Adam Interviews black hole researcher from Rochester
After Jeremy Schnittman graduated from Wilson Magnet High School in Rochester he went on to study at Harvard and MIT.
He now works for NASA helping to find evidence of black holes.
Many of his colleagues worked on the project to capture the recently revealed photo of a black hole.
While he was in town for a meeting at RIT, Schnittman talked with Adam.
Adam: You see the picture of a black hole for the first time. What was your reaction?
Schnittman: Looks like a black hole, yeah, fortunately it wasn’t a huge surprise, there’s excitement. I guess it’s like when you have your first child, you know it’s coming, you kind of know what that means, you’ve been waiting for months and months, so you’re not really surprised, but very happy and excited.
Adam: One of the things you’re doing is theorizing, modeling what kind of telescope could capture more evidence of the event horizon. Where is that now?
Schnittman: This is very exciting, the event horizon telescope, where we get an actual picture, but we still are going to use a lot of other tools to find indirect evidence of black holes, so we’re using x-rays. X-rays are a very popular way of studying black holes because x-rays have a lot of energy, they come from very hot gas, and we think that very hot gas is found naturally very close to black holes, so we’re exploring that and other techniques too.
Adam: You went to Wilson Magnet High School. Was it in high school that you gravitated, so to speak, towards this field?
Schnittman: I don’t know if it was specifically black holes and astronomy but definitely towards physics and research. My high school physics teacher told me about an internship at the University of Rochester’s laser lab and that’s where I spent the summer in high school learning about what it meant to do real physics research, so that was a great opportunity and yeah, never went back.
Adam: If you could have one question answered about black holes, no experiments, no telescopes, but someone just plopped down the answer, what would the question be?
Schnittman: Can you use black holes to time travel, that’s just the coolest part of black holes, of all the crazy things that happen inside of a black hole, I think time travel is coolest.
Adam: Is time travel possible because as you circle a black hole time moves slower?
Schnittman: That’s one way to do it, Some theories even say if you go into the black hole, if its not technically a black hole, but a worm hole, very similar, then you could go back in time, so going back in time is the real tricky one.
Adam: You’re at the end of your life and they say we can deliver you to a black hole, would you do it?
Schnittman: Let me ask my wife, she’s already nixed going to Mars, so we’ll see about a black hole … If it were up to me, definitely.
Adam: Even if you could get spaghettified or whatever they call it?
Schnittman: It’s the ultimate way to go, I guess.