I never have fully understood the concept of "black holes" in outer space. When I look into the sky at night, I see lots of black holes, by my definition. But those aren't really black holes, those are just spaces between the stars. Silly me.
So the people on the Discovery channel put together a feature about "black holes" that aired the other night, and I watched. I still have very little understanding of black holes except to take their word that these things exist. They drew some interesting pictures of the black hole concept with their computers -- one that looked liked marbles rolling around on screen wire. Another depiction looked like a waffle with a big dab of cane syrup in the middle. This did little for my understanding of black holes but it did make me hungry, and it reminded me that I have to rescreen my back porch.
One of the scientists described a black hole as something so dense that not even light could escape from it -- that it actually sucked light and gasses into it, slinging planets around its edge at millions of miles per hour.
Of course I've never studied astronomy much beyond our own solar system and even then I have a depth of perception problem when I can't walk or drive there.
I'm not really sure what it means to mankind when we have people who have discovered and claim to understand black holes.
I'm well aware of the fact that many things scientists have learned within the parameters of our space program have been put to use here on earth in broad venues, ranging from medical science to structural engineering.
That being the case, then who knows? Maybe learning about how fast things can be sucked into a black hole can have its application to federal spending.
I realize that space is the last frontier. I also realize that even though we can stand out in the back yard at night and see a star millions of miles away, that doesn't mean that any of us will ever travel to that solar system. I realize our astronauts have set foot on the moon, and we have routinely shuttled in and out of space. But in the big picture of space, that's little more than walking out on our back deck -- it's not a trip to Honolulu.
Heck, I'm still looking for better ways to drive to Augusta and Birmingham. And I don't think my pursuit will be connected in any way to a byproduct of studying the stars. However, I do sign onto the concept that great curiosity in general often leads to great discoveries in unsuspected places.
And while I have never studied astronomy as a single course, I do marvel at the stars. Sometimes I wonder if there is someone sitting way out there on his deck at night, looking back at our sun and wondering about the planets that zoom around it.
I do not discount the possibility that there may be life out there in some other galaxy. And if there is, I wonder if they ever picked butter beans, struggled with algebra or had an equivalent to the '57 Chevy. Do they play baseball and re-enact past wars? Do they have duct tape and WD-40? Do they compare the taste of most meats to chicken? Do they eat with one hand in their laps or did they see the silliness in such from the very getgo?
Anyway, I appreciate the Discovery channel trying to broaden my understanding of things so far away. And never again will I be able to eat a waffle, swat a fly on my back porch screen or read details of our national deficit without thinking of their computer images of black holes.
Dwain Walden is editor/publisher of The Moultrie Observer, 985-4545, ext. 214. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.