COLD, UNCARING COMPLEXITY FOR THE JOY OF DISCOVERY

From the Paris Review, a collection of Insightful and compelling quotes on a range of topics by the Event Horizon Telescope scientists who collaborated on imaging the black hole at the center of galaxy M87. Very much worth reading all of them, but here are a selected few.

‘Part of the reason I think the image has caught on around the world is that the idea of the black hole as a place from where it’s impossible to return to normal reality has a lot of resonance in our culture and politics now.’

‘I remember it was a really beautiful day when we first ran the imaging algorithms to produce an image from the data. We all locked ourselves in a small, stuffy room and pressed the Enter key to trigger the imaging software at the same time. We were all using different parameters in the software, so I expected we would all get different images or that only a few of us would be successful. I immediately showed the image to my boyfriend over Skype, casually violating the embargo that we weren’t supposed to share it outside the collaboration.’

’As an astronomer, I have occasion to travel the world to perform observations, and by quirks of geography, there are places fit for telescopes where homosexuality can mean death. Even within the U.S., before my work with the EHT, academic travel has taken me to places where the colleagues to whom I was “out” and I had agreed not to indicate my sexuality in any way due to safety concerns. Though my experiences with the EHT have been universally positive, with regards to my sexuality, there are still homophobes entrenched in tenure throughout academia, and some careers are still guided by avoidance of such faculty.’

‘From a distance, the gravitational force of a black hole is exactly the same as that of a star of the same mass. Black holes are not cosmic villains actively seeking to devour worlds. You’d actually need to get really close to fall into one.’

‘It is difficult for me to choose a particular genre of fiction, so I’ll just pick a recent favorite: Blood Meridian. I find insurmountably evil villains incredibly compelling, though the horror of this book is at times physically painful to read. In science, the situation is the opposite—astronomy is difficult not because of some malicious actor, but due to a cold, uncaring complexity with which humanity contends, largely for the joy of discovery.’

What the Scientists Who Photographed the Black Hole Like to Read

https://www.theparisreview.org/blog/2019/04/25/what-the-scientists-who-photographed-the-black-hole-like-to-read/

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