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Space Science

Scientists Spot Rare 'In Between' Black Hole 182

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the time-for-a-field-trip dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Scientists have found a doomed star orbiting what appears to be a medium-sized black hole. This black hole appears to be a theorized 'in-between' category of black hole that has eluded confirmation and frustrated scientists for more than a decade."
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Scientists Spot Rare 'In Between' Black Hole

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  • by d474 (695126) on Sunday January 08, 2006 @06:38PM (#14423594)
    ...gray hole?
  • Wow. (Score:2, Informative)

    by Maxite (782150)
    The link leads to some sort of science blog. An interesting discovery none the less.
    • However did you come to that conclusion?

      Is it because... the website's name is scienceblog.com?

      anyways, someone care to explain this for me?

      "As a result, gas from the star is spilling into the black hole, causing the whole region to light up. This is a well-studied region of the sky, and we spotted the star with a little luck and a lot of perseverance."

      A black hole is an object so dense and with a gravitational force so intense that nothing, not even light, can escape its pull once within its boundary. A bl

      • Re:Wow. (Score:5, Informative)

        by jdhutchins (559010) on Sunday January 08, 2006 @06:50PM (#14423656)
        anyways, someone care to explain this for me?
        Yes- The gas circling the black hole, outside the event horizon, heats up due to friction. It gets hot enough to emit light along with UV, xrays, and often gamma rays. This gas isn't inside the black hole, so light can still get out. Once it falls into the black hole, no more light comes from it, but before then, there is usually a lot of light.
        • Re:Wow. (Score:5, Interesting)

          by tloh (451585) on Sunday January 08, 2006 @07:52PM (#14423895)
          This gas isn't inside the black hole, so light can still get out. Once it falls into the black hole, no more light comes from it, but before then, there is usually a lot of light.

          A thought just occured to me. They say nothing can escape from a black hole due to it's huge gravity. Not even light. We know photons are the carriers of the electromagnetic force, one of the 4 fundamental forces in nature. I believe we have identified the carriers of the nuclear strong force and the nuclear weak force as well. But the suposed graviton has remained elusive and unidentified. By their very nature, though, shouldn't we be able to conclude that in order for black holes to generate such intense gravitational fields, they must allow their own gravitons to interact with nearby objects? In other words, the carriers for the force of gravity must be allowed to escape the black hole in order to exert that very force. Wait a minute....I can't be saying that right. Let's try again, suppose communication through an event horizon is possible - with gravity waves.

          ?????

          Profit?

          • Re:Wow. (Score:2, Funny)

            by protocol420 (758109)
            I may be very high ... but I think poster has a point .. please mod up ...
          • Re:Wow. (Score:4, Informative)

            by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 08, 2006 @08:19PM (#14424009)
            One way to think about how black holes work is to think of a general potential energy well. Once the black hole gets to a certain mass, there will be a region in which the energy of a photon is less than that to escape the gravitational potential energy well (i.e. the photon is now in a bound system). There are many bound systems that occur in nature (our solar system, electrons around an atom, nucleons in the nucleus, etc.), but they are bound by only one force. Unless a graviton can exert a force on another graviton (which of course assumes that a graviton exists), there is no reason to believe that a graviton will be gravitationally bound in a black hole. As far as general relativistic issues, a graviton will have the same significance as a photon, in theory. It will travel at the speed of light relative to any particle. It is important to remember, that you can use the geometric considerations of general relativity (which doesn't define a graviton), or the views of geometrodynamics (quantum theory of gravity where gravitons are the force carriers), but not both at the same time. You can say gravity curves space, but you can't say the gravity curves 'gravity' (or affects gravitons).
          • Re:Wow. (Score:3, Insightful)

            by iluvcapra (782887)
            hey must allow their own gravitons to interact with nearby objects

            Gravitons are hypothetical; no one has ever observed a graviton. Gravitons, if they exist, allow their force to escape black holes, which would seem to imply that gravitons do not act on each other (since they are not pulling themselves into the black hole).

            IANA theoretical physicist, would one please chime in?

            • The theory more specifically states that "information" can't pass the event horizon. Hence, Hawking radiation. Same as "information" can't travel faster than the speed of light, although objects can. (neutrinos).

              IANA theoretical physicist and would appreciate any corrections.
              • Re:Wow. (Score:5, Informative)

                by MaskedSlacker (911878) on Sunday January 08, 2006 @08:43PM (#14424106)
                I am a physicist. Two points: Information cannot come out of a black hole. This is why hawking radiation is high entropy. Information is lost. A chair falls in. Hawking radiation comes out, much higher entropy which is a loss of information. Nothing can pass outwards through the event horizon. Well, nothing with positive mass, positive energy, velocities less than or equal to the speed of light, essentially, nothing that is currently recognized as real. Pink unicorns...maybe... Hawking radiation does not pass outwards through the event horizon. It is a quantum mechanical process that occurs outside the event horizon, and involves anti-particles falling into the blackhole. Gravity does not have a well understood mechanism. My field is stellar astrophysics, not string theory or fundamental physics, so i don't know the current cutting edge in those fields well. However, in practice, we understand very closely how gravity acts on objects, we can very precisely predict its effects. We don't really know much about the mechanism. There's a lot of theorizing in some circles, but with no experimental data to verify any of it, its not really meaningful.
                • Sorry about the lack of paragraphs, I need to remember to change the formatting on my posts to plain text, and not leave it as HTML.
                • Re:Wow. (Score:3, Interesting)

                  by HiThere (15173) *
                  I believe that Hawking gave up on that proposition, and that it is now accepted that information DOES come back out of a black hole. And that the Hawking radiation isn't random, but is a result of the information previously fed into it. According to this theory (which I believe to be current orthodoxy) Hawking radiation is no more random than is /dev/random...and no less. Saying it isn't truly random doesn't mean that you can usefully predict it.
                • we understand very closely how gravity acts on objects, we can very precisely predict its effects. We don't really know much about the mechanism.

                  IOW, we're still about the same place as we were in Newton's time. OTOH, that means there are still some open frontiers in science.

                  • Give us credit, we've gotten further along than that. Our current knowledge about gravity dates to 1930. Newton didn't know about black holes.
                • However, in practice, we understand very closely how gravity acts on objects, we can very precisely predict its effects.

                  With the added fudge factors of dark matter and dark energy, of course.

                • Re:Wow. (Score:4, Interesting)

                  by whorfin (686885) on Monday January 09, 2006 @02:30AM (#14425282)
                  I am not a physicist, but it appears that Hawking has changed his tune on "nothing comes out of a black hole". He now agrees with Preskill that information can come out of a black hole, riding as a signal on the Hawking radiation. In fact, he paid up a bet he made back in the late 90s.

                  http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?story Id=3607084 [npr.org]
                • Gravitons and BH (Score:2, Informative)

                  by GammaRay Rob (452271)
                  OK. I am also an astrophysicist, and I have been studying gravity in its string theory and loop quantum guises. Gravitational waves carry information, so they will *not* come out of a black hole horizon. However, gravity (as expressed in the theory of General Relativity) obeys what is called Gauss's law, which just means to say that it doesn't matter (!) what lies beneath the spherical BH horizon, or *any* imaginary sphere that surrounds it, gravity only depends upon the total mass (or equivalent energy) co
          • Things do emerge from blackholes (such as, so called "Hawking Radiation"), theoreticly gravity waves might be amongst those things.

            Still no information can emerge (according to current theories) - the output is (as far as we can tell) entirely random.

          • Not necessarily. Just as hawking radiation allows a black hole to radiate without anything passing outwards through the event horizon, there is no reason a graviton from the black hole has to pass outwards through the event horizon.
            • I think black holes are found by the light around them bending at excessive angles. I don't think the matter outside the event horizon is sufficient to account for such deviation, so I think the gravity really would be escaping the event horizon. Just my interpretation..
              • You're misunderstanding how this works. If there is a 'graviton' it does not have to be generated inside the event horizon to be generated by the blackhole. Hawking radiation does not occur in an empty vacuum without the black hole, it needs the blackhole to be generated, but it is still generated outside the black hole. Someone else mentioned gauss's theorem. As a mathematical formalism this works, but its not really a useful physical explanation. Further, in 4 dimensional general relativity (i'm dist
            • There is no more event [newscientist.com] horizon [bbc.co.uk].

              If you google hard enough you may yet be able to find a pdf of the lecture notes used by the bright young physicist/mathematician who presented the new proof of the mathematical theory. I forget what his name is but reading through the referenced materials in those two articles could lead you to him very quickly.
          • Re:Wow. (Score:4, Informative)

            by ta ma de (851887) <chris DOT erik D ... AT gmail DOT com> on Sunday January 08, 2006 @08:36PM (#14424081)
            I have had a martini made with Old Raj so bare with me and my grammer, please. A black hole is an object whose mass vs radius is smaller than the shwartz (somehting or another) radius, meaning that a black hole need not be made of a lot of material. You could theoretically make a black hole with only a few atoms, provided their shwartz(and some stuff) raduis was suffiecently small. The shwartz* radius is related to the inverse square law of gravity. In otherwords blackholes need not be menacing and made of a lot of matter. One of the accelerators someplace was making very small blackholes to study them. Their gravity wasn't particularly scary, they just had a radius small enough that light could not escape the miniscule gravitational feild. This concludes your episode of poor spelling and grammar, thanks for reading.
          • Ok,I'm no scientist either.
            But I remember reading that a black hole can have exactly three properties: mass, electric charge and spin. Since electric charge is caried by (virtual) photons, does that mean photons do escape a black hole?
      • Re:Wow. (Score:5, Informative)

        by no reason to be here (218628) on Sunday January 08, 2006 @06:51PM (#14423663) Homepage
        Once light crosses the event horizon, it cannot escape. As matter approaches the event horizon and accelerates, it becomes excited and emits energy in the EM spectrum. The faster it goes, the higher the frequency (from IR to visible to X-ray). A large black hole would be able to attract large amounts of matter, and that matter would accelerate very quickly, and thus would shine (in the X-Ray range) very brightly.

        In fact, you said it perfectly yourself without realizing it. Light is escapeing from the vicinity of the black hole, not the black hole itself.
        • Once light crosses the event horizon, it cannot escape.

          I realize that's the current gospel but I've often wondered if the event horizon isn't dynamic.

          Consider the earth/moon gravity wells. There's an imaginary line that divides the two wells. A dust mote on one side of the line falls towards the earth while a mote on the other side falls towards the moon. The line that divides the two gravity wells is dynamic. As the moon orbits the earth, dust motes that were falling towards the earth can find themselve

        • Stay current!

          There is no more event horizon [google.com]. Read the Newscientist and BBC articles from 2004.
      • It's not the blackhole that they found, but the gas that was about to fall into the black hole. As gas goes around a black hole, it forms a sort of disc that spirals inward. As it gets closer to the event horizon, it speeds up. The friction and collisions of the gas become great, and as they heat up they give off radiation. It's the radiation that the scientists are detecting.
      • Allow me to share very technical explanation from one of the world's most eminent astrophysicists:
        Black holes ain't so black.
  • by TubeSteak (669689) on Sunday January 08, 2006 @06:39PM (#14423603) Journal
    It's a trap!
  • article text (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 08, 2006 @06:42PM (#14423617)
    saved for posterity before it gets slashdotted

    Dying Star Reveals More Evidence for New Kind of Black Hole
    Submitted by BJS on Sun, 2006-01-08 11:58.
    Posted in space | login or register to post comments | printer friendly page

    Scientists using NASA's Rossi X-ray Timing Explorer have found a doomed star orbiting what appears to be a medium-sized black hole - a theorized "in-between" category of black hole that has eluded confirmation and frustrated scientists for more than a decade.

    With the discovery of the star and its orbital period, scientists are now one step away from measuring the mass of such a black hole, a step which would help verify its existence. The star's period and location already fit into the main theory of how these black holes could form.

    A team led by Prof. Philip Kaaret of the University of Iowa, Iowa City, announced these results today in Science Express. The results will also appear in the Jan. 27 issue of Science.

    "We caught this otherwise ordinary star in a unique stage in its evolution, toward the end of its life when it has bloated into a red giant phase," said Kaaret. "As a result, gas from the star is spilling into the black hole, causing the whole region to light up. This is a well-studied region of the sky, and we spotted the star with a little luck and a lot of perseverance."

    A black hole is an object so dense and with a gravitational force so intense that nothing, not even light, can escape its pull once within its boundary. A black hole region becomes visible when matter falls toward it and heats to high temperatures. This light is emitted before the matter crosses the border, called the event horizon.

    Our galaxy is filled with millions of stellar-mass black holes, each with the mass of a few suns. These form from the collapse of very massive stars. Most galaxies possess at their core a supermassive black hole, containing the mass of millions to billions of suns confined to a region no larger than our solar system. Scientists do not know how these form, but it likely entails the collapse of enormous quantities of primordial gas.

    "In the past decade, several satellites have found evidence of a new class of black holes, which could be between 100 and 10,000 solar masses," said Dr. Jean Swank, Rossi Explorer project scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md. "There has been debate about the masses and how these black holes would form. Rossi has provided major new insight."

    These suspected mid-mass black holes are called ultra-luminous X-ray objects because they are bright sources of X-rays. In fact, most of these black hole mass estimates have been based solely on a calculation of how strong a gravitational pull is needed to produce light of a given intensity.

    Kaaret's group at the University of Iowa, which includes Prof. Cornelia Lang and Melanie Simet, an undergraduate, made a measurement that can be used in the equation to directly calculate mass. Using straightforward Newtonian physics, scientists can calculate an object's mass once they know an orbital period and velocity of smaller objects rotating around it.

    "We found a rise and fall in X-ray light every 62 days, likely caused by the orbit of the companion star around the black hole," said Simet. "The velocity will be hard to determine, however, because the star is located in such a dust-obscured area. This makes it hard for optical and infrared telescopes to observe the star and make velocity calculations. Yet for now, knowing just the orbital period is very revealing."

    The suspected mid-mass black hole, known as M82 X-1, is a well-studied ultra-luminous X-ray object in a nearby star cluster containing about a million stars packed into a region only about 100 light years across. A leading theory proposes that a multitude of star collisions over a short period in a crowded region will create a short-lived gigantic star that collapses into a 1,000-solar-mass black hole. The cluster near M82 X-1 has a high-enough density to f
  • slightly OT (Score:3, Interesting)

    by no reason to be here (218628) on Sunday January 08, 2006 @06:44PM (#14423628) Homepage
    OK, this question just occured to me. I'm sure there is an obvious answer that I am overlooking.

    How do/did the heaviest elements, which are/were formed in the largest stars, escape from those stars that ultimately become/became neutron stars and black holes? I know that elements are flung out from the star via super novae, but wouldn't the heaviest elements be at the core of the star that remains? how would they get out? Shouldn't they all be trapped in the stellar remnants?
    • Not all stars become a black hole, some just go poof and die.
      And its perfectly possible for heavy objects to be at the edges, think about gliders flying on convection.
      • Not all stars become a black hole, some just go poof and die.

        I know, but the ones that just go poof and die - I thought - would only produce elements up to carbon or so. Though, yes, I suppose you are right that the possiblity that heavier elements could be on the outside of the H/He shell explosion is possible.
        • In fusion, most things up to Iron can be produced. However, it's not the *entire* star that becomes a black hole, it's whatever's left at the end (which may include after a supernova) - if there was a supernova towards the end of a star's life then that can provide the pressures necessary to create heavier elements. What's left over can become a white dwarf, neutron star or black hole or whatever - and a nice pretty planetary nebula too ;-)
          • Re:slightly OT (Score:4, Informative)

            by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 08, 2006 @08:19PM (#14424011)
            In fusion, most things up to Iron can be produced.

            Um. No. A fusion reaction can create any substance up to uranium and beyond. In fact, humans are continually creating substances beyond uranium (plutonium being one) through fusion reactions. It's just that fusion reactions to produce elements heavier than iron require energy, rather than giving off energy.

            In the early stages of a star's life, it's fusing hydrogen atoms to produce helium. This is the most energetic fusion reaction, and is the only fusion reaction we're likely to be able to sustainably exploit to our own ends through artificial means. As the star grows older, and has less hydrogen, it will increasingly generate its energy through other fusion reactions, producing elements up to iron. (These reactions will occur throughout the star's life; it's just that they will become proportionally more important as the star ages.)

            Eventually, the energy produced through these fusions will die off, and the star will undergo gravitational collapse. During this phase, the energy consuming fusion reactions will occur, generating the heavier-than-iron elements. This phase only occurs in massive supernova; it won't happen in our sun -- it's not big enough.
    • The heavy elements are usually blown away in the supernova explosion. Some of them may end up in an ensuing black hole, but the ones that get blown away are often going a sizable percentage of the speed of light, so they don't fall back in.
    • That's a good question. Is the dispersion of elements within a star weighted, with the heavier elements located within its core, or is it uniform?

      I found this on NASA's web site: http://imagine.gsfc.nasa.gov/docs/teachers/lesson s /xray_spectra/background-elements.html [nasa.gov]

      It suggests that heavier atoms are created during supernovae, as well as in the ISM during "day to day operations." Maybe the relative lack of heavier atoms in space has something to do with the fact they are all sucked into black holes?

    • Re:slightly OT (Score:5, Informative)

      by Tango42 (662363) on Sunday January 08, 2006 @07:10PM (#14423741)
      I think elements heavier than iron (the heaviest element that can be produced by fusion while making energy, rather than using it) are formed *during* the supernova, which only lasts a few seconds (or maybe hours/days - ask an expert - it doesn't matter though) and don't have time to fall to the centre because they're already exploding outwards - it's the explosion itself that produces them (pressure wave causes high density, causes fusion).
      • Re:slightly OT (Score:5, Informative)

        by MillionthMonkey (240664) on Sunday January 08, 2006 @07:28PM (#14423809)
        The key to creating heavy elements is a large neutron flux from the supernova. Nuclei pick up lots of neutrons quickly during a time span of a few seconds (shorter than the free neutron half life of 13 minutes) and then undergo a quick succession of beta decays followed by a longer beta decay series over millions of years to form stuff like gold and uranium.
        • The key to creating heavy elements is a large neutron flux from the supernova. Nuclei pick up lots of neutrons quickly...

          IANAP, but I do seem to remember from physics/chemistry that the determining factor in element number is the number of protons, not the number of neutrons. Picking up more neutrons will change the isotope, not the element. (For instance, deuterium is just an isotope of hydrogen with an added neutron.)

          • Re:slightly OT (Score:3, Informative)

            by Tyler Durden (136036)
            IANAP, but I do seem to remember from physics/chemistry that the determining factor in element number is the number of protons, not the number of neutrons.

            That's where the beta decay comes in. Beta decay turns neutrons into protons.

      • Heavier elements (Score:3, Interesting)

        by rcamans (252182)
        Elements heavier than iron consume more energy in their creation than their fusion process gives off. But that does not mean that they are not formed in a normal star's process. It just means that only a little of them are formed in a star's normal process. Stars do not fuse elements that produce energy in fusion, they fuse elements. The primary star energy is from hydrogen and helium fusion. The neutron flux, as well as the rest of the atoms hitting one another, can result in fusion. if two atoms hit each
      • by Michael Woodhams (112247) on Sunday January 08, 2006 @11:32PM (#14424725) Journal
        There are three ways in which elements heavier than iron are produced. In two (s and r process), the basic process is to add neutrons one at a time to a nucleus. In the p process, protons are added one at a time.

        What you describe is the r (rapid) process. A very high neutron flux adds neutrons very quickly. Once the neutron pulse has passed, the highly-neutron-rich nuclei beta-decay (neturon turns to proton) multiple times until a stable element is reached.

        The s (slow) process has a low neutron flux, so that there is sufficient time after each neutron is absorbed for beta decay to occur. The neutrons come from a comparatively neutron-rich nucleus left over from the CNO cycle for burning hydrogen (N15?) At sufficient temperature/pressure, it starts to lose its excess neutron. The new heavy nuclei can then convect to the surface of the star and escape in the stellar wind. The detection of technetium (which has no stable isotope) in the spectra of these stars is the smoking gun proving this scenario.

        I don't know much about the p process.

        The r and p processes occur in supernovae. The s process occurs in red giant stars (strictly, asymptotic giant branch stars.) In terms of importance in creating heavy elements on the earth, s process is most important, followed by r process and then p process. From memory, it is something like 90% s proccess, 9% r process, 1% p process, but that is *very* rough.

        Now we need a q process, so we can p, q, r and s processes. (Or S, P, Q, R if you're a Romanophile.)
  • Doomed (Score:4, Funny)

    by AkA lexC (939709) on Sunday January 08, 2006 @06:48PM (#14423644) Homepage
    If stars had been given categories like 'Doomed', i think i'd have paid more attention in my astronomy course. What Would Chandrasekar Do?
  • The more we see the more we can understand, and the more questions occur.

    Given the possible variation in black hole sizes this poses some interesting problems for long term space travel. Mini-holes will pose major danger during high speed travel unless some fast detection method is found. This has resonances with Arthur C Clarke's story about the star mangled spanner...
    • Given the possible variation in black hole sizes this poses some interesting problems for long term space travel. Mini-holes will pose major danger during high speed travel unless some fast detection method is found.

      I don't mean to be boring or anything, but you do realize humanity is still at the "how do we get out of our miserable gravity well and go further than the moon on chemical power" stage, right?

      So I think we can safely set aside the high-speed mini-hole collision hazard problem for now.
      • We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars - Oscar Wilde.
        • You may be looking at them, but you're still not moving towards them at anything like an appreciable fraction of the speed of light. Until then, black holes ain't gonna be a problem.

          Besides, if you're moving fast enough for it to be a problem without ripping apart you can more or less treat the entire vessel as a single particle. If you get close to C, then your mass will be insanely high with enough energy to ignore most things.

          As with all current or theoretical physics, your mileage may vary.
    • Hawking radition means small black holes "evaporate" very quickly, so there aren't likely to be many of them.
  • The abstract (Score:3, Interesting)

    by 2008 (900939) on Sunday January 08, 2006 @06:50PM (#14423657) Journal
    The ultraluminous x-ray source (ULX) in M82 has been identified as a possible intermediate mass black hole formed in stellar collisions in the super star cluster MGG 11. We find that the x-ray flux from M82 is modulated with a peak to peak amplitude corresponding to an isotropic luminosity of 2.4 x 10^40 erg s-1 in M82 and a period of 62.0 ± 2.5 days, which we interpret as the orbital period of the ULX binary. This orbital period implies that the mass donor star must be a giant or supergiant. Large mass transfer rates, sufficient to fuel the ULX, are expected for a giant phase mass donor in an x-ray binary. The giant phase has a short life time, indicating that we see the ULX in M82 in a brief and unusual period of its evolution.

    ---

    Reading this and the article, I'm not sure if the claim is necessarily valid. What's to stop this being a smaller black hole, a smaller star orbiting closer (with the same period), and beamed emission? An intermediate black hole is still the simplest explanation, but doesn't seem unique.
    • Probably the orbital period is so long that the Roche lobe is quite large - too large for a dwarf star to overflow its lobe and fuel the accretion onto the compact object... haven't run the numbers, so don't quote me on that, but that would be my naive guess.

      [TMB]
  • Goatse (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    I heard that there used to be plenty of those in the .cx domain.
    • The parent comment was obviously intended as a joke. Maybe not a very good joke, but a joke, nevertheless. The off-topic mod is unfair as the poster is clearly making a joke with reference to the topic of the article (in-between black holes). Is there some sort of mechanism on /. to automatically mod down as off-topic any post with the word goatse somewhere in the title?
  • ...uhh, never mind ;)

  • I can't help but think that an intern did some tweening with a newfound graphics program.
  • Eluded confirmation? (Score:2, Informative)

    by marco0009 (716718)
    The article says these medium sized black holes have eluded scientists for over a decade, yet according to Smithsonian Intimate Guide to the Cosmos:

    ... in 2003, findings from Hubble suggested that the star cluster M15 harbors a 4,000-solar-mass black hole, and that the cluster G1 is home to a black hole 20,000 times more massive than our own sun. These discoveries were the first evidence that we have a full range of black holes.

    Was this simply further examples of similarly sized black holes?

  • OK, who mooned the telescope again?
  • by bushboy (112290) <lttc@lefthandedmonkeys.org> on Sunday January 08, 2006 @07:54PM (#14423902) Homepage
    ... Breakfast and lunch ?

    Hmm, maybe they did spot it inbetween breakfast and lunch, the statistics of that happening are high.
  • by cmacb (547347)
    FTA:

    "With the discovery of the star and its orbital period, scientists are now one step away from measuring the mass of such a black hole, a step which would help verify its existence."

    Is it just me or is even science journalism getting sloppy...

    It seems to me that measuring the mass of something would not only help verify its existence, but prove it beyond the shadow of doubt.
  • sourcing (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bman08 (239376) on Sunday January 08, 2006 @07:59PM (#14423920)
    What scientists spotted it? What scientists were frustrated? I'm really tired of stories sourced to 'scientists' and 'officials'. I'm sure that TFA has some of the material that I want, but that's not the point. On a by-the-word basis, the internet is, for all intents and purposes, free. Putting 5-7 words of additional information in the story wouldn't break the bank and it would really make this thing feel less lazy.
    • Re:sourcing (Score:3, Funny)

      by Busy (890287)

      Experts say we're better off without those extra 5-7 words of information.

      Who are you to argue with the experts?

      • Think of someone with average intelligence. Now think 1/2 the world is dumber than that guy.

        You are talking about median intelligence. Half the world is dumber that the guy of median intelligence by definition. All it takes is a few really smart guys and a lot of mediocre ones, and 90% of the world can be dumber than someone with average intelligence.

        • This is a silly objection and not even right. Anything to do with human beings follow a Gaussian distribution of sorts. We can argue about the deviation etc but for a large group the mean and the median is almost identical. You are proposing a power or Zipf distribution that does not exist for human traits.
          • but for a large group the mean and the median is almost identical.

            Actually no.

            Group 1. variable x
            Group 2. variable is x^2

            Both groups are exactly the same size.

            If one group is normal, the other is not.

            You may be confusing a large group with the sum of a large number of distributions. The sum of a large number of distributions (which need not be at all normal) goes to a normal distribution as the number of distributions in the family goes to infinity. It is the infinite tail of the family that is normal, no
            • Actually no.

              Actually yes. bstadil's GP post was talking about large groups of human beings, who exhibit normal distribution under most circumstances and do not "go to infinity".

              • Except that large groups of humans do NOT exhibit normal distributions.

                Annual income.
                If the distribution is normal,
                "The rich get richer and the poor get poorer"
                is an impossibility.

                Average income and median income should be extremely close to each other.

                Life Expectncy -- everybody dies eventually
                I don't think that is anything like normal.

                What IS tending toward normal is to add up all these various distributions.
                What that would wbe good for, I have no idea.
    • Re:sourcing (Score:5, Funny)

      by DavidD_CA (750156) on Monday January 09, 2006 @01:40AM (#14425125) Homepage
      > What scientists spotted it?

      From TFA, "A team led by Prof. Philip Kaaret of the University of Iowa, Iowa City, announced these results today in Science Express."

      > What scientists were frustrated?

      Although TFA doesn't specify, I think they're talking about "scientists" in general. Much as your comment talks about "stories"... in general, I presume.

      You know, reading TFA wouldn't break the bank and it would really make your comment feel less lazy.

  • So.. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by StikyPad (445176) on Sunday January 08, 2006 @11:24PM (#14424700) Homepage
    Now we just have to keep an eye on it for the next 10 million years or so to see what happens. Stay tuned!

    Speaking of keeping an eye on it, has anyone managed to find any actual pictures?

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