STICK TO DOCUMENTARIES: After making fun of the BBC in the previous post, I want to play fair and say that they are better than the Discovery Channel ("all dumbed down all the time") and National Geographic ("oh no, not the guys with the mummies again") and everybody else by a country mile in making bliss-inducing programs on science, not to mention history and culture. Pity about the news division.

One of my favorite weekend pastimes is catching a BBC regular program like Horizon, which yesterday showed a documentary about the revolutionary research into black holes that has occurred in the past couple of years. From just recently thinking that "massive black holes" were relatively rare occurrences in the universe, astronomers discovered by means of the Hubble and one or two earth based telescopes that in fact a black hole lies at the center of every galaxy. Some are dormant, others are feeding in an unbelievably violent frenzy on surrounding matter. Now the thinking is that black holes are actually the key to creation of galaxies in the first place: the energy of their early phases releasing explosions in the surrounding space out of which stars then form.

Our neighboring galaxy, Andromeda, by the way, is heading our way. In about three billion years the two galaxies will sling into each other like two enormous swarms of locusts, pitching and wheeling and exploding until the two black holes at the center of each collide in an explosion of well, very large and indescribable magnitude.

"The earth," said the dweeby astronomer summing this up, "will be toast."


Steve | 17:21 |