black hole!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

What Do We Want From the Black Hole?

There she is. Photo: Event Horizon Telescope Collaboration/National Science Foundation

On Wednesday, April 10, 2019, we (on Earth) all saw the first-ever picture of a black hole (in space, I think). Cool!

There it is, up there. The hole, that’s black. This huge, dark, gaping void is over 50 million light years away and contains the same mass as 6.5 billion suns. Also cool!

“Stars, planets, gas, and dust — not even light escapes the monster’s grasp once it crosses a threshold called the event horizon,” National Geographic explained about the monster hole.

Meanwhile, in another void (Twitter), users responded the way you would expect people to respond when they come face to face with an enormous, all-consuming hole — excitement, fear, confusion. Arousal.

Some wanted to disappear into its darkness:

Some thought it deserved a better quality picture:

Some… wanted to Do It?

Look, I understand all of this excitement. This image is incredible. It is the result of years of work by hundreds of scientists around the globe. It’s not just a picture of a black hole, it’s a picture of what human ingenuity, and international cooperation can accomplish. It’s an image capable of making us feel both impossibly small and infinite at the same time, a reminder that we are, all of us, nothing more than tiny lumps of stardust. As Shep Doeleman of the Harvard-Smithsonian Institute for Astrophysics said at today’s announcement, “We have seen what we thought was unseeable.”

I get all of that. But please … let’s not let ourselves get swept up in the enthusiasm, and forget what really matters here: Whether or not, in the whole vast, cold, infinite expanse of universe — that’s full of us, and our loved ones, and rocks, and this enormous black hole — anyone has made the joke, “Black hole? More like butthole.”

Oh, they have. Good.

What Do We Want From the Black Hole?