On hope, inspiration and potential

It seems that bad news is everywhere you look.

Syria remains a mess with, seemingly, no reasonable (rational?) solution to be found.

Yet another mentally unstable individual manages to purchase a firearm and proceeds to kill 12 innocent people.

Some 24-year-old fool in Michigan City, Indiana, “plays” with a gun, “forgets” that it was loaded, and manages to kill a 3-year-old boy.

(Minor aside: This guy needs to go away for a long, long, really long time.)

We’re headed for yet another budget showdown in D.C. even though we haven’t had a real budget in years nor does it appear that one is anywhere on the horizon.

And, sadly, the Kardashians are still out there for heaven knows what reason.

And, yet, even though they never command the same “newsworthyness,” there are still good things, hopeful things, even incredible things to be found.

I’d bet that not many people have heard that the Costa Concordia — the cruise liner that ended up on its side just off Giglio Island on the west coast of Italy — has been righted.

No, it didn’t capture any front pages, but it’s something that we can look at and know that we, humans, can still accomplish truly remarkable things.

Getting that ship back into an upright position was an engineering feat that beggars the imagination.

Think about rolling a vessel upright that’s laying on its side. That’s perched on a ledge of rock. That weighs tens of thousands of tons. That’s the length of three football fields. That has tens of thousands more tons of water inside its hull. And that — should it break up — would cause yet more millions of dollars of environmental and commercial damage. Then, ask yourself whether you’d want to be responsible for the effort.

That we have individuals amongst us who not only want that responsibility, but who also have the expertise, and the courage to tackle the job speaks well of us as a species.

We just won’t dwell on the individual (yet another data point on the “you can’t fix stupid” graph) who put the ship there in the first place.

Further, on the same morning that a friend forwarded me the story of the death of the child noted above, yet another friend sent me a link to an NBC news story about 19-year-old Taylor Wilson that was — to put it simply — inspiring.

Taylor is a prodigy who, at the age of 14, built a working fusion reactor. His stated goal in life is to make the world a better place by safely harnessing nuclear energy. And, as the reporter in the piece put it, “he might just be the one to do it.”

His parents recognized at an early age that Taylor was something special. Others noticed it also. When, at the age of eight, he met the head of nuclear engineering at the University of Tennessee, they began talking. By the end of the conversation, Taylor had been offered a scholarship when he was ready to enter college.

He ended up, though, in a special school for the profoundly gifted on the campus of the University of Nevada and, while there, so impressed a nuclear physicist at the university that he was given space in that physicist’s laboratory to conduct experiments — and build his fusion reactor. Which he did.

He’s also invented a cheaper way to produce medical isotopes used in detecting and treating cancer, and a screening device that can detect nuclear material in shipping containers. That last won him a prestigious award and an invitation to the White House.

He’s now working on an idea he’s developed for fusion reactors which would be far safer than nuclear reactors now being used.

Taylor has received a fellowship that allowed him to skip college and begin working full time on his ideas.

Where I’m going with this is that, while watching this news story, I was reminded to continue being hopeful.

Hopeful because, despite the constant bombardment of bad news we receive, there are also, as noted, truly bright moments — and people — out there too. The moments and the people that keep us all moving forward. We just don’t hear about them as often as we should.

And that, my friends, can get us down if we allow it to do so.

Oh. Did I mention that Taylor’s younger brother is a math prodigy?

Smile when you think about that.

Larry Simoneaux lives in Edmonds. Send comments to: larrysim@comcast.net

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