Friday, December 30, 2016

So 2016 is killing astronomers too

Vera Rubin discovers some stuff no one can actually see.

This year has involved a lot of deaths of a lot of people, which has clearly never happened before.

To be fair, we are talking some real giants, I mean we've lost Muhammad Ali, David Bowie, Leonard Cohen, Merle Haggard and probably even some others. It looks like the death toll of well-known-and-loved people from various entertainment fields will just keep growing until 12:01am, January 1, 2017 clicks over ... assuming this is in fact due to some sort of Witch's Curse and not just the natural attrition of a generation of post-WWII entertainers from the '60s, '70s and '80s passing on and becoming the repository for a collective grief over a social era being destroyed by neoliberalism while civlisation is threatened by twin horrors of climate change and the disturbing rise of the far right.

But more than just gay icon George Michael, bi--open-minded-and-questioning icon David Bowie and "all sexual preferences in the Known Universe" icon Prince who passed away. Vera Rubin, an insanely smart woman who revolutionised our entire understanding of the universe also left us. The astronomer, who discovered dark matter and died Christmas Day aged 88.

Sure 88 is not a bad age to go, but I am sure Rubin's death caused much grief for her family, friends and the POOR FUCKING JOURNALISTS tasked with WRITING ARTICLES, like AT CHRISTMAS, about DARK MATTER.

Some journalists got off easy, getting to write pieces about Carrie Fisher, filled with a variety of the sassy quotes she helpfully provided through her colourful life and with the opportunity for some cool "cinnamon bun" retro images. Or they got to write about George Michael, with the clear-cut excuse to play "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go" unironically for the first time since the journo was in primary school, coz like it was "research"!

Others were tasked with explaining dark matter in short news pieces, forced to desperately try to think back to year 11 Physics and reassuring themselves they must know SOMETHING about this shit and thinking "OK let's start with matter... that is easy... matter is... SHIT what does matter mean, what does Wikipedia say? [furious typing] Right... so matter is 'everything'! Well that's easy! Everything is everywhere! And therefore dark matter is...

"What, he invisible part of everything??? WHAT THE FUCK! HOW CAN YOU BE THE INVISIBLE PART OF EVERYTHING??? Jesus... and this invisible shit no one can see or properly makes galaxies spin as fast as they do???? WHY THE FUCK COULD VERA RUBIN HAVE NOT DIED *NEXT* WEEK WHEN I'M ON FUCKING LEAVE!"

The answer seems to be basically dark matter, and for that matter dark energy and probably anything else the physics community deems"dark" (like there is a competing theory called "dark fluid" and something else called "dark flow" that no amount of re-reading its Wikipedia entry makes it make any more sense to me), exist to make mathematical equations work that wouldn't otherwise, at lest that is what I have gathered from a couple of SBS documentaries I was mostly paying attention for.

Still...  Vera Rubin seemed pretty cool.



'I'm not bragging or complaining, I'm just talking to myself man to man...' This has nothing to do astronomy, it is just I wrote an angry rant about Jacobin Magazine and Merle Haggard, which was the highlight of my year.

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