I don't think black holes work this way

By Phil Plait | December 30, 2008 8:13 am

I think if I created a black hole, things would actually go a lot worse for me. And everyone.

This is really just an extension of the old Road Runner idea, but it’s still cute.

Tip o’ the Schwarzschild radius to James Randi. Yes, that Randi!

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, DeathfromtheSkies!, Humor

Comments (40)

Links to this Post

  1. The Black Hole | WhatIThink | December 30, 2008
  2. Stel je komt een zwart gat op kantoor tegen en Astroblogs | December 30, 2008
  1. kuhnigget

    If that were a real office, he’d head straight for the supply room and get him some of those good clicky pens, not the stoopid kind with the caps you have to take off, but the kind with the button on the top. And maybe some of the big post-it pads, like the boys up in the executive wing get to use, and, oh, that good instant coffee, the flavored kind, not the cheap-ass stuff that tastes like mud. And look at that stash of twizzlers! Yeah, that’s go back to cubicle, for sure.


    That video is reminiscent of the “monkey trap”: A simple basket is set-up with a piece of banana or other fruit placed so that it can be seen across the weave of the basket. The monkey approaches the basket and puts his hand through one of the openings. The monkey grabs the fruit, but when trying
    to retrieve it, his closed fist is too large to make it through the opening. Of course the monkey could simply open its fist and abandon the fruit to free itself from the trap, but because he is greedy, he stubbornly holds onto the fruit in its closed fist until the trappers come around to capture it.

  3. John Malkovich

    Oh god. Not again.

  4. Bill Roberts


    Black holes only work this way when they are manufactured by the Acme company. Everybody knows that.

  5. Gil

    This isn’t a black hole, it’s a movable hole. I’m trying to remember which work of fiction I read about them first in. May have been Douglas Adams.

  6. kuhnigget

    @ Gil:

    “I’ve got a hole in me pocket.” –Ringo Starr, Yellow Submarine

  7. Gemini


  8. Bob Portnell

    I think McKimson’s “The Hole Thing” (in which a scientist invents the portable hole for the good of mankind, but naturally things go awry) predates the Road Runner series…

  9. Ah, I see I’m not the only person who thought of Yellow Submarine. So much for my ability to make original jokes.

  10. Gary Ansorge

    If that was a wormhole and the exit was behind you, you could stick your hand in and scratch yourself on the back,,,the perfect back scratch,,,oh yeah, right there,,,

    Gary 7

  11. Wildride

    Aperture Science! We do what we must because we can!

  12. anonentity

    Claustrophobia panic attack subsiding…

    still it was amusing. :)

  13. Nemo

    Cute, but it annoyed me, because it seemed to violate its own rules within seconds of establishing them. He was clearly shown sticking his hand into the hole, with it not coming out the other side. Then he placed the hole on the vending machine, and was able to pull something through from the other side (although we didn’t explicitly see his hand), and that became the new rule for the rest of the clip.

  14. DGKnipfer

    Well it did prove that greed, like a black hole, su***.

  15. Todd W.


    That’s because he didn’t place the hole against anything for his hand to go into, therefore it popped out in some extradimensional space…or something…

    Meh, willing suspension of disbelief.

  16. kuhnigget

    @ Nemo:

    Perhaps the rule had something to do with the hole being adjacent to another surface. I’m sure you can find a reference to the physics of portable holes on wikipedia. Prolly right next to the entry on UFOs.

  17. Pirx

    @Todd W.; kuhnigget:

    Yes, and (un)fortunately for him, the guy in the video is apparently an expert in the physics of portable holes.

    I have to agree with Nemo, I think. Embarassingly, I hadn’t even realized that when I watched the video.

  18. JoeSmithCA

    Take a step back for a momment, maybe the rules of the portable hole are that the distance his hand travels is infinite when the hole is not applied to a surface. The point of the short is not about physics and reality its intent is humor and a message about the consequences of human nature :)

  19. Todd W.


    Why would he need to be an expert in the physics of portable holes? It’s trial and error, as far as I saw. It was on the copier. He dropped his cup in, reached in and pulled it out. He tried it on the candy machine and discovered he was able to nab some candy from inside. Next logical step for the greedy little man, try it on the safe.

    But, again, willing suspension of disbelief. It’s amusing. Leave it at that.

  20. GLaDOS

    “My guess is that touching it will just make your life even worse somehow. I don’t want to tell you your business, but if it were me I’d leave that thing alone.”

  21. DGKnipfer Says: “Well it did prove that greed, like a black hole, su***.”

    Another screed against greed.

    Greed is a survival trait. It’s the reason the monkey trap that IVAN3MAN described works. In the natural world, resources (especially food) are not all that plentiful, so grabbing as much as you can when it presents itself will help you survive. It’s like eating meat. Meat is so much more nutrient dense than plant material, that those that developed a taste for it (and ability to digest it) survived starvation periods better.

    However, in our current world we have an ample supply of food and in some cases an oversupply . Despite what you see in the movies, neolithic hunters didn’t bring home a wildebeest for dinner every night. Maybe once a month, if they were lucky. More likely only a few times per year. But the evolved craving for meat is still there, even though it is actually unhealthy to eat lots of it.

    Greed still works as a survival trait. You can bet Donald Trump isn’t going to go hungry or loose his health care insurance no matter how bad the economy gets. My personal definition of “civilization” is how well we moderate these survival instincts in the face of plenty.

    – Jack

  22. Tom

    As seen in Who Framed Roger Rabbit.

  23. Pirx

    @Todd W.

    I just wondered how he got the idea that trying to grab something from inside the candy machine would work that way.
    And I thought this is that kind of nerd-site, where those things are always discussed to death and never ‘left at that’. So apologies.

  24. Todd W.


    Well, I guess he probably got the idea from when he retrieved his cup from the copy machine. And we don’t really know whether or not he thought that putting it on the candy machine would really work or not. More of a “Hmm…let’s try this. Hey, cool! It worked! What else can I try to steal?”

  25. I blame the LHC for this, somehow.

  26. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    There are all sorts of holes of course. This is another sad story, about a solid state physicist’s research:

    “An electron ‘searcher from Nantucket
    was launched on a hunt in a rocket
    But imagine his mind
    when all he could find
    on return was a hole in his pocket.”

  27. Will

    Maybe you’re thinking of The Portable Door by Tom Holt. In that book the door led to wherever the user wanted to go, not just to the other side of the solid object on which it was hung.

  28. bjn

    It’s black and it’s a hole. That doesn’t make it a black hole.

    It’s an ACME® Portable Hole®. Here’s a nice set of stills showing other fine ACME products:


  29. Buzz Parsec

    Ivan: Ever see the Simpsons episode where Homer gets both hands stuck in vending machines?

  30. kuhnigget

    @ Pirx

    “And I thought this is that kind of nerd-site, where those things are always discussed to death and never ‘left at that’. “
    Only if it has to do with Dr. Who.

    Which, by the way, I’ve never actually seen.

  31. João

    Damnit, Wildride was faster with the Aperture Science/Portal joke. BAbloggees only try do break your heart and kill you.

  32. Daniel

    Im sure when the LHC comes back online they will market these things 😉

  33. Grand Lunar

    I can just imagine Dr. Neil Tyson’s comments;
    “Where’s the spagettification?”

    Good lesson here, BTW; don’t get greedy! Or should it be “with great power comes great responsibility”?

    Oh for fun!

  34. GregInVancouver

    @Bob: McKimson’s cartoon was “The Hole Idea” (1955) Which places it in the middle of the original Road Runner series (1949-1964).

    Did anyone else see portable hole/Portal parallels in the pre Wall-E Pixar short “Presto”?

  35. Todd W.


    Yep! That was a funny short.

  36. IVAN3MAN

    Buzz Parsec: “Ivan: Ever see the Simpsons episode where Homer gets both hands stuck in vending machines?”

    Yes, indeed! The Fire and Rescue Service, who eventually released Homer from his predicament, had a good laugh when they realized that all he had to do to release himself was to let go of the soda can! 😆

  37. Sili

    Hmmm – wasn’t this pretty much on the last James Randi Podcast?

    I recall seeing a short cartoon as a kid, where a black hole appears in a park.

    In that case stuff just goes in and disappears. So before long it’s officially turned into a toxic waste deposit.

    The story ends with a new hole appearing elsewhere, whereupon the bits of stick that was first thrown into the original hole reappear.

  38. CelticMinstrel

    That’s not a black hole – it’s a portable hole, familiar to anyone who has ever played Dungeons and Dragons or other games that drew ideas from it.



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