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Science AMA Series: I'm Janna Levin—astrophysicist, author, and host of NOVA's "Black Hole Apocalypse." Ask me anything about black holes, the universe, life, whatever!

Thank you everyone who sent in questions! That was a fun hour. Must run, but I'll come back later and address those that I couldn't get to in 60 minutes. Means a lot to me to see all of this excitement for science. And if you missed the AMA in real time, feel welcome to pose more questions on twitter @jannalevin. Thanks again.

Black holes are not a thing, they're a place—a place where spacetime rains in like a waterfall dragging everything irreversibly into the shadow of the event horizon, the point of no return.

I'm Janna Levin, an astrophysicist at Barnard College of Columbia University. I study black holes, the cosmology of extra dimensions, and gravitational waves. I also serve as the director of sciences at Pioneer Works in Red Hook, Brooklyn, a non-profit foundation that fosters multidisciplinary creativity in the arts and sciences. I've written several books, and the latest is titled, "Black Hole Blues and Other Songs from Outer Space." It's the inside story on the discovery of the century: the sound of spacetime ringing from the collision of two black holes over a billion years ago.

I'm also the host of NOVA's new film, "Black Hole Apocalypse," which you can watch streaming online now here. In it, we explore black holes past, present, and future. Expect space ships, space suits, and spacetime. With our imaginary technology, we travel to black holes as small as cities and as huge as solar systems.

I'll be here at 12 ET to answer your questions about black holes! And if you want to learn about me, check out this article in Wired or this video profile that NOVA produced.



From an aspiring astrophysicist; What was it that made you choose to become an astrophysicist? Did you ever think about going down a different path in physics, and if so, what? Thanks for doing this AMA:)

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Original Poster2 points · 6 months ago

Oh for sure. I started college as a philosophy major interested in art. I never finished high school so I never had physics or even calculus in high school. I secretly always wanted to be a writer too. And I struggled in graduate school to cut out all other interests but physics. I'm relieved and grateful that now I can integrate writing and culture into my life as an astrophysicist. I'm also director of sciences at an art center in Brooklyn, Pioneer Works.

Hi Dr Levin! I’m curious.. we often phrase the question, “What happened before the Big Bang,” but this presupposes that there was a time before the creation of the universe. If the Big Bang was the birth of space as well as time, does it even make sense to talk about a time or event prior to there being any time at all? And what would that be like, having no time? How did things change or events like the Big Bang happen if there is nothing discerning one moment from the next?

Huge fan by the way! I love it every time you get to host StarTalk All Stars. Keep bringing the science of the universe down to Earth! Thanks!

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Original Poster2 points · 6 months ago

Thank you! Great to hear.

Yes, it's fair to say that the question isn't meaningful. Sometimes people pose the analogy that it's like asking what's north of the north pole. But it might be that the big bang is more like a plume off a larger spacetime that caught fire in some sense, burst out and created our bubble, which is the only part of the universe we can see.

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