Monstrous black hole has outgrown its host galaxy, scientists say

(Water) vortexes may be frightening — easily enough to make your palms sweat, given the

proper set of circumsances — but they pale into insignificance next to the sheer cosmic horror of black holes. Rumor has it that there’s a giant black hole lurking at the center for every galaxy (or so astronomical observations would suggest). Typically, these black holes tend to account for about 0.5% of the total mass of their respective galaxies. However, scientists have located an aberration among these aberrations:

One of the largest black holes ever seen is believed to be nearly 11.7 billion years old, forming just two billion years after the Big Bang. According to the Christian Science Monitor, the black hole is massive too; it has a mass that is equivalent to about 7 billion suns. Lead author Benny Trakhtenbrot, an astrophysicist at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich said that given the mass of the host galaxy, the black hole was unbelievably big[:][…] this black hole is nearly one-tenth [10%!] the mass of its host galaxy.
The findings can tell us a lot about the early universe – they suggest that the universe was smaller, denser, and much more hospitable to black holes.

Fascinating, in the same sort of way that sharks and viruses and whirlpools are fascinating. More here.

A Boltzmann brain is a hypothesized self-aware entity

… which “arises due to random fluctuations out of a state of chaos,” according to Wikipedia. Confused? The idea is this: there is a surprising degree of organization in our world, in apparent conflict with the Second Law of Thermodynamics, which holds that total entropy in a closed universe will never decrease (some see this as justification for belief in a creator deity).

Ludwig Boltzmann proposed that “we and our observed low-entropy world are a random fluctuation in a higher-entropy universe.” Even “in a near-equilibrium state,” Wikipedia explains, “there will be stochastic fluctuations in the level of entropy. The most common fluctuations will be relatively small, resulting in only small amounts of organization, while larger fluctuations and their resulting greater levels of organization will be comparatively more rare.”

Here’s where “Boltzmann brains” come in:

If our current level of organization, having many self-aware entities, is a result of a random fluctuation, it is much less likely than a level of organization which only creates stand-alone self-aware entities. For every universe with the level of organization we see, there should be an enormous number of lone Boltzmann brains floating around in unorganized environments. In an infinite universe, the number of self-aware brains that spontaneously randomly form out of the chaos, complete with false memories of a life like ours, should vastly outnumber the real brains evolved from an inconceivably rare local fluctuation the size of the observable universe.

If I were a Boltzmann brain (as, apparently, is statistically likely), could I ever know? Would it matter? A new form of a debate philosophers have waged for years – let’s call it neo-solipsism.