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A black hole story of a YouTube millionaire



The silly video above is the first YouTube video posted by your humble correspondent that has surpassed 1 million views. I have no idea why. I don't know where the people come from.

The video was created by NASA. The animation is an artist's creation, based on an actual picture of the black hole taken from a telescope. The sound is based on real information – X-rays coming from the vicinity of the event horizon, transformed to a low-frequency sound.

The black hole is one from GRS 1915+105, an X-ray binary star composed of a star and a black hole. The black hole in the system is the largest stellar black hole we know in the Milky Way.

It is rotating 1,150 times a second, about 10 times faster than the hard disk in your PC. In fact, it is a nearly extremal Kerr black hole (maximally quickly rotating as allowed by the given mass) which is why its entropy may also be calculated by stringy methods, as I mentioned in 2008 etc.




Most of the 2,300+ comments under the video either announce that the commenter has just s*it into his pants because black holes are scary, or they complain that there's no sound in space or nothing can get out of the black holes. In some context, such comments would be true but given the detailed descriptions I added everywhere, beneath video as well as over the video, they're very stupid if not illiterate, too.

Can you imagine that at the beginning, I was responding to every stupid comment like that? Imagine that I would continue to do so today, after 2,300+ similar comments have been posted. Clearly, even your humble correspondent managed to realize at some point that any attempt to fight this stupidity is hopelessly futile. ;-) Just let the folks and kids enjoy whatever they're enjoying.

Those viewers seem to be excited about a silly animation of a black hole but they don't realize how impressive this particular object is.

At any rate, what is it exactly that attracts so many people to this video? It is something related to science but it can't quite be science as we know it. The high view count seems to be an anomaly to me. There are no comparable anomalies in the other videos. The second most viewed video I posted is a slide show with photographs and Smetana's Vltava (part I) with 250,000 views. It's just a great composition – the most celebrated Czech national symphony and one of the greatest musical pieces in the history.

A version of Ivan Mládek's famous song "Jožin z bažin" (Joe from Mud) with 130,000 views is the third one. (Ivan Mládek celebrates 70th birthday today, congratulations!) The music was recorded by "Grandpa Mládek Illegal Band", a fun parody band from my hometown of Pilsen. This had so many views because this most favorite song of my kindergarten years got insanely popular in Poland 30 years later. A Russian version of the same song I recorded has over 70,000 views because my Russian fans have a sense for good music. ;-)

(Even iPhone Talking Tom Cat knows how to sing this song, 7,700+ views.)

The 2008 Czech National Anthem has 60,000 views because it's a national anthem, stupid. And We Will Show Europe the Sweet Taste of Its Own Medicine, the official video clip of the Czech EU Presidency, got 45,000+ views because it's pretty witty and looks at Europe from an appropriate detached perspective. (It boasts that sugar cubes are the only common objects, aside from contact lenses, that were invented in Czechia.)

Of course, there are many videos with hundreds of views that also deserve many more. ;-)

But what the folks find so amazing about the vacuum-like animation of a black hole? I don't know...

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reader alberto said...

Could this be something more exotic than just a black hole?

This paper:
Destroying a near-extremal Kerr-Newman black hole
http://arxiv.org/abs/1105.3950

Shows that if you add a bit more angular momentum to a near-extremal Kerr black hole (for example, if a small moon or an asteroid falls inside the event horizon), you couldn't destroy the black hole obtaining a naked Kerr singularity?