Takin’ it to the bridge…

As if I don’t already have enough to do. But of course I can’t help myself, any reason to procrastinate and not do my work is always a welcome activity. I figured that maybe by writing a blog I could at least have my procrastination sessions be somewhat more productive. Plus I have been looking for alternative ways of communicating what I do with others. As a working scientist I have plenty of chances to communicate with my colleagues and students in my classes, but I feel like I it is hard to tell other people about what I do and why it is meaningful. I’ve been thinking a lot about communicating science recently and thinking about ways to do it effectively, what is sometimes referred to as ‘outreach’. But outreach implies that there is a separate sphere where scientists exist and secretly conspire to destroy the world, and then there is everyone else. But the truth is is that scientists are not a separate piece of humanity and science is a job like any other, with its trials, tribulations and insecurities. Scientists do live in the so-called real world. Some of us have families, others play music or sports, drink. Some are thin, some are fat, some are honest some are not. So why is it that any time I meet someone and tell them that I’m a scientist they either tune me out or say something like ” That is so cool, you must be some sort of genius. I was never good at math. Have you made any great discoveries yet?” Clearly some type of disconnect. And I think part of the problem is that people don’t now what we do on a daily basis or how scientific progress works, or who are the people doing science. I, for one, do not consider my intelligence to be particularly high, and the amount of math that my research requires is basically at the high-school level.

Another thing I’ve observed is that when you read about science in popular magazines and blogs, you only hear about what is deemed to have a certain amount of wow factor – something that can be narrowed down to a “fun-fact” that can be then repeated at cocktail parties or at your elementary school kid’s classroom. Most science is not like that, in many cases the impact or importance is not obvious, and for someone to appreciate it would require more than the 5 minutes they might be willing to give you. Hopefully, this blog will serve to clear some of these misconceptions, to bridge some of these gaps. To explain the day-to-day workings of the job of being a scientist and educator and how we balance this with our non-scientific lives. And hopefully to get some folks interested in science, to help them develop some tools to evaluate claims that are heard on the news about how your dry-cleaning can kill you or whatnot. I will try to tell you a bit about what being a scientist in a university is like, about how science gets done and what are some of the challenges I’ve faced in my job. Hopefully I will also write about actual science, and try and convey some of the excitement I feel when I go to work every day.

Why the blog title? Well the bridge metaphor is obviously fitting, but that’s not the real reason for the name. Being a big fan of James Brown, in the middle of the song “Like a Sex Machine”, as it is reaching one of its many crescendos, the rhythm steadies and he banters with the band – “Are you ready to take it to the bridge?”, meaning the bridge of the song, “Can we take it to the bridge? Take it to the bridge…ONE, TWO, THREE, FOUR…”, and the the band bursts into this funky guitar riff which just makes you want to pee in your pants with joy. It is one of my favorite moments in music, you just can’t beat that. It’s fucking awesome. So whenever I feel like things need a change in rhythm, when a little more is needed, I always think of taking it to the bridge. When I was a graduate student I used to love the fact that my intracellular amplifier, a piece of equipment I used  to record electrical activity from brain cells, had an operating mode which was called Bridge Mode, and to turn it on, there was a large green button that said “BRIDGE” on it. So it always made my day when I was doing an experiment and got to “take it to the bridge.”

So that’s it, hopefully someone will happen upon these shores, stay a while and listen to what I have to say. And hopefully you, my readers, will contribute to the discussion and comment, comment and comment.

Here’s some inspiration:

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12 Responses to Takin’ it to the bridge…

  1. drugmonkey says:

    Nice. I likey “bridge”

  2. Pingback: Blogrolling: Take it to the Bridge « DrugMonkey

  3. Beaker says:

    Another allusion to the bridge in Sex Machine occurs in Led Zepplin’s “The Crunge.” Robert Plant cries out “where’s the confounding bridge?” at the end of a song with no bridge.

  4. Arlenna says:

    Hi!! Glad to see you here, I started kind of the same way you did, and it’s totally worth it. This blog community has been my support group for a lot of important stuff. Looking forward to your posts!

  5. namnezia says:

    Thanks Arlenna for the welcome!

    And Beaker, I had not made the connection to “The Crunge”. After listening to it again I hadn’t quite appreciated that the riff Jimmy Page is using throughout the song was so James Brown-ish.

  6. truthspew says:

    Ah yes, the godfather of Soul, James Brown. Good tune btw.

    I’ve got a number of his tracks in my library but then my musical tastes are mainstream funk, r&b, and jazz, some gypsy punk creeps in there too.

  7. icee says:

    Axoclamp amp? Mine has the same big green BRIDGE button, and I use exclusively bridge mode for every experiment. As a musician I love the bridge and I just love that you made this connection to neuroscience. The BRIDGE button is going to bring a smile to my face now, thanks!

  8. Luka says:

    Hi, there is ongoing question in my mind: am I trying to fix myself with music (vibrations) or is music something I am here for.

    Are we in control of anything? Or, maybe, some vibrations in my head make me think I should make music like they make me feel hungry or sleepy? Are we looking for answers or it is the other way around?

    Best regards

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  10. giulix says:

    For me, the answer has always been much simpler: In a guitar, the bridge is the place strings are attached to (not where the tuning keys are, the opposite side). Take it to the bridge simply tells the guitarist and bassist to take the tune closer to the bridge, i.e. an octave higher.

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