Update from New York!

September 2, 2010

So, for those of you not in the know, I’ve been gallivanting about New York City the past few days.  Thus far, I have concluded that the city is dirty, the drivers are jerks, the food is amazing, and the boys are cute… ahem.  Also, there is no sales tax on clothing, and a good number of museums and shows.  I think I could get used to this.

Artist's depiction of a black hole

I was in the Museum of Natural History the other day, when I stumbled upon the astronomy exhibit.  Everything was going fine, until I saw a short film on black holes and flew into a tremendous nerd rage.  The sentence that ignited this flurry of scientific fervor?  “If you went inside a black hole, you would see nothing.”  Argh!  While this could be true, it’s a mis-statement, really.  If you observe a black hole from Earth (or anywhere else outside the black hole), you see nothing emitted.  Everything that crosses the event horizon of a black hole, be it matter, radiation, etc. will not be able to return.  Since our observation techniques all require some form of emitted radiation for us to see, black holes appear, exactly as their name implies, black.  However, inside a black hole, it’s another game entirely.  Think about all the matter, all the light, that the black hole has absorbed.  There isn’t emptiness in a black hole, there is a good deal of matter being compressed to infinite density and light being shifted to shorter wavelengths (and thus infinite energy).  So, there would probably be a great deal of light produced, but it would only be visible to our eyes for a very short period of time.  However, all this light being produced will never be able to cross back over the event horizon and be seen by an outside observer.

Long story short, don’t see a kiddie science exhibit of something you’ve studied in-depth before.  Moreover, don’t bring your child to a kiddie science exhibit when there’s an infuriated scientist on the loose.  Whoops.  Well, we all have our moments, right?