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The Black Cloud - Fred Hoyle - NEW

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The Black Cloud - Fred Hoyle - NEW

The Black Cloud - Fred Hoyle - NEW

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In 1964, astrophysicists on earth become aware of an immense cloud of gas that enters the solar system. The cloud, moving to interpose itself between the sun and the earth, could wipe out most of the life on earth by blocking solar radiation and ending photosynthesis. A cadre of astronomers and other scientists is drawn together in Nortonstowe, England, to study the cloud and report to the British government about the consequences of its presence.

As the behaviour of the cloud proves to be impossible to predict scientifically, they come to the conclusion that it might be a life-form with a degree of intelligence. In an act of desperation, the scientists try to communicate with the cloud, which, to their surprise, is actually successful. The cloud is revealed to be a super-organism, many times more intelligent, who in return is surprised to find intelligent life-forms on a solid planet.

When the astronomers ask the cloud how its lifeform originated, it replies that they always existed. One of the characters suggests this is incompatible with the Big Bang theory. Thus it may be that Hoyle was hinting at his own Steady State theory of the existence of the universe, which has since been disproved by the discovery of cosmic background radiation.

The cloud then learns that another intelligent cloud has stopped communicating and may have mysteriously vanished. This happens around another star, not too distant in the cloud's terms. So the cloud decides unexpectedly to move on. Two of the scientists die in an attempt to learn the cloud's own language through visual signals, in order to gain further insights about the universe.

 

About the Author Fred Hoyle

Sir Fred Hoyle FRS (24 June, 1915 – 20 August, 2001) was an English astronomer primarily remembered today for his contribution to the theory of stellar nucleosynthesis and his often controversial stance on other cosmological and scientific matters, in particular his rejection of the Big Bang theory. In addition to his work as an astronomer, Hoyle was a writer of science fiction, including a number of books co-authored with his son Geoffrey Hoyle. Hoyle spent most of his working life at the Institute of Astronomy at Cambridge and served as its director for a number of years. Fred Hoyle died in Bournemouth, England, after a series of strokes. An early paper of Fred Hoyle's made an interesting use of the anthropic principle. In trying to work out the routes of stellar nucleosynthesis, he observed that one particular nuclear reaction, the triple-alpha process, which generated carbon, would require the carbon nucleus to have a very specific energy for it to work. The large amount of carbon in the universe, which makes it possible for carbon-based life-forms (e.g. humans) to exist, demonstrated that this nuclear reaction must work. Based on this notion, he made a prediction of the energy levels in the carbon nucleus that was later borne out by experiment.

However, those energy levels, while needed in order to produce carbon in large quantities, were statistically very unlikely. Fred Hoyle later wrote:

Would you not say to yourself, "Some super-calculating intellect must have designed the properties of the carbon atom, otherwise the chance of my finding such an atom through the blind forces of nature would be utterly minuscule." Of course you would . . . A common sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a superintellect has monkeyed with physics, as well as with chemistry and biology, and that there are no blind forces worth speaking about in nature. The numbers one calculates from the facts seem to me so overwhelming as to put this conclusion almost beyond question.

Fred Hoyle, an atheist until that time, said that this suggestion of a guiding hand left him "greatly shaken." Consequently, he began to believe in a god and panspermia. Those who advocate the intelligent design hypothesis sometimes cite Hoyle's work in this area to support the claim that the universe was fine tuned in order to allow intelligent life to be possible.

His co-worker William Alfred Fowler eventually won the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1983 (with Subramanyan Chandrasekhar), but for some reason Fred Hoyle’s original contribution was overlooked, and many were surprised that such a notable astronomer missed out. Fowler himself in an autobiographical sketch affirmed Fred Hoyle’s pioneering efforts: The concept of nucleosynthesis in stars was first established by Fred Hoyle in 1946. This provided a way to explain the existence of elements heavier than helium in the universe, basically by showing that critical elements such as carbon could be generated in stars and then incorporated in other stars and planets when that star "dies". The new stars formed now start off with these heavier elements and even heavier elements are formed from them. Hoyle theorized that other rarer elements could be explained by supernovas, the giant explosions which occasionally occur throughout the universe, whose temperatures and pressures would be required to create such elements.

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