Sometimes the daily work of living keeps me more than grounded. Buying groceries, washing dishes, doing the laundry, it’s all necessary work but it is definitely not exciting stuff and I’m certainly not passionate about any of it.
Yesterday I visited the Very Large Array about 20 minutes away. It was cold and snowing, but I showed up. To watch 28 telescopes moving in unison is pretty cool.
But the most moving moment was the most unexpected one. An old guy in a hard hat intercepted us as we finished the walking tour and asked if we wanted to know about the sundial near the visitor center. We said yes (albeit reluctantly, because I was cold) and walked over to the sundial installation.
Over the next 20 minutes, this very enthusiastic guy gave us a personal tour of the names carved into the posts. Turns out there are two Nobel prize winners, a bunch of US, European, and Australian scientists, as well as a few Chinese and one Greek name. He explained how the sundial worked and talked about his work a bit.
Turns out this nice old man is a scientist emeritus and former director of the VLA, Dr. W. Miller Goss. He is a one-man history of radio astronomy, and is currently co-writing two biographies of radioastronomers. When I asked if there was a history of the sundial and the names on it, his response was that his intern will be working on that this summer.
I want to be like Dr. Goss. 75 years old and he’s full of life, full of plans, and so passionate about exploration that he shows up on a cold Saturday and stands out in the snow waiting to talk science with anyone who walks by.
The weather ruined what Dr. Goss had arranged in advance: a chamber orchestra to play near the sundial. As we were talking, a lone cellist showed up wanting to take a picture near the sundial. It did make a nice image.
But that’s not the image I love from yesterday, it’s this one: the cellist and her instrument and Dr. Goss with his instrument.
Remember to look up at the stars, not down at your feet. Try to make sense of what you see and wonder about what makes the universe exist.