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PENETRATE THE BLACK HOLE

"A Journey that begins where everything ends". "You can't escape the most powerful force in the universe". With tag-lines like these, any self-respecting science fiction fan would be compelled to purchase a movie ticket. Such was the case with the 1979 Disney film "The Back Hole". The movie was modestly successful, and serves as a unique entry in the twilight days of "traditional" effects films. To be sure, it's far from perfect (robots with cowboy accents, physics-defying space walks, etc). Still, the movie is worth the rental price for the inspired setting alone. And the ending hits you out of left-field, as if another (more cerebral) film suddenly manifests itself in the closing seconds.

"The Black Hole" started my rather novice interest in cosmic phenomena (black holes, white dwarfs, Einstein-Rosen bridge theory, etc). By the time I reached adulthood, I realized that I was really more interested in cool special effects. Any further pursuit of astrophysical studies succeeded only in convincing me that our world is filled with people infinitely smarter than me. Still, it is interesting to at least consider the possibility of "larger than life" anomalies of science. This is one reason why countless books have been written subjects ranging from  time-travel to the Bermuda Triangle.

When I was in grade school, our library was packed with pseudoscientific books about the Bermuda Triangle. The line between reality and fantasy has become so blurred in such books it becomes nearly impossible to identify the truth. In fact, many books cannot even agree on the physical boundaries of the triangle itself, though a common delineation lies between Bermuda, Puerto Rico, and southern Florida. Perhaps you read a few "Bermuda Triangle" stories yourself. The more famous accounts include the disappearance of the USS Cyclops in 1918 and the demise of Flight 19 in 1945. Explanations for these phenomena range from extraterrestrials to hurricanes.

Of all the hurricane "oddities", perhaps the most dramatic is that of Super- Typhoon Tip. Born in the warm waters of the Pacific in 1979, the storm reached epic proportions both in size and strength. With a central pressure of 25.69 inches of mercury (870 mb), Tip's 10-minute sustained winds peaked at 160 mph. This marks the lowest official pressure for any storm on Earth (at least as far back as reliable records have been kept). 1-minute sustained winds reached 190 mph, with gusts well over 200 mph. At peak intensity, the storm measured over 1300 miles in diameter. For point of reference, a storm of such size would nearly cover half of the continental United States. Thankfully, Tip weakened before final landfall in Japan.

As you can see, you don't need to delve into science fiction to find fascinating stories. But if you are so inclined, make sure you check-out "The Black Hole". Any film with Slim Pickens portraying a floating robot can't be all bad...

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By: Jerry Jackson