Only by doing the best we can with the very best that an era offers, do we find the way to do better in the future.
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I know perfectly well that at this moment the whole universe is listening to us," Jean Giraudoux wrote in The Madwoman of Chaillot, "and that every word we say echoes to the remotest star."That poetic paranoia is a perfect description of what the Sun, as a gravitational lens, could do for the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence.
To use Newton's words, our efforts up till this moment have but turned over a pebble or shell here and there on the beach, with only a forlorn hope that under one of them was the gem we were seeking. Now we have the sieve, the minds, the hands, the time, and, particularly, the dedication to find those gems-no matter in which favorite hiding place the children of distant worlds have placed them.
Forty years as an astronomer have not quelled my enthusiasm for lying outside after dark, staring up at the stars. It isn't only the beauty of the night sky that thrills me. It's the sense I have that some of those points of light are the home stars of beings not so different from us, daily cares and all, who look across space with wonder, just as we do.
From Einstein to da Vinci: The Many Faces of Genius
25 December 2022
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