The Daily Flash -Eco, Space, Tech (5/27)

Black_hole_displacement-660x449 Black Hole Found in Unexpected Place

Detailed Hubble images reveal a single supermassive black hole wandering away from its host galaxy’s center where it belongs. The misplaced black hole is probably the result of a merger between two smaller black holes, but could also have been pushed by a jet of matter extending from the galaxy’s core. Nearly every galaxy has a supermassive black hole — millions to billions of times more massive than our sun — nestled in its center. Astronomers think galaxies frequently collide and merge to make bigger galaxies. When the galaxies merge, the theory goes, so do their black holes. Previous observations have caught such mergers in the act — but always when the black holes were thousands of light years apart, before they merged. “This is the first time we have seen the merger after it has happened,” said Eric Perlman of the Florida Institute of Technology at a press conference at the American Astronomical Society meeting in Miami on May 25. 

Ion_jpl_big Darwinian spacecraft engine to last twice as long

Space agencies may one day have Charles Darwin to thank for the longevity of their spacecraft. The life expectancy of a popular type of ion engine has been almost doubled using software that mimics the way natural selection evolves ever fitter designs. Electrostatic ion engines are becoming popular in space missions. Instead of relying on burning large amounts of heavy liquid propellant for thrust, they use solar power to ionise a small supply of xenon gas. A high voltage applied across a pair of gridded electrodes sends the positively charged ions rushing at high speed towards the negative electrode. Most ions pass through the grid, generating thrust. However, some ions collide with the grid itself, causing it to gradually wear out, says Cody Farnell, a space flight engineer at Colorado State University in Fort Collins. Simulations suggest grids in a typical NASA engine will last 2.8 years – but Farnell wondered whether changing the grid's design could extend its lifespan.

Tfuytfuytfutfyu-e1274884521454 Did faulty cement prime Deepwater Horizon for blowout?

A failed cement plug could have contributed to the blowout of an exploration well in the Gulf of Mexico, which is still pumping out oil one month on. Congressional hearings held earlier this month heard that key safety tests carried out as the well was being dug may have been inconclusive. As part of the drilling process, a cement plug is placed at the bottom of the well in order to temporarily shut it off prior to pumping the oil out. While the cement is drying, mud is loaded into the top of the well to prevent a gas surge. Before removing the mud, pressure tests are carried out to ensure the plug is holding. James Dupree, a senior BP official, has claimed that the results of the tests on the Gulf of Mexico plug, carried out on 20 April, were inconclusive. Yet the mud was removed – which may be what led to a ball of gas rushing up the well and exploding at the surface. "It's like taking out your most critical defence when you are being attacked," said Satish Nagarajaiah of Rice University.

Facebook-privacy Facebook Announces New Privacy Features

Following weeks of debate over Facebook and privacy, the company is announcing new features to address the criticism that has emerged since the launch of the Open Graph and Instant Personalization. Facebook isn’t going to remove the dozens of privacy controls that let you customize settings for very specific elements of your profile. However, the company is rolling out: One simple control for changing content viewing permissions to friends-only, friends-of-friends, or everyone — it applies to everything you’ve published on Facebook in the past. This setting will also apply to everything you publish in the future, and several more new controls. The new privacy controls will go live in the next few weeks, and Facebook will be inserting a message on user homepages alerting them to the new options. Read more…

Plastic-bags-in-china The Plastic Panic

Bisphenol A, commonly known as BPA, may be among the world’s most vilified chemicals. The compound, used in manufacturing polycarbonate plastic and epoxy resins, is found in plastic goggles, face shields, and helmets; baby bottles; protective coatings inside metal food containers; and composites and sealants used in dentistry. As animal studies began to show links between the chemical and breast and prostate cancer, early-onset puberty, and polycystic ovary syndrome, consumer groups pressured manufacturers of reusable plastic containers, like Nalgene, to remove BPA from their products. Warnings went out to avoid microwaving plasticware or putting it in the dishwasher.

500x_yee-flying-car2_aqefy_24431 The Flying Car That Can Blow Up the Death Star

There are flying cars and there are Flying Cars. This is a FLYING CAR. And that's not all, because it can transform. The car concept was created by Pan Jiazhi, Zhu Wenxi and Lai Zexin, working at the Department of Industrial Design in School of Mechanical & Automotive Engineering, China. 

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