Hey Bill Nye! If You Fall Into a Black Hole, Where Do You Go?
It's Tuesday, which means we've got another submitted question for Bill Nye to answer. The topic this week is the same as last week: black holes.
Bill Nye, scientist, engineer, comedian, author, and inventor, is a man with a mission: to help foster a scientifically literate society, to help people everywhere understand and appreciate the science that makes our world work. Making science entertaining and accessible is something Bill has been doing most of his life. In Seattle Nye began to combine his love of science with his flair for comedy, when he won the Steve Martin look-alike contest and developed dual careers as an engineer by day and a stand-up comic by night. Nye then quit his day engineering day job and made the transition to a night job as a comedy writer and performer on Seattle's home-grown ensemble comedy show “Almost Live." This is where “Bill Nye the Science Guy®" was born. The show appeared before Saturday Night Live and later on Comedy Central, originating at KING-TV, Seattle's NBC affiliate. While working on the Science Guy show, Nye won seven national Emmy Awards for writing, performing, and producing. The show won 18 Emmys in five years. In between creating the shows, he wrote five children's books about science, including his latest title, “Bill Nye's Great Big Book of Tiny Germs." Nye is the host of three currently-running television series. “The 100 Greatest Discoveries" airs on the Science Channel. “The Eyes of Nye" airs on PBS stations across the country. Bill's latest project is hosting a show on Planet Green called “Stuff Happens." It's about environmentally responsible choices that consumers can make as they go about their day and their shopping. Also, you'll see Nye in his good-natured rivalry with his neighbor Ed Begley. They compete to see who can save the most energy and produce the smallest carbon footprint. Nye has 4,000 watts of solar power and a solar-boosted hot water system. There's also the low water use garden and underground watering system. It's fun for him; he's an engineer with an energy conservation hobby. Nye is currently the Executive Director of The Planetary Society, the world's largest space interest organization.
Bo Bochalmen: If you fall into a black hole, where do you go? You know black holes — they're this big hole in space and a wormhole is different because it goes to a new, you know, a new world, but those don't exist and black holes do.
Bill Nye: Bo, I think that's your name. We couldn't quite make it out, but Bo, greetings. Bill here. You're asking about black holes. That's a great question. The way I like to describe a black hole: It's a star. A black hole is a star. Now, when you and I think of stars we think about the sun, which is giving off all this light. But the other thing about the sun to keep in mind is it has a lot of gravity because it's huge. And everything that has mass, everything that would weigh something here on Earth has gravity. And the exact origin of gravity, where it actually comes from is not fully understood, Bo. If you could figure that out you might change the world. But with that said, a black hole is a star so big, how big is it? It's so big that even light cannot escape it because it has so much gravity.
One of Einstein's discoveries, Albert Einstein's discoveries, was that gravity changes the path of light. It can bend light. It's just not in our everyday experience. Where we're in a room like this or where you are, there's not nearly enough gravity to bend light enough to measure, especially with just human eyes. To measure it, we usually find objects way out in space of known brightness and we see where we think they're going to be and then where they really appear to be and then we infer or figure out that they're not where we thought they were going to be because gravity bent the beam of light. It's amazing. Anyway, so a black hole is a star so massive that not even light can escape from it.
Now, when you get something that big the gravity as you get near it changes and you know this. Like if you're real far away from the light, a light bulb, it's dim. When you walk up really close to it, it gets brighter and brighter and brighter. Well, the same is true of the gravity that a star produces or anything with mass produces. The closer you are to it, the more gravity it has. Satellites in space have less gravity to fight than you and I do here on the surface once they get out there in space, for example. So when you fall into a black hole, Bo, first of all you don't want to do that because the difference in gravity between your feet and your head, just that far is so powerful it would stretch you into really, really thin, like as then as a piece of spaghetti as the saying goes. And Bo, I don't want to shock you; that that would be really bad, but in science fiction, we love that because we can fly around in spaceships and they have sort of science fiction magic powers and we can survive stuff like that in stories.
Now you mention wormholes; wormholes are an idea that people think may exist. And the idea is that you would fall into something with a lot of gravity like a black hole and instead of just getting crushed and killed, you would end up in another part of the universe at a different time. And this is something that physicists say to each other at physics meetings and they're oh yeah, oh yeah different part of the universe different time. Yeah. That's great. Piece of cake. Black hole, wormhole, sure. Sure. But understand, Bo, nobody has ever done this. These are theoretical things. They're important theoretical things because they are consistent or they're part of the bigger story that astronomers and astrophysicists and just scientists in general, they're part of the bigger story of the universe and where you and I came from and what we're all doing here and why the Earth goes around the sun and why the other planets go around the sun and they're all in the same plane almost, except Pluto, which is going — and so it's all part of this big story.
So these are great questions Bo but they really don't have clear succinct answers right now, but perhaps you will be the scientist, the astrophysicist who figures this out for sure. When you have these objects or these theoretical places in space that seem to have so much energy, you just got to wonder if we could harness that energy and do something fantastic with it. Keep asking questions, Bo. This is great. Carry on.
It's Tuesday, which means we've got another #tuesdayswithbill question for Bill Nye to answer. The topic this week is the same as last week: black holes. Young Bo asks Bill what would happen if you fell into a black hole. The Science Guy's answer? Nothing good, that's for sure.
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The strange subjectivity of time<p>Time moves differently atop a mountain than it does on a beach. But you don't need to travel any distance at all to experience strange distortions in your perception of time. In moments of life-or-death fear, for example, your brain would release large amounts of adrenaline, which would speed up your internal clock, causing you to perceive the outside world as moving slowly.<br></p><p>Another common distortion occurs when we focus our attention in particular ways.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"If you're thinking about how time is <em>currently</em> passing by, the biggest factor influencing your time perception is attention," Aaron Sackett, associate professor of marketing at the University of St. Thomas, told <em><a href="https://gizmodo.com/why-does-time-slow-down-and-speed-up-1840133782" target="_blank">Gizmodo</a></em>.<em> "</em>The more attention you give to the passage of time, the slower it tends to go. As you become distracted from time's passing—perhaps by something interesting happening nearby, or a good daydreaming session—you're more likely to lose track of time, giving you the feeling that it's slipping by more quickly than before. "Time flies when you're having fun," they say, but really, it's more like "time flies when you're thinking about other things." That's why time will also often fly by when you're definitely <em>not</em> having fun—like when you're having a heated argument or are terrified about an upcoming presentation."</p><p>One of the most mysterious ways people experience time-perception distortions is through psychedelic drugs. In an interview with <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/books/2018/apr/14/carlo-rovelli-exploding-commonsense-notions-order-of-time-interview" target="_blank"><em>The Guardian</em></a>, Rovelli described a time he experimented with LSD.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"It was an extraordinarily strong experience that touched me also intellectually," he said. "Among the strange phenomena was the sense of time stopping. Things were happening in my mind but the clock was not going ahead; the flow of time was not passing any more. It was a total subversion of the structure of reality."<br></p><p>It seems few scientists or philosophers believe time is completely an illusion.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"What we call <em>time</em> is a rich, stratified concept; it has many layers," Rovelli told <em><a href="https://physicstoday.scitation.org/do/10.1063/PT.6.4.20190219a/full/" target="_blank">Physics Today</a>.</em> "Some of time's layers apply only at limited scales within limited domains. This does not make them illusions."</p>What <em>is</em> an illusion is the idea that time flows at an absolute rate. The river of time might be flowing forever forward, but it moves at different speeds, between people, and even within your own mind.
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