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Science

The blurry black hole photo

In the New Republic, writer Matt Ford rightly argues why we should be in awe of the blurry photo of the black hole. It’s not about the picture as much as the effort in went in to capturing it. Context is king.

This level of cynicism is better understood as ignorance. The image itself might indeed seem unimpressive. But judging it as you would any other digital photograph, shorn of all context and understanding, would be shortsighted. One also has to consider the thought and labor behind its creation. The photograph might not depict the horror of galactic destruction as some expected, but it represents something even better.

In other words, the photo should not just be consumed and forgotten like every other piece of digital (re: social) media. The image of the black hole is an artifact.

Think about it: A group of mostly hairless primates, stranded on a rock circling a nuclear spark, used radio waves to photograph an invisible sun-eater so far away that a person would have to travel for 55 million years at the speed of light to reach it. It’s hard to not feel a frisson of awe at the scale of the feat. This context is vital to fully appreciating the image itself, in the same way that the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling is even more impressive when you know that Michelangelo spent three years of his adult life bent over backwards to paint it.

Read In Defense of the Blurry Black Hole Photo

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Quotes Science

RIP Stephen Hawking: ‘Quiet people have the loudest minds’

“The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge.”

Stephen Hawking was a visionary physicist who explored the universe and explained black holes. His 1988 release of A Brief History of Time remains one of the greatest selling science books of all-time.

But was perhaps best known for his remarkable endurance. Doctors gave him two years to live in 1963 after he was diagnosed with motor neuron disease which crippled him. He lost his voice in 1985, only to come back to write and talk via an Intel-powered speaking device. “Quiet people have the loudest minds,” he proclaimed.

Stephen Hawking lived to a remarkable 75 years old, born on the 300th anniversary of Galileo’s death and dying today on Einstein’s birthday. The University of Cambridge celebrated his life with an inspirational montage with a Hawking voiceover.

“People who boast about their IQ are losers”

The cosmos queued him up to be a genius, but also a lifelong comedian. “Life would be tragic if it weren’t funny,” Hawking told The New York Times in 2004 interview. He also said that “people who boast about their IQ are losers.”

Fortunately, he left his work for all of us. Just last year he released his 1966 PhD thesis titled ‘Properties of expanding universes’ to the public because he wanted to “inspire people around the world to look up at the stars and not down at their feet.”

Read the obituary in The Guardian.

RIP Stephen Hawking: 'Quiet people have the loudest minds'
Oxford graduate (1962), the year before he was diagnosed with motor neurone disease (© Rex/Shutterstock)