[FoRK] What is on the other side of a black hole?

Lucas Gonze lucas.gonze at gmail.com
Mon Jan 13 13:04:16 PST 2014


Picture an entire star collapsed down into a gravitational singularity. An
object with so much mass, compressed so tightly, that nothing, not even
light itself can escape its grasp. It’s no surprise these objects have
captured our imagination… and yet, I have a complaint.

The name “black hole” seems to have created something of a
misunderstanding. And the images that show the gravitational well of a
black hole don’t seem to help either.

>From all the correspondence I get, I know many imagine these objects as
magnificent portals to some other world or dimension. That they might be
gateways which will take you off to adventures with beautiful glistening
people in oddly tailored chainmail codpieces and bikinis.

So, if you were to jump into a black hole, where would you come out? What’s
on the other side? Where do they take you to? Black holes don’t actually
“go” anywhere. There isn’t an actual “hole” involved at all.
[image: Artist's conception of the event horizon of a black hole. Credit:
Victor de Schwanberg/Science Photo

Artist’s conception of the event horizon of a black hole. Credit: Victor de
Schwanberg/Science Photo Library

They’re massive black orbs in space with an incomprehensible gravitational
field. We’re familiar with things that are black in color, like asphalt, or
your favorite Cure shirt from the Wish tour that you’ve only ever

Black holes aren’t that sort of black. They’re black because even light,
the fastest thing in the Universe, has given up trying to escape their
immense gravity.

Let’s aim for a little context. Consider this. Imagine carrying an elephant
around on your shoulders. Better yet, imagine wearing an entire elephant,
like a suit. Now, let’s get off the couch and go for a walk. This what it
would feel like if the gravity on Earth increased by a factor of 50. If we
were to increase the force of gravity around your couch up to a level near
the weakest possible black hole, it would be billions of times stronger
than you would experience stuck under your elephant suit.

And so, if you jumped into a black hole, riding your space dragon, wearing
maximus power gauntlets of punchiness and wielding some sort of ridiculous
light-based melee weapon, you would then be instantly transformed … by
those terrible tidal forces unravelling your body into streams of atoms…
and then your mass would be added to the black hole.

Just so we’re clear on this, you don’t go anywhere. You just get added to
the black hole.
It’s like wondering about the magical place you go if you jump into a trash
If you did jump into a black hole, your experience would be one great
angular discomfort and then atomic disassembly. Here’s the truly
nightmarish part. ..

As time distorts near the event horizon of a black hole, the outside
Universe would watch you descend towards it more and more slowly. In
theory, from their perspective it would take an infinite amount of time for
you to become a part of the black hole. Even photons reflecting off your
newly shaped body would be stretched out to the point that you would become
redder and redder, and eventually, just fade away.

[image: Artist concept of a view inside a black hole. Credit: April Hobart,
NASA, Chandra X-Ray

Artist concept of a view inside a black hole. Credit: April Hobart, NASA,
Chandra X-Ray Observatory

Now that that is over with. Let’s clear up the matter of that diagram.
Consider that image of a black hole’s gravity well. Anything with mass
distorts space-time. The more mass you have, the more of a distortion you
make….And black holes make bigger distortions than anything else in the

Light follows a straight line through space-time, even when space-time has
been distorted into the maw of a black hole. When you get inside the black
hole’s event horizon, all paths lead directly to the singularity, even if
you’re a photon of light, moving directly away from it. It sounds just
awful. The best news is that, from your perspective, it’s a quick and
painful death for you and your space dragon.

So, if you had any plans to travel into a black hole, I urge you to
reconsider. This isn’t a way to quickly travel to another spot in the
Universe, or transcend to a higher form of consciousness. There’s nothing
on the other side. Just disassembly and death.
If you’re looking for an escape to another dimension, might I suggest a
good book instead?

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