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  • richardmitnick 6:31 am on August 17, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , Wall Street Journal   

    From The Wall Street Journal: “How a Black Hole Really Works” 

    Wall Street Journal

    This is copyright protected, so just a glimpse.

    August 17-18, 2013
    GAUTAM NAIK

    “The black hole at the center of our galaxy has been on a near-starvation diet for almost a million years—but now it’s time for a snack.

    Scientists in Garching, Germany, are closely watching a rare event some 26,000 light years away: a supermassive black hole in the act of devouring a huge gas cloud. It’s providing the first-ever glimpse of how a black hole uses its massive gravitational power to pull in and consume interstellar materials—a little understood phenomenon.

    smbh
    Representation of a supermissive black hole

    “The cloud is being torn apart,” said Stefan Gillessen of the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics in Garching, who first brought the event to the world’s attention in 2011.

    Stars closely orbiting the black hole indicate that it has the gravitational pulling power of four million suns. That gravity is now starting to act on the gas cloud, which itself is about 37 billion miles long. Using data from the European-funded [read, ESO] Very Large Telescope, or VLT, perched high up in Chile’s Atacama Desert, Dr. Gillessen’s team recently concluded that the front of the gas cloud is traveling 310 miles per second faster than its tail. About 10% of the cloud has already been dragged to the far side of the black hole.

    ESO VLT
    ESO Very Large Telescope (VLT) at Cerro Paranal in the Atacama Desert, Chile

    ‘In astronomy, you rarely have the chance to catch something in the act,’ said Andrea Ghez, an astrophysicist who leads a rival group observing the event at the University of California, Los Angeles. ‘We just don’t know what will happen.’

    In January 2012, the Max Planck team published its findings in the journal Nature. They concluded that the blob was a gas cloud, of unknown origin, in the gravitational clutches of the Milky Way’s black hole.”

    See the full article here.

    The writer fails to mention that the VLT at Cerro Paranal, Chile is the flagship installation of European Southern Observatory, based in Garching, Germany.

    He also fails to note that Dr Ghez was the 2012 winner of the prestigious Crafoord Prize in Astronomy, the equivalent of a Nobel prize. There is no Nobel for Astronomy.

    Also, there is no mention of what instrument(s) are being used by Dr Ghez. I would assume that it is the Keck Observatory on Mauna Kea, Hawaii.

    Dr Ghez is a member of the team which will build the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT), on Mauna Kea. This instrument will compete with ESO’s Extra Large Telescope (E-ELT), which will be built at Cerro Armazones, Chile.


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  • richardmitnick 3:04 pm on October 1, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , Wall Street Journal   

    From the Wall Street Journal: “Photo-Op: A Star Is Born” Book Review 

    This is copyright protected material, so just a glimpse-

    September 29, 2012
    Writer Credit: “The Editors”

    “Since its 1990 launch into orbit, the Hubble Space Telescope has circled the Earth every 96 minutes and examined thousands of celestial objects—undistracted by the atmospheric distortion that hinders Earthbound telescopes. The enormous sidereal nursery at the center of the Carina Nebula, the Milky Way’s largest star-forming region, is at once terrifying and inspiring: Located about 7,500 light-years away from the Earth, in the southern constellation Carina, these strangely anthropomorphic clouds of hydrogen gas and dust are lit up by surrounding stars and galaxies. Hubble’s Universe: Greatest Discoveries and Latest Images (Firefly, 300 pages, $49.95) presents 300 of the remarkable Hubble images, many of such impossibly distant objects as NGC 5584, an almost perfectly symmetrical spiral galaxy some 72 million light-years from the Earth.”

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    Carina Nebula (NGC 3372)

    ngc 5584
    NGC 5584 Composite of several exposures taken in visible light between January and April 2010 with Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3


    ESA/NASA Hubble

    The book, Hubble’s Universe:Greatest Discoveries and Latest Images, published by Firefly, is available for $49.95

    See the full review here.


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  • richardmitnick 5:35 pm on January 13, 2012 Permalink | Reply
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    From the Wall Street Journal: “An Otherworldly Discovery: Billions of Other Planets” 

    This is copyright protected, so just a couple of notes.

    ROBERT LEE HOTZ
    Thursday, January 12, 2012

    “Astronomers said Wednesday that each of the 100 billion stars in the Milky Way probably has at least one companion planet, on average, adding credence to the notion that planets are as common in the cosmos as grains of sand on the beach.

    The finding underscores a fundamental shift in scientific understanding of planetary systems in the cosmos. Our own solar system, considered unique not so long ago, turns out to be just one among billions.

    Until April 1994, there was no other known solar system, but the discoveries have slowly mounted since then: The Kepler space telescope, designed for planet-hunting, now finds them routinely.

    ‘Planets are the rule rather than the exception,’ said lead astronomer Arnaud Cassan at the Institute of Astrophysics in Paris. He led an international team of 42 scientists who spent six years surveying millions of stars at the heart of the Milky Way, in the most comprehensive effort yet to gauge the prevalence of planets in the galaxy.

    Astronomers using the Kepler telescope found the first known double-star planet just last September—Kepler-16b, a gassy oddball orb the size of Saturn that circles a pair of stars 200 light-years from Earth, like the planet Tatooine in the Star Wars films.

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    Kepler 16B

    See the full article here.

     
  • richardmitnick 9:21 pm on December 27, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , Wall Street Journal,   

    From the Wall Street Journal – Solar is Failing. But From Some Guys at Harvard – We’re Just Getting Serious 

    First, Dark Times For Solar Sector
    [This article is copyright protected, so just a few lines.]

    Yuliva Chernova

    “Long viewed as a remedy for the world’s dependence on fossil fuels, the solar industry is dimming as makers of panels used to harness the sun continue to fall by the wayside.
    Bankruptcies, plummeting stock prices and crushing debt loads are calling into question the viability of an industry that since the 1970s has been counted on to advance the U.S.—and the world—into a new energy age.”

    See the full article here.

    But then, along come a bunch of really smart scientists and I/T folks at Harvard, looking for good cheap alternatives to the failing “…polysilicon, wafers, and the modules themselves… cited in Ms Chernova’s article.

    Meet The Clean Energy Project (CEP2), a computational research group at Harvard under the aegis of IBM’s Smarter Planet group called World Community Grid (WCG).

    Mission
    The mission of The Clean Energy Project is to find new materials for the next generation of solar cells and later, energy storage devices. By harnessing the immense power of World Community Grid, researchers can calculate the electronic properties of hundreds of thousands of organic materials – thousands of times more than could ever be tested in a lab – and determine which candidates are most promising for developing affordable solar energy technology.

    Significance
    We are living in the Age of Energy. The fossil fuel based economy of the present must give way to the renewable energy based economy of the future, but getting there is one of the greatest challenge humanity faces. Chemistry can help meet this challenge by discovering new materials that efficiently harvest solar radiation, store energy for later use, and reconvert the stored energy when needed.

    The Clean Energy Project uses computational chemistry and the willingness of people to help look for the best molecules possible for: organic photovoltaics to provide inexpensive solar cells, polymers for the membranes used in fuel cells for electricity generation, and how best to assemble the molecules to make those devices. By helping search combinatorially among thousands of potential systems, World Community Grid volunteers are contributing to this effort.”

    Here is a short video on the project.

    Now, these guys think they are talking about helping areas in the world with little or no electricity. But, Thomas Edison’s work went way beyond the light bulb. Did the guys at CERN know they would originate the World Wide Web? Check it out at Wikipedia, “Using concepts from earlier hypertext systems, British engineer and computer scientist Sir Tim Berners-Lee, now Director of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), wrote a proposal in March 1989 for what would eventually become the World Wide Web. At CERN in Geneva, Switzerland, Berners-Lee and Belgian computer scientist Robert Cailliau proposed in 1990 to use hypertext ‘… to link and access information of various kinds as a web of nodes in which the user can browse at will’, and they publicly introduced the project in December.”

    Now, why should we expect less from this project?

    What should you do? Visit (WCG), download an install the small piece of software, and then attach to the project. You may well be helping yourself, your children, and your grandchildren.

     
  • richardmitnick 3:38 pm on December 10, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Wall Street Journal   

    From The Wall Street Journal Review: “On the Margins of Science” 

    Michael Shermer
    DECEMBER 10, 2011

    This book review is copyright protected, so just a couple of words.

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    Physics On the Fringe, By Margaret Wertheim
    Walker & Company (October 25, 2011)

    “…As a professional debunker, I feel that I know bunk when I see it. Yet Ms. Wertheim has convinced me that I may be too hasty in pre-emptively dismissing some of these outsiders, especially the central character of her story—a man she calls the Einstein of outsiders, Jim Carter. This trailer-park owner and inventor from Washington state has developed his own theory of matter, energy and gravity, which he demonstrates in his backyard by using do-it-yourself contraptions made from such materials as a garbage can and a disco fog machine, from which he makes smoke rings.

    Mr. Carter believes that atoms are constructed of circlons—’hollow, ring-shaped mechanical particles that are held together within the nucleus by their physical shapes.’ His circlon theory allows him to tie together both quantum mechanics and the special and general theories of relativity—sort of. You might laugh, as I initially did. But Ms. Wertheim points out that string theory—one of the “theories of everything” endorsed by many prominent physicists—has just as little empirical evidence in its favor…..”

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    See the full article here.

    Intrigued? Read the review and buy the book.

     
  • richardmitnick 3:15 pm on October 1, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Wall Street Journal   

    From the Wall Street Journal: Bad Title But Good Article – “Accelerator Finds New Gear” 

    This article is copyright protected, so, just a touch, and compliments to the WSJ for being there.

    JOE BARRETT
    Oct 1, 2011

    “Scientists on Friday powered down the nation’s largest particle accelerator that for nearly three decades has been revealing insights into the building blocks of matter.


    Fermilab

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    Tevatron

    But closing the Tevatron accelerator—a four-mile-long circular track that fires particles at dizzying speeds—won’t mean the end of cutting-edge research at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory. While the Tevatron has been surpassed in size and speed by the 17-mile track at the Large Hadron Collider near Geneva, Switzerland, Fermilab has a full plate of experiments ahead, both at its existing facility and at those yet to be built.”

    So, good article, but bad title: The accelerator, the Tevatron, has been closed down. But the laboratory, Fermilab, is beginning a new phase of its life.

    See the full article here.

    Fermilab is an enduring source of strength for the US contribution to scientific research world wide.

     
  • richardmitnick 10:41 am on August 17, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , US space flights, Wall Street Journal   

    From The Wall Street Journal: “Private Space Taxis Race to the Launch Pad” 

    Good to see this in print to quell the fears that we are losing it in Sapce.

    This is copyright protected, so just a wee bit.

    By ANDY PASZTOR
    AUGUST 17, 2011

    “Private spacecraft will begin docking with the International Space Station before the end of the year, months sooner than planned, after NASA gave the green light for the first cargo delivery by such a capsule.

    Space Exploration Technology Corp. said the U.S. space agency has given tentative approval for it to conduct the late November flight. The launch will accelerate the shift to private ventures for future manned missions.

    i1

    The flight will feature the initial effort to dock the company’s Dragon capsule—the pioneer commercial spacecraft— with the space station, orbiting more than 200 miles above the earth.

    In accelerating by at least several months the timetable for linking up with the station, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration will provide the company and other private space outfits a symbolic and potentially important financial boost.

    See the full article here.

     
  • richardmitnick 1:33 pm on August 1, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , Wall Street Journal   

    From The Wall Street Journal: Dr. Lawrence Krauss on the Webb Telescope 

    This is copyright protected material, so just a few notes. Bu, I am very glad that SOMEBODY had the cajones to speak up.

    “Dark Matter, Black Holes and the First Stars
    By Lawrence M Krauss

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    [Dr.] Krauss is a professor and director of the Origins Project at Arizona State University. His most recent book, “Quantum Man: Richard Feynman’s Life in Science,” was published in March by Norton/Atlas.

    “Almost 20 years ago, Congress cancelled what was then the most ambitious scientific project ever launched: the Superconducting Super Collider. The particle collider, the world’s largest, would have resolved questions ranging from the origin of all mass to the nature of fundamental forces…A similar situation has now arisen—and it’s threatening to ground the nearly completed James Webb Space Telescope.

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    Webb – long may she fly

    The cancellation of the James Webb Space Telescope would likely herald the beginning of the end of U.S. leadership in space science—much as cancelling the Superconducting Super Collider in 1993 moved the center of gravity in particle physics definitively to Europe…The telescope was designed to pick up where the Hubble Space Telescope, which revolutionized astronomy, left off by taking us back to the very beginnings of visible structure in the universe.

    “…when one compares the total cost of the James Webb—likely to be around $7 billion, spent over more than a decade—with the $200 billion price of the Shuttle program and the $100 billion spent on the International Space Station, the telescope’s price seems reasonable. Not only is it the cheapest of the bunch, but it’s the item with the greatest potential to push forward the frontiers of knowledge…So it’s tragic and frustrating that this vital new probe of the cosmos may soon be shut down as a misplaced target of the congressional budget-cutting frenzy.

    You can read the full Op Ed Opinion piece here.

     
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