How Black Holes Are Like Whirlpools

A mathematician discovers a surprising similarity between the cosmic object and an ocean mainstay.

At first glance, a swirling vortex of water seems similar to a black hole: Both take hold of the matter around them, sucking in and trapping whatever drifts too close. Well, it turns out the analogy is more than just skin deep. The oval boundary of water around a vortex in the ocean can be described with the same mathematical equations as the light that whips around the edges of a black hole.  Oceanic vortices are stealth forces of nature. They trap water and pollutants, and shuttle warm wa...

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