“Keep your baby eyes….on….”

In a letter dated 29th September 1947 wishing his friend, Otto Juliusburger, on his 80th birthday, Albert Einstein writes that “People like us….do not grow old.”

Why is this so? Because we “stand forever curious as children before the great puzzle in the midst of which we have been placed.”

We find this idea of seeing with childlike eyes — open, sincere, accepting, questioning, enquiring, and wondering — in a letter written  by the pioneering investigative journalist Lincoln Steffens. 

In this letter (one of the many gems in Dorie Lawson’s “Posterity: Letters of Great Americans to Their Children”) to his two-year old son, Pete, Lincoln (then about sixty) observes that, truth be told, “Nobody understands things as they are.”

He writes: “An educated mind is nothing but the God-given mind of a child after his parents’ and his grandparents’ generation have got through molding it.”

“We can’t help teaching you,” Lincoln writes, but cautions that “we are prone to teach you what we know.”

Lincoln then goes on to gift his son (and each of us) these profound words. “Remember we really don’t know anything. Keep your baby eyes (which are the eyes of genius) on….”

In “Camille Saint Saint-Saëns: A Life”, the biography of the legendary organist, composer, and conductor, Brian Rees quotes an observation made of Camille (at a certain point in his music career): “He knows everything, but lacks inexperience.”

Peace 😊

“Each one of you can change the world….”

Sometime in the late 1940s, a young lady wanted to pursue a doctoral program in Astronomy (or related areas) at Princeton University. The University was not admitting women at that time, and she went on to study at Cornell, and Georgetown Universities. 

On 31st May 2005, Princeton awarded the lady (then about 77 years old) an honorary doctorate, and wrote of her: “A childhood fascination with the motion of stars led her to a half-century career that has illuminated our view of the universe. Through meticulous observations, she revealed the presence of vast quantities of a mysterious, unseen substance called dark matter. Her research leaves us with the unsettling yet inspiring conclusion that all the familiar materials of our Earth and sun — hydrogen, oxygen, even gold and silver — are but minor players in a universe made mostly of matter we can barely fathom. Even when facing the skepticism of peers, her contagious enthusiasm and dedicated professionalism have made her a mentor and role model to many who follow the beacon of her example.”

Vera Rubin, by any account i can think of, was a class act. Unfazed by gender discrimination, and discouragement in her early days from peers, she went on to blaze a trail to the edge of the universe, and raise a family of 4 children (each of whom went on to earn doctorates and become scientists) with her scientist husband.

Her husband for 60 years (till his passing), Robert Rubin, it is reported, “arranged his life so his wife….could travel for research and to use telescopes in the United States and Chile.”

Addressing the graduating Class of 1996 (“Bright Galaxies, Dark Matters”) at the University of California, Berkeley, she spoke of the incredible privilege life is. “You drank the milk, the carbon atom entered your bloodstream, traveled to your brain, displaced a carbon atom, and took part in the thought process permitting you to pass your final exam. So without that single carbon atom, made in some star billions of years ago, you might have failed to receive your diploma today. See how lucky you have been?”

For those who aspired to be scientists, she had words that apply to any of us. “Don’t give up. Science is hard and demanding, but each of you must believe that you can succeed. It may seem unlikely tonight, but there is not one among you who cannot make important, major contributions to the world of science. At my commencement on May 17, 48 years ago, the probability that I would be addressing you tonight surely was zero.”

She then offered her hopes for the young audience. “I hope that you will fight injustice and discrimination in all its guises. I hope you will value diversity among your friends, among your colleagues….I hope that when you are in charge, you will do better than my generation has.”

She ended with this incredible line:

“Each one of you can change the world, for you are made of star stuff, and you are connected to the universe.”

Peace 😊

“The vastness of the universe — and love, the thing that makes the vastness bearable….”

A few days ago, NASA published an update on the Great Red Spot, a storm that is seen as a speck over Jupiter.

The Hubble Space Telescope relayed images indicating that the storm is now about 9,800 miles long — “big enough to swallow Earth”, NASA tells us, and based on “telescopic observations dating back to 1930”, it is shrinking. Some believe that the storm has been in existence for over 300 years!

In an October 2019 Scientific American piece titled “How Mere Humans Manage to Comprehend the Vastness of the Universe”, Sophie Evans quotes the Princeton University Astronomer Robert Lupton: “We are “blinded by being human when we look at something larger than the human experience.”

In “Cosmos: Possible Worlds”, the sequel to Carl Sagan’s “Cosmos”, his companion Ann Druyan writes that “The vastness of the universe — and love, the thing that makes the vastness bearable — is out of reach to the arrogant.” She goes on: “If the series of pilgrimages toward understanding our actual circumstances in the universe, the origin of life, and the laws of nature are not spiritual quests, then I don’t know what could be.” 

Peace 😊