6.11.2009

Professor Bromford's Laboratory: Lesson 1

Professor Harold Legume Bromford’s Laboratory
Lesson 1:

“Taking it to the Max,” vs. “Bringing it to the Next Level”



Introductory Words

Good afternoon, and welcome to the first installment of my lecture series, “Bromford’s Laboratory.” Supposing you cretins couldn’t have guessed, my name is Professor H.L. Bromford, and you are all about to take a transformational journey into the core of science.

As an eminently extreme human being, I make it a point to push limits, blow minds, and generally exude “badass.” Skeptics need not look further than the list of courses I’ve taught for proof. Come to think of it, I recognize some of you morons from my “Chainsaw Racing” class last semester.

Despite my mastery of all things, I sometimes have difficulty finding the right words to describe my lifestyle. It’s as if the English language struggles to match my pace. After a long search for the perfect phrase, I’ve whittled down the competition to two possibilities, though each with their flaws: “Taking it to the max,” and “Bringing it to the next level.”

Prima Facie Analysis
Diagram A
Let’s begin our analysis at surface level. Diagram A neatly provides a visualization of both phrases. “Taking it to the max” involves two premises: first, that a discrete maximum exists, and second, that we have arrived at that maximum. “Bringing it to the next level” involves two similar premises: first, that we’re on a level, and second, that we have brought ourselves to the next, higher level, one that is more extreme by some undefined measure.

At this level of detail, “taking it to the max” dominates the field as the more powerful statement. While “bringing it to the next level” is satisfactory, it remains a descriptor of a single unit -- one step. By contrast, “taking it to the max” allows for the possibility of multiple steps in one motion. In fact, it implies that we skip all intermediate steps leading up to the max. In this sense, “taking it to the max” encompasses “bringing it to the next level” and then some.

The Hamburgler routinely steals single hamburgers. I’ve seen it. Last Tuesday he decided to bring it to the next level, and stole two hamburgers – impressive. But the next day, he said, “fuck it, I’m taking this to the max,” and backed a military transport truck through the concrete siding of the McDonald’s regional beef shipping facility, moments later to abscond with two tons of processed hamburgers. It was huge. The local news ate it up. He’s now serving six years in a state penitentiary. Regardless, he demonstrates that the sweetness of taking it to the max renders an incremental, level-based approach foolish. The max makes headlines.

Taking it to the Max

It’s tempting to leave it at that, and I’m sure many of you would rather quit now and still catch the matinee showing of, “I Love You Man” than attempt anything rigorous. But there’s more to discover, and Diagram A is misleadingly simple. If you idiots could stop masturbating long enough to lean closer to your monitors, you would see that Diagram B gets into the fun stuff.

Diagram B
We can break down “taking it to the max” into two fundamental components: the max axis, represented by the dotted line, and the “where we’re taking it vector” (WWTI for short), represented by the arrow. These two measures can be roughly compared to the X and Y axes of a graph, where the X axis is the max, and the Y axis is our trajectory towards the max.

The act of “taking it to the max” is consummated at the intercept between these two axes, called the “Düsseldorf Point” (after the venerable Italian mathematician Mario Düsseldorf, whose name caused endless confusion amongst the German scientific community every time he published an article. Düsseldorf’s 1973 opus Le Leggi Naturali di Massimo, in which he lays out the principles of his max-point theory, received mixed reviews and prompted New Yorker columnist Timothy Bruille to famously quip, “Düsseldorf is oblivious to the astounding irony of his discovery, as Italians have never taken anything to the max, ever.” Incidentally, Dusseldorf was best known for his research on time travel, although once it became apparent that his sole ambition was to send a pizza sauce recipe back in time, his work quickly became the straw man of the emerging field.). At the Düsseldorf Point, we have successfully taken it to the max; we and the max are one.

So far, our notion of “taking it the max” has relied heavily on the existence of a discrete max within a bounded universe, while snubbing the concept of infinity. But can we ever be positive that we’re at the max? Couldn’t there always be something higher? Is our “max axis” little more than a theoretical Maginot Line? Is our Düsseldorf Point an unreachable phantom?

We represent this uncertainty in Diagram B by changing the max axis from a solid line to a dotted line, above which lies the theoretical maxosphere – or, “that which is more max than the max.” It remains theoretical, of course, since observing it is beyond our meager human capabilities. But since I’ve received no fewer than thirteen emails from a pathetic student on the subject: yes, a 200-foot robot whose mouth shoots out bits of Kurt Cobain’s corpse would probably fall into this category. Does the possibility of a maxosphere doom our entire endeavor of taking it to the max? Before we answer this question, let’s turn to our other phrase.

Bringing it to the Next Level
Diagram C
While our first representation of “bringing it to the next level” is both simple and accurate, we must never forget the golden rule of levels: you can ALWAYS bring it to the next level. Even though we can move only one unit at a time, the process can be repeated ad infinitum, taking us to more and more extreme levels. Welcome to the maxosphere. No shirt? No shoes? No limits? No problem.

Imagine the following dialogue between Chazzie and Dan:

Dan: “What perfect skimboarding weather. Check out this sweet move. I’m going to take it to the max.”
Chazzie: “Oh yeah? Well I’m also going to take it to the max… AND THEN I’M GOING TO BRING IT TO THE NEXT LEVEL.”
[Chazzie pulls a twisted 1080 herringbone sloucher.]
Dan: “Dag.”

Chazzie, living up to his extreme name, has just made an utter fool of Dan. Dag, indeed, you poor soul. Make a note of this in your copybooks.

Despite embracing the infinite, “bringing it to the next level” is weighted with the problem of uncertainty. Who defines the boundaries of a level? Returning to our fictitious bro Chazzie, let’s say he jumps three feet in the air on his skimboard. In his next jump, he could reach a height of three feet and one nanometer, and would technically reach the next level, although the end result is fairly meaningless, and certainly not extreme.

Addressing the Infinite

And so it seems that infinity is the trump card. Unless we can find a way to unshackle “taking it to the max” from a finite max, “bringing it to the next level” will emerge the victor. I propose two possible ways of doing this.

First, we could contextualize our max. While the universe is infinite, our circumstances are not. As mortals subject to the laws of physics, we remain fatally bound by our contextual limits. In “taking it to the max,” then, we are being as extreme as our situation allows. In this new paradigm, our max axis becomes more of a “situational max.” Second, we could emphasize the act of “taking” more than the “max” itself. We shift the emphasis from a discrete max to the zeal with which we approach the task (i.e. “fuck levels, I’m going to roll as hard as I possibly can").

A Call to Arms

Ultimately, I’m still uneasy about picking the best phrase. Each seems to require the other, to some extent, like the yin and yang of extreme metrics. And so, improbably, I’m going to turn the discussion over to the snot-nosed masses – what do you think?

12 comments:

Jim Ryan said...

I took that Chainsaw Racing class. Total shit if you ask me. Chainsaw Synchronized Swimming with Prof. Q.E. Demeter, now there is an extreme class...

devan said...

bringing it to the next max?

Coaltrain said...

As a soundtrack for this post, I recommend the new Simian Mobile Disco, "Audacity of Huge".

Sean said...

ok well several things come to mind. firstly, the doctor is right to point out the limits on our abilities to conceptualize, however, since we brought infinity into this mess, things are going to get hairy.

take the 200 ft robot example. now there are infinitely many integers, so presumably a 300 ft robot would be better than a 200 ft one (let's ignore the nanometer case for now). of course, 300 ft has nothing on 400 ft, which has nothing on 1,000,000,000 ft, and so on.

now something strange is happening in this case, I believe. If we really want to push the limits of absurdity here, we are going to conceptualize a robot that is not only physically impossible for us to build, but one that has an unnecessarily large capacity for destruction. I feel that a robot bigger than the distance between the Earth and the nearest star to us(other than our own), which is 4.3 lightyears by the way, is not necessarily better than a robot, say, 10,000 ft tall. let's imagine how this lightyear robot would destroy the Earth. it wouldn't just put the Earth in between its metalic fingers (if it's actually metalic - who knows what this guy would be built out of), it would be so much bigger that we would probably just collide against some insignificant part of its body without it knowing. not a very impressive way to destroy the Earth. But what about the 10,000 ft robot? It would rampage unstoppably through all countries with all of the cool rays and missles that it shoots. The nations would form an alliance against it, in vain of course, and be forced to watch as the world crumbles around them. That's pretty much as max as I can conceptualize a robot.

So here is my hypothesis: There must be some kind of situational max, as proposed, but the criteria for establishing this max must be numerous and account for absurd hypothetical situations that, while they may be 'bigger' in some sense, fail to efficiently or artistically deal with the matter at hand. More thinking needs to be done, but hopefully we can come to some kind of agreement in the near future.

Edgar Keats said...

Fuck you, Quilliam. Did you really have to post this right after my Keyboard Cat post? I look retarded in comparison.

OKAAAAAAAAAAAYGUYS said...

Professor Bromford, how modern of you to use a "blog" to publish your work rather than wait until our upcoming conference in Belize! Perhaps your ignominious drivel will pass muster in the intellectually-stunted strata of the blogosphere, but you seem to fear the rigorous critique of your colleagues! And with good reason, for this, Bromford, is shoddy work indeed. One would think you would have learned better at the Sorbonne - and under a scholar as venerable as Dr. Eisenhimmel! I can only imagine the old man's reaction: Sein Geist ist kindisch, seine Forschung ist schlampig, und ich verachte seine Seele!

Your analysis fails to grasp one key point: The question of infinity, which, if you had read your Theophile Kunegsteger, you would know as the "Heinzberger Paradox," applies not only to "taking it to the max," but also "taking it to the next level." If, as you argue, in the absence of a theoretical Dusseldorf point, "taking it to the max" presupposes a wholly impractical and indeed unimaginable infinitude, then why not "taking it to the next level" as well? If the max is undefinable, then how does one imagine the highest level? The Heinzberger Paradox, it would seem, ensnares both phrases.

Due to your stubborn and frankly, yellow-bellied refusal to provide your own definitive take on the matter, allow me to address the issue of which is the superior phrase. Should one prefer the max, or the next level? The difference, it seems to me, is that the former theorizes an endpoint, where as the latter is concerned with gradation, the means to an implied end. Where else is the next level taking us but to the max? Indeed, where else CAN it take us? According to my own visualization (which will have to remain at the level of the imagination, as I do not understand graphic imaging software), taking it to the max necessarily entails the traversal of many levels. How could this not be the more righteous phrase? We needn't bother ourselves with "situational maxes" (although, admittedly, this is one of the few moments of true insight in your otherwise mentally-bankrupt piece), but should rather content ourselves with the knowledge that in taking it to the max, we are effectively killing two experiential birds with one stone. The inverse, of course, does not prove true. One taking it to the next level certainly needn't be taking it to the max. And that, Harold, is the clincher.

Now if you will excuse me, I am going to take this conference abstract to the max. Hope all goes well bringing your slipshod work "up to the next level." You always were the academic hans wurst of our graduating class.

Yours,

Dr. Horatius Q. Prunefeather.

OKAAAAAAAAAAAYGUYS said...

For Brandon: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gM9EH3su2Zw

Jim Ryan said...

While infinity is a fun concept to play around with in regards to taking it to the max, it tends to eschew a very important concept known as physics. Now, unless dark matter is involved (and admittedly dark matter makes up 90% of the universe, and involving dark matter clearly disassociates our conversation from the laws of physics, but bear with me, i'm goin' somewhere here and I might need a sword), there is a physical limitation on most of human existence, no matter how unimaginable that limit is. So of course there is a 'situational' max, and that max is really the same as the physical limit. Oh yes, take it there, in the words of Don Henley "one more tiiiiiiiiiiime".

Defining the physical limit would take all day and more effort than its worth, so let's just say that its keyboard cat. The limit, robotic and otherwise, is keyboard cat.

Daves n' Davin' said...

It's really hard to read these comments with all this jizz on them. Can we save the lengthy intellectual masturbation sessions for actual response posts to the blog? It's not like we have a surfeit of posts. (Excluding Sean and Jim who can't post to the blog... I guess I'm really just trying to call you out, Matt, er, Prof Prunenutz or whatever your name is.

Quilliam said...

Don't think I've forgotten about you awful, awful people. I've merely been on sabbatical in Figi, and will return with the unflinching rebuttal this slop deserves.

-Dr. Bromford

OKAAAAAAAAAAAYGUYS said...

Dr. Prunefeather eagerly awaits your screed.

Edgar Keats said...

Whats this "Epic Mail?"

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