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.

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

More from Nautilus

Nautilus6 min read
The Big Bang Is Hard Science. It Is Also a Creation Story.: Even with its explanatory power, Big Bang theory takes its place in a long line of myths.
In some ways, the history of science is the history of a philosophical resistance to mythical explanations of reality. In the ancient world, when we asked “Where did the world come from?” we were told creation myths. In the modern world, we are inste
Nautilus9 min readScience
To Fix the Climate, Tell Better Stories: The missing climate change narrative.
Here are two sets of statements from far-distant opposites in the climate change debate. The first is from Naomi Klein, who in her book This Changes Everything paints a bleak picture of a global socioeconomic system gone wrong: “There is a direct and
Nautilus9 min readPsychology
Our Brains Tell Stories So We Can Live: Without inner narratives we would be lost in a chaotic world.
We are all storytellers; we make sense out of the world by telling stories. And science is a great source of stories. Not so, you might argue. Science is an objective collection and interpretation of data. I completely agree. At the level of the stud