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May 11th, 2005
It was a given that when Brad Edwards got up to speak that day in March 2002, the crowd would be skeptical. The Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics is home to many of the country's most distinguished physicists and chemists, and Edwards knew his words would be subject to scientific scrutiny. In addition, to many in the audience, Edwards at 38 still looked like a kid, though he had earned his doctorate in physics more than a decade before. Even worse was the topic Edwards would discuss: an elevator into space, a project that the best minds in the field had dismissed as centuries away - but Edwards wanted to do it in 15 years.
"You could tell immediately that some of the people had come in to heckle," Edwards recalls. His pitch was greeted with shaking heads and snorts of derision, and he was constantly interrupted by scientists pointing out the obvious, even glaring errors in his reasoning. Edwards kept his cool, assuring the skeptics that he would cover all their questions. "As the talk went on, the tone began to change," Edwards says. "Now they're listening very intently, asking very courteously."
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