Science & Technology


Black holes have simple feeding habits

The biggest black holes may feed just like the smallest ones, according to data from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory and ground-based telescopes. This discovery supports the implication of Einstein's relativity theory that black holes of all sizes have similar properties, and will be useful for predicting the properties of a conjectured new class of black holes.

The conclusion comes from a large observing campaign of the spiral galaxy M81, which is about 12 million light years from Earth. In the center of M81 is a black hole that is about 70 million times more massive than the Sun, and generates energy and radiation as it pulls gas in the central region of the galaxy inwards at high speed.

In contrast, so-called stellar mass black holes, which have about 10 times more mass than the Sun, have a different source of food. These smaller black holes acquire new material by pulling gas from an orbiting companion star. Because the bigger and smaller black holes are found in different environments with different sources of material to feed from, a question has remained about whether they feed in the same way.

©NASA/CXC/Wisconsin/D.Pooley and CfA/A.Zezas; Optical: NASA/ESA/CfA/A.Zezas; UV: NASA/JPL-Caltech/CfA/J.Huchra et al.; IR: NASA/JPL-Caltech/CfA
This composite image of M81 includes X-rays from the Chandra (blue), optical data from Hubble (green), infrared from Spitzer (pink) and ultraviolet data from GALEX (purple). The inset shows a close-up of the Chandra image where a supermassive black hole about 70 million times more massive than the Sun lurks. A new study using data from Chandra and ground-based telescopes, combined with detailed theoretical models, shows that the giant black hole in M81 feeds just like ones with masses of only about ten times that of the Sun.


Japan's robot for lonely men (+video)

Tokyo - She is big-busted, petite, very friendly, and she runs on batteries.

A Japanese firm has produced a 38 cm (15 inch) tall robotic girlfriend that kisses on command, to go on sale in September for around US$175, with a target market of lonely adult men.

Using her infrared sensors and battery power, the diminutive damsel named "EMA" puckers up for nearby human heads, entering what designers call its "love mode".

"Strong, tough and battle-ready are some of the words often associated with robots, but we wanted to break that stereotype and provide a robot that's sweet and interactive," said Minako Sakanoue, a spokeswoman for the maker, Sega Toys.


Large 'Planet X' May Lurk Beyond Pluto

An icy, unknown world might lurk in the distant reaches of our solar system beyond the orbit of Pluto, according to a new computer model.


DDoS returns to plague websites

And this time it's more sophisticated than mere traffic overloading.

A less known part of the recent ARP attack against H D Moore's MetaSploit site was an attempted Denial of Service attack that coincided with the successful ARP attack.

Denial of Service (DoS) and distributed Denial of Service (dDoS) attacks are almost a mainstay of background Internet traffic and have become an accepted part of hosting content online.

A pattern has been emerging from the background noise over the last few weeks which suggests that something is taking place that is resulting in an increasing number of successful attacks against moderate to large sites.


Survey suggests U.S. research misconduct is common

WASHINGTON - Research misconduct at U.S. institutions may be more common than previously suspected, with 9 percent of scientists saying in a new survey that they personally had seen fabrication, falsification or plagiarism.

The survey of 2,212 mainly biomedical scientists at 605 universities and other research institutions, published in the journal Nature on Wednesday, also showed that researchers are very reluctant to report bad conduct.

Thirty-seven percent of cases of suspected misconduct were never reported to the institution involved for investigation, perhaps due to fear of reprisals for turning in a colleague or a desire to protect the flow of research money.

"There's more misconduct, or potential for misconduct, out there than probably anyone has appreciated before. And a good part of that goes unreported," James Wells, director of the Office of Research Policy at the University of Wisconsin who helped conduct the survey, said in a telephone interview.

"Usually what happens is that somebody very close to the research has to observe this going on. And they have to step forward and report it to their institution in order for something to happen. And they can very often be jeopardizing themselves," added Wells.


US: Stem cell field grows despite controversy - experts

Political controversy may have slowed the pace of stem cell science, but the field is still promising enough to attract many talented researchers, stem cell experts said on Saturday.

A meeting of the International Society for Stem Cell Research in Philadelphia this week attracted 2,500 delegates, something ISSCR president Dr. George Daley finds encouraging.

"Despite the political opposition to parts of stem cell therapy, the entire field has grown in a healthy way," Daley said in a telephone interview.


Scientists discover way to color MRI scans

CHICAGO - U.S. scientists have developed a way to add color to medical scans known as MRIs, potentially enhancing the information and sensitivity the images provide, they said on Wednesday.

MRI stands for magnetic resonance imaging. The technique uses a magnetic field and radio waves to get cross-sectional images of organs and structures the inside the body. Chemical contrast agents help enhance the quality of the images, but they are typically only in shades of gray.

"Once you put things in different colors, you can get a lot of different information out than you can in black and white," said Gary Zabow of the National Institute of Standards and Technology, whose research appears in the journal Nature.

"You might imagine having a normal cell in blue and a cancer cell in red. You can track those cells in the body and see how they behave," Zabow said in a telephone interview.


New Research On Octopuses Sheds Light On Memory

Research on octopuses has shed new light on how our brains store and recall memory, says Dr. Benny Hochner of the Department of Neurobiology at the Alexander Silberman Institute of Life Sciences at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Why octopuses?

©Hebrew University
The octopus learns to avoid attacking a red ball because he gets a mild electric shock.

Octopuses and other related creatures, known as cephalopods, are considered to be the most intelligent invertebrates because they have relatively large brains and they can be trained for various learning and memory tasks, says Dr. Hochner.

Their behavior repertoire and learning and memory abilities are even comparable in their complexity to those of advanced vertebrates. However, they are still invertebrate mollusks with brains that contain a much fewer number of nerve cells and much simpler anatomical organization than that of vertebrate brains. This unique constellation was utilized to tackle one of the most interesting questions in modern neuroscience, which is how the brain stores and recalls memories.


First farmers made 'lucky beads'

Some of the first farmers in the Near East probably used green beads as amulets to protect themselves and their crops, a study suggests.

ancient beads
Beads and pendants from Gilgal II, an archaeological site in the Jordan Valley, and belonging to the Late Natufian culture. They are dated to between 11,600 and 10,500 years ago.


Honeywell To Provide Electronic Navigation For Future Soldier Program

Paris -- Honeywell has been selected by EADS to provide a miniature electronic navigation aid - a Dead-Reckoning Module - that ensures accurate personnel location data in environments where GPS signals are unavailable.

In providing accurate position information for the pedestrian user, the light-weight personnel navigator module is attached to the user's vest and when GPS is available identifies the individual's stride length.

"Honeywell's personnel navigator module provides position data even when the user is inside a building or under tree foliage, and this enables better tracking of teammates in dangerous situations," said Werner Hansli, Honeywell Sales Director, European Land Systems.

"This miniature electronic navigation aid is extremely valuable for helping to ensure troop safety in urban warfare and combat where buildings and other obstructions block GPS."