My earliest memories are pretty hazy, but one thing stands out – a large coffee-table book of photographs taken of Earth from the Space Shuttle. I don’t remember the name of the astronaut who took these photos, but I still have a newer version of that book by a different astronaut.
I had a lot of educational books as a kid. One of them was a well-illustrated book about the age of exploration over a thousand years, from Leif Ericsson to Roald Amundsen. I consumed the hell out of that book. That, plus other science books, plus a hefty dose of Star Wars, probably contributed to my present interest in space exploration. But the final nail was from Dr. Robert Zubrin, with his books The Case for Mars and Entering Space. In the first book, he talked about why settling Mars is necessary, and provided a plan to go there and stay. In the latter, he provided a more big-picture argument about how humanity’s long-term survival depends on its willingness and ability to control the resources of the solar system and beyond. To my fifteen-year old self, he was very persuasive.
Although I can work many hours behind a desk, I’m not content with just that. I need to know what’s out there, and to help humanity become a multi-planetary species. It’s how I give my life meaning – to do the seemingly impossible, and to contribute to humanity’s progress. I’d be depressed and bored out of my skull otherwise. Those who know me well know first of all that I’m a contrarian – I love to prove people wrong. If someone tells me I can’t do something, my first reaction is to try to figure out a way to do it. I’m not always successful at that, but the psychological reward of actually trying and succeeding sometimes is more than enough to make up for all the failures. Reality is a hard master, but it’s great to kick it in the nuts every now and then.
One person (who doesn’t really know me) has told me it comes from my ego. But if it was true, I would have gone into banking instead and screwed people out from their money. Or maybe become a meth cook and make millions from people’s despair and addiction (showing how much of a Breaking Bad fan I am, hehe). In any case, I doubt a solely egotistical person would spend years learning really hard material, only to use it to further our understanding of the universe. There are so many easier ways to obtain ego-rewards in our society. Physics has a way of humbling a person.
But how, as a deaf person, can I achieve that dream? I’ll talk about that in the next post.