Hi! I'm Princess, and I'm extremely honored to make Science with Moxie a part of the Scientific American blogging network.
I started this blog in 2009 on a bit of a whim and out a lot of admiration for the science blogosphere. I'd been reading science blogs while in college, and I kept reading science writing on the web through my time as an lab tech. I gave thought to contributing but always hesitated. It wasn't until I tweeted this sentiment that a friend replied back, “If you're even THINKING bout it, you're better informed than the rest of us cretins - DO IT!!” That was just the push that I needed.
And so Science with Moxie (SwM) was born during my first semester of graduate school. As a fledgling musician and long-time music lover, the nexus between neuroscience and music seemed like the perfect spot for my little blog. But I never imagined that small push of a friend would lead to writing for a scientific publication that I admire as much as this one.
Scientific American boasts a long history of superstar contributors. Standing in the shadows of giants like Albert Einstein made me feel a bit intimidated. I wondered if anyone else had felt unworthy or scared of writing for SciAm. Then I ran across Douglas Hofstadter's essay on Martin Gardner.
I've been reading Hofstadter's Gödel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid since the beginning of the year. Its aim to connect mathematics, art, and music into a multi-layered study of humorous logical paradoxes and cognitive science left me mesmerized. Even though I'd known that the Hof (as my book club has affectionately dubbed him) was a former Scientific American columnist, I was not until I read his essay that I realized he felt much the same as I when starting out:
"Only a year or so later, Martin decided to stop writing his column in order to have more free time. Could someone be found to carry on the "Mathematical Games" spirit? I believe it was Martin himself who suggested to Scientific American's editor and publisher, Dennis Flanagan and Gerard Piel, that I might be a plausible person to consider. When Flanagan and Piel approached me with this thought, I was both overwhelmed and frightened. I had in the meantime become a professor of computer science and was seriously engaged in artificial intelligence research. How could I continue to do my research and also do justice to the column that Martin Gardner had created, which by then had turned into an international institution?"
Hofstadter's tribute to Gardner, a man whose column he'd read and admired for years, lead me to realize that if even the Hof can be "both overwhelmed and frightened" at the prospect of writing for SciAm, it might be okay if I feel that way too. Trepidation or intimidation should never be a barrier to effort, growth, and creativity.
This ties into what I love about both music and science: people can appreciate them on many levels despite the fact that some of those levels may seem intimidating or complicated. I was intimidated by playing music in a band at first since I knew very little music theory, was unsure of my skill or talent, and had never played with other people before. But I knew I loved live music, I loved creating, and I found some awesome people who were willing to take a chance on me. I feel that I've grown and learned so much in the few years I've been playing music in my band, Pink Flag.
I try to remember those old feelings of fear or inadequacy about my musical skills when I write about science, because I never want anyone to feel like science is only for a certain type of “smart” person or that it's too difficult to understand and appreciate. I believe that human curiosity is as abundant and natural as the enjoyment of music, and I aim to write these notes on science to pique your curiosity, stimulate your wonder, and remind you that we all search for answers.
What I want to do here in this new space is similar. SwM covers music, science, neuroscience, and the intersections between all three. Occasionally I post interviews or profiles of people that I call SciMuses: those who have interests in both science and music. Other times I might bring up topics related to science and art, culture, or politics. But I always want to keep SwM interesting and fun, and I invite every one of you to learn with me. I won't let intimidation stop me, and neither should you!