She set out to broaden her education, to take as many courses as possible apart from her central interests in mathematics, physics, and engineering. But there was a problem with her central interests. She found it difficult to discuss physics, much less debate it, with her predominantly male classmates. At first they paid a kind of selective inattention to her remarks. There would be a slight pause, and then they would go on as if she had not spoken. Occasionally they would acknowledge her remark, even praise it, and then again continue undeflected. She was reasonably sure her remarks were not entirely foolish, and did not wish to be ignored, much less ignored and patronized alternately. Part of it–but only a part–she knew was due to the softness of her voice. So she developed a physics voice, a professional voice: clear, competent, and many decibels above conversational. With such a voice it was important to be right. She had to pick her moments.
Could you teach the alphabet to the ants? And would you want to?
The book was better than the movie. For one thing, there was a lot more in it.
“At first it seemed impossible – a radio signal that came not from Earth but from far beyond the nearest stars. But then the signal was translated, and what had been impossible became terrifying. For the signal contains the information to build a Machine that can travel to the stars. A Machine that can take a human to meet those that sent the message. They are eager to meet us: they have been watching and waiting for a long time. And now they will judge.”
The Student put his hand upon the sheaf of calculating paper he had brought with him and said, “Are you sure that the problem is a factual one?”
“The premises are true. I have distorted nothing.”
“Then I must accept the results, and I do not want to.”
“Naturally. But what have your wants to do with it?”
And then again, in a society given over, as that of the First Empire was, to the physical sciences and inanimate technology, there was a vague but mighty sociological push away from the study of the mind. It was less respectable because less immediately useful; and it was poorly financed since it was less profitable.
“Are we matching paradoxes, or is this all a word game to see who can say the least in the most words?”
“Where history concerns mainly personalities, the drawings become either black or white according to the interests of the writer.”
It was strange that a world which had been untouched through the vast conquering sweeps and retreats of a millennia, and equally untouched by the civil wars and palace revolutions of other millennia–should lie dead at last. It was strange that the Glory of the Galaxy should be a rotting corpse.
For centuries would yet pass before the mighty works of fifty generations of humans would decay past use. Only the declining powers of men themselves, rendered them useless now.
“This is interesting. How long have you thought that?”
“I never thought that, in the sense of believing it. It is merely an alternative to be considered.”