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Space Science

What Would It Look Like To Fall Into a Black Hole? 154

CNETNate writes "A new video simulation developed by Andrew Hamilton and Gavin Polhemus of the University of Colorado, Boulder, on New Scientist today, shows what you might see on your way towards a black hole's crushing central singularity. Hamilton and Polhemus built a computer code based on the equations of Einstein's general theory of relativity, and the video produced allows the viewer to follow the fate of an imaginary observer on an orbit that swoops down into a giant black hole weighing 5 million times the mass of the sun, about the same size as the hole in the centre of our galaxy. The research could help physicists understand the apparently paradoxical fate of matter and energy in a black hole."
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What Would It Look Like To Fall Into a Black Hole?

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 02, 2009 @05:01PM (#27436493)

    How did a Goatse story get on the front page?

  • Huh? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Jack9 ( 11421 ) on Thursday April 02, 2009 @05:02PM (#27436507)

    I don't assume you see red grid lines?

  • hmm, I see (Score:5, Funny)

    by jollyreaper ( 513215 ) on Thursday April 02, 2009 @05:03PM (#27436511)

    So falling into a black hole looks and awful lot like a slashdotting. Good to know!

  • by tnk1 ( 899206 ) on Thursday April 02, 2009 @05:07PM (#27436553)

    It looks like you are seriously fucked.

    • by schmidt349 ( 690948 ) on Thursday April 02, 2009 @06:58PM (#27437969)

      What actually transpires beneath the veil of an event horizon? Decent people shouldn't think too much about that.

      Academician Prokhor Zakharov
      "For I Have Tasted The Fruit"

      • It sounded (from TFA) like the event horizon is actually subjective; that you'd never "hit" it from the point of view of an observer falling into the black hole.

        Of course, what the Academician probably meant was "the pixels go a funny shape and then the world goes blue with big grey letters on it".
        • You wouldn't see anything. You would be long dead before you hit the event horizon from gravitational shearing and compression forces.

          • I'm talking 'observer' in the theoretical sense, although as others pointed out elsewhere on this discussion, supermassive (center-of-galaxy class) black holes are big enough that at the event horizon the gravity gradient is still pretty small, definitely small enough to be survivable by a human in a ship.

            So you could in theory observe all that freaky shit happening as you approach the event horizon. Then again you'd have somewhat of a hard time telling anyone outside the black hole about it...
  • by BobGregg ( 89162 ) on Thursday April 02, 2009 @05:07PM (#27436555) Homepage

    I grew up in Birmingham, Alabama.

    I think it's a lot like that.

  • by OglinTatas ( 710589 ) on Thursday April 02, 2009 @05:07PM (#27436559)

    back in 1979.
    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0078869/ [imdb.com]
    man, that V.I.N.CENT. was such a character!

  • by MichaelSmith ( 789609 ) on Thursday April 02, 2009 @05:15PM (#27436667) Homepage Journal
    ...and a finite circumference. An observer falling towards the singularity would feel the local gradient in the gravitational field increase as they fall, probably to the point where staying in one piece becomes a challenge. This would go on for a long time from their POV.
    • by Creepy Crawler ( 680178 ) on Thursday April 02, 2009 @05:19PM (#27436713)

      Infinite radius would assume that time and position in space is NOT granular.

      If even time is granular, Tipler's Omega Point theory could not work.

    • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 ) on Thursday April 02, 2009 @05:50PM (#27437127)

      It would take a long time from your point of view, on the outside. It would happen pretty fast for the sap who fell in.

      • so what about Hawking radiation? For the outsider observer, an unfed black hole is continually shrinking (albeit slowly) while the subject falls very slowly into it. So wouldn't the (very long living) observer see the black hole shrink faster than the subject falls into it? But the subject must also come to the same conclusion, and so see the black hole shrink very rapidly as he approached it.

        Any flaws with my logic? :)

        • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 )

          I expect (but am not going to do the math) that everything works out once you include the idea that if the event horizon is retreating (the hole is shrinking) then the time dilation effect is also not constant for a particular distance from the centre of the hole.

          Imagine an observer A who is falling towards a black hole at just the right speed to maintain position a certain distance from the event horizon. From the point of view of an outsider, B, because the event horizon is shrinking, A is approaching th

    • by garlicbready ( 846542 ) on Thursday April 02, 2009 @06:46PM (#27437855)
      This might be completely wrong

      I always thought that if you could see the outside universe as you were falling in the outside would appear to be moving faster and faster (from an inside perspective) the closer you got towards the center of the singularity. (effectively skipping ahead into the future faster and faster)

      since quite a lot of junk falls into a black hole especially over the period of the universe's lifetime, you'd probably see all sorts of large amounts of crap following in behind you at a tremendous speed (stars etc) until it got close enough to be affected by the same space time distortion, but never quite catching up to your point

      from an outside perspective if you could see what was happening beyond the event horizon, the stuff falling in would appear to move slower and slower the closer it got towards the center never quite reaching the center point
      which makes me wonder if someone falling into one of these things would actually reach the end of time itself a lot more quickly than everyone else on the outside (assuming there is such a thing)
      • by Mozk ( 844858 )

        I think you're right. I remember reading that there is no indication that you've crossed the event horizon and nothing appears to have happened, while to an observer, you'll slowly descend to the center yet never reach it, just like you said. The things happening in the video don't really make sense from what I've learned.

        • Time frames will approach infinity from the viewpoint of the external observer, as dictated by special relativity.

          The big question is what exactly happens at the surface and inside a black hole. And it depends on what exactly the nature of space and time are, and how they fail.

          We can make conjectures here, but the idea that there is something space-shattering happening there seems rather likely. The idea that a macro-figure Calabi-Yau shape that prevents the collapse past the event horizon seems probable, b

          • by Kagura ( 843695 )
            Nothing exciting happens at the event horizon. It's just the point at which you need infinite energy to leave the black hole's event horizon again. For very large black holes, such as that in the center of the Milky Way, a human can safely pass the event horizon and see what it looks like inside. Eventually, however, the human will be subjected to higher and higher tidal forces--but that has to do with the size of the black hole, not with the crossing of an event horizon.
            • I thought exciting things DID happen at the surface, namely the particle zoo that the quantum foam "contains". And if the entropy calculations are correct (which im sure they are), I'd like data on those perpendicular X-ray jets.

              • The previous poster is right; there is no local experiment you can perform at the horizon to determine whether you're at the horizon. You can see a lot of radiation if you hover at the horizon, but that's because you're expending energy to hover. Polar X-ray jets have nothing to do with the horizon, "quantum foam", Hawking radiation, or black hole entropy: they're due to matter and magnetic fields outside of the black hole.

    • It's hard to define "radius" in a Schwarzschild spacetime. Outside and up to the event horizon, the radial coordinate is defined indirectly by the surface area of a sphere, which is sqrt(area/4pi) and is finite. (The circumference is also finite.) However, the proper distance between points at two different radii is not equal to the difference of their radial coordinates.

      Inside a black hole, you can't even define a radius this way, because spacetime inside the horizon is no longer static, and there's no

  • by rackserverdeals ( 1503561 ) on Thursday April 02, 2009 @05:20PM (#27436719) Homepage Journal

    Simpsons did it [wikipedia.org]

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I've seen that before: whenever I take ketamine on an acid comedown. It looks just like that!

  • by Locke2005 ( 849178 ) on Thursday April 02, 2009 @05:23PM (#27436765)
    About the same as it feels to be a bug hitting an Audi windscreen on the Autobahn... when you've been stretched to several hundred times your original length, you're most likely no longer capable of observing anything, so it looks pretty much like nothingness. Can a soul escape from the event horizon of a black hole, or is it doomed to spend forever in purgatory inside the black hole? And is that better or worse than being stuck in New Jersey?
  • by lacoronus ( 1418813 ) on Thursday April 02, 2009 @05:24PM (#27436783)

    The same person (Andrew Hamilton) is behind this website:

    Inside Black Holes [colorado.edu]

    Which has a lot cooler CG.

    • Very cool! Too bad they don't transcode it to flash and use a free flash player [flowplayer.org] on top. I hate downloading large video...

      (I'm just complaining in hopes the maintainer reads this and does exactly that)

    • Considering the title, I'm glad you linked to the Andrew Hamilton version and not the Seymour Butts version.
  • by Cyberax ( 705495 ) on Thursday April 02, 2009 @05:25PM (#27436793)

    There's a nice site about black holes: http://casa.colorado.edu/~ajsh/schw.shtml [colorado.edu]

    It contains simple videos of what happens when you fall into a black hole. They are just animated GIFs, because this site existed long before YouTube and Flash movies.

    • by jd ( 1658 )

      Besides which, APNGs cannot escape a black hole. They degrade into animated GIFs when converted to Hawking Radiation.

  • Supposedly, it looks like a cheap graphic. I think it looks more like this [youtube.com] :P

  • erm... (Score:4, Funny)

    by M-RES ( 653754 ) on Thursday April 02, 2009 @05:57PM (#27437227)
    • by jd ( 1658 )

      Olber's Paradox says that the sky should be infinitely bright in all directions. In a black hole, this might actually be the case, as there's nothing to obstruct the view and nowhere else for the photons to go.

    • by rastos1 ( 601318 )


      That sucks.

  • The other view (Score:5, Interesting)

    by t3sser4ct ( 1522605 ) on Thursday April 02, 2009 @06:08PM (#27437351)
    If you were falling into a black hole, I think it would be far more interesting to do so while facing away from the hole, as this would theoretically (according to relativity) allow you to witness the remaining life of the universe played out at a greatly accelerated rate.
    • the remaining life of the universe played out at a greatly accelerated rate.

      Well, it would seem that they have some problems producing a realistic animation for that case... I wonder what they are? ~

    • Falling into a black hole does not allow you to see the end of the universe [nasa.gov]. (The FAQ I linked to discusses one case in which a perfectly symmetric, rotating vacuum black hole does experience infinite blueshift, but the existence of matter or quantum gravity effects very likely destroy that property of the black hole.)

  • I'm sure it would suck.
  • ..."what happens there is still a mystery."
  • I remember seeing a couple [wikipedia.org] of documentaries on this a while ago...

  • I call it a Hawking Hole.
  • by geekoid ( 135745 )

    It would look black~

  • Did anyone else expect the video to lead into this at the end? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wRhPM2wMzH8 [youtube.com] Just checking.
  • Greg Egan's website has a little Java applet to visualise what happens to light around a black hole [gregegan.net], dated 2001.

    He's got a bunch of other fun stuff there, explaining/"demonstrating" the strange physics (real and theoretical) used in his books and stories.

  • Considering that a black hole is more massive than the sun, then it will take longer to fall into the black hole than for the earth to fall into the sun and the sun will go nova before the simulation ends...
    • If there's some sort of sarcasm implied in your comment, then I don't get it. If you're making a serious comment, then you're making even less sense.

  • yourmom
  • What a cliffhanger. Just when it gets interesting it stops! I hope "Falling into a Black Hole II - The Sequel" comes out soon.

  • What happens in a black hole stays in the black hole.
  • All your mass are belong to us!

What this country needs is a good five cent ANYTHING!