I woke up Thursday morning to the news that astronomers had finally been able to take a picture of a black hole at the center of our galaxy.
A black hole, as New York Times science writer Dennis Overbye elegantly describes it, is “a trapdoor in space-time through which the equivalent of four million suns have been dispatched to eternity, leaving behind only their gravity and violently bent space-time.”
The extent of my layman’s understanding of a black hole is it is a cosmic void in which things disappear.
(I imagine if one were somehow able to send a camera into a black hole and transmit images from within we would find lost socks, women’s equality, voting rights, selflessness, good sense, Zlatan’s humility and car keys.)
It was in opening a new tab on my computer to look up what a black hole is that it struck me —again—what a marvelous time we live in. And how we squander away the opportunities for learning.
When I was a kid (it wasn’t that long ago) I would have had to look up black hole in an encyclopedia. Actually, it would have been the 1 1/2 pound book that made up the B category in the collection of tomes. Given that we could not afford an encyclopedia I would have had to have waited until I could get to the public library or the school library during a 15 minute recess.
The information and knowledge was nowhere near my fingertips.
But now, in the age of smartphones, laptops and tablets everything I could want to know about black holes, and space and reproductive rights and political candidates is literally at my fingers. And yet…
My internet search history includes: Is Diana Ross dead (no), Is Mila Kunis Russian (no, Ukrainian), Alice theme song lyrics (surprised I still remember them), can dogs eat grapes (no), pet insurance costs (wow!) and on and on. They are not the sort of queries that make the greatest use of unlimited knowledge at our immediate disposal.
Nevertheless, the information is out there. It has not been sucked into an expansive void never to be seen again. We can find answers for questions as trifling as a celebrity’s nationality or as immediate as a political candidate’s history. Use the internet and your time wisely.