The big news in science this month is the release of the first photographic image of a black hole.
Black holes are those outer space phenomena that make things disappear. Anything caught in the gravitational pull of a black hole gets sucked in with no hope of return.
Just like my garage.
I have no idea what all is crammed out there. I remember a few tools and toys that I thought I had stashed in the garage. But when I look for them, they’ve vanished. That black hole has sucked in so much clutter, debris and get-around-to-it projects over the years that those things will never see the light of day again.
Unless I’m looking for something else. It’s when I’m on a quest for my 10-inch Phillips head screwdriver that I’ll trip over the box of winter gloves I’d been searching for in November or the lawn mower oil I needed in June.
“What a mess,” my wife will say. “Why don’t you organize this junk?”
It wouldn’t help. By the time that black hole works its light-bending cosmic funhouse effect on the piles, boxes and storage stuff lured into the garage, they’re hopelessly dissolved into nothingness.
I know what’s not in my garage — cars. I have not parked a single vehicle in my two-bay garage in more than a dozen years. My wife claims it’s because I’ve filled the garage so full of odds, ends and rubble that there’s no room to park automobiles.
The truth is, I can’t risk it. The black hole would eat them, coils, steering wheels, valve stems and all.
The only reason anyone would park in a garage is to find out what a black hole burp sounds like.
Plenty of other black holes lurk about the house — and on our person. The clothes dryer is a notorious black hole, as is the underside of the average teenager’s bed. A buddy of mine says his the left pocket of his pants is a huge black hole. He drops money in, but it never reappears.
One of the most famous black holes known to man is the dining room table.
If there’s anything nature abhors worse than a vacuum, it’s a flat surface left empty. As more families move into the living room to eat in front of TVs, once-empty dining room tables have drawn credit cards, overdue bills, car keys, laptops, library books, the odd sock or two and sometimes a cat.
Any item dropped on the dining room table black hole is unlikely to emerge, except for the cat, who will show up precisely at 5 p.m. to snub her dinner.
It’s why I have not carried a wallet for years. I set it on the dining room table just for a minute one afternoon in 1998. The table gulped it down. Now, every time my steak seems chewy, I suspect that I’ve finally found my wallet. But the dining room table black hole never gives up its loot.
The table learned its trade from the junk drawer, a special black hole that’s the burial ground for pens without ink, snapped rubber bands, mangled paperclips, sheared scissors and the cords and remote controls for old wall phones and VCRs that disappeared into the garage.
So the world of science can ooh and aah all it wants over the image of a black hole that’s 53 million light years from Earth. I could have sent them photos years ago of black holes a lot closer to home. In fact, they’re in my home.
I would have, too, except I dropped my phone into my wife’s purse. It’s the personal black hole she carries on her arm. By now, the phone’s been teleported into the void. I think I spotted it in the corner of science’s new image of the black hole.
Explore black holes with Burt at firstname.lastname@example.org, the Burton W. Cole page on Facebook or @BurtonWCole on Twitter.