First-ever black hole photograph opens up galaxy of memes on Chinese internet

By RADII
1 min read
(Image credit: European Southern Observatory)

Editor’s note: A version of this originally appeared on RADII, a new media platform covering culture, innovation, and life in today’s China.

By now you’ll have no doubt seen the news that a group of scientists — using eight radio observatories on six mountains and four continents — have “seen the unseeable” as the New York Times put it, by capturing a photograph of a black hole, “a cosmic abyss so deep and dense that not even light can escape it.”

Announced simultaneously in cities around the world, including Shanghai, the Event Horizon Telescope image of M87 is a supermassive deal. On Weibo, it was immediately likened to donuts and the Eye of Sauron.

Yes, the Chinese internet wasted no time in turning this hugely significant scientific discovery into meme fodder (there were plenty of celebratory, educational, and intellectual posts too of course, just that the meme ones are more entertaining).

Some likened it to a section of the coals commonly used to warm houses in the north of China:

Staying on the heat theme, some — including China’s Fire Service account, pictured below — likened it to the small electric heaters that are also a regular feature in Chinese households:

There were lots of donuts:

It was also an excuse to moan about high costs of living in certain areas of China. The caption here is “my wallet/purse”:

Inevitably, there were cats—including this one from A Xin, a member of Taiwanese pop group Mayday (the second hashtag is also trending on Weibo right now: “A shame Mr Hawking didn’t get to see this”):

And there was even a Durex advert made for the announcement (Durex have a strong reputation in China for reacting quickly to news stories with witty posters). Produced in advance of the actual image being revealed, you don’t need to read Chinese to work out what this poster suggested the historic photo would be similar to:

If you ask us though, it looks kind of like an orange RADII swirl….