Monday, October 9, 2023

If Corporations Are People, What About Black Holes?

NPR strikes again.

I've noticed before how their news programs use astronomy as an excuse for flights of erotic fancy.  Last Thursday, though, they took a further step into feel-good, Culture-of-Therapy inanity, giving three minutes of their valuable airtime to an astrophysicist named Regina G. Barber.  Google News kindly sent it my way, showing that the Internet is malicious (if that wasn't already obvious).  "Black holes can teach us how to live our best lives," read the headline, and it was entirely accurate. 

One of my favorite celestial objects in the universe is the black hole.

Granted, I'm an astrophysicist. But I know I'm not alone. People love black holes. They seem to hold a near-mythic status in movies and pop culture.

People, movies, and popular culture love serial killers and zombies too.

What lessons do black holes have to teach us, according to Barber?  Here's the first one.

Lesson One: Push the limits, even if others doubt you

From there she tells how black holes were theorized and their existence eventually confirmed.  Apparently they were sitting out there, light-years away, patiently waiting to be found, pushing the limits against old meanie Albert Einstein's doubt about them.  But his obstructionism "didn't work," and they emerged to take their place in the sun.

And so on.  If you want to know the other two lessons, click through.  Barber concludes:

So, next time you're feeling unsure about your place in the world, remember: "Just because you are not seen, it doesn't mean that you are not there or that you are not, you know, playing a very, very important role," says [fellow astrophysicist Priyamvada] Natarajan.

Black holes have feelings too, just like you.  They too are Somebody.

This is of course all bullshit.  Planets don't dance with each other or kiss each other, and black holes were not waiting for astronomers on Earth to prove their existence.  I'm working on a blog post about meaning and purpose in scientific accounts of the universe, and despite what some philosophers and scientists will tell you, there was never any danger that personification of Nature was going to go away.  I don't know what Barber thought she was doing here; I suspect it's another attempt to make Science and Scientists look like nice guys instead of mean old grinches who want to take away all your illusions.  Luckily for us, black holes are too far away for people to try to pet them.  Barber and Natarajan would be first in line.