An astrophysicist walks into a bar, finds two comedians, and is given the ultimate challenge. She must explain black holes—what they are, what proof there is for their existence—so the comedians learn something. They do pretty well, when they’re not joking around.
Harrison : When we were studying the black holes, the most surprising thing for me—they're actually just a very dark brown, or a navy blue. You know how sometimes you look at a suit—and you think it’s black, but it turns out it’s actually just a very dark navy blue suit?
Orlando : Yes.
Harrison : Same thing for black holes.
Orlando : How do you have so much information on the black hole if we're so far away from it?
Priya : The stars right around the black hole feel the influence of the black hole. So they are whizzing around the black hole…
Harrison : A black hole is when a star uses up all of its fuel, which is hydrogen, and it dies.
Orlando : Not every star that dies becomes a black hole.
Harrison : It’s very, very tiny, but has a ton of mass, and that allows it to stretch the fabric of space-time.
Orlando : It starts sucking in things around it. It’s like a vacuum cleaner.
Harrison : It’s relatively small but super, super heavy, like a dark comedy. It just sneaks up on you how heavy it is.
Priya : More massive stars tend to leave black holes behind. A black hole is the end state of a star—it’s the corpse that a star leaves behind. They've gone from being this enigmatic object to being an essential part of the formation of galaxies in the universe.
Harrison : Once you're past the event horizon, there’s no escape—light, sound, even information is irretrievable.
Orlando : What happens if you get too close to a black hole? You'll get sucked in. If you go in head first, you'll get stretched.
Harrison : So we can't know what’s happening in a black hole directly because anything that gets sent in can never escape.
Orlando : Anything outside of that is safe.
Harrison : I guess the other thing that’s interesting about a black hole is that the more we study them, the more we realize they have a sweet center, like a nougat-y center. People are scared of the black holes, but it turns out they're just sweet inside.
Orlando : They're tasty.
Harrison : Delicious.
Priya : The gravity is so, so intense. So it’s very tightly packed. It’s very, very dense — the densest form of packing that we know in the universe.
Orlando : The stars that are around it, and how they're behaving—that’s how we know something is happening, and there must be a black hole there.
Harrison : When two black holes collided recently, it created an earthquake of sorts—a space earthquake—that we were able to measure and gave us further information about black holes and their existence.
Priya : We know that black holes exist because of the gravitational influence they exert around themselves. So any star that strays in very close to the black hole stands to be gobbled up and captured by the black hole. But stars that are further out will actually get attracted to black hole and will be bound to the black hole and will be whizzing around in orbits. Additionally, very recently, we actually had a technological breakthrough and detected the collision of two black holes. And so we detected that earthquake in space-time.
Quasars are basically black holes that are in the process of growing by gobbling in a lot of gas. And the gas, as it’s flowing in, is glowing. So you see the glow. And so quasars are the brightest objects in the universe.
Harrison : Brighter than Beyoncé?
Priya : Yeah, I would say so.
Harrison : I feel like she’s the brightest light in our universe.
Priya : No, I think we're talking different scales. We're talking cosmic scales.
Harrison : Oh no, I don't know if you saw Lemonade ? But it is definitely cosmic.
- Videography & Concept
- Video Production & Editing
- Ari Daniel
- Production Assistance
- Sara Tewksbury
- Special Thanks
- The Burren, Somerville, MA
- © WGBH Educational Foundation 2017
- Additional Visuals
- (main image: comedians)
- © WGBH Educational Foundation 2017