ALMA discovers ‘weight’ of monster black hole

Astronomers have measured the “weight” of a massive black hole with unprecedented precision.

Discovery Magazine reports that the supermassive black hole situated at the center of galaxy NGC 1332 is 660 million times the mass of the Sun.  Astronomers calculated the mass of the black hole using data from the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) located in Chile.

Rather than imaging the black hole directly, ALMA gathered measurements of the gases trapped within the black hole’s gravitational well.

“To calculate the mass of a black hole in a galaxy’s center, we need to measure the speed of something orbiting around it,” Aaron Barth of the University of California said.  “For a precise measurement, we need to zoom in to the very center of a galaxy where the black hole’s gravitational pull is the dominant force.”

Because black holes allow nothing – not even light – to escape their gravitational pull, scientists must observe them indirectly.  Measurements can be taken, for example, of the hot gas emissions emanating from a black hole’s accretion disk, or from the extent to which a black hole warps space-time to create a light-bending effect.

In the case of ALMA’s recent observation, nearby cold gases were detected and their speed and distance from the black hole were used to calculate the black hole’s mass with great precision.

The elliptical galaxy containing the monster black hole lies about 75 million light years from Earth, and the black hole at its center has built up a swirling gas disk 1600 light years across.  ALMA’s ability to observe the disk’s radio emissions allows scientists to measure structures as small as 16 light years across within the disk.

The black hole’s “sphere of influence” stretches 80 light years into space from its core, and the gases in the spinning disk reach speeds of 300 miles per second.

“ALMA is a fantastic new tool for carrying out these observations,” Barth said.


Eta Aquarid meteor shower features Halley’s Comet remnants

The impending Eta Aquarid meteor shower will contain relics of a regular cometary visitor.

According to, pieces of Halley’s Comet, which last flew past Earth in 1986, will rain down from the sky this week.  The Eta Aquarids are bits of dusty comet debris that come into contact with Earth’s atmosphere every May; the Orionids are another meter shower caused by Halley’s Comet which occurs in October.

The Eta Aquarids are named after the point in the sky from which the meteors appear to radiate — in this case, the bright star Eta Aquirii in the constellation Aquarius.

The Eta Aquarids are most easily seen from the Southern Hemisphere, and will peak this year in the predawn hours of May 5 and 6.  They will be visible at about half of their peak strength for a couple days before and after the peak dates.

According to NASA, the Eta Aquarids are expected to have meteor rates of about 10-20 per hour when in view on May 5 from the United States.  The meteors will be traveling at about 44 miles per second through Earth’s atmosphere.

The meteor rate for viewers in the Southern Hemisphere could peak at around 30 meteors per hour.  From the Northern Hemisphere, the Eta Aquarids are more likely to be seen as “earth grazers,” which are long-lasting meteors that seem to skim across the Earth’s surface at the horizon.

Halley’s Comet, which leaves the dust trail providing Earth with two annual meteor showers, orbits the Sun once every 76 years.  Its next trip to the inner solar system will occur in 2061.

NWT_Biology NWT_Earth

Deep sea quite noisy surface popular belief

At 36, 000 feet many believed that this would be one of the most silent places on earth. At these depths, there are very few things to make any commotion. But scientists from Oregon State University discovered that the seafloor is actually quite noisy with both natural and man-made objects the source of the combined noise.

In November 2015, they dropped a hydrophone to the Challenger Deep in of the deepest points in the ocean. This location is so deep that if Mount Everest was dropped at this point, the top would not reach the surface water.

The scientist could hear sounds of many marine animals and specifically whales. Whales are one of the loudest creatures, but scientists were still surpassed to hear them at this depth. They also hear ships passing over and also typhoons passing by.

“Yet there really is almost constant noise from both natural and man-made sources, said Robert Dziak from Oregon State University. “The sound of earthquakes dominates the ambient sound field at Challenger Deep, both near and far was well as the audible moans of baleen whales and the overwhelming clamor of a category 4-typhoon that just happened to pass overhead.”

The noise has led to problems in some animals such as the sperm whale. They rely heavily on sounds to communicate, and the noise has led to them not being able to hear each other. Scientists are now predicting a drop in the whale population as this will result in increased difficulty in both hunting and mating.


Italian Supreme Court rules that the poor should not be punished for stealing to live

The Italian Supreme Court ruled May 2, 2016 in favor of a homeless man who stole cheese and sausage to survive.


In 2011, a Ukrainian man named Roman Ostriakov, who was homeless in Genoa, Italy, was caught stealing less than $5 worth of food. In 2015, Ostriakov was sentenced to six months in prison and and a $115 fine for his crime. He appealed the sentence and finally, in May, 2016, the Supreme Court overturned the previous ruling.

“The condition of the accused and the circumstances in which he obtained the merchandise show that he had taken the little amount of food he needed to overcome his immediate and essential requirement for nourishment,” ruled the Italian Supreme Court. “People should not be punished if, forced by need, they steal small quantities of food in order to meet the basic requirement of feeding themselves.”

The court released Ostriakov of all criminal charges even though his lawyers only asked that his charge be changed from theft to attempted theft as he was caught during his escape. Italian publications and blogs have praised the decision of the court.

“The court’s decision reminds us all that in a civilised country no one should be allowed to die of hunger,” read a front page editorial in Italian newspaper, La Stampa.

Corriere Della Sera reported that Italian poverty grows by approximately 615 people daily. They called it “unthinkable that the law should not take note of reality” and also called into question the five years it took Ostriakov to be cleared of his charges.


Carnivorous bone solves greatest dinosaur riddle

The Abelisaur is an ancient dinosaur that resembles the T-Rex significantly. From bone excavations they two animals seem to bear great resemble. Both have incredibly powerful jaws fitted with a big head; they had strong back legs and a broad tail to help with moving. They both had small front limbs that many believed may have aided the animal in its extinction due to its disadvantageous size.

Scientists had found the bones of these two enormous dinosaurs on the beaches of Morocco, together with four other bones from feared predators of a similar built. Researchers were puzzled as to how six predators who were on top of the food chain would have survived in the same area. This created one of the greatest riddles on dinosaurs; how did these six predators survive in the same location without destroying each other.

Abelisaurs may have had feathered bodies for the most of their frames. They may have been slightly smaller than the T-Rex due to bone structure. But from the physiology they were pound-for-pound just as vicious as their competitor.

“They may have looked a bit odd as they were covered in feathers with tiny useless forelimbs, ” according to Discovery News. “But make more mistake, they were fearless killers of their time.”After closer examination of the femur bone of the Abelisaur and its exact location, it is evident that the riddle may be much straight forward than initially thought. The Predators may not have lived in the same environment. But through earth shifting and other tectonic movements the bones may have settled in the same layer due to similar density and structure.


Early fungi played vital role in evolution of flowering plant

Fossils of an ancient fungus dating back to over 440 million years ago have been found. This is probably one of the first animals to live on land as at this time most organisms still existed in the sea. The organism laid the ground for soil formation which was vital for evolution to higher plants.

It has structures very similar to the modern fungi, showing that it has undergone very little evolution over the millenniums. However, its structures are ideal for breaking rocks to pebbles and eventually to soil. It also catalyzes the decay of dead matter to humus.

The ancient fungi had first confused researchers as what was first thought as different organisms have now been confirmed to be various stages of the same organism. This goes in some way in explaining why the fungus was so resilient throughout history.

“What we see in this fossil is complex fungal ‘behavior’ in some of the earliest terrestrial ecosystems – contributing to soil formation and kick-starting the process of rotting on land,” said Smith, head scientist in the research. “Those two ends of the spectrum looked very different. It was like having stills from the beginning and the end of a movie. And when he did, he showed that the fossils represented an organism that grew mycelium — long, root-like filaments that fungi use to extract and transport nutrients.”

Scientists believe the process of soil formation and rot was essential for the evolution of higher plants, This, in essence, it is what holds the complex plants to the ground, unlike the fungi which anchored on the rocky terrain.


Spanking does more harm than good says new study

You always here those people who say, “Why shouldn’t kids be spanked? I was spanked, and I turned out fine.” Well, maybe you did, but researchers just keep kinding ways that spanking can be harmful to kids.

According to The News Independent, a new study by researchers from the University of Texas and the University of Michigan has shown that spanking has more negative side effects than positives ones. Specifically, it won’t curb bad behavior, but instead causes aggression and anti-social behavior.

“We found that spanking was associated with unintended detrimental outcomes and was not associated with more immediate or long-term compliance, which are parents’ intended outcomes when they discipline their children,” said study author Elizabeth Gershoff.

Published in the Journal of Family Psychology, researchers analyzed fifty years worth of studies involving spanking. Rather than take into account other forms of punishment, Gershoff and the other researchers only focused on spanking.

The Chicago Tribune reported that not a single positive factor was recognized in nearly five decades of cases.

“Spanking makes children’s behavior worse,”said Gershoff. “It has the opposite effect than what parents want. It doesn’t make children better-behaved, and it doesn’t teach children right from wrong. It’s not related to immediate compliance, and it doesn’t make children behave better in the future.”

And for those naysayers who protest that they turned out fine, Gershoff add that there was more than just a spanking back then. There was communication.

“We turned out okay because our parents did other things, like sat us down at the kitchen table and talked to us and gave us reasons why they wanted to see us behave. We turned out okay in spite of spanking, not because of it.”


Registering for a draft might not be just for men anymore

Restrictions have finally been lifted when it comes to letting women serve on the front line in battle. Now all that remains for equality in the service is that women are required to sign up for the draft.

According to, the House of Representatives are currently working on a bill that would require women register for a draft. Men have been required to sign up in case of an emergency draft within 30 days of turning 18. If not, men could be denied financial aid when going off to college, and immigrant men could be denied citizenship.

When members of the House of Representatives voted on Wednesday, the results came back 32-30. Interestingly, the founder of the bill did not vote in favor of the bill. Bill creator Duncan Hunter argued that requiring women to sign up for the draft would affect families across America. He also added that this would put women on the front line.

“A draft is there to put bodies on the front lines to take the hill,” said Hunter. “The draft is there to get more people to rip the enemies’ throats out and kill them.”

However, this argument didn’t sway enough voters to strike down the bill. Representative Jackie Speier noted that the double-standard of women not having to register for the draft is one of the factors that fuels sexism in America.

“I actually think if we want equality in this country, if we want women to be treated precisely like men are treated and that they should not be discriminated against, we should be willing to support a universal conscription,” said Speier.

Even if the bill passes and women are required to register, a military draft is unlikely. The last draft was during Vietnam, and today there are plenty of troops in reserve and in combat.