May 23, 2009

The Long Shot: What Do You See?

The Long Shot
My printed copy of Seed Magazine's web-only feature article "The Long Shot" signed by the author himself, Lee Billings.
"What do you see?"
It's great when someone asks you that question. Rorschach may disagree, or you may be unwilling to answer at all, like the captain of Icarus 2 in "Sunshine" who faced solar flares.
I just wanted to share what I saw after I read an article from Seed Magazine: The Long Shot by Lee Billings.
If you read the first and last sentence of that article, what do you see?
For me, I see two "long shots": One from the person searching for Earth-like worlds around Alpha Centauri, and the other from the visiting journalist.
"What I see" already began from the first sentence of that article. The descriptions of the scene made me close my eyes to see it all with my mind.
Why all this drama? Because it is my dream to visit all the great observatories and telescopes around the world. Just being there would have been part of the culmination of my long shot. Meeting actual planet-hunters would have made it sweeter.
Closely following and writing about the ongoing saga of the quest to answer "Are We Alone?" is another long shot. I've heard it said that there is no money in Journalism. But it is especially in this kind of topic that I learn that fact first-hand with this blog. People are fairly oblivious to what it means if we ever find life on other worlds. I've heard it so many times, "people just don't care". The public's attitude towards space exploration takes it's toll on the lack of funding for these kinds of projects. It is apparent in the struggle of Debra Fischer to keep the project afloat. I feel her description of "being in a sinking ship, throwing everything overboard just to keep moving forward".
However, for those who see something magnificent in the quest for knowledge about life on other worlds, it is well worth the ride. This is true also for those who are not directly involved in the actual frontier of Scientific endeavor, like me.
I am in it for a piece of the journey and adventure. And if stories are what the universe is made of, then I want to share in this particular story. I want to see through a planet-hunter's eyes, through their massive telescopes. I want to see the Milky Way from the mountaintops overlooking the domes and then feel the wind in my face gazing skyward.
To have a drink with someone who stood in that spot that I dream about, is to share in the joy of that experience. In my life, I've never really bothered much to look at the name of the author of an essay or article, but Lee changed all that as i've come to realize that journalists have that sense of adventure as well.
It is a great moment in history to be alive and to take part in the saga to answer perhaps Mankind's greatest question: Are we alone?
So if you happen to look up to the night sky from the mountaintops, please tell me, what do you see?