Saturday, February 1, 2014
Dog-Dang You, Stephen Hawking!
To be clear, if you're wondering whether massive gravitational bodies capable of curving space-time into a cosmic bathtub drain which if you got too close, will suck you helplessly in and atomize you, well yes, those things exist. Thank goodness. But Hawking says they can no longer be considered Black Holes; they are at most Very Dark Gray Holes or possibly Navy Blue Holes.
I do not object to science changing its mind; that, after all, is the nature of science. First they say Gravity is the opposing force to Levity. Then they say it's a mysterious force capable of acting at a distance by the rule of the inverse square. Then they say it's the curvature of space time. Next they'll say it's because the surface of the earth happens to be very, very sticky. Fine. Or first they say there's no such things as mermaids, they're biologically impossible. Then they say, hey wait, we have actual video evidence of real mermaids and we'll show it right after the commercial break. Then they say, don't believe them, mermaids are stupid, those weren't even real scientists, just exotic dancers in lab coats pretending to be scientists, no scientist has cleavage like that. Okay.
This is the give-and-take we expect from the scientific community.
Just don't take away my Black Holes.
This is not the first time science has done this to me. When I was a kid, my favorite dinosaur was the brontosaurus. Everyone has their favorite, I know. For a lot of people it's the tyrannosaur, but I always thought that one was kind of showy. It's like saying your favorite Sno-Cone flavor is Cherry. Big Whoop. I'd take almost anything over a tyrannosaur: pterodactyl, ankylosaurus, hadrosaurus, but the brontosaurus was my favorite.
I remember the day my mother broke the news to me. There is no such thing as a brontosaurus, she said. There never was. A lazy paleontologist had put the skull of one dinosaur onto the body of another. To imagine how I felt, think of a little child, innocent and dewy, being told there is no Santa Claus, that the reason people thought there was a Santa Claus was because they'd taken the skull of one person and put it on the body of another. Stephen Gould was there and put his arm around my shoulder, "Cheer up little man," he said. He wasn't calling me by name, he was just being patronizing. "Sure, you've lost the brontosaurus, but now we have raptors. You'd never even heard about raptors!" This only made me cry harder. As far as I'm concerned, a raptor is just a sportier model of a tyrannosaur.
It hurt, but I took that hurt and buried it deep inside. And then one day. They told me Pluto wasn't a planet.
I guess everyone can tell you exactly where he was and what he was doing when he heard the news Pluto isn't a planet. For me, I was on a MARTA train heading downtown. I'd just stepped on some gum, and was looking at the sole of my shoe, formulating the nascent idea that maybe gravity is just because the earth is sticky. Then I looked up and saw the newspaper someone was reading. PLUTO NOT A PLANET!!! screamed the headline. I told myself it was a misprint, a hoax, but everyone in the subway was reading the same newspaper, and all the headlines said the same thing.
I rode the MARTA to the end of the line and got off in a daze at the airport. Without thinking, I boarded a plane for Buenos Aires. When I got off the plane, I just began walking, not even caring where I was going. I didn't stop until I was staring across Cape San Pio towards Antarctica. I was so numbed, I'd completely missed my stop.
You see, of all the planets, Pluto was my favorite. Everyone else would say Saturn, sure, Saturn, the tyrannosaur of planets. (Jupiter, in case you were thinking of correcting me, is the gigantosaurus of planets.)
And now Stephen Hawking has taken away my Black Holes. Yes, I still have supernovas, and red dwarfs, and binary star systems. But Black Holes were my favorite.
Dog-dang you, Stephen Hawking, dog-dang you to eternal heck.