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14 March 2011

Monday's word

 Spaghettification!

 Now what on Earth do you think that weird word means? Not what you might think.  In fact it's loosely connected to my favourite sub-genre, science fiction, although it is an actual scientific phenomenon.

According to Michael Quinion*:
 
 "It has nothing to do with Italian cuisine but refers to what happens to anobject that is caught in the gravitational field of a black hole.Some theories hold that it is stretched vertically and compressed
horizontally until it looks like a length of spaghetti. The term has been around for at least a decade and is said to derive from acomment by Stephen Hawking in A Brief History of Time that an
astronaut passing through the event horizon of a black hole would  be 'stretched like spaghetti'."

Hmm, I'd better be careful when I send my hero to inspect a black hole then, it may not be the handy portal to another universe he'd hoped for!

(That's not an actual black hole in the picture, by the way, nor is it a weird sort of celestial eye -  just my attempt to illlustrate this post.  An actual black hole is so dense that nothing, not even light, can escape from it, so it's invisible in the blackness of space.)

*World Wide Words is copyright © Michael Quinion 2011. All rights reservedThe  original post can be found at:
http://www.worldwidewords.org/nl/lxux.htm