The Milky Way and the lighthouse
Here we stand on the shores of a cosmic ocean. This (or something pretty close) is from the first episode of Cosmos, that I watched as an entranced sleepy 14 year old, up very late to catch every last resonant image, every last amazing fact (Hypatia, how had I not known of thee? Voyager, small ships of knowledge, the ancestors of all chip bound explorers of the local seas), of that seminal awakening for many of my generation.
I am thrilled Neil deGrasse Tyson is doing a new version of Cosmos, a fitting heir to the magic of Carl Sagan. Phil Plait is blogging over at Slate these days, and I am delighted to see his audience increase. He, too is, an heir to Sagan – we need more popularisers of science, men and women who can convey the joy and passion of science.
I knew, at 14, there could be no higher calling than scientific pursuits – astronomy would be preferable, but that turned out to be because I had not met my true (career) love – computing. That was my homecoming. But my love of science, all the sciences, from the atomic and subatomic awe inspiring and mind boggling worlds (such brave new (tiny) worlds that have such wonders), to the macro, the Universe, or universes, dimensions and galaxies, of physics and astronomy and on (brave enormous worlds etc). Of the earth sciences, of biology, of technological sciences. Of the wonder of engineering, and again, back to my discipline – computer science – the field of dreams. If you build it he (/she/they) will come, indeed…
We take dreams, ideas, thoughts, and strive to create realities of software and hardware. We create futures. We think in art and colour and movement, of usage and layout and need. If you can think of a more satisfying career, good for you. I cannot, and I can never recommend it highly enough.
From a 14 year old girl having her heart ache with the wonder and beauty of knowledge to a 45 year old woman still prone to joy and wonder at it all, I owe Carl Sagan such a thank you – for he inspired me as he inspired so many others. He showed me possibilities, and I had to follow the trail thereon.
From the shores of the cosmic ocean to my small light of knowledge, all scientists strive to claim a little more land in H.G. Wells’ ‘sea of ignorance’, as he exhorts every generation take up its responsibility to reclaim more land from it. Doing my best, Mr Wells. Doing my best, Mr Sagan.