Who Is Responsible for the Refugee Crisis, and Who Must Act?
Slavoj Žižek examines the situation out of which refugees are created, and criticizes conservatives and liberals alike for their "conspiracy theories".
Slavoj Žižek: We who try to be decent people are bombarded by some kind of moral political pressure from two sides: First there is the worst one, of course, this anti-immigrant populous side like why should we even allow refugees in; it's their fault; third world travel and so on, there are enough poor people here; they come from another civilization; it means conflict and so on and so on. So there is all the time this pressure of we are defending our way of life; refugees are disturbing it. And it's interesting how in some radical right wing circles we really have already new conspiracy theories, which always fascinate me in their madness.\r\n
A couple of weeks ago the main Slovenia, I'm a coming from Slovenia, right wing weekly journal something like, Slovene Time Magazine, published a comment by a guy, which was a ferocious attack on George Soros, the humanitarian billionaire, claiming that he's the most disgusting despicable and dangerous person today in the world because he's a Jew who is organizing Muslim invasion into Europe. The guy uses totally open brutal terms like Negroid Islamist hoards are invading Europe. Claiming that the Jewish plan is to destroy Christian Europe and they're using Muslims to do it. Why do I like, I mean don't misunderstand me I'm horrified at it, But why do I "like" this fantasy? Because it goes to the end and it brings together two different levels of conspiracy theory. One is Muslim invasion of Europe and the other is anti-Semitism.\r\n
Usually we think that there is some kind of a conflict in the Middle East between Palestinians or Muslims and Jews. This theory claims this is an appeared conflict to dilute us. In reality even the Muslim terrorists, all of them, Isis, it's a Zionist creation to ruin Europe. In the good old fashion or Stalinist way you know how fascists spoke about plutocratic Bolshevik plot, you bring the opposites together; they're doing this. So, not to get lost this is one blackmail. But then now things get much more problematic for some liberal leftist. Then there is the other blackmail, the humanitarian blackmail like poor suffering immigrants coming to Europe desperate; is Europe still Europe? Is it using its heart? How can we see all those people suffering and so on and so on? I basically, of course, agreed with this second position. I none the less think there is something terribly wrong in this automatic retranslation of, I don't want to call it a crisis but whatever you call it what's happening with refugees into a pure humanitarian problem, which is out there from somewhere we don't even analyze it closely hundreds of thousands of people are coming and it's purely a humanitarian question do we let them in or not? I question this on all levels.\r\n
First, I'm absolutely ready to admit that even crucial, that it's not simply something horrible happening in Third World or in this case in Middle East, as we say in Europe in our arrogant way they screwed it up and now we should pay the bill or what. Of course Europe, but not only Europe, we are deeply responsible for it. Look at the all origins of crisis were refugees are coming from, from northern bit not only northern Africa, Libya and is so on. We Europeans screwed it up with military intervention then. No Isis, no refugees from Syria or Iraq without American intervention there or without this global or geopolitical conflict between Russia and the United States, others involved, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Iran and so on. They are what is behind the Syrian civil war. So again, we cannot say there is a humanitarian crisis there and it's purely a question of moral sympathy we will receive them, we are deeply responsible for them.\r\n
First geopolitically and at a deeper level economically. I mean this brutal direct colonialism is more or less over, but economic neocolonialism this in a way stronger than ever. We know how big Western, and not only Western also other powers are destroying local agriculture and so on and so on. Like these are things we don't read a lot about them, but are you aware of what's happening now? Even in some African countries where there is starvation like Ethiopia and so on. Western companies, and in this case happily I'm ready to say it's not the usual culprits Europe and the United States, it's more some rich Arab countries like Saudi Arabia and some Asian countries like South Korea and so on, they're buying gigantic parts of these countries for agricultural use growing industrial plants and so on and so on with the millions of people who can be employed for the time being when production still goes on, but when there's a crisis everything is chaotic. And so for me the symbol of today's world, and it's typical of how we talk of all the crisis we read so little about that crisis, is the Republic of Congo may be one of the wealthiest countries in the world with regards to natural resources and so on, but a non-existing country; central government doesn't work, local warlords rule all in direct connection with foreign companies all their precious metals to export and so on and so on.\r\n
So again, this is the situation out of which refugees are created. And now if anything it's getting even worse. We all sympathize hopes of 20 years ago with the tragedy of Sarajevo in ex-Yugoslavia, a big city of hundreds of thousands people under siege like in medieval times. Okay, but what's happening now in Aleppo is even worse in a way. It's a really big city of almost two million people and at least out of egotism we should worry more. Are we aware what kind of explosive new refugee crisis is being prepared there? So again, I buy all of this. On the other hand, now comes the problematic part, I don't believe that first that we are the only culprits. Because is not simply us Western Europeans, Americans and Arabs, there is a mega class division rich countries, poor countries, corruption among Arabs themselves. And as some people pointed out you cannot just simply say many left liberals enjoy this, they have a kind of a perverse pleasure whenever there is a crisis in a Third World country they always will someway prove oh it's our possibility. There is something so patronizing in this as if they are even too stupid all those Arabs or black Africans to be really evil. If they do something catastrophic only we are big enough even in the direction of the evil to do it.\r\n
So let's take this case, let's ask a simple question, which some people don't like to ask, aren't they immediately below the big crisis region, Syria, Iraq, aren't there a couple of Arab Muslim countries who are among the richest in the world, take Qatar where they control their own Al Jazeera who all the time emphasizes the plight of immigrants and so on. Qatar usually, at least among the first three per capital with greatest per capital income richest countries in the world, competition is somewhere, Lichtenstein, Europe, Qatar and Singapore. You know how many refugees they took? None. All of them, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Emirates, none, only the poor countries are invaded by them. So I don't think these questions should be taboo like what's the international geopolitical game that is being played here? That's the first point. The second point, so called Moslem fundamentalism. You know, we should not simply say - okay of course I'm not condemning it in a racist way, but it's also not enough to say okay this is just a reaction to Western imperialism so automatically again we are guilty.\r\n
Of course it's a reaction, but listen, let me draw a parallel. Hitler was also just a reaction to brutal Western imperialism, treatment of Germany after World War I. It's absolutely clear in this sense Western Europe, England, France were responsible for Hitler, but this doesn't mean that they were wrong to fight it afterwards. And it's the same way here. Arab's have been exploited all that, all of that, but nonetheless Moslem fundamentalism is not to simply just a pure passive reaction to a difficult predicament, it's nonetheless a conscious choice, it's certain active politics, it's a way in a very strong sense to react to what? To modern crisis. So for me instead of accepting this official coordinates, on the one hand we Western permissive society, on the other hand bad fundamentalists. A more radical question is what is fundamentalism today? In what sense is it generated by inner antagonisms of global capitalism. Even in the United States you probably know it's simple, it's not Guy Fieri, but great book Thomas Frank what happened in Kansas. This is the enigma Kansas, which was for over a century the quintessentially progressive American state from anti-slavery campaigns and so on. In the last 30/40 years it became the very backdrop of new Christian fundamentalism.\r\n
So if you look at numbers of fundamentalists in the United States they are pretty much the same in percentage, some three/four percent as the number of radical fundamentalist among Arab countries and so on. First we should approach the problem in this more fundamental way, not simply blaming Islam and so on, Islam is a problematical religion but every religion is problematic. I think we are living today in an era of, I'm not too afraid to speak as a leftist moral conservative, an era of ethical decay, disintegration of ethical substance where things which were simply unimaginable decades ago can be said or done today. Let's take the example of a state, which boast itself as the only island of reason in that area of the Middle East. Do you know that the highest religious authority in the army of a country there said two or three months ago, I checked it with my friends, it's not a hoax it's true, that when the army of their country occupies another land of people, soldiers have the right to rape local women there. Now we will say who was this Isis? No, the big Rabi of idea of Israeli defense forces. The truth are with all my disagreement with the politics of their government now they are the ultimate people of civilization, but you see even they are part of this decay.\r\n
So that I don't lose the track, the first thing to do with refugees is to locate them in this global economic ideological political situation. The second thing is nonetheless not to make a taboo of the fact that they are not just passive victims, day by day I mean here not refugees as such but those among them who clearly are fundamentalists, and we should debate these issues openly. The third thing, and that may be the crux of the misunderstanding why people attacked me. The third point is look, we tend to forget that we all are not just abstract free individual citizens of the world, we do live as part of concrete communities with certain ways of life which are focused precisely on ways of enjoyment of how sexual relations are regulated all that that's very core of a community and we are different to here so we should not avoid all these questions of, for example, Muslims, Muslim Arabs entering Europe they come with their customs. And okay the politically correct way is to say we should leave them their customs, we have our customs, we should elevate ourselves above these differences and take care of fundamental equality human rights and so on.\r\n
This I claim doesn't work because human rights are universal values are never abstractly elevated above concrete ways of life. Like examples that you get in Germany, I write about them in my book. Over 2000 girls per years of immigrants to Germany who go to ordinary German high schools escape from home because they were more seduced by the western way of life, visit night clubs, have German boyfriends and so on. And then their families put pressure on them like we know in what sense and they escape, seek refugee with the police. Do you know that they already have over 20 safe houses in Germany where these girls are provided with fake ID and so on and so on. And of course, massive community cries or you are ruining our way of life. Let's be frank, in a way they are right. I mean you cannot impose on a Muslim community our Western notions of freedom if we need to choose the sex partners and claim we respect your way of life. The way that family deals with a woman is the very basic components of their way of life. I'm not saying there is an easy way out here, but I'm just saying that you see my point that the problem is real here, the problem is real and I think we - and also I know the Muslim intolerance is often exaggerated, there is a big story of intolerance of Western people towards Muslims, but there is also the other side of the story.\r\n
For example, I learned this from leftists in Berlin, in Sweden, in Denmark and in Netherlands, Muslim communities they're attacking gay parades or when they see public display of homosexuality and so on and so on. So you see what I mean. What I'm simply advocating it's not, of course not, oppressing refugees on behalf of our Western standards, but I hope you admit you have to set a certain limit and it's a difficult limit it has to be renegotiated like I don't know, when a girl who doesn't want to be veiled is forced by her family to wear a veil and she comes to German police and complains. You have to decide, you say no that's their problem or do you say no we respect a certain notion of feminine freedom their rights, we will not tolerate that. Whatever you do it will be very painful. I'm claiming this, if we don't approach these topic's openly in a public debate we are just feeding the anti-immigrant populist racists and we will get in 10/20 years a terrible Europe where the predominant force will be anti-immigrant populists.\r\n
So again, my point is not we are incompatible with immigrants let's not have them in Europe, no we can have even more immigrants. But we should absolutely talk about these problems in an open away not ignore these problems. Ignoring these problems means you leave the space open for anti-immigrant populous and then you have this after catastrophe of literally divided nations were simply the liberal left attitude is as if if you just mentioned these problems they claim no this is anti-immigrant Islamophobic racism, these excel the problems. No, ordinary people experience see these problems and we have to also address those concerns. I'm not talking here as a right wing populist, on the opposite if I make a quick jump to American politics that's why, although I know we shouldn't expect too much from Bernie Sanders but my admiration for Bernie Sanders was that he mobilized for a progressive project precisely those ordinary small half impoverished farmers workers who ideally vote for the new populist Republican right. Bernie Sanders opened up the scope of the terrain for progressive cost for the left outside all this academic LGBT whatever and included into it also ordinary impoverished people who are the ideal pray of right wing populace. For me everything politically depends on this.\r\n
We have two struggles today, one which unfortunately are combined enough. One struggle is all the struggle against sexism and so on, gay rights. And the others struggle is the struggle for poor people, economic struggle, Third World and so on. And the most tragic thing I write about this in my book is I hope you noticed this, it's when Third World countries advocate controlling women, homophobia and so on as part of their anti-colonialism. No this is like - the ridiculous example of this is Mugaba who openly stands for it. But you have in the Kenya in all those countries where openly the very notion of women's rights, gay rights is dismissed as neocolonialists strategy of ruining the local communities, of destroying local ways of life and so on and so on. But if this problem will not be resolved, if we will be caught in our politically correct struggle against discrimination and so on and keeping this at the distance from basic economic social struggles then we are doomed.
How did we get to this refugee crisis? Newton’s Third Law. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. It’s something we may not consciously clock as we hear news and see devastating photographs of migrants crossing dangerous waters in crowded boats, fleeing for their lives. Why is this happening? If you rewind the history of these countries, tracing political event to event, you’ll find the firestarter – and more often than not, it's a long arm that has reached past its own border to interfere in another country.
In this spirited and frenetic address, Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek talks about refugees, anti-immigration populism, and cultural incompatibility, bringing to light just how complex and tangled the dominant issues of our times are. Who is responsible for them? It’s a messy question.
One clear thread that swims beneath everything Žižek says is the concept of backlash. The wave of refugees coming to Europe from Syria and north Africa were displaced by previous military and political intervention. Hitler and Nazi Germany arose as a reaction to the West post WWI. Government-sanctioned homophobia and the oppression of women’s rights across Africa are a reaction against colonialist ideals. Everything is a pushback, and there are a million reactions firing off all over the geopolitical landscape.
Žižek argues that the only way out is transparency. We have many responsibilities when faced with the world’s problems, but the greatest one is to not be avoidant. We must ask and debate unpleasant and difficult questions, especially regarding immigration and the cultural clashes that will emerge – and already are. We are doomed, says Žižek, if we keep these issues at a distance.
Slavoj Žižek's most recent book is Refugees, Terror and Other Troubles with the Neighbors: Against the Double Blackmail.
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People tend to reflexively assume that fun events – like vacations – will go by really quickly.
For many people, summer vacation can't come soon enough – especially for the half of Americans who canceled their summer plans last year due to the pandemic.
But when a vacation approaches, do you ever get the feeling that it's almost over before it starts?
If so, you're not alone.
In some recent studies Gabriela Tonietto, Sam Maglio, Eric VanEpps and I conducted, we found that about half of the people we surveyed indicated that their upcoming weekend trip felt like it would end as soon as it started.
This feeling can have a ripple effect. It can change the way trips are planned – you might, for example, be less likely to schedule extra activities. At the same time, you might be more likely to splurge on an expensive dinner because you want to make the best of the little time you think you have.
Where does this tendency come from? And can it be avoided?
Not all events are created equal
When people look forward to something, they usually want it to happen as soon as possible and last as long as possible.
We first explored the effect of this attitude in the context of Thanksgiving.
We chose Thanksgiving because almost everyone in the U.S. celebrates it, but not everyone looks forward to it. Some people love the annual family get-together. Others – whether it's the stress of cooking, the tedium of cleaning or the anxiety of dealing with family drama – dread it.
So on the Monday before Thanksgiving in 2019, we surveyed 510 people online and asked them to tell us whether they were looking forward to the holiday. Then we asked them how far away it seemed, and how long they felt it would last. We had them move a 100-point slider – 0 meaning very short and 100 meaning very long – to a location that reflected their feelings.
As we suspected, the more participants looked forward to their Thanksgiving festivities, the farther away it seemed and shorter it felt. Ironically, longing for something seems to shrink its duration in the mind's eye.
Winding the mind's clock
Most people believe the idiom “time flies when you're having fun," and research has, indeed, shown that when time seems to pass by quickly, people assume the task must have been engaging and enjoyable.
We reasoned that people might be over-applying their assumption about the relationship between time and fun when judging the duration of events yet to happen.
As a result, people tend to reflexively assume that fun events – like vacations – will go by really quickly. Meanwhile, pining for something can make the time leading up to the event seem to drag. The combination of its beginning pushed farther away in their minds – with its end pulled closer – resulted in our participants' anticipating that something they looked forward would feel as if it had almost no duration at all.
In another study, we asked participants to imagine going on a weekend trip that they either expected to be fun or terrible. We then asked them how far away the start and end of this trip felt like using a similar 0 to 100 scale. 46% of participants evaluated the positive weekend as feeling like it had no duration at all: They marked the beginning and the end of the vacation virtually at the same location when using the slider scale.
Thinking in hours and days
Our goal was to show how these two judgments of an event – the fact that it simultaneously seems farther away and is assumed to last for less time – can nearly eliminate the event's duration in the mind's eye.
We reasoned that if we didn't explicitly highlight these two separate pieces – and instead directly asked them about the duration of the event – a smaller portion of people would indicate virtually no duration for something they looked forward to.
We tested this theory in another study, in which we told participants that they would watch two five-minute-long videos back-to-back. We described the second video as either humorous or boring, and then asked them how long they thought each video would feel like it lasted.
We found that the participants predicted that the funny video would still feel shorter and was farther away than the boring one. But we also found that participants believed it would last a bit longer than the responses we received in the earlier studies.
This finding gives us a way to overcome this biased perception: focus on the actual duration. Because in this study, participants directly reported how long the funny video would last – and not the perceived distance of its beginning and its end – they were far less likely to assume it would be over just as it started.
While it sounds trivial and obvious, we often rely on our subjective feelings – not objective measures of time – when deciding how long a period of time will feel and how to best use it.
So when looking forward to much-anticipated events like vacations, it's important to remind yourself just how many days it will last.
You'll get more out of the experience – and, hopefully, put yourself in a better position to take advantage of the time you do have.
A global survey shows the majority of countries favor Android over iPhone.
- When Android was launched soon after Apple's own iPhone, Steve Jobs threatened to "destroy" it.
- Ever since, and across the world, the rivalry between both systems has animated users.
- Now the results are in: worldwide, consumers clearly prefer one side — and it's not Steve Jobs'.
A woman on her phone in Havana, Cuba. Mobile phones have become ubiquitous the world over — and so has the divide between Android and iPhone users.Credit: Yamil Lage / AFP via Getty Images.
Us versus them: it's the archetypal binary. It makes the world understandable by dividing it into two competing halves: labor against capital, West against East, men against women.
These maps are the first to show the dividing lines between one of the world's more recent binaries: Android vs. Apple. Published by Electronics Hub, they are based on a qualitative analysis of almost 350,000 tweets worldwide that presented positive, neutral, and negative attitudes toward Android and/or Apple.
Steve Jobs wanted to go "thermonuclear"
Feelings between Android and Apple were pretty tribal from the get-go. It was Steve Jobs himself who said, when Google rolled out Android a mere ten months after Apple launched the iPhone, "I'm going to destroy Android, because it's a stolen product. I'm willing to go thermonuclear war on this."
Buying a phone is like picking a side in the eternal feud between the Hatfields and the McCoys. Each choice for automatically comes with an in-built arsenal of arguments against.
If you are an iPhone person, you appreciate the sleekness and simplicity of its design, and you are horrified by the confusing mess that is the Android operating system. If you are an Android aficionado, you pity the iPhone user, a captive of an overly expensive closed ecosystem, designed to extract money from its users.
Even without resorting to those extremes, many of us will recognize which side of the dividing line that we are on. Like the American Civil War, that line runs through families and groups of friends, but that would be a bit confusing to chart geographically. To un-muddle the information, these maps zoom out to state and country level.
If the contest is based on the number of countries, Android wins. In all, 74 of the 142 countries surveyed prefer Android (in green on the map). Only 65 favor Apple (colored grey). That's a 52/48 split, which may not sound like a decisive vote, but it was good enough for Boris Johnson to get Brexit done (after he got breakfast done, of course).
And yes, math-heads: 74 plus 65 is three short of 142. Belarus, Fiji, and Peru (in yellow on the map) could not decide which side to support in the Global Phone War.
What about the United States, home of both the Android and the iPhone? Another victory for the former, albeit a slightly narrower one: 30.16 percent of the tweets about Android were positive versus just 29.03 percent of the ones about Apple.
United States: Texas surrounded!
Credit: Electronics Hub
There can be only one winner per state, though, and that leads to this preponderance of Android logos. Frankly, it's a relief to see a map showing a visceral divide within the United States that is not the coasts versus the heartland.
- Apple dominates in 19 states: a solid Midwestern bloc, another of states surrounding Texas, the Dakotas and California, plus North Carolina, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island.
- And that's it. The other 32 are the United States of Android. You can drive from Seattle to Miami without straying into iPhone territory. But no stopovers in Dallas or Houston – both are behind enemy lines!
North America: strongly leaning toward Android
Credit: Electronics Hub
Only eight of North America's 21 countries surveyed fall into the Apple category.
- The U.S. and Canada lean Android, while Mexico goes for the iPhone.
- Central America is divided, but here too Android wins hands down, 5-2.
Europe: Big Five divided
Credit: Electronics Hub
In Europe, Apple wins, with 20 countries preferring the iPhone, 17 going for Android, and Belarus sitting on the fence.
- Of Western Europe's Big Five markets, three (UK, Germany, Spain) are pro-Android, and two (France, Italy) are pro-Apple.
- Czechia and Slovakia are an Apple island in the Android sea that is Central Europe. Glad to see there is still something the divorcees can agree on.
South America: almost even
Credit: Electronics Hub
In South America, the divide is almost even.
- Five countries prefer Android, four Apple, and one is undecided.
- In Peru, both Android- and Apple-related tweets were 25 percent positive.
Africa: watch out for Huawei
Credit: Electronics Hub
In Africa, Android wins by 17 countries versus Apple's 15.
- There's a solid Android bloc running from South Africa via DR Congo all the way to Ethiopia.
- iPhone countries are scattered throughout the north (Algeria), west (Guinea), east (Somalia), and south (Namibia).
Huawei — increasingly popular across the continent — could soon dramatically change the picture in Africa. Currently still running on Android, the Chinese phone manufacturer has just launched its own operating system, called Harmony.
Middle East: Iran vs. Saudi Arabia (again)
Credit: Electronics Hub
In the Middle East and Central Asia, Android wins 8 countries to Apple's 6.
- But it's complicated. One Turkish tweeter wondered how it is that iPhones seem more popular in the Asian half of Istanbul, while Android phones prevailed in the European part of the city.
- The phone divide matches up with the region's main geopolitical one: Iran prefers Android, Saudi Arabia the iPhone.
Asia-Pacific: Apple on the periphery
Credit: Electronics Hub
Another wafer-thin majority for Android in the Asia-Pacific region: 13 countries versus 12 for Apple — and one abstention (Fiji).
- The two giants of the Asian mainland, India and China, are both Android countries. Apple countries are on the periphery.
- And if India is Android, its rival Pakistan must be Apple. Same with North and South Korea.
Experts point to the fact that both operating systems are becoming more alike with every new generation as a potential resolution to the conflict. But as any student of human behavior will confirm: smaller differences will only exacerbate the rivalry between both camps.
Maps taken from Electronics Hub, reproduced with kind permission.
Strange Maps #1096
Got a strange map? Let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Reality is far stranger than fiction.
- Black holes are stranger than fiction, especially when we explore the weird effects of watching someone or something fall into one.
- Rotating black holes may be traversable if the physics as we understand it holds.
- To discuss the physics, we explore a fictional tale with a grand ending.
What happens when someone falls into a black hole? If you are the unfortunate soul being gobbled up, things don't look too bad until they turn really bad. Unless, there is an outlet through a wormhole. And you are really lucky.
The fictional story below — an abridged version of one published in my 2002 book The Prophet and the Astronomer explains why. Since we now know that black holes exist and that even Jeff Bezos can fly into outer space, it is only a matter of time before humans fly into black holes — albeit a very, very long time from now: the nearest black hole to Earth (as of now) lies a "mere" 1,500 light-years away.
But first, a refresher. In his general theory of relativity, Albert Einstein equated gravity with the curvature of space around a massive body. The effect is quite negligible for light masses but becomes important for massive stars and even more so for very compact massive objects such as neutron stars, whose gravity is 100,000 times stronger than at the sun's surface. Distortions of space caused by a larger mass (stars) will cause small moving masses (planets) to deviate from what Newtonian gravity predicts. Another remarkable consequence of Einstein's theory of gravity is the slowing down of clocks in strong gravitational fields: strong gravity bends space and slows down time.
Now, on with the story.
In my young days, I traveled from planet to planet looking for old spaceship parts. It was in one of my travels in search of a rare gyroscope for a 2180 Mars Lander that I found "Mr. Ström's Rocket Parts," an enormous hanger littered with mountains of space garbage. While I was consulting the store's virtual stock-scanning device to search for the gyroscope, Mr. Ström himself came to greet me. He was famous throughout the galaxy for claiming to have come closer than anyone to a black hole, a story that, to most, was just that — a story.
Like many before me, I asked Mr. Ström to tell me his story. After hesitating a while, he gave in.
"I was commander of a fleet built to explore the complex astrophysical X-ray source known as Cygnus X-1," he started. "Since the 1970s, over three millennia ago, this was suspected to be a binary star system 6,000 light-years from Earth. The two members of the binary system, thought to be a blue giant star about 20-30 solar masses and a black hole about 7-15 solar masses, orbited so close together that the black hole frantically sucked matter from his huge companion into a spiraling oblivion. This mad swirling heated the in-falling stellar matter to enormous temperatures, producing the X-rays astronomers on Earth observed. Even though the data indicated that the smaller object of the pair had a mass much larger than the maximum mass for neutron stars, it was still not clear if it was a black hole. Since other attempts to identify it had failed, the League of Planets decided that the only way to know for sure was to go there.
"The fleet consisted of three vessels, each under the command of a Ström, a great honor to my family. I led the vessel named CX1, my middle brother led CX2, and the youngest led CX3. I will spare you the details of how the mission was prepared, and how, after many problems with our hyper-relativistic plasma drive, we finally arrived to within one light-month of our destination. Through our telescopes we could see an enormous hot blue star being drained by an invisible hole in space.
"We were instructed to fly single file toward the black hole, keeping a very large distance from each other; my younger brother first, my mid-brother second, and me last. We knew that, from a large distance, a black hole behaves like any other massive object, as the differences general relativity predicted happen only fairly close to it. We also knew that every black hole has an imaginary limiting sphere around it known as the 'event horizon,' which marks the distance from which not even light could escape.
"My young brother's ship, the CX3, was to approach the hole, sending us periodic light flashes with a given frequency; we were to follow at a distance, measuring the frequency of the radiation emitted by my brother's ship as well as the time interval between the pulses, and then compare them with the theoretical predictions for gravitational redshift and time delay. The three vessels plunged to a distance of 10,000 kilometers from the hole; while CX1 and CX2 hovered at that distance, my brother closed in to 100 kilometers from the hole. He was instructed to send us infrared radiation, but we detected only radio waves. The gravitational redshift formula was indeed correct. Furthermore, the intervals between two pulses increased quite perceptibly; time was flowing slower for my brother, as viewed from our distant ships. He plunged to the dangerously close distance of ten kilometers from the hole, only seven from the event horizon; this was the closest distance the ship could stand, due to the enormous tidal forces around the hole, which stretch everything into spaghetti. (Numbers assume a one-solar-mass black hole.)
"From that close orbit, my brother was to send pulses of visible light, but all we detected were (invisible) radio waves; we could not see my brother's ship any longer, and I started to feel very uneasy. The theory was correct: a ship falling into a black hole will become invisible to a more distant ship (us) due to the red shifting of light. That also meant that we would never be able to see a star collapsing into a black hole, as it will become invisible before it meets its end. A related effect was the slowing of time. As my younger brother approached the black hole, the radiation pulses were arriving at increasingly long intervals. Thus, not only could we not see him, but we would also have to wait an enormous amount of time to receive any message from him. This confirmed the prediction that for a distant observer, the collapse of a star would take forever. Of course, for the unlucky traveler that freefalls into the black hole, nothing unusual with the passage of time would happen, as explained by the equivalence principle: gravity is neutralized in free fall. Unfortunately, his body would be horribly stretched.
"The turbulence and steady bombardment of matter swirling around the black hole caused my brother's spaceship to drift uncontrollably into the maelstrom. I had to try to rescue him. After all, this was a rotating black hole, and the theory predicted that instead of a crushing singularity at its center, there should be a wormhole connected to another point in the universe. A desperate maneuver to be sure.
"My mid-brother waited in a safe distant orbit around the black hole. As I plunged in, the whirling of space dragged me in as water into a drain. The combination of enormous gravitational pull and furious bombardment of radiation and particles took a toll on my ship; but its fuselage miraculously — what else could it be but a miracle? — survived, as I did, thanks to the once controversial anti-crunch shield. Outside, space seemed to convulse into infinitely many coexisting shapes. Inside a black hole, I realized, reality had no boundaries.
"I felt an enormous push, as if the spaceship was being coughed up by a giant. I must have remained unconscious for quite a while. When I looked into a mirror, I could hardly believe what I saw; my hair had turned completely white, and my face was covered with wrinkles I didn't have moments (moments?) ago. I checked my location in the computer and realized that, somehow, I re-emerged 2,000 light-years away from Cygnus X-1. The only possible explanation was that I traveled through a wormhole, which somehow was kept open inside the black hole and was tossed out by a white hole at a faraway point in space."
Apart from the sequence of facts inside the black hole — where we know very little — the rest is what we should expect from watching someone fall into a black hole. Reality, for these cosmic maelstroms, is definitely stranger than fiction.
English is a dynamic language, and this summer's new additions to dictionary.com tell us a lot about how we're living.
- The summer update to Dictionary.com added hundreds of new words and definitions.
- Many of them are in areas related to justice, technology, and COVID-19.
- The new slang terms will leave more than a few people confused.
In any given year, new words are added to the dictionary to reflect how society's use of them has changed, often in response to ongoing events. For Summer 2021, more than 1200 new, improved, and revised definitions were introduced to Dictionary.com, including 231 entirely new words. A review of those words, the subjects they cover, and the stories behind their creation tells a rich story about the times we live in.
A word by any other definition?
You might wonder why we need to carry out such extensive addition and redefining campaigns. John Kelly, the Managing Editor of Dictionary.com, explained in a statement why these changes were made and their importance:
"The latest update to our dictionary continues to mirror the world around us. Long COVID, minoritize, 5G, content warning, domestic terrorism — it's a complicated and challenging society we live in, and language changes to help us grapple with it. But sometimes language changes just for fun. Yes, yeet is now in the dictionary, which may prompt some of us to use one other of our new entries: oof! Perhaps these lighter slang and pop culture newcomers to our dictionary reflect another important aspect of our time — a cautious optimism and a brighter mood about the future ahead after a trying 2020."
The English language isn't static, so it is up to lexicographers to get the dictionaries up to speed. Let's face it, we might need more than a few new words to talk about last year.
The times they are a-changin'
Good Communication 101: Mirroring, Jargon, Hifalutin Words | Alan Alda | Big Think www.youtube.com
Words that describe the continuing COVID-19 pandemic are still being added. The recent additions, which include long haul and long hauler may speak to the shift in how we interact with the pandemic — it is now a long-term rather than an acute concern for many people. Changes to our lives as a result of the pandemic and new ways to cater to those challenges, like ghost kitchen and side hustle, also made their way in.
In the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd and the protests that followed, Americans searched for terms related to racial issues at significantly higher levels than before. This not only called for updates and additions to words in this area last year but a continuing review, which has added new terms like the acronyms JEDI and DEI and the new word one-drop rule. Other terms long included, like Jim Crow and Black Codes, saw updates this summer.
Technology continued to advance through thick and thin as well. Terms like 5G, asynchronous, and abandonware made it into the recent update. Given how much time we all spent using tech in the last year and a half, it is only fitting that we would need these terms. 5G also has the unfortunate distinction of being both a telecommunications technology and a target for conspiracy theorists, perhaps making a dictionary entry for it all the more important.
Other words previously defined as regional or cultural in nature have been redefined in the light of their evolving use. Y'all is now listed as its own term and deemed an "informal" pronoun rather than a mere variant of "you-all." The post explaining the update noted that the term is now more known for informality than regionalism and has enjoyed a surge in use as a gender neutral pronoun.
Mind hack: 7 secrets to learn any new language | Steve Kaufmann | Big Think www.youtube.com
Perhaps it is necessary that after a year that required so many of the above words to be added or clarified, there are new slang terms that will seem like absolute gibberish to somebody disconnected from popular culture. New words like yeet, zaddy, and oof were added this year, showing that even in difficult times, fun new ways to use language are cropping up all the time.
The website's lexicographers also saw fit to officially add one of the honorable mentions for 2020's word of the year to the list of vulgar slang terms. Regrettably, it is unfit for publication, but it rhymes with spit-snow.
So, now that y'all know about these updates, perhaps we can all order from the new ghost kitchen from apps on our 5G smartphones before getting back to our side hustles. Yeet!