Six Reasons to Study Black Holes

1. Because They're Cool

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Black holes are an incredible phenomenon. They're literally unlike anything else in the universe. They're so unique that all models of modern physics (including quantum physics, mechanics, and relativity) break down when trying to describe them [1]. Put simply, they're not your average science topic. A short list of a few of their more impressive properties include the ability to distort time, a gravity well so powerful that light cannot escape it, an orbiting disk of superheated materials, slowly approaching the black hole, and jets of hyper energized matter being shot into space from the black hole [1]. Black holes can consume entire stars, and can range from microscopic sizes to supermassive black holes in the centers of galaxies [1]. They're cool.

2. So You Won't be Fooled by the Media Anymore

Sadly, as a result of how unique they are, people hold many misconceptions about black holes. Most of these misconceptions come from misrepresentations of black holes in the media. News articles fail to correctly interpret scientific essays and lectures [2], resulting in ridiculous headlines like "Black holes don't exist." The film industry often implements black holes as a way to travel across space, time, or through dimensions in "wormholes." With a good understanding of black holes, you will be able to recognize these falsehoods. You'll also finally understand why so many people complain about the silly science found in many movies nowadays.

3. To Help Support Research

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When people do buy into the myths about black holes spread by the media, it degrades the public support to research black holes. It's hard to take black holes seriously when movies like Event Horizon depict black holes as gateways into other dimensions from which monsters can enter our world [3]. Simply by being an informed citizen, you can support research into black holes. Why should we research them, you might ask? Keep reading.

4. To Learn About the Universe

Black holes are known to have had huge effect on the evolution of the universe [4]. Scientists currently know black holes are a big factor in galaxy formation and evolution, by stimulating star formation from the centers of galaxies [4]. In addition to allowing us to learn more about the history of galaxies and the universe, studying black holes gives us a better understanding of the physics of the universe. Because they are so different from anywhere else in the universe, black holes give us the opportunity to see physics operate under very different than normal conditions [1]. This different point of view can give physicists clues toward producing better physical models.
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5. To Help Create New Technology

It may seem like we're a long ways off from producing any technology that utilizes black holes. However, studying black holes might help bring about new technology that we can't even imagine at this point. For example, the theory of relativity, an advanced scientific concept, has helped produce a technology everyone uses today; the Global Positioning System (GPS). Without compensating for relativity, the GPS satellites would not be able to accurately determine the location of any GPS devices on the surface of Earth [5]. So, advanced concepts of physics aren't really as impractical as they seem. And by studying black holes, we can discover new obscure and difficult to understand physics to make new incredible technology with!

Picture Credit: http://www.gps.gov/multimedia/images/GPS-III-A.jpg

6. So You Won't End Up Like These People

At the very least, you need a basic understanding of black holes so you don't end up like the people who made this video:
StopLHC - What is Hawking Radiation?
Ignorance is bliss, but spreading it is shameful. Unfortunately, gems of ignorance spreading nonsense such as this video can be found all over the internet. They go above and beyond just misrepresenting information by pontificating their fear mongering lies throughout the general populace and preventing important research. Do yourself a favor; learn about black holes. Support researching them. Don't be one of these people.

Sources

[1] Finkel, Michael. "Star Eater." National Geographic.March 2014. 89-103. Print.


[2] Jacobson, Rebecca. "What Hawking meant when he said 'there are no black holes.'" www.pbs.org. 6 Feb. 2014. Web. 5 Oct. 2014. <http://www.pbs.org/newshour/updates/hawking-meant-black-holes/ >.


[3] Event Horizon. Dir. Paul Anderson. Paramount Pictures, 1997. Film.


[4] A. Cattaneo, S. M. Faber, J. Binney, A. Dekel, J. Kormendy, R. Mushotzky, A. Babul, . . . L. Wisotzki. "The role of black holes in galaxy formation and evolution." Nature. 9 July 2009: 213-219. Print.


[5] Pogge, Richard W. "Real-world relativity: the GPS navigation system." www.astronomy.ohio-state.edu. 10 Apr. 2014. Web. 5 Oct. 2014. <http://www.astronomy.ohio-state.edu/~pogge/Ast162/Unit5/gps.html>.


Trimble, Tyghe. "4 science lessons from the new Star Trek movie." www.popularmechanics.com. 8 May. 2009. Web. 11 Nov. 2014. <http://www.popularmechanics.com/technology/digital/fact-vs-fiction/4316608>.