[FOUNTAIN]Imagination’s power for good or ill

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[FOUNTAIN]Imagination’s power for good or ill

Stephen Hawking is confined to a wheelchair, but he is one of the most well-known contemporary scientists, even among a public not familiar with science, for his glorious achievement in spite of his physical disability.
In 1963, the 21-year-old Mr. Hawking was a student at Oxford University in England when he was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease, which impeded his muscle movements and eventually paralyzed him. Although he had to use a voice synthesizer and a specially designed computer to communicate with others, the scientist concentrated on his research and became one of the foremost theoretical physicists.
Recently, he made headlines by revising his claims on black holes. A black hole is the tremendous gravitational force created when a heavy star dies and collapses. It is so powerful that it absorbs even light and hence produce a huge, dark hole in space. Three decades ago, he claimed that a black hole would suck in the information of a dying star, so it would be impossible to learn its characteristics. But he admitted his research had proved him wrong about some of his claims.
Tuesday was the 35th anniversary of Neil Armstrong’s first steps on the moon. With over 1 billion people watching on television, Apollo 11’s landing on the moon was an unprecedented event that turned human imagination to space. Following the successful landing of Cassini on Saturn on July 1, the United States plans to launch a spacecraft to Mercury in August. With the exception of Pluto, all other known planets in the solar system will be explored. Recently, NASA released an image of Mars’ surface that showed what seemed to be a stream of water, which heightened the anticipation of the presence of life on the planet.
A human brain is a kaleidoscope that creates all kinds of images through imagination, illusions and dreams. The images in our mind often serve as a driving force in reality. But the occasional appearance of monsters makes us despair. The delusion and obsession of a serial killer who is satisfied by killing and destroying fellow humans is a scary reminder for all of us. Who knows what kind of Frankenstein’s monster is living inside our minds? What prompts one person to commit such a massacre, while another is so full of the fascination of space? Imagination can be a frightening tool.

by Lee Young-ki

The writer is a deputy culture news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.
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