Astronomers Say our Universe is Dying

Is our universe slowly dying?  An international group of astronomers, who studied more than 200,000 galaxies and precisely measured the energy produced within a large portion of the cosmos, have confirmed that a section of the Universe is generating about half as much energy as it did two billion years ago.

Furthermore, the astronomers, using many of the world’s most powerful ground based telescopes and three space based telescopes, said that it the most complete assessment of the energy output of the nearby Universe.

Scientists have known that the energy of the Universe is slowly fading away since the late 1990’s, but the new study provides new details that it’s taking place across all wavelengths in the electromagnetic spectrum, from the ultraviolet to the far infrared.

The research team recently presented their findings at the International Astronomical Union’s 29th General Assembly held from August 3 – 14 in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Male Elephant Seals Develop Voice Recognition

Pity the male elephant seal who tries to find a female mate during breeding season.

The competition for a lady elephant seal’s attention, among the male population, is pretty stiff to say the least.

The males call attention to themselves with a lot of arguing and posturing among themselves

While somewhat rare, violent and bloody fights do break out between opponents vying for the affection of a particular female.

But a new study by researchers at the University of California at Santa Cruz has found that the males learn to recognize the unique call of their adversaries so that they can decide whether they should engage in a brutal fight or avoid confrontation by fleeing.

It turns out that these calls communicate a male elephant seal’s status in the dominance hierarchy.

The researchers said that the call of an individual male is very distinctive and the sound is always the same, regardless of the situation.

Astronomers Identify Smallest Supermassive Black Hole

Astronomers using NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and the 6.5-meter Clay Telescope at the Las Campanas Observatory in Chile have identified the smallest supermassive black hole (SMBH) ever detected.

Small and supermassive…isn’t that a bit of an oxymoron? Well, not really.

Scientists who made the identification say that this SMBH, called RGG 118, may be small in size but contains enough mass that allows it to behave like those that are bigger and in some cases much bigger in size.

Originally discovered by the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, RGG 118 is located in the center of dwarf galaxy some 340 million light years away and has about 50,000 times the mass of the sun.

The astronomers said that their discovery may provide clues to how larger black holes formed along with their host galaxies some 13 billion years or more in the past.

Bacteria May Soon Help Smokers Quit

If you’re a smoker, who has been trying to quit, you already know just how hard dropping the tobacco habit can be.  You may have tried going ‘cold turkey’, used smoking cessation aids such as nicotine gum and patches or methods such as hypnotism and acupuncture, but you remain addicted.

But soon there just might be another weapon in your arsenal to fight your smoking habit: bacteria. Yes, scientists are finding that little microorganisms like those that can make great tasting yogurt or make you quite sick might someday help you quit smoking.

Writing in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, researchers at California’s Scripp’s Research Institute have reported success with bacteria that thrive on nicotine.

After conducting lab tests on mice, they found that NicA2, an enzyme found in the bacteria called Pseudomonas putida, broke down all the nicotine contained in various blood samples within 30 minutes. The scientists believe that this bacterial enzyme could possibly blunt the effects of this highly addictive chemical compound in humans.