This interview – in which Porco discusses her fascination with astronomy and planets, and how that fascination led her down her remarkable career path – was conducted by space historian Andrew Chalkin, and it is just so wonderful to watch. Porco's love of scientific investigation and passion for what she does is so compelling, it's hard not to get lost in her stories of coming up in the Bronx, her accounts of past missions, and her continued enthusiasm for the science that she and the Cassini team are busy conducting to this day.
Maybe it's the wry smile, or the New York accent, but there's something about watching Porco riff on space that reminds us so much of the childlike glee with which Richard Feynman was known to deliver impassioned spiels about physics. She's just got this pure, unfiltered energy that totally draws you in. Her little bit about the power of knowledge literally gives me chills:
It's so empowering to know the truth, and to really understand something. Boy, when you come to study something and you come to understand it – you know, even if it's just a little discovery that you make and you come to understand it on your own it feels it's like the greatest high. It's like you just have found some incredibly secretive thing about nature. And if it's a result of your own research and you haven't told anybody yet, there's a period of time where you're like floating because you – it's something you know and nobody else knows. So there's a period where – like i said – you just feel powerful.
Most of us are familiar with the Internet's go-to pantheon of science heroes. Sagan. Feynman. Dawkins. Brian Cox and Bill Nye. Not just the Internet but pretty much everyone is currently in the midst of a pretty epic Neil deGrasse Tyson bender. These guys are all great – but we can't help feeling that the Internet, society, the world at large could use a lot more of Carolyn Porco.
We know that she's busy. We know she has her hands full running the Cassini mission, blogging on her Captain's Log, serving as a science advisor for films like Star Trek and organizing worldwide photo opportunities, not to mention staying active on Twitter and Tumblr. But if she's up for it, we'd love to see Porco have a go at some larger platform. A regularly scheduled podcast. A TV show (and not just as an occasional guest). Her own documentary series. Something.
Believe us, we've got all the respect on Earth for NdGT, Bill Nye, and the rest of the Internet's science-y standbys – but today we swear allegiance to team Porco.