Nothing escapes the yawning chasm of a black hole.
Not matter, sound nor even light.
Normally confined to the reaches of space, black holes and their seemingly insatiable appetites for everything, have fascinated — and enlightened — scientists for years.
Now, they may not have to look so far to study them.
What a black hole is to light, an ocean eddy, scientists suggest, is to water. Dubbed maelstroms, they're bigger than cities, winding up billions of tonnes of ocean water so tightly, nothing escapes them.
In a paper published earlier this month in the Journal of Fluid Mechanics, George Haller, a professor at ETH Zurich and Francisco Beron-Vera of the University of Miami claim they can track and define these engorged eddies — a feat that has, until now, proven elusive.
The ocean's natural turbulence has thwarted previous attempts to demarcate these islands of intensity. But, by studying satellite imagery, Haller and Baron-Vera were able to identify seven black-hole types in a group of eddies, called Agulhas Rings, that regularly appear off the tip of Africa.
Mathematically speaking, ocean eddies are counterparts to the black holes in space. (Illustration: G. Haller / ETH Zurich)
Maelstroms have the same mathematical properties as black holes.
Now, consider a real black hole. As explained in Science World Report, there's a point where light being sucked into a black hole stops spiraling -- bending instead, before returning to its usual position. The result is a circular orbit.
The dramatic effect of these closed light orbits, dubbed a 'photon sphere' by Albert Einstein, finds a parallel in these ocean vortexes, according to scientists. Essentially, the maelstrom whips up its own closed barriers, pressing whatever was sucked inside so tightly that not even a drop of these fluid particles can escape.
In fact, researchers have found eddies bearing the same bodies of water without leaking a drop for nearly a year.
”Mathematicians have been trying to understand such peculiarly coherent vortices in turbulent flows for a very long time,” George Haller explained in a statement.
That stunning sense of stability makes maelstroms something of a transportation device. Everything from the tiniest organisms to waste or oil to higher-temperature water is transported perfectly intact throughout the oceans before the maelstroms eventually lose their charge.
As the study authors note, they "create moving oases for the marine food chain or even impact climate change through their long-range transport of salinity and temperature."
By casting light on these black holes (Yes, we know how impossible that sounds), researchers could unravel the mystery of how pollution spreads throughout the environment, ETH Life reports. These maelstroms may also help scientists develops ways to at least slow down the melting of global sea ice.
Earlier on HuffPost:
The Yellowstone super-volcano has erupted, burying much of the western U.S. under heavy ash. Here, a group of scientists brave the conditions to examine Mt. Rushmore. Meanwhile a nuclear winter has settled over earth, lowering temperatures and causing mass die-offs of crops and animals world-wide.
Rising sea levels due to global warming slowly inundate low-lying cities such as London...
A massive solar flare cooks the earth. We've already suffered the effects of solar flares many times in the past: they have been responsible for many massive power failures.
A swarm of meteors -- perhaps the remnants of a disintegrated comet -- slams into New York. One has already made a crater this size in Arizona.
It's entirely possible we may bring about our own destruction.
A Godzilla-sized earthquake strikes Tokyo, catastrophically leveling the city.
Statue Of Liberty
The collapse of an underwater mountain in the Azores sends a tidal wave thundering into New York harbor.
The passing of a rogue planet disrupts earth's orbit, sending it millions of miles further into space...and further from the sun.
There are any number of apocalypses we don't have to worry about, although every year someone dreams up some new fantasy. A persistent one is the devastation that will be caused by a close approach of Planet X, aka Niburu. Fortunately, Niburu is entirely imaginary.
Three billion years from now, the sun will balloon into a vast red giant star. It will gradually absorb the nearer planets, roasting the earth as its red-hot surface draws nearer. As seas evaporate and mountains melt, the last remaining human artifact is, ironically, a Mayan stele.
The impact of an asteroid today -- the size of the one that killed off the dinosaurs -- would have just as devastating an effect on life today. Like the eruption of a super-volcano, vast amounts of ash and dust thrown into the upper atmosphere will shield the earth from the light and warmth of the sun and a winter will set in that will last for years.
A black hole strays past the earth, sucking our planet into oblivion.
Gamma Ray Burst
A nearby star erupts, sending a beam of gamma rays zapping toward earth. Some 450 million years ago a similar event occurred and nearly 60 percent of all life on earth died.
In about 4 billion years our galaxy and the Andromeda Galaxy will run headlong into one another. The two galaxies will unwind one another and finally merge into a giant elliptical mass of stars. In the process, the sun and its planets may be flung into intergalactic space.