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Getting nebulized by a black hole is the best way to die…seriously.

Jan 27, 2011 By Abraham

Dave Goldberg, physics professor and co-author of A User’s Guide to the Universe: Surviving the Perils of Black Holes, Time Paradoxes, and Quantum Uncertainty, writes the following

Let’s imagine you have a friend who you didn’t mind sacrificing for science. Suppose he decided to jump feet first into a black hole. What do you see when he crosses the event horizon?

Well, first off, you’re not going to see him cross the event horizon at all because he’s going to be torn to shreds by tidal forces long before-hand. He’s also going be squeezed by the strong gravitational forces until he’s ripped apart atom by atom….

There is a glimmer of good news, however. A friend and former professor of mine, Rich Gott did an interesting calculation in which he found that regardless of the size of the black hole, it would take approximately one tenth of a second between the moment when you first felt mildly uncomfortable to the time when you are ripped atom from atom.

That’s how I’d want to go if the journey there weren’t a couple thousand light years…

This is a still image from a computer artist's animation of hot iron gas riding upon a wave in spacetime around a black hole. Based on a Rossi X-ray Timing Explorer spacecraft observation, this animation depicts how extreme gravity can cause light to stretch and how a spinning black hole can drag the very fabric of space around with it. Credit: NASA

Now you may be thinking that this info has no practical use, but you’d be wrong. If any of you have children who are afraid of black holes (I know I used to be!) you can put this bit of astronomic trivia to conveniently comforting use…

What’s that, little Johnny? You’re afraid that you’ll fall into a black hole and never be able to get out?

Well, don’t you worry. If that happened you’d be torn to tiny bits faster than you can snap your fingers, so you’d never have time to even be bothered by how desperate and alone you’d be.

N’night, now, little buddy. Sleep well.

See what I did there? Science doesn’t just make you a more interesting person, but a more compassionate one, too!


  1. KP says:

    Not me. I always knew that getting to the black hole on the first question was the only chance of being randomly thrown to the space station and earning the all time best possible score of “1 turn” for completing that rocket/math game on the Apple III (?) back in 4th grade.

    Black holes were my only chance of being the best ever at something. That’s probably still true.


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