Compare that with the 8 percent in Congress,” she continues, “where critical science and technology policy decisions are being made, and one can begin to understand how and why it’s important to trust the public’s capacity to learn about, and weigh in on, major federal science policy discussions.”

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