Who is looking for high-stakes, cutting-edge cosmology?

“At eleven sharp, Susan Brophy introduced Mathias Kramer and stepped aside to let him say all the appropriate things. As soon as the lights were dimmed, the audience saw a pair of huge, flaming jets move on the screen. The jets shifted, changed course, and gradually started to swirl. Drawn to the fiery spouts, most of the eyes did not notice a small, spinning black sphere in the middle of the screen. It looked innocuous, unless one realized that the jets could not break out of the eye of the storm’s irresistible grip. They spiraled inward, moving closer and closer, dancing with excruciating slowness all the way to the rim of the restless, devouring blackness.
The dramatic demonstration of accretion of matter by a rotating black-hole was followed by a slide with Einstein equations. Other slides methodically expounded a solution to these equations under simplifying assumptions. Danielle more or less understood the mathematical expressions on the first five or six slides. After the tenth, she began to lose the gist. She noted that Chi, who sat one chair to the right, stared at the slides with a glazed expression. Ben, who sat a couple of chairs to the left, did not even bother to look at the screen.
From Initial Conditions

Realistic? Ask anyone who has attended physics seminars (especially those on cosmology).
Boring? No doubt.
Who pays to fund all this stuff? Tax-payers!

Obviously, anyone who reads about cosmology, starts wondering, sooner or later, whether it has to be so mathematical, unattainable and completely irrelevant to our everyday life? Or maybe, with the right initiative, it could become the next frontier, where highly-trained state-funded scientists will finally do something down-to-earth, with practical consequences.

A recent news release reveals plans for a “state-of-the-art space observatory, which would allow astronomers to study the furthest reaches of the observable universe”. It may also be the first weaponized research platform designed by NASA.
Here is an excerpt:

“This satellite has the ability to detect cosmic radiation from 13.5 billion years ago, greatly furthering our knowledge of how galaxies first formed after the Big Bang, and we installed some torpedo launchers on the side there as well,” said NASA senior project scientist Diane Everett, adding that the 21-ton telescope, which would allow scientists to study the formation of planetary systems capable of supporting life, could likely be outfitted with a few other types of weapons too, depending on what the military is looking for. “This would be an incredible scientific tool for learning about our universe’s origins. And once the Joint Chiefs get a look at the firepower on this thing, maybe they’ll give us a little taste of that 12-figure funding.”

Intrigued about what is potentially the most advanced weapon system in the U.S. military’s arsenal? Enjoy this satire piece about NASA Hoping To Get In On Some Defense Funding With Plan For Torpedo-Equipped Orbital Telescope, from The Onion.

Image Credits. Top: NASA/CXC/M.Weiss, Bottom image from The Onion.

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