Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Happy New Year! __________About the crucial importance of finding people who share your worldview


As soon as I enter the hall, I see the sign they have placed on the wall. The oversized red letters read “Do not let strangers into the building.” I nod approvingly as I reread the notice. It was high time. There are too many deranged people out there.

They have not cleaned the stairs this month and the steps are a little greasy. When I arrive at the fourth floor, I have the apartment key already in my hand. I walk down the corridor, turn the corner, and then I freeze. There is a woman standing at my front door.

“Are you the scientist?” she asks with a heavy accent. I stare at her and take a deep breath. I know how to deal with this. At work, we have been trained to handle this type of situations. “I am a scientist, not a medical doctor,” I reply in a neutral tone. “I am afraid that I cannot help you.”

She shakes her head firmly. “I know that you are a physicist, Prof. Raymond,” she says. How come she knows who I am, I wonder. “My name is Raymon, without a d,” I correct her mechanically. She has long blond hair and, for a moment, I wish that she was here just to sell me something.

When she walks up to me and produces a cable from her pocket, my worst fears are confirmed. Now I have no doubt that she is one of the lunatics against whom we have been warned. “What do you want from me?” I ask, shrugging my shoulders, but she is not discouraged in the least. “I can't start the battery,” she explains, showing me the cable. “Can you help me?”


Her apartment is a mess, but the view from the twentieth floor is breathtaking. She picks up a box of electronic components and points at the ceiling. “It is on the rooftop,” she says. I decline her offer of a cup of green tea and climb the stairs after her. How long has she been working on this?

The spacecraft on the rooftop corresponds to the old design available on internet. I inspect the battery and shake my head. Although people obsessed with Alpha Centauri are known to be mentally unstable, this woman seems surprisingly well-balanced. Does she really believe that she can build at home a spacecraft to return to Alpha Centauri? The whole idea is insane.

She informs me that her name is Amy and tells me the story that has been passed from generation to generation. Who hasn't heard of Alpha Centauri? Who doesn't want to believe in the myth of a perfect world? I give her back the cable and I start to tell her that I must return to my apartment, but she cuts me off. “My real name is not Amy,” she says. “It's AmyFri.”

My heart misses a beat. This can't be true. She cannot possibly know about the names. “I am AmyFri,” she repeats, “and you are RayMon.” I stare at her blue eyes, seeking to be reassured. I want to be certain that I am not dreaming. Only real Alpha Centauriers possess names ending with their day of birth, Mon for Monday in my case. Was AmyFri born on a Friday? She cannot possibly be one of us.

I accept her cup of green tea and we sit on the sofa in her living-room. As we watch the sun go down, we exchange stories about our forefathers. AmyFri tells me that she belongs to the Rigil tribe. “From the forty-six tribes of Alpha Centauri,” I confirm, “Rigils are the most intrepid.” Then my voice trembles and I shut up, unable to say that I am also a Rigil.


When I return to my apartment, I close the door and the keys drop from my hand. As I stand motionless in the corridor, my mind reviews everything that's wrong with AmyFri's spacecraft. There is a long list of insurmountable technical problems. No wonder, since the design available on internet is nonsense.

I pick up the keys from the floor, walk to my bedroom, unlock the drawer under my bed, and take out my own design. This is my blueprint for an ultra-light spacecraft, the result of fourteen years of working nights and weekends. I have not looked at it since my fortieth birthday, the day when I gave up all hope of ever returning to Alpha Centauri.

As I deploy my blueprint on the kitchen table, I remember the reasons that made me abandon the project. The impossible technical specifications. The gigantic cost. The back-breaking work that it will require. My design is revolutionary, but I know that it can work. With the help of AmyFri, I may be able to build the spacecraft in less than two years.

I spend the whole night feverishly remaking my calculations. I find no errors, but I wonder if this can really work. When the first light of dawn comes through the window, I have already made up my mind. No matter how long it takes, no matter how much it costs, I am going to do it. I am going to build a spacecraft to return to Alpha Centauri. And when it is ready, I will take AmyFri with me.

For more information about rational living and personal development, I refer you to my book The 10 Principles of Rational Living

My best wishes for 2015 to all my readers.


Image by Darwin Bell under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under