Tuesday, October 03, 2006

I offer thanks to those before me

My grandfather called me this past weekend while I was flying this way and that. He rarely calls, and ever since his heart attack a few years ago, the sound of his voice yelling at my answering machine makes me a bit anxious. The bro-seph later informed me that my grandfather was just calling for kicks. It is a strange thing. My grandfather is a bit of a chauvinist and certainly has more than a little disdain for my choices in life, yet when I hear his severe voice, I understand what it means to love someone unconditionally. And even though I do not agree with my grandfather's politics or favorite topics for lecturing his granddaughters, I am stamped with his imprint forever. Last week, I was agitated at the thought that everything I write appears to be derivative of someone else's work. Everything this week points to the universality of influence and echoes.

If you do not believe me, delve a little deeper into the story of today's winners of the Nobel Prize in Physics. Mather and Smoot did not win the prize by unearthing that low-levels of background radiation could lend credence to the Big Bang theory. In fact, a Nobel was awarded in 1978 to other scientists for that. Today's winners were recognized for building COBE, which further quantifies and analyzes that background radiation.

To your average physics-impaired moron (i.e. me), there is still so much to admire about this. First, it is a beautiful example of how we build, we refine, we inch closer to the truth with each successive generation. We climb onto the shoulders of those who came before us to reach for the stars.

Second, more abstract, is the echo. The idea that reverberations of the Big Bang are still clattering about the universe is mystifying. All that background noise we take for granted could all be hints, all be the dying gasps of our initial births. It makes me think of living up to expectations, something I typically rail against. I like to think that I need answer to no one, that I need live up to no one's expectations. But then there are the people that came before me, my grandfather, and even so many before that. So many people easily mistaken for static. I need to pay more attention to silence.

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