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Wed, 21 Nov 2018
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Galaxy

Scientists capture first ever image of supermassive black hole at center of Milky Way

image super massive blackhole
© ESO/Gravity Consortium/L. Calçada
Using the ESO’s sensitive GRAVITY instrument, researchers have confirmed that the enormous object at the heart of our galaxy is — as scientists have assumed for many years — a supermassive black hole.
Scientists have finally confirmed that the massive object at the heart of our galaxy is, in fact, a supermassive black hole.

Researchers used the European Southern Observatory's sensitive GRAVITY instrument on the Very Large Telescope (VLT) to observe infrared radiation flares coming from the accretion disc around Sagittarius A* - the massive object at the center of our galaxy. Scientists think that most galaxies have a supermassive black hole at their center, but they'd never before had the data and observations to prove it.

To measure the effects of gravity near to a black hole, scientists needed to observe an object actually traveling close to it. They found their mark in a small star called S2 whose orbit takes it deep within Sagittarius A*'s gravity well every 16 years. As they watched, they saw three bright flares traveling around the black hole's event horizon at about 30 percent of the speed of light - around 216 million miles per hour.

Comment: See also:


Brain

Kaspersky Labs warns neural implants will lead to 'brain-hacking & memory black market'

brain cyber hacking neural implants
© Getty Images / Images Etc Ltd
The human brain may become the next frontier in hacking, cybersecurity researchers have warned in a paper outlining the vulnerabilities of neural implant technologies that can potentially expose and compromise our consciousness.

While basic brain implants are already here, current science indicates we are on the brink of mastering the chemistry of memory. Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) therapy involves implanting a device into the body to send electrical impulses to electrodes specifically placed to treat neurological diseases like Parkinson's. "Memory implants" like those featured in dystopian TV series Black Mirror will most likely be built on existing DBS architecture. Kaspersky Labs collaborated with Oxford University to test these systems for security flaws before we start linking our consciousness to them, and their report is quite illuminating.

Chalkboard

Fine structure constant - Why the number 137 is one of the greatest mysteries in physics

Famous physicists like Richard Feynman think 137 holds the answers to the Universe.
Number 137
© Big Think
  • The fine structure constant has mystified scientists since the 1800s.
  • The number 1/137 might hold the clues to the Grand Unified Theory.
  • Relativity, electromagnetism and quantum mechanics are unified by the number.
Does the Universe around us have a fundamental structure that can be glimpsed through special numbers?

The brilliant physicist Richard Feynman (1918-1988) famously thought so, saying there is a number that all theoretical physicists of worth should "worry about". He called it "one of the greatest damn mysteries of physics: a magic number that comes to us with no understanding by man".

That magic number, called the fine structure constant, is a fundamental constant, with a value which nearly equals 1/137. Or 1/137.03599913, to be precise. It is denoted by the Greek letter alpha - α.

What's special about alpha is that it's regarded as the best example of a pure number, one that doesn't need units. It actually combines three of nature's fundamental constants - the speed of light, the electric charge carried by one electron, and the Planck's constant, as explains physicist and astrobiologist Paul Davies to Cosmos magazine. Appearing at the intersection of such key areas of physics as relativity, electromagnetism and quantum mechanics is what gives 1/137 its allure.

Arrow Down

Control a living person on Halloween night with this creepy MIT augmented reality game

Augmented Reality Game
© BeeMe MIT/Twitter
Losing a sense of autonomy or control of your day is a huge fear for most people. Massachusetts Institute of Technology is tapping into that horror with what could be its weirdest experiment ever.

MIT's brilliant engineering teams and developers never shy away from complex problems or radically new ideas. However, this one sounds like it's fresh off the pages of a Black Mirror script.

Controlling one man to save the world

The new program is called BeeMe, and it gives those watching the ability to completely control every aspect of a person's day. The project's slogan doesn't exactly give a sense of ease, either: "See what I see. Hear what I hear. Control my actions. Take my will. Be me."

"BeeMe is the first reality augmented game. In times where algorithms make most of our decisions for us, one individual will entirely give up their free will for a day, to be guided by a large crowd of users through an epic quest to defeat an evil AI. Who is in charge? Who is responsible for one's actions? Where does the individual end and others begin?

Crusader

Witches, Comets and Planetary Cataclysms

witch1
© Dot Connector Magazine
When you think of Halloween, what is the first image that comes to mind? I took a little informal poll among my friends, family and associates. Guess what image came in first? Jack-o-lanterns! Bet you thought I was going to say "witches". Well, I sure thought it would be witches, but they only came in a close second!..

When I think of Halloween, I think of grade-school art projects where we cut out silhouettes of witches to paste onto large yellow moons made of construction paper. The witch was always on a broom with her black dress flying in the wind, accompanied by a black cat sitting on the back of the broom. I wondered even then how the cat managed to stay on and why anybody would think that straddling a broomstick as a seat would be even remotely comfortable.

Quenelle - Golden

No breaks in Russia's Space Program as new Soyuz rocket sends military satellite into orbit

soyuz launch russia
Today, a Soyuz 2-1B carrier rocket lifted off from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome. The launch went as planned. The rocket delivered a Ministry of Defense satellite. The entire process was supervised by the high command of the Russian Space Forces.


Light Saber

Russia's miles ahead of US in developing pulse & laser weapons

Russia laser weapons
FRN has been following the development of Russia's high-tech military and arms industry, and has been reporting the increasing gap developing between Russia's capabilities and those of the U.S. This appears to be due in part to mismanagement on the part of the U.S's MIC, or military industrial complex. The American system is speculative, promise based, whereas the Russian system appears to be results based.

As we approach the third decade of the 21st century, the battle over space will feature prominently. We recall back in the 1980's, the infamous war-hawk U.S president, Reagan, promised that the Americans would be able to produce a 'Star Wars' weapons system, and the program was based on the use of lasers.

But it's Russia that has made leaps and bounds in the development of space weapons, and weapons that can reach space. The S-500 for example, can reach those objects in near earth orbit which we casually refer to as 'space'.

Wolf

Scientists find exquisitely preserved ancient Siberian cave lion cubs in permafrost

Spartak lion cub prehistoric
© Academy of Sciences of Yakutia
Spartak - likely a sibling of Boris - was found later but close by the other cub, some 15 metres away.
Infant lost its mother but 43,500 years later gives remarkable evidence that cavemen in prehistoric Europe were RIGHT to draw the species with spots.

Scientists examining recently found cave lion cub Spartak, dug from the permafrost, say they have made an unexpected discovery about the extinct species.

Dr Alexei Tikhonov, head of the Zoological Museum of the Russian Academy of Sciences, said: 'We see that this lion cub is spotted.

'And we know that in ancient cave drawings some ancient lions were depicted with spots.

'It used to be thought that the Palaeolithic artists decided to simply put on these spots.

'Now it can be argued that, at least in the fur of cubs, they really were.'

Comment: Recent archaeological expeditions in Siberia are proving the area to be a treasure trove of finds: See also:


Sun

Researchers create the most detailed picture yet of the Sun's neutrino factory

Borexino instrument nutrinos sun
© Borexino
The Borexino instrument is nestled deep beneath Italy's Appenine mountains. Flashes of light within its massive detector reveal when neutrinos bang into electrons. By painstakingly compiling data on these neutrino-electron collisions over 10 years, scientists have created one of the most detailed snapshots yet of the sun's fiery heart.
Why does the sun shine?

Our local star constantly smashes atoms together deep inside its fiery belly to produce its blazing light. But because this internal commotion lies hidden beneath the sun's thick outer layers, scientists have few ways to learn about what goes on at the star's core.

But by collecting neutrinos - tiny, ghostly particles that barely interact with other matter and so can fly directly out from the sun's center- researchers have produced one of the most detailed snapshots ever compiled of the sun's mysterious interior.

"We're basically staring at the sun in the heart," study co-author Andrea Pocar, a physicist at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, told Live Science. The results, which appeared today (Oct. 24) in the journal Nature, will help solar physicists gain a better understanding of our parent star.

2 + 2 = 4

Your new BS detector kit: How to differentiate science from pseudoscience using 'global warming' as an example

pseudoscience
Guest humor by David Middleton

I ran across this interesting article on Real Clear Science today:
Is That Science? The Wide World of Science

Jamie Hale
October 24, 2018

Science is persuasive, and it should be; science is the great reality detector. What appears to be a scientific claim often isn't. Promoters of pseudoscience (claims disguised as science that have little scientific value) are aware of the strong value placed on science. Attach the term science, or make it sound like science, and the value of a claim, product, or service is instantly enhanced. This can also be problematic because attaching the word science to a claim doesn't make it science.

Pseudoscience is a major roadblock to rationality. Pseudoscientific beliefs are more costly than people think. Time and money spent on pseudoscience is time and money that could have been spent on beneficial activities. We live in an interconnected society, so the pseudoscientific beliefs of a few people may influence outcomes for many people. As an example, the false belief that autism is caused or associated with early vaccination has led to decreased immunization rates, more children being hospitalized, and in some cases death (Stanovich et al. 2016). As another example, consider the strange activity of Steve Jobs, who "ignored his doctors after being told of his pancreatic cancer and delayed surgery for nine months while he pursued unproven fruit diets, consulted a psychic, and received bogus hydrotherapy" (Stanovich et al. 2016,192).


Comment: Too bad the quoted author gets it wrong right off the bat regarding autism!


The Nonsense Detection Kit

The impetus for writing the Nonsense Detection Kit was previous suggestions made by Sagan (1996), Lilienfeld et al. (2012) and Shermer (2001). The Nonsense Detection Kit is referring to nonsense in terms of "scientific nonsense." Nonsense as it is used here is synonymous with pseudoscience. There is no single criterion for distinguishing science from pseudoscience, but it is possible to identify indicators, or warning signs. The more warnings signs that appear, the more likely the claim is nonsense.

[...]

Jamie Hale is a college instructor, and he is associated with Eastern Kentucky University's Cognitive Neuroscience Lab and Perception & Cognition Lab. He has published articles and books on a wide range of topics. Jamie is the director of www.knowledgesummit.net and author of In Evidence We Trust: The need for science, rationality and statistics. His future articles will address models for improved scientific thinking, popular myths, and rationality in terms of cognitive science.

Skeptical Inquirer
Mr. Hale provided six nonsense indicators... Which apply amazingly well to Gorebal Warming!