Nautilus

Think You Know the Definition of a Black Hole? Think Again

What might be more puzzling than the innards of a black hole is the trouble of defining one in the first place.Wikicommons

hen I was 12, I made the mistake of watching the Paul W. S. Anderson horror film, . It gave me nightmares for weeks: The movie’s title refers to an experimental spaceship that could create artificial black holes through which to travel, making interstellar trips trivial. But the crew, upon activating the ship’s gravity drive, ended up somewhere like Hell. Possessed by what appears to be the ship itself—it seems to acquire a will of its own—they mutilated themselves and one another. A crew member had the presence of mind to broadcast a final message, amid (“save me”). Black holes have held me in a state of trembling fascination ever since. I doubt they lead to some demonic dimension but, like the existence of God, such a realm can’t, strictly speaking, be disproven, only judged improbable.

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