How Black Holes Nearly Ruined Time

This essay is one of the five winners in the 2019 writing competition held by the Black Hole Initiative at Harvard University. “The Black Hole Initiative offers a unique environment for thinking about the topic of black holes more creatively and comprehensively,” says BHI director, Avi Loeb. To add context to the exciting April 10 announcement that astronomers have observed a black hole for the first time, this week Nautilus is featuring all five winning essays.

Black holes are mystifying objects that have captivated our imaginations since their existence was first proposed. The most striking feature of a black hole is its event horizon—a boundary from within which nothing can escape. Objects can cross the event horizon from outside to inside, but once they do, they can never cross back, nor can any information about them; anything that crosses the event horizon of a black hole is cut off entirely from the outside universe.

For many years, the existence of black holes seemed

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