Daily Orbit – Hungry, Hungry Black Hole

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 10,424
    4-3-13: On this episode of the Daily Orbit, a black hole in another galaxy swallows a star, DARPA’s working on a new robot, and the Wright Brothers may be losing their claim to fame.

    Emerald Robinson: Bursting the bubble on gum and concentration. What do robots and racing have in common? Why the Wright Brothers might not be so right after all. And a hungry, hungry black hole on today's Daily Orbit.

    Hello and welcome to the Daily Orbit, I'm Emerald Robinson. I'm a big black hole and I'm hungry. That's how I picture the black hole that astronomers at ESA observed feeding on a low-mass object that strayed just a little too close. And that black hole had to be pretty hungry because it had been quiet for 20-30 years. The NGC 4845 galaxy's central black hole tore apart an object the size of about 14 to 30 Jupiters.

    Astronomers say this is the first time they've seen a sub-stellar object, that's a star not massive enough to fuse hydrogen in its core, disrupted by a black hole. But the black hole ate in moderation, unlike we Americans, only consuming the outer edges of the object and leaving the denser core to orbit the black hole. Maybe it's counting on left-over us for later.

    Rubbin and racing and now robots? Move over pit-crew, DARPA has released a new video of a two-armed robot using a tool to remove a tire from a car. The goal of the program, named, Autonomous Robotic Manipulation, or ARM - is to develop robots and prosthetic devices for a wide use at a lower cost. DARPA is developing software, hardware and sensors to enable robots to semi-autonomously grasp and manipulate objects in unstructured environments with human operators providing only task-level instructions. The operator can tell the bot to, open the door, and it does. They are currently testing two arms and hands on tasks that require bimanual manipulation which could be used in dangerous situations like diffusing bombs or, yeah, changing a tire. Looks like you don't have to worry just yet pit crew guys. But the bots won't get in a fight like what just happened at a NASCAR race in Fontana. But where's the fun in that?

    The Wright brothers were the first in flight, right? Maybe that's not right. After all a contract has surfaced that has many people questioning that historic fact. A 1948 contract between the estate of Orville Wright and the Smithsonian Museum, which now houses the iconic aircraft, says that the museum cannot publish or permit the display of any other aircraft model or design of an earlier date than that 1903 Wright airplane or claim that any other aircraft was capable of carrying a man under its power in controlled flight before the Wright Brothers plane. But one historian believes that another man named Gustave Whitehead actually built and flew an airplane one-and-a-half miles 50 feet over Bridgeport, Connecticut, in 1901.

    The claim is getting some serious attention and some say it's time for the Smithsonian to tear up the contract. We'll let you judge for yourself with that smart brain of yours.

    And President Obama is allocating $100 million to understand more about your brain. The initiative requires the development of new tools not yet available to neuroscientists and hopefully will one day lead to progress in treating Alzheimer's, epilepsy, and traumatic brain injury. The plan was formally unveiled by President Obama at a press conference yesterday. The project is officially called Brain Research Through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies, but scientists had nicknamed it the Brain Activity Map Project. There's no set plan as of yet , so scientists involved will spend the next year coming up with a plan, a time frame, specific goals, and cost estimates. Funding for the project will come primarily from the budgets of DARPA, NIH, and The National Science Foundation, along with partnerships with universities and the private sector. The project will get underway in October, marking the beginning of the 2014 fiscal year.

    THIS DAY IN SCIENCE Today marks 40 years since the first cell phone call! Using a prototype of the 2 1/2 pound DynaTAC 8000X, Motorola's Martin Cooper reportedly called his rival over at Bell Systems to let him know the race for cellular technology was over, and that he had won.

    Ugh! I just can't focus! Will someone throw me some gum? A new study says that chewing gum may aid in concentration and overall focus. In a memory task, participants chewing gum were able to recall numbers more accurately and quickly than those without gum. As we chew, we get the blood in our heads pumping which increases the amount of available oxygen to the part of the brain responsible for paying attention.

    So there Miss Brown, I told you that you should let me chew gum in class. And that does it for the Daily Orbit, bye.