Origins ANTARCTICA, Scientific Journeys from McMurdo to the Pole
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Cold, clear, and quiet, p2

A photodetector, on it's way down into darkness.

Other scientists lower crystalline spheres in long chains thousands of meters down into the dark, clear ice,where they hang in darkness for years, looking for the faint blue light tracings of neutrinos. These ghostlike particles, nearly without mass,are created by the most violent events in the universe, like black holes and supernovae. They pass through matter nearly unimpeded, crossing vast interstellar distances like messengers from the formation of space and time--- in the clear, pure darkness of the Antarctic ice these photodetectors catch some trace of a rare collision between a neutrino and the matter our our earth. In silence broken only by the wind and the hum of computers, the universe is seen.

In this cold place, humans make for themselves a warm community. Somehow, human nature improves when there are fewer of us, and we face some enormous outside force that threatens us--- here at the South Pole, we need each other to a degree that's disquieting. To be alone here is to be, in some way, in danger. The summer community of 200+ lives and eats in a space designed for 65, and yet everyone bears with the crowding and the lack of privacy with grace, and only the occasional snarl. It's a small town-- everyone knows everyone, and gossip is inescapable. But it's friendly, too, and at this time of year, with family celebrating the holidays far away, it's good to have this surrogate family around you, offering the welcome noise and chafe of a human place, here amidst the immense white silence.

The holiday feast is set in the South Pole Galley, waiting for the diners.


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