Astrophysicists announce discovery that could rewrite story of how galaxies die

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF PHYSICS.ORG)

 

Astrophysicists announce discovery that could rewrite story of how galaxies die

Astrophysicist announces her discovery that could rewrite story of how galaxies die
This artist conception depicts an energetic quasar which has cleared the center of the galaxy of gas and dust, and these winds are now propagating to the outskirts. Soon, there will be no gas and dust left, and only a luminous blue quasar will remain. Credit: Michelle Vigeant

At the annual meeting of the American Astronomical Society in St. Louis, Missouri, Allison Kirkpatrick, assistant professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Kansas, will announce her discovery of “cold quasars”—galaxies featuring an abundance of cold gas that still can produce new stars despite having a quasar at the center—a breakthrough finding that overturns assumptions about the maturation of galaxies and may represent a phase of every galaxy’s lifecycle that was unknown until now.

Her news briefing, entitled “A New Population of Cold Quasars,” takes place Wednesday, June 12, on the 2nd floor of the St. Louis Union Station Hotel.

A quasar, or “quasi-stellar radio source,” is essentially a  on steroids. Gas falling toward a quasar at the center of a galaxy forms an “accretion disk” which can cast off a mind-boggling amount of electromagnetic energy, often featuring luminosity hundreds of times greater than a typical galaxy. Typically, formation of a quasar is akin to galactic retirement, and it’s long been thought to signal an end to a galaxy’s ability to produce .

“All the gas that is accreting on the black hole is being heated and giving off X-rays,” Kirkpatrick said. “The wavelength of light that you give off directly corresponds to how hot you are. For example, you and I give off infrared light. But something that’s giving off X-rays is one of the hottest things in the universe. This gas starts accreting onto the black hole and starts moving at relativistic speeds; you also have a magnetic field around this gas, and it can get twisted up. In the same way that you get solar flares, you can have jets of material go up through these magnetic field lines and be shot away from the black hole. These jets essentially choke off the gas supply of the galaxy, so no more gas can fall on to the galaxy and form new stars. After a galaxy has stopped forming stars, we say it’s a passive dead galaxy.”

But in Kirkpatrick’s survey, about 10 percent of  hosting accreting supermassive  had a supply of cold gas remaining after entering this phase, and still made new .

Astrophysicist announces her discovery that could rewrite story of how galaxies die
An optical blue quasar at a lookback time of 7 billion years (this is not a nearby galaxy). Normally, something like this would not have infrared emission. Credit: Dark Energy Camera Legacy Survey DR7/NOAO

“That in itself is surprising,” she said. “This whole population is a whole bunch of different objects. Some of the galaxies have very obvious merger signatures; some of them look a lot like the Milky Way and have very obvious spiral arms. Some of them are very compact. From this diverse population, we then have a further 10 percent that is really unique and unexpected. These are very compact, blue, luminous sources. They look exactly like you would expect a supermassive black hole to look in the end stages after it has quenched all of the star formation in a galaxy. This is evolving into a passive elliptical galaxy, yet we have found a lot of cold gas in these as well. These are the population that I’m calling ‘cold quasars.'”

The KU astrophysicist suspected the “cold quasars” in her survey represented a brief period yet to be recognized in the end-phases of a galaxy’s lifespan—in terms of a human life, the fleeting “cold quasar” phase may something akin to a galaxy’s retirement party.

“These galaxies are rare because they’re in a transition phase—we’ve caught them right before star formation in the galaxy is quenched and this transition period should be very short,” she said.

Kirkpatrick first identified the objects of interest in an area of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, the most detailed digital map of the universe available. In an area dubbed “Stripe 82,” Kirkpatrick and her colleagues were able to visually identify quasars.

“Then we went over this area with the XMM Newton telescope and surveyed it in the X-ray,” she said. “X-rays are the key signature of growing black holes. From there, we surveyed it with the Herschel Space Telescope, a far infrared telescope, which can detect dust and gas in the host galaxy. We selected the galaxies that we could find in both the X-ray and in the infrared.”

Astrophysicist announces her discovery that could rewrite story of how galaxies die
The dust emission of the same blue-quasar galaxy. It is surprisingly bright — in fact, it’s one of the brightest objects in the field, indicating a lot of dust. Due to the resolution of the telescope, we cannot see what that dust actually looks like. Credit: Herschel/ESA

The KU researcher said her findings give scientists new understanding and detail of how the quenching of star formation in galaxies proceeds, and overturns presumptions about quasars.

“We already knew quasars go through a dust-obscured phase,” Kirkpatrick said. “We knew they go through a heavily shrouded phase where dust is surrounding the supermassive black hole. We call that the red quasar phase. But now, we’ve found this unique transition regime that we didn’t know before. Before, if you told someone you had found a luminous quasar that had a blue optical color—but it still had a lot of dust and gas in it, and a lot of star formation—people would say, ‘No, that’s not the way these things should look.'”

Next, Kirkpatrick hopes to determine if the “cold quasar” phase happens to a specific class of galaxies or every galaxy.

“We thought the way these things proceed was you have a growing black hole, it’s enshrouded by dust and gas, it begins to blow that material out,” she said. “Then it becomes a luminous blue object. We assumed when it blew out its own gas, it would blow out its host gas as well. But it seems with these objects, that’s not the case. These have blown out their own dust—so we see it as a blue object—but they haven’t yet blown out all of the dust and gas in the host galaxies. This is a transition phase, let’s say of 10 million years. In universal timescales, that’s really short—and it’s hard to catch this thing. We’re doing what we call a blind survey to find objects we weren’t looking for. And by finding these objects, yes, it could imply that this happens to every galaxy.”

An Asteroid Impact With the Earth in September Is Not Entirely Impossible 

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF INVERSE NEWS)

 

An Asteroid Impact With the Earth in September Is Not Entirely Impossible

It is extremely unlikely, but the probability is actually higher than zero.

Dinosaur asteroid impact

Filed Under AsteroidsESA & NASA

Keep September free … because a massive, football field-sized asteroid has a one in 7,300 chance of smashing into the Earth on the morning of September 9, 2019, according to the European Space Agency.

But it most likely won’t hit us.

Known as asteroid 2006 QV89, it has a diameter of 164 feet — that’s double the width of the meteor that exploded in the atmosphere over Chelyabinsk in Russia in 2013. That meteor came from behind the shadow of the sun and wasn’t seen by astronomers until it was already entering our atmosphere.

Current modeling of the asteroid’s orbit shows it more likely passing by Earth at a distance of over 4.2 million miles this September, but ESA says there’s roughly a one hundredth of a 1 percent chance the model is wrong and it hits our planet instead.

Only last month, US scientists took part in an exercise simulating an imminent asteroid impact with the Earth, and NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine warned that we need to take the real-world threat seriously during his keynote speech at the International Academy of Astronautics Planetary Defense Conference in College Park, Maryland.

But it most likely won’t hit us.

New York gets hit by a meteor shower in the 1998 movie 'Armageddon'
New York gets hit by a meteor shower in the 1998 movie ‘Armageddon’. 

Bridenstine also said that detecting, tracking, and studying asteroids and other near-Earth objects (NEOs) should be taken more seriously following the Chelyabinsk event. The resulting shock wave from that 65-foot-wide asteroid damaged thousands of buildings, and debris and flying glass injured over 1,500 people.

Last June, NASA produced a 20-page plan that details the steps the US should take to be better prepared for NEOs that come within 30 million miles of Earth.

Lindley Johnson, the space agency’s planetary defense officer, said that the country “already has significant scientific, technical, and operational capabilities” to help with NEOs, but implementing the new plan would “greatly increase our nation’s readiness and work with international partners to effectively respond should a new potential asteroid impact be detected.”

According to a 2018 report put together by Planetary.org, there are more than 18,000 NEOs.

Hollywood enjoyed a brief spell of asteroid impact-themed disaster movies during the summer of 1998. In the movie Deep Impact, a comet 1½ miles long slammed into the Atlantic ocean off the coast of Cape Hatteras, creating, at first, a tsunami 100 feet high traveling at 1,100 mph (that’s faster than the speed of sound). Then, when it reached shallow water, it slowed but increased in height to 3,500 feet. The wave washed away farmland and cities and eventually reached as far inland as the Ohio and Tennessee valleys (over 600 miles).

But it most likely won’t hit us.

4 forgotten (but important) ancient civilizations

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TRIVIA GENIUS)

 

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4 forgotten (but important) ancient civilizations

The history of humankind is incomplete without honoring some of our ancestral elders. Civilizations move forward and evolve when we work together to solve the challenges and problems of the day. The practice of living in groups with mutual respect and reliance on one another triggered the metamorphosis of isolated groups to large communities, to societies, and finally to civilizations.

The world has since witnessed the rise and fall of several great civilizations. Some ancient civilizations stand out more than others in terms of their enduring influence, power, reach, and lasting contributions to human development. Many ancient civilizations are lost to time, decay, and the lack or loss of historical written chronicles. However, four forgotten but important ancient civilizations serve as a testament to the human spirit, inspiration, and the grace of time.

The Mesopotamian civilization

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Historical location: Sumer in southern Mesopotamia and the land between rivers (ancient Greece)

Present-day location: Turkey, Iraq, and Syria

Major highlights: First known civilization in the world

Timeline: 3500 BC–500 BC

Why the Mesopotamian civilization is important

The concept of urbanization first started with this civilization. Mesopotamia remains the source of the largest set of ancient artifacts, knowledge, and writings. It was the first city built with sun-dried bricks. History records three significant contributions by the Mesopotamian civilization: the invention of the wheel, large-scale agriculture, and the present-day number system technology based on 60.

The Indus Valley civilization

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Historical location: The basin of the Indus river

Present-day location: Northeast Afghanistan to Pakistan and northwest India

Major highlights: One of the most widespread civilizations

Timeline: 3300 BC–1900 BC

Why the Indus Valley civilization is important

Thanks to the Indus Valley, or Harappa, civilization, the present world has many things that we take for granted. Their people’s expertise and development of water management systems, drainage methods, town planning, and harvesting practices remain incomparable. Despite the fact that it was one of the earliest civilizations with a huge land mass, the Harappa civilization arose independently.

The Ancient Egyptian civilization

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Historical location: Nile River banks

Present-day location: Egypt

Major highlights: Construction of pyramids

Timeline: 3150 BC–30 BC

Why the Ancient Egyptian civilization is important

Egyptian civilization is widely known and respected based on their artifacts, construction acumen, inventions, art, pharaohs, and culture. Sometimes called the Kemet or Black Land civilization, the ancient Egyptians looked to the heavens and cultivated stargazing into a practical science. Egyptian astronomers used their knowledge to predict many things, such as when to expect the flooding of the Nile and the correct time to sow seeds and harvest.

Ancient Egyptians were also great mathematicians. They expanded the understanding of mathematics and geometry by building the Pyramids. This serves as an enduring tribute to not only the Egyptian kings and queens but also to their engineering prowess.

The Maya civilization

Credit: Starcevic / iStock

Historical location: Around the Yucatan Peninsula

Present-day location: Campeche, Yucatan, Tabasco, Quintana, and Chiapas in Mexico and passing through Belize, Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador

Major highlights: Advanced knowledge of astronomy and calendar creation

Timeline: 2600 BC–900 AD

Why the Maya civilization is important

The Maya civilization dominated the Mesoamerican societies of the era. Their distinguished achievements include three accurate calendars. In addition, they are widely respected for their writing system, flourishing trade route, and engraved stone architecture. In order to sustain a viable food supply, the Mayans fostered crop cultivation of beans, vegetables, and maize. There is evidence of their domestication of dogs and turkeys during this time.

We share a modern-day connection and knowledge with those that have come before us. They laid the foundations that we have the privilege to magnify, improve, and create our own legacies from.

4 Things you (probably) didn’t know about the human brain

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TRIVIA GENIUS)

 

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4 things you didn’t know about the human brain

As humans, we are pretty proud of our brain power. After all, other than walking upright on two feet, it’s what sets our species apart and, by most estimates, above all of the other creatures on the planet. Our brain allows us to think, feel, reason, learn new things, remember, and understand complex concepts. In order for all of this to happen, the inner workings of our thinking organ are astoundingly intricate and nuanced. The phrase, ‘It’s not brain surgery,’ used sarcastically when referencing something simple, came into parlance for good reason.

The brain is 60 percent fat

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Our grey, fleshy looking brain is actually made up of 60 percent fat, making it one of the fattiest organs in the entire human body. In terms of composition, mammal brains in general have a large amount of fat, too. It’s no wonder, then, that in terms of pure protein and unctuous flavor, humans evolved a thing for eating the brains of other creatures as a delicacy. Of course, one aspect of this was simply using all of the animal, a practice first developed at a time when sustenance was on a thin edge and you didn’t throw anything out.

The blood vessels in our brain are nearly 100,000 miles long

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As a great example of the brain being a microworld unto itself, if you add the length of all the minuscule blood vessels in the brain, the total is nearly 100,000 miles. For comparison, the circumference of the Earth is a mere 24,901 miles. In terms of the brain, that 100K includes all of the arteries, veins, and capillaries, the different types of blood transmission tubes and connections running throughout our craniums. They carry, among other things, the all-important oxygen. Without oxygen, the brain is capable of surviving for only about five minutes, while shorter durations of oxygen deprivation can quickly lead to brain damage.

The brain generates up to 23 watts of energy

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It’s strange to think of in these terms, but the way we think—physically—is electronic. All of those millions of neurons making connections are sending signals throughout the brain via minute electronic impulses. But, when you add all of those small zaps together, the average adult human brain has the capacity to generate approximately 23 watts of power when awake. What can 23 watts do outside our skulls? New LED light bulbs require only eight to 12 watts, for example, to create the brightness of an old-school 60-watt incandescent bulb. With a continuous 23-watt output in our heads, that’s a lot of bright ideas waiting to happen.

‘Brain freeze’ is caused by sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia

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An episode of ‘brain freeze,’ ‘ice cream headache,’ ‘Slurpee headache’ or whatever you called it as a kid is really sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia, in scientific lingo. When you eat or drink something substantially cold, it quickly cools the blood vessels and arteries at the back of your throat, which are just beneath the surface of the skin. When the cold substance stays in contact long enough, those vessels constrict and slow blood flow. Since those happen to be vessels taking blood directly up to your brain, the searing pain in your forehead ensues. It passes as soon as the vessels warm back up and regular blood flow resumes.

What planet was NASA’s Curiosity Rover sent to?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TRIVIA GENIUS)

 

What planet was NASA’s Curiosity Rover sent to?

Venus

3%

Jupiter

9%

Mars

84%

Mercury

4%
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Launched in November 2011, the Curiosity Rover was sent to Mars to collect data and, hopefully, answer the question “Did Mars ever have the right conditions to support life?” Curiosity answered this question early on, when it discovered chemical and mineral evidence of past habitable environments on the Red Planet. Though other missions have been sent to Mars, Curiosity carries the most advanced scientific instruments of any of them and can travel farther on Mars’ surface due to increased power capacity.
Source: NASA | Date Updated: June 5, 2019
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The farthest-away manmade objects in space

Right now, somewhere in the world, children stand at the edge of a lake counting the hops of stones skidding across the surface of the water. It’s hard to explain the tranquil pleasure of watching the ripples emanate farther and farther till nearly out of sight, but it’s even more of a challenge to fathom the distances to which we’ve launched objects into the dark ocean of space. As of February 2018, the Voyager 1 drifts 13 billion miles away from the surface of the earth, 42 years since its launch. It is one of five man made objects that has ever left our solar system.

Pioneer 10

Credit: NASA.gov

Five years before the launch of the Voyager probes, on March 2, 1972, NASA launched the Pioneer 10 to investigate the surface of Jupiter. Weighing 569 pounds, the Pioneer 10 was the first spacecraft to cross the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter and, eventually, escape our solar system by nature of its velocity. It was also the first spacecraft to launch from the three-stage Atlas-Centaur launch vehicle to achieve its launch speed of 32,400 mph. It took the Pioneer 10 twelve weeks to cross the orbit of Mars. On December 3, 1973, the Pioneer 10 passed by the cloud tops of Jupiter to obtain the first close-up images of the planet.

Following its flyby of Jupiter, Pioneer 10 continued to gather data for NASA of the outer solar system until the end of its mission in March 31, 1977. The last faint signal from Pioneer 10 was received on January 23, 2003, as its radioisotope power source had decayed to the point of being unable to send further signals.

Pioneer 11

Credit: NASA.gov

The launch of Pioneer 10 was succeeded just a year later on April 5, 1973. The launch this time was accelerated by an additional 210 ft/sec and aimed to pass Jupiter at a point closer to its surface. The closer proximity to Jupiter caused the spacecraft to accelerate by gravitational pull to the muzzle velocity of a rifle (110,000 mph), allowing it to obtain the velocity and direction necessary to approach Saturn.

On September 1, 1979, Pioneer 11 flew to within 13,000 miles of Saturn to obtain the first close-up images of the planet and discover two previously-unobserved moons. By September of 1995, the spacecraft could no longer make observations and by November, the last communication with the spacecraft was made.

Voyager 1 & 2

Credit: NASA.gov

The Voyager spacecrafts were initially tasked with observing the properties and magnetospheres of our neighboring planets using their onboard instrumentation. Target planets included Jupiter, Saturn, and Saturn’s moon Titan. Data from the Pioneer 10 mission was used to create more robust spacecraft to tolerate the intense radiation around Jupiter. Voyager 1 started its observation of Saturn, the final phase of its initial mission, on August 22, 1980, whereas the Voyager 2 was sent on a longer trajectory to observe Uranus and Neptune, reaching Neptune on August 25, 1989.

In addition to their planetary observations, both Voyager spacecrafts were also tasked with interstellar missions. They were designed to continue scientific observations and signal transmission after escaping the heliosphere and exiting our solar system. They are both still active, with a projected lifetime of about five more years.

New Horizons

Credit: NASA.gov

In 2006, NASA launched the New Horizons spacecraft with a primary mission of observing the dwarf planet Pluto. New Horizons was launched as the fastest man-made object ever launched from Earth with a speed of 36,400 mph. New Horizons started its flyby of Pluto on July 14, 2015. Three years later, in August of 2018, it confirmed the existence of a hydrogen wall previously observed by the Voyager launch.

Israeli researchers find ‘potential hope’ for some pancreatic cancer patients

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Israeli researchers find ‘potential hope’ for some pancreatic cancer patients

New drug stalls progression of disease for patients who have the BRCA genetic mutations, study by Sheba Medical Center with AstraZeneca and Merck shows

An illustrative image of a cancer patient and perfusion drip. (CIPhotos, iStock by Getty Images)

An illustrative image of a cancer patient and perfusion drip. (CIPhotos, iStock by Getty Images)

Researchers at Israel’s Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer said Sunday that a targeted cancer therapy drug they developed together with pharma giants AstraZeneca and Merck & Co. Inc. offers “potential hope” for patients with a specific kind of pancreatic cancer, as it delays the progression of the disease.

Dr. Talia Golan, the head of the Sheba Medical Center Pancreatic Cancer Center, has been conducting research and clinical trials with AstraZeneca and MSD, as Merck is called outside the US, to evaluate the safety and test the efficacy of a new drug treatment regimen based on Lynparza, or olaprib, tablets.

The tablets are a pharmacological inhibitor of the enzyme poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase, or PARP. PARP inhibitors are a group of drugs that inhibit the enzyme. They were developed for a number of indications, but most importantly for the treatment of cancer, as several forms of cancer are more dependent for their development on the enzyme than regular cells are. This makes PARP an attractive target for cancer therapy.

Those who received the medication in the study on average went 7.4 months before their disease began to worsen, known as “progression free survival” rates, compared to 3.8 months in the group that took the placebo, the researchers said.

The study, called POLO, was held with 154 patients with metastatic pancreatic cancer who carried the BRC -1 and BRCA-2 genetic mutations. Patients with these mutations “make up a small subgroup of those with metastatic pancreatic cancer,” the researchers said in their study. Golan said in an interview that this subgroup accounts for six to seven percent of the metastatic pancreatic cancer patients.

The results of the Phase III randomized, double-blind study with a placebo control group will be published in July in the New England Journal of Medicine, the partners said.

“The POLO trial using the medicine Lynparza offers potential hope for those who suffer from metastatic pancreatic cancer and have a BRCA mutation,” Golan said in the statement. “This treatment also exemplifies the advent of ‘precision medicine’ based on a specific genetic biomarker, BRCA 1 & 2.”

In the study, patients were randomly assigned to get the tablets, at a dose of 300 milligram twice daily, or a placebo.

However, though the drug was seen to slow the disease’s progression, an interim analysis showed “no difference” in overall survival between those who took the drug and the placebo group — a median of 18.9 months versus 18.1 months, the study said.

Pancreatic cancer is the 12th most common cancer worldwide, with 458,918 new cases in 2018 alone. It is the fourth leading cause of cancer death, and accounts for 7% of all cancer deaths, according to Cancer.Net. The five-year survival rate for people with pancreatic cancer is 9%. The cancer is often difficult to diagnose, as there are no specific cost-effective ways to screen for the illness, meaning that it is often found at later stages, when it has spread. For the 52% of people who are diagnosed after the cancer has spread, the 5-year survival rate is 3%, Cancer.Net says.

“When we saw the results were positive it was an exceptional, phenomenal moment,” said Golan in an interview. “For the field it is a huge thing.”

She added that this is the first Phase 3 biomarker study that is positive in pancreatic cancer and the drug “provides tremendous hope for patients” with the advanced stage of the cancer.  “This drug has shown efficacy and a tremendous really phenomenal response in this patient population,” she said.

BRCA1 and BRCA2 are human genes that produce proteins responsible for repairing damaged DNA and play an important role in maintaining the genetic stability of cells. When either of these genes is mutated, or altered, such that its protein product either is not made or does not function correctly, DNA damage may not be repaired properly, and cells become unstable. As a result, cells are more likely to develop additional genetic alterations that can lead to cancer. A significant number of Ashkenazi Jews (those of European origin) around the world are carriers of the BRCA 1 & 2 genes.

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Mother of Nechama Rivlin’s lung donor: ‘Another part of you has gone’

Sari Halabli, mother of 19-year-old Yair who died in March drowning accident, eulogizes president‘s ‘modest’ wife, says she will ‘rest in peace, together with my enchanting son’

Nechama Rivlin (R), wife of President Reuven Rivlin, on June 16, 2016. (Moshe Shai/FLASH90)
Yair Yehezkel Halabli (L), who donated his lung to Rivlin. (Twitter)

Nechama Rivlin (R), wife of President Reuven Rivlin, on June 16, 2016. (Moshe Shai/FLASH90) Yair Yehezkel Halabli (L), who donated his lung to Rivlin. (Twitter)

The mother of the young man whose lung was transplanted into Nechama Rivlin said Tuesday she grieves the passing of President Reuven Rivlin’s wife.

Sari Halabli, the mother of 19-year-old Yair Halabli, who died in March after drowning in a diving accident in Eilat, said Rivlin’s death at the age of 73 meant another part of her son had died.

Rivlin was “a modest woman, just like Yair,” Halabli told the Ynet news site.

“Rest in peace, together with my enchanting son,” she said in a message to Rivlin, before addressing her late son: “Another part of you has gone, and of my heart.”

Memorial candles are lit next to a picture of Nechama Rivlin, the late wife of President Reuven Rivlin, outside the President’s Residence in Jerusalem on June 4, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Halabli’s family donated several of his organs after his death. Rivlin received his lung on March 11 after a long time on a waiting list as she suffered from pulmonary fibrosis, a condition in which scar tissue accumulates in the lungs and makes it difficult to breathe. She died earlier Tuesday from complications linked to the transplant.

Her funeral will be held Wednesday at 6 p.m. at the Mount Herzl national cemetery in Jerusalem. Prior to the ceremony, her coffin will be placed at the Jerusalem Theater, where the public can go to pay its respects.

On Thursday and Friday, the president and his family will receive condolence visits at his official residence in Jerusalem as part of the traditional Shiva mourning period.

“I’m happy Nechama is no longer suffering. She really deserves the love she is getting now and the recognition of her service and work,” Channel 12 news quoted Rivlin telling friends following his wife’s death.

Rivlin died on the eve of her 74th birthday at Beilinson Hospital in Petah Tikva, where she was being treated after relapsing following the lung transplant.

President Reuven Rivlin and his wife, Nechama Rivlin. (GPO)

Soft-spoken and mild-mannered, Rivlin was eulogized by Israeli politiciansfrom across the political spectrum. She was also mourned by foreign diplomats stationed in Israel, as well as US President Donald Trump’s envoy for Middle East peace.

Trump, French President Emmanuel Macron and German President Frank Walter Steinmeier all called Rivlin’s office to express their condolences, according to Channel 12, which reported the president only spoke by phone with a few close friends of his and his late wife’s.

Nechama Rivlin was born in 1945 in Moshav Herut in the Sharon region. She married Reuven Rivlin in 1971, and worked for many years at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, until her retirement in 2007, at which point her lung condition was discovered.

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What Company Boards Need To Know About AI

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF HARVARD BUSINESS REVIEW)

 

What Boards Need to Know About AI

MAY 24, 2019

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Being a board member is a hard job — ask anyone who has ever been one. Company directors have to understand the nature of the business, review documents, engage in meaningful conversation with CEOs, and give feedback while still maintaining positive relationships with management. These are all hard things to balance. But, normally, boards don’t have to get involved with individual operational projects, especially technical ones. In fact, a majority of boards have very few members who are comfortable with advanced technology, and this generally has little impact on the company.

This is about to change, thanks to machine learning and artificial intelligence.

More than half of technology executives in the 2019 Gartner CIO Survey say they intend to employ AI before the end of 2020, up from 14% today. If you’re moving too slowly, a competitor could use AI to put you out of business. But if you move too quickly, you risk taking an approach the company doesn’t truly know how to manage. In a recent report by NewVantage Partners, 75% of companies cited fear of disruption from data-driven digital competitors as the top reason they’re investing.

The questions boards are going to have to ask themselves are similar to those they would ask in the face of any large opportunity investment: Why are we spending all this money? What’s the economic benefit? How does it impact our people and our long-term competitiveness?

INSIGHT CENTER

Answering these questions requires expertise in technology. But you can’t just add a tech expert to the board and count on him or her to keep the rest of the board up to speed. Having served in that role, I have found it to be at best a useful half-step. Relying on a single techie is no replacement for having a full board mastering at least a basic understanding of AI and its disruptive potential.

Every board’s comfort level is going to differ depending on the industry. Manufacturers well understand how robots can free up people to do higher-order work by taking on repetitive and potentially dangerous jobs. Hospitals and health insurers are starting to deploy AI widely, but big successes have been elusive. By contrast, the financial services business is ripe for disruption by AI. Lenders have massive amounts of data and the potential to free up billions in cash flow by finding new efficiencies through applications that will, for example, help bankers make smarter lending decisions and create new revenue opportunities by offering customers better, more tailored products.

That said, here are four guideposts that board members in any industry can use to orient themselves when they begin the journey:

It’s math, not magic. Boards shouldn’t be intimidated by AI. Members don’t need to have degrees in computer engineering to understand the technology behind AI, just like they don’t need to be CPAs to understand the company’s balance sheet. Any good use of ML or AI is going to be an outgrowth of what the company is already doing, not some kind of universal all-knowing Skynet type of AI. Keeping that perspective at the forefront and gaining a basic understanding of AI will help boards better decide how to direct AI use.

Well-run AI projects should be easily understood. When evaluating if a project is right for their company, boards should feel confident enough to say when something doesn’t make sense. The best-run AI projects should be explainable in plain English. It should be clear how real groups of people, whether employees, customers or management, will be affected. If a vendor or internal team can’t explain how an AI project works, it may not be the right fit for your company. This is not unique to ML — it used to be true for ERP implementations — but ML is moving more quickly through the corporate world than ERPs did. For example, when I presented an ML-underwriting project to the board of one top credit-card issuer, I started with the economic impact to their business, the timeframe for delivery, what the roadblocks might be for IT and compliance, and who would need to get involved.

You don’t have to get creepy to get value out of data. Too often, companies assume that in order to make the most out of AI, they need to be like Facebook or Google and pull in every last bit of data they can find. But that can get creepy fast and, usually, there’s no need for that level of data. Our work developing machine learning-based credit underwriting models with banks and lenders has shown that social media data doesn’t provide such strong signals, anyway. Most companies are already sitting on a ton of pretty banal data that’s full of signal and insights that can be unlocked using ML.

AI is an operating expense, not a capital investment. If management’s plan for getting on the AI bandwagon revolves around a big one-time investment, chances are they are going about it wrong. AI has the potential to enhance the bottom line by boosting revenue and cutting costs, but budget needs to be put aside to ensure the algorithms and models are functioning properly and are being rebuilt or refit as macro factors change and new sources of data emerge. Think of AI as you would a Formula 1 race car, which performs best when its support team has a real-time view of the vehicle’s health as it’s zipping around the track.

Widespread adoption of AI in business is still in its infancy. Boards that fail to get in front of this trend will pay the price.


Douglas Merrill is the CEO and founder of ZestFinance, a Los Angeles-based financial services technology company. He was previously CIO and VP of Engineering at Google.

Black hole BOMBSHELL: NASA astronomer hints universe could be a HOLOGRAM

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE UK EXPRESS NEWS)

 

Black hole BOMBSHELL: NASA astronomer hints universe could be a HOLOGRAM

BLACK holes could hold all of the secrets of the universe and prove once and for all we live in a “giant hologram”, a NASA astronomer has spectacularly claimed.

NASA claim that WATER is present on the moon’s surface

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Black holes are incredible wells of gravity, where the force of attraction traps everything including light. Black holes are often found at the hearts of galaxies and up until April this year have been purely theoretical. In April, astronomers behind the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) collaboration photographed the first ever shadow of a black hole millions of light-years from Earth. But little is still known about the exact nature of these terrifying objects and speculation is rampant.

This is why astronomer Michelle Thaller, who is the assistant director of Science Communications at , said dark holes challenge our understanding of physics.

The  experts appeared in a science video for Big Think, where she discussed the idea black holes are key to cracking the secrets of the universe.

And perhaps most shockingly, the astronomer suggested the universe in which we live is nothing more than a two-dimensional hologram.

Dr Thaller said: “Things are stopped in time as they fell into the black hole. And right at the boundary, there is almost kind of a sphere, a two-dimensional surface that somehow contains all the information about what’s inside the black hole.

READ MORE: 

Black hole shock: The universe is a hologram

Black hole SHOCK: Black holes and the universe could be a hologram in a shock twist (Image: GETTY)

“And this reminds people of something that humans invented, called a hologram.

“Now, a hologram is a two-dimensional object. You can make it out of glass or a piece of film. And you shine a light through it and all of a sudden, there seems to be three-dimensional projections.

“And the idea is that we are looking at some fundamental way the universe stores information. Around a black hole, where space and time have been crushed out of existence, could there be a shell of information, something like a hologram?”

But how does this cosmic revelation suggest the universe at large is a form of a hologram?

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According to Dr Thaller, black holes could be a miniaturised representation of how the universe works on a big scale.

This all sounds incredibly strange

Dr Michelle Thaller, NASA

In this scenario, all of the information in the universe is spread out across a 2D surface and we could be part of it.

But the astronomer said this does not in any way imply intent or creative design behind the hologram.

She said: “We’re just talking about the universe may really be information contained in a two-dimensional structure, not the three dimensions that we’re aware of now. This all sounds incredibly strange.

READ MORE: 

Black hole in space: Universe is a hologram

Black holes are incredible wells of gravity peppered throughout the cosmos (Image: GETTY)

Black hole: Dr Michelle Thaller

Black hole: Dr Michelle Thaller said the universe could be two-dimensional information (Image: BIG THINK)

“I’m always a little bit afraid to talk about it. But I think that the thing to really kind of gain from this is that black holes are staring us right in the face. We’re now observing them.

“They’re right there. And we cannot really describe how the universe should work with one of these things. They don’t make sense.”

On April 10, 2019, the EHT collaboration published the world’s first ever photograph of a distant black hole at the heart of galaxy Messier 87.

The historic achievement confirmed the existence of black holes 100 years after they were theorised by Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity and by astronomer Karl Schwarzschild.

Researchers wonder if ancient supernovae prompted human ancestors to walk upright

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF PHYS.ORG)

 

Researchers wonder if ancient supernovae prompted human ancestors to walk upright

Researchers wonder if ancient supernovae prompted human ancestors to walk upright
A new paper from a University of Kansas researcher suggests bipedalism arose when ancient supernovae caused lightning that burned Earth’s forests and prompted human ancestors to walk upright. Credit: NASA

Did ancient supernovae induce proto-humans to walk on two legs, eventually resulting in homo sapiens with hands free to build cathedrals, design rockets and snap iPhone selfies?

A paper published today in the Journal of Geology makes the case: Supernovae bombarded Earth with cosmic energy starting as many as 8 million years ago, with a peak some 2.6 million years ago, initiating an avalanche of electrons in the lower atmosphere and setting off a chain of events that feasibly ended with bipedal hominins such as homo habilis, dubbed “handy man.”

The authors believe atmospheric ionization probably triggered an enormous upsurge in cloud-to-ground  that ignited  around the globe. These infernos could be one reason ancestors of  developed bipedalism—to adapt in savannas that replaced torched forests in northeast Africa.

“It is thought there was already some tendency for hominids to walk on two legs, even before this event,” said lead author Adrian Melott, professor emeritus of physics & astronomy at the University of Kansas. “But they were mainly adapted for climbing around in trees. After this conversion to savanna, they would much more often have to walk from one tree to another across the grassland, and so they become better at walking upright. They could see over the tops of grass and watch for predators. It’s thought this conversion to savanna contributed to bipedalism as it became more and more dominant in human ancestors.”

Based on a “telltale” layer of iron-60 deposits lining the world’s sea beds, astronomers have high confidence supernovae exploded in Earth’s immediate cosmic neighborhood—between 100 and only 50 parsecs (163 ) away—during the transition from the Pliocene Epoch to the Ice Age.

“We calculated the ionization of the atmosphere from  which would come from a supernova about as far away as the iron-60 deposits indicate,” Melott said. “It appears that this was the closest one in a much longer series. We contend it would increase the ionization of the lower atmosphere by 50-fold. Usually, you don’t get lower-atmosphere ionization because cosmic rays don’t penetrate that far, but the more energetic ones from supernovae come right down to the surface—so there would be a lot of electrons being knocked out of the atmosphere.”

According to Melott and co-author Brian Thomas of Washburn University, ionization in the lower atmosphere meant an abundance of electrons would form more pathways for lightning strikes.

“The bottom mile or so of atmosphere gets affected in ways it normally never does,” Melott said. “When high-energy cosmic rays hit atoms and molecules in the atmosphere, they knock electrons out of them—so these electrons are running around loose instead of bound to atoms. Ordinarily, in the lightning process, there’s a buildup of voltage between clouds or the clouds and the ground—but current can’t flow because not enough electrons are around to carry it. So, it has to build up high voltage before electrons start moving. Once they’re moving, electrons knock more electrons out of more atoms, and it builds to a lightning bolt. But with this ionization, that process can get started a lot more easily, so there would be a lot more lightning bolts.”

The KU researcher said the probability that this lightning spike touched off a worldwide upsurge in wildfires is supported by the discovery of carbon deposits found in soils that correspond with the timing of the cosmic-ray bombardment.

“The observation is that there’s a lot more charcoal and soot in the world starting a few million years ago,” Melott said. “It’s all over the place, and nobody has any explanation for why it would have happened all over the world in different climate zones. This could be an explanation. That increase in fires is thought to have stimulated the transition from woodland to savanna in a lot of places—where you had forests, now you had mostly open grassland with shrubby things here and there. That’s thought to be related to human evolution in northeast Africa. Specifically, in the Great Rift Valley where you get all these hominin fossils.”

Melott said no such event is likely to occur again anytime soon. The nearest star capable of exploding into a supernova in the next million years is Betelgeuse, some 200 parsecs (652 light years) from Earth.

“Betelgeuse is too far away to have effects anywhere near this strong,” Melott said. “So, don’t worry about this. Worry about solar proton events. That’s the danger for us with our technology—a solar flare that knocks out electrical power. Just imagine months without electricity.”


Explore further

Research increases distance at which supernova would spark mass extinctions on Earth


More information: Journal of GeologyDOI: 10.1086/703418

750 FT asteroid barreling towards an Earth APPROACH at 18,800MPH

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE UK EXPRESS NEWS)

 

NASA asteroid tracker: A 750 FT asteroid barreling towards an Earth APPROACH at 18,800MPH

AN ASTEROID nearly twice as tall as the Great Pyramid of Giza is hurtling in Earth’s direction at more than 18,800mph, NASA’s asteroid trackers have revealed.

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The -tracked asteroid, dubbed Asteroid 2011 HP, is flying towards our planet on a so-called Earth Close Approach trajectory. NASA predicts the imposing space rock will shoot past Earth on the morning of Thursday, May 30. According to NASA’ Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), the asteroid will approach the planet around 11.48am BST or 6.48am Eastern Time. When this happens, NASA said the asteroid will break speeds of around 8.43km per second or 18,857.4mph (30,348kmh).

Asteroid HP is an Apollo-type Near-Earth  (NEA) or Near-Earth Object (NEO).

NASA’s JPL estimates the space rock measures somewhere in the range of 328ft to 754.6ft (100m to 230m) in diameter.

At the upper end of that scale, the asteroid is as tall as the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, US, and the Space Needle in Seattle.

However, even at the lower end of the estimate, the space rock is still almost as tall as Big Ben’s clock tower in London, UK.

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NASA asteroid tracker: Giant space rock over Earth

NASA asteroid tracker: A colossal space rock will zip past the Earth on Thursday, May 30 (Image: GETTY)

The space rock orbits the inner circles of the solar system on a trajectory similar to that of asteroid 1862 Apollo.

The asteroid’s trajectory takes it beyond the orbit of Mars but it does not fly past the Asteroid Belt in-between Mars and the gas giant Jupiter.

All NEOs are comets and asteroids on paths, which orbit the Sun from distances smaller than 1.3 astronomical units or 120.8 million miles (194.5 million km).

One astronomical unit measures approximately 93 million miles (149.6 million km) – the distance from the Earth to the Sun.

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Next week, Asteroid HP will significantly cut this distance down to around 0.03149 astronomical units.

Near-Earth Objects can occasionally approach close to Earth

NASA

This means the asteroid will near-miss the Earth from a distance of just 2.92 million miles (4.7 million km).

In other words, the  rock will approach our home-world 12.26 times as far as the Moon is.

NASA said: “As they orbit the Sun, Near-Earth Objects can occasionally approach close to Earth.

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NASA asteroid tracker: Giant space rock over Earth

NASA asteroid tracker: The asteroid was discovered on April 13, 2011 (Image: GETTY)

NASA asteroid tracker: Giant space rock over Earth

NASA asteroid tracker: Thankfully, the space rock will not hit the Earth and pass safely (Image: GETTY)

“Note that a ‘close’ passage astronomically can be very far away in human terms: millions or even tens of millions of kilometres.”

After the asteroid ups past the Earth next week, NASA predicts HP will visit us again on May 17, 2027.

Then, the space rock will make many more approaches every few years until September 2, 2184.

NASA asteroid trackers first observed the asteroid on April 13, 2011.