Mike Murphy's photographs were the best thing to ever come out of the A-LAY project.
Bearded, bespectacled, globally respected, justifiably authoritative, he spent more than forty-five years looking for the right angle to look at the universe, the perspective from which everything lined up and made sense. Solemn flood lighting on the receiver at night. Elegant geometric arrangements of blue, red and silver components laid out on workbenches, pristine and shining, waiting for installation. Tired but enthusiastic faces over hot coffee on frosty winter mornings. Diligent students of blackboard equations and blueprint schematics in the afternoon. Feverish productivity by halogen torchlight at all hours of the night. Scarves, multimeters, banks of amber LEDs, green blinking terminal prompts. Red skies, black buildings and... more than anything, wasted money.
We lost years of our lives to that project. Towards the end, Mike's portraits were so candid it hurts for me to look at them.
He was the best person I knew. He walked around assuming the best of everyone, one hundred percent effort, and you gave it, just to feel like you deserved to be credited with assisting the mighty cause of Science, the gigantic and arrogant assertion that the human race should, must and will know everything that can be known.
He's sixty-six. On life support alone he doesn't have much time left. Years, not decades.
If there was anything of him left to ask, he would say he wasn't dead yet. And he'd die confident. He'd die optimistic about what comes next. And maybe science is worth dying for. But I can't help you, Mitchell. Not if this is what it costs.
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