What Inspired Everyday Einstein to Study Science? (Part 4)
All this month, I've been celebrating the 100th episode of Everyday Einstein by looking back at some of the things that most influenced my interest in science. Today I wrap things up with a nostalgic look at Star Trek.
Star Trek is probably on most science geeks' lists of most influential TV shows. When I was little, I watched a lot of Star Trek. The original series was pretty interesting, but as I got older it was The Next Generation that really caught my interest. (Deep Space 9 is my favorite as an adult, but that's more for its excellent writing than for its scientific plausibility).
So much of what happened on that show seemed like it was just a few steps away from reality. As if I really could build a warpdrive or a phaser and use them to explore the galaxy. Watching Star Trek and dreaming about building my own spaceship prompted me to do something crazy and write a letter to NASA asking for more information about the space program. I was sure that with just a little more info, I could build my own ship.
I can't remember who I wrote to, but NASA responded with a huge envelope full of information on the history of the space program, schematics of different ships, profiles of astronaughts, and all kinds of cool things. I'm sure that this was all part of the standard educational handout for kids that someone had developed, but to a young kid dreaming about space, it was like NASA had personally inducted me into a secret club. This isn't the kind of feeling you can replicate using an impersonal, educational website. This was real stuff I was holding.
Again, it's always a bit ironic to me that I ended up getting a PhD in genetics rather than anything that has to do with space travel, phasers, or other Star Treky sort of things. But it was Star Trek that prompted me to write to NASA, and their response that showed me just how cool science could be.