We’re in the front row of the planet’s movie house of awe

UW astronomer waits for his turn on the James Webb space telescope — July 20

What is there about the James Webb space telescope (and its $10-billion price tag) that has some in a rightful tizzy? Yet its quest for knowledge is only coffee money compared to other countless billions in misusing the planet’s resources.

The lens is no bigger than a tennis court, yet brings imagery never before seen. Imagine what we’d get if it were the size of a football field.

Indeed, spellbound, we sit front row in the planet’s movie house of awe, seeing the death and birth of stars. Little wonder that those bringing this are like children given a new toy. They marvel at the very hint of water vapour in the distant cosmos, as though a curtain of life was being opened.

Yet, do not Webb and family perhaps have a backstory? Say that we’re at a crossroads in human affairs? We must bring light to the dark space of inaction in the world. To fix broken institutions, from lemonade stands on street corners through the most incalculably powerful governments the planet, too, has ever seen.

“Look,” the universe may be saying. “Our flawed spaceship Earth needs fixing.”

Could we enable a slumbered yet awakened humanity to feed the world’s hungry, abolish war and tackle climate change? Maybe, says Mr. Webb, let’s fix it once, for all.