29 September 2009

My heroes

If I were to compile a list of every person I admire, well, we'd be here for a while. That list would be about 70% scientist, 20% orators and politicians and 10% revolutionaries (in which I include civil rights leaders). Approximately 60% would be deceased.

Of those living, I have occasionally done the 'fangirl' thing and sent off an email or letter (or even a tweet) to let that person know how they have affected my life and/or my outlook on the world. I don't expect to get replies from everybody. I'm sure President Obama has many other things to do than answer a letter from a non-politically motivated girl who just called to say I love you (that's going to be in my head the rest of the day...yay). Ditto on Richard Dawkins who is one of the most celebrated and most notorious scientists of his time. Some, are particular heroes only to me, but that doesn't change the thrill I get when one of the Smart Bitches takes time out of her round of balls and carriage rides to deign to email me.

And then there's the middle echelon: PZ Myers, Phil Plait, Wil Wheaton. This is by no means exhaustive, but I chose those three names because they all have something in common: at some point in the last three months I have reached out to each. In two cases it was to mention how much I loved their respective books. In two cases it was to ask questions about things they had said or that I did not understand. Yes, there is overlap, because I reached out to one fellow twice and he was gracious enough to reach back.

I sent Dr. Phil Plait and email about three weeks ago to ask him my questions about his book. Within 24 hours I had a response in detail about what I had asked as well as a nice note about my review. The amount of squeeling that resulted from this email could be heard clear across the country. The other day, when I decided to drop my MA and go back for my BSc in Physics so I could go into astronomy, I sent him a joking tweet:

@BadAstronomer Left current MA for BSc in astronomy. Four years of school down the tube. You can expect an angry phone call from my parents.

and lo and behold...

BadAstronomer @nerdheroine Just send them a copy of my book. They'll understand why you switched. And congrats!

I know it doesn't seem like much. But Phil Plait - Phil Plait with a Discover blog, chair of the JREF - Phil Plait took time out from his schedule to encourage me. I am and adult and I know my own hopes and my own dreams.

And yet it means so much when someone you admire takes a moment to ackowledge you exist.

Thank you Dr Plait.

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