A small news item with huge potential consequences appeared in the press the other day. It touched upon the unified theory of everything, the quest for an understanding that would explain how electromagnetism, strong and weak forces in nature and gravity work together. (Blog 10/21/14). Laura Mersini-Houghton, a physics professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, has announced she has mathematical proof that black holes “can never come into being in the first place,” ruling them out as a force in the cosmos and paving the way to rethinking the origins of the universe.
Under the present theory, black holes emerge when stars collapse and their gravitational pull creates a black hole. Mersini-Houghton argues that when stars collapse they lose so much mass, they wouldn’t have enough density to become black holes. The result of her study does seem to remove conflicts between Einstein’s theory of gravity and quantum mechanics. And that’s a pretty big deal. Click here
But mine is a perverse nature and I’m inclined to say, “Not so fast.” We’ve forgotten the human element. Black holes abound in the minds of people like Congressman Tod Aikin who believes a distinction exists between legitimate and illegitimate rape, or Congresswoman Michel Bachman who denies climate change, or Senator Mitch McConnell who opposes equal pay for women. From where I sit, the number of black holes in the universe seems endless and can be found in great clusters in the Middle East, particularly in Saudi Arabia where women aren’t allowed to drive cars. In fact, so many black holes exists in our firmament, I’m surprised there is room for stars.
Fortunately, stars do persist. Edward Snowden gave up a comfortable life to live in exile rather than remain silent about NSA violations of basic human rights. Not everyone agrees that he shed light where it was needed – our government in particular – so it was gratifying when The Right Livelihood Award, which serves as an alternative to the Nobel prize, was given to him. Jakob von Uexkill established it in 1980 to honor those who have shown courage in the pursuit of truth. Click here
If Mersini-Houghton has made a scientific breakthrough in our understanding of the universe, I am happy for her and for us. But I am obliged to remind her that where human’s abound, the uncertainty principle rules and that can present complications.