If you’ve ever wondered how the world might end, the idea that it could go out with a long, slow whimper as it succumbs to the forces of a black hole’s pull might not make for the most alluring apocalyptic narrative. But for some reason, it’s worked a whole bunch of verified tweeters into a sort of giddy rapture.
Scientists at Princeton University and Canada’s Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics posit that an anomalous black hole formed from colliding gravitational waves could beat other cataclysmic scenarios to the punch, lowering the curtain on Earth’s moment on the universal stage.
The new findings — which are really about applying Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity to the gravitational-wave problem — don’t emphasize the idea that Earth is any likelier a victim of such a scenario than other locales on the celestial map. But don’t dare tell that to all the tweeters gleefully embracing the notion of sliding over the edge of a black cosmic abyss. Once a Newsweek story about the research began circulating on social media, the race to the finish line was on:
According to the report, which was published in the academic journal General Relativity and Quantum Cosmology, a collision between so-called “flat” gravitational waves, created by the motion of any two separate, rapidly-moving celestial phenomena, could start a self-perpetuating feedback loop from which no light or matter would escape.
Aggravating astrophysicists’ interest in black holes is the mystery surrounding one recently-discovered giant that’s growing faster than any black hole on record.
The ancient black hole, first reported by researchers at the Australian National University (ANU), is swallowing (or was swallowing, since the light it’s thrown off has taken eons to get here) so much mass so rapidly that the light and heat generated from all the friction is “shining thousands of times more brightly than an entire galaxy,” according to ANU physicist Christian Wolf.
For the time being, it appears we’re safe from the crushing inward implosion of a world-wrecking gravity well. But if word one day comes down that we’re all riding a one-way ticket over the lip of an invisible cosmic waterfall, at least Twitter has enough enthusiastic apocalypse fans to supply one hell of a global farewell party.