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HolidayBuyer's Guide

Welcome to your black hole!

All of your science profs become instant liars

You lose a hell of a lot of weight

You just break down

You're drawn and quartered...and then eighth-ed

You go back to basics...as in atoms

Unless you don’t

Size matters: Pick your poison

Your local hole is no threat

Small is dangerous

Don't bother praying for a wormhole

Or maybe you just forget where you parked the car

You become...Marty McFly?

You can see through time

And your friends will be super impressed

Good news: Falling into a black hole could turn you into a hologram

Bad news: Evaporating black holes

Bye, Felicia. Seriously: Bye. Forever.

Sorry: You've been sucked into a black hole. So what--theoretically, anyway--happens now? Scientists, as it turns out, have plenty of crazy theories.

Let's start with what wouldn’t happen: Anybody seeing or hearing you falling into the black hole. In a black hole, can no one hear you scream. And no one can see you in there either, because the gravity of a black hole is so great that no light can escape.

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Maybe Star Trek's engineer Scottie can't change the laws of physics, but a black hole sure seems to be able to. A black hole's ultimate point of collapse, the singularity, is an infinitely small space containing an infinite mass. It is, as theoretical physicist Kip Thorne says, the "point where all laws of physics break down."

Welcome to that place where gravity becomes infinite and space-time becomes infinitely curved. The signpost up ahead? No, it's not the Twilight Zone. Something even more outlandish: It's the center of a black hole.

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The specifics of how your descent into a black hole would go is open to some debate. But most scientists describe what would happen to you as "spaghettification," a term coined by British cosmologist and astrophysicist Sir Martin Rees.

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As you're pulled down toward the center of a black hole, you're stretched and thinned out until you look like a human spaghetti noodle. You ultimately become a stream of subatomic particles swirling toward the hyper-dense, infinitely small center point of the black hole.

The good news? You'll finally be able to fit into your skinny jeans.

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Another popular way to look at the process is via astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, in his book, "Death by Black Hole: And Other Cosmic Quandaries."

As he puts it, you die not just because of your pasta-like state. You also die because you get ripped apart. The gravity at your feet becomes rapidly greater than the gravity at your head. Tyson speculates that it "initially feels like a stretch, like cosmic yoga…but that stretch continues beyond comfort level" as you're ultimately pulled in two, then four, then eight, and so on and so on.

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The tidal forces of black hole gravity then yank you apart little by little until you become a stream of atoms pouring out, "extruded through the fabric of space like toothpaste through a tube…into the abyss," Tyson says.

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Of course all this talk about spaghetti and toothpaste could be moot if the Firewall Theory is correct.

As the name suggests, the Firewall Theory asserts that upon entering a black hole, you'll be barraged with radiation and a massive wall of flame, broiling instantly as you cross the event horizon threshold of the black hole! You're welcome!

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Your personalized black hole experience would vary based on the size of said hole.

Black holes come in many sizes, from supermassive black holes like the one at the center of our Milky Way galaxy to the merely massive ones formed by stars three to four times the size of our sun.

And there are lots of them. Indeed, scientists estimate that there may be a billion stellar-sized black holes in our galaxy alone. Curiously, the bigger the black hole, the less dangerous it could be.

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Our Milky Way's black hole is estimated by the European space agency to be at least 4 million times the mass of our sun, which would make it easy to "see" (and steer clear of) as you approach.

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In contrast, if something with the mass of our Earth were somehow collapsed into a black hole, everything on our planet would be compressed into the size of a peanut, but with the same, or greater, gravitational pull.

So if your ginormous starship, say, unsuspectingly drifted too close to that little monster, it would be lights out, and the repair bill wouldn't be mere peanuts.

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A staple of sci-fi, if not real science, traversable wormholes enable time travel and faster-than-light space travel by utilizing warped space-time. Both wormholes and black holes are described in Einstein's General Theory of Relativity, prompting some to speculate that some black holes could also be wormholes.

The recent movie "Interstellar" is a prime pop cultural example and one that gets a thumbs-up on the science from physicist Neil deGrasse Tyson. However, while physicist Stephen Hawking speculates that wormholes are a possible way to visit another universe, he thinks it could at best be a one-way trip if not downright deadly.

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Ever the contrarian, Stephen Hawking disputes the ideas of...Stephen Hawking. After lecturing about black holes for years, he came out in 2014 to say black holes don't exist. At least not as usually described. Instead of the event horizon being a point of no return on the edge of a black hole, he says it is only an apparent horizon behind which information is lost. Um, okay.

If Stephen Hawking wants to argue with Stephen Hawking, who are we to argue?

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As described by physicist Charles Liu, when you approach a black hole's event horizon, you'll experience the effects of curved space-time, predicted by Einstein's General Relativity. Because you approach the speed of light as you fall into a black hole, the faster you move through space, the slower you move through time.

Also, as you fall, the things that have fallen in before you will have experienced an even greater "time dilation." So if you haven't been totally spaghettified at this point, you'll be able to look forward toward the black hole and see every object that has fallen into it in the past. And if you look back you'll be able to see everything that will ever fall into the hole.

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"So the upshot is," says Liu, "You'll get to see the entire history of that spot in the universe simultaneously, from the Big Bang all the way into the distant future." So you've got that going for you, which is nice.

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In another time paradox stemming from General Relativity, a somewhat distant observer of your unlucky descent would see you slow down and freeze as you approach the event horizon.

Because of the black hole's gravitational drag on light, it would take an ever-increasing time (and ultimately an infinitely long time) to reach the observer. As time elapses, the light from your image would look dimmer as the light becomes red-shifted into invisible spectra of infrared and radio waves.

A slow-motion disappearing act worthy of Houdini.

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If all this seems a little fuzzy around the edges, it's no surprise: There is actually a Fuzzball Conjecture, posited by Samir Mathur.

Related to string theory, this assumption says a black hole's event horizon is fuzzy (due to quantum uncertainty). One of the possible consequences: Something entering a black hole wouldn't disappear at all, but would instead be transformed into a hologram.

Some take this even further to assert that the black hole itself, and maybe even the universe as a whole, are holograms.

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Though it has long been thought that nothing can escape a black hole, many scientists now believe that these dark stars radiate tiny amounts of particles which, over the vast expanses of celestial time, will eventually cause them to shrink to nothing.

The bad news: If a black hole evaporates over time and you're in it, you evaporate, too. Though of course by that time you'd be waaay dead anyway, so what's a little evaporation among friends?

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Typically, these dark gravity holes form when giant stars collapse after burning out their stellar fuel. If the stars are large enough, their gravity is so great that they just keep collapsing, with a gravitational pull so strong that nothing, and especially not you, can escape. Sorry. Game over.

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