Saturday, 11 August 2018

Why Read Science Fiction

Continuing my attempts to sort out my photographs, I found this obituary, which I remember reading with a gathering sense that nothing anyone could make up would ever be as strange as the universe itself:
The pictures have somehow come out rather unclear here. The gist is that a man called Donald Lynden Bell has died. He was an astrophysicist who predicted in 1971 that the Milky Way would contain a massive black hole, and this was subsequently proved to be so. He also argued in 1962 that the Milky Way was probably formed through the dynamic collapse of a single large gas cloud 10 billion years ago - this amazing idea still forms the basis of scientific understanding of the Milky Way's origins. Together with a group of scientists who called themselves the Seven Samurai (feeble scientists' joke - they can't be brilliant and exceptionally witty, I guess), in 1987, after observing the movement of a large number of local galaxies towards an area of space in the constellation of Centaurus, he proposed the existence of a Great Attractor, a huge, diffuse region of material some 250 million light years away. In 1994, with a group of another seven scientists, he published an article in Nature which announced the existence of a galaxy of about 300 billion stars close to our own. His final area of interest was studying Mach's principle, which claims a connection exists between local physical laws and the structure of the universe.  I learnt from the obituary what the word quasar is actually made from but, more importantly, I was awed by a reminder of the immensity of time, space and every dimension of existence and thus gained some perspective on my own tiny daily concerns.

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