Galactic Heat Check: NASA's “Thermonuclear Art” And The 2015 New York Knicks

A frank comparison between NASA's stunning new footage of the sun's surface and the Porzingis/Melo Knicks, which are more alike than you might suspect.
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This is a thirty-minute video of the surface of the sun, courtesy of NASA, and over the course of its hypnotic length you will find much at which to wonder. It is not a video of the 2015 New York Knicks, who will inspire little such wonder. Not much connects these two, but they align in at least one noteworthy manner: I have looked directly and too long at the New York Knicks only to be struck too late by the thought, “I probably shouldn't have done that.” As is the case with the sun, this is not good for you.

The eternal furnace churns away. Its off-shootings and spurts have the power to annihilate; we're at the mercy of its whims, subject to whichever seemingly random processes determine its cycles and emissions. The Knicks, for their part, are a series of bad decisions made by self-aggrandizing or inadequately prepared men. It's possible to watch footage of either. League Pass will cost you $200. NASA's made its Ultra-HD images of the sun free on Youtube, although at least with League Pass you can also watch the Warriors.

“Thermonuclear Art” gifts the viewer with images resembling superheated coral, or a CT scan of a human brain, reminding us of the universe's repeating patterns. Its plashes of light and eruptions of fire represent not just pretty luminous displays but world-swallowing expulsions of energy, the most impressive of which have achieved the escape velocity of 1.3 million miles per hour and jetted off into black space, the majority of their expressed particles and gasses hurtling forever outward through the universe's unfeeling void.

The Knicks, for their part, reward eyeballs with tantalizing glimpses of capability, flashes of motion which suggest they're finally finding some comfort inside Phil Jackson's system, and the dramatic and still-unfolding disintegration of Carmelo Anthony's earthly vessel, buckling beneath the enormous weight of expectation and responsibility, failing to achieve an exit velocity of his own, and tumbling, pinned, in a low and degrading orbit. In Kristaps Porzingis's arching and surprisingly limber efforts, there are flashes of the future brilliance he'll eventually find success with elsewhere. They bestow an empty hope that accumulated suffering begets eventual joy. They'll open the season with a beatdown of the Bucks and defeat the Wizards on Halloween. They'll look competent against the Spurs. They will lead Cleveland through three quarters.

“Thermonuclear Art” is trippy. Your old roommate would've looked at it and decided it was perfect for use as “visuals” in the blue room at the rave he was totally going to organize. Plus it's soundtracked by some Orb-like ambient auditory bliss, with some moments that maybe sound like Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells. Though borne of tremendous forces, the whole thing as presented is amazingly soothing. The Knicks won't soothe, and if you keep the volume up you'll get Mike Breen's play-by-play, Clyde Frazier's technicolor polyester commentary, and clips of Derek Fisher spouting an infinite number of variations on the theme of “we just need a consistent effort/if we put it all together for four quarters the wins will come.” The mix is gaseous.

The sun is the gravitational axis of our entire solar system, the source of all life on our planet. Its mass is 333,000 times that of Earth, and the temperature on its surface is nearly 6000 degrees Kelvin. The Knicks' payroll is $75M, an outlay which is currently returning a squad shooting 41.3% from the field, and the trend there is entropic. They are the source of the majority of the Association's off-balance fifteen footers. In the eight minutes it takes the sun's light to reach our planet the Knicks can watch a four point lead become a twelve point deficit. Even if they hold off the Cavs for three quarters the lead slips with a minute to go in the third in a manner so rote that it feels deterministic.

We live in an age of abundant CGI entertainments, but the images offered by NASA make even the most lavish special effects look like charcoal sketches. The spastic burps and eruptions of solar flares are spectacular beyond language's evocative abilities. Likewise, Melo scores 37, and it is beautiful. But ultimately little changes, at least not in our lifetimes, or those of our descendants. Human existence will very likely cease before any concrete changes occur with the sun. Ditto the Knicks.

In one second the sun expels as much energy as a trillion one megaton bombs. Steph Curry continues to rain down shots from the outer thermosphere. Tim Duncan is still capable of pulling down a dozen rebounds. The Earth gets warmer but Antarctica gains more ice than it loses. There's little straightforward logic in our universe, no probity whatsoever, and precious few absolutes; only decay. The sun will eventually deplete its own resources, whereupon it will expand into a red giant, consuming Mercury, Venus, and very possibly Earth, before it expires. Derek Fisher will be jobless at this point. The cartilage in Carmelo Anthony's knees will become dust. James Dolan will be irritated, as usual. Time is implacable.

The sun is hot, baby, and will remain so for roughly the next four or five billion years. The Knicks are not playoff bound. Kristaps Porzingis will block a weak shot amid the tumult beneath the basket, then turn to head up the floor, joined by his teammates. He'll hit Jose Calderon with an outlet pass, who will then find Derrick Williams zipping toward the lane. Williams will pull up and take a stabby little jumper from the wing for some reason. It will clank harmlessly off the rim, and the Knicks will flail like dying fish in an effort to get back on defense. The Cavaliers will pull away. They will win by 10. The Knicks are not hot.


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