As the new year approaches I tend to reflect some, as most folks do, on Past, Present and Future. In truth, I'm likely too reflective on a constant basis, perhaps part of the hard-wired nature of The Writer in My Head.
Given the purely tentative and fragile essence of Life itself, I confess to some surprise to still be a living creature here on this wee speck of a planet in an infinite Universe. Existence for more than a handful of decades defies the odds. Perhaps it is that I have felt as if I were an Old Soul since I was but a young boy. Now that I am far beyond young boyhood, the passage of Time perplexes me far more than ever.
This fading year, 2012, is one where I have realized I am aging to the point of cultural irrelevance, a fact which was driven deep into my thoughts rather too often for comfort. My time here has straddled two centuries, and the changes in how life is lived are radical and spectacular. A great many of the changes were expected, yet many more were not. (Not that such a state is uniquely mine.)
And there's the simple fact that the time which has passed in my life is now greater than the time which is ahead and yet to be lived. Spooky.
The year I was born, Time magazine proclaimed that the "Men of the Year" were Scientists. Scientists.
Every day, new and startling discoveries are made about our world and how we manipulate it and use it and attempt to understand it. Sadly, this year, the dubious wisdom of the Tennessee state legislature decided that Science was a collection of random theories which were to be challenged and doubted by American grade school and high school students.
Not that Science solves any and every problem, but the vast wealth of possibility and discovery has apparently been dismissed as if they were mere Superstitions while Superstition is now heralded as a beacon of Truth.
The men who were singled out in 1960 helped to create so many of the innovations which shape life today via technology and medicine, and much more, and hundreds of other inventors and innovators built on their ideas:
George Beadle, geneticist, Charles Draper, designer of the Apollo Guidance Computer, John Enders, "Father of Modern Vaccines", Donald A. Glaser, particle physicist, Joshua Lederberg, artificial intelligence and genetics, Willard Libby, chemistry, Linus Pauling, quantum chemistry and molecular biology, Edward Purcell, magnetic resonance creator and physicist, Isidor Rabi, physicist and microwave developer, Emilio Segrè, physicist, William Shockley, "Father of Silicon Valley". Edward Teller, physicist, inspiration for "Dr. Strangelove", Charles Townes, quantum electronics, James Van Allen, nuclear and astrophysicist, and Robert Woodward, organic chemist.
I often think that it will be the children who have been born in the last few or next few years who will provide the next major shift in how life on our planet is lived -- and I confess that I most selfishly want to live as long as possible just so I can be alive as our wee planet makes another monumental stride into and beyond the realms of possibility.