Stories about space

Listening to the whispers of merging black holes

A little over a billion years ago, two black holes were orbiting each other somewhere in a galaxy far, far away. At this time, life on Earth had just found a successful way to include more than one cell in a body. Indifferent to the happenings on the Earth, these black holes were locked in a spiral of death. One black hole had mass equivalent to 36 Suns. The other was 29 times as massive as our Sun. Nature had already sealed their fates. With a sudden gasp, the two black holes merged into one. This larger black hole had ...

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Yes, Imran Khan’s marriage IS my priority

Let me begin this with a disclaimer: I have nothing against Reham Khan. She should not be harassed or have her private space infiltrated. She is free to choose whatever and whoever she wants to. I hope it’s clear; this is not about Reham Khan. This is about the discrepancy in Imran Khan’s choices. Imran, like any other right wing politician, exploits the religious sentiments of his voters. We are a nation who as children fall into the trap of our grandma’s religious manipulation, “Hazoor (SAWW) ne toh kabhi kisi khanay se inkaar nahi kiya, chalo achay bachoon ki tarha kaddu kha lo.” (The Prophet ...

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“I will be selling chai on Mars soon!”

Chinese authorities, on Friday, sent a letter to the UNOOSA (United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs), condemning the unashamedly cheerful celebration by the Indian authorities on the success of the recent Indian Mars mission ‘Mangalyaan’. It accused the country of ‘highly inappropriate’ interference in its outer space affairs. The letter from the Beijing foreign affairs committee said that, under its ‘eight planet chain’ convention, China has the exclusive rights to any space territory that was charted by its ancient astronomers. This is not the first time the emerging Asian superpower has asserted its growing authority on disputed territories. It has previously ...

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Gravity: Less of a movie, more of an experience

Space movies have always enthralled viewers because of their special effects. Gravity’s plot is a typical space survival story but the way the scenes are shot makes Gravity less of a movie and more of an experience where viewers can feel weightlessness, solitude and chills running down their spine. Director Alfonso Cuaron has taken the concept of space movies to the next level with Gravity. Movies such as 2001: A Space Odyssey, Armageddon, and Apollo 13 are a few from this genre that were box office hits and still have a place in the viewer’s subconscious mind. [Warning: some spoilers ahead] In this space disaster flick, Dr Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) and Lieutenant ...

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Nazia Hassan: Remembering our subcontinental princess

Hendon Cemetery, London NW7 on Holder’s Hill Road is a serene space with the usual poignancy and hush that accompanies cemeteries. There, tucked away among other graves is a simple tomb with a black headstone. “786”, the numerical translation of Bismillah is etched along with this touching epitaph: “In the loving memory of Nazia Hassan. Loving daughter, sister and mother. Beloved and cherished by millions of people. Died in her youth, August 13, 2000.” Every word rang true and took me back to July 2000. I was driving my friend and Nazia’s songs were playing on the stereo. “She is about to die”, he ...

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I am not your sister, mother or wife; I carry my own identity

Ripley’s believe it or not (the Pakistani version) A woman physically attacked a man in a restaurant because he intruded her personal space. She tried to make him back down. There was a sense of injustice that spurred this violence because she wanted to drive home the fact that she has the same claim to her personal space as he did to his, both in public and private domains. She too is a human being and her claim to her space remains valid regardless of her gender. It turns out the concept of being human is elusive, almost faded beyond ...

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SUPARCO: Dr Abdus Salam’s long forgotten dream

In 1961, Dr Abdus Salam and late Pakistan Air Force (PAF) commodore WJM Turowicz were busy laying down the foundations of Pakistan’s space agency called Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Corporation (SUPARCO). Little did they know that 52 years later, the nation’s space agency would be lagging woefully behind times, renting foreign built satellites or else hitchhiking on foreign country’s rockets to launch indigenously built satellites (in a manner of speaking) into space. The beginning of SUPARCO reflected the dreams and goals of its founders and the scientists involved. Frequent rocket tests, collaborations with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) regarding training of Pakistani rocket scientists and ...

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Neil Armstrong: Never the showman, always the astronaut

Ask any serious sci-fi fan, and they will tell you that the most compelling piece of science fiction has a strong element of plausibility. If you can suspend your disbelief long enough to believe that the fiction you are consuming is within the realms of possibility, then your imagination’s immersion within that universe is likely to be deeper. In that sense, science fiction fans have much to thank the people at NASA for, who in bringing about the moon landing, unshackled the gates of imagination for the minds of countless, including myself. Although I was born 11 years after American astronauts ...

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Infinity and beyond: Space exploration for Pakistan

July 21, 1969 was seen by many as the culmination of man’s evolution from a cave-inhabiting savage to an astronaut. That landing on the moon owed more to the imagination overdrive of the Western civilization than the technological advancements of the time. Looking at it from a purely economic point of view, it would be safe to say that space programs around the world have introduced spin-off technologies that have actually sped up human technological evolution and had a major impact on our daily lives. Now let us descend from the lofty heights of the western civilisation’s achievements in space and have ...

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Farewell Space Shuttle Atlantis, thanks for the dreams

The Space Shuttle Atlantis is about to embark on its final mission. The mission will bring to an end three decades of space travel, exploration, experimentation and innovation. Space travel taps into one of the most basic and perhaps most valuable of human qualities, curiosity. For someone growing up in Pakistan during the 1990s, Space Shuttle launches in Florida were as distant as space itself.  They were brought a little bit closer by NTM when it first started broadcasting a few hours of CNN and BBC a day. One of my first experiences of following the 24 hour “Breaking News” ...

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