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"Enigmatically indifferent to its surroundings"

I first thought it means there is no difference between it and the surroundings, but after looking up the first two words I am sure I am wrong.

Context:

"When gravity is sufficiently high, nothing not even light can get out. Such a place is called a black hole. Enigmatically indifferent to its surroundings, it is a kind of cosmic Cheshire cat.

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    Welcome to SE! Please give the entire sentence or even paragraph - also provide a link to the text if possible. It is difficult to interpret an isolated sentence-fragment, especially in a technical context. – chasly - supports Monica Nov 17 at 12:44
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    @chasly-supportsMonica Does this work? – JustJohan Nov 17 at 12:50
  • Yes, that is very helpful. I am having trouble answering because I don't really agree with what the author is saying. I think they are so enamoured of the simile with the Cheshire Cat that they have glossed over the differences. – chasly - supports Monica Nov 17 at 13:04
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    The Cheshire Cat is the smile without the cat. The black hole is a star without the light. Perhaps "Enigmatically indifferent" has to do with the inability for light to escape (there's the enigma) and it is impossible to see (there's the indifference). The indifference is not relational, but rather a metaphor for its invisibility. – rajah9 Nov 17 at 13:48
  • @rajah9 That was awesome!! There are some really clever people in this community. – JustJohan Nov 17 at 14:15
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"Some celestial event. No - no words. No words to describe it. Poetry! They should have sent a poet. So beautiful. So beautiful... I had no idea."

Ellie Arroway (Contact (1997) Carl Sagan....


"When gravity is sufficiently high, nothing not even light can get out. Such a place is called a black hole. Enigmatically indifferent to its surroundings, it is a kind of cosmic Cheshire cat."

"attributed" to Carl Sagan (Cosmos?)

Indifference

the quality of not caring about or being interested in something or someone:

Assigning anthropomorphic qualities to stellar events can be an effective prosaic device. This metaphor seems to go beyond that.

In his imagination, Carl Sagan was searching for poetic language from well established popular literature to describe the exotic heavenly realms.

A black hole is indifferent because nothing that is close to it has much of an effect. Anything within its gravitational grasp is just food for its ever-widening maw.

It is like wondering if a whale thinks about the individual plankton swallowed in a good feed.

Lewis's Cheshire cat was mostly indifferent to events around him unless they impacted on his inner ramblings: he often prescribed obscure comments based on otherworldly observations. Many of its quotes are enigmatic..

enigma

something that is mysterious and seems impossible to understand completely:

Cheshire cat comments,

“How queer everything is to-day! And yesterday things went on just as usual. I wonder if I’ve been changed in the night? Let me think: was I the same when I got up this morning?”

“We’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.”

“Only a few find the way, some don’t recognize it when they do – some… don’t ever want to.”

and my favorites...

“Imagination is the only weapon in the war with reality.”

“I am not crazy; my reality is just different from yours.”*

Going back to the original quote...

"Enigmatically indifferent to its surroundings, it is a kind of cosmic Cheshire cat."

bookroo.com/quotes Cambridge

In cases like these, the Cheshire Cat is more often than not possibly correct, unless he is wrong. Or maybe he misspoke, and offered an alternative truth. So Carl Sagan was right?

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  • Was really fun to read, Thanks for the answer. – JustJohan Nov 18 at 5:36
  • I accepted it too early I thought it would be rude if I unaccepted it (-_-;).POB? post office box? – JustJohan Nov 21 at 2:12
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    @JustJohan POB = Primarily-Opinion-Based – Cascabel Nov 21 at 16:58
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Enigmatically indifferent to its surroundings, it is a kind of cosmic Cheshire cat.

Here is my best attempt at answering - in the form of an explanation.

The author says that a black hole is mysterious, perhaps in the same way that Lewis Carroll's Cheshire Cat was mysterious. We know it is there but can't really see it. It is true that we cannot see a Black hole - we can only detect a black hole from the effects it has on its surroundings.

"Indifferent" is a strange (and in my opinion incorrect) word to use. It means that the black hole does not "care" about its surroundings. However clearly it does, because black holes are affected by the gravity of nearby massive bodies such as stars.

I therefore think that the author's statement is misleading.


P.S. Please say who the author is. I hope it is not Stephen Hawking!

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    It's Carl Sagan and thanks for the answer! – JustJohan Nov 17 at 13:40

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