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.
10 BILLION SUNS
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.

BREAKFAST OF STARS
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.

ALMOST NOTHINGS
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)
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Read Also:
* Tomorrow Never Knows
* Singing Suns
* Worlds Away

Continue reading

Seeing Through

New Invisibility Cloaks May
Hide More Than Cats & Events

If you roam this world, it’s very likely that there’s been a time when you wished you could’ve just vanished from the face of Earth. Maybe you owe money, did something despicable, or can’t possibly put up with what the Tea Party is doing with the American democracy.
There’s no shortage of reasons for getting away from it all. And while art and human imagination have contributed along the centuries to fulfill our longing for being physically oblivious to reality, there’s now a new powerful ally fast ushering us towards the void: science.
Several developments in the technology of bending light waves have brought us a bit closer, if not to the full monty of extreme discretion, at least to abscond a variety of subjects, that just a few years ago was possible only in movies and computer science.
From metamaterials, which interact with light and can been printed in large sheets, to a cylinder that doesn’t reflect microwaves, to even a combo of mirrors, lenses or tanks of water, cloaking devices seem to be the new holy grail to some scientists. Even if they have to make a cat disappear, like they did in Singapore.
By now, it’s easy to think that it may be all about smoke and mirrors, for some developments are truly fantastic. Such as an invisibility ‘time cloak,’ which can actually hide entire events by manipulating the speed of light in optical fibers. If it sounds heady, that’s because such a device is perfectly capable of blowing our minds.
In fact, when it comes to the quest for invisibility, it’s not just minds that are bound to be smashed. Think about how much the defense industry is investing in this research to grasp some pretty harry scenarios. And there’s also the practical side of being invisible, a prospect not to be rose-colored about.

SCI-FI & DREAMS OF SILVER SCREEN 
Fantastic literature and movies, of course, have been teasing us for years about the prospect of vanishing into thin air, and talking about Harry, it was one of that boy wizard’s early films that got a whole new generation on track to be mesmerized by it. Never mind the creepiness factor of lurking undetected in somebody’s room.
Cinema has contributed a huge chunk to our fascination, and the 1933 James Whale’s feature, The Invisible Man, may have laid down the rules Continue reading

Made Up

Never Mind Gadgets; These
Inventions Can Save Lives

Truth to be told, the kind of invention that gets all the press is the one people carry in their pockets, the smart gadgets that some awkward college grad developed as his pet project. They’ve got us all by the tip of our fingers, and we can’t even lift our heads to avoid traffic.
To be honest, we’re not impressed. What gets us going is something invented to get people to share. Like a billboard that turns air into water. Or an ocean salt-remover machine. A circulating shower, or a food production unit. For these, we gladly bow our heads in awe.
We love our precious little things, make no mistake about. They supply and compensate for our companionship and reassurance needs, even though in reality they give us neither. But, to paraphrase the old saying, what we create out of necessity has a much better shot at bring us together around the fire.
Even the concept of inventing something depends on a number of qualifiers. The U.S. Patent and Trademark office is one of the busiest of the world, but the majority of contraptions and devices that surround us are arguably products of a long development process, not of a single, ‘Eureka’ moment.
With due respect to the amazing inventors who simply can’t help it but to constantly create all sorts of ingenious setups to make our lives easier, they rarely match the romantic idea of the solitary genius who changed the world out of his garage. Mostly, they create a better toothbrush.
That also can be said about the computer, the electric car, and the smartphone. As great as they may be, they’re far from cutting edge Continue reading

Got Milk?

How Many Laws It Takes to Explain
a Cat’s Gulp? Let Us Count the PhDs

With due respect to Barbra Streisand, the real zen master is the feline, as research upon research piles up to prove it. This time, it took scientists from MIT, Princeton, and Virginia Polytech, to show the world what it already knew: when cats drink, they’re actually solving fundamental hydrodynamic problems you didn’t even know existed.
For starters, they lap their drinks four times a second, way too fast for your inferior human eyes to see anything but a blur. And unlike dogs, for example, they hardly make any noise doing it. Oh, and the toothbrush-like raspy hairs on their tongue have nothing to do with it.
In lay terms, the four engineers reported that the cat’s lapping method depends on its “instinctive ability to calculate the balance between opposing gravitational and inertial forces.” Come again?
Elementary, dear reader. The cat darts its tongue, curving the upper side downward so that the tip lightly touches the surface of the water. The tongue pulls a column of liquid upwards, and quickly traps it inside his month, before it has a chance to give in to gravity and spill. Did we mention that the cat’s chin remains dry during the process?
How did they measure all this? With high tech machines, silly, one of which had been designed for some way less important experiment at the $100 billion International Space Station, before being found in Continue reading

Get Moving

Cars That Fly, Hover, Fold, & 
Get Powered by Compressed Air

You’ve heard that one before. By now, we were supposed to be living in smart cities, with cars flying overhead, and androids doing menial work, so we’d be zipping around, 90 minutes from New York to Paris, or ‘the chance to start anew in one of the colonies of Jupiter.’
Well, enough of that for now. While we’ve wasted our youth complaining about lower-expectations, and the ennui of our times, inventors got busy, and came up with exciting ways to get us in gear. You’d be surprised how close we’re from a new age of cars. And it yes, they all come in black.
A few months ago, we told you about the Terrafugia, a foldable-wing car-slash-small plane, that became the first private aircraft to be licensed by the FAA. Something about its design, though, which resembles a German jeep from the 1940s, low speed, crammed cabin space, and stiff price, didn’t drive anyone to take their shirts off.
But alas, it somehow opened the floodgates, and now pretty much every month there’s a new design being tested in some secluded desert, that promises to take the world by storm. And they’re no longer being developed by the crafty weekend-hobbyist; many heavy weights in the industry are getting in the game early, and often.
It may not happen tomorrow, though, so you too can keep your clothes on for a while. But chances are these things will be coming to mass production even before the 1884 De Dion Bouton Et Trepardoux Dos-A-Dos Steam four-seater, the world’s oldest still running car, grinds to halt.
If you think that there isn’t enough demand for such a radical change, one that has the potential to literally leave the present in the dust, you may be underestimating the unpredictable factor at the root of most modern inventions. As Henry Ford once said, about his invention: “If I had asked people what they want, they would have said a faster horse.”
Finally, for those who feel that we ought to move faster, and catch up with the sci-fi world already, a word of caution. Despite all laws and heavy penalties, people who should never get behind the wheel, still do, and still cause unspeakable lifetime heartbreak to loved ones and Continue reading

Whole Shebang

Biggest Black Hole Ever Found &
Metaphysics of Perforating Tunnels

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, according to John Lennon. Right now, there’re billions of massive ones, swallowing whole galaxies across the universe.
For such a geographic, anatomic accident, we give holes a huge amount of attention, and scientific research keeps piling up.
Let’s see what’s that about, from the vastness of outer space, to the rarified atmosphere of improbable research, to that ground hole that may already have our name printed all over it.
10 BILLION SUNS
One of the noblest things to be said about Albert Einstein is that he never let his deep religious beliefs interfere with his scientific quest.
When he theorized that there must be something like a black hole, a Continue reading

Two Clothes for Comfort

Wear a Bikini, Charge Your Phone;
Too Much Coffee? Sleep in This Shirt

It’s a brave new world out there. And if you feel slightly deflated that flying cars won’t be polluting the city skies just yet, fear not. Two pieces of garment may give you just the right feeling you’re already living in the next century.
Take this awfully fashionable pair of bikinis, for example, which can do wonders for those with the right body type. For everybody else, though, they can charge your phone and personal gadgets with solar power.
That’s right, no need to run out of juice ever again, while working on your tan or just hanging at the beach (enough of Continue reading

Got Milk?

How Many Laws It Takes to Explain
a Cat’s Gulp? Let Us Count the PhDs

With due respect to Barbra Streisand, the real zen master is the feline, as research upon research piles up to prove it. This time, it took two MIT scientists, plus one from Princeton and another from the Virginia Polytechnic Institute, to show the world what it already knew: when cats drink, they’re actually solving fundamental hydrodynamic problems you didn’t even know existed.
For starters, they lap their drinks four times a second, way too fast for your inferior human eyes to see anything but a blur. And Continue reading

Overnight Sensation

Meaning of Crop Circles
May Lay Beyond Our Wits

If this mystery is ever solved, years from now, will we hit our foreheads and say, “how come I didn’t see this coming?”
Since the 1970s, crop circles, those gigantic, increasingly elaborated drawings better visualized from above that have been appearing overnight on corn, wheat, barley and rapeseed fields all over the world, have puzzled, mystified and challenged everyone and their loony uncles.
Attempts to debunk them failed miserably. From the pure naive, such as the two Britons who claimed authorship in the 1990s, and couldn’t reproduce their attempt under scrutiny, to the cutting edge, as the MIT grads who tried to recreate one and barely managed to draw a Continue reading