In December 2015, we brought together willing volunteers to dance for science. Our goal: to explore movement synchrony on the dance floor, in a real nightclub environment.

From the very beginnings of Guerilla Science’s origins in the music festival scene, we have always sought to celebrate science and set it free from the traditional lab, introducing scientists into unusual spaces, and connecting people to the actual practice of science in new ways. And so, it seems only natural for us to have brought scientists into the sparkly world of disco, and to transform Carwash, London’s longest running disco nightclub, into a lab.

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Credit: Richard Eaton

Joining forces with intrepid scientists Daniel Margulies and Melissa Ellamil from the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Leipzig, we gathered data that would shed light on how human behaviour syncs up with the beat. The aim was to uncover that moment when everything suddenly clicks between a group of people dancing, leading them to spontaneously intensify and synchronise their movements all together.

And what better genre of music to get people dancing than disco? As DJ Annie O said: “Disco has a special quality that makes people feel joyous, light-hearted and ‘in the flow’…there are those very special moments when the whole room becomes one in a wave of joint ecstasy.”

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Credit: Richard Eaton

The lab space involved a light up dancefloor as an experimental platform under a canopy of disco balls, large quantities of glitter, confetti cannons, roller girls and ace DJ Annie O to get our experimental subjects moving. And move they did. As our experimental subjects danced, their live data was collected on a smartphone app, which recorded accelerometer data tracking the direction and intensity of their movement in response to the beats.

The full experimental results are now published in open-access journal PLoS One. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Wham’s ‘Wake me up before you go-go‘ and the Supremes’ You Can’t Hurry Love had the highest levels of synced movement. Have a read here and tell us what you think! #ScienceOfDisco

This video captures moments from a unique night in which our experimental participants danced their way into science history: