Abyss Gazing: Public service announcement – the Zuma magnetar has entered its death spiral
- Justin McCarthy
- 30 Oct 2016 (South Africa)
But, dear reader, before you gleefully misconstrue that “death spiral” phrase, first a brief cosmology lesson, lest the analogy escapes you. Supernovas occur when a massive star runs out of nuclear fuel, much of its mass flowing into its core that becomes so heavy it can’t withstand its own gravitational force, eventually collapsing in an enormous implosion. Some matter is sprayed across the galactic wasteland, but much of it collapses into a super-dense neutron star, some of which have such enormous magnetic fields (a thousand trillion times Earth’s magnetism). They’re called magnetars. Magnetars need to spin rapidly to avoid further gravitational collapse, but when their magnetic force is too strong they lose rotational energy, slowing down to the point where they slip into themselves and form a black hole, an invisible magnetic force so intense that not even light can escape it.
Our daily freak-show Hlaudiesque soap opera is riding high on a spring tide of effluent, lurching grievously from blood-spattered metro council offices to hostage dramas, with regular pit stops in once revered courtrooms. Peering into this abyss for answers feels like trying to follow the light vanishing beyond a death star’s event horizon: all you’ll find is a frigid blackness that burns invasively through the soft grey matter to the back of your skull. If you’re optimistically asking “are we there yet?” relative to the dark side of the moon, you’re in for a gastroenteritis-ridden trip with no airsick bags, no motion sickness pills and no bathroom breaks. It’s a veritable shit-storm of supergalactic proportions, hurtling uncontrollably to an unknown effluent-strewn destiny.
“How did we get this far gone?” is an oft-heard plaintive cry. Hindsight is helpful in completing the jigsaw puzzle but it provides few clues to tomorrow’s destination. That requires pattern recognition, and history is littered with lessons for us all. The Rainbow Nation, so joyously embraced by most in the world, was merely a movie on a gigantic set, and we mere extras. The credits have rolled, the music’s ended, the heroes and villains have died or retired to the shadows, yet here we stand scratching our heads and hurling bricks and insults at Zumafia stormtroopers, anxiety riddled minions hopelessly snatching at empty space in a vain attempt to retard the pace of the transmogrifying descent.
We got this far by being robbed, plundered, violated, bullied, bullshitted, and exploited in broad daylight under the supposed protective cover of constitutional rights. Under Mandela and Mbeki there were a few incompetents, a handful of bad eggs and a bunch of largely altruistic technocrats steering the ship. Now we have a sprawling crime syndicate led by a triumvirate of Guptatrons. This almighty trinity of magnetars emits an inescapable magnetic field over the powerful but inferior Zumafia singular, in turn shielded by an impenetrable asteroid belt of lemming-like neutron stars, vapourising the virtuous that dare approach their Vader (pun intended).
Emboldened by the occasional whiff of weakness, entities still subscribed to old-fashioned notions like democracy and the rule of law attempt to storm the magnetar’s bridge, only to be suspended in space-time in the quaint museum of public disbelief. There they join other orbiting celestial waste, traversing wide expanses of nothingness, cuckolded and winking across impenetrable expanses of darkness at the freshly arrived Thuli Madonsela and twitchily eyeing the reserved allotment bearing Pravin Gordhan’s name.
Death stars are named such precisely because they self-destruct, which is what will happen to the Zumafia magnetar. But don’t be lulled into a false sense of hope – this is no cause for celebration. The brute nuclear force of condensing protons and electrons will incarcerate us in prolonged anguish for generations to come. A supernova is a galactic destructive force the magnitude of several nonillion atom bombs, so your Ray Bans and factor 50 sunscreen won’t save you any more than your 1992 edition ANC membership card. We’re all just protons and electrons in this equation, our purpose to supply the nuclear beast its daily gigatons of energy needs.
We know too well this beast is at its malevolent apex when cornered. Rapid response synapses fire the self-preservation DNA module, instantly wresting control of the megatron and flipping it into über deceptive total onslaught mode. As the attacks intensify, so does the retaliation. There is no such thing as surrender: this radioactive beast is programmed to destroy everything in its universe, itself included, as the ultimate form of self-defence. The magnetic force intensifies to unsustainable levels, swallowing the entire galaxy with it down the vortex and beyond the event horizon. Future cosmologists, light years from now, may one day pick up the feint crackle of deep space radio static. Fine tuning their radio telescopes and running the sequence through sophisticated software, they’ll be startled by the decoded chuckle repeatedly sounding “eh heh heh heh”. DM
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