Historical Physicist Halloween Costumes

It's that time of year again when people start thinking about Halloween costumes-- SteelyKid is apparently planning to re-use her Peter Pan outfit from last year-- and the conceptual costumes post from a while back has proved enduringly popular at this time of year. If you're not into conceptual art, though, maybe some historical cosplay is more your thing, so here are some totally serious ideas if you want to go to your local physics department's Halloween party as one of the great physicists of the last half-millennium.

Sexy Niels Bohr

This was actually the trigger for this post, when somebody tweeted about a "sexy Doppler effect" costume, and the phrase "sexy Niels Bohr" popped into my head. Look, I'm not getting enough sleep these days, OK? Anyway, while it might sound like an oxymoron, check this picture from 1922:

Niels Bohr circa 1922, from Wikipedia. Niels Bohr circa 1922, from Wikipedia.

(image source)

So, you know, it's not completely ridiculous. And he was an athlete, too, which helps-- Ernest Rutherford famously disdained theory, and got some ribbing when he hired Bohr, to which he responded "He's not a theorist, he's a football player!"

So, you know, a little Brylcreem, a soccer ball, and a lot of mumbling and equivocation, and you're good to go.

Sexy Isaac Newton

Portrait of Isaac Newton circa 1689. Portrait of Isaac Newton circa 1689.

(image source)

Sure, he's famously supposed to have died a virgin, but look at that magnificent hair. A flowing wig, a haughty attitude, and some unconventional ideas about the connection between Christian theology and alchemy, and you've got a costume. Bonus points for exhibiting mild symptoms of mercury poisoning.

Psycho Killer Max Planck

Max Planck around the time he solved the black-body radiation problem. From wikimedia. Max Planck around the time he solved the black-body radiation problem. From wikimedia.

I'm really inordinately fond of this picture.

Sexy Ernest Rutherford

Ernest Rutherford, probably around 1900. From Wikipedia. Ernest Rutherford, probably around 1900. From Wikipedia.

(image source)

Mustache, booming voice (once when Rutherford was recording a radio show being broadcast to the US, a colleague happened by and asked "Why does he need a microphone?"), pocket full of radium.

Sexy Erwin Schrödinger

Erwin Schrodinger, image from Wikimedia. Erwin Schrodinger, image from Wikimedia.

Bow tie, goofy grin, someone else's spouse.

Henry Cavendish

Only known portrait of Henry Cavendish, obtained by subterfuge. Image from Wikipedia. Only known portrait of Henry Cavendish, obtained by subterfuge. Image from Wikipedia.

(image source)

Even for the sake of a joke, I can't bring myself to put "sexy" and "Henry Cavendish" together. He was legendarily odd, trumping even P.A.M. Dirac in the social awkwardness department, and that takes some doing.

So: rumpled coat, big hat, stand on the landing outside the party trying to work up the courage to go in. If anybody speaks to you, squeak and run away.

Sexy Galileo Galilei

Galileo Galilei, king of night vision. Image from Wikipedia. Galileo Galilei, king of night vision. Image from Wikipedia.

(image source)

Skip the party. When asked about it, say the Inquisition had you under house arrest.

Condescending Louis de Broglie

Say my name. Go ahead. Say my name. Go ahead.

Just looking for another chance to re-use this joke.

Slutty Richard Feynman

Nah. Too easy.

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(For the record, I know that these are all dead white guys, but I thought that was preferable to trying to make a "Sexy Lise Meitner" joke.)

@Chad #1: I've tried for a few years to propose dressing as a member of the oppresive patriarchal power elite, but my wife has frowned on the idea. Well, really, she says she'd just get tired of explaining why I'm just wearing a suit, but whatever :-)

By Michael Kelsey (not verified) on 25 Oct 2013 #permalink

While I agree "sexy Lise Meitner" is rather in bad taste, you could always go with "scary Lise Meitner":

Find the person dressed up as Sexy Isaac Newton*. Tell him 1) you're from the future 2) you're female *and* you're a highly acclaimed physicist.

* (Substitute other person with antiquated morals, as availible.)

Of course, having said that "Sexy Lise Meitner" would be a bad idea, the right joke for it immediately popped into my mind. It's a two-person conceptual costume: It doesn't really matter how you dress, just that you bring along another person dressed as Sexy Otto Hahn, who then leaves with all the candy.

If there are three people in your group, this can be adapted to Sexy Rosalind Franklin...

It’s a two-person conceptual costume

Which also works for Jocelyn Bell and Anthony Hewish. There's a reason it's called the No-Bell Prize.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 27 Oct 2013 #permalink

DIdn't Schroedinger set up housekeeping with his wife and mistress? That suggests a three person costume right there along with various jokes about quantum superposition. There also was a cat, so you can always go for a foursome, if you don't mind being scratched.

Cavendish and Newton, I gathered weren't particularly interested in sex. Bohr had a happy marriage.and seven sons, as hale and handsome as he was.

Still, I'd be tempted to go a either Newton for the great hair or Max Planck and carry a black body.