50 Years Ago Today


As the Old Negro Spiritual,
Free at Last, Free at Last

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

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Games People Play

The Quirk, the Savvy & the
Naughty About the Olympics 

As the biggest sports event is about to wrap up its rings, we had a bout of contrition and gave in to it. But fear not. We’ll skip what you’ve already been nauseated about the U.K. edition of the ancient Greek games that had a 20-century hiatus, and resumed in 1894.
Instead, you’ll read about a spooky sight hovering over the Olympics’ bombastic opening, gold medalists who sold their trophies, the champion who became a farmer, and, hold your nose plugs and keep your mouth shut, what swimmers may be doing all along in the pool.
We told you, neither your usual fare of uplifting profiles and heartbreak and redemption stories, nor the biased, prime-time delayed, ad-stuffed TV coverage of the games. And not a word about that ideal of a ‘peaceful competition without the burden of politics, religion, or racism.’
Corporate sponsorship, unrealistic expectations, manipulated patriotism; there are so many things that turn us off from a cleared-eye appreciation and what these games may represent for the world at large. But don’t call us cynics for such a blunt view just yet.
Perhaps it’s the ‘human side’ of it all that does it for us. For one, the perception that some will emerge superstars, ready to sell soda and junk food, while the majority will return to obscurity without hardly a Continue reading