“… to boldly go where no one has gone before.”
–Captain Jean-Luc Picard, in opening credits to Star Trek: The Next Generation
When I was a junior in high school, all my classmates were discussing their college ambitions and preparing their college applications. This one wanted to be a lawyer, that one a doctor, the other one an engineer, and on and on and on… Everyone was so excited, but me. I had no clue what I wanted to study, let alone what I wanted to be. But I knew I should go to college. After all, our teachers had always reinforced that. But they never said what we should do once we got there. I had transitioned from being an underachiever to an overachiever (that’s a whole other story) and was doing well in all my classes, even science (which I had always thought sucked.). The only subject I enjoyed on some level was math.
One day, I came home from school and my brother started talking about his college physics class. He was talking about the twin paradox, the fact that you can’t go faster than the speed of light, and other relativistic phenomena. Well, that piqued my interest and I now had it in my head that physics was a kind of cool subject. Then he told me that our uncle, who had recently passed away and who we had revered, was also into physics (to this day, as I write this, I still have his copy of a certain physics book on my bookshelf.). Very intriguing, I thought, but… meh. Then one day I saw my brother watching something I’d never seen him watch before on TV. “What are you watching?” I asked. “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” he said. “Umm… Why?” I said. We were big Star Wars fans, and sci-fi fans in general, but I was never into Star Trek. It wasn’t as cool as Star Wars. “It’s cool, come watch it with me,” he said. “It is?” I thought. Well, I had nothing better to do so I figured why not. Sure enough, it was pretty cool. “What’s warp speed and how does it work; I thought they couldn’t go faster than the speed of light anyway?” I asked. “Well, technically, they’re not going faster, but they are,” he said. “Huh?” I thought. Before you knew it, we were watching it every week talking about all the cool stuff we saw on the show. I was hooked. I realize now why I enjoyed watching Star Trek so much: it was the added bonus of bonding with my brother – we were just hanging out. From that point on, I wanted to be a physicist. If not because of all the cool things I saw on that TV show with my brother, then only because I knew he’d give me the ultimate props – a big part of it all was about making him proud. Thank you Louis.