by WALTER BRASCH
In 1973, some friends and I went to the rooftop of our apartment building to watch Comet Kahoutek, touted by astronomers and the media as the comet of all comets. We were sure we'd see it since we had the requisite equipment--binoculars and beer.
But we didn't see the comet. Not that night nor the next night. What we did see was a lot of universe. And while we talked about the ungrateful comet that barely shone against a perfect sky, we explored a lot of questions about life, relationships, and our place in the universe. And we realized that no matter how egocentric we were, or how many kudos we earned from our peers, the universe must have a greater mission or reason for being than just to provide support for a few college students.
Growing up and working in Southern California, stars have been a part of my life. I could go to the Griffith Park and Mt. Palomar observatories; I could also hang around places where stars, near-stars, and pretend-stars walked, shopped, and ate.
Probably, that's why I have a number of concerns about stars that are light years away and stars that are as far away as a TV or movie screen.
I'm concerned about our planet's own star. Astrophysicists--the kind who actually know what warp speed means and why Scotty can't give Capt. Kirk any more power--have determined that the sun is five billion years old, and will burn out in another five billion years. I'm concerned that no one knows how to treat a star for mid-life crises.
And speaking of stars with mid-life crises, I wish the media would stop wasting ink and airtime about every 50s- or 60s-year-old male actor who dates a 20-something female? If they want to date someone who scratches her head when the name Paul McCartney comes up, and then, as if two brain cells connected, suddenly asks if McCartney wasn't that old guy in some band named Wings--well, that's their own business.