Max-Planck's Cartoon Capers - an Hilarious Black Hole Tale
It would be funny if it wasn't so serious. Somewhere in the
halls of Max-Planck lurks an artist who was actually paid to
give us this cartoon. I laughed out loud when I first
saw it on spacedaily, as has everyone I've shown it to.
And who wouldn't...
Artist's conception of a black hole ejected from a galaxy. Image
Credit: Illustration: MPE, optical image: HST
The cartoon was accompanied by a supposedly serious story about how
a black hole was expelled by a galaxy. More on the story in a minute.
First I'll share some comments received from colleagues:
I'll have two black holes over easy with rye toast.
Oh man. I got a good laugh from this one, Dave. ...
Thanks, Dave for humor to start the day, ...
The picture is hysterical - it looks like some 1950's
B-movie flying saucer!
"Shortly after the Big Bang, the universe contained an
uneven landscape of dark matter. Hydrogen gas became trapped in
puddles of the invisible material and began spinning rapidly in
dark matter's gravitational whirlpool, forming stars at a furious
Shortly after wizzile farked the flabam, the expansion of the
chixel spun the hydrodrizzle into yarn filaments. Furiously of
But that still doesnt explain where the first ripple came from....
Just incredible. You can see it surrounded by its event horizon,
which it is carrying along with it!
This story renders the word "conjecture" useless. We
will need a much stronger word if this is going to be a trend in
"science". (Still smiling when thinking of the discomforting
questions this raises..... okay just one: "what will happen to
the poor galaxy that had its indispensable black hole ejected?") LOL
And by the way, these comments didn't come from the boys at the local
after one too many, but from a group which includes professionals and
scientists from a number of disciplines. As a couple of them commented
on the story itself, let's have a look at it.
The picture is accompanied by this in large print, the introductory
By an enormous burst of gravitational waves that accompanies the
merger of two black holes the newly formed black hole was ejected
from its galaxy. This extreme ejection event, which had been
predicted by theorists, has now been observed in nature for the
first time. The team led by Stefanie Komossa from the Max Planck
Institute for extraterrestrial Physics (MPE) thereby opened a new
window into observational astrophysics.
At the very least, this is somewhat misleading, especially when
you consider our kids are likely reading these stories without
adult supervision, so the wild conjecture which is presented as
though it is established fact may be taken literally by them. It
The discovery will have far-reaching consequences for our
understanding of galaxy formation and evolution in the early
Universe, and also provides observational confirmation of a
key prediction from the General Theory of Relativity
(Astrophysical Journal Letters, May 10, 2008).
Notice that within these first two paragraphs, the term "
observed" or a derivative is used three times, which gives
the false impression that these things have actually been seen.
Then such drivel is followed by more, as an "explanation
" is given of just how this can happen...
When two black holes merge, waves of gravitational radiation
ripple outward through the galaxy at the speed of light.
Because the waves are emitted mainly in one direction, the
black hole itself is pushed in the opposite direction, much
like the recoil that accompanies the firing of a rifle or the
launching of a rocket. The black hole is booted from its normal
location in the nucleus of the galaxy. If the kick velocity is
high enough, the black hole can escape the galaxy completely.
Then they have the audacity to call this a "discovery"
which "verifies" computer simulations.
The MPE team's discovery verifies, for the first time, that these
extreme events actually occur; up to now they had only been
simulated in supercomputers. The recoiling black hole caught the
astrophysicists' attention by its high speed - 2650 km/s - which
was measured via the broad emission lines of gas around the black
And this goes on for several more paragraphs. One could think that
maybe spacedaily have used a little artistic license in interpreting
the results, until you find that the whole "news article"
was lifted word for word from the
Max-Planck site press release. After posing a bunch of highly
speculative questions, they finish with again the implication that
they've actually observed the events in question:
In a close interplay between theory and observation, the
astrophysicists prepare to answer these questions. Various
detectors on earth and in space, for example the space
interferometer LISA, will be set on the track of gravitational
waves. The discovery of the MPE team will provide new impetus
for theorists to develop more detailed models of the superkicks
and their consequences for the evolution of black holes and
Getting back to the cartoon which spawned this Thunderblog, we
must remember that someone within Max-Planck was actually paid
to draw such a simplistic representation. I think my own effort
at illustrating a black hole in an
earlier Thunderblog (which convincingly refutes black holes
and the big bang with mathematics), is much closer to reality
than the Max-Planck version:
Artist's impression of a black hole.
CREDIT: Dave Smith and Thunderbolts.info/Thunderblogs.
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