MOVIES: Down a Black Hole

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Science  29 Jun 2001:
Vol. 292, Issue 5526, pp. 2403
DOI: 10.1126/science.292.5526.2403a

Ever wonder what it would be like to fall into a black hole? Andrew Hamilton, an astronomer at the University of Colorado, Boulder, has created a series of movies in which you approach, orbit, and fall into a collapsed star. The flicks show gravitational lensing (where light is bent by the warping of space) and other bizarre geometric effects caused by the extreme curvature of space-time near the hole. It can get confusing, but a step-by-step guide reveals what is happening as you fall.

For die-hard physics buffs, there is a section on wormholes, the hypothetical tunnels through space-time that can connect two distant regions in space. Science-fiction writers use them to quickly transport spaceships across vast stretches of the cosmos or even into a parallel universe. Unfortunately, Hamilton explains, wormholes probably don't exist, as they are unstable unless stuffed full of exotic matter with negative mass. So until scientists discover that exotic material, this Web site is as close as you can get to seeing a universe other than our own.

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