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This month, researchers are inaugurating the Event Horizon Telescope, a project that will try to take the first detailed pictures of the supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy.
This observation would be a remarkable achievement, underscoring the progress that has been made in black-hole research in just the last few decades. As recently as the 1970s, astronomers still argued over whether black holes were theoretical constructs or real physical objects. They now have ample evidence that black holes are not only real, but abundant in the cosmos.
Here on Earth, advanced computer simulations have given astronomers a wealth of information, leading theoretical physicist Kip Thorne of Caltech to suggest that black-hole research is entering a new golden age.
“There is now a program of observations that I expect will bring us some big surprises and hopefully validate the predictions from these simulations,” he said.
Yet it’s still strange to imagine what the area around a black hole looks like. After all, a black hole is an object from which nothing, including light, can escape.
I think It’s time people started embracing evolution as a fact. An evolutionary transition that took several billion years to occur in nature has happened in a laboratory, and it needed just 60 days.
Under artificial pressure to become larger, single-celled yeast became multicellular creatures. That crucial step is responsible for life’s progression beyond algae and bacteria, and while the latest work doesn’t duplicate prehistoric transitions, it could help reveal the principles guiding them.
“This is actually simple. It doesn’t need mystical complexity or a lot of the things that people have hypothesized — special genes, a huge genome, very unnatural conditions,” said evolutionary biologist Michael Travisano of the University of Minnesota, co-author of a study Jan. 17 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Taking a picture of a black hole, an object so gravitationally bound that not even photons of light can escape, sounds like an oxymoron, but astronomers this week will attempt to do just that.
What they’re hoping to glimpse is something called the “event horizon” — the swirl of matter and energy that are visible around the rim of the black hole just before it falls into the abyss.