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Musta pilvi by Fred Hoyle
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Musta pilvi (original 1957; edition 1985)

by Fred Hoyle, Mirja Tolsa

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1,0702616,000 (3.68)55
A 1959 classic 'hard' science-fiction novel by renowned Cambridge astronomer and cosmologist Fred Hoyle. Tracks the progress of a giant black cloud that comes towards Earth and sits in front of the sun, causing widespread panic and death. A select group of scientists and astronomers - including the dignified Astronomer Royal, the pipe smoking Dr Marlowe and the maverick, eccentric Professor Kingsly - engage in a mad race to understand and communicate with the cloud, battling against trigger happy politicians. In the pacy, engaging style of John Wyndham and John Christopher, with plenty of hard science thrown in to add to the chillingly credible premise (he manages to foretell Artificial Intelligence, Optical Character Recognition and Text-to-Speech converters), Hoyle carries you breathlessly through to its thrilling end.… (more)
Member:googoomuck
Title:Musta pilvi
Authors:Fred Hoyle
Other authors:Mirja Tolsa
Info:Heenlinna : Karisto, 1985.
Collections:Your library
Rating:
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Work Information

The Black Cloud by Fred Hoyle (1957)

  1. 21
    The Purple Cloud by M. P. Shiel (bertilak)
  2. 00
    The Kraken Wakes by John Wyndham (Anonymous user)
    Anonymous user: There are similarities in style and content between Hoyle and Wyndham. Two classics of British Sci-Fi.
  3. 00
    The Explorer by James Smythe (Anonymous user)
    Anonymous user: British Sci-fi dealing with a space anomaly
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Showing 1-5 of 22 (next | show all)
Like Azimov, the science of the story is excellent, the characters are wooden. Still a classic SF, especially considering the famous author. Hoyle the astronomer is best remembered for his "Continuous Creation" theory of the universe, Now demolished by the evidence for the Big Bang theory. ( )
  lcl999 | Jul 7, 2022 |
review of
Fred Hoyle's The Black Cloud
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - January 18-20, 2019

For the complete review go here: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/1088869-hoyle

One of my minor interests is in apocalypse novels in wch there at least appears to be only one human survivor. The earliest of these that I've read or otherwise know about is Mary Shelley's The Last Man. I have a performance called "The Last Man on Earth" that's somewhat inspired by Shelley. One can witness excerpts from my presentation of that at the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at Naropa University here: https://youtu.be/f2puiVTPGYU?t=363 . The Last Man (1826) has 7 yrs of plague wipe out all but one person. The Purple Cloud (1901) by M. P. Shiel has all but one killed by a purple vapor. Greener Than You Think (1947) by Ward Moore has grass take over the planet. Note that the last 2 have colors in their titles. I was half hoping that The Black Cloud (1957) wd continue this tradition. It doesn't in the sense of having only one survivor. It does in the sense of being an ecodisaster novel of sorts. Maybe it's more appropriate to call it an extraterrestrially-induced astroecodisaster. Whatever. I loved it.

I have a friend who criticizes me for reading & reviewing science fiction. She has a brother who's a scientist & has started becoming interested in science in recent yrs. I pointed out to her that much SF is written by scientists so if she's interested in science why not be interested in fiction written by scientists? Fred Hoyle exemplifies this.

"FRED HOYLE
(1915 - 2001)

"Sir Fred Hoyle was an English astronomer and cosmologist, primarily remembered today for his contribution to the theory of stellar nucleosynthesis, and his often controversial stance on other cosmological and scientific matters, such as his rejection of the Big Bang theory in favor of a steady state universe and the panspermia theory of the origin of life on earth. He is considered one of the most creative and provocative astrophysicists of the second half of the 20th Century.

"Fred Hoyle was born during the First World War, on 24 June 1915, in the village of Gilstead, West Yorkshire, England. After his father’s cloth business failed, the family moved briefly to Rayleigh, Essex in 1921 before returning again to the Bingley area, and Hoyle moved from school to school, regularly playing truant and missing long periods of school. Despite his attempts to avoid formal education, however, he did show an interest in educating himself, especially from chemistry and astronomy books, and, when he won a scholarship to Bingley Grammar School in 1926, he started to approach education with a more positive attitude.

"After a series of failed scholarship exams, he managed to obtain a scholarship to study science at Emmanuel College, Cambridge in 1933. He persevered at mathematics, always his weakest subject, and, by sheer determination, he was placed in the top ten of the 1936 Mathematical Tripos and was awarded the Mayhew Prize as the best student in applied mathematics. In other subjects, he was taught by some outstanding people during his undergraduate years at Cambridge, including Max Born (quantum mechanics), Arthur Eddington (general relativity) and Paul Dirac (who replaced Rudolph Peierls as Hoyle’s supervisor).

"Hoyle’s interests turned towards mathematical problems in astronomy and, as he continued to win prizes and awards, he was elected to a Fellowship at St John's in 1939 for his work on beta decay. He married Barbara Clark in late 1939, and they went on to have a son, Geoffrey, in 1942 and a daughter, Elizabeth.

"Although his career was largely put on hold with the outbreak of World War II, it was also a fertile period for gestating some ideas he would later expand on. He had refused to be drafted for weapons research, having immediately realized that the recently discovered phenomenon of a nuclear fission chain reaction could be used to create a nuclear bomb, and he mainly worked on radar for the Admiralty in Nutbourne, near Portsmouth. It was there that he met fellow astronomers Hermann Bondi and Thomas Gold, and the three were able to discuss astronomy in spare moments (they would later propose together the steady-state cosmology for which Hoyle is probably best known). Through his work on radar, he also visited the USA in 1944, where he became more familiar with the atomic bomb project. It was then that he first began to hypothesize on the role of nuclear reactions in stars.

"At the end of the war, he returned to Cambridge as a Junior Lecturer in Mathematics. He published an important paper in 1945 on the structure of stars, in which he introduced a new method for solving the equations determining the structure of a star with a convective core, and discussed the most advantageous way of integrating the equations of stellar equilibrium.

"In a 1946 paper, on the creation of elements and the synthesis of elements from hydrogen, Hoyle introduced (or at least formalized) the concept of nucleosynthesis in stars, building on earlier work in the 1930's by Hans Bethe. Stellar nucleosynthesis is the process of nuclear reactions taking place in stars to build the nuclei of the heavier elements, which are then incorporated in other stars and planets when that star "dies", so that the new stars formed now start off with these heavier elements, and even heavier elements can then be formed from them, and so on.

"Hoyle also theorized that other rarer elements could be explained by supernovas, the giant explosions which occasionally occur throughout the universe, whose immensely high temperatures and pressures would be sufficient to create such elements. Remarkably, he had found a way of testing the theory of star formation in the laboratory, and was able to prove his earlier prediction that carbon could be made form three helium nuclei without an intervening beryllium stage. Although his co-worker William Fowler eventually won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1983 for his contributions to this work, for some reason Hoyle’s original contribution was never recognized.

"As part of this work, Hoyle invoked the so-called Anthropic Principle to make the remarkable prediction, based on the prevalence on Earth of carbon-based lifeforms, that there must be an undiscovered resonance in the carbon-12 nucleus which facilitates its synthesis within stars. He calculated the energy of this undiscovered resonance to be 7.6 million electron-volts, and when Fowler's research group eventually found this resonance, its measured energy was remarkably close to Hoyle's prediction.

"It was also this work that caused Hoyle, an atheist until that time, to begin to believe in the guiding hand of a god (what would later be called “intelligent design” or “fine tuning”), when he considered the statistical improbability of the large amount of carbon in the universe, carbon which makes possible carbon-based lifeforms such as humans."

- https://www.physicsoftheuniverse.com/scientists_hoyle.html

I include such a long excerpt from one of his online bios b/c I think it touches on several areas of interest to me:

1a. "Hoyle moved from school to school, regularly playing truant and missing long periods of school. Despite his attempts to avoid formal education, however, he did show an interest in educating himself, especially from chemistry and astronomy books, and, when he won a scholarship to Bingley Grammar School in 1926, he started to approach education with a more positive attitude."

1b. Being an autodidact myself & one who detested school as boring & oppressive I'm usually pleased to find evidence of other people that I consider to be intelligent exhibiting a similar attitude.

2a. "He had refused to be drafted for weapons research, having immediately realized that the recently discovered phenomenon of a nuclear fission chain reaction could be used to create a nuclear bomb, and he mainly worked on radar for the Admiralty in Nutbourne, near Portsmouth."

2b. If more people who worked on the Manhatten Project had had the foresight that Hoyle did the atrocities of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima & Nagasaki cd've been avoided.

3a."It was also this work that caused Hoyle, an atheist until that time, to begin to believe in the guiding hand of a god (what would later be called “intelligent design” or “fine tuning”), when he considered the statistical improbability of the large amount of carbon in the universe, carbon which makes possible carbon-based lifeforms such as humans."

3b. It seems only fair to also point out that I completely disagree w/ the above point 3a.

The PROLOGUE is a framing device where the bk is explained as a series of papers regarding the hidden history of the Black Cloud accompanied by a letter.

"More surprising, however, was the letter that accompanied the papers. It read:

"Queens' College, 19 August, 2020

"My dear Blythe,

"I trust you will forgive an old man for chuckling occasionally to himself over some of your speculations concerning the Black Cloud. As it happened, I was so placed during the crisis that I learned of the real nature of the Cloud." - p 7

Note that the date is "2020", a mere yr from the 2019 that I'm writing in. Now note the date that the story begins.

"It was eight o'clock along the Greenwich meridian. In England the wintry sun of 7th January, 1964, was just rising. Throughout the length and breadth of the land people were shivering in ill-heated houses as they read the morning papers, ate their breakfasts, and grumbled about the weather, which, truth to tell, had been appalling of late." - p 9

Now, the reason why I point this out is to call attention to how much things have changed between 1964 & 2019. Ever since the Black Cloud, nobody talks about the weather anymore. Have you noticed that?

Probably the main thing that I enjoyed about this bk was the way it talks the reader logically & mathematically thru the probable detection & analysis of such an event as the coming of the Black Cloud if it were to happen.

"Astronomy is kind in its treatment of the beginner. There are many jobs to be done, jobs that can lead to important results but which do not require great experience. Jensen's was one of these. He was searching for supernovae, stars that explode with uncanny violence. Within the next year he might reasonably hope to find one or two. Since there was no telling when an outburst might occur, nor where in the sky the exploding star might be situated, the only thing to do was to keep on photographing the whole sky, night after night, month after month. Some day he would strike lucky. It was true that should he find a supernove located not too far away in the depths of space, then more experienced hands than his would take over the work. Instead of the 18-inch Schmidt, the full power of the great 200-inch would then be directed to revealing the spectacular secrets of these strange stars." - p 11

It's thru the 200-inch that I'll probably discover my next girlfriend. Talk about long-distance relationships! Of couse, by then, texting will be FTL & solid state holographic.

"Emerson, who was working the lantern, put in a slide that Marlowe had made up from Jensen's first plate, the one taken on the night of 9th December, 1963." - p 18

Hoyle published this in 1957, a mere 6 or 7 yrs before he has the action take place. Imagine if I have to wait until 2025 for a suitable OKCupid match on another planet. Will the texting have evolved enuf to permit easy communication yet? Well, let's do some calculating.

""Our next step must be to measure the speed with which the cloud is moving towards us. Marlowe and I have had a long talk about it, and we think it should be possible. Stars on the fringe of the cloud are partially obscured, as the plates taken by Marlowe last night show. Their spectrum should show absorption lines due to the cloud, and the Doppler shift will give us the speed."" - p 22

"*The details of Weichart's remarks and work while at the blackboard were as follows:

""Write a for the present angular diameter of the cloud, measured in radians,

"d for the linear diameter of the cloud,
D for the distance away from us,
V for its velocity of approach,
T for the time required for it to reach the solar system.

"To make a start, evidently we have a = d/D" - p 23

It's a relief to learn from this that my prospective match isn't obese. I've always had a thing for skinniness.

This bk was written in the day when computers still used punch-out cards. I wondered why I got such a good deal on the computer I write these reviews on. Now I know that it's because the punch-out cards it uses are obsolete.

"He still had to convert the letters and figures he had written into a form that the machine could interpret. This he did with a special kind of typewriter, a typewriter that delivered a strip of paper in which holes were punched, the pattern of the holes corresponding to the symbols that were being typed. It was the holes in the paper that constituted the final instructions to the computer. Not one single hole among many thousands could be out of its proper place, otherwise the machine would compute incorrectly. The typing had to be done with meticulous accuracy, with literally one hundred per cent accuracy." - p 32

& this was before the day of holecheck. It didn't matter to me, though, because I thought those strips of paper were coupons so I just threw them away & let the roll run out. No wonder I haven't gotten a date. Even if they were coupons I shd've kept them in case of a 'get one, get the 2nd one free' deal.

"["]The mass of the cloud is more difficult. As far as I can see the best way, perhaps the only way, would be from planetary perturbations."

""That's pretty archaic stuff, isn't it?" asked Banrett. "Who do it? The British I suppose."" - p 39

Do I detect a note of defending an esoteric British practice?

""That's an awful high density. If the gas comes between us and the Sun it'll block out the Sun's light completely. It looks to me as if it's going to get almighty cold here on Earth!"

""That doesn't necessarily follow," broke in Barnett. "The gas itself may get hot, and heat may flow through it."

""That depends on how much energy is required to heat the Cloud," remarked Weichart.

""And on its opacity, and a hundred and one other factors," added Kingsley. I must say it seems very unlikely to me that much heat will get through the gas. Let's work out the energy required to heat it to an ordinary sort of temperature."

"He went out to the blackboard, and wrote:

"Mass of Cloud 1.3 X 10[to 30] grams.
Composition of Cloud probably hydrogen gas, for the most part in neutral form.
Energy required to lift temperature of gas by T degrees is
1.5 X 1.3 C X 10[to 30] RT ergs
where R is the gas constant. Writing L for the total energy emitted by the Sun, the time required to raise the temperature is
1.5 X 1.3 C 10[to 30] RT/L seconds
Put R = 8.3 X 10[to 7], T = 300, L = 4 X 10[to 33] ergs per second gives a time of about 1.2 X 10[to 7] seconds. i.e. about 5 months." - p 44

""It looks to me as if we're rather lucky," Barnett laughed uneasily. "Because of the Earth's motion round the Sun, the Earth will be on the far side of the Sun sixteen months hence when the Cloud arrives."" - p 45

"1. A cloud of gas has invaded the solar system from outer space.
2. It is moving more or less directly towards us.
3. It will arrive in the vicinity of the Earth about sixteen months from now.
4. It will remain in our vicinity for a time of about a month.

""So if the material of the Cloud interposes itself between the Sun and the Earth, the Earth will be plunged into darkness. Observations are not yet sufficiently definitive to decide whether or not this will occur, but further observations should be capable of deciding this issue."" - pp 46-47

In other words, these scientists are doing their best to lay the groundwork for saving life on Earth from a potential disaster by trying to figure out just how potential it is. & yet.. there's always a hierarchy in the way.

""All this had to be fought for. Otherwise we'd have had the same sort of set-up that you objected to. Let me talk a bit of philosophy and sociology. Has it ever occurred to you, Geoff, that in spite of all the changes wrought by science—by our control over inanimate energy, that is to say—we still preserve the same old order of precedence? Politicians at the top, then the military, and the real brains at the bottom.["]" - p 87

Still, I think both the scientists & the politicians were overreacting when they made preparations for the arrival of my long-distance girlfriend.

"The evacuation of Tibet, Sinkiang, and Outer Mongolia was left to the Chinese. With cynical indifference nothing at all was done by them. The Russians, on the other hand, were punctilious and prompt in their evacuation of the Pamirs and of their other highland areas. Indeed genuine efforts were made to shift the Afghans, but Russian emissaries were driven out of Afghanistan at pistol point." - p 100

I don't know about the rest of the world but I know I was feeling a distinct blood rush to a certain extremity with the resultant increase in temperature at the thought of her finally getting here.

"By June it became clear that the temperature of the Earth was likely to be raised everywhere by some thirty degrees Fahrenheit. It is not commonly realised how near the death temperature a large fraction of the human species lives. Under very dry atmospheric conditions a man can survive up to air temperatures of about 140˚ Fahrenheit. Such temperatures are in fact attained in a normal summer in low-lying regions of the Western American desert and in North Africa. But under highly humid conditions, the death temperature is only about 115˚ Fahrenheit. Temperatures at high humidity up to 105˚ Fahrenheit are attained in a normal summer down the eastern seaboard of the U.S, and sometimes in the Middle West. Curiously, temperatures at the equator do not usually run above 95˚ Fahrenheit, although conditions are highly humid. This oddity arises from a denser cloud cover at the equator, reflecting more of the Sun's rays back into space." - p 101

Now wasn't that a nice little synopsis? I'm from BalTimOre where I'd often spend about 2 wks of the summer lying around in a stupor feeling like I was underwater b/c the humidity was so high even though the temperature was 'only' between 95 & 100˚ Fahrenheit.

"The death-toll in the U.S. remained quite small, thanks largely to the air-conditioning units that had been fitted during previous years and months. Temperatures rose to the lethal limit throughout the whole country and people were obliged to remain indoors for weeks on end. Occasionally air-conditioning units failed and it was then that fatalities occurred." - p 104

Right. Methinks Hoyle's being a bit optimistic here. 1st, there wd be the corrupt constractors out to make a killing off defective merchandise. 2nd, there wd be the power failures. How cd anyone service the exploded transformers outside in that kind of weather?

Once the Black Cloud had engulfed the Earth new light patterns prevailed. I still remember my new GF & I admiring the beauty of it all & talking about how it proved the non-existence of god.

For the complete review go here: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/1088869-hoyle ( )
  tENTATIVELY | Apr 3, 2022 |
Classic science fiction; heavy on science, lighter on fiction. ( )
  fwbl | Dec 6, 2021 |
Very glad I picked this up on a whim as it ended up being one of the best sci-fi novels I’ve read to-date. The forward to the book, by the author’s son, makes for a great opening and gives you an immediate sense of Hoyle’s narrative style.

Hoyle manages to write a captivating story with effortless flourishes of philosophical insight, investigational inquiry, and the kind of social dynamics that enable an organic and personal development of each character. Getting to know each one so intimately enables a kind of intuitive understanding of personality that Hoyle manages to maintain through every page.

The tempo of the novel was as good as it gets; very much in line with that of an early Crichton novel. The scientific exhibitions were top-notch in that Hoyle illustrates just how ambiguous terms such as “science”, “fact” and “understanding” really are and, perhaps more importantly, how people who often attribute these labels to themselves often take them for granted.

The number of narrative elements that Hoyle incorporates are manifold and manage to contain an extremely coherent story full of speculative and entertaining conversation, scientific triage, insightful thinking and, ultimately, a very believable reality within unbelievable circumstances. ( )
  mitchanderson | Jan 17, 2021 |
Quite dated in a few ways, but a rigorous example of the "competent scientist". ( )
  jakecasella | Sep 21, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 22 (next | show all)
The Black Cloud begins when a young Norwegian astronomer photographs a section of sky containing a large, circular dark patch which wasn't there before. From this point on, I found it very difficult to drag myself away from the book. As Richard Dawkins says in his perceptive afterword, it is "one of those stories that grabs you on page one and doesn't let you go until the wee small hours".
 

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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Fred Hoyleprimary authorall editionscalculated
Griffiths, JohnCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pelham, DavidCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Powers, Richard M.Cover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Skirrow, DesmondCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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I hope that my scientific colleagues will enjoy this frolic.

Preface, by Fred Hoyle.
The episode of the Black Cloud has always had a great fascination for me.

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It was eight o'clock along the Greenwich meridian.

Chapter one : Opening scenes.
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A 1959 classic 'hard' science-fiction novel by renowned Cambridge astronomer and cosmologist Fred Hoyle. Tracks the progress of a giant black cloud that comes towards Earth and sits in front of the sun, causing widespread panic and death. A select group of scientists and astronomers - including the dignified Astronomer Royal, the pipe smoking Dr Marlowe and the maverick, eccentric Professor Kingsly - engage in a mad race to understand and communicate with the cloud, battling against trigger happy politicians. In the pacy, engaging style of John Wyndham and John Christopher, with plenty of hard science thrown in to add to the chillingly credible premise (he manages to foretell Artificial Intelligence, Optical Character Recognition and Text-to-Speech converters), Hoyle carries you breathlessly through to its thrilling end.

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