It's like this: One, one, one. Then one, two, three. One, two, three. One, two three. ...
In what may be the northernmost salsa dancing on the planet, experts in squirrel hibernation, glacial geology and all things fish shake a little fanny.
So (scientists always beging their explanations with "So"), you're opening yourself up on beat two and setting yourself up to turn on beat three.
It seems it only starts to get truly sunny in the Arctic remote of northern Alaska about 10 p.m., when Wednesday night salsa lessons are in full swing. Joel Mercado (the guy with a hat, glasses and beard) schools fellow researchers at the Toolik Lake Station research camp in the basics -- one, two, three -- of salsa.
Scientists work long hours here because the endless sun makes it so easy and because there's so much work to be done before the cold sets in and teaching duties re-emerge. Mercado is on the verge of a master's degree from the University of Puerto Rico. He's earning it studying tundra plants and how they might respond to rapid climate change. He spends his days surveying plants in one 10-centimeter square after the next. One sunny night a week, he likes to pop a beer and let loose to Latin rhythms.
You're holding me away from you. I won't hurt you. I might stink a little, but maybe everybody up here smells a little. It's OK.
He's been surprised by his colleagues' ability to pick up salsa.
"At first, I didn't think they'd be very good," he said. "But they learn quickly."
Perhaps it's those math skills. One, two three. One, two, three. ...