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Scientists Forced To Reexamine Theories In Light of Massive Gamma-Ray Burst

Soulskill posted about 8 months ago | from the turns-out-we-were-wrongish dept.

Space 128

cold fjord writes "Earlier this year we discussed news of a shockingly powerful gamma-ray burst. Scientists have had time to study the phenomenon, but it's not offering up any easy answers. The Christian Science Monitor reports, 'An exploded star some 3.8 billion light-years away is forcing scientists to overhaul much of what they thought they knew about gamma-ray bursts – intense blasts of radiation triggered, in this case, by a star tens of times more massive than the sun that exhausted its nuclear fuel, exploded, then collapsed to form a black hole. Last April, gamma rays from the blast struck detectors in gamma-ray observatories orbiting Earth, triggering a frenzy of space- and ground-based observations. Many of them fly in the face of explanations researchers have developed during the past 30 years ... "Some of our theories are just going down the drain," said Charles Dermer, an astrophysicist at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico ... while typical long-duration bursts last from a few seconds to a few minutes, GRB 130427A put on its display for 20 hours. ... [W]ith GRB 130427A, some of the highest energy photons, including the new record-holder, appeared hours after the blast. "This is hard to explain with our current models," Dermer said. In addition, gamma rays and emissions at visible wavelengths brightened and dimmed in tandem, quite unexpected because theory suggested they come from different regions of the expanding shells of material and thus should have peaked and dimmed at different times. Finally, theorists had posited different mechanisms for generating gamma rays and X-rays that are part of the light show a long-duration gamma-ray burst puts on. The result should have been a fadeout for the two forms of light punctuated by periods where emissions were interrupted. Instead, the two dimmed smoothly. The theoretical edifice GRB 130427A is eroding has been 46 years in the making.' — The 21 November 2013 Science Express has abstracts for four related papers (first, second, third, fourth). More at Sky & Telescope and NASA."

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128 comments

Question (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45492555)

a star tens of times more massive than the sun that exhausted its nuclear fuel, exploded, then collapsed to form a black hole.

If it exhausted its "nuclear fuel," how could it explode?

Re:Question (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45492597)

To the explosion.

Unless explosions don't adhere to thermodynamics any more.

Re:Question (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45492601)

Release of gravitational energy.

Star falls in. Meets itself coming the other way.

Big Bang Slam.

Simples.

My problem is thining that a report from something calling itself "Christian Science Monitor" on anything cutting edge in astronomy is entirely suspect.

Re:Question (5, Informative)

alexander_686 (957440) | about 8 months ago | (#45492661)

You might then want to read up on it. The Christian Science Monitor has been around for a long time and has a strong record of integrity and high quality reporting. While owned by the CS the news side is segregated from the editorial side like most reputable newspapers. And the news side dominates. One of the better national newspapers of the US.

yeah, newspaper of a child-killing cult (0, Offtopic)

SuperBanana (662181) | about 8 months ago | (#45492887)

The Christian Science Monitor has been around for a long time and has a strong record of integrity and high quality reporting.

Mary Baker Eddy established the CSM because she wanted a news source that wasn't "anti" Christian Science. The major papers of the day ridiculed her, called her a dangerous quack, etc. She was all of those things - and couldn't logic or reason her way out of a paper bag.

You know how people select news sources that fit their world view? Yeah, she went out and *started* a news source that fit hers.

While owned by the CS

And therein lies the problem. You're supporting a cult that believes medicine is the work of the devil, and that if you get sick, it's because you deserved it / didn't pray enough. They're a cult that has latched onto the word "science" to give themselves credibility.

You're supporting a religion whose belief system actively kills people, including children [whatstheharm.net] , by teaching that prayer is effective at curing things like a burst appendix.

They are a CULT. STOP SUPPORTING THEM.

Re:yeah, newspaper of a child-killing cult (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45493367)

This makes about as much sense as calling Christopher Hitchens a Christian because he had "Christ" in his name.

Re:yeah, newspaper of a child-killing cult (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45493517)

Handily, there's a name for your post. It's called the Genetic Fallacy.

While it is true that the person starting the publication was roundly dismissed for her "science" (and for that matter, roundly dismissed by mainstream Christianity for her "Christianity")... that is completely irrelevant to the quality of the publication today. In spite of, or perhaps even attributable to extra scientific caution in a "defensive" reaction to that history, it is now quite highly-regarded for the scientific soundness of its articles.

Henry Ford was virulently antisemitic. Do you attack acquaintances today who own Ford cars? No need to answer. If (when) we reviewed your daily life, we'd undoubtedly find there is one and only one issue to which you apply this "logic"--religion.

Re:yeah, newspaper of a child-killing cult (1)

dywolf (2673597) | about 8 months ago | (#45494071)

mod this up.
(i would, but i already commented)

Re:yeah, newspaper of a child-killing cult (1)

dywolf (2673597) | about 8 months ago | (#45494057)

again: you know nothing about the paper itself, other than its origin, and you are attacking it based on that, and that alone. you can hate the religious sect all you want, but the paper is SEPERATE and DISTINCT from the religious group. it'd be like hating an internationally recognized and award winning newspaper...because it was owned by L Ron Hubbard who also started scientology. Just because she started both things, does not make one invalid simply becaus eyou consider the other invalid.

and in fact, the paper's reputation is stellar.

Despite its name, the Monitor does not claim to be a religious-themed paper, and says it does not promote the doctrine of its patron church. However, at its founder Eddy's request, a daily religious article has appeared in every issue of the Monitor. Eddy also required the inclusion of "Christian Science" in the paper's name, over initial opposition by some of her advisors who thought the religious reference might repel a secular audience.

Monitor staff have been the recipients of seven Pulitzer Prizes, the most recent in 2002.

1950, Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting: Edmund Stevens, for his series of 43 articles written over a three-year residence in Moscow entitled, "This Is Russia Uncensored."[8]
1967, Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting: R. John Hughes, For his thorough reporting of Indonesia's attempted Transition to the New Order in 1965 and the purge that followed in 1965–66.[9]
1968, Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting: Howard James, for his series of articles, Crisis in the Courts.[10]
1969, Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting: Robert Cahn, for his inquiry into the future of our national parks and the methods that may help to preserve them.[11]
1978, Pulitzer Prize Special Citations and Awards, Journalism: Richard Strout, for distinguished commentary from Washington over many years as staff correspondent for The Christian Science Monitor and contributor to The New Republic.[12]
1996, Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting: David Rohde, for his persistent on-site reporting of the slaughter of thousands of Bosnian Muslims in the Srebrenica Genocide.[13]
2002, Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Cartooning: Clay Bennett[14]
In April 2003, after being provided documents by a former Iraqi General, several news organizations (including the Monitor) reported that George Galloway was accused by a U.S. Senate Committee led by Norm Coleman of personally profiting from corruption within the United Nations Oil-for-Food program. The Monitor investigated the matter, concluding that the documents were "almost certainly forgeries," and, in response to a lawsuit by Galloway, apologized in court.[15]

In 2006, Jill Carroll, a freelance reporter for the Monitor, was kidnapped in Baghdad, and released safely after 82 days. Although Carroll was initially a freelancer, the paper worked tirelessly for her release, even hiring her as a staff writer shortly after her abduction to ensure that she had financial benefits, according to Bergenheim.[16] Beginning in August 2006, the Monitor published an account[17] of Carroll's kidnapping and subsequent release, with first-person reporting from Carroll and others involved.

Re:yeah, newspaper of a child-killing cult (1)

dywolf (2673597) | about 8 months ago | (#45494065)

also, supporting the paper, DOES NOT SUPPORT THE CHURCH. again. seperate. one does not fund or publish the other, or vice versa.

MONEY FROM THE CSM GOES TO CS (1)

SuperBanana (662181) | about 8 months ago | (#45494345)

How many times does this need to be said?

When you give advertising or subscription money to CSM, that's money going to CS.

These days the CSM is just another way they establish themselves as legit; it's branding, pure and simple.

Re:MONEY FROM THE CSM GOES TO CS (2)

khallow (566160) | about 8 months ago | (#45494641)

When you give advertising or subscription money to CSM, that's money going to CS.

That's the point of paying for a good service. You want the money to go to who is providing the service.

Re:yeah, newspaper of a child-killing cult (1)

blue trane (110704) | about 8 months ago | (#45496313)

Wait, I thought prescribing antibiotics is killing children by breeding superrestistant bacterial strains

Re:Question (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45492983)

You are speaking to people who think Steven Colbert and Al Sharpton are credible "reporters".

Re:Question (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45493169)

Sad but true.

Re:Question (1)

blue trane (110704) | about 8 months ago | (#45496363)

Everyone knows Lara Logan is the most credible!

Re:Question (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45492693)

The Christian Science Monitor is owned by the 'Church of Christ, Scientist'; however the church doesn't interfere with the magazine.

Despite it's name and provenience, it's actually a well respected and credible organization.

No creationism or other superstitious nonsense there.

Re:Question (5, Informative)

CRCulver (715279) | about 8 months ago | (#45492719)

My problem is thining that a report from something calling itself "Christian Science Monitor" on anything cutting edge in astronomy is entirely suspect.

Only if you are entirely uninformed about American media. The CSM has no further connection to Christian Science in its editorial policy than the name its bylaws have stuck it with. (Even Mary Baker Eddy's desire that there be coverage of a religious theme has been opened up to any of the world's religions at all). It has won a number of Pulitzers [wikipedia.org] and is one of the most respected publications in the country.

Re:Question (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45493099)

"My problem is thining that a report from something calling itself "Christian Science Monitor" on anything cutting edge in astronomy is entirely suspect."
This is typical from people that know nothing at all about science.

Re:Question (1)

Anubis IV (1279820) | about 8 months ago | (#45495303)

I actually loaded up the story just to see how many comments it would take this time before someone blasted it as untrustworthy on account of its name. Happens every time CSM comes up. You didn't disappoint.

And yeah, as others have said, they're extremely reputable and have essentially nothing to do with Christian Science, other than carrying their name.

Re:Question (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45492621)

gravitational collapse

Re:Question (4, Funny)

SJHillman (1966756) | about 8 months ago | (#45492639)

From what I remember from 6th grade science class:
Stars mainly use hydrogen/helium as nuclear fuel. However, once those run out, it begins to collapse as gravity takes over. The compression forces it to begin fusing heavier elements, which gives it a renewed burst of energy, thus causing it to explode outwards. You could argue that the heavier elements are still nuclear fuel, but it's not the primary fuel of the star throughout its life so that's basically just an argument of semantics.

Alternative explanation: Hollywood has taught us that random objects may explode at any moment, even in the absence of combustibles or pressure.

Re:Question (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45492691)

Alternative explanation: Hollywood has taught us that random objects may explode at any moment, even in the absence of combustibles or pressure.

Certain aspects of quantum theory teach us the same thing.

Re:Question (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45492777)

Alternative explanation: Hollywood has taught us that random objects may explode at any moment, even in the absence of combustibles or pressure.

Certain aspects of quantum theory teach us the same thing.

Almost, quantum theory explicitly requires an observer. Hollywood implicitly assumes observers paying $15 a ticket and another $40 for the BlurRay in 3 months. In fact, Hollywood assumes all possible observers will be observing and paying the full rates, so anything short of those predictions are losses due to piracy.

Re:Question (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45493213)

"quantum theory explicitly requires an observer."

Entirely wrong.

Quantum theory does not require an observer any more than fish require aqualungs.

Re:Question (2)

HiThere (15173) | about 8 months ago | (#45494921)

Well, as normally stated, quantum theory DOES require an observer. It does not require that the observer be sentient. Any electromagnetic interaction will do. Also strong or weak force interactions. Probably gravity, too, but that's just a bit difficult to observe.

Typically experiments use electrons or photons as the primary observers, but nearly anything will work, with varying degrees of sensitivity.

OTOH, as a believer in the Many-Worlds interpretation, I think that the observation just details which of the worlds you have ended up in. And I also believe in multiple pasts as well as multiple futures. (And the only thing special about this present, is that it's the one that you are observing from.)

Re:Question (1)

umafuckit (2980809) | about 8 months ago | (#45492775)

The compression forces it to begin fusing heavier elements, which gives it a renewed burst of energy, thus causing it to explode outwards.

As I recall, stars will continue fusing elements up iron fairly happily. Elements heavier than iron are synthesised during the core collapse of a supernova. Probably someone will correct me, but I think that explosion is just release of gravitational potential energy.

Re:Question (2)

tibit (1762298) | about 8 months ago | (#45492797)

A gravitational collapse's release of energy doesn't need any nuclear reactions. Stuff simply falls down, so it converts gravitational potential energy into kinetic energy. Eventually it hits some other stuff hard, releasing said energy as photons.

Re:Question (3, Informative)

ChronoReverse (858838) | about 8 months ago | (#45492651)

Regular star fuel is hydrogen (and helium very late) which undergoes fusion.

When this fuel is exhausted, the star collapses under its own gravity. This can be extremely sudden (even in human terms).

The collapse can only go so far before the star is compressed to its limit. Where this limit is depends on how massive the star is. Unless the star is massive enough to crush right into a black hole, the collapse will also stop suddenly and "bounce back" as the core instantly reheats from the compression. This is the supernova explosion as all the stuff that normally wouldn't fuse goes and fuses anyway (this is where elements past iron come from).

Re:Question (1)

CRCulver (715279) | about 8 months ago | (#45492753)

When this fuel is exhausted, the star collapses under its own gravity.

It's own gravity is due to its own mass. However, if all fuel is exhausted, then what mass remains that the star is still endowed with such immense gravity? That is, what mass does a star have besides the helium and hydrogen that should be all gone at this point?

Re:Question (3, Informative)

MiniMike (234881) | about 8 months ago | (#45492845)

...what mass does a star have besides the helium and hydrogen that should be all gone at this point?

The hydrogen and helium are not gone, they're just converted (via fusion) to higher number elements which require more extreme conditions to be used as fuel. The fusion reaction is what releases the energy in a star, not a pure conversion of hydrogen to energy.

Re:Question (1)

CRCulver (715279) | about 8 months ago | (#45492893)

I see, so within the heart of the sun there is a huge mix of other elements as fusion products, even though from Earth we just see it as an undifferentiated ball of fire?

Re:Question (2)

ChronoReverse (858838) | about 8 months ago | (#45492979)

Well, that depends on whether it's a "first generation" star that began as just hydrogen or a second,third,fourth,etc. "generation" star that uses the gas from a previous star's supernova gas cloud thus incorporating some of the elements created during said supernova.

The Sun is still mostly hydrogen and helium but there are trrace amounts of other elements: http://csep10.phys.utk.edu/astr162/lect/sun/composition.html [utk.edu]

Since the Earth has elements that aren't hydrogen and helium, we know our Sun isn't a "first generation".

Re:Question (3, Interesting)

Whorhay (1319089) | about 8 months ago | (#45493445)

Which is where that whole bit about us being made of star dust comes from. It is not that we are formed of the same stuff that constitutes stars but that literally the atoms that make up our bodies, and most of our world were at some point formed inside a star.

Re:Question (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45493315)

we just see it as an undifferentiated ball of fire?

We don't see it as an undifferentiated ball of fire though. Spectroscopic analysis can tell you what elements are present at the surface. Helioseismology uses waves propagating through the Sun to determine structure of layers at deeper depths (much like done on Earth) and to determine how much mixing goes on (convection doesn't happen at all depths of the Sun, and different stars can have different convection zones). Things like isotropic ratios and neutrino measurements can add further constraints.

Re:Question (1)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about 8 months ago | (#45497389)

Whats even more interesting is that even the least dense gas in the sun, Hydrogen plasma, is compressed so ridiculously high because of the intense gravity that it's denser than lead. Think about that, and then think what the iron in the star must be like.

If you want to understand the process, read this:
http://abyss.uoregon.edu/~js/ast122/lectures/lec18.html [uoregon.edu]

Re:Question (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45492863)

It's only gone because during fusion it becomes something else. e.g. 2 Hydrogen atom fuse and create helium. Then it fuses the helium which creates carbon and then carbon becomes iron and then kabooooom can't do shit with iron.

Re:Question (2)

lgw (121541) | about 8 months ago | (#45492925)

You do realize that burning gasoline in your car engine doesn't change the mass of anything, right? That the mass of gas burned + mass of intake air = mass of exhaust?

And must like a catalytic converter will "burn" exhaust further, by subjecting it to different conditions, a star will briefly burn its own exhaust in the immense energy density that briefly exists as the star falls in on itself and reaches peak pressure before rebounding. All elements heavier than iron come from these brief moments in the large supernovas.

Re:Question (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45493361)

That the mass of gas burned + mass of intake air = mass of exhaust?

That should actually be:

mass of gas burned + mass of intake air = mass of exhaust + mass equivalent of energy released in the process

For something like gasoline burning, the mass equivalent of the energy released is way too small to measure or notice. For something like fusion, the mass converted to energy can be up to something more like a 0.25%, which is measurable. It can be lost from a star if released as photons or kinetic energy of neutrinos. Still insignificant gravitationally though.

Re:Question (5, Informative)

gstoddart (321705) | about 8 months ago | (#45492973)

It's own gravity is due to its own mass. However, if all fuel is exhausted, then what mass remains that the star is still endowed with such immense gravity? That is, what mass does a star have besides the helium and hydrogen that should be all gone at this point?

First of all, I'm not a physicist.

But, the fusion happening in a star means it's taking the hydrogen and helium and turning it into heavier elements like iron and the like. It's not "burning" fuel in the sense of consuming it and leaving smoke, but crazy big nuclear reactions are energetically making heavier kinds of matter (that's what fusion means, things are getting stuck together, as opposed to fission which is ripping things apart).

Once the crazy big nuclear reaction runs out, the forces keeping the star occupying a larger volume stop, and everything collapses in on itself.

Once that happens, it makes a really really big boom. Because eleventy zillion tons of hot iron and other stuff collapsing onto itself is, to make a huge understatement, exceedingly energetic -- to the point that it can briefly kick out things like gamma rays. (Because, as far as I understand, the magnitude of the collapse is well beyond anything we could even ponder and has a mass likely millions or billions of times that of the Earth.)

So the star hasn't exhausted its mass, it has exhausted its fuel. And then a really vast amount of mass collapses in on itself under its own gravity. And then we see some of the most energetic events we can even fathom. And the crazy collapse under gravity pushes matter to even more ridiculous levels of density, and then releases even more energy.

At least, that's my best understanding of it. I'm sure several people will tell me how horribly wrong I am. I already know it's horribly simplified.

Re:Question (1)

gmclapp (2834681) | about 8 months ago | (#45493777)

The fusion process is hydrogen being converted to helium. Mass is not destroyed in this process.

Re:Question (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45493983)

Pedantically, 0.7% of mass is lost, converted to energy by the proton-proton chain process. But your point stands.

Re:Question (1)

Cloudy Wheat Beer (3402263) | about 8 months ago | (#45495693)

0.7% of the mass of the core of a star is nothing to scoff at. It is an incredibly huge amount of mass that is getting converted to energy every second.

Re:Question (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45497165)

OK, I gotta interject here. The 0.7% mass loss is small in relation to the 99.3% remaining mass. However the entire energy output of the star, for it's full lifetime, comes from this loss of mass. If there's no conversion of matter to energy, there's no "star", there's just a dead lump of matter floating in space.

0.7% sounds like a rounding error, something so small you can dismiss or ignore it completely. It's not. Due to E = mc^2, that amount of matter results in a whopping amount of energy released.

Scientists prior to 100 years ago did not understand nuclear reactions. At all. Didn't even know they existed. So they calculated how much energy conventional combustion could release in an object the size of the sun. And the answer didn't make any sense because it was way, way, way too low.

Stars as a force in powering our universe are utterly dependent upon that 0.7%.

Re:Question (1)

gman003 (1693318) | about 8 months ago | (#45494237)

Hydrogen fuses to Helium. Helium fuses to Beryllium then Carbon. Carbon can fuse to numerous other elements - Oxygen, Neon, Magnesium, etc.

The problem is that fusing heavier elements gives less and less energy, and require more and more energy to trigger. Sol, for instance, will never start fusing Carbon into heavier elements. This causes the star to form distinct layers, as only deep within large stars does sufficient pressure exist to trigger heavier and heavier fusion.

Once you hit Iron*, it's a net negative - the reaction no longer produces energy. When a star's core fuses all the Silicon it can into Iron, the star stops producing energy. Note that, previously, that fusion energy had been "inflating" the star, keeping the outer layers from collapsing inward under the massive gravitational pull.

So the star collapses. As it does so, it generates a tremendous amount of energy - it's converting gravitational potential energy into anything else. Some of the energy gets used in further fission - this is where most heavy elements are made. But most of it is released in a violent explosion that blows off most of the outer layers, leaving behind a neutron star, black hole, or other weird-ass remnant.

* Technically an unstable isotope of Nickel that decays into Iron, but the end product is Iron

Re:Question (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45493241)

Regular star fuel is hydrogen

Yeah, but a star 10 times the mass of the sun is going to need Premium star fuel.

Re:Question (2)

Pino Grigio (2232472) | about 8 months ago | (#45492653)

The "burning" of the fuel is what generates the outward pressure that prevents a star collapsing under gravity, apparently. When it runs out of fuel to burn that outward pressure no longer exists, so gravitational collapse resumes, this time generating enormous energies and pressures. It "rebounds" and throws off its outer layers at stupendously high energy.

That is at least my layman's understanding of approximately how it works.

Re:Question (1)

Dishevel (1105119) | about 8 months ago | (#45492707)

Gravity compresses the star that compression is what creates the fusion that drives a star. The fusion wants to blow the star up. The gravity and the fusion work together for a while and you have a stable star. Once the fuel gets low the fusion slows. That expansive force dies out and gravity begins to win. It further compresses the star and can start fusing much heavier elements together this however is bad for the health of the star and results in things like supernova explosions when the mass of the star is high enough.

Re:Question (1)

umafuckit (2980809) | about 8 months ago | (#45492727)

If it exhausted its "nuclear fuel," how could it explode?

Briefly, (and I'm not an expert) a star is a balance of inward gravitational pull and fusion-generated thermal energy pushing out. If the fuel runs out the balance is disturbed, stuff falls inwards at vast speeds and a very impressive bang ensues. There are also other ways a star can go nova (e.g involving a small, dense, companion star). Details here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Supernova [wikipedia.org]

Re: Question (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45492741)

According to the Wikipedia.

In larger stars, fusion continues until the iron core has grown so large (more than 1.4 solar masses) that it can no longer support its own mass. This core will suddenly collapse as its electrons are driven into its protons, forming neutrons, neutrinos and gamma rays in a burst of electron capture and inverse beta decay. The shockwave formed by this sudden collapse causes the rest of the star to explode in a supernova

If it's less then 1.4 solar masses then no supernova will occur and the star collapses into a white dawf

Re:Question (1)

tibit (1762298) | about 8 months ago | (#45492757)

Once you're heavy enough, you're not statically stable. Without a source of energy, you collapse, and soon thereafter release the gravitational energy as photons.

Re:Question (1)

tippe (1136385) | about 8 months ago | (#45492987)

I'm by no way an expert, but I thought supernovas happen because a star runs out of the the lighter elements (Hydrogen, Helium, etc) which are easy to fuse. When this happens, the star collapses upon itself, greatly increasing internal pressure which causes the heavier elements to undergo fusion. It is this second level of fusion that causes the explosion, since it releases a lot more energy. Only really massive stars can go supernova because only they have enough mass to reach some sort of critical pressure that will allow the secondary fusion. Or, so I thought. I'm sure someone with more knowledge on the subject will come around shortly and set all of us straight...

Re:Question (2)

Ken D (100098) | about 8 months ago | (#45493417)

The fusion of heavier elements actually liberates less energy, and above some point (iron?) fusion of nuclei is a net loss of energy, which is why heavy elements are so much rarer than the lighter elements. They are all 'parasitic' losses of energy that are only produced during supernova.

A "binding energy" chart shows that light elements should be fused to release energy and heavy elements should be split to release energy. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Binding_energy_curve_-_common_isotopes.svg [wikipedia.org]

A less doomed one [Douglas Adams] (1)

careysb (566113) | about 8 months ago | (#45493205)

"Well what happened you see was," said the Captain, "our planet, the world from which we have come, was, so to speak, doomed." "Doomed?" "Oh yes. So what everyone thought was, let's pack the whole population into some giant spaceships and go and settle on another planet." Having told this much of his story, he settled back with a satisfied grunt. "You mean a less doomed one?" prompted Arthur.

Re:Question (1)

invid (163714) | about 8 months ago | (#45493215)

a star tens of times more massive than the sun that exhausted its nuclear fuel, exploded, then collapsed to form a black hole.

If it exhausted its "nuclear fuel," how could it explode?

When they say the fuel is "exhausted", what they really mean is that there is no longer enough to maintain an equilibrium with gravity. There is still a lot left. As gravity sucks down the remaining fuel it increases the pressure, heating it up enough for a big fusion reaction.

never a better time to consult with creation (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45492659)

momkind our spiritual centerpeace little miss dna could be the key to slowing our fear based hypenosys media mongrel supported infantocide epidemic

good spirits prevail is the rumour

On the up side ... (3, Funny)

fahrbot-bot (874524) | about 8 months ago | (#45492665)

... my marigolds [wikipedia.org] are doing great.

"I Get to Sit Home... I Get to Smoke Weed..." (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45492683)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a_r_v9cYBPY#t=69

This is what the Democrats are stealing your money for, the FSA votes Democrat and you know it.

So you work all day and pay your taxes and your money is used to buy weed for this one.

SO yea, bash on the Republicans and vote statist, real smart there people.

Re:"I Get to Sit Home... I Get to Smoke Weed..." (0)

blue trane (110704) | about 8 months ago | (#45497099)

Taxes are unnecessary. Fund the govt with Treasury bills. Imagine: instead of paying taxes, you have a free choice to buy t-bills that pay you interest.

Also, how come your taxes argument isn't used against the big corporations that get money from the govt? "Hey, I got money for creating toxic assets!"

this is what happens... (1)

prettything (965473) | about 8 months ago | (#45492701)

when a deathstar blows up. there'll be another one in a while.

Dispersion, anyone? (1)

tibit (1762298) | about 8 months ago | (#45492749)

some of the highest energy photons, including the new record-holder, appeared hours after the blast

One explanation is that the star is "weird" that way. Another explanation is dispersion in the interstellar- and intergalactic medium between the star and us. I mean, come on, we don't really know much about the intergalactic medium's dispersion for such energetic photons, since the only way to observe it would be via gamma ray bursts, right? I know zilch about the subject, so I'd really like to hear from an astrophysicist or two who happen upon this. As far as I'm concerned, the star could be weird, or the medium could be weird, or maybe both. Thanks!

Re:Dispersion, anyone? (1, Informative)

tibit (1762298) | about 8 months ago | (#45492815)

Let's face it: over 3 billion light years, it doesn't take much dispersion for things to arrive with a 20 hour delay. We're talking parts-per-trillion here.

Lensing (2)

justthinkit (954982) | about 8 months ago | (#45493279)

Right. Gravitational lensing would do the trick.

Re:Dispersion, anyone? (1)

lgw (121541) | about 8 months ago | (#45492999)

IANAAP, but impedance is a better word than dispersion. Much like the speed of light through a prism varies by frequency, the speed of light through the interstellar medium (which is called vacuum, but is not some Platonic ideal of vacuum) should vary just a bit by frequency. Of course, that's not going to surprise anyone in the filed, so presumably the numbers aren't quite as expected even accounting for that.

The effect is very small, and I agree this could be telling us about the "vacuum" as easily as it could be telling us about the speed of light in an (ideal) vacuum.

Re:Dispersion, anyone? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45493281)

impedance is a better word than dispersion.

No, it really isn't.

Re:Dispersion, anyone? (1)

tibit (1762298) | about 8 months ago | (#45493949)

Let's not forget that dispersion is solely due to interaction of photons with electrons in atoms. In ideal vacuum, there's no "small" effect to observe, since there's no electrons (atom-bound or otherwise) for photons to interact with. Case closed.

Of course, back in the real world, over 3 billion years, there's no such thing as a vacuum. There's stuff in there all right. Even the best pseudo-vacuum the universe can throw at us becomes very much non-vacuumy over such distances. Since you're shooting those x- and gamma-rays through 3 billion years worth of non-vacuum, dispersion is to be expected.

I have no idea where did your suggestion for the word "impedance" come from, it makes no sense.

Re:Dispersion, anyone? (1)

lgw (121541) | about 8 months ago | (#45496511)

Impedance, in the abstract, is that factor that limits the speed that a wave propagates. If light at one frequency (e.g., gamma) is slower than light at another (e.g. visible), then impedance differs by frequency. The speed light moves is limits by (ideal) vacuum impedance, by the absorption and re-emission due to electron interaction (dispersive or otherwise), and by interaction with virtual electron-positron pairs and other vacuum quantum effects. All of these contribute to impedance, dispersion is a specific case.

And I wouldn't blindly assume that dispersion is solely at work here. Perhaps the extreme high energy of the photons in this gamma burst interact with vacuum quantum effects in a different way than visible light due to the remarkably short wavelength.

Re:Dispersion, anyone? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45493395)

You could see correlations with distance or how much stuff is in between you and the source if that was the case. GRB 130427A they are talking about in this case is in the top 5 closest GRBs seen list, so it can't be an effect just from vacuum, and would come down to if there is a lot of stuff in the way.

Re:Dispersion, anyone? (1)

tibit (1762298) | about 8 months ago | (#45494069)

The "a lot of stuff in the way" is a one part-per-trillion effect [google.com] , so it's not all that easy to tell if there "is" a lot of stuff other than by dispersion! You'll not see it in purely transmissive/absorptive spectral properties unless we have spectrometers that good - ones that have to work from optical all the way to gamma rays, by the way.

Get it through your head... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45492779)

Time is not a constant. Duh.

filibuster (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45492795)

NYT 1995 - using the filibuster to stop Clinton judges is wrong.
2005 - "we were wrong." The Dems using the filibuster to stop Bush judges is great.
2013 - using the filibuster to stop Obama judges is wrong.
2017 - we were wrong, The Dems using the filibuster to stop Repub judges is great.

Re:filibuster (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45497141)

Filibusters have jumped more than the national debt since Obama became president.

My crack-brained theory: (1)

Narcocide (102829) | about 8 months ago | (#45492813)

Someone blew it up on purpose.

Re:My crack-brained theory: (1)

nicoleb_x (1571029) | about 8 months ago | (#45492937)

Yep, we may be looking at the results of a long ago war or terrible accident. Of course, maybe we don't know Jack.

not unusual (-1, Flamebait)

slashmydots (2189826) | about 8 months ago | (#45492851)

So they're wrong about well established fact again. Wonderful. I'm sure dark matter exists though. The only evidence is math but still. I mean they have a planets with oxygen count for about a 1000 light year radius and can't even tell what's in the atmosphere on a moon inside our own solar system but I'm sure everything else astronomers do is 100% accurate.

Re:not unusual (1)

Sperbels (1008585) | about 8 months ago | (#45493211)

I mean they have a planets with oxygen count for about a 1000 light year radius and can't even tell what's in the atmosphere on a moon inside our own solar system

What moon can't they determine the atmospheric makeup of? It's a pretty straight forward and well understood process...I think most of us learn about it around the age of 10. The light from the sun is reflected off the moon's atmosphere, picked up by a telescope and run through a prism. Certain elements absorb specific wavelengths of light. So you look at the spectrum and see which wavelengths are missing and you know what elements are in the atmosphere.

Re:not unusual (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45493217)

So they're wrong about well established fact again. Wonderful.

The theory here was never well established fact. It was a long standing theory, because we've only recently had the tools to test it.

Re:not unusual (4, Informative)

similar_name (1164087) | about 8 months ago | (#45493375)

There's hardly well established fact in science. There are observations. Theories are explanations of those observations. Given our observations, we make an explanation. That's called a theory. When an observation contradicts that explanation we adjust the explanation or wind up replacing it. That's how progress goes. I agree though, not unusual for science to respond to new observations.

Re:not unusual (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45494477)

The only evidence is math but still.

So is the evidence in nearly every modern theory in physics, astronomy, and other science fields. Sometimes the evidence is math applied to a large set of data because you can test things on a table top, sometimes it is for a small set of data limited by observation or experiments being expensive.

"Scientists Forced To Reexamine Theories" (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45492871)

Seriously? Like they'd sit around in their labs all day doing nothing but now! - oh noes, they are forced to reexamine theories! Yup, that's not at all what science is about.

In other news: Programmers forced to refactor ancient code!

Mega-Deathstar (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45492895)

Ladies and Gentlemen. You have just witnessed the destruction of the single most powerful weapon the universe has ever known.. The Mega-Deathstar!!

It's only flaw was forgetting to design a safety latch over the self-destruct button, then placing it next to the [ Fire ] button.

* In truth; the design "flaw" was done on purpose by a disgruntled Empire functionary, whose Galaxy was then destroyed by the explosion and quantum chain-reaction.

Re:Mega-Deathstar (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45492929)

Ladies and Gentlemen. You have just witnessed the destruction of the single most powerful weapon the universe has ever known.. The Mega-Deathstar!!

It's only flaw was forgetting to design a safety latch over the self-destruct button, then placing it next to the [ Fire ] button.

* In truth; the design "flaw" was done on purpose by a disgruntled Empire functionary, whose Galaxy was then destroyed by the explosion and quantum chain-reaction.

Sounds like the end of Star Wars IX, no more books after that. And damn, when they said far far away they really meant it.

Re:Mega-Deathstar (1)

dimeglio (456244) | about 8 months ago | (#45493109)

That was the beta version. We fixed this at least 1.5 billion years ago.

Re:Mega-Deathstar (1)

mmell (832646) | about 8 months ago | (#45496329)

Stewie (Darth Vader): Can't we board it up or, you know, put some plywood over it or something?

Admiral Motti: Well, that would look terrible. I mean, we gotta think about resale.

Stewie (Darth Vader): Resale? What are you talking about? This property is right above Sunset. The value is only going to go up.

Admiral Motti: Lord Vader, your inside references to the Los Angeles real estate market haven't given you the clairvoyance to turn a profit on that condo in Glendale. Nor has it...

Stewie (Darth Vader): [Vader begins to choke him] I find your lack of faith disturbing. That property is in a prime location! Twenty minutes to the beach, twenty minutes to downtown!

Admiral Motti: [choking] There's nothing to do downtown!

Mayor Adam West (Grand Moff Tarkin): Enough of this! Vader, release him!

Stewie (Darth Vader): As you wish.

[releases Tagge]

Stewie (Darth Vader): All right, so were' going to plug up that hole?

Imperial Officer: Yeah, we can get it done tomorrow if price is no object

. Stewie (Darth Vader): Ehhhh...

Imperial Officer: We'll get estimates.

Stewie (Darth Vader): Get estimates, yeah, yeah.

Radius of Sterilization? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45493113)

With a burst this big, how big is the planet sterilization zone around it?

I'm trying to combine that with Drake's Equation [wikipedia.org] to see how many sentient life forms we lost...

recorded just prior to the event (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45493249)

Mechanic: Somebody set up us the bomb.
Operator: Main screen turn on.
CATS: All your base are belong to us.
Captain: Move 'ZIG'.
Captain: For great justice.

Perfect time to be a Physicist! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45493257)

It seems now would be a great time to be a Physicist. Yes, unquestionably back when Tesla, Edison and Einstein were around would have been awesomely surreal. However, it seems there's presently no limit to theory reevaluation going on. No theory is safe from being scrapped.

That said, I'm still waiting for our theory of gravity to be unassumingly turned upside down. NO, I don't hope gravity reverses itsel! There's no question what we have works for what we do, however it is still just a theory.

That's a long time (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45493307)

It took 3.8B years to get here. That's a long time, a lot could have happened to it during the trip. Besides the usual stopping to go to the bathroom and running out of gas.

Science! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45493357)

Scientists forced to reexamine theories in light of new evidence, news at 11! It's like these Scientists are doing... science...

In the light... (1)

GameMaster (148118) | about 8 months ago | (#45493423)

They won't be reexamining much for very long if they keep standing in the light of a massive gamma-ray burst (by which, of course, I mean that it's hard to take the time to examine anything if you're constantly flipping out and going on green-skinned rampages).

Hangout (1)

symbolset (646467) | about 8 months ago | (#45493711)

There is a Google Hangout with the principal investigators on this going on right now. Search for "supernova" in Hangouts or catch the YouTube later.

we've just learned to walk (1)

marauder-2c (1882886) | about 8 months ago | (#45493935)

the model for GRB's is not one that's been carved in stone. to be honest, GRB's are not very well understood. the reason for this is that you have to be lucky to detect one AND then be fast enough to point enough telescopes at it to gather enough data for a somewhat stable mathematical model. not so long ago, we didn't really have any clue WTF happened, so I'm not surprised that the models fall short to explain rare occurrences. i've had gamma ray astronomers in the offices next door using satellites like GLAST or XMM for observations, and they were often discussing distinctly different possibilities for GRB.

Ultimate Kickstarter (1)

postagoras (129170) | about 8 months ago | (#45494445)

We are developing this exciting new energy source and will continue testing it in the outer spiral arms of the Milky Way, where there's no intelligent life.

For one: (1)

Culture20 (968837) | about 8 months ago | (#45494505)

Zero Hulks were reported having been seen.

Re:For one: (1)

triffid_98 (899609) | about 8 months ago | (#45494671)

Zero Hulks were reported having been seen.

Just wait for Thanksgiving/Black Friday, they're not under stress yet.

Also...I for one welcome our green testosterone filled overlords.

Down the drain (1)

Mister Liberty (769145) | about 8 months ago | (#45494713)

With Adam, Noach (rhymes with Coach?) and the whole
Christian Science monitored lot.

3.8 billion light-years away (1)

sseymour1978 (939809) | about 8 months ago | (#45496727)

While typical long-duration bursts last from a few seconds to a few minutes, GRB 130427A put on its display for 20 hours. ... [W]ith GRB 130427A, some of the highest energy photons, including the new record-holder, appeared hours after the blast.

Maybe light speed varied for particles that arrived here so that "typical" couple minute burst now looks like 20 hour burst ? Reason for that could be particles crossed some dust clowd or some other fenomen.

God damned reality (1)

msobkow (48369) | about 8 months ago | (#45496991)

Always proving our theories wrong and making mankind look dumb.

Heaven forbid our scientific community should just admit 90% of what they "know" is nothing more than a reasonable guess based on virtually no evidence on the cosmological scale.

Answer the phone (1)

DoctorStarks (736111) | about 8 months ago | (#45497391)

It's clear that our failure to respond to the extraterrestrials shorter burst of gamma rays have led them to try to get our attention with much bigger and more powerful technology.

Will someone please answer that phone?!

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