Scientists have shown us one of the mysteries of the universe, and the extraordinary power of human cooperation
“If you work on something like theoretical physics, you feel like you’re trapped inside a room, and outside people don’t know,” the physicist Carlo Rovelli said recently. While the stereotype of a space scientist is of a loner out of step with the humdrum of everyday life, Mr Rovelli is not alone in believing that his life’s work is not just to find things out, but to communicate.
This week’s first pictures of a black hole were a special moment for all those who believe that scientists’ role is not only to expand the sum of human knowledge, but to share it. Seeing is not always believing. But the fact that millions of us have seen the picture of the supermassive black hole at the heart of the Messier 87 galaxy, 55m light years away, is an undoubted step forward for humankind. Created using data gathered from eight telescopes in four continents, the fiery doughnut of red and gold with blackness at its centre has now been given a Hawaiian name: Powehi.