Alice laughed. “There is no use trying,” said Alice; “one can’t believe impossible things.”
“I dare say you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was your age, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”
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The warps in space that make Einstein’s perfect cosmic accident
Picture a glimmering arc of light, the artifact of a lens made of warped space-time instead of glass. Einstein thought there was “no hope” of observing these bizarre cosmic illusions, predicted by his theory of general relativity – but we’ve been collecting so-called “Einstein rings” since 1987.
An Einstein ring is not a place to visit but a trick of perspective. Two distant galaxies have to line up just so, or we won’t see it. At its most perfect, it’s a big, unbroken circle: beautiful and scientifically valuable in equal measure.
A complete Einstein ring is one of the universe’s most accurate bathroom scales – the circle it draws around a galaxy lets us add up the mass of everything inside. This means they can help solve mysteries as diverse as dark matter and the ancient universe.
We know of only a few dozen arcs that approach a full circle, though. So it seems fair to ask: of the Einstein rings we’ve found hidden in the sky so far, is there one that rules them all?
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“This new concept is, potentially, as drastic an enlargement of our cosmic perspective as the shift from pre-Copernican ideas to the realization that the Earth is orbiting a typical star on the edge of the Milky Way.” – Sir Martin Rees, 1998, current Astronomer Royal of Britain
There are stars with enough mass to collapse on themselves, forming what have been theorized as black holes. It is thought that within these black holes there is a point called “singularity” at which all physical laws may cease to exist. At this point the curvature of space-time becomes infinitely large, and modern science can no longer predict what will happen. Einstein’s theory of relativity cannot determine what effect singularity will have on an object, forming an uncertainty in our universe. It is from this uncertain state that many theories have arisen surrounding singularity. It has been theorized that beyond singularity exist tunnels – shortcuts – to other ends of the universe. These “wormholes” could be a solution to interstellar travel, which currently is limited by relativity. However, many complications surround this possible theory. Most notable is the fact that the gravitational force of a black hole would crush any possible interstellar spacecraft, which is something that will have to be worked out. While this theory about singularity is questionable at best and will probably be left to science fiction, there is another theory about the center of a black hole that has been gaining more acceptance from respected physicists and astronomers, and describes a whole new view about our known universe.
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