Science & Technology


Dust cloud explains mystery of rare five-hour space explosion

gamma-ray burst
© Credit: Phil Evans/ University of Leicester
The X-ray image from the Swift X-ray Telescope of the gamma-ray burst GRB 130925. The white object in the center is the gamma-ray burst. The large diffuse region to the right is a cluster of galaxies. The other objects are X-ray-emitting celestial objects, most likely supermassive black holes at the centers of distant galaxies. The full image is approximately the size of the full moon.
Next week in St. Petersburg, Russia, scientists on an international team that includes Penn State University astronomers will present a paper that provides a simple explanation for mysterious ultra-long gamma-ray bursts - a very rare form of the most powerful explosions in the universe.

"The recent discovery of ultra-long gamma-ray bursts raised questions about whether some new physics is required to explain them, but our work suggests a much simpler explanation," said David Burrows, a Penn State professor of astronomy and astrophysics. "Our analysis reveals that these rare gamma-ray bursts, which can last for hours, can be explained as standard explosions occurring in a region with a low density of matter that is located behind a cloud of dust when viewed from Earth."

Dick Willingale, an astronomer at the University of Leicester and a co-author of the study, said, "Not only is this result significant scientifically, but it shows the importance of international collaborations to build observatories, and of sharing information between those observatories."
Comet 2

New Comet: C/2014 R4 (Gibbs)

Discovery Date: September 14, 2014

Magnitude: 16.5 mag

Discoverer: A. R. Gibbs (Catalina Sky Survey)
C/2014 R4 (Gibbs)
© Aerith Net
Magnitudes Graph
The orbital elements are published on M.P.E.C. 2014-S09.

NASA locates 'monster' black hole in tiny galaxy

black hole M60-UCD1
Gigantic black hole spotted by Hubble
The M60-UCD1, discovered by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope in 2013, is one of the smallest known galaxies. But now the space agency has discovered that the dwarf galaxy is harboring a "monster" black hole.

The diameter of M60-UCD1 is about 300 light years - just 1/500th of our galaxy's width. However, it is packed with 140 million stars, which also makes it one of the densest galaxies.

For comparison, NASA explains, the nighttime sky we see from Earth's surface shows 4,000 stars. If we lived inside the newly-discovered M60-UCD1, our nighttime sky would be covered with at least one million stars "visible to the naked eye."

But what really surprised astronomers is the supermassive black hole they found inside M60-UCD1.

black hole galaxy
Dwarf Galaxy's 'giant black heart' has a mass equivalent to 21 million suns.
Lurking in the smallest galaxy, the black hole is five times the mass of the one at the center of our Milky Way galaxy. It has a mass equal to 21 million suns, and is 15 percent of the small galaxy's total mass - but less than 0.01 percent of the Milky Way's total mass.

"That is pretty amazing, given that the Milky Way is 500 times larger and more than 1,000 times heavier than the dwarf galaxy M60-UCD1," University of Utah astronomer Anil Seth, lead author of an international study on the dwarf galaxy, said in Nature's Thursday publication.

The finding has prompted astronomers to consider rethinking dwarf galaxy theories.

Comment: The astronomers used adaptive optics technology to study the galaxy and its massive black hole. Using data from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope along with the Gemini North 8-meter optical and infrared telescope on Hawaii's Mauna Kea, they captured the dwarf galaxy and the black hole's mass. Normally, images from telescopes on the ground are blurred out by the 'twinkling' of the stars caused by the refraction of light in the atmosphere. With adaptive optics, a flexible mirror is used to undo the affects of the atmosphere and get a sharper image. Since there were no bright stars next to M60-UCD1, the team used a laser to create their own "fake" stars in the upper atmosphere to use for the adaptive optics process. This allowed them to study the motions of the stars at many points within the very small object. By observing the motions of the stars at the center of the ultra-compact dwarf compared to in its outskirts, they were able to separately weigh the stars in the galaxy and the black hole.


US Military and Boeing develop 'Hel MD', a high powered laser to shoot down drones

© HEL / MD
Boeing's High Energy Laser Mobile Demonstrator
The U.S. military is now one step closer to having a laser gun that can shoot down enemy drones in the blink of an eye.

Boeing recently announced that its mobile laser weapon, dubbed the High Energy Laser Mobile Demonstrator (HEL MD), successfully shot down more than 150 drones, rockets and other mock enemy targets in a third round of tests. The trials prove that the laser weapon is reliable and capable of consistently "acquiring, tracking and engaging a variety of targets in different environments," according to Boeing.

The most recent demonstration of the 10-kilowatt, high-energy laser took place at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida. The laser was installed on a military vehicle, making it the first mobile, high-energy laser built and demonstrated by the U.S. Army, according to Boeing.

Comment: The technology is fascinating, but the ends for which it's used are insane. But for those fans of laser technology out there here are some articles to check out:


Russia develops fuel for nuclear power generation that produces no radioactive waste

© Photo from
Tablets of mixed-oxide fuel (MOX)
Russia's 'Breakthrough' energy project enables closed a nuclear fuel cycle and a future without radioactive waste. The first batch of MOX nuclear fuel has been manufactured for the world's only NPP industrially power generating breeder reactors.

The first ten kilograms of the mixed-oxide fuel (MOX) - a mixture of plutonium and uranium dioxides (UO2 and PuO2), have been industrially produced by Russia's nuclear monopoly, Rosatom, at the Mining & Chemical Combine (GKhK) in the Krasnoyarsk region.

A world first, tablets of the fuel of the future have been put on serial production and are destined for Russia's next generation BN-800 breeder reactor (880 megawatts), currently undergoing tests at the Beloyarskaya nuclear power plant.

The production line, now undergoing start-up and adjustment, was assembled in a mine 200 meters underground and will become fully operational by the end of 2014.

Comment: Now watch the psychos in Washington try to spin the news of this new technology into: 'Russia develops an illegal new weapon against Europe,' or something.


Number of websites has burst above one billion (and counting)

The number of websites has burst above one billion and is growing apace, according to figures updated in real time by online tracker Internet Live Stats.

Tim Berners-Lee, considered the father of the World Wide Web, touted the milestone on Twitter - one of the most prominent websites in the mushrooming but sometimes murky Internet world.

It comes as the agency responsible for managing addresses on the Internet expands choices far beyond ".com" and ".net" to provide more online real estate for the booming ranks of websites.

The World Wide Web turned 25 in April this year.

It was born from an idea in a technical paper from Berners-Lee, then an obscure, young computer scientist at a European physics lab.

Berners-Lee was working at CERN lab in Switzerland when he outlined a way to easily access files on linked computers, paving the way for a global phenomenon that has touched the lives of billions of people.

Internet Live Stats can be found at

Europeans are descendants of at least 3 ancient human groups: Study

© HealthDay News
Present-day Europeans are the descendants of at least three groups of ancient humans, according to a new study.

Previous research suggested that Europeans descended from indigenous hunter-gatherers and early European farmers. But, a new genetic analysis involving ancient bone samples revealed they are also the descendants of Ancient North Eurasians. Nearly all present-day Europeans have genetic material from this third ancestral group, researchers from Harvard Medical School said.

In conducting its investigation into Europeans' heritage, the team of researchers collected and sequenced the DNA of more than 2,300 people currently living around the world. They also examined DNA from nine ancient humans from Germany, Luxembourg and Sweden.

The ancient samples were taken from the bones of eight hunter-gatherers who lived about 8,000 years ago, and one farmer who lived about 7,000 years ago.

"Ancient DNA has emerged as a powerful technology that makes it possible to go back in time to understand how people in the past relate to people today," study co-senior author, David Reich, professor of genetics at Harvard Medical School, said in a university news release.

About 7,500 years ago in Europe, agriculture from the Near East brought early farmers into contact with hunter-gatherers who had been living in Europe for tens of thousands of years. Nearly all Europeans are the result of the mixing of these two ancient populations.

As above so below: Pathogens specifically target 'good networking' proteins

© Credit: Jeffery L. Dangl / UNC
A fungal infestation on a leaf of the model plant thale cress.
Proteins form either small or large networks to perform their functions. How these protein networks are subverted by pathogens, has been investigated on a plant model by a research team headed by Technische Universität München. Distinct pathogens like fungi and bacteria were found to use the same tactic, launching targeted attacks on highly networked proteins that have multiple functions. The researchers' findings are published in the current issue of Cell Host & Microbe.

Proteins are responsible for practically all vital functions in an organism. For example, they catalyze metabolic reactions, forward signals, transport particular substances and control immune system responses. Researchers established some years ago that proteins do not function independently of each other, but instead form complex networks.

"When you examine the protein networks, you find many similarities with online social networks," says Dr. Pascal Falter-Braun from TUM's Chair of Plant Systems Biology. "Some proteins are good networkers that maintain contact with many other protein molecules, while others are less interactive."

Comment: For information on how pathology is reflected on our societal level:

Global Pathocracy, Authoritarian Followers and the Hope of the World

"Humanity is a Cosmic body and each individual is a cell in that body. But the humanity we see today is a disease-ridden idiot - a shambling, ragged beast covered with oozing pustules of corruption representing science, religions and government - stumbling from one self-inflicted disaster to another. There can be only one outcome and this is documented in ancient literature describing how other 'mighty' cultures have ended."


Do tiny diamonds prove that the 'Big Freeze' was caused by a cosmic impact 12,800 years ago?

A study by the University of Chicago says a cosmic impact (illustrated) is the best explanation for the 'Big Freeze' 12,800 years ago. They say evidence for this comes from nanodiamonds scattered across 11 countries that could only have come from space

* A study by the University of Chicago says a cosmic impact is the best explanation for the 'Big Freeze' 12,800 years ago

* They say evidence for this comes from nanodiamonds scattered across 11 countries that could only have come from space

* The material is found in a thin layer just a few metres below the surface

* And they also formed at temperatures in excess of 2,200°C (4,000°F)

* This suggests they were likely created by a major impact event

* Several other theories have been suggested for this Younger Dryas period nearly 13,000 years ago, including wildfires and a solar flare

* But this latest evidence suggests a cosmic impact is the best theory

Around 12,800 years ago Earth was plunged into a 'Big Freeze', resulting in the extinction of many species. What caused this event, however, is not known.

One theory is that Earth was struck by a comet or asteroid at the time and now new research supporting the theory has been released.

By studying nanodiamonds scattered across Europe, North America and South America, the researchers say the impact theory is right.

ESA's Gaia Observatory locates its first supernova

Type Ia supernova
© ESA/ATG medialab/C. Carreau
An artist’s impression of a Type Ia supernova – the explosion of a white dwarf locked in a binary system with a companion star.
Less than two months after it first began repeatedly scanning the sky, the ESA's Gaia space observatory has discovered its first supernova - a powerful stellar explosion that had occurred in a distant galaxy located some 500 million light-years from Earth, the agency announced on Friday.

According to the ESA, the supernova was located during a sudden rise in the galaxy's brightness that occurred between two Gaia observations made a month apart. This anomalous spike in light was observed by a team of astronomers during a routine sky survey on August 30, and the supernova was given the name Gaia14aaa.

Since beginning its scientific work on July 25, Gaia has been repeatedly scanning the sky in order to examine a catalogue of nearly one billion stars an average of 70 times over the next five years. Dr. Simon Hodgkin from the Institute of Astronomy in Cambridge explained that there were many benefits to this approach.

"This kind of repeated survey comes in handy for studying the changeable nature of the sky," said Dr. Hodgkin, a member of Gaia's Science Alert Team. "As Gaia goes back to each patch of the sky over and over, we have a chance to spot thousands of 'guest stars' on the celestial tapestry. These transient sources can be signposts to some of the most powerful phenomena in the Universe, like this supernova."