Poetry of Space on Earth | Yvonne Cagle Ph.D. | TEDxSanFrancisco


Translator: Diana de Vega de Ceniga
Reviewer: Rhonda Jacobs One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten. From training to launch
at 17,500 miles per hour, through the splendid corridors of space, where the first word out of your mouth is: “Woaoh!” and the second word,
the second word out of your mouth is: “Wooooaoh!” (Laughter) All the way to inventing a wearable restoration accelerator that has been shown to turn
weeks of deconditioning and sprains into days and days of pain into minutes. Oh my goodness! Both literally and figuratively, there is just nothing like space on Earth. I tell you, once you launch,
you don’t even want to look back, but you know what happens
when astronauts do, when we look back on Earth? Well, it’s not just about what we see, it’s also about what we don’t see. And guess what we don’t see? Borders. And guess what we do see? Bridges. We see bridges. Yet even little girls
can still wake up in a world where barrier-free bridges
exist only in our inner space. For me, growing up at a time
when, too often, capricious eyes erected borders
to the macroverse of space, science and engineering
were my tools that rebuilt my bridges, and healing became
my gateway to the multiverse, inviting me to delve, unencumbered, into the exciting, thriving human microverse just beneath skin. But still after 15 years as a doctor, I had yet to really push the envelope
of my yearning for space exploration. Until I responded to the call. I was roused by the call. Hello?? Yes, this is your dreams calling. Yeah, well, we haven’t given up on you,
so don’t give up on us. So, after 15 years
as a senior flight surgeon, I didn’t just hang up the phone, oh no, I dialed it up. (Applause) (Cheers) By then, I had risen to the rank
of colonel in the Air Force, flying in a wide variety
of high performance aircraft, from the F-15 to the F-111, F-18, F-16, anything going to altitude, air-to-air refuellers, helicopters,
heavies, medevacs, I wanted to be in it. Yet, after a while, those jets
didn’t seem to go quite fast enough nor quite high enough. I knew then that
the only way to go was up, and the only way at that time
was the space shuttle. Oh my goodness! If I could talk about human spaceflight, think about it: in less than 10 minutes,
you’re 250 miles above the Earth going 17,500 miles per hour on your way to Mach 25, and as you undo your harness, you’re weightless! Who needs main engines? Who needs solid rocket boosters? It’s like poetry in motion. So yes, folks, we are going to Mars but by way of going back to the moon so that we can test and check out
the performance of systems all the way from the vehicle to the human, and oh my goodness are we ever
geared up for the human. Now, yes, in the future maybe we’ll be looking at human suspended
animation, maybe some hibernation, but for now, we’re looking
at clinical innovations that will give us the lift assist
that humans need in order to advance the genome, the human genome. Genetic sequencing, nutrition,
bundled vital signs, think Tricorder XPRIZE, wearables,
accelerated restoration, yes, and even, autonomous robots. We may find that we’re using
autonomous robots to help us as needed for our surgical care because they’re unperturbed
by the latencies of weightlessness or the perniciousness
of perpetual pirouetting. Wow! So the question is,
why not just send robots? Why not I, Robot? If the vehicle is poetry in motion
then what is a human? And what need is there of humans? Yes, granted, the vehicle does put
the human poetry in motion but only humans can put the poetry in emotion. Robots can learn, but unlike robots, only humans yearn to learn. Machines can write code, but only humans can write poetry. Now, that’s a reason that we need to go. Becase if we deny the human heart to boldly go, plain and simply, we never know. And poetry human is forever lost to and silenced in the vacuum of space. But every go has its ready and set. And my ready was sitting at the top
of an old oak tree one hot summer night talking to the man on the moon,
my eyes dancing with the stars, and suddenly out of the darkness
I hear a voice calling my name. Thinking it’s my destiny finally found me, I’m ready to take that giant leap. Probably not a wise thing to do
at the age of 12 at the top of it, actually, frankly at any age
at the top of an old oak tree. But this, this was July 1969. Whoo! (Applause) (Cheers) And while the entire world
with one epic united and resounding voice was counting down, man landed on the moon
for the very first time. I was listening. From my stellarly arched branch overlooking a racially addled society, I was listening. And now decades later, I now realise that that bold voice, albeit stifled by anonymity,
that I was listening to, was none other than Dr Katherine Johnson. You may know her from Hidden Figures. (Applause) (Cheers) A young African American woman
whose venerable pedigree was simply a love of learning
and intolerance for error. As she, with her precise
space flight trajectory calculations, launched two men
up and over the dark side of … humanity to spearhead the landing of a man, a human on the moon for the first time ever! Oh my goodness! I mean, really. Who does that? How do you even begin to prepare
to land a human on the moon? What do you do, just wake up
one morning and decide yeah, I’m going to stick the landing
for garden variety human on the moon? Weeeell, if you ask Dr Katherine Johnson, she will tell you, no, she has shown you that you simply start by counting. Yes, counting until you’ve
accounted for every error all the way from the top
of your church stairs as a little girl to orbited human around the Earth for the very first time ever. And yes, oh, that is, of course,
after you’ve done your homework by launching the first American, then,
into space for the first time ever, and how you launch an American into space,
or any human for that matter, I’m not even going to begin to ask. Dr Katherine Johnson, starting school
at the ripe old age of four, high school by 10, graduating from college by age 15, degreed in mathematics,
a consummate musician, fluent in French, over the next few years
her teaching landed her in the coloured women’s section
of computing for NASA. Now, any time the footnotes
of your career trajectory, of its azimuth, includes creating the algorithms for the first space antenna ever or helping to craft the common filter that space shuttle crews
throughout history have used to navigate
their way home safely, well, that, my friend,
is how you launch a genius. But you know, Dr Katherine Johnson
is also a stellar example of why not just robots. Of how human can step in
at a moment’s notice in real time, to recalculate
the error biases and error bars that would safely bring
a broken vessel and its space crew safely back home. At a time when there wasn’t
even a playbook written to so much as set
your slide ruler up against. So, why not robots? Yes, robots can learn. But humans must stay in the loop in order to discern. Now, when your zenith
is peaking at 100 years of age – I had the illustrious honour
of serving as keynote for Dr Katherine Johnson one day shy of her 100th birthday, August 26, 2018. I think that deserves
a round of applause in itself. (Applause) And you know, as I took the stage
to extend those salutations, I realised two things: One, everyone wanted to be
Dr Katherine Johnson. Two, no one in that moment
wanted to be me. (Laughter) Not even me. Because what do you say about someone who has that kind of track record, that kind of career trajectory? What do you say about
the queen of inquiry, about the princess of poise, about the Nefertiti of nebulas, about the poet of possibilities, about the lyricist of legends? What do you say? So as I took the stage on that hot summer day at a loss for words as I gazed upon this breathtaking nebula, which by definition means barely visible from the eyes of Earth but infinitely large when close by. What do you say? Well, why robot? It needs to be human because when it comes down to it, it’s all about our experience, our go. Robots can learn. But what happens
when their code deprograms? Your programme has deprogrammed; your code is now crippled. What happens when your code’s bias starts to drift your state vector
and becomes corrupted? That is when you want
the human in the equation. But why human? Well, because can a robot be coded
to the resonance of dance? And if a robot could dance, would a robot journey
to the widest of oceans, the highest of mountains,
the deepest of space purely in search of not innovation but … inspiration? And if a robot could be inspired, would a robot be inspired
to the point of aspiring to serve in service
of a cause lesser than code? Or a calling greater than self? And if a robot could aspire, would a robot be moved to sacrifice everything, even self, purely because not for code but because it cares? Therein is a calling to each one of us, individually and collectively, we need to know that we can together
hone and own human resiliency that is only born by not failing at dreaming that nothing is impossible. Because if you decode impossible you get: i. m. possible. But possibility only happens
if you are willing to: i. m. magine. And then possibility is endless. So as I took that stage
and reached for the microphone and wondered what do you say
to this timeless centurion, who after 50 years of having
landed someone on the moon is celebrating this 100th birthday,
what do you say? You say: nothing. You don’t say anything, you listen. Because that, my friend,
is not just genius. That, my friend,
is not just human spaceflight. That, as I took the mic
and suddenly became that little girl again
making space on my branch for that voice of destiny,
now 100 years old, as together we launched our moonshots, what you say, my friend, is that that is nothing less than poetry Ten, nine, eight, seven, six, in motion. five, four, three, two, one. (Applause) (Cheers)

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