Artist's illustration of a black hole inside the dwarf galaxy M60-UCD1. NASA, ESA, STScI-PRC14-41a

Black holes are light prisons, dense regions of space with such powerful gravity that light can’t escape their pull. Unfortunately, what goes on inside those jails is impossible using our regular outsider physics laws, with things like disappearing prisoners and torture chambers so violent that math can’t explain them. Maybe those prisoners are avoiding some of that torture by tunneling out of the jail through a wormhole, like in The Shawshank Redemption.

Scientists at the University of Valencia in Spain and the University of Lisbon in Portugal crunched some numbers to figure out a way to reduce some of the weirdest parts of black holes using wormholes, portals through space and time. They focused their research specifically on what goes on in the warped parts of black holes where space and time stop.

The story starts with infinity. If the number infinity shows up in a physics theory, that means the theory is broken. Infinity implies that something was divided by zero somewhere and the theory is no longer possible in the real world. Black holes defy that explanation, however; to us outsiders, they look like infinity machines. Theorists are always trying to find ways to get rid of some of those infinities.

The worst infinity sits at a black hole’s center and comes from the way gravity changes the shape of space and time. The closest distance between two points in space is a line called a geodesic, and the presence of a heavy thing changes the shape of the geodesic and the shape of the path you need to take to pass it. One you’ve entered a black hole’s point-of-no-return, there’s no “distance between two points” anymore. Space is so warped that whichever direction you walk, you just end up at the center of the black hole, where the mass is so compressed that the gravitational force is infinite. As your body gets sucked towards the center and deals with the gravity differences, you turn into a long strand of spaghetti; you’re spaghettified. You’d also die, but that’s the least of your concerns since your particles have also effectively disappeared. Bummer, my dudes.

The scientists figured they could get around the all-roads-lead-to-spaghetti problem by adding wormholes, and published their results in the journal Classical and Quantum Gravity. Rather than a single point at the middle, they used some wild-and-crazy math to put a spherical surface there instead. The more electric charge it has, the bigger it could be, says math, and this wormhole doesn’t require any exotic physics concepts that don’t exist yet (which other wormhole theories do require). This implies that the geodesics don’t stop in the middle of the black hole, but tunnel through a tinier-than-an-atom sized portal to someplace else, where they straighten themselves out. Our poor spaghetti travelers then turn back into rigatoni noodles, I guess, but are definitely still dead.

So, what does this mean for you? Here are the most important things:

  1. Don’t go into a black hole.

  2. If you do find yourself in a black hole, you will die.

  3. As you die, you will turn into a long spaghetti noodle.

  4. If you try to escape, no matter where you turn, you’ll end up at the center of the black hole.

  5. If our scientist friends are correct, you will end up somewhere else, probably still dead, no longer shaped like spaghetti.

Great work!