By Chet Yarbrough
Death by Black Hole
By Neil deGrasse Tyson
Narrated by Don Graham
Neil deGrasse Tyson has become a famous translator of the science of cosmology for the layman because of appearances on Nova, and comedy programs like “The Daily Show”, “The Colbert Report”, and “Real Time with Bill Maher”.
“Death by Black Hole” is an exploration of the universe; i.e. how it was formed, where life comes from, whether life exists on other planets or in other universes, how the world might end, what a black hole in space is, and what would happen to the human body entering a black hole.
Tyson explores the molecular basis of creation. He notes how ethnocentric concepts of life have evolved from a belief in man as the center of the universe to man as a grain of sand in the desert; randomly placed by the “big bang” of creation.
Tyson describes man as a concretion of star dust molded by a molecular carbon based combination of atoms, super heated, cooled, and evolved over eons of cosmological time. He suggests that all planets may have forms of life. His evidence is the existence of extremophiles in earth environments. An extremophile is a living organism that survives in environments in which no human being could live.
Tyson writes of thermophiles, a type of extremophile that thrives in temperatures of 113 to 252 degrees Fahrenheit.
Tyson explores current understanding of an expanding universe, how it is measured through spectrographic analysis, and how expansion of the universe is accelerating.
He notes that the end of times for man may come from death of the sun, the turning of this universe’s white star to a red star to a black hole. Tyson notes that another possibility is that accelerating expansion of earth’s universe will cause a gradual cooling of the planet that will only allow extremophiles to survive.
Tyson suggests the most likely cosmological cause of the human race’s end is collision with an asteroid. Of course, the end that concerns us is humankind. Like Dyson’s explanation of the likely cause of dinosaur’s demise, human existence would disappear from the cataclysmic effects of a sunless planet hidden, cooled, and smothered by the debris of collision.
Tyson speculates about contact with extraterrestrials by noting that the general media fails to base concepts of other life forms on 20th and 21st century science. Tyson laughs at the idea of a movies creation of other life forms as distorted caricatures of human beings (like ET).
Tyson explains that SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) is a long shot to hear a transmission from space as a first sign of contact. He wonders if other intelligent life is listening rather than transmitting so that everyone is listening and no one is transmitting. On the other hand, Tyson recounts sciences’ effort to send a radio transmission to a star cluster that will reach its destination a 1000 years from now. Ironically, the high concentration of stars in that system, makes that particular star cluster a bad focal point for intelligible reception. Extraterrestrial radio wave contact seems unlikely, based on these first attempts.
As to the effects of a human body entering into a black hole. Tyson explains the human body would be stretched and contorted. Time and space are dissolved as you approach the event horizon. Before you reach the event horizon, your body is atomized.
Tyson explores the history of cosmology beginning with scientists like Newton, Galileo, Copernicus, Einstein, Durac, Hubble, and many other names known and unknown by the general public. “Death by Black Hole” is interesting but not fascinating. A number of videos on “you tube” summarize Tyson’s commentary.
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