In the first half, science writer Ron Cowen discussed the century of experimentation that confirmed Einstein's general theory of relativity, as well as the discovery of black holes and quasars, and the role of gravity. Nearly 100 years ago, the observations by British scientists of the May 29, 1919 solar eclipse were crucial in establishing Einstein's theory that gravity bends light. The idea that the gravity of massive objects could actually warp space-time not only made Einstein famous but changed the scientific outlook of the times, he noted, adding that the recent photograph of a black hole acts as a bookend of cosmological discoveries of the last century.
Space-time, he continued, is particularly malleable in the proximity of a black hole-- so much so that it folds in on itself and not even light can escape. The black hole that was photographed is so dense that it's estimated to contain some 6.5 billion times the mass of our sun. Gravitational waves or ripples in space-time, which Einstein predicted, are set off by the movement of such giant objects. Should someone encounter the tidal force of a black hole, they would be "spaghettified," he quipped. Wormholes, he added, could potentially act as shortcuts through space connecting two separate black holes in different parts of the universe. Cowen also talked about his collection of the earliest phonograph records made by Edison on wax cylinders.
In the latter half, PEN Award-winning historian Mitch Horowitz spoke about one of the most significant names in the study of the esoteric, symbolic, and occult - Manly P. Hall. Hall believed that America was gifted with a unique purpose to explore principles of personal freedom, self-governance, and independent thought. Interestingly, Hall became acquainted with Ronald Reagan when he was the governor of California, and in some of his political speeches, ideas and phrases were taken directly from Hall's writings, Horowitz discovered. For example, Reagan referred to Hall's account about a mysterious man who appeared at the signing of the Declaration of Independence, and as delegates were wavering whether to sign, the mystery man gave an incredibly rousing speech that convinced them to endorse it. Hall suspected that this man, who suddenly disappeared from the gathering, was a representative of a secret society hoping to instill new values in the fledgling republic.
Many of America's founding fathers were Free Masons, and "Manly believed," said Horowitz, "that Free Masonry among other secret societies including the Rosicrucians had embodied certain primeval...esoteric ideals, particularly involving the right of the individual to embark on his or her own spiritual search." America was an early haven for spiritual freedom, including a group of mystical monks who arrived in 1694 to avoid religious persecution. Mitch also talked about such influential figures as Edgar Cayce, and Neville Goddard, as well as his recent trip to Egypt to shoot a documentary (view trailer) about the 1908 occult masterwork "The Kybalion."