This February, scientists from labs in Washington and Alabama published some bewildering findings: the measurable effects of two black holes colliding over a billion light years away. How one finds evidence of the collision of two enormous celestial bodies over a billion light years away is a complex matter of gravitational waves and relativity theory—a piece of Einstein’s general relativity—and one I won’t pain the reader with attempting to explain. There are, I’ll admit, far better venues for this than Sweet’s Editor’s Note. The truth is, I barely understand the newspaper-delivered version myself: the scale is too big, the theory too arcane, the length of considerations—from black holes (why do they exist?), to gravitational waves (huh?), to light years—is too much abstraction all at once. It’s too damn much to put altogether. By the end of trying to think it all through, something I’ve been doing quite a bit of since February, I arrive a bit more spacey than I had been when I departed. I’m light-headed, and I’ve spilled coffee on my shirt. The toast is burning. One is reminded, in moments like these, how relative time really is.
To borrow from the great essayist and biologist Lewis Thomas, all of this makes me feel a little funny. And warm. The scale—something so far away that its light has taken over a billion Julian calendars to reach us—is amazing. Unfathomable. Full of wonder. What else is wonderful? That Einstein actually predicted this, with math. That there are things that exist that are so massive their collisions can make ripples in the fabric of the universe. Ripples. And that there are folks out there who can measure them.
I’m hoping, friends, that you too can find some moments with which to spill coffee and burn the toast. I think we all could use a little bit of that this summer. Here, in Sweet’s twenty-fourth issue, we offer eighteen writers who are making their own small ripples across the universe. Lose yourselves in their work. Depart for a bit.
– K.C. Wolfe, Nonfiction Editor
*Enormous, astronomical thanks to Rosalynde Vas Dias, our guest poetry editor, without whom none of this would have come together. Thank you, Rosalynde, for your lovely work and your delicate ear.