December 23, 2007

Tinker Bell in the sky

Posted in Astronomy, Astrophysics, Cosmology, Nature, Science, Universe at 10:48 am by deadlikeme

tinkerbell.jpgA rare case of a triple merger of galaxies bears a resemblance with J.M.Barrie’s Tinker Bell.

Through near-infrared VLT (Very Large Telescope) observations it was possible to identify the triple merger nature of the galaxy known as ESO 593-IG 008 (or IRAS 19115-2124). It was previously merely known as an interacting pair of galaxies at a distance of 650 million light-years.

The object was dubbed “The Bird”, but it also bears a resemblance with the fairy Tinker Bell from James Matthew Barrie’s novel Peter Pan. 

The “wings” itself extend more than 100,000 light years, the size of our own galaxy, the Milky Way.

ESO Press release

December 18, 2007

Galaxy fires at neighboring galaxy

Posted in Astronomy, Astrophysics, Cosmology, Science, Universe at 4:13 pm by deadlikeme

black-hole.jpgA powerful jet from a super massive black hole is blasting a nearby galaxy.

3C321 is a system containing two galaxies in orbit around each other. The larger galaxy has a jet emanating from the vicinity of its black hole and the smaller galaxy has apparently swung into the path of this jet.

Such jets are not news to scientists, “but this is the first time we’ve seen one punch into another galaxy like we’re seeing here,” according to Dan Evans, scientist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

for more info read the NASA article

P.S.  just to clarify: these jets do not emanate from the black hole itself, but from the matter “falling” into it

Basic Math: Monkeys vs. College Students

Posted in Animals, Anthropology, Biology, Evolution, Nature, Science at 10:33 am by deadlikeme

donkey.jpgTwo macaque monkeys were pitted against 14 college students from Duke University in a Math on the fly test.

Elizabeth Brannon and Jessica Cantlon just published their results in the journal PLoS Biology, that show that the two female monkeys Boxer and Feinstein aren’t too far behind college students when it comes to mental math.

The task was to mentally add two sets of dots that were flashed for only half a second (500 ms) on a computer screen. The monkeys and the college students were then asked to pick the correct answer from two choices on a different screen.

addition.jpg

Both, monkeys and students typically answered within 1 second. Watch a short video of the test here (Quicktime movie).

Even though the students did score better (95% vs. 75%) one can’t deny that the monkeys performance are significantly better than chance.

We humans start learning math in kindergarden, so it’s not surprising that we are better than monkeys, who where never taught math in school.

Language is very important in the evolution of math in humans. It not only allows us to do something as basic as counting, but also all the more advanced calculations necessary for today’s science and technology. Without language our mathematical skills would be similar to those of the monkeys.

PLos Biology Article