Recently I’ve been bitching about the hot weather, which admittedly is selfish, as New York City hasn’t had anything close to what the western and central United States have been experiencing. But I’ve always preferred cool to hot, so even our recent heat wave has left me feeling like wilted lettuce.
By the way, there is no official definition for a “heat wave” among meteorologists, but in the northeastern U.S. it is generally agreed that three consecutive days with high temperature of 90°F or above is a heat wave. In Phoenix they call that “May.”
Anyway, I was in the grocery store a few weeks ago when I noticed that the background music was a song by the Beach Boys, one of their classic odes to young love and Summer days at the beach. As I browsed the shelves my thoughts turned to some of the dire predictions I’ve read about global warming: increasing temperatures making Summer heat deadly and rising sea levels causing coastal flooding. The future doesn’t look good for beaches. It doesn’t look good for Summer, either. Meanwhile, California burns.
I spent the last week of May doing something very cool: volunteering at the World Science Festival. And by “cool” I mean getting up close and personal with squid guts.
First up was a lecture by Ellen Stofan, NASA Chief Scientist. Did you know that the Chief Scientist at NASA is a woman? Neither did I. In one way I think that’s terrific; in another way I hope we’re getting past the “oh my gosh it’s a woman” phase and can just focus on her long fascination with space and science.
We have something in common, Dr. Stofan and me: we inherited our interest in science from our parents. In Stofan’s case it was her father, who worked for NASA during its early days; in my case it was my Mom, who was fascinated by the space program and watched every liftoff and splashdown on TV. To me it was as natural as watching a favorite TV series or sports team.
In third grade our teacher thought it would be a good idea to watch an early (pre-moon landing) Apollo liftoff during class time. When a boy in my class expressed amazement at watching a liftoff for the first time, I replied, “But they’re on all the time!” In my house, they were; not everyone had the same experience.
So, really, it’s because of Mom that I was sitting in a cafe at the New School, watching the live stream of Dr. Stofan’s talk from the packed auditorium nearby. The audience was an invited group of high school and middle school students from around New York City whom we’d checked in as they arrived. (I particularly remember a Summer program called “Mathematical Problem Solving”–because that’s so much better than solving problems with guess-work and wishful thinking?)