Brian May, Brian Cox, Mira Aroyo: the list goes on. Plenty of the musicians you listen to started their lives in science and vice versa. Your lab tech is probably a secret bassoonist; the quiet chap in the corner of the lab that you never chat with is likely a weekend saxophonist. Why do scientists have such an affinity with instruments?
Here are a few educated guesses as to why the pipette and string quartet are so interchangeable.
Collaboration is often the root of both
Whether it’s forming a live set in a garage with your band ‘Molecules of Doom’ or reciting Beethoven’s 5th with your college orchestra, creating beautiful music as a band is a special feeling. Scientists already collaborate constantly, often with people from all around the globe, and the effects and processes are the same. Nearly all scientists enjoy hearing feedback, criticisms, and advice. They help shape the projects they work on and ensure they are moving in the right direction.
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Your most creative moments in the lab can rarely come while you’re at maximum stress levels. Playing an instrument in the evenings after work acts as ‘drain blocker for the mind’. You can return to the lab the next day, zen, and flooded with brilliant ideas.
Songs are like puzzles
As much as musicians enjoy playing other people’s work, there’s even more appeal to writing your own. As much as the heart plays a vital role, your brain needs to formulate the chords, words, and notes that resonate best with each other. The process of songwriting is very much like puzzle-solving, working out what fits where – and we all know how much scientists like a puzzle.
Presentation of work
Speaking at a conference shares many parallels with performing live. The nerves and excitement. The elation of the applause. AACR is the new Glastonbury. Each one is an opportunity to showcase what you’ve been tirelessly working on, hanging on the feedback of the crowd. It’s also a chance to see the competition in action and how original or fresh you are in comparison.
The endless videos
Labs love doing music videos. Love it. Inside each scientist is a Lady Gaga or Freddie Mercury dying to get out. Here are just a few examples to occupy your limited time.
We want to hear of any musical streaks in your lab. Could a future songwriting partnership form in our comments section? We hope so.