Spooky to see those images of the Milky Way black hole on Friday the 13th. Those extraterrestrial scientists who released photos of the black hole's spectrum must have a sense of humor. On Friday the 13th, the black hole appears even more ominous and ...
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Black hole images raise awe at universe's majesty and more...

Black hole images raise awe at universe's majesty

Spooky to see those images of the Milky Way black hole on Friday the 13th.

Those extraterrestrial scientists who released photos of the black hole's spectrum must have a sense of humor.

On Friday the 13th, the black hole appears even more ominous and strange. Scientists say a black hole sucks into its endless dark chamber anything that gets too close.

And I'd thought the black hole was the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection. Will it ever hold public hearings?

Another black hole is the U.S. Senate, where progressive legislation goes to die.

Black hole: that would be a good name for the coal mining corporation that made Joe Manchin a millionaire.

The big cookie monster at the center of the universe is 4 million times larger than the sun. A few years ago, scientists released images of an even bigger black hole farther out toward the universe's edge.

Those cosmic images are not actually the black hole, called Sagittarius A*, like the title of a sci-fi novel. Black holes, as their name implies, can’t be seen or photographed.

The international organization of scientists captured images of the black hole's outer spectrum, the light and matter that surrounds the black hole's swirling gravitational pull. The images reveal an orange halo resembling a misshapen doughnut. Images of Sagittarius A* match Einstein's theory of relativity. 

Capturing the first images of the black hole closest to earth - a mere 27,000 light years away - is an impressive accomplishment for an international group of researchers involved in the Event Horizon Telescope project. The term event horizon refers to the point where there's no escaping the black hole's embrace.

The black hole's images illuminate another mystery of the universe.

Too bad the United States now lacks the cooperative spirit of the Event Horizon team. Terrestrial black holes proliferate.










Atlanta among nation's most inflationary cities

Atlanta's affordability, along with its pleasant year-round weather, long attracted newcomers from bigger, more expensive cities.

Now Atlanta's a national leader for rising costs,  reaching a 10 percent annual inflation rate in April, according to the Wall Street Journal. The inflation rate for the entire country was 8.3 percent, lower than expected, but still disturbingly high.

New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco, some of the nation's most expensive cities, registered an annual inflation rate of around 7 percent, according to the April figures.

Those cities have long been plagued by outlandishly high housing costs. They've suffered staggering population declines caused by Covid, high crime rates, deteriorating urban life and the lack of affordable housing.

Atlanta's housing costs have escalated in recent years, as in other cities large and small. Similar Sunbelt cities such as Austin, Nashville, Charlotte and Tampa have also experienced a jump in housing costs, lessening their allure for transplants seeking more sunshine and a less expensive urban lifestyle.

The housing crunch in Atlanta has driven young families to more affordable suburbs like Cherokee, Forsyth, Douglas and Fayette counties. Georgia's 2022 elections will show whether that shift adds to the Democrats' 2020 victories.

Based on anecdotal evidence - my daily walks through my North Buckhead neighborhood - the city still draws many young professionals with small children. It appears that many now work from home, post-Covid.

After years of declining population - the late Dick Williams in his Atlanta Journal columns used to chortle about the "incredible shrinking city" - the city of Atlanta enjoyed a modest but steady population increase in recent years. Rising housing costs may stifle the city's renaissance.


A springtime quartet of books

Gearing up for knee replacement surgery, I'm juggling several books, along with the usual newspapers and magazines.

For inventive titles, my stack includes ace AJC reporter Greg Bluestein's "Flipped: How Georgia Turned Purple and Broke the Monopoly on Republican Power" and "Crashed: How a Decade of Financial Crises Changed the World."

Flipped and crashed: that's how the world feels these days.

Watching Democratic campaign ads on TV, I fear Georgia's purple tinge will quickly wash off.

And as inflation rises, climate change advances and Putin pummels Ukraine, Tooze might need to write a sequel to "Crashed."

Actually, he has, "Shutdown: How Covid Shook the World's Economy." God only knows what economic disaster he'll uncover next, if we're still here to read about it.

To escape my jitters, I put those books down to escape into the 19th century.

Lucasta Miller's "Keats: A Brief Life in Nine Poems and One Epitaph" gives perceptive critical analyses of Keats' best-loved poetry along with fresh revelations about his life.

Miller's a steadfast guide to Keats' tragic life, and the book provides an excellent mini-anthology of his highest achievements.

Although I thought I was through with Civil War literature and biographies of Robert E. Lee, I couldn't resist Allen Guelzo's  simply titled "Robert E. Lee: A Life."

Guelzo, who agrees with the recent assessment that Lee was a traitor, writes with elan about how the Confederate hero was shaped by Virginia's upper-class plantation culture, family connections and his need to overcome the downfall of his father, Revolutionary War hero "Light Horse Harry" Lee.

Miller and Guelzo's books make clear that the 19th century worlds of Keats and Lee aren't so distant after all.








Rivian's stock crash casts doubts on plans to build massive Georgia electric vehicle factory

Rivian's crashing stock price has not yet halted the electric vehicle manufacturer's plans to build a massive plant east of Atlanta.

But it's difficult to see how the former Wall Street darling can maintain its ambitious plans after such a financial downfall.

The company's stock plunged to $22.78 a share Monday after electric vehicle partner Ford announced it would sell 8 million shares.

Rivian stock soared to a high of $172 a share after the company's IPO last November, the biggest of the year. Reports of Rivian's financial troubles brought a scolding from the Wall Street Journal editorial page, not a good omen.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp's enthusiastic backing of a $1.5 billion state incentive package for the $5 billion plant has been blasted by David Perdue, Kemp's Donald Trump-backed challenger in the GOP gubernatorial primary. Kemp claims the plant straddling Walton and Morgan counties will produce 7,500 jobs and manufacture up to 400,000 vehicles a year.

Rivian recently curtailed its production claims, citing supply chain problems, which it expects to continue for several years. The company has a deal to produce thousands of electric vehicles for Amazon, which remains a major stockholder. So far, the company has managed to produce only 23,000 vehicles, not seriously challenging EV leader Tesla.

Perdue has joined local opposition to the plant, disingenuously citing Jewish financier and GOP target George Soros' involvement in Rivian's financing.

Trump during his presidency was an enthusiastic backer of such manufacturing projects, which fit with his Make America Great Again mantra to restore domestic manufacturing.

Desperate to cling to any plank to disparage Kemp, Perdue the former corporate raider has turned environmentalist and local populist in denouncing the project. Construction is scheduled to begin this summer.

As the Rivian plant remains a volatile issue in the Kemp-Perdue feud, the AJC reported that Hyundai is planning to build a huge Kia electric vehicle factory near Savannah. The AJC cited the Biden administration's support for electric vehicles as boosting the industry in Georgia.

That conflicts with the idiotic commercials by GOP lieutenant governor candidate Butch Miller, who ludicrously claims that if elected he'll stop Biden's policies from ruining the Gret State of Jaw-Ja. Biden's programs are boosting economic development Republicans have long supported.

Georgia's primary shows a split in the state's GOP among candidates backed by Trump and more mainstream business-oriented candidates, who keel further right on culture-war issues. While the Trumpsters deny climate change, the business-oriented Republicans approve millions for electric-vehicle manufacturing.

Perhaps that not-so-civil war in the Georgia GOP will help Democratic governor's candidate Stacey Abrams and other Democratic candidates maintain their 2020 hold on the state.


May's rough winds recall Shakespeare's Sonnet 18

These breezy, blessedly cool days of early May bring to mind the man who had words for nearly every human occasion: William Shakespeare.

Keats as an aspiring young poet imagined Shakespeare sitting at his desk writing. Struggling with "Endymion,” Keats sought to emulate Shakespeare's posture, the way he held his pen, his dedication.

As spring lingers with windy days and pleasant weather, I wondered if Shakespeare had lived through a similar May when composing Sonnet 18: "Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer's Day?"

In the sonnet, written in perfect iambic pentameter, Shakespeare arrogantly assures a beloved young man or woman that he or she will achieve immortality through the poem, claiming that it will be read "so long as men can breathe or eyes can see." The boast has proven good for more than 400 years so far.

We can only imagine the young lover's beauty and "temperate" personality. Like Shakespeare and everyone else alive at that moment, he or she would die. That's the sadness underlying the poem.

This spring's flowers are almost gone, and another summer will soon arrive. With each passing day, I'm aware that I'm more like Lear than Hamlet.

As I walked one recent windswept afternoon, I called to mind Shakespeare's words, still new after all these years.

Sonnet 18
Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date;
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimm'd;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance or nature’s changing course untrimm'd;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow’st;
Nor shall death brag thou wander’st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou grow’st:
 So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
 So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.