On April 10, 2019, scientists finally presented the first picture of hell’s gate. This is how one scientist described what happens when you get near the gate: “Your feet feel a stronger gravitational pull than your head and as a result your body is stretched apart like a spaghetti until you reached the central singularity where you are squashed into a single point of infinity density.” But that is if we are looking from outside. From inside, what happens to you is that you may plunge into it unharmed though you won’t be able to escape it to tell the story.
Friends, countrymen, Africans, it is not your father’s world anymore. Thanks to scientists who have refused to be tied down by the limiting chains of conventional wisdom and dogma on the imagination of man.
In November of last year, He Jiankui, a Chinese scientist stunned audience at a biomedical conference in Hong Kong when he announced that he had used gene-editing to alter the DNA of twin girls. The father of the girls was HIV-positive and Jiankui’s gene-editing altered genes in the twins’ DNA that made the babies immune to HIV.
For daring to perform this aspect of genetic engineering first imagined in the 1970s, He Jiankui is currently under house arrest in his apartment at Southern University of Science and Technology in Shenzhen, China. He may face the death penalty not for violating an international ban on gene-editing live human embryos but for corruption and bribery.
The fact that He Jiankui did the gene-editing even though he was not a biologist or a geneticist but a mere physicist rattled the world. The long-held fear of flooding the world with designer babies and a possible onslaught of new and dangerous diseases suddenly became real. Nobody knows anything about He Jiankui’s gene-edited babies but the scientific world is full of buzz about the dawn of a new era.
Companies like Celectis and Editas are working round the clock to monetize one of the most successful methods of gene-editing called Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats (CRISPR). The search for human enhancement is on and can lead to the introduction of genes from other organism or synthetic genes to improve human abilities. The misuse of this technology can create harmful biological agents and weapons and killer bugs that could wipe out plants and animals, including man.
But based on the history of scientific research, there has never been any scientific progress that did not come with potential drawbacks and dangers. The splitting of the atom brought about cheap electricity, advanced nuclear medical therapies, as well as nuclear weapons. Scientists have never been deterred in their pursuit of a new path to human advancement by the fear of what some rogue scientists could do with the technology. The Internet is living in relative peace and harmony with the dark web, hackers and the attending viruses lurking at every corner of the World Wide Web.
It was the same story when over 10,000 scientists from over 100 countries working at The Large Hadron Collider (LHC), some 175 meters inside the border between France and Switzerland tried high-energy particle collusion. They were using the most powerful and largest machine in the world to search for answers to some particle physics greatest questions. The experiments conducted between 2009 and 2013 proved the existence of Higgs boson, the so-called god particle. Prior to the test, there were real doomsday fears that the collision would cause mini-black holes that could swallow everything on earth. There was also the expressed danger that it could produce strangelet that could convert ordinary matter into strange matter and turn all the atoms of the Earth into a lump of strange matter
Until April 10, 2019, the only black hole the world had seen was the Black Hole of Calcutta, a notorious prison in India where convicts enter but never left alive. As far back as November 1784, a pioneer in astronomy who was also an English clergyman, John Michell, published a letter where he proposed that there was a body in the universe that was so massive that light could not escape it. That was when clerics looked up from their business of cherry-picking verses of the Quran and Bible in support of their nefarious goals to ponder our place in the ever-expanding universe in front of us.
Even though the world didn’t see John Michell’s black hole, numerous scientists over centuries have been studying black holes. They have been propounding theories about those collapsing stars millions of light years away. Great scientists like Albert Einstein in his 1915 theory of general relativity acknowledged the possibility of the black hole but doubted it would ever form. Other great scientists like Karl Schwarzschild, David Finkelstein, Jocelyn Bell Burnell, Roy Kerr, Ezra Newman, James Bardeen, Jacob Bekenstein, Stephen Hawking and so many others characterized and interpreted the concept of gravitationally collapse of compact objects and for the first time established it as an astrophysical reality contrary to what Einstein thought.
Even though these scientists never saw it, they determined the presence of the black hole from its interaction with other matters and from electromagnetic radiation. Scientists noted that some of the brightest objects in the universe were created by friction when matter falls into black holes. Using stars orbiting black holes, scientists were able to measure the black hole’s mass and location. Using this knowledge, scientists identified a radio source that they called Sagittarius A*, a supermassive black hole of about 4.3 million solar masses at the Milky Way galaxy.
On February 11, 2016, while you were sleeping, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) based in Louisiana announced that it had detected cosmic gravitational wave from emerging black holes using its 4 km mirror spacing. Albert Einstein predicted these waves in his general relativity theory. On June 15, 2016, LIGO announced that it had detected a second gravitational wave event. This one recorded on December 26, 2015, at 3:38 UTC indicated an event caused by the merger of two black holes at a distance of 1.4 billion light years. It measured the masses of the two black holes as 14.2 and 7.5 solar masses.
Having confirmed that black holes are merging out in space, scientists at the international Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) continued their search of the image of black holes. With global network of radio telescopes, a collaboration of 200 members from 60 institutions working across 20 countries, EHT combined data from several interferometry stations around the world. On April 10, 2019, EHT published the first image of a black hole observed in 2017. It was the supermassive black hole at the center of the galaxy Messier 87. It has a mass that is 7 billion times that of the Sun.
Allow this to sink in. The Earth weights 5.972 sextillion metric tons. Our sun is about 330,000 times the mass of the earth. Now the mass of this supermassive black hole relative to the earth’s mass is 7 billion multiplied by 333,000 and then multiplied by 5,972 sextillion metric tons. How does that make you feel?
When in the 70s, the rest of the world were pondering gene-editing while Africans were shouting hallelujah and Allah akbar, Nigerian educationist, Tai Solarin, noted that Africans were the only people who could not make a pin but could tell anyone the number of gates there were in heaven.
While scientists are knocking on heaven’s gate, Africans are busy flipping their imported Holy Books in search of the latest quick path to prosperity and… heaven.
Scientists who have just captured the picture of hell’s gate are in hot pursuit of what should be coming up next - the picture of heaven’s gate.
Rudolf Ogoo Okonkwo’s latest book written under the pseudonym of Rudolf t. g. Hess is “The Secret Letters of President Donald J. Trump age 72 1/6 “