When I first learned Cosmic Roots And Eldritch Shores was introducing the Kepler Award, I was puzzled. Why Kepler? Surely a Da Vinci Award would be more inspiring?
To be honest, I couldn’t remember much about who exactly Kepler was, just a vague memory of having heard his name in school along with Boyle and the rest of one line sentences with illustrious scientist name-dropping…And yes, I haven’t been following the news at NASA in recent years either.
So, I clicked over to the CRES page on the Kepler Award and Kepler’s Somnium and began educating myself immediately. It only took a few minutes to realize why I remember so little of those science lessons and pioneers of science—it’s because we weren’t given all the truly memorable and inspiring stories about these pioneers. And much like my favorite pioneer, Da Vinci, Kepler is well worth being the focus of CRES’ inaugural contest! I am now fascinated by his achievements and life-story, and glad the award will go in some way to bring his inspiring fiction (written in Latin) into the hands of modern readers, students, and philosophers.
I’m not going to list Johannes Kepler’s achievements in astronomy, mathematics and physics which we weren’t taught at school; NASA does that wonderfully on their page, as does Wikipedia.
And I’m not going to tell you who his contemporaries, teachers, and students were as you probably already know, but I will tell you two of the things which have triggered my fascination, and which should have been mentioned in those classes of old.
Kepler wrote the first science-fiction fantasy story using accepted science fact and calculations, a story which went on to inspire others and which accurately predicted issues astronauts would have to face. If you’d told me that in high school I would definitely have perked up and paid more attention to our old physics teacher.
After all, I was in my Heinlein phase, and if pioneering scientists who changed our world view wrote and read science fiction and fantasy (which clearly my physics teacher didn’t), then I’d have given them a whole lot more attention, and consequently understood more of science and maths!
It’s kind of a big deal that Kepler was probably most held back by the society he lived in, like so many of science’s pioneers. More so, that his work suffered what may have been a betrayal of confidence, which shattered his family life.
His mother was alleged to be a witch who inspired a character in his story, and was prosecuted during the witch-hunts of that time, thus proving that even back then, much of humanity couldn’t tell fact from fiction, nor science from fantasy. And while that’s not always a bad thing, it is if you’re burning people at the stake physically or metaphorically…
I’m wondering why I’m only now becoming aware of Kepler: his story, his work at this time. With us being at such a transitional point in history in so many way, particularly when it comes to the sciences and scientific thinking, I think it’s high time, at least for me.
Unfortunately, now that I have all these ideas about Kepler and what I’d like to write about him, I can’t enter the Kepler Award (CRES staff prohibited entry), but you can, if you’d like to give it a go.
Keep in mind that for this year’s contest CRES is looking for stories in the spirit of Kepler’s story—science-fiction fantasy based on the moon or journeying to the moon, and using accepted science fact and mathematical calculations.
All the details are on the CRES Kepler Award page. There’s an entry fee which covers running of the contest. Funds not used for the contest go towards translation of Kepler’s story, and to two other astronomy non-profits.
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