Hynes Convention Center, Boston, Massachusetts
Professor Grossman tilts up onto the tips of his toes and shifts his weight from one leg to the next.
It is a rough count. Peering over the room was not easy with the towering speakers blocking his view of the entire left side. He stands at the bottom of a set of steps that would soon lead him onto the makeshift stage, commonplace for a conference room as such, even if this hadn’t been expanded twice the normal size to meet demand for his talk. A technical glitch with the microphones gave him ample time to take in the audience, something he never did in his own lecture hall. He catches himself grinding his palms together.
“Thank you everyone for such a great day of talks. It’s amazing that we’ve been able to come together so quickly to discuss something of this magnitude.” The woman giving the introduction, Julie Graham, was a professor at the Institute of Food and Agriculture at the University of Florida. Her research on efficiency and renewable farming radically changed the orange industry, raising production above the 1.5 billion dollar mark while dropping environmental waste nearly 30%. Her talk earlier in the day revolved around the notion of a perfectly efficient crop capable of sustaining life indefinitely. Completely theoretical of course, but convincing otherwise. In fact, efficiency was the hot topic all day. If life is to persist, it would need to be packaged up in a box and sent floating alone into space. And it would need to be damn efficient.
She continues, “The goal of today is to discuss, and keep discussing as experts of our fields, to usher in a common solution that will preserve and persist human life long into the future. A fitting end to our day, we’ve invited our esteemed colleague, Professor John Grossman of MIT’s Institute for Astrophysics, who had the distinct privilege of announcing Antares collapse as voice for the global astronomer community.”
Before she could welcome him further, the room begins a healthy applause. John takes this as his cue. Head down, he walks up the stairs.
“Thank you Professor Graham.” His placement behind the microphone was perfect, just loud enough to project overtop of the dying applause. He exhales and lets the room do the same.
“We are researchers, educators, and behind that title, we are believers. Believers that the things that we work on and choose to study will prove useful and purposeful. We spend our hours, all of our hours, working on things that are supported by this single idea. Purpose. We read, we write, we speak, we repeat, all for purpose.”
“Now we are at a crossroad. There is a momentous thing that divides our future into two paths. In one direction, this thing takes all of that work and completely removes purpose. A path with no future, and whereby, no point. And in the other direction, the direction that I choose, is a path whose purpose weighs so heavy that we as a species may not be able to come together to even lift it. A purpose of monumental gravity.”
John pauses. The room didn’t need a science report. They had all seen the MIT lecture on the news, probably multiple times by now. Antares was real, a red supergiant 900 times the size of our sun, collapsed into a supernova, and it’s effects were coming. What they needed was a call to arms.
“It will be our purpose. We will carry it on our backs and feel it every step of every day. And that will be the sacrifice that we will give.”
[story mode] follow @lilwins, I’ll shout when the next bit is live.