Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #8086 on: Feb 25th, 2013, 09:34am »
New home for runaway black hole
Galactic ejection may have sent cosmic wanderer through deep space.
The most massive black hole ever measured may be an intergalactic hitchhiker that escaped from one galaxy before getting captured by another. If this scenario, laid out in a paper posted February 18 at arXiv.org, is proven correct, it would be the first time astronomers have definitively spotted a black hole that was expelled from its original galactic home.
Computer simulations of galaxy mergers suggest that some supermassive black holes can be nomads: When the galaxies’ central black holes unite, they can emit an enormous surge of energy in one direction. That burst would rocket the newly formed black hole in the opposite direction, the simulations say, often with enough speed to escape the galaxy.
Astronomers have scoured telescope images for signs of runaway black holes but have come up with only a few controversial possibilities. “We looked at a lot of objects and didn’t find anything,” says Erin Bonning, an astronomer at Quest University Canada in Squamish, British Columbia.
But last November, a study in Nature described a gargantuan black hole, 17 billion times the mass of the sun, at the center of a seemingly run-of-the-mill galaxy called NGC 1277 in the Perseus cluster 250 million light-years away. While most galaxies’ central black holes make up about one-tenth of a percent of their total mass, NGC 1277’s black hole accounts for 14 percent of the galactic mass. “That paper blew everyone’s mind,” Bonning says. “It’s an extraordinary black hole in an ordinary galaxy.”
NGC 1277 and its black hole seemed such an odd couple that Bonning and her colleague Gregory Shields, of the University of Texas at Austin, began to question whether the two had evolved together. They studied images of the Perseus cluster and calculated the gravitational interactions of astronomical objects, trying to determine whether this black hole could have been tossed from another galaxy and then snapped up by NGC 1277.
The key was finding a giant galaxy, the kind that could support a 17-billion-solar-mass black hole, about 325,000 light-years away from NGC 1277. Bonning and Shields propose that this galaxy, called NGC 1275, is the product of a galactic merger that took place billions of years ago. The merging galaxies’ black holes, each about 10 billion times the mass of the sun, orbited each other at nearly the speed of light until they united. Then the scenario from the computer simulations played out: Energy released from the merger flung away the newly formed black hole.
Bonning and Shields suggest that the black hole spent a few billion years whizzing through intergalactic space at about 4.5 million kilometers per hour. It had some companions for its journey: a posse of millions of orbiting stars trapped by the black hole’s intense gravitational pull. Finally the black hole made a close pass to NGC 1277, and over hundreds of millions of years, the galaxy reeled it in to its center.
Bonning and Shields submitted this version of events to Astrophysical Journal Letters and they expect plenty of scrutiny. Avi Loeb, a theorist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Mass., praises Bonning and Shields’ creativity but notes that each of the steps that they describe does not occur frequently in the universe. “Several rare events together are unlikely,” he says. “I would think that there are more likely ways of achieving the same result.”
Shields notes that NGC 1275’s current black hole is slightly smaller than scientists expected, perhaps suggesting that the galaxy had to rebuild from scratch after losing its previous black hole. He and Bonning hope to perform a computer simulation of their proposed scenario. “It was a lot of fun to work on,” Shields says. “Now we need to convince astronomers, including myself, that it’s true.”
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #8088 on: Feb 26th, 2013, 09:11am »
Hot air balloon crash in Egypt kills 19 foreign tourists
Published February 26, 2013
LUXOR, Egypt – A hot air balloon flying over Egypt's ancient city of Luxor caught fire and crashed into a sugar cane field on Tuesday, killing at least 19 foreign tourists, according to health and security officials.
It was one of the worst accidents involving tourists in Egypt and likely to push the key tourism industry deeper into recession.
The casualties included French, British, Belgian, Hungarian, Japanese nationals and nine tourists from Hong Kong, Luxor Governor Ezzat Saad told reporters.
Three initial survivors of the crash -- two British tourists and one Egyptian -- were taken to a local hospital. But one of the British tourists later died of his injuries. British tour operator Thomas Cook confirmed that the tourist died in the hospital, while state radio reported that the Egyptian has severe burns on his body.
Egypt's civil aviation minister, Wael el-Maadawi, suspended hot air balloon flights and flew to Luxor to lead the investigation into the crash.
According to the Egyptian security official, the balloon -- carrying at least 20 tourists -- was flying over Luxor early Tuesday when it caught fire, which triggered an explosion in its gas canister, then plunged at least 1,000 feet from the sky.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #8090 on: Feb 26th, 2013, 09:14am »
As Deadline Nears, Sequester Blame Game Rages on Hill
Feb. 25, 2013 - 05:22PM By JOHN T. BENNETT
WASHINGTON — U.S. House Republican leaders on Monday blasted President Barack Obama’s plans to visit a southeastern Virginia naval shipyard instead of leading talks to avoid pending defense cuts, with one charging the commander in chief with using troops as “campaign props.”
There was no visible movement on Capitol Hill as the final week began before a Friday deadline to find a way to void scheduled $500 billion cuts to planned defense and domestic spending over a decade. But there was plenty of movement toward microphones and social media accounts to hammer the other political party.
Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., criticized Obama’s plans to travel Tuesday to Huntington Ingalls-owned Newport News Shipbuilding for an event about the effects of the pending cuts. Rather than traversing the 181 miles from the White House to the shipyard, McMorris Rodgers said Obama instead should travel the “mile and a half” down Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington to meet with lawmakers about striking a deal to avoid the cuts.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, went one step further, saying Obama has been using U.S. military personnel “as campaign props” at events that seem to Republicans more like political rallies than serious events focused on the real-world effects of the cuts.
During a late-afternoon press conference, Boehner also said if Obama genuinely wanted to avoid the across-the-board, non-prioritized spending reductions, “he’d sit down with [Senate Majority Leader] Harry Reid,” D-Nev., and come up with the kind of $1 trillion deficit-reduction package needed to void the twin cuts.
The White House and congressional Democrats are quick to rebut such rhetoric. They believe any such package should include additional federal spending cuts, some entitlement program reforms and new tax revenue.
Republicans reject the idea that taxes can again be increased. With neither side budging on this point, it appears the defense cuts will be triggered Friday — they would not go into effect until March 27, giving lawmaker 26 days to reach an agreement to again delay them or permanently replace them.
“Mr. President, you got your tax increase,” Boehner said pointedly about tax hikes on the wealthiest Americans that were included in the January “fiscal cliff” deal reached by Vice President Joseph Biden and Senate Minority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnel, R-Ky.
The No. 2 House Republican, Rep. Eric Cantor of Virginia, noted the House last session passed two sequester-avoiding bills. Neither was passed by the Senate, however, due to the tax-hike sticking point; neither House measure contained one cent of the new revenues that Senate Democrats want.
In a notable remark, Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California, the third-ranking House GOP member, told reporters that the remaining $85 billion that the sequester cuts would trim from planned federal spending in fiscal 2013 equals “what we borrow in one month.”
Each Republican leader who spoke at the brief press conference made clear they believe Washington has, as they say, “a spending problem.”
Cantor called the mix of tax revenue, spending cuts and entitlement reforms Obama has proposed to turn off the sequester cuts “a false choice.”
The GOP leadership presser followed several hours during which House Republicans and Democrats engaged in a rhetorical back-and-forth about the sequester standoff. But not on the House floor. On Twitter.
“House #GOP isn’t even hiding fact that they won’t try to replace sequester cuts,” a Twitter account registered to House Ways and Means Committee Democrats wrote about an hour before the Republicans spoke. “Have only 3 bills on floor all week after 9 days off.”
There was this from Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland, the second-ranking Democrat in the House: “As warnings continue to mount, GOP continue to reject compromise & instead support the irrational sequester.” The minority whip was referring to some in the lower chamber’s GOP caucus who have said they would rather take the defense cuts than raise one more penny in tax revenue.
Before those two Twitter broadsides, this from Boehner as the sequester deadline is only four days away: “Moving the goalposts becomes common [White House] practice.”
And following the press briefing, McCarthy tweeted a line he used during the event: “Americans need more than a ‘road show’ President.”
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #8091 on: Feb 26th, 2013, 09:17am »
The Navy Is Sick of the One-Person Subs It Uses for Deep-Sea Diving
By Robert Beckhusen 02.26.13 6:30 AM
Moving around underwater in a diving suit is a lot less fun than it sounds. To survive at the deepest depths, divers need enormous, cumbersome, pressure-resistant suits that limit their mobility. But the Navy is sick of trading survivability for flexibility, no matter how far into the briny deep its divers wade.
In the Navy’s most recent round of technology solicitations to small businesses, the seafaring service is looking for someone to develop a lightweight atmospheric diving suit that weighs under 400 pounds and can withstand pressure at 1,000 feet below sea level. If the weight requirement still sounds pretty heavy, consider that the current generation of deep-sea suits can weigh thousands of pounds, limiting what divers can do in them.
According to the solicitation, the new diving suit is for “expeditionary diving and salvage forces” (.pdf) and retrieving “high value material” in “austere environments.” Unlike the bulky suits divers currently wear — really more like one-person submarines — these might be light enough so divers can propel themselves with their own feet. (Current models use thrusters, not divers’ legs.) Still, a wetsuit this ain’t: It’s still a self-contained pressure suit.
It’s also extremely dangerous to dive below a few hundred feet without one of these single-serving subs. Below 500 feet, a neurological disorder called high-pressure nervous syndrome can kick in, which can lead to drowsiness and tremors. Breathing nitrogen and oxygen at depths below 300 feet can also cause blackouts and even death. Saturation diving, which relies on gradually acclimating to underwater pressure over time, isn’t perfect either. Surfacing too quickly can result in the bends, a form of decompression sickness caused by nitrogen bubbles expanding and becoming stuck in vital organs.
To prevent death from happening at these extreme depths, bulky atmospheric suits maintain a steady internal pressure of one standard atmosphere, or one atm — the same as the mean pressure at sea level. That also means deep-sea divers don’t have to depressurize when surfacing. But the Navy notes: “This size and cumbersome configuration severely constrains its use.”
Some experimental suits have some of the functionality the Navy wants. Canadian firm Nuytco Research recently developed an atmospheric diving suit called the Exosuit ADS, which can descend to 1,000 feet — its crush depth is double that — and weighs between 500 to 600 pounds, just over the Navy’s requirement. Divers can wear flipper boots in addition to the suit’s thrusters. And the Nuytco model uses a foam coating of teeny, tiny microbubbles to keep divers’ limbs buoyant. The suit also has artificial hands controlled by handles contained inside.
Nor is the Navy is the only part of the military giving divers a boost. The Pentagon’s blue-sky research agency Darpa wants to develop a sensor system that can detect signs of decompression sickness in divers, and adjust for it by squirting small amounts of nitric oxide into divers’ lungs when there’s danger. But those divers won’t be operating at extreme depths. For that, you’ll still need a clunky suit — though a lighter one. With flipper boots.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #8093 on: Feb 26th, 2013, 09:22am »
News in Brief: Sleep loss affects gene activity
Losing zzz’s disrupts daily rhythms at biochemical level
By Tina Hesman Saey February 25, 2013
People who don’t get enough sleep tend to experience a wide variety of health problems, but scientists haven’t known why at a molecular level. Now, Derk-Jan Dijk and colleagues at the University of Surrey in England report changes in gene activity in 26 people who had built up a sleep deficit.
For one week the volunteers slept at least eight hours per night. Then, participants were allowed just under six hours of sleep each night for another week. People were sleepy and sluggish after that week, and blood tests showed that the activity of 711 of their genes had changed, the researchers report online February 25 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Among the genes affected by the shift were those that govern the immune system. Some of those genes stopped cycling in a daily, or circadian, pattern. Activity of other genes that don’t usually follow the clock fell into a daily rhythm. The researchers conclude that skimping on sleep can drastically change the body’s daily rhythms and may lead to health problems.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #8094 on: Feb 26th, 2013, 12:55pm »
Father wants school dress code changed after son asked to remove Marines T-shirt
By Joshua Rhett Miller Published February 26, 2013
An Illinois father wants a school district to reconsider its dress code after his son was asked to remove a U.S. Marines T-shirt or be suspended, FoxNews.com has learned.
Daniel McIntyre, 44, of Genoa, told FoxNews.com that his 14-year-old son, Michael, was asked to remove the T-shirt by eighth-grade teacher Karen Deverell during reading class at Genoa-Kingston Middle School on Monday.
Deverell, citing the school’s dress code, said the garment’s interlocking rifles was problematic and had to be removed from sight, McIntyre said.
“My son is very proud of the Marines, and, in fact, of all the services,” McIntyre said. “So he wears it with pride. There are two rifles crossed underneath the word ‘Marines’ on the shirt, but to me that should be overlooked. It’s more about the Marines instead of the rifles.”
"This is not right. This policy that they have in place can obviously be loosely interpreted, so they need to change it.”
McIntyre said his son was initially threatened with suspension before complying with Deverell’s request to turn it inside out. He has worn the T-shirt to school many times before without incident, McIntyre said.
“He was upset, he couldn’t understand it,” he continued. “He couldn’t understand why a teacher would make him do that.”
Brett McPherson, the school’s principal, referred questions to Genoa-Kingston Superintendent Joe Burgess, who reiterated that the shirt is not in violation of the district’s dress policy.
“We’ve been accused of a lot of things, but our middle school is well-known for its support of the armed forces,” Burgess told FoxNews.com. “That’s why this is so disheartening to all of us.”
Deverell did not inform school officials of the incident, Burgess said, adding that McPherson would have quickly determined the shirt to be a non-issue if consulted.
“Nobody took the next step of asking the principal or making them aware of it,” Burgess said. “The teacher is obviously allowed to question anything they feel might be a violation of dress code, but again, had an administrator been allowed to respond, this could have been taken care of yesterday.”
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #8097 on: Feb 27th, 2013, 09:30am »
Originally published February 26, 2013 at 6:51 PM Page modified February 26, 2013 at 8:54 PM
Cases of advanced breast cancer rise among younger women
Rates of advanced breast cancer among younger women have been steadily increasing since 1976, researchers from the University of Washington and Seattle Children’s found.
By Carol M. Ostrom Seattle Times health reporter
The likelihood that a woman age 25 to 39 will be diagnosed with advanced breast cancer has steadily increased since the mid-1970s, researchers from Seattle Children’s and Oregon Health and Science University have found.
Analyzing data from hundreds of thousands of cases collected in three national cancer registries, the researchers, whose work is published in Wednesday’s issue of JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association), found no other age group had such an increase.
Although breast cancer overall is relatively rare in younger women, it is the most common malignant tumor in young adult women, who tend to experience more aggressive disease and have lower survival rates, the study’s authors said.
The study looked at the extent of disease at the time of original diagnosis, comparing the change in incidence in each age group from 1976 to 2009.
The increase in incidence of metastatic disease in the 25-39 age group was small — an increase of 1.37 cases per year for every 100,000 women — but statistically significant and steady throughout the time period, said the study’s lead researcher, Dr. Rebecca Johnson, medical director of the Adolescent and Young Adult oncology program at Seattle Children’s.
Since 1992, when data on race and geographic location were added to the databases, the increase among women in that age group occurred in all races and ethnicities evaluated and in both metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas, the researchers said.
Non-Hispanic white women and African-American women, as well as women with estrogen-receptor positive subtypes of cancer, appear to have been most affected.
186 percent increase
Over the time period analyzed in the study, the number of women ages 25-39 in the U.S. grew from about 22 million to approximately 28 to 30 million — a figure that’s been steady since the 1980s, Johnson noted. That’s an increase of about 36 percent.
But in the same period, the number of women in that age group with an original diagnosis of metastatic breast cancer increased from 293 in 1976 to 838 in 2009, an increase of 186 percent.
No other age group had a similar increase.
Breast-cancer expert Dr. Julie Gralow, who was not involved in this study, added there is no evidence that breast cancer overall in this age group is increasing.
She said it may be that advanced breast-cancer incidence is not actually increasing in the young age group, but appears to be as a result of better imaging.
“Are we just looking harder with better technology?” asked Gralow, director of breast-medical oncology at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance.
Breast cancer in young women, which has long been known to be more aggressive, is now a hot topic, she said, and has been the focus of recent meetings.
She wonders how many of the young women ultimately diagnosed with advanced cancer presented their symptoms much earlier to a health-care provider, “and if the disease had been recognized and worked up at that time, could we have prevented the Stage IV diagnosis?”
Whether the findings of the study are verified, she said, “we’re still not doing a good job of finding breast cancer in young women.”
Johnson said she and her colleagues went through statistical calculations to rule out the possibility that the shift might have been caused by changes over the decades in the way cancers are staged — the process doctors use to determine how far the cancer has spread. “Stage migration couldn’t account for this change,” she said.
With one exception, rates of advanced breast cancer did not increase for any other age group.
Despite the findings, Johnson said she does not believe the data suggest changing current screening recommendations for young women, in part because of the risk of radiation from widespread use of mammograms.
But younger women should be vigilant and seek diagnosis promptly if they discover a breast lump, she said.
“Delayed diagnosis is a huge problem for this age group, which is most likely to be uninsured," she said. “They may notice a lump and think it’s nothing, and not go in very promptly.” And doctors may advise watching and waiting instead of taking steps to diagnose.
“If people are vigilant, if women go in promptly for evaluation, and doctors do biopsies promptly, it’s possible that some of this trend could be abated or controlled or even decrease,” Johnson said.
But it’s also possible, she warned, that the tumors in young women are of a type that metastasize before women could feel a lump.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #8098 on: Feb 27th, 2013, 09:32am »
Obama will meet with congressional leaders on spending cuts Friday
By Jeff Mason and Steve Holland
WASHINGTON | Wed Feb 27, 2013 10:29am EST
(Reuters) - President Barack Obama will meet with top congressional leaders on Friday to discuss the deep, automatic U.S. government spending cuts slated to go into effect that day, congressional and White House officials said on Wednesday.
Obama is set to meet with Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives John Boehner, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi, the House Democratic leader.
The meeting would be the first between the leaders this year, despite weeks of haggling over whether and how Washington could avoid the cuts known as the "sequester," which the White House has warned will cause damage to U.S. economic growth.
"The meeting Friday is an opportunity for us to visit with the president about how we can all keep our commitment to reduce Washington spending," McConnell said in a statement.
"We can either secure those reductions more intelligently, or we can do it the president's way with across-the-board cuts. But one thing Americans simply will not accept is another tax increase to replace spending reductions we already agreed to," he said.
Obama has pressed for a deal to avoid the cuts that includes closing tax loopholes that affect wealthier Americans. Republicans, who agreed to an increase in tax rates for households making more than $450,000 a year as part of the "fiscal cliff" deal that went into effect earlier this year, want a deal that focuses solely on cuts in government spending.
One congressional Republican aide criticized the White House for calling the meeting after the cuts, which are split between social programs cherished by Democrats and defense spending championed by Republicans, were slated to go into effect.
"If the President is serious about stopping the sequester, why did he schedule a meeting on Tuesday for Friday when the sequester hits at midnight on Thursday?" the aide said. "Either someone needs to buy the White House a calendar, or this is just a - belated - farce. They ought to at least pretend to try."
A White House official confirmed the Friday meeting but did not provide further details on the reason for its timing.
(Reporting by Jeff Mason and Steve Holland; Editing by Eric Beech)
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #8099 on: Feb 27th, 2013, 09:39am »
The Strange Beauty of Historic Computers Brought Back From the Dead
By Cade Metz 02.27.13 6:30 AM
When you open the door and walk into the room, it even smells like the 1960s. It reminds you of the old garage where your grandfather kept his twin Chevrolet Corvairs. But those aren't cars you smell. Those are computers.
This is the "1401 Room" on the first floor of the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California — the room where Robert Garner and his motley crew of amateur technicians have spent the last decade reviving two of the massive IBM 1401 mainframe computers that littered the business world throughout the '60s and on into '70s.
As the door opens, you can see not only the 1401s themselves, but the mechanical punch-card machine where they take instructions from the outside world, the towering drives where they store data on spinning spools of tape, and even the desk-sized printer where they funnel information onto good old-fashioned paper. There's a gentle hum in the room. You can feel the heat coming off the machines. And, yes, you can smell them too. Garner says it's the odor of the oils used in some of the mechanical equipment, including the printer and the punch-card reader.
This assault on your senses is one of the chief reasons Garner and his cohorts have spent all these years restoring the two IBMs. They want to show a new generation what these machines were like -- and they want to show it as completely as possible. "This is the creation of a time machine," Garner says. "When people are here, experiencing this, it sparks their imagination. It transfers them back in time, but it also takes them forward in time. It makes them feel like they too can build new things."
Garner and his team also work on the IBMs because it's fun. "Though you might say that people who do this kind of thing are crazy — and you'd wouldn't be wrong — we enjoy doing it together," says Stan Paddock, another member of the group. But Garner is right: there's a larger payoff. And you feel it as soon as you step into the room.
In short, Garner and his team are historians — in the purest sense of the word. And thankfully, they're not alone.
At the Computer History Museum, volunteers have toiled to revive a wide range of artifacts from an earlier age of American computing, including the IBM 1620 and the DEC PDP-1. Across the Atlantic, in Great Britain, the Computer Conservation Society has sponsored an even longer list of restoration projects, overseeing the revival of such seminal machines as the WITCH (the world's oldest digital computer) and the Colossus (used to crack German codes during the Second World War). And then there are hobbyists like Bill Degnan, people across the globe who spend their free time rebuilding whatever old machines they can get their hands on — and occasionally flaunting their work at events like the Vintage Computer Festival.
Sadly, we can't show you what these machines smell like. Or what they sound like. Or what they feel like. But we can show you what they look like — or at least try. With the gallery of images above, we give you a few of our favorites.