Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Bloated Stars Discovered Close to the Milky Way's Supermassive Black Hole

 A team of astronomers led by Anna Cirulo from the University of California, Los Angeles, have discovered strange , puffy objects that look like gas clouds but act like stars. These objects were found by measuring the wavelengths of light released by these bloated stars using the W.M. Keck Observatory on Mauna Kea, in Hawaii.
 Categorized as G-objects, these stellar objects were first observed back in 2004. Initially thought to be gas clouds, astronomers realized that they could not be clouds when two of these objects survived the gravitational pull of a black hole.
 Through the discovery of three new G-objects - G3, G4 and G5 - these researchers have reached the conclusion that these are bloated stars. These are stars that have become so large that tidal forces exerted by a black hole can pull matter off of the star, yet remain contact through a stellar core with a sizable mass.
 Researchers believe that G-objects may have formed through the collision of two stars orbiting each other. "In the aftermath of such a merger, the resulting single object would be 'puffed up,' or distended, for a rather long period of time, perhaps a million years, before it settles down and appears like a normal-sized star," said UCLA astronomy professor Mark Morris, a co-principal investigator of this study.

Read more about this fascinating story at: https://www.space.com/40850-mysterious-puffy-objects-monster-black-hole.html
The latest unpublished findings were announced this week at the American Astronomical Society meeting in Denver, Colorado.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Alphabet’s DeepMind Defies Dimensions through Advancements in Computer Vision

Photo: DeepMind

Using only a few two-dimensional images, Alphabet’s DeepMind is able to construct a three-dimensional scene using deep neural networks. Researchers have found success in reconstructing virtual environments, but current algorithms and hardware cannot support the complexity of natural environments. These advancements in computer vision technology have applications extending to police forces, where crimes may soon be recreated from a few surveillance camera images, self-driving cars, and household robots.

In each experiment, the neural network DeepMind never received more than five snapshots to create its three-dimensional interpretation. To achieve the final layout, the system constructs a simplified abstraction 
of the perceived objects solely through observation and then fills in finer details. This division of labour helps increase the speed of rendering and the accuracy of the representation of soft objects such as animals and vegetables.

Most well-known for cracking the game of Go and beating one of the world’s best players in 2016, Alphabet’s DeepMind continues to make strides in technology, focusing in areas of efficiency, assistive technology, and now computer vision.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

New Study Shows Relationship Between Ghrelin and Alcohol

 Image credit: Michal Jarmoluk

According to a recent study, Ghrelin (a hormone synthesized by endocrine cells of the stomach) may be a new promising target in developing novel medications for alcohol use disorder.

Ghrelin plays a role in the brain’s reward and stress pathways from preclinical studies, however it was never observed on alcohol.

Dr. Lorenzo Leggio, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and National Institute on Drug Abuse, and colleagues conducted a proof-of-concept human laboratory study consisting of two experiments: alcohol self-administration and brain functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI).

Participants were alcohol-dependent heavy-drinking (>15 and >20 standard drinks/week for women and men, respectively) individuals. They received either ghrelin or placebo. The results turned out that ghrelin increased the urge for alcohol infusions compared to the placebo.

Quote from Dr. Lorenzo, “These data indicate that ghrelin signaling affects alcohol seeking in humans.”

Read more about this fascinating story at: www.sci-news.comwww.sci-news.com

Friday, June 15, 2018

Photo of the Week

This week for Photo of the Week, we would like to feature a jaw-dropping photo of the Milky Way. Taken in the Chilean Atacama desert by photographer Luis Calçada, this 20 second exposure demonstrates the effects of taking photos in locations unaffected by light pollution. With over 80 percent of the world's population living under skyglow, the sights of the Milky Way are quickly becoming sights only restricted to LED screens.

For more fantastic photos, be sure to check out Calçada's Flickr at https://www.flickr.com/photos/muitosabao/

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Cosmic Glow Discovered to Be Caused by Nanadiamonds

 Astronomers using the Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia and the Australia Telescope Compact Array have discovered that diamond dust is responsible for a mysterious glow emanating from certain areas of the Milky Way Galaxy. This mysterious glow is known as the anomalous microwave emission (AME).
 In the new study ,astronomers were searching for AME light in 14 newborn star systems across the Milky Way. In three of these systems, these emissions were found emanating from planet-forming disks of dust and gas swirling around the stars. The unique infrared-light signatures of nanodiamonds - carbon crystals far smaller than a grain of sand - in these same three systems.
 This study is "good news for those who study polarization of the cosmic microwave background, since the signal from spinning nanodiamonds would be weakly polarized at best," said co-author Brian Mason, an astronomer at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Charlottesville, Virgina. "This means that astronomers can now make better models of the foreground microwave light from our galaxy, which must be removed to study the distant afterglow of the Big Bang."

Read more about this fascinating story at: https://www.space.com/40840-nanodiamonds-mysterious-cosmic-microwave-light.html
Or read the full study at: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41550-018-0495-z

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

NASA's Curiosity Rover Detects Organic Material, Methane on Mars

 NASA's Curiosity Rover has detected new evidence of ancient organic matter preserved in rocks on Mars. Further evidence of methane in the atmosphere supports the theory of the existence of ancient life on the Red Planet.
 'Tough' organic molecules were discovered in three-billion-year-old sedimentary rocks near the surface. Although commonly associated with life, these organic molecules can be created through non-biological processes and are not a certain indicator of life.
 In a second paper, scientists detailed the findings of Curiosity's Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument suite. It was found that there was seasonal variations in methane levels in the Martian atmosphere over the course of almost three Martian years, which equates to close to six Earth years. Similarly to the organic molecules, these variations could have been generated by abiotic processes such as water-rock chemistry, but scientists cannot also rule out the possibility of biological origins. These findings demonstrate that low levels of methane peak during warm, summer months and drop off during winter each year.
 “With these new findings, Mars is telling us to stay the course and keep searching for evidence of life,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters, in Washington. “I’m confident that our ongoing and planned missions will unlock even more breathtaking discoveries on the Red Planet.”

Read more about this fascinating story at: https://www.nasa.gov/press-release/nasa-finds-ancient-organic-material-mysterious-methane-on-mars

Monday, June 11, 2018

Concept of Zero Recognized in Honeybees

Photo: Pexels

While the concept of zero has become instinctive to modern humanity, the numeric systems of ancient human civilizations indicate a prior lack of a complete comprehension of the concept. However, the concept of zero is no longer considered a concept exclusive to humanity as scientists are discovering other vertebrates capable of grasping the concept. Notably, RMIT University researcher Adrian Dyer and co-authors provide evidence in a recent study that supports the notion that honeybees can comprehend zero.

Dyer explains the team’s inspiration behind the study, “We’ve long believed only humans had the intelligence to get the concept, but recent research has shown monkeys and birds have the brains for it as well. What we haven’t known — until now — is whether insects can also understand zero.” To test the knowledge of zero, bees were lured to a testing apparatus and trained to select the image with the fewest elements. Despite a lack exposure to empty sets, when a set containing no elements was displayed, the bees recognized these images were lower than images that displayed any elements.

Read more about this fascinating discovery at: http://www.sci-news.com/biology/honeybees-concept-zero-06085.html

Read the study at: http://science.sciencemag.org/content/360/6393/1124