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: