Binary black holes, artificial bee brains and hypo-allergenic milk
Two's company for black holes
Large collections of stars known as globular clusters were previously thought to contain, at most, one large black hole at their centre. Now it appears they may have company, in the form of a companion black hole.
Researchers at Michigan State and Northwestern Universities set out to find intermediate mass black holes (1000 times the mass of the Sun).
Jay Strader, a co-author on the paper published in
Nature, explained the new techniques used to find them:
Jay - All of the other known stellar-mass black holes in our Milky Way have been found through x-rays, and these are the first ones that have been found through radio, and that sort of indicates this might be a new way of finding black holes.
Previous theories suggested that all black holes bar the largest one would be ejected from the globular cluster. Instead, it appears that the ejection process is less efficient than thought, leaving two or, depending on how inefficient the ejection is, as 100 more black holes in a globular cluster.
Dr Strader summed up the work:
Do android bees dream of electric flowers?
To develop a fully-functioning artificial model of a bee's brain, researchers at the Universities of Sheffield and Sussex have been given 1 million pounds funding by the EPSRC.
The group plan to use so-called "GPU accelerators" that are more often found in the graphics cards of home PCs. Using these they will be able to efficiently perform the huge number of calculations needed to simulate the brain of a bee on a standard desktop PC, rather than on an expensive supercomputer.
This work could lead to vastly improved artificial intelligences, artificial pollinators and autonomous flying robots.
Dr. James Marshall, from the University of Sheffield, explained the challenges the project presents:
New technique has seismologists quaking
The conditions at a fault line during an earthquake have been created in a laboratory more realistically than ever before by scientists at the University of Oklahoma, publishing in
In a real earthquake, a finite amount of energy is abruptly applied to a rock fault and the rock composition of the fault determines how long the fault moves or slips for.
To mimic this process, the researchers created a machine that abruptly transferred energy from a spinning fly-wheel to a rock sample. This meant the duration of the experimental fault movement was determined by the rock composition, as in a real earthquake.
In previous studies, researchers had only controlled the velocity of the fault movement by applying energy continuously.
Dr. Alex Copley, a lecturer in the Department of Earth Sciences at the University of Cambridge and not involved with the study, commented on the improvements the new machine makes on previous work:
Hypo-allergenic cow's milk
Hypoallergenic milk has been produced from a genetically-modified cow by researchers in New Zealand.
Some infants are allergic to a milk protein called beta-lactoglobulin or BLG, which is found in milk from cows but not from humans.
The group, from AgResearch and the University of Waikato, used a technique called RNA interference that stopped the BLG being produced by suppressing the expression of the genes involved in BLG production.
The modified genetic code was implanted into a cow egg, and a healthy, female calf was born, which produced milk that was high in protein and very low in BLG.
Prof. Warren McNabb, Research director at AgResearch, explained the major step the group have taken:
And that work as published in the journal