World of Science Fiction
September 2, 2011 § Leave a comment
It is no secret that my brother and I are very very different people. People are always marveled at how we seem to have absolutely no interest in common. As a child I was told to practice the piano, so I did just that without protest. My brother, on the other hand, just as diligently played with the toys from the Gundam series. In the teenage years, I’d be out at the movies every Friday night without fail, and at times maybe even ran into my brother at the theater once or twice, but I could usually expect him to be home building a computer for a friend (for a small fee plus the cost of equipment) or tearing apart his own computer to tweak this and that for the thousandth time in his quest to meet the most optimal conditions to function as a guild master of WoW. All throughout my high school years, this was the only ‘world’ to which I believed that my brother belonged.
The first time I truly felt as though I understood even a little bit of his world was at the midpoint of my junior year in college when I first learned about the Large Hadron Collider. All of a sudden I had an epiphany about my brother, and it all made sense to me at that moment that this is the kind of world that my brother lives in, a kind where people crash particles out of curiosity of matter. Thinking back, my brother was always curious about everything, asking questions like “Why does everyone in this family have the last name, Lee” at the age of 3, or “How do people make the sounds they make when they speak?” at the age of 4, or “Why do the dead goldfish float?” at the age of 5. I never understood why he cared to ask these questions, and I actually thought they were quite dumb questions since the answer to all of them, in my mind, was that things just are because they are. To me, these were unrealistic questions that didn’t seem to have any application, significance, or meaning for everyday life, but it is precisely this kind of curiosity that governs most of what my brother does, even today.
Shortly after my breakthrough moment in understanding my brother’s interests, I got hooked on a sitcom called The Big Bang Theory. I watched most of it this past summer, and tried to introduce my brother to it since I assumed he would like it, too. A comedy about CalTech theoretical physics professors living together? Surely, he’d love that. When I first recommended it to him, he scoffed and said, “That’s NOT what real geeks watch. That mainstream crap is for posers.” I was a bit confused by such a strong, adverse reaction, so I asked him, “What do these real geeks like, then? Or should I ask, what do you like?” He answered immediately, “Real geeks like science fiction.”
With this short conversation I felt like a foreigner, once again, to his realm. Does science fiction satisfy his immense appetite of curiosity in some way? How can someone who demands answers for how things work in our physical world indulge in the authors’ creative and fictional explanations of them? This seems, even now, like a great unresolved mystery to me, and hopefully I will have another LHC moment soon, as I begin my first journey into the world of science fiction this semester.