“There’s a starman waiting in the sky
He’d like to come and meet us
But he think’s he’ll blow our minds”
– David Bowie, “Starman”
This song not only encapsulates my love for astrobiology, but science in general. I feel as though the truths of the universe are starmen waiting for us to be ready to meet them. And science, science is how we prove to them we’re ready. Long hours of diligent thought, precise actions, measured calculations. Am I romanticizing the pursuit of science? Most certainly. But I would argue science is one of the most magical of human endeavors and is worthy of such romanticiziation.
If you will indulge me one further soliloquy before entering into the technical aspects of my work, I would appreciate it. The prior knowledge needed to contribute to any given field in the 21st century would be mind-blowing to a 19th century scientist. Obviously, this is a clear indication of the progress humanity has made, but I have the growing suspicion that their is a downside to this progression. The modern early-career scientist is to bogged down in getting up to speed and defining their niche of expertise, that it is very easy to lose the awe and wonder that gets us into science. The citations, papers, awards, and grants block people from thinking far into the future. The consequence being a shift away from the big questions. I think we should take care to cradle that inner child that asks the grand questions. Of course, I say this as someone who has yet to be devoured by the academic fires of graduate school and post-doc-dom. Maybe, this will all be rubbish to in 10 years, but I hope not.