How’s that for an unlikely association? Yet something I read recently got me wondering. Science is learning some fantastical things about our oceans, things that might impact activities on or near their surface. In the Book of Life, the plot is thickening …
We’ve all heard about the black holes in space that suck in everything and anything in their path, never to be seen again. (Although that theory may be changing a bit per something else I read recently. There is some thought nowadays that some energy form gets recycled out. But for our purposes, once you’re in the hole, you’re done.) (Image above right by unknown.)
Thanks to research done by George Haller, Professor of Nonlinear Dynamics at the engineering school ETH Zurich, and Francisco Beron-Vera, a Research Professor of Oceanography at the University of Miami, we now know that there are identifiable bodies of water within our oceans that operate like the black holes in space. (Image left caption: “Mathematically speaking, ocean eddies are counterparts to the black holes in space. Credit: Illustration: G. Haller / ETH Zurich”)
These oceanic black holes are hard to find in the oceans because the oceans are always moving and fairly turbulent on their own. The rotating turbulence of the oceanic black holes can easily be missed in all that movement. So the researchers used satellite data to isolate the rotating eddies in the oceans and this gave them a chance to study them.
In an article for ScienceDaily.com, Angelika Jacobs wrote, “Black holes are objects in space with a mass so great that they attract everything that comes within a certain distance of them. Nothing that comes too close can escape, not even light. But at a critical distance, a light beam no longer spirals into the black hole. Rather, it dramatically bends and comes back to its original position, forming a circular orbit. A barrier surface formed by closed light orbits is called a photon sphere in Einstein’s theory of relativity.”
The researchers found “closed barriers” in the ocean eddies (oceanic black holes) that they were studying. However, in the oceanic black holes, fluid particles moved about in a closed loop, rather than light as seen in black holes in space. The scientists tell us that nothing can escape these watery vortices either.
Why Are They There
Well, some of these vortices appear and disappear regularly, as seen in the Southern Ocean off southern Africa. In fact there’s a group of these oceanic black holes down there that were dubbed the Agulhas Rings. Their purpose seems to be to move around the world’s oceans transporting materials as they go.
These watery black holes do eventually collapse but will reform again when conditions are right.
Would You Believe
In his story, “A Descent into the Maelstrom,” writer Edgar Allan Poe described “a stable belt of foam around a maelstrom.” Both Haller and Beron-Vera were inspired by Poe’s vision to look for just such a thing in our oceans, and they found it, thanks to the mathematical formula they developed.
Now to the Bermuda Triangle.
You can probably see where I’m going with this. If something as huge and powerful as an oceanic black hole is lurking in the sea and you can’t see it, what happens if your ship runs into it? Or what happens if you fly too low, near it? We all know wind and waves interact.
It’s a tantalizing thought. But it’s also one that science will have to comment upon because it requires a lot more research. Now that they’ve identified these watery black holes, my hope is they can figure out how they interact with the atmosphere and people moving about on the water.
What do you think about this theory?