In the universe, there is no greater catastrophe than a black hole, whose gravity is so intense that not even light can escape. Sure, a supernova is unbelievably violent, but the destruction wrought by a black hole is complete. These monsters wander around space like Pac-Man, gobbling up stars, planets, and asteroids, ripping them apart.
No human-made disaster—climate change, hunger, nuclear war—can rival such total destruction, but you’d be forgiven for thinking that we’re trying our damnedest. “I contemplate stuff at the very edge of the universe, things that are happening shortly after the Big Bang,” says Daniel Holz, a physicist at the University of Chicago. “We build these phenomenal instruments, these space telescopes, which peer back to the very beginning. It’s incredible. And yet, we’re on the verge of totally wrecking our only home.”
Holz is a member of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, a nonprofi