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  • richardmitnick 2:48 pm on April 30, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Angela Olinto, , , , , EUSO-SPB-Extreme Universe Space Observatory Super Pressure Balloon, Ultrahigh-energy cosmic rays, ,   

    From WIRED: “Women in STEM -“A Cosmic-Ray Hunter Closes in on Super-Energetic Particles” Angela Olinto 

    Wired logo


    Angela Olinto in Wanaka, New Zealand, in March.Alpine Images for Quanta Magazine

    On April 25, at 10:50 am local time, a white helium balloon ascended from Wanaka, New Zealand, and lifted Angela Olinto’s hopes into the stratosphere. The football stadium-size NASA balloon, now floating 20 miles above the Earth, carries a one-ton detector that Olinto helped design and see off the ground. Every moonless night for the next few months, it will peer out at the dark curve of the Earth, hunting for the fluorescent streaks of mystery particles called “ultrahigh-energy cosmic rays” crashing into the sky. The Extreme Universe Space Observatory Super Pressure Balloon (EUSO-SPB) experiment will be the first ever to record the ultraviolet light from these rare events by looking down at the atmosphere instead of up. The wider field of view will allow it to detect the streaks at a faster rate than previous, ground-based experiments, which Olinto hopes will be the key to finally figuring out the particles’ origin.

    Olinto, the leader of the seven-country EUSO-SPB experiment, is a professor of astrophysics at the University of Chicago. She grew up in Brazil and recalls that during her “beach days in Rio” she often wondered about nature. Over the 40 years since she was 16, Olinto said, she has remained captivated by the combined power of mathematics and experiments to explain the universe. “Many people think of physics as hard; I find it so elegant, and so simple compared to literature, which is really amazing, but it’s so varied that it’s infinite,” she said. “We have four forces of nature, and everything can be done mathematically. Nobody’s opinions matter, which I like very much!”

    Olinto has spent the last 22 years theorizing about ultra high-energy cosmic rays. Composed of single protons or heavier atomic nuclei, they pack within quantum proportions as much energy as baseballs or bowling balls, and hurtle through space many millions of times more energetically than particles at the Large Hadron Collider, the world’s most powerful accelerator. “They’re so energetic that theorists like me have a hard time coming up with something in nature that could reach those energies,” Olinto said. “If we didn’t observe these cosmic rays, we wouldn’t believe they actually would be produced.”

    Olinto and her collaborators have proposed that ultrahigh-energy cosmic rays could be emitted by newly born, rapidly rotating neutron stars, called “pulsars.” She calls these “the little guys,” since their main competitors are “the big guys”: the supermassive black holes that churn at the centers of active galaxies. But no one knows which theory is right, or if it’s something else entirely. Ultrahigh-energy cosmic rays pepper Earth so sparsely and haphazardly—their paths skewed by the galaxy’s magnetic field—that they leave few clues about their origin. In recent years, a hazy “hot spot” of the particles coming from a region in the Northern sky seems to be showing up in data collected by the Telescope Array in Utah.

    Cosmic Ray Telescope Array Project at Delta, Utah by Roger J. Wendell – 08

    But this potential clue has only compounded the puzzle: Somehow, the alleged hot spot doesn’t spill over at all into the field of view of the much larger and more powerful Pierre Auger Observatory in Argentina.

    Pierre Auger Observatory Pierre Auger Observatory in the western Mendoza Province, Argentina, near the Andes

    To find out the origin of ultrahigh-energy cosmic rays, Olinto and her colleagues need enough data to produce a map of where in the sky the particles come from—a map that can be compared with the locations of known cosmological objects. “In the cosmic ray world, the big dream is to point,” she said during an interview at a January meeting of the American Physical Society in Washington, DC.

    She sees the current balloon flight as a necessary next step. If successful, it will serve as a proof of principle for future space-based ultrahigh-energy cosmic-ray experiments, such as her proposed satellite detector, Poemma (Probe of Extreme Multi-Messenger Astrophysics).

    The POEMAS system to monitor the sun at 45/90 GHz with circular polarization. Guigue

    While in New Zealand in late March preparing for the balloon launch, Olinto received the good news from NASA that Poemma had been selected for further study.

    Olinto wants answers, and she has an ambitious timeline for getting them. An edited and condensed version of our conversations in Washington and on a phone call to New Zealand follows.

    QUANTA MAGAZINE: What was your path to astrophysics and ultrahigh-energy cosmic rays?

    ANGELA OLINTO: I was really interested in the basic workings of nature: Why three families of quarks? What is the unified theory of everything? But I realized how many easier questions we have in astrophysics: that you could actually take a lifetime and go answer them. Graduate school at MIT showed me the way to astrophysics — how it can be an amazing route to many questions, including how the universe looks, how it functions, and even particle physics questions. I didn’t plan to study ultrahigh-energy cosmic rays; but every step it was, “OK, it looks promising.”

    Extreme Universe Space Observatory Super Pressure Balloon (EUSO-SPB)

    How long have you been trying to answer this particular question?

    In 1995, we had a study group at Fermilab for ultrahigh-energy cosmic rays, because the AGASA (Akeno Giant Air Shower Array) experiment was seeing these amazing events that were so energetic that the particles broke a predicted energy limit known as the “GZK cutoff.” I was studying magnetic fields at the time, and so Jim Cronin, who just passed away last year in August—he was a brilliant man, charismatic, full of energy, lovely man—he asked that I explain what we know about cosmic magnetic fields. At that time the answer was not very much, but I gave him what we did know. And because he invited me I got to learn what he was up to. And I thought, wow, this is pretty interesting.

    Later you helped plan and run Pierre Auger, an array of detectors spread across 3,000 square kilometers of Argentinian grassland. Did you actually go around and persuade farmers to let you put detectors on their land?

    Not me; it was the Argentinian team who did the amazing job of talking to everybody. The American team helped build a planetarium and a school in that area, so we did interact with them, but not directly on negotiations over land. In Argentina it was like this: You get a big fraction of folks who are very excited and part of it from the beginning. Gradually you got through the big landowners. But eventually we had a couple who were really not interested. So we had two regions in the middle of the array that were empty of the detectors for quite some time, and then we finally closed it.

    Space is much easier in that sense; it’s one instrument and no one owns the atmosphere. On the other hand, the nice thing about having all the farmers involved is that Malargüe, the city in Argentina that has had the detectors deployed, has changed completely. The students are much more connected to the world and speak English. Some are coming to the US for undergraduate and even graduate school eventually. It’s been a major transformation for a small town where nobody went to college before. So that was pretty amazing. It took a huge outreach effort and a lot of time, but this was very important, because we needed them to let us in.

    Why is space the next step?

    To go the next step on the ground—to get 30,000 square kilometers instrumented—is something I tried to do, but it’s really difficult. It’s hard enough with 3,000; it was crazy to begin with, but we did it. To get to the next order of magnitude seems really difficult. On the other hand, going to space you can see 100 times more volume of air in the same minute. And then we can increase by orders of magnitude the ability to see ultrahigh-energy cosmic rays, see where they are coming from, how they are produced, what objects can reach these kinds of energies.

    What will we learn from EUSO-SPB?

    We will not have enough data to revolutionize our understanding at this point, but we will show how it can be done from space. The work we do with the balloon is really in preparation for something like Poemma, our proposed satellite experiment. We plan to have two telescopes free-flying and communicating with each other, and by recording cosmic-ray events with both of the them we should be able to also reproduce the direction and composition very precisely.

    Speaking of Poemma, do you still teach a class called Cosmology for Poets?

    We don’t call it that anymore, but yes. What it entails is teaching nonscience majors what we know about the history of the universe: what we’ve learned and why we think it is the way it is, how we measure things and how our scientific understanding of the history of the universe is now pretty interesting. First, we have a story that works brilliantly, and second, we have all kinds of puzzles like dark matter and dark energy that are yet to be understood. So it gives the sense of the huge progress since I started looking at this. It’s unbelievable; in my lifetime it’s changed completely, and mostly due to amazing detections and observations.

    One thing I try to do in this course is to mix in some art. I tell them to go to a museum and choose an object or art piece that tells you something about the universe—that connects to what we talked about in class. And here my goal is to just make them dream a bit free from all the boundaries of science. In science there’s right and wrong, but in art there are no easy right and wrong answers. I want them to see if they can have a personal attachment to the story I told them. And I think art helps me do that.

    You’ve said that when you left Brazil for MIT at 21, you were suffering from a serious muscle disease called polymyositis, which also recurred in 2006. Did those experiences contribute to your drive to push the field forward?

    I think this helps me not get worked up about small stuff. There are always many reasons to give up when working on high-risk research. I see some colleagues who get worked up about things that I’m like, whatever, let’s just keep going. And I think that attitude to minimize things that are not that big has to do with being close to death. Being that close, it’s like, well, everything is positive. I’m very much a positive person and most of the time say, let’s keep pushing. I think having a question that is not answered that is well posed is a very good incentive to keep moving.

    Between the “big guys” and the “little guys”—black holes versus pulsating neutron stars—what’s your bet for which ones produce ultrahigh-energy cosmic rays?

    I think it’s 50-50 at this point—both can do it and there’s no showstopper on either side—but I root always for the underdog. It looks like ultrahigh-energy cosmic rays have a heavier composition, which helps the neutron star case, since we had heavy elements in our neutron star models from the beginning. However, it’s possible that supermassive black holes do the job, too, and basically folks just imagine that the bigger the better, so the supermassive black holes are usually a little bit ahead. It could be somewhere in the middle: intermediate-mass black holes. Or ultrahigh-energy cosmic rays could be related to other interesting phenomena, like fast radio bursts, or something that we don’t know anything about.

    When do you think we’ll know for sure?

    You know how when you climb the mountain—I rarely look at where I’m going. I look at the next two steps. I know I’m going to the top but I don’t look at the top, because it’s difficult to do small steps when the road is really long. So I don’t try to predict exactly. But I would imagine—we have a decadal survey process, so that takes quite some time, and then we have another decade—so let’s say, in the 2030s we should know the answer.

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 1:24 pm on April 30, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , MLT-mixing length theory, part I, Radiative diffusion, The life and death of stars, The stellar evolution conspiracy   

    From astrobites: “The stellar evolution conspiracy, part I” 

    Astrobites bloc


    Apr 30, 2017
    Leonardo dos Santos

    Article: Confronting uncertainties in stellar physics II. Exploring differences in main-sequence stellar evolution tracks
    Authors: R. J. Stancliffe, L. Fossati, J.-C. Passy and F. R. N. Schneider
    First author’s institution: Argelander-Institut für Astronomie, University of Bonn
    Status: Published in Astronomy & Astrophysics (February 2016), open access

    Practically all areas of research in astrophysics depend on how well we understand the life and death of stars. Habitability of exoplanets? Yes. Evolution of galaxies? Definitely. The nature of dark matter? Yup. The search for extraterrestrial life? You bet. This is such a crucial component of astrophysics that I decided to discuss the issue in more than one bite (the next one is coming soon). Stars are ubiquitous and drive countless phenomena in the universe. And that is why, at the end of every day, I always ask myself: how much should we trust our understanding of stellar evolution?

    The Pleiades cluster in infrared. This well-known object is a laboratory for testing theories of stellar evolution and structure. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA

    No need for alternative facts

    Now, I don’t want to sound like a conspiracy theorist or anything, but this is something that is keeping some of us awake at night. Let’s start with the Achilles’ Heel of modern astrophysics: ages of stars. Except for very special cases, stellar ages are particularly tricky to measure because stars change very little throughout their lifetimes. To complicate things further, small changes in the interior structure of a star can produce significant changes in its surface chemical composition. This is why we need our models to be very accurate so that we can have decent estimates of the physical properties of stars (notice that I said “decent”, and not “good”).

    There are many stellar evolution models out there and they are very similar, but it is not clear if any of them are even correct. For starters, it is practically impossible to compute stellar evolution from the first principles of physics, which is why we have to appeal to a series of simplifications and assumptions. Different authors apply different theoretical shortcuts, leading to the emergence of different models.

    Window-shopping stellar evolution models

    Suppose you observed a star identical to the Sun with the Gaia spacecraft and you want to estimate, say, its mass (see Meredith’s bite for a summary on how this estimation can be performed).

    ESA/GAIA satellite

    The authors of today’s paper found that, depending on which one of six available models is chosen, the mass of the star will be between 0.97 and 1.01 solar masses. That is actually a pretty good agreement, which means the models are consistent with each other (see Fig. 1). This is expected, because stellar evolution codes are usually calibrated to reproduce the Sun at its exact mass and age, which we know from other, more precise and accurate methods.

    Figure 1. Evolutionary tracks of a star identical to the Sun (atmosphere temperature in the x-axis, luminosity in the y-axis). The curves are for different models, and the sets of symbols represent different ages. The square corresponds to the observational uncertainties of the Gaia satellite. Notice that all models fall well inside the observational uncertainties, which signals that they are consistent.

    The significant differences start to emerge when we work with stars that have masses and ages that depart from solar values. These are the regimes where our uncertainties about the approximations and assumptions may catch us off-guard. The authors observed that the six stellar evolution models of stars with 3 solar masses are particularly divergent after the main sequence phase (see Fig. 2).

    Figure 2. Similar to Fig. 1, but for a star with 3 times the solar mass. Notice that the models are much more divergent in this case.

    How to mix a giant ball of plasma

    Another issue is that more recent developments in the theory of stellar structure, such as radiative diffusion (which we will discuss in part II), have an impact on the outcomes of models. When the authors tried to re-calibrate these changes with the Sun (using the openly available code MESA), they could not obtain a perfect global fit; it was either a good fit for the solar luminosity and temperature, or its chemical composition, but not all of them at the same time.

    Proposed by Erika Böhm-Vitense in 1958, one widely used approximation to model the convection of material in the atmospheres of stars is known as the mixing length theory (MLT). In a nutshell, the mixing length is the distance a convective cell traverses before dispersing itself. MLT has since been very successful in stellar evolution models, but it comes with a strong caveat: too many free parameters. That means that we observe a well known-star (e.g., the Sun) and calibrate these parameters so that the outcomes of models reproduce what we observe. Free parameters bother us because we don’t know to what extent they are applicable. An alternative to MLT that looks promising is the implementation of 3D hydrodynamical simulations of convection.

    In summary, it turns out that asking “what model should I choose?” is not that useful of a question; what we should actually ask is what are their assumptions and approximations. That way, we are able to analyze if the model is applicable or not to our research given its limitations. In the next part, we will discuss another development on stellar structure that is being heavily discussed by the community, and how it affects stellar age estimates and the search for cosmic siblings.

    See the full article here .

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    What do we do?

    Astrobites is a daily astrophysical literature journal written by graduate students in astronomy. Our goal is to present one interesting paper per day in a brief format that is accessible to undergraduate students in the physical sciences who are interested in active research.
    Why read Astrobites?

    Reading a technical paper from an unfamiliar subfield is intimidating. It may not be obvious how the techniques used by the researchers really work or what role the new research plays in answering the bigger questions motivating that field, not to mention the obscure jargon! For most people, it takes years for scientific papers to become meaningful.
    Our goal is to solve this problem, one paper at a time. In 5 minutes a day reading Astrobites, you should not only learn about one interesting piece of current work, but also get a peek at the broader picture of research in a new area of astronomy.

  • richardmitnick 9:03 pm on April 29, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: ,   

    From Scientific American: “The Creative Gifts of ADHD” 

    Scientific American

    Scientific American

    Beautiful Minds

    October 21, 2014 [Why just now?]
    Scott Barry Kaufman


    “Just because a diagnosis [of ADHD] can be made does not take away from the great traits we love about Calvin and his imaginary tiger friend, Hobbes. In fact, we actually love Calvin BECAUSE of his ADHD traits. Calvin’s imagination, creativity, energy, lack of attention, and view of the world are the gifts that Mr. Watterson gave to this character.” — The Dragonfly Forest

    In his 2004 book Creativity is Forever, Gary Davis reviewed the creativity literature from 1961 to 2003 and identified 22 reoccurring personality traits of creative people. This included 16 “positive” traits (e.g., independent, risk-taking, high energy, curiosity, humor, artistic, emotional) and 6 “negative” traits (e.g., impulsive, hyperactive, argumentative). In her own review of the creativity literature, Bonnie Cramond found that many of these same traits overlap to a substantial degree with behavioral descriptions of Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD)– including higher levels of spontaneous idea generation, mind wandering, daydreaming, sensation seeking, energy, and impulsivity.

    Research since then has supported the notion that people with ADHD characteristics are more likely to reach higher levels of creative thought and achievement than people without these characteristics. Recent research by Darya Zabelina and colleagues have found that real-life creative achievement is associated with the ability to broaden attention and have a “leaky” mental filter– something in which people with ADHD excel.

    Recent work in cognitive neuroscience also suggests a connection between ADHD and creativity (see here and here). Both creative thinkers and people with ADHD show difficulty suppressing brain activity coming from the “Imagination Network“:

    The Imagination Network

    Of course, whether this is a positive thing or a negative thing depends on the context. The ability to control your attention is most certainly a valuable asset; difficulty inhibiting your inner mind can get in the way of paying attention to a boring classroom lecture or concentrating on a challenging problem. But the ability to keep your inner stream of fantasies, imagination, and daydreams on call can be immensely conducive to creativity. By automatically treating ADHD characteristics as a disability– as we so often do in an educational context– we are unnecessarily letting too many competent and creative kids fall through the cracks.

    Nine percent of children aged 5-17 years old are labeled ADHD on average per year, and placed in special education programs. However, new data from The National Center for Learning Disabilities shows that only 1% of students who receive IDEA (Individuals With Disabilities Act) services are in gifted and talented programs, and only 2% are enrolled in an AP course. The report concludes that “students with learning and attention issues are shut out of gifted and AP programs, held back in grade level and suspended from school at higher rates than other students.”

    Why does this matter? Consider a new study [Osage Journals] conducted by C. Matthew Fugate and colleagues. They selected a population of students with ADHD characteristics who were part of a summer residential camp for gifted, creative, and talented students. The large majority of the students were selected for the program because they either scored in the 90th percentile or above on a standardized test, or had a GPA of 3.5 or greater in specific areas (e.g., mathematics, chemistry).

    The researchers then compared this ADHD group of students with a non-ADHD group of students who were participating in the same gifted program. They gave all the students tests of fluid reasoning, working memory, and creative cognition. Fluid reasoning involves the ability to infer relations and spot novel and complex patterns that draw on minimal prior knowledge and expertise. Working memory involves the ability to control attention and hold multiple streams of information in mind at once. They measured creative cognition by having the students come up with novel drawings that included one of the following elements: an oval shape, incomplete figures, and two straight lines.

    The researchers found that students with ADHD characteristics (especially those who scored high in “inattention”) had lower working memory scores than the non-ADHD students, even though they did not differ in their fluid reasoning ability. This is consistent with past research showing that people with ADHD tend to score lower on tests of working memory, but these findings also suggest that people with ADHD can still be quite smart despite their reduced ability to hold multiple pieces of information in memory. Also, despite their reduced working memory, 53% of the academically advanced students with ADHD characteristics scored at or above the 70th percentile on the creativity index. In fact, for both the ADHD and the non-ADHD group of students, the poorer the working memory, the higher the creativity!

    This obviously has some important educational implications. To be sure, ADHD can make it difficult for students to pay attention in class and organize their lives. The importance of learning key attentional control skills should not be undervalued. But let’s not throw out the baby with the bathwater. As the researchers note, “in the school setting, the challenge becomes how to create an environment in which creativity is emphasized as a pathway to learning as well as an outcome of learning.”

    One issue involves the identification of “twice exceptional” students and their appropriate educational programming. Assessments of creativity are notably absent from most gifted and talented programs in this country[Psychology Today]. Instead of automatically putting children with ADHD characteristics in special education, a broader assessment should be conducted. For one, IQ tests could be administered that focus less on working memory and memorization, and allows for a fairer assessment of fluid reasoning and non-sequential thought among this population of students.

    A broader assessment could also allow students with ADHD characteristics to display their creative strengths, including divergent thinking, imagination, and hyperfocus (when interested). People with ADHD often are able to focus better than others when they are deeply engaged in an activity that is personally meaningful to them. Recent research suggests that the brain network that people with ADHD have difficulty suppressing (the “Imagination Network”) is the same brain network that is conducive to flow and engagement among musicians, including jazz musicians and rappers!


    In terms of programming, problem-based learning (PBL) approaches may enable ADHD students to engage more with the material, and become active learners, rather than passive observers (see here). Additionally, learning can be assessed through project-based learning (PBL), in which students demonstrate their knowledge of the course material through the creation of different products (e.g., cartoons, role-playing, blogs, videos, newspaper articles), and the constant revision of these products.

    Of course, these same possibilities should extent to all students in the classroom, academically advanced or not. Because we never really know whether an ADHD characteristic is a learning impediment or a creative gift.

    Consider the case of John, who in 1949 attended Eton College and dreamed of becoming a scientist. However, last in his class, he received the following comment on his report card:

    “His work has been far from satisfactory… he will not listen, but will insist on doing his work in his own way… I believe he has ideas about becoming a Scientist; on his present showing this is quite ridiculous, if he can’t learn simple Biological facts he would have no chance of doing the work of a Specialist, and it would be a sheer waste of time on his part, and of those who have to teach him.”

    This was Sir John B. Gurdon, winner of the 2012 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his revolutionary research on stem cells. Like so many other highly creative, competent individuals, he might have been referred for testing and given the label “attention deficit hyperactive disorder”.

    It’s time to stop letting this happen.

    See the full article here .

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    Scientific American, the oldest continuously published magazine in the U.S., has been bringing its readers unique insights about developments in science and technology for more than 160 years.

  • richardmitnick 1:59 pm on April 29, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Ask Ethan: What should a black hole’s event horizon look like?, , , , , ,   

    From Ethan Siegel: “Ask Ethan: What should a black hole’s event horizon look like?” 

    Ethan Siegel
    Apr 29, 2017

    An illustration of a black hole. Despite how dark it is, all black holes are thought to have formed from normal matter alone, but illustrations like these are only partially accurate. Image credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech.

    You might think that it should be all black, but then how would we see it?

    “It is conceptually interesting, if not astrophysically very important, to calculate the precise apparent shape of the black hole… Unfortunately, there seems to be no hope of observing this effect.” -Jim Bardeen

    Earlier this month, telescopes from all around the world took data, simultaneously, of the Milky Way’s central black hole.

    Here is the Event Horizon Telescope Array

    Event Horizon Telescope map

    The locations of the radio dishes that will be part of the Event Horizon Telescope array. Image credit: Event Horizon Telescope sites, via University of Arizona at https://www.as.arizona.edu/event-horizon-telescope.

    Arizona Radio Observatory
    Arizona Radio Observatory/Submillimeter-wave Astronomy (ARO/SMT)

    Atacama Pathfinder EXperiment (APEX)

    CARMA Array no longer in service
    Combined Array for Research in Millimeter-wave Astronomy (CARMA)

    Atacama Submillimeter Telescope Experiment (ASTE)
    Atacama Submillimeter Telescope Experiment (ASTE)

    Caltech Submillimeter Observatory
    Caltech Submillimeter Observatory (CSO)

    IRAM NOEMA interferometer
    Institut de Radioastronomie Millimetrique (IRAM) 30m

    James Clerk Maxwell Telescope interior, Mauna Kea, Hawaii, USA
    James Clerk Maxwell Telescope interior, Mauna Kea, Hawaii, USA

    Large Millimeter Telescope Alfonso Serrano
    Large Millimeter Telescope Alfonso Serrano

    CfA Submillimeter Array Hawaii SAO
    Submillimeter Array Hawaii SAO

    ESO/NRAO/NAOJ ALMA Array, Chile

    Future Array/Telescopes

    Plateau de Bure interferometer
    Plateau de Bure interferometer

    South Pole Telescope SPTPOL
    South Pole Telescope SPTPOL

    Also involved:

    European VLBI

    Of all the black holes that are known in the Universe, the one at our galactic center — Sagittarius A* — is special.

    Sag A* NASA Chandra X-Ray Observatory 23 July 2014, the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way

    From our point of view, its event horizon is the largest of all black holes. It’s so large that telescopes positioned at different locations on Earth should be able to directly image it, if they all viewed it simultaneously. While it will take months to combine and analyze the data from all the different telescopes, we should get our first image of an event horizon by the end of 2017. So what will it looks like? That’s the question of Dan Barrett, who’s seen some illustrations and is a bit puzzled:

    Shouldn’t the event horizon completely surround the black hole like an egg shell? All the artist renderings of a black hole are like slicing a hard boiled egg in half and showing that image. How is it that the event horizon does not completely surround the black hole?

    There are a few different classes of illustrations floating around, to be sure. But which ones, if any, are correct?

    Artwork illustrating a simple black circle, perhaps with a ring around it, is an oversimplified picture of what an event horizon looks like. Image credit: Victor de Schwanberg.

    The oldest type of illustration is simply a circular, black disk, blocking out all the background light from behind it. This makes sense if you think about what a black hole actually is: a collection of mass that’s so great and so compact that the escape velocity from its surface is greater than the speed of light! Since nothing can move that quickly, not even the forces or interactions between the particles inside the black hole, the inside of a black hole collapses to a singularity, and an event horizon is created around the black hole. From this spherical region of space, no light can escape, and so it should appear as a black circle, from any perspective, superimposed on the background of the Universe.

    A black hole isn’t just a mass superimposed over an isolated background, but will exhibit gravitational effects that stretch, magnify and distort background light due to gravitational lensing. Image credit: Ute Kraus, Physics education group Kraus / Axel Mellinger.

    But there’s more to the story than that. Because of their gravity, black holes will magnify and distort any background light, due to the effect of gravitational lensing. This is a more detailed and accurate illustration of what a black hole looks like, as it also possesses an apparent event horizon sized appropriately with the curvature of space in General Relativity.

    Unfortunately, these illustrations are flawed, too: they fail to account for foreground material and for accretion around the black hole. Some illustrations, though, do successfully add these in.

    An illustration of an active black hole, one that accretes matter and accelerates a portion of it outwards in two perpendicular jets, may describe the black hole at the center of our galaxy in many regards. Image credit: Mark A. Garlick.

    Because of their tremendous gravitational effects, black holes will form accretion disks in the presence of other sources of matter. Asteroids, gas clouds, or even entire stars will be torn apart by the tidal forces coming from an object as massive as a black hole. Due to the conservation of angular momentum, and of collisions between the various infalling particles, a disk-like object will emerge around the black hole, which will heat up and emit radiation. In the innermost regions, particles occasionally fall in, adding to the mass of the black hole, while the material in front of the black hole will obscure part of the sphere/circle you’d otherwise see.

    But the event horizon itself isn’t transparent, and you shouldn’t be able to see the matter behind it.

    The black hole, as illustrated in the movie Interstellar, shows an event horizon fairly accurately for a very specific class of rotating black holes. Image credit: Interstellar / R. Hurt / Caltech.

    It might seem surprising that a Hollywood film — Interstellar — has a more accurate illustration of a black hole than many of the professional pieces of artwork created for/by NASA, but misconceptions abound, even among professionals, when it comes to black holes. Black holes don’t suck matter in; they simply gravitate. Black holes don’t tear things apart because of any extra force; it’s simply tidal forces — where one part of the infalling object is closer to the center than another — that does it. And most importantly, black holes rarely exist in a “naked” state, but rather exist in the vicinity of other matter, such as at the center of our galaxy.

    An X-ray / Infrared composite image of the black hole at the center of our galaxy: Sagittarius A*. It has a mass of about four million Suns, and is found surrounded by hot, X-ray emitting gas. Image credit: X-ray: NASA/UMass/D.Wang et al., IR: NASA/STScI.

    So with all of that in mind, what are the hard-boiled-egg images that have been going around? Remember, we can’t image the black hole itself, because it doesn’t emit light! All we can do is look at a particular wavelength, and see a combination of the emitting light that comes from around, behind and in front of the black hole itself. The expected signal, indeed, does resemble a split hard-boiled egg.

    Some of the possible profile signals of the black hole’s event horizon as simulations of the Event Horizon Telescope indicate. Image credit: High-Angular-Resolution and High-Sensitivity Science Enabled by Beamformed ALMA, V. Fish et al., arXiv:1309.3519

    ESO/NRAO/NAOJ ALMA Array in Chile in the Atacama at Chajnantor plateau, at 5,000 metres

    This has to do with what it is we’re imaging. We can’t look in X-rays, because there are simply too few X-ray photons overall. We can’t look in visible light, because the galactic center is opaque it it. And we can’t look in the infrared, because the atmosphere blocks infrared light. But what we can do is look in the radio, and we can do it all over the world, simulataneously, to get the optimal resolution possible.

    The black hole at the galactic center has an angular size of about 37 micro-arc-seconds, while the resolution of this telescope array is around 15 micro-arc-seconds, so we should be able to see it! At radio frequencies, the overwhelming majority of that radiation comes from charged matter particles being accelerated around the black hole. We don’t know how the disk will be oriented, whether there will be multiple disks, whether it will be more like a swarm of bees or more like a compact disk. We also don’t know whether it will prefer one “side” of the black hole, as viewed from our perspective, over another.

    Five different simulations in general relativity, using a magnetohydrodynamic model of the black hole’s accretion disk, and how the radio signal will look as a result. Image credit: GRMHD simulations of visibility amplitude variability for Event Horizon Telescope images of Sgr A*, L. Medeiros et al., arXiv:1601.06799.

    We fully expect the event horizon to be real, to be of a specific size, and to block all the light coming from behind it. But we also expect that there will be some signal in front of it, that the signal will be messy due to the messy environment around the black hole, and that the orientation of the disk with respect to the black hole will play an important role in determining what we see.

    One side is brighter as the disk rotates towards us; one side is fainter as the disk rotates away. The entire “outline” of the event horizon may be visible as well, thanks to the effect of gravitational lensing. Perhaps most importantly, whether the disk is seen “edge-on” or “face-on” with respect to us will drastically alter the signal, as the 1st and 3rd panels below illustrate.

    The orientation of the accretion disk as either face-on (left two panels) or edge-on (right two panels) can vastly alter how the black hole appears to us. Image credit: ‘Toward the event horizon — the supermassive black hole in the Galactic Center’, Class. Quantum Grav., Falcke & Markoff (2013).

    There are other effects we can test for, including:

    whether the black hole has the right size as predicted by general relativity,
    whether the event horizon is circular (as predicted), or oblate or prolate instead,
    whether the radio emissions extend farther than we thought,

    or whether there are any other deviations from the expected behavior. This is a brand new frontier in physics, and we’re poised to actually test it directly. One thing’s for certain: no matter what it is that the Event Horizon Telescope sees, we’re bound to learn something new and wonderful about some of the most extreme objects and conditions in the Universe!

    See the full article here .

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    “Starts With A Bang! is a blog/video blog about cosmology, physics, astronomy, and anything else I find interesting enough to write about. I am a firm believer that the highest good in life is learning, and the greatest evil is willful ignorance. The goal of everything on this site is to help inform you about our world, how we came to be here, and to understand how it all works. As I write these pages for you, I hope to not only explain to you what we know, think, and believe, but how we know it, and why we draw the conclusions we do. It is my hope that you find this interesting, informative, and accessible,” says Ethan

  • richardmitnick 1:24 pm on April 29, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , ESA/JUICE, ESA’s JUICE spacecraft could detect water plumes erupting on Europa   

    From Spaceflight Insider: “ESA’s JUICE spacecraft could detect water plumes erupting on Europa” 


    Spaceflight Insider

    April 29th, 2017
    Tomasz Nowakowski

    Artist’s impression of the JUICE mission. Image Credit: ESA/AOES

    ESA JUICE schematic

    ESA’s JUpiter ICy moons Explorer (JUICE) mission to the Jovian system could easily confirm the presence of water on Europa, a new study finds. According to the research, it is feasible to detect water molecules (H2O) and water ions (H2O+) from the moon’s plumes during a flyby mission.

    The suspected water vapor plumes erupting on Jupiter’s moon Europa are still baffling scientists in the search for habitable environments in our solar system.

    It is assumed that Europa harbors a vast subsurface liquid ocean and these plumes could be an indicator of water erupting from the moon’s interior. Hence, they offer a great opportunity to gather samples originating from under the thick layer of ice, where many mysteries of extraterrestrial life may await to be unraveled.

    These composite images show a suspected plume of material erupting two years apart from the same location on Jupiter’s icy moon Europa. The images bolster evidence that the plumes are a real phenomenon, flaring up intermittently in the same region on the satellite. Image Credit: NASA, ESA, and W. Sparks (STScI)

    Recent observations of Europa with the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) show a plume rising about 62 miles (100 kilometers) above the surface. Researchers estimate these plumes could rise even 125 miles (200 kilometers) before raining material back down onto the icy surface.

    According to a new study conducted by a team of European scientists, these plumes should be thoroughly investigated by a future flyby mission like JUICE in order to confirm the presence of water.

    In a recent paper, the researchers studied the feasibility of in-situ measurements of Europa’s plumes, by modeling the trajectories of neutral and ionized plume particles and the respective measurements by neutral and ion mass spectrometers.

    “Instead of using ‘photons’ as Hubble does, we will use in-situ particle data,” Yoshifumi Futaana, Co-Investigator of the JUICE/PEP instrument at the Swedish Institute of Space Physics told Astrowatch.net. “This means that we will validate the presence of water independently using the in-situ data. JUICE is the mission that can do this as it will be equipped with the Particle Environment Package (PEP) instrument suitable for this measurement.”

    PEP is a plasma package with six sensors to characterize the plasma environment. It will measure density and fluxes of positive and negative ions, exospheric neutral gas, thermal plasma, and energetic neutral atoms.

    The package will include the Jovian plasma Dynamics and Composition (JDC) sensor, measuring water ions, and the Neutral gas and Ions Mass spectrometer (NIM) sensor, measuring water molecules.

    Futaana and his colleagues are convinced that the particles of the low mass flux plumes (1 kilogram per second) can be detected by PEP with large margins. Furthermore, the results of their study suggest the plume signal is recognizable as a temporal signal enhancement of one order of magnitude in the H2O count rate during six minutes. This means the detection of water plumes during a flyby is indeed feasible.

    “Our paper shows that the plumes can be detected from the JUICE flybys with particle instruments that detect [water] particles in the vicinity of the spacecraft,” Hans Huybrighs of the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research in Germany, one of the co-authors of the paper, told SpaceFlight Insider. “This is the case even if the plume is significantly smaller than what has been observed. With this, we mean that the plumes in our work only release one kilogram of water per second, while the very first plume observation indicated 7,000 kilograms of water is released per second.”

    The authors of the study underline that even in the case of relatively very small water plumes, the water atoms dissociating from the molecules, as well as their ions, make significant signals. So far, Hubble observations of the plumes detected only atomic oxygen. Given the amount of oxygen and other considerations it was concluded these oxygen atoms must arise from dissociated water molecules.

    “This would also explain the observed spatial features, which were interpreted as a plume,” Peter Wurz of the University of Bern in Switzerland told Astrowatch.net. “Even though it is all very plausible, and is not contested in the scientific community, it is an interpretation. PEP on JUICE will be able to confirm this interpretation and provide a lot of additional data to understand the nature of the plume, its composition, and its relation to the subsurface of Europa’s ice shell, which is mostly water ice.”

    The researchers have also shown the geometry of the plume source does not influence the density distributions, therefore it will not affect their detectability when using PEP. They said that it makes no difference whether it is a point source or a several-hundred-mile-long crack.

    All in all, JUICE, equipped with the PEP instrument, has the potential to take a peek at Europa’s subsurface ocean without drilling into the moon’s icy shell. This ocean could hold many clues to mysteries of life beyond Earth.

    “What is so interesting about this ocean is that it has probably been there for a long time,” Huybrighs said, “and that there could be sources of energy for life in it, like geothermal vents on the bottom of the ocean, making Europa’s ocean a very interesting environment that is possibly habitable for some form of life.”

    The JUICE mission is planned to be launched in 2022. The spacecraft will perform two flybys of Europa in early 2031. During these flybys, JUICE is expected to approach Europa up to a height of about 250 miles (400 kilometers).

    See the full article here .

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    SpaceFlight Insider reports on events taking place within the aerospace industry. With our team of writers and photographers, we provide an “insider’s” view of all aspects of space exploration efforts. We go so far as to take their questions directly to those officials within NASA and other space-related organizations. At SpaceFlight Insider, the “insider” is not anyone on our team, but our readers.

    Our team has decades of experience covering the space program and we are focused on providing you with the absolute latest on all things space. SpaceFlight Insider is comprised of individuals located in the United States, Europe, South America and Canada. Most of them are volunteers, hard-working space enthusiasts who freely give their time to share the thrill of space exploration with the world.

  • richardmitnick 1:03 pm on April 29, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , The risks to science-based policy we aren’t talking about   

    From Science Node: “The risks to science-based policy we aren’t talking about” 

    Science Node bloc
    Science Node

    19 Apr, 2017 [Where has this been?]
    Gretchen Goldman

    Courtesy Jesse Springer.

    You’d think public policy would benefit the public, but increasingly that’s not the case. Gretchen Goldman from the Union of Concerned Scientists outlines the threats to evidence-based policies.

    The evidence of how the relationship between corporations and the political system is playing out.

    “Thank you, Dr. Goldman. That was frightening,” moderator Keesha Gaskins-Nathan said to me after I spoke last week as the only scientist at the Stetson University Law Review Symposium.

    “My talk covered the ways that the role of science in federal decisionmaking is being degraded by the Trump administration, by Congress, and by corporate and ideological forces.

    Together, these alarming moves are poised to damage the crucial role that science plays in keeping us all safe and healthy — this is why I will march at the March for Science on April 22.

    If current trends proceed unabated, science-based policy as we know it could change forever. Indeed, some of its core tenets are being chipped away. And a lot is at stake if we fail to stop it.

    We are currently witnessing efforts by this administration and Congress to freeze and roll back the federal government’s work to protect public health and safety. Congress is attempting to pollute the science advice that decisionmakers depend on, and is appointing decisionmakers who are openly hostile to the very missions of the science agencies they now lead.

    Threats to science-based America

    We cannot afford to make decisions without science. But now, this very process by which we make science-based policies in this country is under threat.

    Our decisionmakers have deep conflicts of interest, disrespect for science, and aren’t being transparent.

    This is a recipe for disaster.

    How can our leaders use science effectively to inform policy decisions if they can’t even make independent decisions and don’t recognize the value of science?

    EPA chief administrator Scott Pruitt, for example, this month said that carbon dioxide “is not a primary contributor to global warming.” (It is.)

    This blatant misinforming on climate science occurred on top of his extensive record of suing the agency over the science-based ozone rule I just described (among other rules).

    This type of disrespect for science-based policies from cabinet members is an alarming signal of the kind of scientific integrity losses we can expect under this administration.

    Congress is trying to degrade science advice.

    A cornerstone of science-based policy is the role of independent science advice feeding into policy decisions.

    But Congress wants to change who sits on science advisory committees and redefine what counts as science. The Regulatory Accountability Act, for example, would threaten how federal agencies can use science to make policy decisions.

    Past versions of the bill (which has already passed the House this year and is expected to be introduced soon in the Senate) have included concerning provisions. One mandated that government agencies could only use science if all of the underlying data and methods were publicly available — including health data, proprietary data, trade secrets, and intellectual property.

    In another case, the bill added more than 70 new regulatory procedures that would effectively shut down the government’s ability to protect us from new threats to our health, safety, and the environment. It is a dangerous precedent when politicians — not scientists — are deciding how science can inform policy decisions.

    Scientists face intimidation, muzzling, and political attacks.

    No one becomes a scientist because they want a political target on their back. But this is unfortunately what many scientists are now facing.

    While it won’t be enacted in its current form, the president’s budget shows his frightening priorities, which apparently include major cuts to science agencies like the EPA, Department of Energy, and NOAA.

    Communication gag orders, disappearing data, and review of scientific documents by political appointees in the first month of the administration have created a chilling effect for scientists within the government.

    Congress has even revived the Holman Rule, which allows them to reduce the salary of a federal employee down to $1.

    It is easy to see how such powers could be used to target government scientists producing political controversial science.

    Hurting science hurts real people

    Importantly, we must be clear about who will be affected most if science-based policymaking is dismantled. In many cases, these burdens will disproportionately fall on low-income communities and communities of color.

    If we cannot protect people from ozone pollution, those in urban areas, those without air conditioning, and those with lung diseases will be hurt most.

    If we cannot address climate change, frontline communities in low-lying areas will bear the brunt of it.

    If we cannot keep harmful chemicals out of children’s toys, families who buy cheaper products at dollar stores will pay the price.

    If we cannot protect people from unsafe drugs (FDA), contaminated food (USDA, FDA), occupational hazards (OSHA), chemical disasters (EPA, OSHA, DHS), dangerous vehicles (DOT) and unsafe consumer products (CPSC), then we’re all at risk.

    This is about more than science. It is about protecting people using the power of science. We have everything to lose.

    But we can take action. We can articulate the benefits of science to decisionmakers, the media, and the public.

    We can hold our leaders accountability for moves they make to dismantle science-based policy process.

    And we can support our fellow scientists both in and outside of the federal government.

    It starts with marching — but it cannot end here.”

    See the full article here .

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    Science Node is an international weekly online publication that covers distributed computing and the research it enables.

    “We report on all aspects of distributed computing technology, such as grids and clouds. We also regularly feature articles on distributed computing-enabled research in a large variety of disciplines, including physics, biology, sociology, earth sciences, archaeology, medicine, disaster management, crime, and art. (Note that we do not cover stories that are purely about commercial technology.)

    In its current incarnation, Science Node is also an online destination where you can host a profile and blog, and find and disseminate announcements and information about events, deadlines, and jobs. In the near future it will also be a place where you can network with colleagues.

    You can read Science Node via our homepage, RSS, or email. For the complete iSGTW experience, sign up for an account or log in with OpenID and manage your email subscription from your account preferences. If you do not wish to access the website’s features, you can just subscribe to the weekly email.”

  • richardmitnick 4:34 pm on April 28, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Open Science Grid, , XSEDE-Extreme Science and Engineering Discovery Environment   

    From Science Node: “A record year for the Open Science Grid” 

    Science Node bloc
    Science Node

    Courtesy Open Science Grid.

    27 Apr, 2017
    Greg Moore

    Serving researchers across a wide variety of scientific disciplines, the Open Science Grid (OSG) weaves the national fabric of distributed high throughput computing.

    Over the last 12 months, the OSG has handled over one billion CPU hours. These record numbers have transformed the face of science nationally.


    “We just had a record week recently of over 30 million hours (close to 32.8 million) and the trend is pointing to frequent 30 million-hour weeks — it will become typical,” says Scott Teige, manager of OSG’s Grid Operations Center at Indiana University (IU).

    “To reach 32.8 million, we need 195,000 cores running 24/7 for a week.”

    Teige’s job is to keep things running smoothly. The OSG Grid Operations Center provides operational support for users, developers, and system administrators. They are also on point for real-time monitoring and problem tracking, grid service maintenance, security incident response, and information repositories.

    Big and small

    Where is all this data coming from? Teige explains that the largest amount of data is coming from the experiments associated with the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), for which the OSG was originally designed.

    But the LHC is just part of the story. There are plenty of CPU cycles to go around, so opportunistic use has become a much larger focus. When OSG resources are not busy, scientists from many disciplines use those hours to revolutionize their science.

    For example, the Structural Protein-Ligand Interactome (SPLINTER) project by the Indiana University School of Medicine predicts the interaction of thousands of small molecules with thousands of proteins using the three-dimensional structure of the bound complex between each pair of protein and compound.

    By using the OSG, SPLINTER finds a quick and efficient solution to its computing needs — and develops a systems biology approach to target discovery.

    The opportunistic resources deliver millions of CPU hours in a matter of days, greatly reducing simulation time. This allows researchers to identify small molecule candidates for individual proteins, or new protein targets for existing FDA-approved drugs and biologically active compounds.

    “We serve virtual organizations (VOs) that may not have their own resources,” says Teige. “SPLINTER is a prime example of how we partner with the OSG to transform research — our resources alone cannot meet their needs.”

    Hoosier nexus

    Because Teige’s group is based at Indiana University, a lot of the OSG operational infrastructure is run out of the IU Data Center. And, because IU is an Extreme Science and Engineering Discovery Environment (XSEDE) resource, the university also handles submissions to the OSG.

    OSG meets LHC. A view inside the Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) detecter, a particle detector on the LHC. The OSG was designed for the massive datasets generated in the search for particles like the Higgs boson. Courtesy Tighe Flanagan. (CC BY-SA 3.0)

    That means scientists and researchers nationwide can connect both to XSEDE’s collection of integrated digital resources and services and to OSG’s opportunistic resources.

    “We operate information services to determine states of resources used in how jobs are submitted,” said Teige. “We operate the various user interfaces like the GOC homepage, support tools, and the ticket system. We also operate a global file system called Oasis where files are deposited to be available for use in a reasonably short time span. And we provide certification services for the user community.”

    From LHC big data to smaller opportunistic research computing needs, Teige’s team makes sure the OSG has the support they depend on so discovery moves forward reliably and transparently.

    See the full article here .

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    Science Node is an international weekly online publication that covers distributed computing and the research it enables.

    “We report on all aspects of distributed computing technology, such as grids and clouds. We also regularly feature articles on distributed computing-enabled research in a large variety of disciplines, including physics, biology, sociology, earth sciences, archaeology, medicine, disaster management, crime, and art. (Note that we do not cover stories that are purely about commercial technology.)

    In its current incarnation, Science Node is also an online destination where you can host a profile and blog, and find and disseminate announcements and information about events, deadlines, and jobs. In the near future it will also be a place where you can network with colleagues.

    You can read Science Node via our homepage, RSS, or email. For the complete iSGTW experience, sign up for an account or log in with OpenID and manage your email subscription from your account preferences. If you do not wish to access the website’s features, you can just subscribe to the weekly email.”

  • richardmitnick 4:12 pm on April 28, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Astronomers find black hole in Sagittarius constellation, ,   

    From U Manchester via phys.org: “Astronomers find black hole in Sagittarius constellation” 

    U Manchester bloc

    University of Manchester


    April 28, 2017

    Sagittarius region of milky way. Credit: Wikipedia

    An international team of astronomers led The University of Manchester have found evidence of a new ‘missing-link’ black hole in the Milky Way galaxy, hidden in the Sagittarius constellation.

    The black hole is located approximately 26,000 light years, or 7.9 Kiloparsecs (kpc), from Earth in a globular cluster called, NGC 6624. A globular cluster is a gravitationally bound swarm of millions of old stars occupying regions that are just a few light years across.

    The team, led by Dr Benetge Perera, have found evidence that the millisecond pulsar (PSR B1820-30A) – a pulsar is highly magnetized, rapidly rotating neutron star that emits a beam of electromagnetic radiation – in NGC 6624 is most likely orbiting around an intermediate-mass black hole (IMBH) located at the cluster’s centre. The mass of black hole is so big, it is the equivalent to weight of 7,500 of our suns.

    PSR B1820 30A is the closest-known pulsar to the centre of any globular cluster and it is the first pulsar to be found orbiting a black hole. The detection of IMBHs is extremely important as they can help astronomers understand the ‘missing link’ between stellar mass black holes (SMBH), the smallest kind, and supermassive black holes (SMBH), which are the largest.

    Dr Perera, from the Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics in the University’s School of Physics and Astronomy, explains: “High stellar densities towards the centre of globular clusters provide a likely environment for the formation of massive black holes. The detection of IMBHs is important for understanding the missing link between the different kinds of black holes.

    “It is generally thought that they could be formed by the direct collapse of very massive primordial stars or successive mergers of stellar-mass black holes and runaway collisions in dense young star clusters.”

    The pulsar was discovered using the Lovell Telescope, based at Jodrell Bank, in 1990. Since then the team has analysed more than 25 years of observations from PSR B1820- 30A made with the telescope. In addition to Jodrell Bank, the analysis included data obtained using the Nançay Radio Telescope in France.

    U Manchester Jodrell Bank Lovell Telescope

    Nançay decametric radio telescope Nançay France

    Professor Andrew Lyne, also from the School of Physics and Astronomy, explains the importance of discovering such pulsars: “Pulsars like PSR B1820 30A act as fantastically accurate clocks and allow us to determine precisely their distance from the Earth in the same way that global positioning satellites work. The pulsar is therefore very sensitive to any motion arising from the gravity of other nearby massive objects, such as black holes, making it easier for us to detect them.”

    Dr Perera added: “We have determined the orbital parameters and the companion mass of PSR B1820-30A from the motion measured through pulsar timing. Simply put, this means our results are consistent with the pulsar being in orbit around a central intermediate-mass black hole.

    “This discovery provides important input to our understanding of how intermediate-mass black holes and the clusters themselves form and evolve.”

    See the full article here .

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    U Manchester campus

    The University of Manchester (UoM) is a public research university in the city of Manchester, England, formed in 2004 by the merger of the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology (renamed in 1966, est. 1956 as Manchester College of Science and Technology) which had its ultimate origins in the Mechanics’ Institute established in the city in 1824 and the Victoria University of Manchester founded by charter in 1904 after the dissolution of the federal Victoria University (which also had members in Leeds and Liverpool), but originating in Owens College, founded in Manchester in 1851. The University of Manchester is regarded as a red brick university, and was a product of the civic university movement of the late 19th century. It formed a constituent part of the federal Victoria University between 1880, when it received its royal charter, and 1903–1904, when it was dissolved.

    The University of Manchester is ranked 33rd in the world by QS World University Rankings 2015-16. In the 2015 Academic Ranking of World Universities, Manchester is ranked 41st in the world and 5th in the UK. In an employability ranking published by Emerging in 2015, where CEOs and chairmen were asked to select the top universities which they recruited from, Manchester placed 24th in the world and 5th nationally. The Global Employability University Ranking conducted by THE places Manchester at 27th world-wide and 10th in Europe, ahead of academic powerhouses such as Cornell, UPenn and LSE. It is ranked joint 56th in the world and 18th in Europe in the 2015-16 Times Higher Education World University Rankings. In the 2014 Research Excellence Framework, Manchester came fifth in terms of research power and seventeenth for grade point average quality when including specialist institutions. More students try to gain entry to the University of Manchester than to any other university in the country, with more than 55,000 applications for undergraduate courses in 2014 resulting in 6.5 applicants for every place available. According to the 2015 High Fliers Report, Manchester is the most targeted university by the largest number of leading graduate employers in the UK.

    The university owns and operates major cultural assets such as the Manchester Museum, Whitworth Art Gallery, John Rylands Library and Jodrell Bank Observatory which includes the Grade I listed Lovell Telescope.

  • richardmitnick 3:57 pm on April 28, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Cell division offers hope to fight antibiotic resistance, ,   

    From EMBL: “Cell division offers hope to fight antibiotic resistance” 

    EMBL European Molecular Biology Laboratory bloc

    European Molecular Biology Laboratory

    9 March 2017 [Not good to hide great science from social media.]
    Sonia Furtado Neves

    Preventing bacteria like Helicobacter pylori from untangling chromosomes could be a new way to treat infections. IMAGE: AJC1 (CC BY 2.0)

    Keeping bacterial chromosomes tangled could offer hope in developing novel approaches to treating bacterial infections.

    Growing levels of antibiotic resistance pose a serious threat to global public health and scientists are racing to find novel ways to tackle bacterial infections. EMBL’s Orsolya Barabas explains a recent study by her lab on how bacteria untangle their chromosomes during division, and the hope that this opens for developing new antibacterial treatments.

    What did you find?

    A bacterium’s DNA is in a ring-shaped chromosome. When the bacterium divides to produce two daughter cells, the DNA has to be repackaged into two rings, one for each new cell. The DNA in the two daughter rings often gets tangled. If those chromosome rings cannot be untangled, the two daughter cells cannot separate from each other and the bacteria will ultimately die.

    When a bacterium divides to produce two daughter cells, the DNA in the two daughter rings often gets tangled. IMAGE: Orsolya Barabas/EMBL

    Most bacteria have a protein that cuts any DNA tangled during cell division and sticks it back together as two distinct daughter chromosomes. We discovered that this protein doesn’t start cutting as soon as it binds to DNA. First, another protein has to activate it by changing its shape. This means one could look at designing drugs to interfere with that activation process. And that’s really good news because the alternative – preventing proteins from binding to DNA – is very difficult.

    Why is it important?

    At the moment, it seems like for every antibiotic we have, there’s at least one bacterium that’s resistant to it. This means common infectious diseases are getting harder to treat and procedures that we routinely use today such as organ transplants, chemotherapy, surgery and diabetes management could become very risky. If we’re going to overcome that, we need to look at new ways of fighting bacterial infections. Preventing the untangling of chromosomes during bacterial cell division could be one option. The untangling seems to work in a similar way in most types of bacteria, although the proteins are slightly different from one species to another. So with the knowledge that we’ve acquired in this study, we could either look at developing generic drugs that would target all bacteria equally, or we could also envision going for a specific therapy for specific bacteria.

    Bebel A et al. eLife, 23 December 2016. DOI: 10.7554/eLife.19706


    Barabas lab | EMBL
    WHO factsheet: antimicrobial resistance
    Antibiotic resistance
    Structural Biology

    See the full article here .

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    EMBL European Molecular Biology Laboratory campus

    EMBL is Europe’s flagship laboratory for the life sciences, with more than 80 independent groups covering the spectrum of molecular biology. EMBL is international, innovative and interdisciplinary – its 1800 employees, from many nations, operate across five sites: the main laboratory in Heidelberg, and outstations in Grenoble; Hamburg; Hinxton, near Cambridge (the European Bioinformatics Institute), and Monterotondo, near Rome. Founded in 1974, EMBL is an inter-governmental organisation funded by public research monies from its member states. The cornerstones of EMBL’s mission are: to perform basic research in molecular biology; to train scientists, students and visitors at all levels; to offer vital services to scientists in the member states; to develop new instruments and methods in the life sciences and actively engage in technology transfer activities, and to integrate European life science research. Around 200 students are enrolled in EMBL’s International PhD programme. Additionally, the Laboratory offers a platform for dialogue with the general public through various science communication activities such as lecture series, visitor programmes and the dissemination of scientific achievements.

  • richardmitnick 3:37 pm on April 28, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , sciencestarter.com,   

    From sciencestarter.com blog via WCG: “Help accelerate biomedical research from the comfort of your couch” 

    New WCG Logo


    World Community Grid (WCG)


    sciencestarter.com blog

    April 27th, 2017
    Jenny Cutraro

    No scalpel required!
    Learn how to identify images of clogged blood vessels to accelerate Alzheimer’s research or trace 3D images of neurons to shed light on how these structures influence behavior.
    SciStarter’s editors hand-picked five, biomedical research projects we think you’ll love. You can do these free projects and contribute to research all from the comfort of home!
    Find more projects and events on SciStarter, to do now or bookmark for later.
    Bonus: Complete your SciStarter profile this month and we’ll send you a free digital copy of The Rightful Place of Science: Citizen Science.
    The SciStarter Team

    Speed up Alzheimer’s research simply by clicking on video images that show clogged (or “stalled”) blood vessels. Scientists think stalled blood flow may contribute to Alzheimer’s and they need your help to identify stalls in short videos of (real!) ultrasound images. All ages are welcome to participate. You’ll view a brief tutorial before you get started.
    Location: Online
    Get started!

    The Biomedical Citizen Science Hub (CitSciBio)
    Find and share biomedical citizen science resources through the National Institute of Health-supported CitSciBio. This hub is your source for resources, projects, references, methods and communities about biomedical citizen science research.
    Location: Online
    Get started!

    Mozak: Brainbuilder
    Humans still outperform computers at identifying complex shapes like neurons. Simply trace 3D images of brain neurons (on your computer) to shed light on how neuron structure influences brain function. Since Mozak launched in November, citizen scientists (like you!) have reconstructed neurons 3.6 times faster than earlier methods!
    Location: Online
    Get started!

    Mark2Cure If you can read, you can help. With Mark2Cure you are trained to identify scientific concepts and mark, or annotate, those concepts in scientific literature. Help scientists find information they need to solve complex problems.
    Location: Online
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    Citizen Endo
    Help improve the medical field’s understanding of endometriosis symptoms on daily life. You can participate (with or without endometriosis) by tracking your daily experiences using the Phendo app.
    Location: Online
    Get started!


    Find an event on SciStarter

    Crowd and Cloud is now streaming online. This four-part public television series explores citizen science, crowdsourcing, and mobile technology.
    Watch now

    See the full article here.

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    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.
    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    World Community Grid (WCG) brings people together from across the globe to create the largest non-profit computing grid benefiting humanity. It does this by pooling surplus computer processing power. We believe that innovation combined with visionary scientific research and large-scale volunteerism can help make the planet smarter. Our success depends on like-minded individuals – like you.”
    WCG projects run on BOINC software from UC Berkeley.

    BOINC is a leader in the field(s) of Distributed Computing, Grid Computing and Citizen Cyberscience.BOINC is more properly the Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing.

    BOINC WallPaper


    My BOINC
    “Download and install secure, free software that captures your computer’s spare power when it is on, but idle. You will then be a World Community Grid volunteer. It’s that simple!” You can download the software at either WCG or BOINC.

    Please visit the project pages-

    FightAIDS@home Phase II

    FAAH Phase II

    Rutgers Open Zika

    Help Stop TB
    WCG Help Stop TB
    Outsmart Ebola together

    Outsmart Ebola Together

    Mapping Cancer Markers

    Uncovering Genome Mysteries
    Uncovering Genome Mysteries

    Say No to Schistosoma

    GO Fight Against Malaria

    Drug Search for Leishmaniasis

    Computing for Clean Water

    The Clean Energy Project

    Discovering Dengue Drugs – Together

    Help Cure Muscular Dystrophy

    Help Fight Childhood Cancer

    Help Conquer Cancer

    Human Proteome Folding




    World Community Grid is a social initiative of IBM Corporation
    IBM Corporation

    IBM – Smarter Planet

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