Saturday, May 12, 2018

Black Holes

The other day I read two articles that I would like to point you to. 

The first is an evaluation of the work of the late Stephen Hawking. (It is available at In its discussion of black holes and such astronomical phenomena the article did not include any mathematical equations, luckily for me as I can’t get beyond ten fingers and ten toes.*

What particularly struck me (apart from the way modern scientists have pushed ever closer to unravelling the deepest mysteries of the universe) is who those scientists are. Mentioned by name are Roger Penrose—like Hawking an Englishman—Albert Einstein (Swiss), James Hartle and Leonard Susskind (Americans), Jacob Beckenstein (Israeli), Gerard ’t Hooft (Dutch), and Juan Maldacena (Argentine). 

Certainly for residents of a small planet to attempt to comprehend the nature of the vast universe our home orb is a part of, nothing other than a global endeavor will do. And science, no matter how hard dictators try to make it, is anything but parochial or local or answerable to political dogma. 


In the second article, “Tracing the children of the Holocaust” (, writer Alex Last followed up, seventy years later, the attempt by the BBC after World War II to find relatives in Britain of children who had survived the Holocaust. 
It all began with a rare recording of an old radio broadcast, which starts with the words: "Captive Children, an appeal from Germany."
One by one, for five minutes, the presenter asks relatives of 12 children to come forward. With each name comes a short but devastating summary of the child's ordeal under the Nazis.
"Jacob Bresler, a 16-year-old Polish boy, has survived five concentration camps, but has lost his entire family…
"Sala Landowicz, a 16-year-old Polish girl, who's in good health after surviving three concentration camps…
"Gunter Wolff, a German Jewish boy, now stateless. The boy is 16 years old and has experienced the ghetto at Lodz, and the Buchenwald concentration camp...
"Fela and Hana Katz, their father and mother have died, they have lost track of two brothers and three sisters."
And so it went on.
In the end Last was able to trace 11 of the 12 children mentioned in the one extant broadcast. Most were no longer alive. But Last was able to meet four survivors.

Unfortunately for some of the children, even when relatives were found, all did not go well. Instead of joyous clasps to the breasts, these children found an atmosphere soured by old family feuds, stinginess, and distain. For example, while in a DP camp three sisters 
got a response from the cousin they sought in London - a hospital doctor. But it was not what they expected.
"I got a letter back [said one sister] telling me I had to stand on my own two feet, and that kind of annoyed me, this attitude. So I wrote him, he needn't worry, I won't come to him for anything, that I will stand on my own two feet because I had a good teacher and that was Hitler. And he taught me a lot.”
On the other hand, others, like Jacob Bresler, were lucky:
Mr and Mrs Samuels were more than lovely. And they became my parents, practically, for the rest of their lives. They were angels. You don't meet people like this today, and if you do, you should carry them on your hands, and celebrate them as the most fantastic human beings that were ever alive. To this day, I do not have the words to express my gratitude, and they really loved me, and I loved them.
Last year at my bank I noticed that the teller had two little flags attached to her name tag. One was the Stars-and-Stripes, but the other I did not recognize. When I asked her, she replied that it was the flag of Jordan. “That’s what I like about this place,” I told her. 

They may not all be scientists searching for the deepest secrets of the universe, but our mixture of peoples, some having escaped from murderous homelands or from crushing poverty, is a cause for celebration. But how much longer can we celebrate when we have an administration hell-bent on kicking people out and bolting the door in their faces? 

General relativity predicts the existence of black holes, regions of space where matter and energy are so dense that nothing can escape from their gravitational pull, not even light.**
Trump’s Washington is a political black hole whose denseness does not allow light to escape—or compassion to be released.


*So I lied! I studied Advanced Calculus and Differential Equations in college.

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