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The Black Cloud

The Black Cloud. by 2 D and 2 E. Prof. Lina Lovison. ENTER. Why did we choose this science fiction novel? Among the variety of novels about problems of the environment, The Black Cloud’ might seem entirely obsolete as the events take place in 1964-65. Science advances very quickly

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The Black Cloud

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  1. The Black Cloud by 2 D and 2 E Prof. Lina Lovison ENTER

  2. Why did we choose this science fiction novel? Among the variety of novels about problems of the environment, The Black Cloud’ might seem entirely obsolete as the events take place in 1964-65. Science advances very quickly in 10 years now, imagine in 40! Luckily our theme was ‘Climate Changes’, so we could focus our choice of reading to the causes of such problems instead of the consequences, we were invited to raise our eyes from the ground and take a look at the sky. FoREWoRD

  3. We learned a lot about the stars and the methods to investigate the relation between changes in the sky and changes on the Earth. And the author, Fred Hoyle was a first-class English astronomer who died only 6 years ago, in 2001. Quarrelsome and creative as he was, you expect his fiction to be controversial and competent, bitter and clever. In one word, thrilling. Absolutely correct. Many thanks to Mrs Gabriella Zipoli, Science teacher in our school, for the many suggestions she gave to us. We read the book in Italian, then translated all our tasks into English. It was not easy as we are 2nd-year students and not doing ‘sciences of the earth’ in class yet.

  4. We took advantage of the Net and other books, of the help of our parents, of the correction work of our teacher of English, Mrs Lina Lovison, to report, calculate, analyse and edit our works. If you like this work, you should read also the real thing, the book. The end is challenging but hopeful for the human kind. We are giving all our names below, for our school and our parents to treasure our work. It is dedicated to them and to the Swedish and Dutch partner schools in this project “Brave New World”. The students of 2D and 2E year 06-07

  5. Andreoni Davide Bonetti Valentina Colombo Matteo Cordini Simona Costa Mattia Di Pilato Riccardo Di Terlizzi Alessandra Fogli Matteo Galli Luca Isgrò Riccardo La Torre Andrea Lirici Gessica Lobascio Mattia Ottoboni Giorgio Ottoboni Valentina Pagani Laura Paisi Sabrina Pasat Ana Pasquale Francesca Reolon Daniela Simone Federica Alfano Alessandro Ayroldi Massimiliano Barbarisi Nicolas Bellisario Erica Bragalini Stefano Braghiroli Matteo Capella Francesca Gironi Andrea Guglielmi Gabriele Maltempi Luca Migliorini Luca Mondani Veronica Moretti Silvia Naldini Matteo M. Pasini Francesca Perego Davide Salerno Luca Vincenzetti Alessandro Zoppolat Giulia 2° D 2° E

  6. Fred Hoyle Fred Hoyle (1915-2001) was a Yorkshire truant who became the voice of British astronomy. For over 50 years, from 1945 to his death, he spoke out for astronomy in the newspapers, on government committees, at scientific meetings, in popular books and on the radio.He imagined a never-ending history of the Universe, and worked out how the elements were made. He founded a prestigious Institute for theoretical astronomy and built a giant telescope, and if it rained on his summer holiday, he sat in his caravan and wrote science fiction novels for his many fans around the world.

  7. Fred Hoyle also claimed that diseases fall from the sky, that the Big Bang never happened, and that the Astronomer Royal should be abolished. When the outspoken Fred Hoyle spoke out for astronomy, some Astronomers really wished he had kept his mouth shut. The novel ‘The Black Cloud’ fictionalises the behind-the-scenes true story of Hoyle’s controversial role in the ideas, the organisation, the triumphs and jealousies of astronomy in post-war Britain.

  8. The character of Kingsley is very much Hoyle’s own portrait

  9. THE STORY OF THE BLACK CLOUD The Black Cloud is a science fiction novel published in 1957by Fred Hoyle. The book deals with the arrival of an enormous interstellar cloud of gas that enters the solar system and threatens to destroy all life on Earth by blocking the Sun’s radiation. In an act of desperation, a group of astronomers try to communicate with the cloud, which proves to be intelligent and leads the story to surprising results. Though the presence of an intelligent cloud of gas may seem absurd, the basis of this story is grounded in science.

  10. The investigation about the cloud is described using physics equations, all of which are included in the book. Hoyle was, after all, Director of the Institute of Astronomy at Cambridge, a fellow of the Royal Society, and responsible for, among other things, the term Big Bang – ironically, Hoyle himself did not believe the Big Bang theory. At one point the astronomers ask the Cloud what its origin is and the Cloud replies that it has always existed. One of the astronomers says something like “Well! Wait till the Big Bang boys hear about this!” It seems that Hoyle could have been imagining a deus ex machina to question the Big Bang theory.

  11. The story: chapter 1st and 2nd The story: chapter 1st and 2nd Group n° 1 : Andreoni Davide, Bonetti valentina, Colombo Matteo, Cordini simona, Costa Mattia

  12. Comment The author successfully mixed the natural trend of the scientific facts mixing them with some suspense. The coming of the cloud is source of tension and anguish for science men and political men. Strong dialogues help the reader to reflect on the possible social consequences of the arrival of the cloud. The author tells the most hurting arguments of the story with precision and not much emotion, because Hoyle isn’t a writer, but a true scientist. With this story the author does not frighten the reader: he causes interest and curiosity for some facts that are known to be far from the reality but seem to be scientifically existing.

  13. FACTS IN SCIENCE: The origin and the future of universe Today the Big Bang theory is the most reliable according to scientists studying the origins of universe, but it isn’t the only possible one. Discoveries, made with the Hubble space telescope, allow the researchers to see shots going back to 20 billion years ago. In fact, light looks like an instant for us, but by watching stars that are 20 billion light-years far and other cosmic material, we can actually see what was happening in that era. Scientists say that the universe as we know it could have existed for 15 billion of years. But what happened in the “early” years after the birth of this universe?

  14. Before the beginnings of this century the “laws of classic mechanics” studied by Isaac Newton stated that time passes regularly and in the same way in every place of the universe, that is always expanding, aiming to the infinite. So researchers didn’t have to think about a start and an end of this cosmic system. Then Einstein wrote the well-known “relativity theory”. He though that universe is contracting but, as also in Einstein’s years the design of universe was the static Newton’s one, the German scientist added in the theory an opposite force that kept the universe static, neither contracting or expanding. Since 1929 new discovers have been made.

  15. First of all the expanding-universe theory was demonstrated, denying Einstein’s suppositions. Many scientists thought that if the universe was getting bigger, the beginning must have been in a condensed atomic particles point from which the “Big Bang” exploded. Today researchers are finding those waves, called “cosmic microwave background radiations”, that have been generated from the Big Bang and are still existing, proving the existence of this explosion, that must have been very fast. With years, also the theory of parallel universes is rising. This theory supposes that there isn’t only our universe, but others too, born from other Big Bangs and maybe ruled by very different laws of physical science.

  16. However, mixing the theories, we can affirm that today scientists talk about two future possibilities: --- Closed Universethe Universe will come in a reverse of Big Bang, called The Big Crunch; --- Open Universethe other possibility is that we live in an Eternal Universe never coming to an end.

  17. This end of the Universe depends on how much dark matter there is between the galaxies, which is very hard to see. 1. If there is not much of it the Universe will keep expanding forever, to end with a Big Emptiness. 2.If there is a lot of dark matter the Universe will eventually stop expanding and start to shrink. Stephen Hawking suggested that there never was a start and would be no end, but just changes: a constant transition of one “universe” giving way to another through glitches in space-time.

  18. Map of sky: Cloud center

  19. The story: chapter 3rd, 4th and 5th Group n° 2 : Di Pilato Riccardo, Diterlizzi Alessandra, Fogli Matteo, Galli Luca e Reolon Daniela

  20. After a frantic consultation with his responsible, Marlowe decides to prepare a report to deliver to the USA President in Washington. In London, in the meantime, the amateur astronomer George Green says that he has found some discrepancies of Jove and Saturn with the nautical almanac. Kingsley, a university professor of Cambridge, examines the facts and immediately thinks that he should consult Marlowe, in Pasadena. Therefore the astronomers assemble in Palomar. SUMMARY OF 3rd CHAPTER

  21. In some conjectures it is estimated that the Black Cloud can catch up the sun within eighteen months and it is supposed that the cloud is composed of hydrogen gas and that can cut the Earth off from the heat of the sun, extinguishing every vegetable species and decimating the animal species. The fear is that the atmosphere of the planet may explode. Kingsley talks to Marlowe about the cloud’s temperature and he says that there is a team in Cambridge who can gather this temperature. Some scientists decide to face the terrible threat. Kingsley leaves for England with the Royal Astronomer in a hurry.

  22. Highlight: Kingsley, talking with Marlowe, says that the coming cloud might bring the death of all humans: the Globe for some week will be in darkness and in those weeks it will freeze.

  23. The government of the United States now knows that the Black Cloud is coming in the direction of the Earth; Herrick in fact has informed the President of this and the two have had a long discussion. The President asks the scientist to hold the matter secret and wants to know which other people know about the cloud. Kingsley in the meantime goes to Cambridge and he tries to send some letters to inform his acquaintances of the matter, but the letters are stopped by the government. SUMMARY OF 4th CHAPTER

  24. Highlight: After the plane that was carrying Kinsley back from United States had left, he said: “ Thanks God”. He said so because he feared to be held in the United States, so that the Cloud secret would not be exported to other countries.

  25. Chris Kingsley and his scientific colleagues arrive in Nortonstowe , a government centre for agricultural research. There Helen and Joe Stottard live. Helen is angry with her husband because, in the last two weeks, many men hang about around their house, destroy the old buildings, build new ones and ruin the lovely countryside. Helen, after some researches and consultation with her rival Agnese Aslop, comes to the conclusion that all those men are building the death-ray! A few days after, the police put up some barriers, and so no one can either go in or go out from Nortonstowe; SUMMARY OF 5th CHAPTER

  26. Also the pianist Harry Hargreaves and his soloists, the painter George Fisher, the doctor John McNeil and the historian Bill Price, all friends of Kingsley, are detained inside. Kingsley gathers them and informs them of the reason why they are being held there and therefore of the existence of Black Cloud. Few days after, also Geoff Marlowe, a dear friend of Kingsley, arrives in Nortonstowe and, after a long chat with him about what happened in preceding days about the situation and the organization there, and about the literary mathematical forma mentis, decides to remain in Nortonstowe. Finally, Kingsley informs Marlowe of his plan to build in Notonstowe a radio station of microwave capacity energy so that during the period of crisis Nortonstowe will become the global centre of communication.

  27. Highlight: Parkinson, the secretary of the English Prime Minister, proposes to Kingsley that he can study the Cloud coming in Nortonstowe with his friends but he must communicate only with English government. Marlowe, the American astronomer, arrives in Nortonstowe because he has been personally called by Kingsley.

  28. The story: chapter 6th, 7th and 8th Group n° 3 : Isgrò Riccardo, la Torre Andrea,Lirici Gessica, lobascio Mattia, Ottoboni Giorgio

  29. In the summer of 1964, a Black Cloud is detected as approaching the Earth and the astronomers who are studying it are very worried. In the autumn, the news comes out on newspapers because in Arabia some people have seen a black spot in the sky. Between January and March of 1965, the government orders to move out people from the high mountain areas to save the population from extreme heat. In spring, the Cloud is coming nearer and the climate becomes prematurely warm as the Cloud reflects the solar rays.In summer at the Tropics the warmth and the excessive humid climate decimates the population; in colder zones people survive. The astronomers notice that the Cloud slows down. On 27th August 1965 the Cloud comes to a stop between the Earth and the Sun: in two weeks a quarter of the population of the world dies.

  30. Kingsley, the brightest astronomer of the “Black Cloud task force”, detains the Prime English Minister in Nortonstowe not to be punished and removed for “incompetence” and to manage the radio observations without interference of politicians. Meantime the Cloud’s shape settles into a disk, therefore the gases between the Earth and the Sun dissolve and light returns. At the end of October, after the crisis, the emitters of Nortonstowe become the centre of the communication of the Earth, but the communications are interrupted because of the abnormally high ionization of upper atmosphere, therefore Alexandrov assumes that the Cloud is alive: that is, that inside the Cloud there is ‘a bastard’ discharging electrical disturbance. Kingsley advises the other astronomers to keep the secret, but the government is not in the position to do it.

  31. Therefore the news of the presence of Cloud is disclosed and it arrives to the press. Then, at the end of November the first articles and the photos are published on newspapers. The journalists make two mistakes: at fist they try to underestimate the news hoping that with time it will become more important, then they publish the news expanding it, and cutting therefore a poor figure. Traditionally the people give more importance to religion when there is a critical moment like that, whenever they are worried because a sudden phenomenon has covered the sun. While the cloud is approaching, all the religions have a strong impulse. However, when the sun light returns, by 24 October, and men feel a new strength a that leads them to adore the sun.

  32. Highlight: In the book there are strained relations between politicians and scientists and many of these regard Kingsley. One of these crashes happens when Kingsley has a divergence with the English Prime Minister and another is when the same Kingsley detains him in Nortonstowe .The most important crash happens when Kingsley tells the politicians that the Cloud could destroy the world at any moment. Moreover in this book the importance of the information media is underrated, in fact initially all the discoveries about the Cloud are secret. Religions and the economic and military forces are underrated too. The scientists are amazed and cannot believe they have provoked great ionization with their radio transmissions of small energy.

  33. With small radio waves they were able to provoke such a big ionization that they disturbed the Cloud, which unintentionally could destroy the earth, because it is really alive. An example of a small energy that could stir up great effects could be when something hot is touched by a person, he/she removes involuntarily the hand, or when a shout provokes an avalanche. In our opinion the most dramatic situation of the book is Kingsley’s death, after he has been in contact with the Cloud. Even in this situation the author used a rather light tone, but he has devoted more space to this circumstance than to the other dramatic ones of the book.

  34. The story: The conclusion Group n° 4 : Ottoboni Valentina, Pagani Laura,Paisi Sabrina, Pasat Ana, Pasquale Francesca, Simone Federica

  35. Half December 1965: The scientists establish the contact with the Cloud. In order to make themselves understood, they use the following system: they send messages in radiating propagation, using the alternating current. January 1966: Kingsley quarrels with the Americans. Half February 1966: Americans and Russians launch H bombs against the Black Cloud but the cloud is warned by the scientists of Nortonstowe and it sends one to back to the consignee. Many Russian and American cities are destroyed. Spring 1966: The cloud communicates its intention to leave. Weichart and Kingsley die in the attempt to accumulate a wealth of information to human logics which, however, the human brain is not fit to store.

  36. Characters of the black cloud

  37. KINGSLEY: “It is curious how great a degree in human progress depends on the individual. Humans, numbered in thousands of millions, seem organized into an ant-like society. Yet this is not so. New ideas, the impetus of all development, come from individual people, not easily bruised by the thread of the multitude, may yet be cherished by the solitary wanderer. Among the vast host that experienced the coming of the cloud, none except Kingsley gave the reason for the visit of the cloud to the solar system.”[ch. 9] Kingsley is professor of astronomy at Cambridge and stands out from the other scientists because of his great intellect and intuition. He reflects in many ways the author: he is a great physicist and astronomer and has strong opinions on the surrounding world.The outcome of new scientific discoveries can even be lethal for people of great intellect and culture as Kingsley.

  38. The Entity in the Black Cloud reveals new ways of reasoning and new scientific notions that are far beyond the grasp of contemporary human thinking and belief. Therefore Kingsley, a scientist with a sophisticated knowledge of the physics and astronomic laws, ends up being so shocked by the new information that he becomes a victim of it. The human aspiration to knowledge, which seems without limits in this character, pushes him to overcome certain barriers which shouldn’t be passed. As a consequence of this, the new information results in a drastic change in human knowledge that a material brain cannot handle. The story ends with a sad episode as it is Kingsley’s own search for learning that brings him to his death. Instead one would think that increased knowledge may lead to an improvement in life itself. Kingsley is a peculiar scientist in whom we can recognize the author’s opinions.

  39. We can understand them through Kingsley’s various thoughts on politics as a choice of life made to accomplish one’s own desires and goals, ignoring real problems and through the representation of politicians as people who pretend to decide in crucial situations without some minimal essential competence about it.Notwithstanding, he sees politics as a weapon which makes certain undeserving people stand out of the average ordinary people and take on important leadership role. Instead, for him, science is a crucial part of the human evolution. It is the basis for almost all technological developments mainly because it is not limited by a restricted amount of people and has not yet been corrupted as the politics in those days seemed to be.

  40. JENSEN: Jensen is a typical university student who is spending a term in California attending a work camp. He got a generous fellowship which allowed him to spend two years at Mount Palomar observatory. As the author suggests, there was nothing better for him. “Astronomy is a gentle science to novices”. It entails a lot of work which altogether brings home great results, yet it doesn’t need much experience. In fact during his short stage Jensen discovers the existence of the Black Cloud. He is an astronomer in training who will make a break through discovery that will have a great impact on Earth and mankind. He is so nostalgic of his homeland, Norway, that the view of California’s hills brings back to him the snowy peaks of his country and gets him lost in his memories of love and family.

  41. Marlowe Marlowe is a middle-age American astrophysics expert. He is the second person who sees the black cloud. He loves smoking pipe with aniseed South African Tobacco and talking about stars and astronomy. At the beginning of the story Kingsley asks him for an opinion on the black cloud and its motion. Then himself, Kingsley and other scientists go living together in Nortonstowe to study the cloud. Marlowe has a very important role in the story because he gives some essential ideas about surviving and understanding the real nature of the cloud. He becomes a friend of the narrator of the story: dr. John McNeil.

  42. Alexandrov Alexandrov is a Russian scientist. Kingsley asks him for some ideas about the black cloud and how dangerous it could be for human life. He is a very silent man but he speaks in a very stark way giving out his intuitions: it is very hard to understand him. However, with his telegraphic sentences, he pushes others scientists to think about the cloud and the cautions to take. He is a secondary character but eventually his blunt words: “Bastard in cloud” prove to be the correct intuition for the strange behaviour of the cloud.

  43. Parkinson Parkinson is the secretary of the English Prime Minister. At first he tries to convince Kingsley not to tell anyone that a strange cloud has appeared in the solar system. Parkinson seems to be rather sceptical and snobbish towards scientists, but when hemakes friendswithf Chris Kingsley he changes his ideas and behaviour: he helps scientist to deal with problems and to avoid a clash with the government. Parkinson gets less and less important until he disappears from the story.

  44. J. Blythe and the PROLOGUE J. Blythe is a student at the Queen’s College in 2020. He is a friend of John McNeil, a doctor and journalist and one of the characters of the story. Blythe receives a letter from John, old by now, in which he speaks out his perplexities about the ‘official’ story of the Black Cloud. Attached to the letter there is his manuscript and a roll of paper, the code to communicate with the Cloud. John with this letter asks his friend to cherish the manuscript and to read with care the true story of what had happened in 1964-65, including some details of Blythe’s own family… fact he is the grandson of Ann Halsey and of Kingsley.


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