Recent events in the Chrematosphere*  have brought the following to mind. It is from Fred Hoyle’s Frontiers of Astronomy, concerning the collapse of a giant star before it explodes as a supernova.

The collapse

The inner regions of the star are now faced by a crisis. After drawing steadily on the energy yielded by the conversion of helium into heavier elements in successive stages the star is suddenly called on to pay all the energy back ... Naturally the star calls on its assets, namely on its gravitational field to foot the bill – the inner part of the star shrinks. But the demand for energy is now so acute that the energy released by the shrinkage is not sufficient any more both to foot the energy bill and to raise the temperature sufficiently to maintain the pressure balance. What happens can be calculated, the paying back of energy must proceed at such a rate that the pressure balance cannot be maintained. ... The collapse takes place in about a second. No human bankrupt has ever collapsed so dramatically.

The book was first published in 1955, and represented a considerable advance over other books available to the public at that time. Hoyle himself was a leader in understanding how a main-sequence star becomes a red giant, and this is well brought out in the book. The last edition I know of is from 1961, and the chapter on supernovae in particular became superannuated with the discovery of the first pulsar in 1967.

Nevertheless, Hoyle’s contribution to the understanding of stellar evolution was of the first magnitude, and can be read of in The Magic Furnace: The Search for the Origins of Atoms by Marcus Chown (2001), a book which is still pretty much up-to-date and well worth reading.

*The largest and best known system in the Chrematosphere being Wall Street.