Facts About Black Holes: Separating Myth From Reality – With Guest Dr. Kelly Holley-Bockelmann (Part 2)

February 18, 2013

John P. Millis, Ph.D. for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online

When most people think of a black hole, they tend to envision it as sort of cosmic vacuum cleaner, slowly sucking in and devouring everything in its vicinity. But are black holes really like this? And what would happen if you fell into a black hole? What about a cockroach? What would happen if our Sun suddenly turned into a black hole? For that matter, how do we even know that black holes exist in the first place?

On today’s Your Universe Today podcast Dr. Kelly Holley-Bockelmann, Professor of theoretical physics at Vanderbilt University, is back with us to explore these questions and talk about the characteristics of black holes. She’ll also address some of the popular myths that surround these mysterious objects and help us sort out fact from fiction.

Be sure to check back later this week for the conclusion of our special series on black holes, when we’ll venture into the topic of supermassive black holes – immense cosmic monsters billions of times more massive than our Sun.

And if you missed parts one or three of this series, “How Stars Die and Black Holes Form” or “Supermassive Black Holes” be sure to check them out too.


Kelly Holley-Bockelmann has been an Assistant Professor of Astronomy at Vanderbilt University since 2007. She received her B.S. in Physics at Montana State University and her PhD in Astronomy in 1999 at the University of Michigan. After her PhD, she did postdoctoral work at Case Western Reserve University and the University of Massachusetts. In 2004, she joined the Center for Gravitational Wave Physics at The Pennsylvania State University, where she became a big fan of gravitational waves and attended many talks on loop quantum gravity that left her scratching her head.

Her main interests are in computational galaxy dynamics, black holes of all sorts, and gravitational waves. She is a recipient of a Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) award from the National Science Foundation and her work also been supported by the NASA. Dr. Holley-Bockelmann’s research on growing supermassive black holes and rogue black holes have both been featured in many online and print media outlets, though she still gets a bit nervous talking to the press.

As a first-generation college graduate within a family that sometimes lived below the poverty level, Dr. Holley-Bockelmann has a deep interest in broadening the participation of women, minorities, and first-generation college students in science. She is a part of the Fisk-to-Vanderbilt Master’s-to-PhD Bridge Program, which is designed to mentor a diverse cohort of graduate students to develop the skills needed to succeed as a scientist.