By Scott Sullivan
We all know black holes are all-devouring dead star corpses made of millions of tons of stellar ash compressed into an infinitely-dense point whose gravity is so strong it warps space and time; not even light can escape it.
Some of us also “know” much of this is theory.
I write about black holes often so I can be ready for the future. It may be trillions of years before all the stars go out and only black holes remain, gobbling down any light and free matter left. If proton decay, another pet theory of particle physicists, pans out, the cosmos will spend the rest of its life silent, dark and empty.
Things could be worse. The late Stephen Hawking described a black hole information paradox wherein any information of physical systems — their spin, charge and mass — is erased when they enter a black hole.
How is this different from journalism? you might ask. Or Donald Trump’s phone records from Jan. 6 last year?
No sooner does something happen its actuality ends and we’re free to start misremembering. Black holes — be they news holes or in the cosmos — obsess me because of this very vanity. They’re my version of Trump looking in a mirror.
The good news per Hawking is black holes reset information after devouring it. I picture this working like a bowling alley pinsetter. Knock ‘em down, rack ‘em up, rinse and repeat.
Ecclesiastes, no fan of vanity, griped we gain nothing from our toil beneath the sun and nothing’s new there either. Given that, why not moonlight?
My wife gets why I love black holes. “You suck,” she says, “the life out of everything.”
“We still have unknowns to explore,” I said. “Like do black holes reset things the same way, like pinsetters?”
“Do men design them?”
“Thanks for the negation. Then again, there’s no evidence men assemble data in ways that make sense to start with, much less consistently.”
“Speaking of random order,” she said, “did you know you were going to Orie’s graduation party?”
“That’s an order. It’s the last session of our pit bull’s obedience class.”
“Your pit bull,” I said. “Plus he’s never obeyed in his life. Watch: Orie, sit!” I commanded.
No luck again.
“Try with food.”
“You mean bribe him?”
“It’s the only way.”
So there I was at a dog graduation party. There were six in the class and Orie made quite a show, barking at the poodle he has a crush on.
“Wait till she finds out he’s fixed,” I murmured.
“Don’t distract him,” my wife said.
“He’s distracted already. How do you know he’s passed anything and the teachers just want some reason to kick him out?”
Out came the instructor. First the dogs, owners bribing them at each step, did basic tricks. This was not the Westminster Kennel Club Show, it was kindergarten for canines. Each had to sit, stay and walk on a leash between cones. All were awful.
“You call this society humane?” I asked my wife. “Not for me.” Our daughter Flannery, who she had also dragged along, nodded.
Now came the sit game. Rules were easy: whichever dog sat the most times on command in a minute won a prize. Orie tied for first “sitting” 17 times, though he didn’t fully put his rump down.
“Pretty half-assed,” said Flannery.
They gave Orie a prize he could chew on while trying to extract peanut butter from its recesses. He got a paw stuck in one. Staff was called in to get him out.
I’d envisioned mortar boards, gowns, “Pomp and Circumstances” and boring speeches. There were boring speeches, but not about how these graduates held the world’s future hostage. Instead, the instructor went on and on about other classes you could take with your dog such as one where you danced with them.
“I’ve signed you and Orie up for that,” my wife told Flannery.
“No!” she shouted.
Finally they handed out the certificates. “Next class recommended: Manners Refined,” it said. “What’s to refine?” asked Flannery. Orie was still mooning about the poodle, then started chewing up his certificate.
We went out to celebrate without Orie at a restaurant. “Here you go,” I told my wife when the bill came.
“I paid for his class,” she said.
“It was your idea. So was going out.”
“Information paradox here,” she said.
As I paid I thought of Ecclesiastes and figured I will pay forever yet still keep owing. It’s as if black holes are already here.
By Scott Sullivan