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Data de entrada: 15 de nov. de 2022

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Afloodofideascamerushingin.Ididnotknowwhattoexpressfirst.Onmyveryfirstday,Ihaddiscoveredacolleagueinterestedincatastrophetheory,myownspecialtywithinthemathematicsofsingularities.Schlimmercouldbecomemygatewayintothemainlineofmathematicalcosmology.HehadworkedatPrinceton,homeofsomeofthecentury’sgreatestcosmologists.IstutteredasIexplainedthatourresearchpassionsoverlapped.Helookedatmewithsurprise,asifjustdiscoveringIwasthere.Hesmiledhisbig,charmingsmile.Youshouldjoinourseminar,hesaid,droppinghiscigaretteandsnuffingitwithhisshoe.Ahandfulofprofessorsacrossdisciplinesandatdifferentstagesoftheircareerswouldpresentasynopsisoftheirresearchinterests.ThepaneltookplaceintheUniversityofPugetSound’sMemorialFieldhousewherethebasketballgameswereplayed.Athousandstudentswaitedinfoldingchairssetuponabrownplastictarptoprotecttheshinyfloorfromscratches.Asmentionedabove,myparticularresearchfocusedonthemathematicalstructureofthecosmicmicrowavebackground,thelightthathadbeenreleasedintheexplosionoftheuniverse’sbeginning.Myplanforthepanelwastosketchoutsomeofthecurrentapproachestotheradiationandindicatemyownparticularhypothesis.DoloresMaro,fromtheClassicsDepartment,startedusoff.Stoopedforwardslightly,shewaitedatthepodiumuntilhercharismaquietedthelastoftherestlessstudents.Shebeganbyclearingherthroat,thenfilledtheroomwithavoicepowerfulenoughtoreachalargecrowdevenwithoutelectronicamplification.ProfessorMarodescribedthechallengeoftranslatingthewordsofancientGreekpoetssuchasHesiodintomodernEnglish.AtranslatorneededtopenetrateintoHesiod’smindinordertounderstandwhathemeantwhenhewroteofprimallightorotherrealities.AsuccessfultranslationawokethesamefeelingsinacontemporaryhumanthatHesiodawokeinhisfellowGreeksthreemillenniaago.Hesioddepictedprimallightasdivine,butsuchdesignationswerenolongerviableinthemodernworldwithitscertaintythatnoGreekdivinitiesinhabittheuniverse.Tosaytothemodernmindthatlightisdivineistosaynothingatall.MaroconcludedthatHesiod’sbeautifulpoemlivedinarealmbeyondthecapacitiesofthemodernindustrialmindwithitsmaterialistfixations.Shesummarizedherpointbysaying,ToaskacontemporaryhumantounderstandHesiodwouldbelikeaskingananttolearncalculus.Afterthisgloomyconclusion,withahandfulofstudentsclappingpolitely,JeffreyBlandfromtheDepartmentofChemistrytookoverandenlivenedthebasketballgymnasiumwithhisextravagantclaimsconcerningthebenefitsofwhathecalledorthomolecularmedicine.ButIwastoomesmerizedbyDoloresMaro’sremarkstolisten.BothbywhatshehadsaidconcerningHesiod’sconcernwithprimallight,andbywhatshehadsaidconcerningtheshrunkenmodernmind.ThoughIhadbeenreadytodescribeseveralmathematicalapproachestothesingularitiesassociatedwiththecosmicmicrowavebackground,ProfessorMaro’stalkhadconjuredsomethingnewinme.Afeeling,anexcitement.Iexplainedthatscientistshadbeenstudyingthislightforfourteenyearssinceitsdiscoveryin1964byArnoPenziasandRobertWilsonworkingatBellLabsinHolmdel,NewJersey.Nowthatweknewhowtolook,wecouldexaminethisprimordiallightoftheuniverseasitlandedonEarth.Wehadlearnedtodecipheritssignalssowecouldpiecetheinformationtogetherlikearcheologistsreassemblingstoneshardsintothestatuesthatoncegracedthepalacesofancientcivilizations.Buttherewasadifference.Withus,theshardswerenotbitsofmarblebutwavesoflightfromthebeginningoftime.IbecamemoreexuberantasIspoke.Iimaginedmyselfoutthereintheirmidst,hearingallthisforthefirsttime.Itisastonishing,Isaid.Thislighthasbeentravelingtowardusforbillionsofyears,andnow,forthefirsttimeinhumanhistory,wecanseeitasitarrivesfreshly,hereonEarth,afterthislong,longjourney.Itisrighthereinthisgymnasium.Wearebathedinit,momentbymoment.Ifyoucupyourhandstogetherasifgettingwaterfromastream,approximatelyseventhousandphotonsoflightfromthedawnoftimepassthroughthespacebetweenthepalmsofyourhandseachinstant.Doyouseewhatthismeans?Weareinphysicalcontactwiththeveryoriginoftheuniverse.I’mnotmakingthisup.It’sempiricallyverified.Wearethefirsthumansinthehistoryoftheworldtoknowhowtheuniversestarted.ThosephotonsoflightlefttheoriginandroaredthroughgalaxyaftergalaxyandtrillionsofstarsandonandonbeforefinallyreachingEarth.Theprimallightisrighthere.That’swhatwe’restudying.Thiswasmyfirstpublictalk.Ihadtaughtmathematicsclassesasagradstudent,butIhadneverstoodinfrontofsomanypeopleinmylife.WitheachsentenceIhadgrownmoreexcited,certainthestudentswouldbejustasthrilledasIwas.ButthesilencethatgreetedmewhenIfinishedshowedtheyweren’t.Itwassosurprising.WhenIgothalfwayback,theapplausebegan.Asitrolledforwardtothestage,IsatdownnexttoProfessorMaro.Itriedtopickuptheicewater.Myrighthandwasshaking.Iusedbothhandstocarrytheglasstomylips.Waterspilleddownmycheek.DoloresMaroturnedtome.Wasthatanactofcunningorconfusion?Shetouchedhernosewithherindexfinger.Pardonme?Yourmetanarrative,shesaid.Mywhat?Scienceüberalles.WasitmyreferencetoHesiod’sprimallightthatignitedyourattack?Iwasstunnedspeechless.Ihadnoideawhatshewastalkingabout.ForthelastsixyearsIhadbeenburiedinmathematicalequationssurroundedbyprofessorsandgraduatestudentswholivedinsidethemathematics.Wehadsocialgatherings,yes,buteventhenthesamesmallgroupsformedandquicklysankintoafestivalofmathematicalideas.NoonehadeverconversedwithmeusingthetermsProfessorMarohadspoken.Therewerenohardfeelingsonherpart.Shepattedthebackofmyhandandsmiled.Weshouldhaveaconversation,shesaid.