In a recent conversation about the year in science, a colleague made the inevitable joke: “There was this little thing called the coronavirus…” Grim, but impossible not to smirk: Ten, twenty years from now, when we look back on this moment in science, we will remember Covid-19 and the maddening dash to understand it.
But now and in the future, it will be important to remember that the dominant narrative of 2020 was in fact a culmination of science stories we’ve been aware of — and complicit in — for a long time.
When news broke that Puerto Rico’s famed Arecibo radio telescope was going to be demolished, it sent the scientific community into the kind of mourning typically reserved for its most beloved human heroes and pioneers. For many, Arecibo was more than the world’s second-largest radio telescope and a key instrument in our efforts to probe the cosmos and canvas the universe for extraterrestrial life — it was an iconic monument to the last 50 years of astronomy, to science, even human achievement.
Now, it is a death knell.
Arecibo’s decommissioning marks yet another sign that we’re well into a twilight…
Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.
—Robert Frost, 1920
The question of how the world will end has been the subject of speculation and debate among poets and philosophers throughout history. Of course, now, thanks to science, we know the answer: it’s fire. Definitely fire. In about 5 billion years, the Sun will swell to…
Life at the edge of science. A new publication from Medium.