The Optimism of Melancholia
Megan Erickson is an Associate Editor at Big Think. Prior to Big Think, she taught reading and writing to ninth and tenth graders in NYC public schools and tutored students of all ages at the Stuyvesant Writing Center, which she helped launch. In her spare time, she worked in the communications department at the Center for Constitutional Rights and served as a mentor at the Urban Assembly, where she designed and led an extracurricular civics course on grassroots community action. She’s written on education, small business, and the arts for CNNMoney, Fortune Small Business, and The Huffington Post. Megan received her master’s degree in Education from Teachers College. You can reach her at email@example.com.
In this third video from our interview with Slavoj Žižek, the philosopher and author of Big Think's most recent Book of the Month answers the question, "Which summer film are you anticipating most?" Watch the interview:
Despite the fact that it depicts the last 24 hours on Earth and is directed by Lars von Trier, Melancholia is not as pessimistic as you'd think, he says. "I find something beautifully poetical in the attitude of the main person, Justine, played by Kirsten Dunst, this inner peace, how she accepts this."
You could even read it as a kind of optimism, he argues. "If you really want to do something good for society, if you want to avoid all totalitarian threats and so on, you basically should go . . . we should all go to this, let me call it--although I’m a total materialist--fundamentally spiritual experience of accepting that at some day everything will finish, that at any point the end may be near. I think that, quite on the contrary of what may appear, this can be a deep experience which pushes you to strengthen ethical activity." The result is not fatalistic hedonism, but a kind of profound engagement with the meaning and significance of life.
Here's the science of black holes, from supermassive monsters to ones the size of ping-pong balls.
- There's more than one way to make a black hole, says NASA's Michelle Thaller. They're not always formed from dead stars. For example, there are teeny tiny black holes all around us, the result of high-energy cosmic rays slamming into our atmosphere with enough force to cram matter together so densely that no light can escape.
- CERN is trying to create artificial black holes right now, but don't worry, it's not dangerous. Scientists there are attempting to smash two particles together with such intensity that it creates a black hole that would live for just a millionth of a second.
- Thaller uses a brilliant analogy involving a rubber sheet, a marble, and an elephant to explain why different black holes have varying densities. Watch and learn!
- Bonus fact: If the Earth became a black hole, it would be crushed to the size of a ping-pong ball.
Protected animals are feared to be headed for the black market.
In a breakthrough for nuclear fusion research, scientists at China's Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) reactor have produced temperatures necessary for nuclear fusion on Earth.
- The EAST reactor was able to heat hydrogen to temperatures exceeding 100 million degrees Celsius.
- Nuclear fusion could someday provide the planet with a virtually limitless supply of clean energy.
- Still, scientists have many other obstacles to pass before fusion technology becomes a viable energy source.
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