Sciency Words: Spaghettification (An A to Z Challenge Post)

April 22, 2017

Today’s post is a special A to Z Challenge edition of Sciency Words, an ongoing series here on Planet Pailly where we take a look at some interesting science or science related term so we can all expand our scientific vocabularies together. In today’s post, S is for:


I have noted that in thought experiments involving black holes, it is traditional to enter the black hole feet first. Therefore, let’s jump feet first into a black hole and try to imagine what happens.

According to a recent paper in the Journal of Physics Special Topics (my all time favorite physics journal), there’s a reasonable chance you’d remain conscious, at least for a while, after crossing the black hole’s event horizon.

That is, assuming the black hole’s mass is greater than 19,000 solar masses. Apparently the more massive a black hole, the longer you’ll last before you pass out. The authors of the paper also assume you were in relatively good health before entering the black hole.

As you continue to fall toward the center of the black hole—a point of infinite density called the singularity—you’ll be accelerating so fast that you’ll start to lose consciousness. The human heart really struggles with pumping blood when you’re experiencing such high G-forces.

And honestly, that’s probably for the best, because things are about to get super weird. The gravity inside a black hole is so intense that, in essence, your feet are falling significantly faster than your head, and the rest of your body is being stretched out in between.

As you keep falling toward the singularity, you become so stretched and elongated that you look less and less like a person and more and more like a spaghetti noodle. And so this process is called—I kid you not—spaghettification.

Next time on Sciency Words: A to Z, if you didn’t like death by spaghettification, how do you feel about death by thagomizer?

P.S.: Other recent papers from the Journal of Physics Special Topics include:

I think you can see why this is my all time favorite physics journal.