In this new issue, astrophysicist Caleb Scharf explains that the universe has fallen down on the job of making new stars. Perhaps 95 percent of the stars that will ever exist have already been made. A possible explanation, based on tantalizing new research, is that black holes gobble up interstellar matter and in the process quench star formation. The darkness is coming after the light.
That’s what life during this pandemic feels like. Ultimately it will be science that will quench the virus and restore the light. That’s what science has always done—shown the way out of confusion and despair, illuminated nature, within and without us. This issue follows the light of science at work, including into one of the darkest places on Earth, Antarctica during winter. But it also exposes its dark side. Science, I should say, the process of investigation, doesn’t have a dark side. But its practitioners, people, do.
Articles in this issue reveal how fear and racism have become ingrained in science. How can they can be filtered out? The answers are heartening, a sign that scientists, as they have always done, work passionately to correct past mistakes, determined to put their research and findings in service of people’s best natures, not worst.
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