THE BLOG

An Open Letter to Dr Matt Taylor

17/11/2014 15:24 GMT | Updated 14/01/2015 10:59 GMT

Dear Matt,

Please allow me to congratulate you and your colleagues for an extraordinary accomplishment. Of the 7 billion people on this planet, I doubt more than a few thousand have the capacity to fully understand how complicated the Rosetta project is. I am certainly not one of those few-thousand people.

It's events like the Rosetta mission and Philae landing that underscore the limitations of the English language. We've used all the superlatives on offer: the moon-landing was a "giant leap for mankind;" the Apple Macintosh was "insanely great." But flying 6.5 billion kilometres and landing on a speeding ice-block? No, there are no appropriate words ... well, perhaps "bouncy?"

Your training, patience, persistence and sheer audacity have combined to accomplish something no mere mortal would have, could have, ever conceived. Like Chuck Yeager breaking the sound-barrier, or Zephram Cochrane inventing the warp-drive, you and your colleagues have earned your place in history. If you retire tomorrow, you will still have contributed more to humanity than the vast majority of people contribute throughout their whole lives; myself included.

And how perfectly kismetic it is that "the papers want to know whose shirts you wear!"

All those who played a part in bringing you almost to tears during the biggest day of your life; those who tweeted and blogged, "outraged" about an innocuous shirt that's clearly special to you; those who called you, your colleagues and your employer misogynists, ought to be ashamed of themselves and each other. It is they who should be apologising to you, Matt, for taking even a single photon of limelight away from you and your team, and for seemingly doing their best to permanently ruin your memory of this profoundly impactful life-event.

These are people who are not nearly as comfortable with the human body as the rest of us; people who take any opportunity to get angry and/or noticed; people who would crash a wedding to complain that the groom is male-gazing inappropriately at his bride. Take them as seriously as you take the claims that the comet-landing itself is a big hoax. Yep, those people exist, too.

Of course, their concerns about "objectification" of the human form is not entirely consistent; if your shirt were covered in loincloth-clad images of He-Man, Hercules and Conan (the barbarian or the talk-show host), there would not have been a disapproving peep out of any of them.

Please, please don't allow the crocodile-tears of reactionary, attention-seeking, thin-skinned bullies to ruin this moment for you. You have nothing for which you should apologise. And please don't let them force you to dial back on your outgoing personality. You absolutely do not need to retreat into yourself or second-guess what to wear to work. Your folksy, tattooed presence in the scientific world is breaking stereotypes.

Allow yourself to remember this whole experience with the fondness, camaraderie and immense pride that you and it deserve, untarnished by even a hint of guilt or embarrassment. If this historical event was marred in any way at all, it was not through your actions; it was through theirs ... oh, and that whole, double-bounce thing, but that could've happened to anyone.

All the best,

Edward Falzon.

(and, I suspect, most normal people in the world)