Institute for Astrophysics, MIT, Cambridge, Massachusetts
John walks to the podium in front of the lecture hall before looking up to access his audience. It’s his ritual, seeded in the belief that one day he’d look up and there would be no one there. That would be his last day as an adjunct professor at MIT.
Today would not be that day. His class had tripled in size since he suspended lectures three weeks ago. His course “Antares and Supergiants” needed a complete rework since the announcement. His students would want to know what was happening, and the global astronomer’s community decided to collectively “pause” the dissemination of information until all research, findings, and theories could be discussed internally. John is one of the 112 astronomers and scholars invited to the private listserv, his 10-year study on star life cycles and supergiants a major input to that discussion.
“My name is Adjunct Professor John Grossman. As you may have heard, today’s lecture marks the start of public discussion about our current situation. The global astronomer community has lifted it’s quiet period. We are both fortunate and honored that the community has chosen MIT’s Institute for Astrophysics as a hub for this conversation.”
The room breaks out in applause, lifting John’s attention from his cue cards. The university frowned on students recording lectures, addressing the issue two years ago in the student handbook. Yet here was John addressing the backs of 1000 cell phones. The gravity hits him. This is bigger than MIT or it’s handbook. Within a few hours, his voice would be global.
“As all conversations should begin, I will present the facts and out findings over the past twenty-two days. The star Antares has collapsed from a red supergiant into a hypernova. Collectively our research and observation confirms this as fact. Our conversation starts around the possible implications to our solar system. Some believe the star, located 470 light years from Earth, presents no significant danger to our system. Others theorize significant damage to our satellites due to gamma radiation that will render global positioning and most modern communications useless. Finally, there is a significant portion of the global community, more than 2/3rds, that believe this event will have catastrophic consequences ranging from the complete removal of our atmosphere to the devastation equivalent of 1 million atomic bombs. Myself and my colleagues at MIT fall into this later group, and we believe the Earth’s clock is now set to complete in approximately 3400 days, or just under 10 years.”
No applause at this pause, just a hell of a lot of cellphones.