The Fascinating Story of Black Holes

Technology allows us to see deeper into space than ever before, revealing secrets of our galaxy and the universe formerly only speculated upon.

My hometown is extremely close to many major scientific events. I grew up less than ten minutes from the famous Bell Labs where astronomers–in concert with Princeton University (about forty minutes from me)–made the first major discoveries into the Big Bang Theory. The former Bell Labs, now empty, is in a park-like setting with monuments displaying results made there.

Bell Labs was on the commute to my mother’s work and many other events so we passed it often in our car. Outside is a giant white structure that my brother and I used to joke was King Kong’s water fountain. Despite our immature jokes, the site fascinated me for most of my life, and when in recent years the now-closed site was the subject of local hearing about its future use, I followed the news closely.

Despite being an English major and theater and music nerd for most of my life, science and mathematics holds great interest for me, as it does other dramatists. For example, the play “Proof” about a mathematician’s daughter is now a classic as are several other plays, books and movies. The book about the Periodic Table by Primo Levi is one of my all-time favorites. In addition, I wrote a play about Marie Curie after reading her highly-recommended biography by her daughter Eve Curie. (This play is still in editing.)

Years ago I listened to Bill Bryson’s incredible science book covering most major scientific theory. Now, just a few years later, some major concepts are getting an overhaul, including the Big Bang Theory.

The Big Bang Theory is up against some serious counter-arguments.

Recently astronomers discovered that black holes are at the center of each galaxy, including ours, the Milky Way, leading to arguments that the Big Bang Theory is false and that actually our galaxy was spawned by these black holes. The black hole was once speculated as a science fiction nemesis–the random black hole sucking planets and materials into its abyss–the black hole now appears to serve an important purpose to galaxies, a sort of anchor or axis.

This interests me for several reasons. Namely:

  1. Interdisciplinary Studies
    The older I get the more I see that the world has parallels everywhere, as if nature leaves hints for us. For example, many foods often give clues to how they can nourish and heal us by their looks alone. A walnut for example, in its hard shell, bears a striking resemblance to a brain. With this in mind, I am pretty certain that the meaning and purpose of black holes lies somewhere close in nature. Not to underestimate the immense complexity of astronomy and physics, but somehow I think you could show a black hole documentary to someone somewhere in engineering, meteorology, neurology, biology or another field and get great theories about its purpose and function, little calculus required. These clues in nature are mostly common sense and one of the reasons I love Dr. Neal Barnard of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. Dr. Barnard is a proponent for whole food and vegan diets and his writing and work makes you realize how much more simpler and less-complicated being healthy and educated about nutrition is than our world makes it out to be. For example, despite billions of dollars wasted on useless medical treatments, many common ailments can be cured and even reversed by simple nutritional changes. This seems distant from astronomy, but not really, what I am saying is that we make things way more complicated then they need to be, nutrition and Dr. Barnard’s studies prove this, and that the answers to black holes are likely similarly available to us but mired in some fiscally or politically-induced blindness.
  2. The Future of our Universe
    I suspect that answers to the history and future of our universe may lie in the story of black holes. In fact, although of course more immediate needs to mankind are of greater importance, the study of black holes appears to me to be some of the most important research taking place in the entire world.
  3. Astronomy and physics makes world discord appear petty
    I have often felt that the study of astronomy can impact attitudes and progress toward a more peaceful and civilized world in a secular manner. For example, compared with the concept of planets, black holes and stars, the struggle for global dominance and other issues that cause persistent havoc in the world appear petty and makes me wonder why we can’t find more peaceful, just solutions to our conflicts. While unfortunately mankind tends to stray toward an effort to dominate and control the natural world (will space become the next frontier of warfare instead of a shared community like in science fiction?), space and its exploration has enormous potential to benefit mankind.
  4. Space inspires more feminist ideas about humanity
    While I am typically an extremely practical person (I realize that space exploration has little impact on my day to day activities or current crisis such as the government shutdown, war, unemployment, or poverty) the topic seems ripe to allow for some greater theoretical speculation on systems and humanity. For example, the concept of black holes and space, through greater analysis, supports the theory that our world is actually designed for feminist leadership; that historic male dominance of women is in fact the opposite of what will save our world. This seems a bit errant, but in future posts I will defend how astronomy supports this theory.


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