Announcement: Join the FF Saturnalia Party 2017.

Categorized | Entertainment, Science

Nerd Word – Spaghettification

The Bible is old. It’s been around for a while now, and there’s really nothing new you can learn from reading it over and over again. It’s just the same old thing re-translated and reprinted a million times over, and with all the sex and violence in it, it just doesn’t really make for good morning reading.

Science, on the other hand, is awesome. You learn a new thing every day; useful practical stuff you can actually apply, or fun trivial stuff that make you think. Science makes a heck of a lot more sense, answers a heck of a lot more questions, and the ultimate proof of superiority: it has way cooler words.

Once in a while we need a dose of cool science, to start our day with awesomeness, and to brighten up a boring afternoon like this one. So every so often I’ll be posting a Nerd Word, something from a random branch of science that I, and perhaps other nerds like me, find utterly fascinating, with a little trivia on what it means.

And today’s Nerd Word is: Spaghettification.

It’s a real scientific term, believe it or not, that describes how objects in a very strong gravitational field (of a second object) are stretched long and thin, much like spaghetti.

Spaghettification occurs because the gravitational force exerted on one body by a second body is not constant across its length; for instance, the moon’s pull on the hydrosphere is stronger on the oceans nearer to it, and weakest on the opposite ocean, explaining the tides. In other words, if a human body were falling to earth upright, the gravitational pull on his feet is actually greater than that on his head. The reason we don’t notice this is because of the internal forces that keep our bodies together, because we are too small, and because Earth’s gravity is too weak for us to measure the difference anyway.

But take this same human body and put it near a black hole, where the gravitational force is so immense that it doesn’t matter how small you are. The force pulling at the body’s feet will be so much greater than that pulling at his head that his feet will actually fall faster, overcoming the internal forces holding him together, causing him to stretch. Even the most rigid object, say, a diamond, will stretch when exposed to tidal forces strong enough to overcome the resistance.

And the reason we get a thin string of a spaghettified object instead of a stretched out version of the same width is because gravity pulls all sides of the object towards a singular point, as opposed to a flat surface. This means the left and right side of an object move along different lines that converge towards this singularity, causing the object’s width to shrink the farther it falls.

This image from wikipedia illustrates it nicely enough.

imagine the four objects represent the top, left, right and bottom of a whole object.

Spaghettification. Man, Science is awesome.

DISCLAIMER: The opinions in this post do not necessarily represent the position of the Filipino Freethinkers.