Spaghettification

TysonIt seems that many times astronomers will label ideas and objects with somewhat humdrum names.

You might sense distraction if you speak about M104, but using the more descriptive “Sombrero Galaxy” can set the imagination running.

I don’t know what early cosmologists called the first few moments of the universe until Fred Hoyle tried to deride the idea by calling it “The Big Bang.”

So it’s refreshing to see imaginations at work making up a new term to describe what happens to the human body when falling into a black hole: Spaghettification

Of course the root word is the pasta under the meatballs. And the thought of the process of changing from a normal human body to something that has been spaghettified, turned into long strings of material, can send shivers down your spine.

The idea of stretching the human body, even if just in a thought experiment, brings up images the torture chambers in medieval castles.  I remember reading somewhere that experiments have, in deed, been conducted on the stretchability of the human body.  Instruments such as the rack were employed to inflict discomfort and pain to select individuals.  Screen shot 2016-03-09 at 9.39.20 PM

Maybe some punishment was demanded, or some information required, or maybe the practitioner was just cruel.

Anyway, according to those experiments, the human body can stand stretching of about 10%.  That would make me over 7 feet tall. Around the time that length is achieved, I would have lost consciousness.  As one author put it, the subject will lose interest in the experiment.

In his 2007 book Death By Black Hole, Neil deGrasse Tyson goes into exquisite detail describing what might happen as a human falls into a black hole.  Chapter Thirty-three takes us to the strange neighborhood of the dark denizens of the universe.

When ones body snaps in half on the journey into a black hole is a “gory moment” to Tyson.    That event is quickly followed by a series of breaking into smaller and smaller segments.

This book is a collection of Tyson’s essays, and they are very entertaining. As early as chapter three, Tyson is quoting the Bible. He concludes (in chapter forty two) with a flourish, calling intelligent design a “philosophy of ignorance.”

Tyson’s essays span the breadth of astronomy, including the color of the universe as well as pi in the Bible.   This was an easy book to read, one I should have concluded last year. I think I’ll blame it on my December bicycle accident. I recommend this book to the amateur astronomer and casual reader.


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