Nicholas Goldberg: Can scientists moonlight as activists — or does that violate an important ethical code?
It’s a question that has fascinated me for a few decades now. When you look up into the sky, do you see an airplane or a meteor or a satellite?
That’s what people do when they are looking for something to do. They look up, and if they see something that looks like a satellite, they know it is a satellite; it is not a plane, because planes don’t fly up into the sky to land. This means that all we have that can be seen up in the sky on clear nights is satellites.
Most of the time, we have airplanes, but that’s because we don’t live in the countryside or we don’t work at night. We live in urban areas, and we work at night.
And that is true of all of the major industrialized nations, because there are so many people working at night and so few airplanes are flying up into the sky from those cities.
But I’ve just started taking my turn at the wheel of a car, and my brother’s driving me to work [that day, or at the beginning of every workday]. He drove me through the city to the gas station, I looked out the back window and saw a flying saucer on its side, and I started to worry. I started to worry not because I could not see it: I could see it on better nights than we had — because I was watching the big city lights of New York, Washington, DC and Baltimore.
When I get back home, I’m thinking, maybe it was a meteor. Maybe it was a piece of space junk that hit the Earth. Nobody saw the thing, and nobody knows what it looked like.
It might be a piece of space junk that hit the Earth. [laughs] The question is: Would you like to believe it was a piece of space junk that hit the Earth?