Let There Be Light
December 5, 2013
Last century (is it so long ago now, I still miss you every day) a friend mine invited me around to his place for dinner. He'd been feeling a bit down over a messy personal break up, so I was more than happy to give him some company to try and cheer him up.
Over drinks he asked me what I had been reading and I started telling him about the Smoot-Davidson book 'Wrinkles in Time' and the cosmic background radiation map. My friend said to me he didn't think he could ever understand any physics, but asked me to try. After say around five minutes of explaining the best way my untrained brain could, he told me to stop.
I asked if I had over complicated things for him. He smiled and reassured me that I hadn't. In fact, I had made something crystal clear to him. He reached for his music collection, saying something like 'Here's a brand new album you should hear...' and took out Mike Oldfield's music for Arthur C Clarke's 'The Songs Of Distant Earth'.
He said 'I probably wouldn't have understood you if I had not just been listening to this' and we then listened to the opening track together. He said to me afterwards 'You know how some of the old old tales generally have some sort of Truth hidden? Well, I guess I've got to start to wonder now...'. I smiled as I realised that in his own way, he was being sceptical.
Some time not long after this, my friend's depression deepened to an extent that he is no longer with us. The discussion of the COBE map was one of the last long conversations I had with my friend. I cannot begin to explain how the image changed my life, it's near impossible for me to be objective enough. But it is enough for me to know that my life changed from that year on.
I miss you my dear friend, but I am glad I have the COBE's map, Oldfield's music and Clarke's novel to remember you by. To this day, nearly twenty years later, when I look at the map or think of Oldfield or Clarke, I can still see my your lightbulb moment, realising you aren't as stupid as you had been lead to believe.
An asteroid or comet headed for Earth is the only large-scale natural disaster we can prevent. Working together to fund our Shoemaker NEO Grants for astronomers, we can help save the world.