Then the Sky Opened in My Head!
December 23, 2016
When I was in the first grade, my godfather sent me a copy of Nature's Little Golden Book of Stars for my birthday. It was above my grade level, but I was fascinated by it. I looked up all the hard words in either the dictionary or the Encyclopedia Britannica (or both, several times) until I understood them all and I read it over and over and over! It changed my life. I fell in love with the universe; with space!
It expanded my world literally billions of times both in space and time. I immediately wanted to become an astronomer when I grew up. The science in it was superceded by later discoveries, but that merely emphasized to me that science deals with reality and conclusions change when new discoveries are made. Over the years my goal metamorphosed into astrophysics then physics. In college, it turned out I was a lousey experimentalist, but even though I changed my major, and eventually became a software engineer, I remained an enthusiastic follower of science and a supporter of the scientific way of thought (which was helpful in my career).
I am a devotee of reality and discovering what it is to the best of my ability and I am not afraid of changing my mind when I get new data. On the one hand, I actually mourned when it turned out the universe might be finite in space and time when the Big Bang was discovered, but on the other hand, when I found that people were not as I thought, I was able to let them be as they were and not cling to my incorrect previous impressions.
I will always cherish that small book that changed my worldview so incredibly when I was about 6 years old.
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.