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'Nathan is going to change the world': Teenage science writer strives to inspire positivity and curiosity

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Saanich, B.C. -

Nathan Hellner-Mestelman seems like an ordinary teenager walking down the hall of his high school, until he shares his extraordinary appreciation for static on the radio.

“That’s the radiation left over from the Big Bang,” the 17-year-old smiles at the hum emitting from the stereo. “The sweet universe music.”

It’s an enduring song, of sorts, composed almost 14 billion years ago.

If you ask Nathan about the beginning of his scientific journey, he’ll tell you about when he was 12, and took brief break from viewing a lunar eclipse to refuel.

“While I was grabbing a cookie an asteroid impacted the moon,” Nathan says. “And I didn’t see it obviously.”

While the impact appeared smaller than the smallest cookie crumb, Nathan learned it was actually big enough to have levelled a city block.

“And so I wondered how much is going on across the universe that we don’t think about because we're here on Earth eating cookies,” Nathan says.

Nathan’s curiosity led him to being accepted into the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada at 12, creating science fair projects too advanced for judges to comprehend by 15, and becoming one of the most amazing students Neal Johnson has taught in almost 30 years.

“He so reminds me of a young Carl Sagan,” Neal says.

Like the iconic astronomer earned global fame for capturing the imagination of regular people, Nathan has written articles for international science publications, and a book about our place in the universe called Cosmic Wonder, that’s proved so accessible it earned multiple of offers from book publishers.

“I think Nathan is going to change the world,” Neal says. “Because of his ability to tell stories that connect with people.”

Whether he’s volunteering to share his knowledge with visitors at astrophysical observatories, or writing to inspire a global audience, Nathan hopes that by encouraging us to look beyond the cookies in front of us, we can realize how connected we are to everything that surrounds us.

“If you stop seeing people for nationalities or cultures or religions,” Nathan says. “And you start seeing people for atoms, and we are just atoms, that really helps dissolve some of the social constructs we’ve developed that divide us.”

A unifying message — inspired by wonder and curiosity — occasionally accompanied by the soundtrack to the birth of the universe.

“It‘s my favourite album to listen to,” Nathan says, laughing at the static on the radio. “Big Bang!” 

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