Astronomers discover black hole with 140 trillion times more water than Earth

Two teams of astronomers have discovered the largest and farthest reservoir of water ever detected in the universe. The water, equivalent to 140 trillion times all the water in the world’s ocean, surrounds a huge, feeding black hole, called a quasar, more than 12 billion light-years away.

“The environment around this quasar is very unique in that it’s producing this huge mass of water,” said Matt Bradford, a scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. “It’s another demonstration that water is pervasive throughout the universe, even at the very earliest times.”

A quasar is powered by an enormous black hole that steadily consumes a surrounding disk of gas and dust. As it eats, the quasar spews out huge amounts of energy. Both groups of astronomers studied a particular quasar called APM 08279+5255, which harbors a black hole 20 billion times more massive than the sun and produces as much energy as a thousand trillion suns.

Astronomers expected water vapor to be present even in the early, distant universe, but had not detected it this far away before. There’s water vapor in the Milky Way, although the total amount is 4,000 times less than in the quasar, because most of the Milky Way’s water is frozen in ice.

 

And, the instruments they used:

Bradford’s team made their observations starting in 2008, using an instrument called “Z-Spec” at the California Institute of Technology’s Submillimeter Observatory, a 33-foot (10-meter) telescope near the summit of Mauna Kea in Hawaii. Follow-up observations were made with the Combined Array for Research in Millimeter-Wave Astronomy (CARMA), an array of radio dishes in the Inyo Mountains of Southern California.

The second group, led by Dariusz Lis, senior research associate in physics at Caltech and deputy director of the Caltech Submillimeter Observatory, used the Plateau de Bure Interferometer in the French Alps to find water.

 

Source: NASA – Astronomers Find Largest, Most Distant Reservoir of Water

 

 

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Searching for the perfect Panna Cotta dessert recipe

I’ve spent a good chunk of the last two weeks surrounded by spreadsheets, crumpled paper packets, cartons of dairy products and dirty ramekins. Josef Centeno has a lot to answer for.

A couple of weeks ago I stopped in at his Bäco Mercat restaurant downtown for a lunch that ended with one of the best panna cottas I’ve ever had. You know what I mean: Delicately sweet, it was like a dream of cream held together by faith and just a little bit of gelatin.

It struck me — how long had it been since I’d had panna cotta? A few years ago you couldn’t go anywhere without seeing it. Then just as suddenly it went away. It makes no sense. A good panna cotta is as good as dessert gets. Vowing I would never again leave my panna cotta cravings to the whims of restaurant fashion, I determined to master the dish.

How hard could that be?

 

…it turns out pretty hard, here’s the full story, and scroll to the last paragraphs for the perfected recipe:

Cracking the code of panna cotta

Continue reading Searching for the perfect Panna Cotta dessert recipe

Kickstarter project: build a NYC park in an abandoned, underground trolley terminal

We want to transform an abandoned trolley terminal on the Lower East Side of Manhattan into the world’s first underground park, called Lowline.

This space is quite large, by New York standards: 60,000 square feet, or 1.5 acres. It was built in 1903 as a trolley terminal, for streetcars traveling over the Williamsburg Bridge, and has been out of operation since 1948. We fell in love with the site because of its architectural details: old cobblestones, crisscrossing rail tracks, vaulted 20-foot ceilings, and strong steel columns.

To build this park, we’re planning to use a cutting-edge version of existing technology– which we’ve already built in prototype. It uses a system of optics to gather sunlight, concentrate it, and reflect it below ground, where it is dispersed by a solar distributor dish embedded in the ceiling. The light irrigated underground will carry the necessary wavelengths to support photosynthesis– meaning we can grow plants, trees, and grasses underground. The cables block harmful UV rays that cause sunburn, so you can leave the SPF-45 at home. Sunglasses optional (for cool kids).

We think a year-round public space will be valuable for everyone. Farmers markets and vendor stands can feature fresh produce and locally made goods, supporting local and sustainable businesses. Art installations, concerts, and performances can help showcase the incredible creative spirit of the Lower East Side. Youth programming and educational opportunities can offer rich experiences for kids and parents. And a safe haven from the hectic feel of Delancey Street will serve as relief in a very car-centric corner of Manhattan.

When it’s really cold, or pouring rain, how much fun is it to hang out in Central Park? The High Line? Not so much. The LowLine can be the 21st century answer to traditional parks: instead of building up, let’s build down!

via Kickstarter