Astronomers Identify a New Class of Black Holes

By John Wenz | February 8, 2017 1:03 pm

Globular cluster 47 based on data from FORS1. (Credit: ESO)

Some black holes are small. Some black holes are giant. But oddly enough, in the cosmic fight between innocent passing stars and voracious black holes, scientists have never found a mid-sized black hole. Until now.

The star cluster 47 Tucanae, located about 13,000 to 16,000 light years from Earth, is a dense ball of stars. Hundreds of thousands of stars compacted into a 120 light-year span give off gamma rays and X-rays and more energetic events, but to date, no black holes had been found there. The center seemed ripe for opportunities to find one, but a lack of tidal disruption events and a jumble of stars hard to sift through obscured finding any lurking black holes there. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Space & Physics, top posts
MORE ABOUT: black holes

Researchers Lambast Daily Mail’s Climate Change Article

By Nathaniel Scharping | February 7, 2017 3:09 pm

(Credit: lexaarts/Shutterstock)

A recent article published in the Daily Mail critical of climate science has drawn sharp criticism from multiple climate researchers.

The controversy concerns a paper, published in 2015 by a team of NOAA researchers led by Thomas Karl, that revealed a purported “pause” in global warming was nothing more than an artifact of incomplete data. Now, the Daily Mail has published an article based on an exclusive interview with former NOAA employee John Bates alleging that the Karl paper misinterpreted data to overstate the scope of climate change. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Environment, top posts
MORE ABOUT: climate change

Midwest Meteor: Where Did You Come From, Where Did You Go?

By Hannah Gavin | February 7, 2017 1:53 pm

A still image from a dashcam video caught by Glendale, Wisconsin police officer at 1:29 a.m. Monday. (Credit: Glendale Police Department)

Dash cam footage of a meteor streaking over the Midwest on Feb. 6 is collecting views and instigating an envy of regional night owls who witnessed the event live.

The National Weather Service detected the meteor around 1:29 a.m. It flew over Lake Michigan between Sheboygan and Manitowoc, Wisconsin. The meteor was spotted as far south as Kentucky and as far east as New York, Astronomy reports.

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How Pitcher Plants Acquired a Taste for Meat

By Nathaniel Scharping | February 6, 2017 3:44 pm

(Credit: National Institute for Basic Biology)

Researchers have peered into the genome of pitcher plants to see how they developed their carnivorous appetite.

Genes that once helped to regulate stress responses may have been co-opted to assist with capturing and digesting insects and other creatures. Looking at several different species an international team of researchers led by Mitsuyasu Hasebe says the same genomic regions were all altered in the same way at different times, which is an indication that the path to carnivorousness looked the same, regardless of species.

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MORE ABOUT: plants. genetics

Ultrasound Waves Turn Wine into Something Better

By Charles Choi | February 3, 2017 11:23 am

(Credit: Shutterstock)

Brandies, such as cognac, are renowned for colors, flavors and aromas that require years to achieve. But scientists in Spain have used ultrasound to cut the time needed for such spirits to mature down to days.

Brandies, stemming from the Dutch brandewijn, or “burned wine,” are powerful alcoholic spirits distilled from wines or other fermented fruit juices. One brandy connoisseur of note, the poet Samuel Johnson, noted that “claret is the liquor for boys; port for men; but he who aspires to be a hero must drink brandy.” The reputation of brandies often help them fetch top dollar: In 2011, a world record was set in Shanghai for an 1858 cognac named Cuvee Leonie that sold for 1 million Chinese yuan (US$156,700). According to London-based market research firm Technavio, the global brandy market is expected to exceed $63 billion by 2020. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, top posts
MORE ABOUT: agriculture

No, Political Polling Isn’t Dead

By Nathaniel Scharping | February 2, 2017 1:32 pm

(Credit: jannoon028/Shutterstock)

Political polls may have taken a beating in the last presidential election, but we shouldn’t count them out quite yet.

After President Donald Trump, who was predicted to lose the election by a wide margin, emerged victorious from the 2016 presidential race, stories about polls were thrown into the “fake news” shredder. Although the fault may have lain with how we interpret them, polls lost a significant amount of hard-earned trust in the eyes of the public. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Space & Physics, top posts
MORE ABOUT: mathematics

Will Biden’s Cancer Moonshot Survive the Trump Administration?

By Kim Smuga-Otto | February 2, 2017 1:21 pm

Simon speaks during the Precision Medicine World Conference, which was held recently in Mountain View, CA. (Credit: PMWC) 

President Donald Trump’s administration has placed programs initiated during Barack Obama’s tenure as president, even those with bipartisan support, on unsure footing. However, the cancer moonshot may have the critical momentum needed to achieve its goals.

Former President Barack Obama announced the initiative at his final State of the Union Address with the goal to accelerate cancer research; to achieve in five years what was anticipated for 10. Speaking before the World Economic Forum on Jan. 16, Biden said it was his “prayer” that Trump would continue the program. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine, top posts
MORE ABOUT: cancer

Hydrogel ‘Hand’ Catches Fish With Ease

By Nathaniel Scharping | February 1, 2017 1:23 pm

(Credit: Hyunwoo Yuk/MIT Soft Active Materials Lab)

Caught by an invisible hand, these fish don’t know what hit them.

The transparent appendage isn’t the latest fad in fishing technology; however, it’s a demonstration of the power of soft robots made from hydrogels—a squishy blend of polymers and water. Researchers from MIT devised a way to 3D-print custom structures from the material and bring them to life with the help of a simple water pump. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Technology, top posts

Robo-Barista Serves Up Coffee in San Francisco

By Amy Klinkhammer | February 1, 2017 1:12 pm

(Credit: Cafe X)

A robo-rista is now optimizing customers’ coffee in the United States.

Café X, a robotic, coffee-brewing kiosk has just opened its windows on 4th Street in downtown San Francisco.

The “barista bots,” which are actually robotic-arms designed by Mitsubishi, are the first of their kind in the United States, joined only by their sisters-in-arms serving hot brew in kiosks in Hong Kong. They may not be chatty, but they definitely know how to make your favorite latte just right. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Technology, Uncategorized
MORE ABOUT: robots

We Folded: AI Bests the Top Human Poker Pros

By Nathaniel Scharping | January 31, 2017 1:46 pm

The Brains vs Artificial Intelligence competition at the Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh. (Credit: Carnegie Mellon University)

Roughly a year ago, to the day, Google researchers announced their artificial intelligence, AlphaGo, had mastered the ancient game of Go. At the time, Discover wrote that there was still one game that gave computers fits: poker.

Not anymore.

Late Monday night, a computer program designed by two Carnegie Mellon University researchers beat four of the world’s top no-limit Texas Hold’em poker players. The algorithm, named Libratus by its creators, collected more than $1.5 million in chips after a marathon 20-day tournament in Pittsburgh. The victory comes only two years after the same researchers’ algorithm failed to beat human players. Read More



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