The night that changed my life began like any other. I was at a dinner party at my co-worker Melanie’s place when I mentioned that I hadn’t yet seen The Martian. My co-worker’s brother, Brian, was shocked. How is this possible? his face inquired. How could someone not want to see The Martian? “Me?” I said, taking a coy sip of my Pinot noir. “I’m not really into space. I like Earth just fine.”
And in one single moment, Brian went from “the Brian from the dinner party” to “the Brian who introduced me to space.”
“When you really think about it, space is infinite,” said Brian, two inches away from my face. “It’s like, really really fucking big. And we’re all just tiny little specks, floating in the endless void.”
Wait, what? Why hadn’t anybody told me about this?
As a 32-year-old woman with a master’s degree and a full-time job, I had never taken the time to really think about space. I mean, I’ve taken my niece to the planetarium three times, and I wrote my senior thesis on the Apollo 11 mission but I was barely scratching the surface of this infinite realm. Thanks to Brian (and fate, I suppose), I got a chance to really consider space.
Brian had a really fascinating point: Space is so, like, big. Like, SO big. “It’s the final frontier,” he said. I had never thought about it that way.
Brian is from Philadelphia. I’d never even been to Philadelphia. This guy was a truly next-level explorer, pushing the boundaries of where human life can exist.
I was too captivated by Brian to do anything but hang on his every word. He painted jarring, gorgeous imagery to help me wrap my brain around the scope of space. It went like this:
Close your eyes and think about the United States. It’s big, right? Really big. Now think about the Earth. Even bigger, right? (Mind was already blown at this point, btw.) Okay, now after Earth comes how long it takes to get to Mars—“Which you would get if you’d seen The Martian,” Brian interjected, “But whatever.” Okay. Now think about how HUMUNGOUS the galaxy is. Pretty gigantic now that you actually think about it, right?
But he wasn’t done yet.
“As far as we know, there are infinite galaxies,” said Brian.
I was full-on sweating, overwhelmed by epiphany. And just when I thought my brain had learned all it could:
“The amount of matter in the universe has remained consistent since the Big Bang.”
“Are you familiar with the theory of relativity?”
It was about then that I blacked out—I think my brain had reached full capacity for the night. I came to a few minutes later on Melanie’s couch, Brian applying a wet cloth to my forehead.
I’m forever grateful to Brian for changing the way I think about my place in the universe, the scope of the galaxy, and the Sun (it’s just another star, after all!). And hey—maybe now I’ll do my part and give The Martian a shot. Thank you, Brian, wherever you are!