“Look!” my mother said in 1937 at the Berlin Zoo as she pointed to a huge flying object in the sky shaped like an enormous cigar. “This is a Zeppelin and it can fly to America.”
Indeed, it was like a rigid airplane 420 feet long capable of crossing the Atlantic Ocean with passengers, sleeping quarters, a dining room and observation deck. That was perhaps the spark for desire to go to America and my fascination with flying and exploring.
During the war in Germany, I saw propeller planes by the thousands evoking sad memories. In 1942, I recall a noise in the sky I had never heard before. It was a turbo jet engine aircraft first tested in 1939 and then produced for the German air force in 1941. Again, my curiosity for sky adventures was forming.
My family exposed me to music that was played through the air. I wondered how and I don’t fully understand it now, but in the early 30’s the German government gave every German family a free radio; a little bakelite box with a dial and one station. What a deceptively evil gift. The government abused it with misleading propaganda softened with music.
Television was rare in the early 1950s. On my walks in Berlin I always stopped at a showroom window that displayed a TV. On February 6, 1952, I witnessed the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II on this TV, a miracle for me. How could a moving picture be transmitted from Great Britain to Germany? The radio, television, radar and radio were, as I learned much later, in the infancy of their technology.
About two years ago, I met the moon landing astronaut Dr. Edgar Mitchell at the Palm Springs Air Museum. My fascination was sealed. I wanted to learn more about space and the cosmos.
From the Zeppelin in Berlin to space exploration is a huge step for mankind. What else was accomplished during my octogenarian life?
As I searched from roughly the beginning of this century, I became convinced that we are privileged to live in the most exciting period for our species on our pale blue planet. The opportunities to experience, to learn, to be part of it all, are vast for the veterans of life – and for the young. It inspired admiration for the achievements of the aging generation. It has also created a foundation for new generations.
We should never forget that our brain, evolving over 100,000 years or more, gives us the greatest power, day in and day out. Weighing only three pounds, it is the most powerful computer known to man. The brain possesses about 100 billion neurons with roughly 1
quadrillion (1 million billions) connections (synapses) wiring these cells together.
To put it in perspective, it took the fourth most powerful super computer in the world 40 minutes to complete a simulation of one second of human brain activity.
My next column will look back on man’s achievements in the last 80 years or so.
Live healthy. Learn much. Share often.