Maria Popova Reviews Janna Levin’s ‘Black Hole Blues’Apr 21, 2016
“In 1977, the Voyager 1 spacecraft carried the Golden Record into space — a disc containing a representative selection of Earth’s sounds, ranging from an erupting volcano to a kiss to some of humanity’s greatest music. It was an endeavor more poetic than scientific, which Carl Sagan saw as sonic proof of our being ‘a species endowed with hope and perseverance, at least a little intelligence, substantial generosity and a palpable zest to make contact with the cosmos.’
Meanwhile, a small community of experimentalists were attempting the reverse in a rigorous scientific endeavor with poetic undertones. They were trying to build an apparatus that would detect the sonic message of the cosmos as it made contact with us via gravitational waves — ripples in the fabric of space-time, first envisioned by Einstein in his pioneering 1915 paper on general relativity.
In “Black Hole Blues: And Other Songs From Outer Space,” the astrophysicist and novelist Janna Levin chronicles the decades-long development of this magnificent machine — a quest marked by the highest degree of human intelligence, zest and perseverance…”
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