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Space Science

Huge Supernova Baffles Scientists 358

Iddo Genuth writes "Scientists from the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel and San Diego State University have observed an explosion of a star 50 times larger than the sun. In what they call a 'first observation of its kind' the scientists were able to notice that most of the star's mass collapsed in on itself, resulting in a creation of a large black hole. While exploding stars, or 'supernovae,' aren't unprecedented, this star, which lay about 200 million light years away from earth and was million times brighter than the Sun, has exploded as a supernova at a much earlier date than the one predicted by astronomers."
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Huge Supernova Baffles Scientists

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  • Re:It happens? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by pilgrim23 ( 716938 ) on Thursday March 26, 2009 @08:02PM (#27350953) [] some excellent points there. We are about to loose civilization to a new form of "global Warm/toasting"
  • Re:It happens? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Slumdog ( 1460213 ) on Thursday March 26, 2009 @08:12PM (#27351079)

    Clearly all this proves is that we really don't know that much about what's going on in the universe.

    Clearly? I think it depends on your sample size. So far we have only been able to collect very little data about some phenomena, and quite a good amount of data about others. So, we do know a lot about some things.

    With an infinite universe (such as ours) and finite lifespan (such as ours) there is only so much data we can collect to gather inferences about what we observe. I think what you are saying is redundant.

  • Re:who knows? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by TheSHAD0W ( 258774 ) on Thursday March 26, 2009 @10:32PM (#27352195) Homepage

    Perhaps, if they'd managed to convert their entire planet to energy, it would approach the energy of a supernova.

    Heh. Just as I said that, I figured I could calculate it; or rather, Google could...*+(speed+of+light+squared)+in+joules&btnG=Search []

    (Assuming the aliens' planet was roughly the size of ours.) Not even, not by 2 orders of magnitude.

  • by mangu ( 126918 ) on Thursday March 26, 2009 @11:00PM (#27352449)

    Since that article was written we have learnt that we don't know what 96% of the Universe is made of.

    And don't you think it's just amazing that scientists can look at stars that are hundreds of millions light years away and, from their measurements alone, they can calculate and conclude that twenty times more matter is needed to account for the way those stars are moving?

    This "dark matter" problem that you mention does not show a weakness, but a *strong* point of science. The existence of dark matter does not invalidate one single fact of what was known before. Newtonian phisics is still valid, relativity is intact, quantum mechanics rules. But now we know of an additional fact that's extremely subtle, very very difficult to measure, and still adds some important facts to our scientific knowledge.

    Asimov was right, we are getting closer to the truth.

  • one difference (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Trepidity ( 597 ) <> on Thursday March 26, 2009 @11:53PM (#27352881)

    Very few scientists in other fields consider economics a legitimate science. In its partial defense, it's studying very complex phenomena--- considerably more complex than understanding the weather, for example, which is itself no cakewalk. On the other hand, economics doesn't seem to really understand that it's dealing with complex dynamical systems, and has been extremely slow to import the tools now standard in all other areas that deal with complex dynamical systems (including weather). Instead they seem to rely mainly on equilibrium assumptions that are unlikely to ever be even approximately true.

  • Re:It happens? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by digitalunity ( 19107 ) <digitalunity&yahoo,com> on Friday March 27, 2009 @12:43AM (#27353247) Homepage

    I'll skip modding and reply instead. There are a lot of factors for the economic situation we're in. A lot of them are the feds and politicians faults. Just to name a few, I'll try to be brief...

    • Mortgage terms disclosure rules are antiquated and fantastically inadequate.
    • Due to the above, consumers do not understand the terms of their mortgages and are unknowingly pushed into ARM's with baloon payments or other arbitrarily high fee/prepayment penalty type loans.
    • Broker compensation encourages shady lending tactics such as documentation alterations to increase mortgage eligibility for unaffordable loans.
    • Debt load caps on mortgage lenders were removed a few years back to allow lenders to push more loans through, leading to shaky financial security.
    • Mortgage securitization(the bundling and resale of fractional loan packages) allowed a flood of non-traditional investor money into the realty market such as private and foreign investors. The easy money caused bidding wars, driving home values up far faster than inflation and median income.
    • Securitization was too new for the quants to have a good risk model for securities backed by sub-prime mortgages.
    • Comments in the Federal Reserve Bulletin as early as 1999 showed the feds were aware the realty market was significantly out of sync with inflation. No action was taken.
    • Current SEC rules allow lenders to remove loans from their ledgers after they've been securitized and sold off, even if they were sold off under contractual obligation to take some losses in the event the securities are defaulted on. The net effect is that mortgage lender's financial stability is IMPOSSIBLE to determine, even for investors who read every word of every shareholder disclosure.

    I hope this clears up a few things.

  • Re:It happens? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Henry Pate ( 523798 ) on Friday March 27, 2009 @01:01AM (#27353363) Homepage Journal

    Surely, if the world's finance "experts" really understood economics, they wouldn't have positioned their companies for the collapses they recently saw. Or did AIG's best and brightest know they were setting their company up for catastrophe?

    Rolling Stone had an article in the latest issue titled AIG: The Big Takeover []. Here's a small excerpt from it.

    The latest bailout came as AIG admitted to having just posted the largest quarterly loss in American corporate history -- some $61.7 billion. In the final three months of last year, the company lost more than $27 million every hour. That's $465,000 a minute, a yearly income for a median American household every six seconds, roughly $7,750 a second. And all this happened at the end of eight straight years that America devoted to frantically chasing the shadow of a terrorist threat to no avail, eight years spent stopping every citizen at every airport to search every purse, bag, crotch and briefcase for juice boxes and explosive tubes of toothpaste. Yet in the end, our government had no mechanism for searching the balance sheets of companies that held life-or-death power over our society and was unable to spot holes in the national economy the size of Libya (whose entire GDP last year was smaller than AIG's 2008 losses).

    It is truly an amazing article and the presents the clearest picture I've seen of how this came about. I suggest everyone read it.

  • Re:It happens? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Kratisto ( 1080113 ) on Friday March 27, 2009 @05:15AM (#27354569)

    Actually, based on data collected from the Cosmic Microwave Background, our estimation of the Universe's age being about 13.7 billion is accurate within about a 2 billion year margin. Basically, all you have to do is extrapolate what the CMB looks like now back a few billion years and it hits a singularity, which we refer to as the beginning of the Universe (though it may or may not be). It would take an extremely revolutionary discovery to discount this sort of data.

  • by Trepidity ( 597 ) <> on Friday March 27, 2009 @07:57AM (#27355443)

    Asimov may have had a PhD in science, but he did nothing of note in science, spending virtually his entire adult life writing science fiction and popular-science works, and virtually none of it writing peer-reviewed journal articles actually on scientific topics. His writings, unsurprisingly, therefore tend to take the mythologized view of science common in sci-fi and pop-science.

  • Re:It happens? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Gandalf_Greyhame ( 44144 ) on Friday March 27, 2009 @08:11AM (#27355541) Journal

    you used an example regarding the speed of light changing with time. I recall reading an article about a year ago, where Spanish scientists have proposed a theory that time is in fact slowing down. [] This theory is supposed to help explain why the universe appears to be continually expanding at an increased rate.

    Naturally this is only a theory, as is all science, but it does at least explain why we would see the expansion of the universe accelerating. Also, if proven, it would cause a lot of other theories, such as the age of the universe, to be reworked.

  • The Flat Earth Myth (Score:2, Interesting)

    by geoffrobinson ( 109879 ) on Friday March 27, 2009 @10:25AM (#27356919) Homepage

    Somewhere in the last few hundred years, the myth was started that people back in the day thought the Earth was flat. It was designed to make religious people appear ignorant. []

"The eleventh commandment was `Thou Shalt Compute' or `Thou Shalt Not Compute' -- I forget which." -- Epigrams in Programming, ACM SIGPLAN Sept. 1982