What happens when someone falls into a black hole?

Reality is far stranger than fiction.

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  • Black holes are stranger than fiction, especially when we explore the weird effects of watching someone or something fall into one.
  • Rotating black holes may be traversable if the physics as we understand it holds.
  • To discuss the physics, we explore a fictional tale with a grand ending.
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How to read the HR diagram, the most important graph in astrophysics

One single plot of data embodies the most profound thing we know about the stars.

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  • Just like people, stars are born, grow old, and die.
  • Astrophysicists figured this out by studying stars' brightness and temperatures.
  • This data is beautifully and powerfully captured in the Hertzsprung-Russell (HR) diagram.
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Hertzsprung-Russell diagram: the most important graph in astrophysics

If you truly want to understand modern astrophysics, knowing how to read this graph is essential.

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  • The invention of spectroscopy and photography converted astronomy into astrophysics.
  • With these new tools, astrophysicists gathered untold amounts of data on stars.
  • When these stars were plotted on a graph, amazing patterns emerged.
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The most important boring idea in the universe

We live in a world dominated by science, but most people don't understand its most essential characteristic: establishing standards of evidence to keep us from getting fooled by our own biases and opinions.

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  • Maintaining standards of evidence is the most important and least appreciated idea in science.
  • Modern science was established in the late Renaissance when networks of researchers began working out best practices for linking evidence with conclusions.
  • In the face of science denial and attempts to create a post-truth society, we have to protect the primacy of standards of evidence in science and society.
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Why condensed matter physicists reject reductionism

Reduction is an approach that has been successful in science but is not itself synonymous with "science."

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  • Reductionism — the philosophical position that all phenomena can be explained by interactions between particles — is not inherently a part of the scientific method.
  • For example, most biological processes cannot be explained by appealing to quarks.
  • Those who study complex phenomena, such as condensed matter physicists, often reject reductionism and embrace its alternative, known as emergence.
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The future of humanity: can we avert disaster?

Climate change and artificial intelligence pose substantial — and possibly existential — problems for humanity to solve. Can we?

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  • Just by living our day-to-day lives, we are walking into a disaster.
  • Can humanity wake up to avert disaster?
  • Perhaps COVID was the wake-up call we all needed.
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