The Opera Community here recently had a link to a website in connection
with some sort of game competition between browser users. Not being a
game person that didn't interest me much, but as it turned out the
website had lots more that was of interest. The site is run by Stephen
Brooks. I spent some time looking at one link in particular.
Looking inside the event horizon of a black hole.
Don't be frightened, it's just a pretend black hole.
If you've ever wanted to look inside a black hole, you can do it by way
of computer generated illustrations on Brooks' site. It's a little on
the technical side, but if you push your way through it you will find
that it's more understandable than you might have thought by the time
you get down to the end of it. It's not every day that you can get a
quick and pretty much painless lesson in astrophysics.
In a rather famous article for Scientific American written in the
1980s, physicist Stephen Hawking said that matter could escape from a
black hole, but the probability of an electron escaping from the hole
was about the same probability as an "entire leather-bound set of
Proust's Remembrance of Things Past" escaping. Which is a fascinating
idea, really. Although the probability for an electron escaping is low,
it is possible — especially given the number of electrons. Some are bound
to escape. That's why you see light coming though the hole in the illustration.
But what I'd really like to see is that complete set of Proust come flying
out of the damn thing. Now that would be something.
Now I don't know whether Hawking meant the thing about the Proust
volumes literally and statistically, or whether he meant it metaphorically
or perhaps even facetiously. But what I do know is that no matter how
improbable it may seem that the works of Proust would come flying out of
a black hole, it is true that the genius of Proust's works did emerge in a huge
universe amongst millions of galaxies on a tiny planet that had known its own
blacknesses across its brief history of time.
The works of Marcel Proust.
Soon to be found at a black hole near you.
Or, at the very least, at your nearest Barnes & Noble.