Astrophysicists detect first black hole-neutron star mergers

An artistic image inspired by a black hole-neutron star merger event. Credit: Carl Knox, OzGrav/Swinburne

First-ever detection of a black hole merging with a neutron star

A long time ago, in two galaxies about 900 million light-years away, two black holes each gobbled up their neutron star companions, triggering gravitational waves that finally hit Earth in January 2020.

Discovered by an international team of astrophysicists including Northwestern University researchers, two events -- detected just 10 days apart -- mark the first-ever detection of a black hole merging with a neutron star. The findings will enable researchers to draw the first conclusions about the origins of these rare binary systems and how often they merge.

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As the poet says

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Robert Frost

The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

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The Science of Sound

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Synesthesia

Natural phenomena have a multitude of informational aspects. When they occur and hit our perception it usually separates them into the five general channels called senses – sight, sound, touch, smell, and taste. That is how we can easily distinguish and grasp sensory data. Nevertheless, the source of perceptional data is usually intertwined and has more than one of these aspects. There is a neurological condition called synesthesia, in which information meant to stimulate one of your senses stimulates several of them. Of course, that could be a really confusing state of mind, one that could raise a lot of difficulties for our understanding. However, from another point of view, such a perception could bring unexpected and beautiful facets of reality, which can enrich our knowledge of nature and human consciousness. Although it could be hard to imagine what is the color of sweet or how a sound looks like, now, thanks to the fruitful union of Science and Art, synesthesia has been embodied in a tangible form.

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Friday Inspirational Quotes

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Pablo Picasso

There are some unarguably distinctive differences between human beings and animals. One of them, of course, is language. We speak, we use complex grammatical constructions, we produce abstract terms, etc. Another one is that we don't live in the planet's natural habitat, or at least don't do it anymore. We build cities, connect them by roads and highways, live under roofs, travel by cars and planes. In other words, we construct our world within the natural world. Everything that is surrounding us was once in our imagination. Each object that we are used to and utilize on daily basis, was once made by another human being. It is fascinating how we transformed the raw materials of our planet into the world we know today. It is, basically, like we brought out our consciousness and materialized it. What once looked like science fiction is a common fact today. So, don't limit yourself and set free your imagination. As Pablo Picasso once said: "Everything you can imagine is real."


Have a great Friday and enjoy your weekend!


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How we prepare for an ‘age of pandemics’

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Future pandemics security

The current pandemic caught the world off guard but there are more to come, and we need to work out how to better prepare for and respond to future crises before they occur, an audience at the European Commission's annual Research and Innovation Days conference has heard.

'It is likely that we are entering an age of pandemics,' said Prof. Peter Piot, director of the UK's London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, who co-discovered the Ebola virus in 1976 and is now special advisor to the president of the European Commission on Covid-19.


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The secret troves of Etymology

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The word Method

One of the most commonly used words in the field of Science is method. Nowadays, we literally can't imagine how we could conduct an experiment or draw a conclusion without following some method. And not only in scholarly discourse but in everyday use, you can often hear someone describing another person or activity as being methodical or as lacking methodology. But what are the origins of this word, and how come it became so popular?


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On this date, 8 years ago…

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The first appearance of the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter

On July 13, 2013, George Zimmerman was acquitted of all charges for the murder of Trayvon Martin, 17 years old African-American teenager. The outcome of the trial raised high social disapproval and discussions. The same day Alicia Garza, an Oakland, California resident, made a post on Facebook exclaiming her outrage and sadness of the unfair trial. Her message contained the phrase "Black lives matter" for the first time, which soon became a rallying cry and worldwide movement for racial tolerance and justice.



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Single gene boosts climate resilience, yield and carbon capture in crops

Credit: Carlos Jones/ORNL

Scientists use a gene from agave to engineer greater stress tolerance in plants.

Scientists at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), have discovered a single gene that simultaneously boosts plant growth and tolerance for stresses such as drought and salt, all while tackling the root cause of climate change by enabling plants to pull more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

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Sunday Quotes

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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

"Sunday is the golden clasp that binds together the volume of the week."


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Machine learning and earthquake risk prediction

Sinkholes and liquefaction on roads in Christchurch, New Zealand; Credit: Wikimedia Commons

New framework applies big data, supercomputing to soil liquefaction

Homes and offices are only as solid as the ground beneath them. When that solid ground turns to liquid -- as sometimes happens during earthquakes -- it can topple buildings and bridges. The phenomenon is known as liquefaction, and it was a major feature of the 2011 earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand, a magnitude 6.3 quake that killed 185 people and destroyed thousands of homes.

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What does the philosopher say?

Portrait of Søren Kierkegaard; Image credit: via Wikipedia

Søren Kierkegaard

"Marry, and you will regret it; don't marry, you will also regret it; marry or don't marry, you will regret it either way. Laugh at the world's foolishness, you will regret it; weep over it, you will regret that too; laugh at the world's foolishness or weep over it, you will regret both. Believe a woman, you will regret it; believe her not, you will also regret it… Hang yourself, you will regret it; do not hang yourself, and you will regret that too; hang yourself or don't hang yourself, you'll regret it either way; whether you hang yourself or do not hang yourself, you will regret both. This, gentlemen, is the essence of all philosophy."



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Cities that connect people and nature are a post-pandemic priority, conference hears

Greener spaces would allow children to be more connected with nature. Image credit – Nerea Marti Sesarino / Unsplas

Greener Cities

Care homes that let people age with integrity, green kindergartens and community centres that bring together people of all ages were some of the visions for how to build a better Europe presented by citizens from Estonia, Bulgaria, and Poland on 24 June at the European Commission's annual flagship research conference.

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Amazing facts

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Do you know that Hawaii moves 7.5cm closer to Alaska every year?

The Earth's crust is split into gigantic pieces called tectonic plates. These plates are in constant motion, propelled by currents in the Earth's upper mantle. The hot, less-dense rock rises before cooling and sinking, giving rise to circular convection currents which act like giant conveyor belts, slowly shifting the tectonic plates above them. Hawaii sits in the middle of the Pacific Plate, which is slowly drifting northwest towards the North American Plate, back to Alaska. The plates' pace is comparable to the speed at which our fingernails grow.


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On this date, 86 years ago…

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Dalai Lama, leader of Tibet, is born

On the 6th of July, 1935, a boy named Tenzin Gyatso is born to a peasant family in Takster, Tibet. Only two years old, he was declared to be the future leader of Tibet – Dalai Lama. He is considered the reincarnation of the great Buddhist spiritual leader and is the 14th Dalai Lama.

Until 1950, a regency exercised his leadership rights. Later that year, Dalai Lama was forced to flee by the Chinese government but he successfully negotiated an agreement and returned to the leadership of Tibet for the next eight years. A failed Tibetan nationalist uprising in 1959 led to severe repressions by China. Dalai Lama had to flee to Punjab, India, where he managed to establish his democratic government in exile. He was honored with a Nobel Peace Prize in 1989 due to his determined commitment to the nonviolent liberation of Tibet.

In 1998, he published his book The Art of Happiness, a co-writing with the psychiatrist Howard Cutler. The book became a bestseller. Just a year later, he wrote and published another book - Ethics for the NewMillennium (1999). One more time, his book hit the bestseller list again, giving him two titles in the Top 10. Although based on Buddhist teaching, the book insists that spiritual faith is not necessary to live a contented, peaceful life.




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Arctic rotifers still alive after 24,000 years in a frozen state

Credit: Michael Plewka

Scientists conduct research in remote Arctic locations

Bdelloid rotifers are multicellular animals, so small a microscope is needed to see them. Despite their size, they're known for being tough -- capable of surviving drying, freezing, starvation and low oxygen.

Now, U.S. National Science Foundation-funded researchers have found that not only can they withstand being frozen, they can persist for at least 24,000 years in Siberian permafrost.

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What does the poet say?

Photo credit: American poet Walt Whitman. This image was made in 1887 in New York, by photographer George C. Cox.; by Wikipedia

Walt Whitman

...All truths wait in all things,
They neither hasten their own delivery nor resist it,
They do not need the obstetric forceps of the surgeon,
The insignificant is as big to me as any,
(What is less or more than a touch?)

Logic and sermons never convince,
The damp of the night drives deeper into my soul.
(Only what proves itself to every man and woman is so,
Only what nobody denies is so.)...
Walt Whitman, Song of Myself

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Pine Island Glacier's ice shelf is ripping apart, speeding up key Antarctic glacier thinning

Pine Island Glacier ends in an ice shelf that floats in the Amundsen Sea. Credit: Ian Joughin/University of Washington

From 2017 to 2020, large icebergs at the ice shelf's edge broke away

For decades, the ice shelf helping to hold back one of the fastest-moving glaciers in Antarctica, Pine Island Glacier, has gradually thinned. Analysis of satellite images reveals a more dramatic process in recent years. From 2017 to 2020, large icebergs at the ice shelf's edge broke off, and the glacier sped up.

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N2O – Where Science meets Fun

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Friday science jokes

Good laughter could boost your imagination up to 99%, scientists say. Well, let's put that to a test!

Enjoy, this Friday's selection of science humor!

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Seven great authors share their view on the nature of Science

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Thought can fly further than airplanes

To consider the influence and importance of Science and Technology today is a thought-provoking activity. Check out what famous think-tanks have shared with us.

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Future wearable electronic clothing could be charged by our own body heat

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Wearable electronics powered by the user's own body heat could help tackle the issue of how to storage energy.

Thanks to rapid computing developments in the last decade and the miniaturisation of electronic components, people can, for example, track their movements and monitor their health in real time by wearing tiny computers. Researchers are now looking at how best to power these devices by turning to the user's own body heat and working with garments, polka dots and know-how from the textile industry.

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