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  • Jose Arrieta

On r/Place and Sagittarius A*

What is the piece of science that most excited you? The one ongoing project that thrills you? That you hope should continue. And by that I don't mean applied science. We all want carbon eradication and so on. But come on, there is so much cool science out there.


Do you have one? I have two and a couple extra that might also fit the bill.


The Event Horizon Telescope

In 2018, Seth Fletcher wrote a book on a mid tier scientist called Shep. Shep lives in the mountains. Shep is my hero. He is an outsider who works outside standards academic paths. Seth is responsible for giving Roger Penrose a Nobel Prize. See, Shep is a big deal.


Shep, single handedly and quite marveric-ly managed to convince the directors of Earths main planetary observatories to give him time to do a crazy thing Shep dedicated his life towards.


Shep managed to get time to build a Earth-sized telescope (an interferometer actually) and with it. Shep er al. managed to take two pictures. The first of the biggest baddest black whole we know. That picture came out in 2018 as Seth's book rolled out of the press


The book had a cliffhanger though. In the book it was said that Shep had managed to image also the black hole responsible for our existence. The black hole at the center of our Galaxy. But that picture never came.


r/place

There are few things in my office that were there five years ago. The one that is is the biggest one. Since 2017, I have been mesmerized every day by the beauty and utter brilliance of Reddit's April's Fools day joke.


Let's unpack this. In 2017 Reddit rehashed an old idea. They made a 1000x1000 pixel canvas and allowed anyone to change one of these pixels color for one of 16 available options. Not once but every 20 minutes or so. Over a million people did during the three days it was open.


The result. Let me repeat myself is brilliant. It is a poster child of internet culture and it is full of weirdness and beauty. It is a canvas full of prices of art that needed to compete with each other as millions of humans competed to bring their ideas to life. There are thousands of images made by thousands of self organized communities. Utter beauty as the Atlas shows.


I am writing though because 2022 has been a year of plenty. Not only did Shep posted his second picture to the interwebs, Reddit played their joke again. There was a second reddit place full of beauty and weirdness. At one point I will have someone paying me to research it, but not yet.


And the thing is that both of Shep's pictures and both of Reddit's places are experiments in frivolity. True Reddit's more than Shep's. But they were not things we needed. But still 2022 made them happen and brought joy to my life.


2022 is a great year in many other scientific fronts. Hubble's successor deployed perfectly. It achieved optical perfection and even though there were 300 things that could destroy the mission none happened. The JWST has been thrilling me for .months. I could almost not wait during the 29 days of hell before the first signals came. But all is good now. And now in the next months, JWST will fully flex it's muscles in an early tour de force. I am utterly thrilled.


2022 is a year in which CERN goes back online. That is also super cool. Physics is up for a reshuffle. It might be that some pico-signal might revolutionize our lives.


What a year it has been. As Károly Zsolnai-Fehér would say, "what a time to be alive!"

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