Tuesday, December 26, 2023

Never Too Young to Learn About Black Holes. Or to Make Them.

I've been playing with wrapping quilt fabric around batting scraps, and weaving them into baskets. Just in time for the holidays, I made a couple of black holes this way, including one for this guy:

I was inspired by a talk at Cal Tech last month by Kip Thorne, who won a Nobel Prize in 2017 for creating LIGO, the project that detected gravitational waves emanating from colliding black holes. (My DH works on this project.) 

Instead of resting on his laurels, Kip has been having a blast producing black hole art, including movies (Interstellar, and soon, a sequel); and a massive poetry/art book with fine artist Lia Halloran. It's titled "The Warped Side of Our Universe: An Odyssey Through Black Holes, Wormholes, Time Travel, and Gravitational Waves." Halloran illustrates the elusive concepts with elegant brush paintings, and paints her wife into many of the phenomena. (You can watch the talk I attended here.)

This gave me the courage to go for it, using black-and-gold fabrics from my stash, wrapped around 1" batting scraps. Here's my grandbaby's, looking straight in: 

Here's the entire playset. 

The space entities are fused and zig-zagged to black felt. The green thing is a former parachutist, now an exceptionally brave, strong, dumb, lucky, and immortal astronaut. He dives into the black hole:

...then emerges from the other end...
...Perfectly flat. 

OK, this isn't scrupulous science. For one thing, DH informs me, the black hole would not flatten him (like Flat Stanley's bookcase); rather, it would spaghettify him. 

Other play options include sucking in the Earth, a satellite/death star, Saturn, and lots of other stuff.

I was eagerly anticipating the baby's reaction , and he didn't disappoint! Here, DH provides the scientific narration. (A truncated cuboctahedron matzoh ball makes a cameo appearance.)

Plus, I feel strongly that this same playset could be used to illustrate the miracle of uterine birth. 

Here's the second black hole I made. This one's a little bigger; it isn't open at the narrow end. It doubles as a party purse. I put buttons and a fabric closure around the rim. It's got a handy strap. Unfortunately, at 7" across and 10" long, it's not big enough to hold my cellphone, so it's essentially useless.

And here it is with the lid on: 
Interested in making your own? See my first post about my basket-making technique here,  and the video version on youtube, here.