It is difficult to describe the deep and profiund loss I feel when I read that another member of the Original Series has passed away. When I was growing up, science was a passion I showed at a very early age and the comics, TV shows and movies-all scifi based-kept that passion burning. One show in particular was Start Trek and its science officer, that pointy eared, half-human/half-alien, science officer. For a young kid growing up, it showed one thing, pursuing the sciences did not mean you had to be confined to a laboratory, it could mean anything; the sky was literally the limit.
That influenced me in many ways. It encouraged me to be anlaytical or, at the very least, not to be ashamed of doing so. In many ways, I wanted to be Spock. It would later come as a surprise when I read Leonard Nimoy's follow up autobiography, "I am Spock," how much the character had influenced him by helping him become a better person, and thinking logically and anytically. While he sought to distance himself from the character and establish that he was a person in his own right in his first autobiography, "I am not Spock," the second showed how much an influence the character had on his own personal life. That character influenced me in the same ways.
NImoy said in his second autobiography that he often talked to the character he played so long ago and that calm, logical voice often affected the choices he made. While I did not personally speak to Spock in my own life, I adopted a similar voice when it came to solving problems. I carried this inner persona with me through life, as I majored in Physics, eventually became a Physicist and other things, and eventually a science writer. Even today, when I write, I use that calm analytical voice to create something that can communicate what I am passionate about.
Star Trek did not only introduce me to a role model to emulate. The show also introduced me to the deeper and more philosphical areas of science. Who could imagine that the very idea of the Mirror Universe is actually based on real Physics. In 1957, American Physicist, Hugh Everett, came up with his Many-Worlds Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics to explain the pecularities of Quantum Mechanics.
This hypothesis postulates that all possible alternate histories and futures are real, each representing an actual "world" (or "universe"). As any Trekkie knows, somewhere in the future, the Enterprise-D did not go back in the past to First Contact which led to the violent confrontation between Zefram Cochrane and the Vulcans and the creation of the Mirror Universe. Who would have thought Physics could explain it all?
Far from just an interesting idea discussed in Physics journals, or seen in movies like "Source Code" or endorsed by fictional Physicsts like Sheldon Cooper on the Big Bang Theory, this idea may be proven within the next decade as the LHC comes back online. Imagine that, a theory that could change our view of our place in the Universe predicted by Star Trek. It makes that cell phone prediction or black suns seems small in comparison.
Spock was the voice that brought those ideas to viewers. He explained it all and that was the character I wanted to grow up to be. While many kids today hoped to get that magical letter from Hogwarts, I wanted there to be a Starfleet Academy. The idea that, not only other alien races could exist, but that I could attend classes with them changed my view on the world. It made me more open to people perceived as different. By playing that human-alien hybrid, Spock showed me that we are all the same, whether we bleed red or green.
Spock meant a lot of things to me. He showed me the wonders of science and the creativity and imagination behind it. In so doing, he showed me the possibilities of the Universe. Yes, Spock is a fictional character and Leonard Nimoy is a real man but everytime I watched or read an interview, I was always surprised how much Spock-like he was. It seemed like Nimoy did not act to play the part, he was the part, and in many ways he has influenced me in my life.
This is just a part of the reason why Nimoy's death has hit me. Somewhere out there, in an alternate Universe, Nimoy is still alive. I smile thinking how fortunate they are. I can still smile at ours. Our Nimoy lived well and he prospered. That is not a bad role model to follow.