Tuesday, June 6, 2017

The Best and the Brightest

In a recent Times piece “Third Gravitational Wave Detection, From Black-Hole Merger 3 Billion Light Years Away"(NYT, 6/1/17) Dennis Overbye says the following, “In the latest LIGO event, a black hole 19 times the mass of the sun and another black hole 31 times the sun’s mass, married to make a single hole of 49 solar masses. During the last frantic moments of the merger, they were shedding more energy in the form of gravitational waves than all the stars in the observable universe.” Overbye's piece was datelined June 1. June also happens to be the month that the Times wedding announcement section gets particularly active and Overbye’s description of the black hole may bear a striking resemblance to some of the couplings you have observed. You’ve certainly known young marrieds who seem to suck the air out of a room. But let’s translate. “Alice Swift, the daughter of Asa Swift and Melody Swift of Newton was married to today to Dr. Edward L. Saxby. His parents were the founders of Saxby Appliance Repair in Braintree. Asa Swift is an otolaryngologist in Newton. Alice Swift graduated Cum Laude from Skidmore and received her MA and PhD in Medieval Studies from Columbia. Dr Saxby, who graduated Summa Cum Laude from Yale, is a graduate of the MD/PhD program in neurophysiology at Cornell. He is currently a resident in the department of neurophysiology at Weill Cornell Hospital.” The only question is, besides dragging into its orbit every object in sight, will the combined mass of this new entity, what David Halberstam once described as The Best and the Brightest, generate more energy in the heavens or on earth?

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