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An anonymous reader writes with news that scientists may be close to getting the first image of a black hole. "Researchers studying the universe are ramping up to take the image of the century — the first ever image of a supermassive black hole. While the evidence for the existence of black holes is compelling, Scientists will continue to argue the contrary until physical, observational evidence is provided. Now, a dedicated team of astrophysicists armed with a global fleet of powerful telescopes is out to change that. If they succeed, they will snap the first ever picture of the monstrously massive black hole thought to live at the center of our home galaxy, the Milky Way. This ambitious project, called the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT), is incredibly tricky, but recent advances in their research are encouraging the team to push forward, now. The reason EHT needs to be so complex is because black holes, by nature, do not emit light and are, therefore, invisible. In fact, black holes survive by gobbling up light and any other matter — nearby dust, gas, and stars — that fall into their powerful clutches. The EHT team is going to zoom in on a miniscule spot on the sky toward the center of the Milky Way where they believe to be the event horizon of a supermassive black hole weighing in at 4 million times more massive than our sun. We can still see the material, however, right before it falls into eternal darkness. The EHT team is going to try and glimpse this ring of radiation that outlines the event horizon. Experts call this outline the "shadow" of a black hole, and it's this shadow that the EHT team is ultimately after to prove the existence of black holes."
129 comments | about two weeks ago
vinces99 writes: Planets orbiting close to low-mass stars — easily the most common stars in the universe — are prime targets in the search for extraterrestrial life. But new research led by an astronomy graduate student at the University of Washington indicates some such planets may have long since lost their chance at hosting life because of intense heat during their formative years. Low-mass stars, also called M dwarfs, are smaller than the sun, and also much less luminous, so their habitable zone tends to be fairly close in. The habitable zone is that swath of space that is just right to allow liquid water on an orbiting planet's surface, thus giving life a chance. [Researchers found] through computer simulations that some planets close to low-mass stars likely had their water and atmospheres burned away when they were still forming because they were exposed to high temperatures from their parent stars.
62 comments | about three weeks ago
Zothecula writes: NASA has released a video depicting the initial deployment of an undertaking designed to study a phenomenon known as magnetic reconnection. "Reconnection happens when magnetic field lines explosively realign and release massive bursts of energy, while hurling particles out at nearly the speed of light in all directions. Magnetic reconnection powers eruptions on the sun and – closer to home – it triggers the flow of material and energy from interplanetary space into near-Earth space." The launch of the Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS) mission will see four identical spacecraft deployed from a single Atlas V rocket, set to lift off from cape Canaveral, Florida, no earlier than March next year.
29 comments | about a month ago
Though expectations for a spectacular show may be low, the Leonid meteor shower is on the way. For those in the continental U.S., late Monday night into Tuesday early morning will be your best chance to catch a few glimpses. Space.com explains why you might see only a smattering of meteors: This year finds Comet Tempel-Tuttle nearing the far end of its elongated orbit. In 2010, the comet crossed the orbit of Uranus and in 2016 it will be as far from the sun as it can get: 1.84 billion miles (2.96 billion km). That's not only where the comet is, but also where the heaviest concentrations of meteoroids are as well. In contrast, at the point in the comet's orbit where we will be passing by on Tuesday morning, there is nothing save for a scattered few particles; stragglers likely loosed from the comet's nucleus a millennium or two ago. So the 2014 Leonids are expected to show only low activity this year; "maybe" at best 5 to 10 Leonids per hour might be seen.
20 comments | about a month ago
An anonymous reader writes Debian developer Tollef Fog Heen submitted his resignation to the Debian Systemd package maintainers team mailing list today (Sun. Nov. 16th, 2014). In his brief post, he praises the team, but claims that he cannot continue to contribute due to the "load of continued attacks...becoming just too much." Presumably, he is referring to the heated and, at times, even vitriolic criticism of Debian's adoption of Systemd as the default init system for its upcoming Jessie release from commenters inside and outside of the Debian community. Currently, it is not known if Tollef will cease contributing to Debian altogether. A message from his twitter feed indicates that he may blog about his departure in the near future.
550 comments | about a month ago
HughPickens.com writes Justin Gillis writes in the NYT that Denmark is pursuing the world's most ambitious policy against climate change, aiming to end the burning of fossil fuels in any form by 2050 — not just in electricity production, as some other countries hope to do, but in transportation as well. The trouble is that while renewable power sources like wind and solar cost nothing to run, once installed, as more of these types of power sources push their way onto the electric grid, they cause power prices to crash at what used to be the most profitable times of day. Conventional power plants, operating on gas or coal or uranium, are becoming uneconomical to run. Yet those plants are needed to supply backup power for times when the wind is not blowing and the sun is not shining. With their prime assets throwing off less cash, electricity suppliers in Germany and Denmark have applied to shut down a slew of newly unprofitable power plants, but nervous governments are resisting, afraid of being caught short on some cold winter's night with little wind. "We are really worried about this situation," says Anders Stouge, the deputy director general of the Danish Energy Association. "If we don't do something, we will in the future face higher and higher risks of blackouts."
Environmental groups, for their part, have tended to sneer at the problems the utilities are having, contending that it is their own fault for not getting on the renewables bandwagon years ago. But according to Gillis, the political risks of the situation also ought to be obvious to the greens. The minute any European country — or an ambitious American state, like California — has a blackout attributable to the push for renewables, public support for the transition could weaken drastically. Rasmus Helveg Petersen, the Danish climate minister, says he is tempted by a market approach: real-time pricing of electricity for anyone using it — if the wind is blowing vigorously or the sun is shining brightly, prices would fall off a cliff, but in times of shortage they would rise just as sharply.
488 comments | about a month ago
astroengine writes Welcome to HL Tauri — a star system that is just being born and the target of one of the most mind-blowing astronomical observations ever made. Observed by the powerful Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) in Chile, this is the most detailed view of the proto-planetary disk surrounding a young star 450 light-years away. And those concentric rings cutting through the glowing gas and dust? Those, my friends, are tracks etched out by planets being spawned inside the disk. In short, this is the mother of all embryonic star system ultrasounds. But this dazzling new observation is so much more — it's a portal into our solar system's past, showing us what our system of planets around a young sun may have looked like over 4 billion years ago. And this is awesome, because it proves that our theoretical understanding about the evolution of planetary systems is correct. However, there are some surprises. "When we first saw this image we were astounded at the spectacular level of detail," said Catherine Vlahakis, ALMA Deputy Program Scientist. "HL Tauri is no more than a million years old, yet already its disc appears to be full of forming planets. This one image alone will revolutionize theories of planet formation."
91 comments | about a month and a half ago
HughPickens.com writes: Arthur Obermayer, a friend of the Isaac Asimov, writes that he recently rediscovered an unpublished essay by Asimov written in 1959 while cleaning out some old files. Obermayer says it is "as broadly relevant today as when he wrote it. It describes not only the creative process and the nature of creative people but also the kind of environment that promotes creativity." Here's an excerpt from Asimov's essay, which is well worth reading in its entirety:
"A person willing to fly in the face of reason, authority, and common sense must be a person of considerable self-assurance. Since he occurs only rarely, he must seem eccentric (in at least that respect) to the rest of us. A person eccentric in one respect is often eccentric in others. Probably more inhibiting than anything else is a feeling of responsibility. The great ideas of the ages have come from people who weren't paid to have great ideas, but were paid to be teachers or patent clerks or petty officials, or were not paid at all. The great ideas came as side issues."
150 comments | about 2 months ago
BarbaraHudson writes: The CBC, the Financial Post, and The Toronto Sun are all reporting a possible sale of BlackBerry to Lenovo. From the Sun: "BlackBerry shares rose more than 3% on Monday after a news website said Chinese computer maker Lenovo Group might offer to buy the Canadian technology company. Rumors of a Lenovo bid for BlackBerry have swirled many times over the last two years. Senior Lenovo executives at different times have indicated an interest in BlackBerry as a means to strengthen their own handset business. The speculation reached a crescendo in the fall of 2013, when BlackBerry was exploring strategic alternatives. Sources familiar with the situation however, told Reuters last year that the Canadian government had strongly hinted to BlackBerry that any sale to Lenovo would not win the necessary regulatory approvals due to security concerns. Analysts also have said any sale to Lenovo would face regulatory obstacles, but they have suggested that a sale of just BlackBerry's handset business and not its core network infrastructure might just pass muster with regulators."
73 comments | about 2 months ago
Any gathering of 65,000 people in the desert is going to require some major infrastructure to maintain health and sanity. At Burning Man, some of that infrastructure is devoted to a supply chain for ice. Writes Bennett Haselton, The lines for ice bags at Burning Man could be cut from an hour long at peak times, to about five minutes, by making one small... Well, read the description below of how they do things now, and see if the same suggested change occurs to you. I'm curious whether it's the kind of idea that is more obvious to students of computer science who think algorithmically, or if it's something that could occur to anyone. Read on for the rest; Bennett's idea for better triage may bring to mind a lot of other queuing situations and ways that time spent waiting in line could be more efficiently employed.
342 comments | about 2 months ago
BarbaraHudson writes Those free soft drinks at your last start-up may come with a huge hidden price tag. The Toronto Sun reports that researchers at the University of California — San Francisco found study participants who drank pop daily had shorter telomeres — the protective units of DNA that cap the ends of chromosomes in cells — in white blood cells. Short telomeres have been associated with chronic aging diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and some forms of cancer. The researchers calculated daily consumption of a 20-ounce pop is associated with 4.6 years of additional biological aging. The effect on telomere length is comparable to that of smoking, they said. "This finding held regardless of age, race, income and education level," researcher Elissa Epel said in a press release.
422 comments | about 2 months ago
StartsWithABang writes If you can reach the fabled "breakeven point" of nuclear fusion, you'll have opened up an entire new source of clean, reliable, safe, renewable and abundant energy. You will change the world. At present, fusion is one of those things we can make happen through a variety of methods, but — unless you're the Sun — we don't have a way to ignite and sustain that reaction without needing to input more energy than we can extract in a usable fashion from the fusion that occurs. One alternative approach to the norm is, rather than try and up the energy released in a sustained, hot fusion reaction, to instead lower the energy inputted, and try to make fusion happen under "cold" conditions. If you listen in the right (wrong?) places, you'll hear periodic reports that cold fusion is happening, even though those reports have always crumbled under scrutiny. Here's why, most likely, they always will.
350 comments | about 2 months ago
Daniel_Stuckey writes Hector Xavier Monsegur, also known online as "Sabu," was caught by the FBI in June of 2011 for a litany of hacking-related offenses and, within hours, began cooperating with authorities in hopes of receiving a lenient sentence. Now, never-before-published FBI records and exclusive interviews detail how the informant rallied other hackers to attack various News Corp. interests, including The Sun, at a time that the FBI has said it was tracking all of Monsegur's online activity. And for a week shortly after his arrest, he was privy to the anti-Murdoch campaign waged by Anonymous, according to the documents obtained by Motherboard.
38 comments | about 2 months ago
1sockchuck writes: A massive solar array in central New Jersey provides the daytime power for a server farm delivering online financial services for McGraw Hill. The 50-acre field of photovoltaic solar panels symbolizes a new phase in the use of renewable energy in data centers. Massive arrays can now provide tens of megawatts of solar power for companies (including Apple) that can afford the land and the expense. But some data center thought leaders argue that these huge fields are more about marketing than genuinely finding the best approach to a greener cloud.
237 comments | about 2 months ago
maynard writes: Kathy Sierra spent a tech career developing videogames and teaching Java programming in Sun Microsystems masterclasses. Up until 2007, she'd been a well regarded tech specialist who happened to be female. Until the day she opined on her private blog that given the crap-flood of bad comments, maybe forum moderation wasn't a bad idea. This opinion made her a target. A sustained trolling and harassment campaign followed, comprised of death and rape threats, threats against her family, fabricated claims of prostitution, and a false claim that she had issued a DMCA takedown to stifle criticism. All of this culminated in the public release of her private address and Social Security Number, a technique known as Doxxing. And so she fled from the public, her career, and even her home.
It turned out that a man named Andrew Auernheimer was responsible for having harassed Sierra. Known as 'Weev', he admitted it in a 2008 New York Times story on Internet Trolls. There, he spoke to the lengths which he and his cohorts went to discredit and destroy the woman. "Over a candlelit dinner of tuna sashimi, Weev asked if I would attribute his comments to Memphis Two, the handle he used to troll Kathy Sierra, a blogger. Inspired by her touchy response to online commenters, Weev said he "dropped docs" on Sierra, posting a fabricated narrative of her career alongside her real Social Security number and address. This was part of a larger trolling campaign against Sierra, one that culminated in death threats."
Now, seven years later, Kathy Sierra has returned to explain why she left and what recent spates of online harassment against women portend for the future if decent people don't organize. The situation has grown much more serious since she went into hiding all those years ago. It's more than just the threat of Doxxing to incite physical violence by random crazies with a screw loose. Read on for the rest of maynard's thoughts.
728 comments | about 2 months ago
Daniel_Stuckey writes A new MIT study offers a way out of one of solar power's most vexing problems: the matter of efficiency, and the bare fact that much of the available sunlight in solar power schemes is wasted. The researchers appear to have found the key to perfect solar energy conversion efficiency—or at least something approaching it. It's a new material that can accept light from an very large number of angles and can withstand the very high temperatures needed for a maximally efficient scheme. Conventional solar cells, the silicon-based sheets used in most consumer-level applications, are far from perfect. Light from the sun arrives here on Earth's surface in a wide variety of forms. These forms—wavelengths, properly—include the visible light that makes up our everyday reality, but also significant chunks of invisible (to us) ultraviolet and infrared light. The current standard for solar cells targets mostly just a set range of visible light.
110 comments | about 3 months ago
An anonymous reader writes: Japan's second highest volcano, Mount Ontake, erupted on Saturday, sending thick clouds of ash into the air. More than 250 hikers were in the area, and the ash and rocks left seven unconscious, eight injured, and all of them stranded. In video footage from the mountain, you can see the thick clouds overtaking hikers, blocking out the sun and coating them with ash. There have been no reports of lava flows, but flights in the area were forced to divert their routes. (Another video shows the ash clouds from the sky.)
41 comments | about 3 months ago
Lucas123 writes A study by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory predicts that distributed rooftop solar panel installations will grow from 0.2% market penetration today to 10% by 2022, during which time they're likely to cut utility profits from 8% to 41%. Using those same metrics, electricity rates for utility customers will grow only by as much as 2.7% over the next eight years. By comparison, the cost of electricity on average rose 3.1% from 2013 to 2014. The study was performed for the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy under the U.S. Department of Energy. One of the main purposes of the study was to evaluate measures that could be pursued by utilities and regulators to reduce the financial impacts of distributed photovoltaics.
517 comments | about 3 months ago
astroengine writes Next time you're swimming in the ocean, consider this: part of the water is older than the sun. So concludes a team of scientists who ran computer models comparing the ratios of hydrogen isotopes over time. Taking into account new insights that the solar nebula had less ionizing radiation than previously thought, the models show that at least some of the water found in the ocean, as well as in comets, meteorites and on the moon, predate the sun's birth.
173 comments | about 3 months ago
HughPickens.com writes Jana Kasperkevic writes at The Guardian that it's not every day that you get to buy an iPhone from an ex-NSA officer. Yet Thomas Drake, former senior executive at National Security Agency, is well known in the national security circles for leaking information about the NSA's Trailblazer project to Baltimore Sun. In 2010, the government dropped all 10 felony charges against him and he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge for unauthorized use of a computer and lost his livelihood. "You have to mortgage your house, you have to empty your bank account. I went from making well over $150,000 a year to a quarter of that," says Drake. "The cost alone, financially — never mind the personal cost — is approaching million dollars in terms of lost income, expenses and other costs I incurred."
John Kiriakou became the first former government official to confirm the use of waterboarding against al-Qaida suspects in 2009. "I have applied for every job I can think of – everything from grocery stores to Toys R Us to Starbucks. You name it, I've applied there. Haven't gotten even an email or a call back," says Kiriakou. According to Kasperkevic, this is what most whistleblowers can expect. The potential threat of prosecution, the mounting legal bills and the lack of future job opportunities all contribute to a hesitation among many to rock the boat. "Obama and his attorney general, Eric Holder, declared a war on whistleblowers virtually as soon as they assumed office," says Kiriakou. "Washington has always needed an "ism" to fight against, an idea against which it could rally its citizens like lemmings. First, it was anarchism, then socialism, then communism. Now, it's terrorism. Any whistleblower who goes public in the name of protecting human rights or civil liberties is accused of helping the terrorists."
224 comments | about 3 months ago