Nathan's Laserium: 40

Happy birthday to me! Today is my 40th birthday. Except it's not, in realtime when I'm typing this. I have to write it ahead of time so it can be ready to post. When you get to read this it, will be my birthday. What I'll actually be doing on this milestone day is working in a coal mine, hopefully not having a terrible day in hail or snow. I can almost guarantee I won't have much time to reflect on the past 40 years, so that is what I will do now, starting with year zero: September 11, 1974....

Nah, I'm just playing. What is there to say about 40 anyway? Just a number that happens to be a multiple of 10, which happens to be the number of fingers we have and, therefore, the base for our counting system. If we were octopus people, we would likely use base 8. Uh, in which case 40 would be kind of a big deal too, right? 8X5? I don't really get how numbering systems that aren't base 10 work. Don't even get me started on binary. How can 1s and 0s count up all the way and even make computers work? God.

Binary stars are pretty cool, though. What's your favorite? Mine has to be Algol, Beta Persei, the demon star. A Tolkienesque name with a Lovecraft sensibility. One imagines it to be home to witch-kings and Great Old Ones with names like Angsoth-kil or something. At 93 light years from Earth, however, it's not exactly relevant to this post, I'll grant you, but it's pretty cool. The binary system that is 40 light years out is Beta Trianguli Australis. So if you happen to be in the Southern Hemisphere, you can look up at it and see light that's the same age as me. Add your wishes to mine, and maybe all our hopes and dreams can come true.

I remember when I turned 30, I made some goals. One of them was to have an article in National Geographic by the time I turned 40. And as you can see, that goal has been realized several times over! Now would be a good time to let it be known that I use the nom de plume David Quammen. (Please don't sue me Mr. Quammen, I'm only joking.) Now I find most of my hopes and dreams center around my little ones. And I try to keep them vague, to allow them room to grow into their own dreams. Like right now, my oldest daughter says she wants to be a ballerina/bug scientist in Brazil. Which would be so awesome! But next week she might decide veterinary medicine is more her cup of tea. Since she just started kindergarten, there's time to find her path. My job is to nurture her young soul so she can grow into a healthy adult who can make her own decisions wisely.

I do have some dreams of my own, mostly to do with writing I suppose. Since my National Geographic goal turned out to be way off, it might be best if I kept those to myself. For now I'll be happy enough to get home from this awful coal mine and devour some birthday cake.

- Nathan Waddell