Scientists detect the most massive black hole collision yet

Black holes are out there making waves. Four new gravitational wave detections were announced during a science conference over the weekend, bringing the total number of detections to 11 since the first monumental discovery in February 2016. Of these detections, one is the most distant and most massive event to date – resulting from two black … Continue reading “Scientists detect the most massive black hole collision yet”

Black holes are out there making waves.

Four new gravitational wave detections were announced during a science conference over the weekend, bringing the total number of detections to 11 since the first monumental discovery in February 2016.

Of these detections, one is the most distant and most massive event to date – resulting from two black holes that collided roughly five billion years ago. This collision formed a new black hole 80 times more massive than the sun.

“It took science a century to confirm Einstein’s prediction of the existence of gravitational waves,” Sheila Rowan, a physicist at the University of Glasgow in the United Kingdom, said in a statement.“But the pace of our discoveries since then has been exhilarating and we’re anticipating many more exciting detections to come.”

Interestingly, the latest detections weren’t derived from new data. Both detection facilities — the Advanced Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory in the US and Advanced Virgo facility in Italy — have been switched off for upgrading since 2017. Rather, scientists pored back through data collected between November 2016 and August 2017.

But these four new discoveries are giving scientists just enough black hole data (10 detections have been black hole mergers, while one was a neutron star merger) to start drawing some conclusions about what black holes really are.

“We now have a sharper picture of both how frequently stellar mass binary black holes merge and what their masses are,” Chris Pankow, an astrophysicist at Northwestern University, said in a separate statement. “These measurements will further enable us to understand how the most massive stars of our Universe are born, live and die.”

The research is described by the LIGO Scientific Collaboration and the Virgo Collaboration in two papers (here and here.) The aLIGO detectors are scheduled to be turned back on in early 2019. Scientists hope that with the new upgrades they’ll be able to detect two black hole mergers a month.

This story originally appeared in the New York Post.

Moldy mouse food to blame for delayed Space Station supply launch

NASA and SpaceX will launch a cargo mission to the International Space Station Wednesday after a 24-hour delay caused by moldy mouse food.

“The launch was moved to Wednesday after mold was found on food bars for a rodent investigation prior to handover to SpaceX,” explained NASA in a statement. “Teams will use the extra day to replace the food bars.”

Some 40 mice will be traveling to the ISS in the SpaceX Dragon cargo capsule as part of a project called Rodent Research-8 (RR-8), explains. The study is examining the physiology of aging and the effect of age on disease progression on both young and old mice.

“Responses to spaceflight in humans and model organisms such as mice resemble certain aspects of accelerated aging,” adds NASA on its website. “This investigation provides a better understanding of aging-related immune, bone, and muscle disease processes, which may lead to new therapies for use in space and on Earth.”


Wednesday’s launch, which is SpaceX’s 16th cargo resupply mission to the ISS, is scheduled to take place at 1:16 p.m. EST from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Loaded with more than 5,600 pounds of cargo, the Dragon capsule had originally been scheduled to launch atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket early Tuesday afternoon.

Meteorologists with the U.S. Air Force 45th Space Wing predict a 90 percent chance of favorable weather for Wednesday’s launch.

This is a busy week for SpaceX. One of the company’s rockets carrying 64 small satellites lifted off from California on Monday, marking the first time the same Falcon 9 rocket has been used in three space missions.


The rocket blasted off from Vandenberg Air Force Base, arcing over the Pacific Ocean west of Los Angeles as it headed toward space.

Minutes later, the rocket's first stage performed a so-called boost back maneuver and landed on an unmanned ship in the Pacific.

SpaceX founder Elon Musk has made reusability a major goal.


On Monday, a Russian Soyuz spacecraft carrying three astronauts, including one American, successfully docked with the International Space Station. The launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan was the first successful manned mission to the space lab since an aborted Soyuz launch in October.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers

Einstein’s famous ‘God’ letter sells at auction for record-breaking amount

Albert Einstein's famous letter detailing his inner-most thoughts on the subject of God, his Jewish faith and "man's eternal search for meaning" has sold at auction for a record-breaking amount — $2.89 million.

The exact price was $2,892,500 and was sold to an unknown buyer. The letter, which was auctioned off by Christie's on Tuesday, was expected to sell for between $1 million and $1.5 million.

"This remarkably candid, private letter was written a year before Einstein’s death and remains the most fully articulated expression of his religious and philosophical views," Christie's said in a statement on its website.


In the letter, Einstein says that for him, the word God is "nothing but the expression and product of human weakness, the Bible a collection of venerable but still primitive legends.”

Einstein goes on to write: "No interpretation, no matter how subtle, can (for me) change anything about this. These refined interpretations are naturally very diverse, and have virtually nothing to do with the original text. For me the unadulterated Jewish religion is, like all other religions, an incarnation of primitive superstition. And the Jewish people to whom I gladly belong, and in whose mentality I feel profoundly anchored, still for me does not have any different kind of dignity from all other peoples. As far as my experience goes, they are in fact no better than other human groups, even if they are protected from the worst excesses by a lack of power. Otherwise I cannot perceive anything 'chosen' about them."

The letter is dated January 3, 1954, approximately a year before Einstein passed away at age 76. It is addressed to German philosopher Eric Gutkind and is written in his native German.

Separately, Christie's also sold a rare signed first edition of "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone," which also set a record, for $162,500. Additionally, a copy of Charles Darwin's "On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection" was also sold at auction and fetched $162,500, Christie's said.

Last month, Sotheby's offered up for auction a Bible inscribed by Einstein in 1932, but failed to sell. The leatherette-bound Bible, which was a gift from Einstein and his wife, Elsa, to an employee of the couple, Harriet Hamilton, was inscribed with: "This book is an inexhaustible source of living wisdom and consolation." It was estimated that it would sell for between $200,000 and $300,000.

Several of Einstein's letters have sold at auction in recent memory, ranging in size and scope.

In June, two letters written by the world-renowned scientist went up for auction, which detailed his escape from the Nazis and his work helping Jews escape Hitler's regime. Both letters were written to his sister, Maja Winteler-Einstein. The first was written on March 28, 1933, aboard the S.S. Belgenland on the day he renounced his German citizenship.


The second was written on Dec. 14, 1938, attempting to persuade Maja to leave Switzerland and come to the U.S. as he attempted to help Jewish refugees escape the Nazi regime.

In October 2017, Einstein's note on the theory of happiness sold to an unknown buyer at a Jerusalem auction for $1.56 million.

The Associated Press contributed to this story. Follow Chris Ciaccia on Twitter @Chris_Ciaccia

Farmer claims his huge 6-foot, 5-inch cow is bigger than giant viral sensation Knickers

Mooooove over Knickers – there's a new cow in town.

A Canadian farmer claims his super steer is an inch taller than the viral 6ft 4 Aussie cow which has been hogging the headlines.

Karl Schoenrock says his own steer Dozer is just over 6-foot-5, calling him a "gentle giant."


Australian cow, Knickers, became a viral sensation after a video emerged of him towering above other farm beasts.

The enormous 1.4-tonne beast which has been saved from getting the chop at the abattoir, won social media fame, and could suffer a rare genetic condition.

But Dozer's owners say he can pull the udder one.

Karl, and his wife Raelle, who run Kismet Creek Farm in Manitoba, decided to see how their bovine measured up.

(Credit: Kismet Creek Farm)

To their surprise he had grown two inches taller than the last time they sized him up – and he might even be the world's biggest.

“He’s just the friendliest animal,” Schoenrock said.

“He’s not very intimidating at all, except for his size. If you stood next to him he’ll just lay down next to you.”

Like Knickers from down under, Dozer was saved from being turned into burgers and steaks - although you'd get a lot out of him.

Butchers say Knickers alone would produce around 1,400 lbs of trimmed 'saleable' beef  – enough for 450 cuts of steak and 370kg of mince.

Dozer ended up at Schoenrock’s farm — an animal sanctuary and petting farm — when a vegan woman bought and saved the then-6-month-old calf from a beef-producing farm in Alberta.

Knickers made rounds on social media this week after video surfaced showing the steer towering over the other cattle at a farm in Myalup, Western Australia.

He weighs over 3,000 pounds and, if slaughtered, would make more than 1,400 pounds of ground beef.

Dozer and Knickers are both Holstein Friesian steers, a dairy breed.

On average, the breed’s bulls reach just 5-foot-10 and 2,200 pounds.

(Credit: Kismet Creek Farm)

Neither animal is a cow but steers – male bovines that have been castrated.

Unlike Knickers, Dozer doesn’t have smaller breeds to tower over in pictures, but he does share the farm with two other steers.

This story originally appeared in The Sun.

SpaceX delay may mean 36,000 wormy passengers are too old for their planned experiments

Thousands of microscopic worms will be launched into space — wriggling around in SpaceX's next cargo shipment to the International Space Station aboard the SpaceX Dragon.

But the launch, which was planned for today (Dec. 4), has been postponed to tomorrow, and scientists are now worried that the worms will be a day "too old" for some of the planned experiments, according to the BBC.

If all goes well in spite of the delay, these tiny but mighty creatures with muscle structures very similar to that of humans, might help us understand why and how astronauts lose muscle mass in space. [Photos: The First Space Tourists]

In the absence of gravity, people do not have to use as much muscle to move around and support themselves — so their unused muscles begin to waste away. On a long mission, astronauts can lose as much muscle as they would if they had aged from 40 to 80 on our planet, according to The Conversation.

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  • Though this is a well-known problem, and astronauts do hours of exercise in space each day to slow down the loss, there is nothing yet that can prevent it, according to The Conversation article written by sports scientist Christopher Gaffney and physiologist Bethan Phillips.

    To test possible prevention drugs and figure out the molecular underpinnings of muscle loss in space, scientists will pack 36,000 of these worms, called C. elegans, into plastic bags and ship them up to the International Space Station.

    There these worms, each smaller than the thickness of a dime, will be left to live and reproduce for about 6.5 days, after which they will be frozen, until their planned return to Earth in a couple of months, according to Live Science's sister site

    There are many analyses planned for these tiny critters. Scientists will look at their brain cells for signs of stress and how they affect or direct their muscles up in space, according to The Conversation article.

    Some of the worms were treated with drugs that could potentially prevent muscle loss by targeting genes that were previously shown to be expressed less in space than they are on our planet, according to The Conversation. Meanwhile, other worms had their genes altered such that they took up more or less glucose — a process that gets less efficient with aging on Earth and with spaceflight.

    At the time of launch, the worms should have just been turning into adults — and because of this one-day delay in a creature that has a life span of only a few weeks, scientists may have to rely on back-up colonies, according to the BBC.

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    Originally published on Live Science.

    British Library set to reveal real-life ‘da Vinci code’

    The British Library in London is set to showcase a number of Leonardo da Vinci's most important notebooks, all written in his famous “mirror-writing.”

    The "Leonardo da Vinci: A Mind in Motion" exhibit will include notes and drawings from three of his most revered scientific and artistic notebooks, the Codex Arundel, the Codex Forster and the Codex Leicester.

    “These remarkable pages, written in Leonardo’s distinctive mirror writing, illustrate how his detailed studies of natural phenomena – and in particular of water – influenced his work both as an artist and an inventor,” explained the British Library, in a statement.


    In addition to using his own shorthand, da Vinci also wrote his personal notes starting on the right-hand side of the page. It is not clear whether this so-called mirror writing was a way to keep his notes private or simply a means to prevent smudging, as da Vinci was left-handed.

    File photo – Sheet discussing how to read water for navigation from Leonardo da Vinci’s Codex Leicester (Photo by Seth Joel/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images)

    Another famous southpaw, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, bought the Codex Leicester, for $31 million in 1994. The Codex, a 72-page collection of notes, is widely considered to be one of Leonardo’s most important scientific notebooks, according to the British Library.

    The British Library exhibition, scheduled for next year, will mark the 500th anniversary of the Renaissance master’s death.


    The library said Tuesday it will mark the first time selections from the three will be displayed together in Britain. The Codex Leicester is also being shown in the U.K. for the first time since its purchase by Gates.

    Sketch of Italian polymath Leonardo da Vinci (1452 – 1519). (Photo by Mansell/The LIFE Picture Collection)

    Curator Andrea Clarke said da Vinci's notebooks "show him to be an extraordinarily dynamic thinker who was able to make connections between multiple phenomena and disciplines."

    The da Vinci exhibit will run from June until September.


    Da Vinci continues to be a source of fascination. Earlier this year, experts in Italy said they had found the earliest surviving work by da Vinci. The small glazed terracotta tile, described as a self-portrait of the artist as the Archangel Gabriel, was unveiled at a press conference in Rome.

    However, the tile’s authenticity was questioned by noted Leonardo expert Martin Kemp, professor emeritus of the history of art at the University of Oxford.

    There has even been some debate about the authenticity of Da Vinci’s “Salvator Mundi” painting, which sold for a record $450.3 million last year.

    The painting grabbed headlines around the world when it was sold at Christie’s auction house in New York. "Salvator Mundi," Latin for "Savior of the World,” is one of fewer than 20 paintings by da Vinci known to exist and the only one in private hands.

    The Associated Press contributed to this article. Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers

    World’s smallest cow Lil’ Bill outshines giant rivals in adorable pics

    A tiny calf is a real-life mini moo after being born one-tenth the normal size – and is now tipped for place in the record books.

    Lil' Bill shocked his owners when he tipped the scales at a mere 10lbs looking just like every other cow only a lot, lot smaller.

    News of the tiny star's arrival last week comes just days after the Sun Online told how a steer in Australia had been crowned the world's biggest 'cow'.


    Knickers – who weighs 300 times more than Lil' Bill – was saved from the slaughterhouse because he was deemed just too big to kill.

    Revelations of the giant's escape from the chop soon sparked tales of more amazing bovine behemoths scattered around the globe.

    Now on the UDDER end of the scale comes Lil' Bill who was taken to the Mississippi State University College of Veterinary Medicine over concerns for his health.

    "He was born weighing a little over one-tenth of what newborn calves typically weigh," the Uni's vets posted on Facebook.

    “Occasionally, we get a case that has us scratching our heads a bit. Lil’ Bill is one of those cases!"

    The miniature cow now has his own Facebook tag #LilBill, and the college has promised to post regular updates on his progress.

    Last week, we introduced the world to Knickers who weighed in at 1.4 tonnes and stood 6ft 4ins tall making the seven-year-old Holstein Friesian the world's biggest.

    Cattle farmer Geoff Pearson said the farmyard beast's startling size had even saved him a trip to the abattoir.

    "It was too heavy. I wouldn't be able to put it through a processing facility," he said. "So I think it will just live happily ever after."

    According to Guinness World Records, the tallest steer on the planet can be found in Italy — a 6ft 6ins Chianina ox named Bellino.

    This story originally appeared in The Sun.

    ‘Collapse of civilization’ predicted at UN climate summit

    You're probably used to hearing Sir David Attenborough's sonorous, British voice describe the miracles of pufferfish courtship and blooming stink flowers in nature documentaries like "Planet Earth" and "Blue Planet." But today (Dec. 3), the naturalist and filmmaker delivered a far more somber monologue at the United Nations Climate Summit in Katowice, Poland.

    "Right now, we're facing a man-made disaster of global scale," Attenborough told delegates from almost 200 nations. "Our greatest threat in thousands of years: climate change. If we don't take action, the collapse of our civilizations and the extinction of much of the natural world is on the horizon."

    Attenborough was chosen to speak at the summit as part of the U.N.'s new "people's seat" initiative, which encouraged citizens of the world to share their personal messages and videos explaining how climate change has already affected their lives. Several of these messages were shared as part of Attenborough's speech today; they included footage of people standing in front of the ashen remains of their homes, which had been incinerated by wildfires. [6 Spectacular Species Named for David Attenborough]

    "The world's people have spoken," Attenborough said. "Their message is clear. Time is running out. They want you, the decision-makers, to act now."

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  • This meeting of the U.N. was convened so that leaders of the world could negotiate ways to turn their pledges made at the 2015 Paris climate accord into a reality. Per the Paris accord, 184 countries agreed to implement emissions-reduction policies to help limit global warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above preindustrial levels over the next century. Most of the world's nations are not on track to meet this goal; in fact, a global temperature rise of 4 degrees C (7.2 degrees F) seems far more likely right now.

    According to a recent U.N. climate report, even limiting warming to 1.5 degrees C (2.7 degrees F) this century could result in serious consequences for the planet's cities and ecosystems. Those effects include increased flooding and severe weather around the world, the destruction of up to 90 percent of the ocean's coral reefs, mass animal extinctions, and food shortages brought on by regular droughts. A recent U.S. climate assessment, released quietly over Thanksgiving weekend by President Donald Trump's White House, affirmed these findings and the impending danger of climate change.

    "Leaders of the world, you must lead," Attenborough concluded. "The continuation of our civilizations and the natural world upon which we depend is in your hands."

    The Reality of Climate Change: 10 Myths BustedTop 10 Ways to Destroy EarthUnexpected Effects of Climate Change | Global Warming Effects

    Originally published on Live Science.

    Mysterious Florida tunnels’ secrets revealed

    A newspaper article from almost 100 years ago has shed new light on the mysterious tunnel network beneath the historic neighborhood of Ybor City in Tampa, Fla.

    A National Historic Landmark District, Ybor City is located northeast of downtown Tampa. The district’s tunnel network remains a source of fascination for historians and a recent report from Fox 13 gave a glimpse of the strange subterranean world.

    One theory suggests that the tunnels were used by Prohibition-era smugglers and bootleggers. There has also been speculation that the tunnels were part of a network that transported Chinese prostitutes from Cuba to the Port of Tampa to Ybor City in the early 1900s.


    A 1921 newspaper article, however, offers fresh clues as to the tunnels’ uses.

    Michael Strickland, a professor at Amridge University and independent historical researcher, contacted Fox News after seeing the Sept. 25, 1921 issue of the Tampa Tribune.

    A Tampa Tribune reporter accompanied police into the mysterious tunnels as part of an article. “Underground tunnels, hidden panels, solid, barred doors, veiled passages, lookout poops and signal devices, all relics of a bygone day and age in this city, were discovered,” the article says. “In addition, gambling paraphernalia of all kinds, celo tables, poker and bolita layouts, every device known to the ingenuous minds of the gambling fraternity, were found in what were once notorious resorts.”

    “Organized vice as such no longer exists in this city,” declares the article’s headline, with the reporter noting that former gambling joints are empty.


    Of course, it is possible that the tunnel network was put to various uses at different times in its history.

    Founded in 1886, Ybor City is renowned for its rich architecture, which includes former cigar factories and social clubs. Fox News has reached out to Ybor City with a request for comment on this article.

    The Tampa Tribune ceased publication in 2016.

    Historic tunnels are also found in other U.S. cities, such as the Cobble Hill tunnel in Brooklyn. Built in 1844, the massive tunnel beneath a busy Brooklyn street has been described as the world’s oldest subway tunnel.

    In Canada, a network of early 20th-century utility tunnels beneath the city of Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, was used as shelter by Chinese immigrants and also by bootleggers in the 1920s. Some anecdotes even link Al Capone to the tunnels, although it has not been proved that the famous gangster visited Moose Jaw.

    Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers

    Scientists just discovered what may be Canada’s largest cave. And it looks like the Sarlacc’s pit.

    A helicopter team counting caribou in British Columbia, Canada, recently made an unexpected discovery during an aerial survey: Crewmembers spied an opening to a massive cave that had never been seen before and which might be the largest cave in the country.

    Found in April in an alpine valley in Wells Gray Provincial Park, the cave's mouth gapes 328 feet (100 meters) across — if the Statue of Liberty were tipped over on its side, it would just about span the opening. The width of the cave is similarly impressive, measuring 197 feet (60 m), and the cave extends at least 443 feet (135 m) straight down, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) reported.

    A biologist with the helicopter crew that spotted the sizable opening dubbed it "Sarlacc's Pit," after the lair that housed the predatory sarlacc in the "Star Wars" movie "Return of the Jedi," according to the CBC. The deep and wide cave was probably hollowed out by glaciers over tens of thousands of years, and it gradually became exposed to the sky after the glaciers receded. [Photos: Amazing Caves Around the World]

    While researchers have yet to thoroughly explore the site, a preliminary investigation in September hinted that the cave was "of national significance," Canadian Geographic reported.

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  • "The scale of this thing is just huge and about as big as they come in Canada," archaeological surveyor John Pollack, one of the researchers who explored the cave, told Canadian Geographic.

    During that expedition, a breathtaking view of the vast cave was captured in aerial footage by geologist Catherine Hickson, an adjunct professor at the University of British Columbia in the Department of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences, according to the National Post.

    The video was shared to YouTube on Nov. 30 by Canadian Geographic. Seen from the air, the cave resembles a giant bite taken out of the hillside. Steep, rocky walls plunge downward, and a waterfall cascades more than 525 feet (60 m) over the edge.

    After rushing water tumbles over the precipice into the cave's depths, it likely flows into a subterranean river that emerges above ground 6,890 feet (2,100 m) away, at an elevation that's about 1,640 feet (500 m) lower than the water's entry point, Pollack told Canadian Geographic. This hints at the length of the underground chambers in the cave, he explained.

    While the unofficial name "Sarlacc Pit" certainly holds appeal for "Star Wars" fans, British Columbia province representatives will be working closely with First Nations people in the region to find out if there is an existing indigenous name for the cave, Canadian Geographic reported. Further investigation of the cave will take place in 2020, Hickson told CBC.

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    Original article on Live Science.