While I am a very practical and logical person (well, aren’t all scientists?!). There is one area where I am a little quirky. There are certain experiments where I am very superstitious, and I will always adhere to it so I don’t jinx the whole thing!
Now I am not speaking of wearing the same top, socks or jewelry like most sporting superstitions. My superstition involves listening to particular music. For instance, I appreciate great confocal microscopy, and when I am imaging I can only listen to one band: The Rolling Stones. It isn’t as if Mick et al. are in the room helping me operate the microscope (which to the inexperienced can be a very daunting task), but for some reason I will not image without them! Likewise, I tend to listen to pop or bouncy rock while I culture my cells. Not that the cells can even hear the music (they don’t have ears silly! Plus I am considerate and wander around listening to my pink iPod), I just think the happy mood I am in while listening ensures my cells continue to grow fabulously well.
Obviously this means that, before I leave for work, I check, and double check that my iPod is packed and charged ready for my day. I am sure that many of you will consider this a ridiculous ritual, however it isn’t as if I am sacrificing a chicken at midnight in a stone circle. Therefore, it could clearly be sillier and more difficult to achieve.
I should point out that I am able to perform the experiments without the music, and often have to while I train people, but I believe that I give optimal performance and get better results when I am listening to it.
I have two theories to explain this enhanced phenomenon. My first theory is that, when I have chosen what is playing, it is less of a distraction than listening to background noise like conversations or general lab clicking and whirring. This may also explain why I can’t tolerate hearing talk radio while I work as I automatically concentrate on the radio show and not on my experiment. My second theory is that, when I am obviously listening to music, people are less likely to interrupt what I am doing.
Whether I really do perform better is irrelevant, however. I believe that I do, therefore I continue to follow my superstition. Stevie Wonder once sang “When you believe in things that you don’t understand, Then you suffer, Superstition ain’t the way.” I have to disagree. As long as you are performing great research, who cares what put you in the correct frame of mind to do it? (Within the law and without harming anyone of course.)
Now some of you will hopefully be nodding in agreement with me as you read this while some of you will think I am crazy. I am sure (or at least I hope) that others are also as superstitious as me. I therefore ask if you have a tradition, ritual or superstition for certain tasks that you share them with me. I can’t wait to find out what you get up to!