SciTech Briefs

Gravity waves were triggered by black holes colliding

On Sept. 14, the Advanced Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) sensed a disturbance in space-time caused by two massive black holes smashing together. When black holes collide, they merge to form a larger black hole, sending ripples of gravity waves out. The black holes had masses of 29 and 36 suns, roughly twice as massive as the previous record-holders.

“It’s quite an incredible discovery,” said Vikram Ravi, an astrophysicist at the California Institute of Technology. Estimates put the black holes’ collision at 1.3 billion light-years away, and in order to pinpoint the location of the black holes, LIGO is partnering with telescopes around the world. At 0.4 seconds after LIGO’s detection of the collision, the Fermi gamma-ray satellite picked up a faint flash of gamma radiation. While researchers can’t pinpoint exactly where the burst came from, the direction is roughly consistent with LIGO’s prediction.

With these estimates, it is possible that LIGO has previously detected more black hole collisions.

Source: Science News

FDA will start testing food for any possible carcinogen herbicide

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will begin testing various foods, including soybeans, corn, milk, and eggs, for exposure to glyphosate. Glyphosate is the active ingredient in several of the most widely used herbicides, with more than 250 million pounds applied to agricultural lands in the U.S. annually.

Although it is widely used, regulatory agencies have concluded that glyphosate has low toxicity, and numerous toxicology studies, many of which were conducted by industry as required by the EPA, have found that glyphosate is relatively harmless, which is why there has been no routine testing for glyphosate in food or people.

However, the World Health Organization (WHO) rated glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic to humans,” in part due to finding limited evidence from real-world exposures in humans. Although the call came in 2014 to strengthen monitoring of glyphosate, new methods from the FDA make the process much more financially feasible.

Source: Science News

New data calculate land most sensitive to climate change

According to a new study published in the journal Nature on Wednesday, researchers have identified regions of the world where vegetation has responded most to climate change.

The researchers examined satellite data from 2000 to 2013 to see how various ecosystems responded to monthly changes in climate over time. They then devised a Vegetation Sensitivity Index to compare fluctuations in temperature, water availability, and cloudiness to the health of plants in a certain ecosystem. Such geology, soil, air, water, and living organisms contribute to the world’s stock of natural assets, called natural capital.

“This approach now enables us to to do is to start to identify the most vulnerable natural capital stocks provided by vegetation,” said Kathy Willis, the director of science at the U.K.’s Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, “and this in itself provides an important first step to highlight regions of sensitivity for global food security that we obtain from plants.”

Source: Huffington Post

Theoretical five-dimensional black hole hypothesized

Researchers from the University of Cambridge and Queen Mary University of London have successfully shown how an oddly shaped black hole with such amazingly intense gravity could cause Einstein’s general theory of relativity to break down.

Using supercomputers, the researchers simulated how a black hole would behave in a five dimensional world.
The simulated black hole is shaped like a very thin ring, giving rise to a series of bulges connected by strings, or thin lines, that become thinner over time. When the rings become too thin, they pinch off into miniature black holes, similar to how faucet water breaks into little droplets before completely turning off.

Although physicists theorized ring-shaped black holes back in 2002, this is the first time their dynamics have been modeled. If such a black hole were to exist, the equations of general relativity would break down due to the appearance of a ‘naked singularity.’ The results are published in the journal Physical Review Letters.

Source: Science Daily

Fallen meteorites with iron buried in Antarctic ice

New research suggests that Antarctic ice could be hiding a layer of iron-rich meteorites that have fallen to Earth over the past few centuries. Few space rocks that fall to Earth are made of iron, and since Antarctica is generally uninhabited, many of the rocks that land have never been acknowledged or recovered.

Based on modeling and experimentation, scientists now say that the rocks may be melting the ice as the sun’s natural light heats them, burying the meteorites deeper in the ice. “The study is proposing a hypothesis—these samples should be there. We just have to go and locate them,” said Katherine Joy from the University of Manchester, a co-author of the paper.

“Every meteorite we find tells us something new about the Solar System,” Joy said, which is why it is very important that scientists recover the meteorites from the ice—they may learn something new about how our solar system formed or what kind of elements are present in meteors. The research was published in Nature Communications.

Source: The BBC

New images show remnants of ocean on Pluto’s moon

The surface of Charon, one of Pluto’s five moons, is cracked and fracturing, containing deep ridges, valleys, and chasms.
The moon may have once had a subsurface ocean that froze over, as suggested by new images from NASA’s New Horizons mission. From the images, scientists hypothesize that the ocean froze over and expanded, causing the moon’s surface to stretch and fracture on a massive scale.

Charon’s outer layer is primarily water ice, which was kept warm by the heat provided by radioactive decay when it was younger.Scientists say that Charon could have been warm enough for the ice to melt far below the surface, creating a subsurface ocean which would have frozen and expanded as Charon cooled down. This movement could have produced the massive chasms seen today on Charon.

The images were taken with the Long-Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) on New Horizons in July 2015.

Source: Science Daily