Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Cell on Wheels: Famous Scientist Roller Derby Names

Valtron 3000

This past Sunday I had an exciting first Roller Derby experience when I went out to support the NRV Rollergirls in their bout of against the Mason Dixon Roller Vixens. For those unfamiliar with modern roller derby, it is a contact, point-based sport in which the players of two teams skate in a circuit, trying to help their point-scorer, designated a "jammer", pass the other team, whilst simultaneously using any blunt part of their bodies above the knees to prevent the other team's jammer from passing them. The rest of the details you can pick up as you watch.

Today, roller derby is largely an all-women's sport, where men play supporting roles as coaches and referees, which is sort of an interesting role-reversal. My favorite part of the roller derby culture is that all participants don noms de guerre, which usually involve clever (or even tacky) wordplay, including the use of homophones, oronyms, and portmanteaus, to spin references to pop culture, history, or anything otherwise generally familiar, with a violent, aggressive bent. For example, my favorites for the NRV Rollergirls are Huck Finish Her and Eleanor Blows B. Dealt, but other good examples include Baby Ruthless and Bloody Holly from the enjoyable film "Whip It", or Hyper Lynx, Auntie Christ, Beyonsláy, and Nina Millimeter who have been appeared in various articles in the New York Times.

As I lay awake Monday, unable to sleep with anxieties about upcoming presentations, needing to develop an entirely different computational approaches for research, and general insecurities about my place in life, I started thinking about how amusing derby names are, and then tried inventing some of my own. Then I had a revelation that it would be hilarious if there were derby names based off of (relatively) famous scientists. Once I got a few, I started jotting them down. Here's a list of ones I've come up with, so far:

I would like to point out the obvious that these are all plays ot men's names, which is ironic given that roller derby is played predominantly by women. This is disheartening for three reasons:

  1. I could only come up with four "famous" female scientists offhand: Marie Curie, Jane Goodall, Rosalind Franklin, and Lynn Margulis.
  2. I couldn't come up with a clever spin on any of them.
  3. Did I mention I could come up with only four famous scientists who are women? This reflects poorly on me, but I think also on the inequality that exists in scientific education and scientific research, both of yesteryear but also today. This is another issue for another blog post.

If you have any suggestions for scientists I've missed (particularly famous women who are or were scientists), or better suggestions for the ones I've attempted to spin, I encourage you to post them in the comments, or put them in your own blog and post the link below.

Update 2011-05-17: Randall Munroe published a relevant comic on the final points on female scientists:


  1. I love it! Although not named after a scientist, Chris's sister is on a roller derby team and her name is Michelle O'Trauma. I thought it was clever. For a the record, she has already broken her tailbone and her hand.

  2. Thanks, Jes! Michelle O'Trauma is a fantastic name! I love it. Please send my compliments to Chris's sister.