Whole Shebang

Black Holes & the Metaphysics
of Perforating Internal Cavities

Planets have craters, caves, volcanoes. Our bodies have cavities, orifices, crevices. Thoughts have depths, flaws, gaps. In the 1960s, there were four thousand holes in Blackburn, Lancashire, as John Lennon reported on a song. Right now, there’re billions of massive ones, swallowing whole galaxies across the universe.
For such a geographic or anatomic accident, we do give holes a huge amount of attention, and scientific studies to back it all up. Let’s update our space files and see what’s out there, in the vastness of outer space, from the rarified atmosphere of improbable research to that ground hole that may already have our name on it.
A noble thing about Albert Einstein is that he never let his religious beliefs interfere with his science. When he theorized that there must be something like a black hole, a force so powerful that not even light could escape it, he also said there should be a law forbidding it to exist.
There wasn’t, and his rigorous calculations prevailed despite himself. As Stephen Hawking and others proved and studied black holes, Einstein’s moral integrity also received a boost. What even now few are capable of conceiving is the size of these monsters.
The biggest one discovered so far, just the other day, is bigger than 10 billion suns. Before you ask it, though, if you absolutely have to, how astronomers come up with these figures, we must say, it’s complicated. But we’ll wait while you go on the Internet to check that out.

Welcome back. As we were saying, someone’s discovered second-biggest ever, sitting pretty over 330 million light-years away from us, in the Coma Cluster of all places. Again, if you need to ask what’s a light year, etc, etc. And what an appetite. These fatties can devour millions of stars faster than you can finish reading this word.
The late great Muhammad Ali used to say he was so fast, he could turn off the light switch and get in bed before the room was dark. That’s the kind of fast we’re talking about here. Powerful too as you probably know. Black holes can warp space-time around them, so strong is their gravitational pull. But relax, no one is near us, so let’s move on.

As it turns out, holes are traps that may have tricked, and tickled, some of the brightest philosophers of our time. And it all started in the 1970s, with some Gruyère cheese (yup, 10 years after Lennon sang about holes). Lore has it that two scientists named Lewis invented an imaginary duo of thinkers, Argle and Bargle, who’d get intrigued with what the holes in the cheese actually meant.
If we’re insulting your attention span, feel free to take a break. We’ll be as brief as our philosophical illiteracy will allow it. (more)
Read Also:
* Tomorrow Never Knows
* Singing Suns
* Worlds Away

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Curtain Raiser

To Starve & Die in Brazil, Colltalers

The brutal execution-style murder of Brazil’s councilwoman Marielle Franco, Wednesday night in Rio, may have triggered what close to two years of President Michel Temer’s string of corruption scandals and slashes to social, health, and education programs hadn’t: social unrest.
It may be about time. After proudly leaving the U.N. World Hunger Map, in 2014, and overtaking the U.K. as the sixth-largest economy, Brazil retreated into a constitutional downward spiral, since it installed Temer in power two years later, in what’s now largely viewed as a coup.
The last time Brazilians took the streets to mass protest, they wound up serving interests of an alliance of right-wing politicians, powerful media organs, and segments of the middle class, that orchestrated President Dilma Rousseff’s impeachment halfway into her second term.
But when thousands showed up to mourn Marielle, as she was known, in Rio and other cities, the mood was different. In grief, Brazilians are again demanding human rights, justice, and freedom, just as they’d done in the 1980s to finally dislodge from power the military dictatorship.
They’ve got plenty reasons to do so. Yet, while there’s much soul searching and vicious arguments about what actually brought the country to such a paralyzing standstill, there are few areas of disagreement about what needs to be fixed: opportunity, the rule of law, a more accountable class of politicians, a clear path to regain control over the future, and others, are all often mentioned as common denominators.
But the endless chain of financial malfeasance by members of Temer’s cabinet, a judiciary that’s not just utterly partisan, but has resisted any effort to review its bill of privileges, plus the multi year, multi-headed political aim at dismantling PT, the Workers’ Party, of its legacy, has hardly left any space for thinking about solutions. In the middle of the national room, of course, sits the giant shade of Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.
The two-time former president seems now bound to prison, after a relentless campaign against his perceived misconducts all but ruined his reputation as the man who had at last put Brazil on another map, that of influential nations of the world. In fact, under his presidency, over 30 million Brazilians were lifted from deep poverty, and some social programs he implemented became Continue reading

Albert’s Pie

Stephen Hawking’s Not Having
Pi on Einstein’s 139th Birthday

When Albert Einstein was born on this day in 1879, in Ulm, Germany, the Number Pi, the ratio of a circumference of a circle to its diameter, had about 527 decimals, including the three inicial digits that identify it: 3.14. In 1945, three years after Stephen Hawking’s birth, it had 808.
It’s now 68,719,470,000 digits, a record set in 1999. March 14 is a day to mark how far it’s come, even as few know exactly what to do with its constant expansion; to celebrate Einstein, whose work has enlightened the world; but to also feel sad because Hawking died yesterday, at 76.
As it goes, it’s fitting that they both passed away at the same age, since their lifetime contribution to modern science stand as two crucial brackets of human knowledge: Einstein‘s Theory of Relativity, published in 1905, and Hawking‘s continuous efforts to unify it to Quantum Mechanics.
But he’s better known for advancing our knowledge of black holes, a concept developed from Relativity’s space-time, even if it wasn’t called that way or coined by neither of them. It’s simply become one of Cosmology’s most fascinating sources of research and public amusement.
They were both fascinating and complex figures, who towered over their times. But for all their achievements as scientists, they both imprinted their names on the larger context of humanity’s quest to survive, even as both were so critical of how many ways we’ve been pursuing to annihilate ourselves.
Einstein survived Nazism and, despite his research having led in part to the nuclear power that still threatens the world, was a pacifist and denounced totalitarianism whenever he could. In some ways, we’re glad he’s not here to witness our insane revival of the horrors he faced and fought against.
And Hawking, who at 21, was given five years to live, following an amyotrophic lateral sclerosis diagnosis, beat the odds and became, if not the longest, certainly the most famous survivor of the terminally debilitating disease. Despite the complexity of his mind and life, he became a folk hero of sorts.
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* In A Relative Way
* American Pie
* Counting Glyphs

But perhaps the most enduring quality these two giants share was their ability to transcend the obvious, the rational, the expected. They’ve opened paths that mankind will track for centuries to come, and ushered bending-time universes, parallel realities, and galaxy-eating dark stars.
While we improve on the telephone, rather than leaping into tomorrow, we’re left feeling orphans of another age when dreams were not measured by the size of our fears, or could be stopped by the blind inevitability of weapons.
One day, we too will be traveling through the vast beyond, and think about our own event horizon.
We’ll keep on adding to this now stratospheric circle, whose size Archimedes got started crunching around 200 BCE, and William Jones symbolized it in 1706, with a Greek letter, to that 1988 March in San Francisco, when Larry Shaw celebrated it by walking in circles and eating fruit pies.
So today, Happy Birthday, Albert Einstein. Have a Great Trip, Stephen Hawking. So long and thanks for all the pie.

Curtain Raiser

The Deal & Youth Vote We Need, Colltalers

Sometimes it’s not just people’s omission what helps incompetent leaders; luck and chance play a part too. North Korean Kim Jong-un’s stunning offer to sit with the American president, last week’s biggest news, made the world understandably thrilled about it. And weary.
Donald Trump had little to do with it but, as the Russian probe heats up, he’ll be sure to take credit and capitalize on it. But even as we can’t seem to write three sentences without mentioning him, today’s post is about something way more transcendent: youth voting in America.
Let’s get the likely theme of the coming weeks out of the way first, though. Thanks to South Korean president Moon Jae-in, there’s a concrete chance both madmen will meet in May, and for goodness sake, move the nuclear holocaust dial down a bit. Or up. It’s truly unpredictable.
But given rising global tensions, and the nonchalantly way those two have been talking about annihilating each other, never mind millions of people, with a civilization-ending chain reaction soon to follow after, this surely looks like good news. That is, if you-know-who doesn’t walk back on his words, as it happened countless times. Other restrictions apply. Avoid holding your breath. Proceed with caution. Call your mom.
No U.S. president has ever accepted that sort of meeting, for it requires a master class in strategy, and a minimum of trust between players. Considering ‘Art of Deal’ Trump’s appalling record at listening to counseling, or negotiating with nations, corporations, and even factions of his own government, there are justifiable fears that the whole thing may go awry. And rush the entire world to a no-way-back quagmire.
But, hey, let’s be optimistic, and keep an open mind about it. Because it’s so crazy that it might work. To get it right, though, it’ll take a lot of pressure from peaceful and progressive segments of society, plus a hefty dose of global support. Above all, let’s not let it all up to those two.
Which brings us to youth voting, and what can be done to usher it to its deserving place in American politics. Time is ripe to rearrange the equation of power among the electorate, and voting by the young is an overlooked demographics often relegated to polls’ absence columns.
It’s likely that it will remain there for November Continue reading

Beautiful Bandit

Maria Bonita, Better Half of
Brazil’s Riskiest Love Story

It’s easy to romanticize about outlaws who fall in love, lead a trailblazing life, and burn out like shooting stars, leaving the holes in their story to be filled with awe by future generations. As legends recede, it’s ever harder to match them with reality.
But the life of Maria Déia and Capt. Virgulino Ferreira da Silva sure packs all the heat those landmarks evoke, placing them at the rarefied pantheon of anti-hero couples whose feats and memory still transfix the living, no matter how much time has passed.
As infamous leaders of a ragtag bunch, who terrorized the hinterlands of Brazil’s Northeast and entranced the nation in the 1930s, Maria Bonita and Lampião are at par with contemporaries Bonnie and Clyde, and after them, Charles Starkweather and Caril Ann Fugate.
They all rose quickly from the anonymity of underprivileged classes to news headlines by the way of the gun, leaving a trail littered with crime and death in their wake, but also, a surprising tenderness, represented by their mutual affection.
But while Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow were not lovers, and Charles may have manipulated Caril Ann to follow him, Maria Bonita (Beautiful Maria) and Virgulino (lampião means oil lamp, but his nickname is a reference to his lethal firepower) did it all together.
They were equals and in synch in both love and killing skills, although she may’ve been demonized by the Brazilian press at the time, because she was a woman. How fitting then that today, March 8th, the International Women’s Day, also marks her 107th birthday.

Lampião, 14 years her senior, was already a wanted bandit when he met and literally swept Maria off her feet, around 1930, in the arid Sertão of Brazil, in 1930. A kind of local Robin Hood, he’d avowed to avenge his parents’ deaths in the hands of government soldiers.
When she joined in, Maria became a de-facto co-leader of his gang, which certainly benefited from her charisma. They became folk heroes and it’s not hard to picture how the impoverished populace embraced their fight against enforcers of big landowners and corrupt politicians.
Lampião’s campaign lasted some 16 years, and even as Maria could have played Marian to his Robin exploits, the cangaceiros, as they were known, were closer, (more)
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* Women’s Day
* The Body of Choice
* Phony Outrage

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Curtain Raiser

Minors Marrying, Major Mistake, Colltalers

A beautiful bride in a white dress warmly greeted by relatives and friends. A groom wearing his best attire, leaning on his trusted cane. A few moments and they’re declared husband and wife. That could be a template for millions of wedding descriptions, except for one crucial detail.
The 13-year-old grasps her doll with one hand, and her 63-year-old uncle, now husband, with the other. A scene like that happens every two seconds around the world, says the Human Rights Watch. In Florida, 2,000 minors got married since 2013, including a 13-year-old girl.
You read it right. Not in Pakistan, or Iraq, or Afghanistan, or elsewhere in Asia and Africa, where the practice may be common, but in the U.S., where over 200,000 kids got married between 2000 and 2015, according to a Frontline report. By the way, on the land Americans fight their longest war, Afghan law against marriage of minors is stricter than in Florida. Still powerful voices are against a ban on the practice.
Just last Thursday, the state’s House Speaker Richard Corcoran, who has a record of being instrumental in passing any legislation, but now is struggling to get any action on gun laws, said he won’t support a child marriage ban. ‘The state shouldn’t tell high school sweethearts they shouldn’t get married,’ he said of a place where an average 20% of its population lacks basic literacy skills, as per Dept. of Education data.
He’s far from being alone. In Kentucky, where more than 10,000 children got married from 2000 to 2015 – the country’s third-highest rate – a bill that would make it illegal for girls under 17 to marry, or force any 17-year-old to get permission from a judge to tie the knot, has stalled.
As it turns out, a ‘family values’ group put pressure on the legislator. The bill, SB 48, is not dead yet but this is a state that already lets even younger children marry if the girl is pregnant, for instance, as it’s often the case, or whenever a boy impregnates a woman, regardless of age.
It’s beyond mind-boggling: it’s downright perverse, considering everything we know about what’s surrounding child marriage, such as sexual abuse, incest, poverty, and illiteracy, among others. Obviously, State Senator Julie Raque Adams, the bill’s sponsor, has all our support.
Bills like that and even more rigorous are urgently Continue reading

Super Snitching

Daily Planet Defends
Legendary Reporter

A tweet of artist Daniel Picard with a photo that supposedly shows Batman as the author of the graffiti that accused the reporter Clark Kent of being Superman, unwittingly made Perry White, the Daily Planet’s Chief Editor, the main news of his own newspaper this week. The shy but well regarded Kent is a longtime staff writer at the Planet.
The graffiti showed up on several Metropolis buildings two days ago, and began trending on social media. Both Kent and Superman were advised not to speak publicly about the matter, according to sources. But scrutiny by the city’s press corps and late-night chatter on talk shows threatened Perry’s own position at the Planet.
In an official note, he called the rumor ‘fake news.’ However, the stunning picture of Batman in the very act of scrawling the message put pressure on the Planet‘s editorial board. Hundreds of commentaries and posts on Twitter, Facebook and other social media, are questioning the authenticity of the photo, and Picard is yet to explain its provenance. Some posters are accusing Perry of having hired the artist to ‘stage’ the picture and embarrass Batman.
Gotham Gazette, main paper of Batman’s city, also got dragged into the controversy, but hasn’t yet published anything about the matter on its pages. According to Perry, the rumor is ‘irresponsible,’ and represents a ‘threat to the security of citizens of Metropolis.’ The Planet ‘makes itself available’ to Commissioner James Gordon, the city’s chief of police, to help in the investigations, the note concludes.
The Twitter picture, which is being examined for possible manipulation by police forensics experts, shows a high level of technical precision, usually not accessible to anyone outside official minting agencies and law enforcement. A parallel investigation is also being launched to find out the identity of its author, since Picard doesn’t sign it on his tweet.
Rivalry between Superman and Batman already sowed tensions among officials of both Metropolis and Gotham City, and in at least one occasion, caused a major conflict of residents of the two cities. In 1978, during an Independence Day parade, citizens got into a massive public brawl, that resulted in two casualties and dozens of injuries. Since then, the superheroes have avoided appearing together in public.
Periodically, rumors surface about the civilian identity of the two most popular American heroes, and the names of Kent, for the Man of Steel  – a native of the planet Krypton –  and Bruce Wayne, a wealthy Gotham philanthropist, for the Cape Crusader, are often mentioned. Even as no one has proven it, there’s consensus that law enforcement and official authorities are aware of their secret identities.
News about this issue will be published as soon as it becomes available.

(*) Exclusive coverage Colltales.
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* The Daily Planet
* Super-Dupers 
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© Photos by Daniel Picard. All rights reserved.