Science & Technology


Radio telescope reveals secrets of massive black hole

At the cores of many galaxies, supermassive black holes expel powerful jets of particles at nearly the speed of light. Just how they perform this feat has long been one of the mysteries of astrophysics. The leading theory says the particles are accelerated by tightly-twisted magnetic fields close to the black hole, but confirming that idea required an elusive close-up view of the jet's inner throat. Now, using the unrivaled resolution of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory's Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA), astronomers have watched material winding a corkscrew outward path and behaving exactly as predicted by the theory.

"We have gotten the clearest look yet at the innermost portion of the jet, where the particles actually are accelerated, and everything we see supports the idea that twisted, coiled magnetic fields are propelling the material outward," said Alan Marscher, of Boston University, leader of an international research team. "This is a major advance in our understanding of a remarkable process that occurs throughout the Universe," he added.

©Marscher et al., Wolfgang Steffen, Cosmovision, NRAO/AUI/NSF
Artist's conception of region near supermassive black hole where twisted magnetic fields propel and shape jet of particles.
Bizarro Earth

Turkey: 7,000 years older than Stonehenge: the site that stunned archaeologists

Circles of elaborately carved stones from about 9,500BC predate even agriculture

As a child, Klaus Schmidt used to grub around in caves in his native Germany in the hope of finding prehistoric paintings. Thirty years later, a member of the German Archaeological Institute, he found something infinitely more important: a temple complex almost twice as old as anything comparable on the planet.

Göbekli Tepe
©Gevork Nazaryan
A part of the remaints of the T shaped pillars.

Russia investigates off-course space landing

Russia has launched an investigation into why a manned space capsule returned to earth hundreds of kilometers (miles) off course, a space industry official said on Wednesday.

Russian space officials denied a newspaper report the three crew returning from the International Space Station came close to death during Saturday's re-entry.

The Soyuz-TMA capsule with South Korea's first astronaut Yi So-yeon, U.S. commander Peggy Whitson and Russian flight engineer Yuri Malenchenko made a much steeper than usual "ballistic" landing.

©REUTERS/Shamil Zhumatov
A ground crew member checks radiation levels near the Soyuz capsule after it landed in northern Kazakhstan April 19, 2008.

How many moons does the Earth have?

A simple question, with an easy answer... well if you think it is as simple as 1 then you haven't thought hard enough (seriously the answer is probably 1 but... ). Nothing new here but interesting nonetheless.

The near-Earth asteroid 3753 Cruithne is now known to be a companion, and an unusual one, of the Earth. This asteroid shares the Earth's orbit, its motion "choreographed" in such a way as to remain stable and avoid colliding with our planet. It orbits around the Sun in 1:1 orbital resonance with that of the Earth. Due to its unusual orbit relative to that of the Earth, it is a periodic inclusion planetoid. From the Earth's point of view Cruithne actually follows a kidney bean-shaped horseshoe orbit ahead of the Earth, taking slightly less than one year to complete a circuit (to see some diagrams of this take a look here. Other examples of natural bodies known to be in horseshoe orbits include Janus and Epimetheus, natural satellites of Saturn. So maybe there is a case there?

Butterflies, tornadoes and climate modelling

Many of you will have seen the obituaries (MIT, NYT) for Ed Lorenz, who died a short time ago. Lorenz is most famous scientifically for discovering the exquisite sensitivity to initial conditions (i.e. chaos) in a simple model of fluid convection, which serves as an archetype for the weather prediction problem. He is most famous outside science for the 'The Butterfly Effect' described in his 1972 paper "Predictability: Does the Flap of a Butterfly's Wings in Brazil Set Off a Tornado in Texas?". Lorenz's contributions to both atmospheric science and the mathematics of dynamical systems were wide ranging and seminal. He also directly touched the lives of many of us here at RealClimate, and both his wisdom, and quiet personal charm will be sorely missed.

Lorenz Hiking
Cow Skull

Feeding the Dead: Ancient graves reveal bizarre Roman custom

The laying of new water mains in the Ashperton area has unearthed extensive evidence of Ancient Roman settlement. The most significant finds were made last summer by a team of archaeologists called into investigate.

The Border Archaeology team from Leominster excavated the remains of at least 18 bodies in a field at Stretton Grandison. At 7.30pm on Tuesday, April 29 a special public presentation in Ashperton Village Hall will discuss the finds and throw fresh light on the area's Roman and Dark Age past.

One oak coffin was one of the best examples ever found in Britain. It contained a tall, middle-aged man with osteoarthritis. A second less well-preserved coffin provided evidence of a bizarre Roman ritual known as "feeding the dead." Part of the lid had been cut away, exposing the head, and a channel had been cut into the grave.

Archaeologists in Fiji discover a three thousand year old pot

Archaeologists in Fiji are marvelling at the discovery of a 3,000 year-old pot containing jewellery.

The pot contained shell jewellery believed to have been made by the Lapita people and was found at Bourewa on Fiji's main island of Viti Levu.

Humans nearly wiped out 70,000 years ago, study says

WASHINGTON -- Human beings may have had a brush with extinction 70,000 years ago, an extensive genetic study suggests.
Alarm Clock

US: Earthquake risk on North Olympic Peninsula detailed by scientists

Port Angeles, Washington - Government scientists are discussing two earthquake faults which could cause serious damage on the North Olympic Peninsula.

New earthquake faults
©KOMO News

The U.S. Geological Survey released new seismic hazard maps this week that focused on quake faults across the nation, including the Lake Creek-Boundary Creek fault that runs from central to eastern Clallam County - from roughly 15 miles west of the Elwha River to just past Siebert Creek.

It is capable of producing a magnitude-6.79 earthquake and has been active over the past several thousand years.

It was studied in detail by scientists in 2006 and is included for the first time in the new seismic hazard maps.
Evil Rays

Study Captures Brain's Activity Processing Speech

Research is First to Describe How Neurons Interpret Different Words

Rad, Lad. You might be able to hear the difference, but to many children and adults, these words sound exactly the same. The problem isn't that they can't hear the sounds. The problem is that they can't tell them apart.