A Black Hole is Not a Hole by Carolyn Cinami DeCristofano, a review.
Nor is it a monstrous entity, a “runaway, out-of-control predator that feeds on galaxies…mangling stars and gobbling them up.” The truth is, black holes don’t need that kind of hype or help to grab our attention. The facts are cool enough already.
For example, did you know there’s a black hole at the center of our galaxy that’s got four million times the mass of our Sun? And even though it’s called a supermassive black hole (the smallest type of black hole that’s been detected), nobody knew it even existed until this millenium because its radio signals were too weak to be detected. But despite its small size, if you dropped by Sagittarius A*’s event horizon for a visit, you’d be spaghettified instantaneously. To have time to really do any sightseeing, you’d have to check out a bigger black hole!
Author Carolyn Cinami DeCristofano guides readers along smoothly and snarkily using analogies within our daily experiences so that kids (and astronomy ignorami) can latch on to abstract concepts without feeling overwhelmed. Take the light-year, which sounds awfully technical and vast, and start with a kid-year, the distance a kid can travel in a year (if this kid move tirelessly and consistent at, say, 6 feet per second). Now apply the same logic to light, which travels at 3 x 10^8 meters per second. (It can reach from the earth to the moon in just a second!) Other fun comparisons involve whirlpools, snowballs, a pair of spinning ice skaters, bowls of Goldilocks-sized oatmeal, and elephant-weight peanuts on blankets. Also, DeCristofano uses fun thought experiments, which astronomers and physicists actually use, to take us to unreachable regions far and wide through space and back before dinner time.
I suppose black hole purists will complain that a lot of concepts have been simplified, but DeCristofano’s goal isn’t to make us experts. It’s to pique our curiosity, and she definitely succeeds on that front.