Friday, May 13, 2022

Does a Black Hole Get to the Point?

Black Hole at center of the Milky Way (Event Horizon Telescope)

Does a black hole get to the point? The recent observation of the black hole at the center of the Milky Way, only 26,000 light years from earth (which would be visible if you were looking in the direction of Sagittarius weren’t for fairy dust) questions the whole notion of a point as coordinate which is the cross section of two lines. Rivka Galchen’s New Yorker essay on Alexander Grothendieck ("The Mysterious Disappearance of a Revolutionary," 5/9/22) deals with a mathematician who sought to define what would seem to be a kind of limit in terms of smallness. Grothendieck is also a subject of Benjamin Labatut’s When We Cease to Understand the World. Says Labatut about Grothendieck: "Space was his lifelong obsession. One of his greatest strokes of genius was expanding the notion of the point. Beneath his gaze, the humble dot was no longer a dimensionless position; it swelled with a complex inner structure. Where others had seen a simple locus without depth, size or breadth, Grothendieck saw an entire universe. No one had proposed something so bold since Euclid." However, the very concept of the black hole, with the ultimate compression of matter that passes its event horizon challenges mathematical uncertainties. Previous to the present discovery, scientists were only able to see the black hole at the center of another galaxy, Messier 87. However, the only kind of mathematics that truly describes the black hole would be an infinite progression leading to oblivion, a kind of cosmological version of Zeno’s paradox. 

read "Something Out of Nothing, Nothing Out of Something" by Francis Levy, HuffPost

and, talking about black holes, listen to "Pain in My Heart" by Otis Redding

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