sciencehabit writes "Like all invisible things that are only partly understood, black holes evoke a sense of mystery. Astronomers know that the tremendous gravitational pull of a black hole sucks matter in, and that the material falling in causes powerful jets of particles to shoot out of the hole at nearly the speed of light. But how exactly this phenomenon occurs remains a matter of conjecture, because astronomers have never quite managed to observe the details – until now. Astrophysicists have taken the closest look to date at the region where matter swirls around a black hole. By measuring the size of the base of a jet shooting out of the supermassive black hole at the center of the M87 galaxy (abstract), the researchers conclude that the black hole must be spinning and that the material orbiting must also be swirling in the same direction. Some of the material from this orbiting 'accretion disk' is also falling into the black hole, like water swirling down a drain."
Check out SlashCloud for the latest in cloud computing.
Reader intellitech points to an article at National Geographic, from which he excerpts: "If astronomers' early predictions hold true, the holidays next year may hold a glowing gift for stargazers—a superbright comet, just discovered streaking near Saturn. Even with powerful telescopes, comet 2012 S1 (ISON) is now just a faint glow in the constellation Cancer. But the ball of ice and rocks might become visible to the naked eye for a few months in late 2013 and early 2014—perhaps outshining the moon, astronomers say. The comet is already remarkably bright, given how far it is from the sun, astronomer Raminder Singh Samra said. What's more, 2012 S1 seems to be following the path of the Great Comet of 1680, considered one of the most spectacular ever seen from Earth."
An anonymous reader writes with news of a recent paper about the bias among science faculty against female students. The study, recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, asked professors to evaluate applications for a lab manager position. The faculty were given information about fictional applicants with randomly-assigned genders. They tended to rate male applicants as more hire-able than female applicants, and male names also generated higher starting salary and more mentoring offers. This bias was found in both male and female faculty. "The average salary suggested by male scientists for the male student was $30,520; for the female student, it was $27,111. Female scientists recommended, on average, a salary of $29,333 for the male student and $25,000 for the female student."
DevotedSkeptic sends this news from NASA: "The 18,000-pound test article that mimics the size and weight of NASA's Orion spacecraft crew module recently completed a final series of water impact tests in the Hydro Impact Basin at the agency's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va. The campaign of swing and vertical drops simulated various water landing scenarios to account for different velocities, parachute deployments, entry angles, wave heights and wind conditions the spacecraft may encounter when landing in the Pacific Ocean. The next round of water impact testing is scheduled to begin in late 2013 using a full-sized model that was built to validate the flight vehicle's production processes and tools."
SchrodingerZ writes "In the wake of Neil Armstrong's death, the United States Navy has announced this week that a new research vessel will be named in his honor. This ship will be the first Armstrong-class Auxiliary General Oceanographic Research (AGOR) ship in the world. This ship got its name from secretary Ray Mabus, who wanted to honor the first man to set foot on the moon. 'Naming this class of ships and this vessel after Neil Armstrong honors the memory of an extraordinary individual, but more importantly, it reminds us all to embrace the challenges of exploration and to never stop discovering,' say Mabus. Armstrong, before his career at NASA, flew in combat missions during the Korean war. 'The Armstrong-class AGOR ship will be a modern oceanographic research platform equipped with acoustic equipment capable of mapping the deepest parts of the oceans, and modular on-board laboratories that will provide the flexibility to meet a wide variety of oceanographic research challenges.' It will be 238 feet long, beam length of 50 feet, and will be able to travel at 12 knots. The ship is currently under construction in Anacortes, Washington."
derekmead writes "Data from the enormous Green Bank Telescope at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory has been used to test some of Einstein's theories, discover new molecules in space, and find evidence of the building blocks of life and of the origins of galaxies. With 6,600 hours of observation time a year, the GBT produces massive amounts of data on the makeup of space, and any researchers with reason to use the data are welcome to do so. The eleven-year-old GBT stands as one of the crowning achievements of American big science. But with the National Science Foundation strapped for cash like most other science-minded government agencies, the NRAO's funding is threatened. In August of this year, the Astronomy Portfolio Review, a committee appointed by the NSF, recommended that the GBT be defunded over the next five years. Researchers, along with locals and West Virginia congressmen, are fighting the decision, which puts the nearly $100 million telescope at risk. Unless they succeed, America's giant dish will go silent."
ananyo writes "Two species of African spiny mouse have been caught at something no other mammal is known to do — completely regenerating damaged tissue. The work could help improve wound healing in humans. The species — Acomys kempi and Acomys percivali — have skin that is brittle and easily torn, which helps them to escape predators by jettisoning patches of their skin when caught or bitten. Researchers report that whereas normal laboratory mice (Mus musculus) grow scar tissue when their skin is removed, African spiny mice can regrow complete suites of hair follicles, skin, sweat glands, fur and even cartilage (abstract). Tissue regeneration has not been seen in mammals before, though it is common in crustaceans, insects, reptiles and amphibians."
coondoggie writes "The U.S. Department of Homeland Security this week issued a call for unmanned systems makers to participate in a program that will ultimately determine their safety and performance for use in first responder, law enforcement and border security situations. In a twist that will certainly raise some eyebrows, the results of the program — called the Robotic Aircraft for Public Safety (RAPS) — will remain unavailable to the public, which, considering how involved the actual public may be with these drones is unfortunate."
An anonymous reader writes in with a story about some new electronics that are designed to melt in your body not in your hand. "Scientists have created ultra-thin electronic devices that can 'melt away' in the body once their job is done. A new study published in the journal Science, details how scientists have created a tiny, fully functional electronic device capable of vanishing within their environment, like in the body or in water, once they are no longer needed or useful. There are already implants that dispense drugs or provide electrical stimulation but they do not dissolve. The latest creation is an early step in a technology that may benefit not only medicine, like enabling the development of medical implants that don't need to be surgically removed or the risk of long-term side effects, but also electronic waste disposal."
sighted writes "NASA reports that its Curiosity rover mission has found evidence that a stream once ran vigorously — and for a sustained amount of time — across the area on Mars where the rover is driving. There is, of course, earlier evidence for the presence of water on Mars, but NASA says this evidence, images of rocks containing ancient streambed gravels, is the first of its kind."
Hugh Pickens writes "Doug Gross writes that thanks to technology, there's been a recent sea change in how people today kill time. 'Those dog-eared magazines in your doctor's office are going unread. Your fellow customers in line at the deli counter are being ignored. And simply gazing around at one's surroundings? Forget about it.' With their games, music, videos, social media and texting, smartphones 'superstimulate,' a desire humans have to play when things get dull, says anthropologist Christopher Lynn and he believes that modern society may be making that desire even stronger. 'When you're habituated to constant stimulation, when you lack it, you sort of don't know what to do with yourself,' says Lynn. 'When we aren't used to having down time, it results in anxiety. 'Oh my god, I should be doing something.' And we reach for the smartphone. It's our omnipresent relief from that.' Researchers say this all makes sense. Fiddling with our phones, they say, addresses a basic human need to cure boredom by any means necessary. But they also fear that by filling almost every second of down time by peering at our phones we are missing out on the creative and potentially rewarding ways we've dealt with boredom in days past. 'Informational overload from all quarters means that there can often be very little time for personal thought, reflection, or even just 'zoning out,'" researchers write. 'With a mobile (phone) that is constantly switched on and a plethora of entertainments available to distract the naked eye, it is understandable that some people find it difficult to actually get bored in that particular fidgety, introspective kind of way.'"
coondoggie writes "The US Air Force this week said it will base the first Space Fence radar post on Kwajalein Island in the Republic of the Marshall Islands with the site planned to be operational by 2017. The Space Fence is part of the Department of Defense's effort to better track and detect space objects which can consist of thousands of pieces of space debris as well as commercial and military satellite parts."
puddingebola writes in with news of a new app that might be of interest to those studying Einstein's brain, or just looking for something neat for Halloween. "Albert Einstein's brain, that revolutionized physics, can now be downloaded as an iPad app for USD 9.99. The exclusive application, which has been just launched, promises to make detailed images of Einstein's brain more accessible to scientists than ever before. The funding to scan and digitize nearly 350 fragile and priceless slides made from slices of Einstein's brain after his death in 1955 were given to a medical museum under development in Chicago, website 'Independent.ie' reported. The application will allow researchers and novices to peer into the eccentric Nobel winner's brain as if they were looking through a microscope. 'I can't wait to find out what they'll discover,' Steve Landers, a consultant for the National Museum of Health and Medicine Chicago, who designed the app, was quoted as saying by 'Press Association.'"
DeviceGuru writes "Suitable Technologies today unveiled a telepresence robot based on technology from Willow Garage, a robotics research lab. Beam (as in 'Beam me up, Scotty' — no, really!) implements a video chat function on a computer you can remotely drive around via Internet-based control. Beam, which stands 62 inches tall and weighs 95 pounds, adheres to four operational imperatives, which are intended to mimic human interaction and behavior: reciprocity of vision (if I see you, you must see me); ensuring private communication (no recordings of what goes on); transparency of technology (keeping the interaction natural); and respect social norms (don't push or shove Beam!). But the big question is: Does Beam also adhere to Isaac Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics? Let's hope so!"
Third Position writes "The most unambiguous data to date on the elusive 113th atomic element has been obtained by researchers at the RIKEN Nishina Center for Accelerator-based Science (RNC). A chain of six consecutive alpha decays, produced in experiments at the RIKEN Radioisotope Beam Factory (RIBF), conclusively identifies the element through connections to well-known daughter nuclides. The search for superheavy elements is a difficult and painstaking process. Such elements do not occur in nature and must be produced through experiments involving nuclear reactors or particle accelerators, via processes of nuclear fusion or neutron absorption. Since the first such element was discovered in 1940, the United States, Russia and Germany have competed to synthesize more of them. Elements 93 to 103 were discovered by the Americans, elements 104 to 106 by the Russians and the Americans, elements 107 to 112 by the Germans, and the two most recently named elements, 114 and 116, by cooperative work of the Russians and Americans. With their latest findings, associate chief scientist Kosuke Morita and his team at the RNC are set follow in these footsteps and make Japan the first country in Asia to name an atomic element."
Capt.Albatross writes "A couple of months ago, the New York Times published political scientist Andrew Hacker's opinion that teaching algebra is harmful. Today, it has followed up with an article that is clearly intended to indicate the usefulness of basic mathematics by suggesting useful exercises in a variety of 'real-world' topics. While the starter questions in each topic involve formula evaluation rather than symbolic manipulation, the follow-up questions invite readers to delve more deeply. The value of mathematics education has been a (recurring issue on Slashdot)."
New mareacaspica writes with this snippet from Nature: "Researchers have constructed 3D models of two different insects, in their nymph stage by scanning their fossils with a novel technique called X-ray microtomography. They obtained sections, two centimeters long, and from the sections constructed the models. Such fossils of juvenile insects are very rare during that ancient period, and the research could provide a better understanding not only of insects, but also other animals, as the technique develops." Original Paper.
astroengine writes "A new analysis of recent observations finds evidence for a protoplanetary disk around a red dwarf star plunging in the direction of the supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy. Ruth Murray-Clay and Avi Loeb of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics did the theoretical work. Stefan Gillessen of the Max-Planck-Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics made the observations using the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope. The red dwarf star will make its closest approach in the summer of 2013, hurtling only 270 billion miles from black hole. (Or roughly 54 solar system diameters, as measured from the furthest edge of the Kuiper belt.) It won't get sucked into the black hole, but it will be flung back along its elliptical orbit out to a distance of a little more than 1/10 light-years."
jamstar7 writes "From the article: 'NASA is reportedly mulling the construction of a floating Moon base that would serve as a launching site for manned missions to Mars and other destinations more distant than any humans have traveled to so far. The Orlando Sentinel reported over the weekend that the proposed outpost, called a "gateway spacecraft," would support "a small astronaut crew and function as a staging area for future missions to the moon and Mars."' This is actually a good idea, using the Moon as a staging base for exploring the cosmos. Once we build manufacturing capability there, why not build spacecraft there? We can build bigger, more spacious craft so as to not lock up future astronauts in a closet for months or years at a time." Moon base isn't quite accurate: it would be a space station at the Earth-Moon L2 Lagrange point about 60000 km from the surface of the dark side of the moon.
bdking writes "A typeface family commonly found on the devices installed in many modern cars is more likely to cause drivers to spend more time looking away from the road than an alternative typeface tested in two studies, according to new research from MIT's AgeLab." It seems that the closed letter forms of Grotesque type faces require slightly more time to read than open letter forms of Humanist type faces, just enough that it could be problematic at highway speeds.