A brief introduction

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Given the nature of this class, I suppose I should start with the most obvious answer: "I don't know". It's an answer to every question which has plagued me my entire life. At times it sounded more like "eye-unno" or something even less intelligible, but I have always come back to the response, "I don't know".

—What would you like for breakfast?
—I don't know.
—Ninth Doctor or Eleventh?
—I don't know.
—Why astrophysics?
—Astronomy, not astrophysics, and I don't know.

Notice a pattern? I honestly don't know why astrophysics. Why study this particular aspect of the universe? In my youth I went through the entire list: astronaut, palaeontologist, novelist, mechanical engineer, photographer, psychiatrist, FBI agent, then finally astronomer. Seems to have come full circle from the child who wanted to travel to the stars to the young adult who wants to study them. Never ignore a coincidence, so I can say with some certainty that my interest did not begin with John. I can call him that now that he's gone. Never quite managed it while he was here. Or at least, that's what I would like to convince myself. I'd like to tell myself the only thing I took from him is my insistence on calling myself an astronomer.

Whatever I got from him, our friendship brought me to the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, where I would take in other astronomers' posters. And finally, I went back this past summer for a SURF and now I'll be making my own poster. And the topic of that poster? "I don't know." "I don't have the source statistics to solve this problem, but if I did, this is how I would try." I can't even pretend to understand all of what I studied. The Incidence of AGN in Galaxy Groups? Please. Give me a break. I worked on that project; devoted 3 months of my every waking moment to it. Yet I have to admit I can hardly explain to my mother what an active galactic nucleus is. But I can finally say, I have the answer to the question. Which question? Every question:
"I don't know, but I'm willing to find out"

4 Responses to A brief introduction

  1. Whooops, I posted a comment earlier and it didn't go through cause I didn't fill in the human-verification bit.

    This is wonderful! So I'm curious... how WOULD you explain AGN to your mother? When I explained my research (on space dust) to my mom, her reaction was, "So why is the government paying you to do this?"

  2. You forgot to mention a Marine wannabe! Also, what are AGNs again? Every time you explained this summer, I had a brain freeze! You know that I'm not a Science person right?

  3. Some day, yes some day, your Dimma and I will understand AGN.
    Your piece is brilliantly written but there are still ignorant persons who will have to educate themselves to comprehend.

  4. What happened to "poet" in the list of careers considered and discarded? Well, I guess there's poetry enough among the stars ...
    Ambrosia Goes Nuclear
    Actively seeking Great Networks
    Of stars to light up in the sky
    Could she spread life far and yonder?
    Life? What is it but A Great Nuisance

    I'll quit before I embarrass you too much. But one final word ... I love y our slogan. It will serve you well.