A fascinating and far reaching discussion with the brilliant astrophysicist Heino Falcke (find him on Twitter!) on his new book, Light in the Darkness: Black Holes, the Universe, and Us, the story of one of the greatest astronomic achievements of all time: the first photographic evidence of black holes in April 2019, and its significance for humanity, told by the scientist who accomplished it. A man of faith ordained in the Protestant tradition, Heino Falcke wrestles with the ways in which black holes force us to confront the boundary where human life ends and the celestial begins. He also ponders why black holes are difficult for most of us to understand—comparing it to our inability to envisage our own inevitable death.
Black holes develop in outer space when a massive star dies, and its matter is condensed. That extreme amount of mass contained in a small space generates a gigantic amount of gravitational force, allowing the black hole to suck up everything that comes near, including light. These astronomical wonders are the subject of our greatest scientific and philosophical theorizing—the journey to a black hole would be the journey to the end of time itself. In this way, Falcke regards them as the most exquisite representations of fear, death . . . and, surprisingly, the divine.
Empirical and profound, A Light in the Darkness is the first work to examine both the physical nature and spiritual meaning of black holes, those astrophysical mysteries Falcke, calls “the epitome of merciless destruction.”
Heino Falcke is a German professor of radio astronomy and astroparticle physics at the Radboud University Nijmegen. He was a winner of the 2011 Spinoza Prize. His main field of study is black holes, and he is the originator of the concept of the ‘black hole shadow’. In 2013, a team under his lead earned a 14 million euro research grant from the European Research Council to further studies of black holes. In 2019, Falcke announced the first Event Horizon Telescope results at the EHT Press Conference in Brussels.
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