Black Hole Awakens; Mozart Lowers B.P.; Baby Planet Found

Posted June 22nd, 2016 at 1:09 pm (UTC-4)
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Artist rendering of a supermassive black hole following the tidal disruption of a star that wandered too close. (NASA/Swift/Aurore Simonnet, Sonoma State U.)

Artist rendering of a supermassive black hole following the tidal disruption of a star that wandered too close. (NASA/Swift/Aurore Simonnet, Sonoma State U.)

Scientists Observe Awakening of Dormant Super Massive Black Hole

Scientists say that, in the known universe, about 90% of the biggest black holes are dormant, which means they aren’t ravenously devouring matter.

Because they’re dormant these black holes aren’t pumping out radiation or any kind of light.

But all it takes is for a star or some other object to amble close by to awaken it and kick start a feeding frenzy scientist’s call a tidal disruption.

Astronomers at the University of Maryland say that, for the first time, they’ve observed X-rays bouncing of the walls of an accretion disk that formed after a tidal disruption event of a previously dormant black hole.

The scientists say this black hole consumed material so fast that it briefly surpassed the Eddington Limit, which is the theoretical maximum speed of how fast a black hole can actually devour matter.

The UMD team says their finding can help astronomers understand how supermassive black holes grow and lead to making reliable measurements of black hole spin.

ABBA Can’t Lower Blood Pressure/Heart Rate Like Mozart and Strauss

A new study by researchers at Germany’s Ruhr University, Bochum has found that listening to the music of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart or Johann Strauss can lower your blood pressure and heart rate.

On the other hand, the study also indicates that Dancing Queen and other hits by the Swedish pop group ABBA doesn’t seem to do much for the cardiovascular system at all.

The researchers gathered 120 volunteer participants for the study. Half of the group listened to music for 25 minutes. The other half, who rested lying down, sat in silence.

Those in the music listening group were played music by Mozart, Strauss and ABBA.

The blood pressure and heart rate of all participants were measured before and after the 25-minute period.

The researchers found those who listened to Strauss and Mozart had a noticeable drop in blood pressure and heart rate. Those who sat in silence were found to have lower measurements than those who listened to ABBA music.

Artist rendering of young Neptune-like planet K2-33 b (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Artist rendering of young Neptune-like planet K2-33 b (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Astronomers Find Baby Exoplanet

NASA says a team of astronomers has discovered the youngest fully formed exoplanet that has ever been detected.

The scientists say this new planet, called K2-33B, is only 11 million years old. Compared to the 4.5-billion-year-old Earth, this exoplanet is a newborn.

The discovery was made using NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope, as a part of its extended K2 mission, and a ground-based telescope at the Keck Observatory high atop Mauna Kea in Hawaii.

The baby planet is described as being a bit larger than Neptune and orbits its star once every five days at a distance of about only 7.5-million kilometers, or 10 times closer to its star than Mercury is to our sun.

Caltech’s Erik Petigura, part of the discovery team, says the newborn planet will not only help scientists better understand how planets form, but will also provide fresh insight into the processes that led to the formation of Earth.

In an image released on 1/18/16, a female Aedes aegypti mosquito is seen drawing a blood meal from the arm of a researcher at the Biomedical Sciences Institute in the Sao Paulo's University in Sao Paulo, Brazil. This mosquito species can spread the Zika virus, which is spreading in parts of Latin America and the Caribbean. (AP)

A female Aedes aegypti mosquito is seen drawing a blood meal from the arm of a researcher. (AP)

Mosquito Bite Inflammation Hastens Spread of Virus

After a mosquito bites it leaves an inflamed mark on the skin that can become irritating and itchy.

Scientists in the UK have found that the inflammation caused by a mosquito bite can also worsen the spread of viral infections, such as Zika or dengue.

The new study by researchers at the University of Leeds suggests that bite inflammation can not only help viruses quickly establish themselves in the body, but can also help spread the infection, which can increase the chances of developing a severe illness.

Scientists say that along with a virus, a mosquito also injects a bit of its saliva when it bites.

It’s this saliva that prompts an immune response which quickly sends white blood cells to the site to fight the inflammation.

But instead helping, the researchers found that some of these white blood cells can get infected and accidentally wind up duplicating the virus.

Rick Pantaleo
Rick Pantaleo maintains the Science World blog and writes stories for VOA’s web and radio on a variety of science, technology and health topics. He also occasionally appears on various VOA programs to talk about the latest scientific news. Rick joined VOA in 1992 after a 20 year career in commercial broadcasting.

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