Black Holes Might Cause Spaghettification

There are many causes of death that use big, hard-to-understand words, like aneurism or spontaneous combustion. Here's one that tells you all you need to know: spaghettification. It's what many scientists think happens to objects inside of a black hole: basically, they get stretched into spaghetti.

Event Horizon, Al Dente

Nobody has ever seen a black hole, much less something going into one, but scientists are pretty sure they know what would happen if you fell in. As you got closer to the black hole, there would be a point of no return—that's called the event horizon, the boundary that you can only escape if you travel faster than the speed of light. Theoretically, as you traveled further into the black hole, tidal forces would increase and make you stretch. If you were traveling feet first, you'd experience greater gravitational forces on your feet than on your head. As your feet accelerated faster than the top of your body, you would stretch and stretch. Of course, the human body isn't made of rubber, so that stretching would have a limit. When the forces became too great, you'd just break in half—only to have the process begin again on each half.

The Controversy

According to scientists like Albert Einstein, your spaghettified remains would stay trapped in the black hole, stretching and stretching until they were nothing but individual atoms. But not all scientists agree with this. In the 1970s, Stephen Hawking said that black holes slowly evaporate, making everything inside of them disappear. More recently, physicist Joe Polchinski and his colleagues theorized that there was no "inside" to a black hole at all. Instead, it's just a rip in the fabric of the universe. And you, you unlucky thing? "You just come to the end of space, and there's nothing beyond it. Terminated," Susskind told NPR. Either way, it doesn't sound like a fun way to go.

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Watch And Learn: Our Favorite Content About Black Holes

The Strange Stretch Of Spaghettification

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Key Facts In This Video

  1. Nothing can escape the pull of a black hole once the event horizon has been crossed. 00:36

  2. If your body was spaghettified by a black hole, it would eventually rip in half. 01:04

  3. If you were absorbed into a black hole, you would add to its mass. 01:31

Travel Inside A Black Hole

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Key Facts In This Video

  1. Black holes have a density so great that it's gravitational pull won't allow light to escape. 00:35

  2. A gravitational field warps space and time. 04:04

  3. As your body falls further into the black hole, it would go through the process of spaghettification. 05:46

The Black Hole Death Problem

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Key Facts In This Video

  1. Black holes leak particles—and therefore, energy—very slowly. 01:27

  2. High-energy particles escaping from a black hole's pull would distort the spacetime near the event horizon. 02:12

  3. A supermassive black hole could take up to 10 to the power of 100 years to evaporate. 03:56

Written by Ashley Hamer May 15, 2017