Fermi Bubbles are burps from our galaxy’s black hole eating stars

Last year, astronomers analysing data from NASA’s orbiting Fermi Gamma Ray Telescope made an extraordinary announcement. They said that Fermi had spotted two giant bubbles emanating from the centre of the galaxy, stretching some 20,000 light years above and below the galactic plane.

These bubbles are clearly some kind of shockwave in which high energy electrons interact with photons, giving up their energy in the form of gamma rays.

But what could have caused such a shockwave, which is many times bigger than astronomers would expect to see from a supernova?

Kwong Sang Chen at The University of Hong Kong and a few pals say think they know. They say the bubbles are the remnants of stars that have been eaten by the supermassive black hole at the centre of the galaxy. What this idea may also explain is the energy distribution of cosmic rays, which astronomers have puzzled over for decades.

Our galaxy’s supermassive black hole is, well, huge–some 4 million times more massive than the Sun. Chen and co assume that a star falls into it every 1000 years or so. When this happens, part of the star is devoured by the black hole, while the rest is burped back out into space in the form of high energy protons.

These protons heat up the gas and dust surrounding the black hole creating an expanding bubble of high energy electrons. This cannot expand far in the plane of the galaxy where it is absorbed.

But the electrons can travel far into the space above and below the galactic plane, creating the gamma ray bubbles seen by Fermi. This explains why the edge of the bubble is so well defined.

RTFA for notes of other questions in astrophysics resolved by this theory. Poisonally, the burp alone impresses the crap out of me.

Texas bureaucrats sit on federal funds for Hurricane victims

Roof still leaking after 3 years

Homeowners affected by the hurricane and dissatisfied with rebuilding efforts filled a Houston City Council meeting last month on the storm’s anniversary.

But the damage was done three years ago, in September 2008, when Hurricane Ike devastated a wide stretch of Texas with 110 m.p.h. winds, killing dozens of people and causing more than $12 billion in damage in what is considered to be the costliest storm in state history.

The storm was the first insult, delivered suddenly by nature. The second, greater insult…is all man-made, delivered over these many months by a state bureaucracy that has paid out roughly 10 percent of the $3.1 billion in federal aid that it has received…

The $3.1 billion allocated for Texas in three rounds by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development was intended to repair and reconstruct single-family homes for poor and moderate-income families, among other projects. Chambers County, where Anahuac is the county seat, and other jurisdictions agreed to rebuild or repair 3,537 hurricane-damaged homes using the first round of money. Of those, only 712 have been completed, with an additional 766 under construction.

State officials originally expected to have the $3.1 billion spent by 2013, but they have now pushed that date to December 2015…

State officials repeatedly changed the rules and guidelines that cities and counties had to follow after the local agencies had already processed applications, forcing residents to redo their applications and the cities and counties to reprocess them…

In addition, those federal officials expressed concerns about the two state agencies that had overseen the program — the Department of Housing and Community Affairs and the Department of Rural Affairs. In a June report, federal officials found that the state housing agency had not developed written procedures for processing the applications it received from local jurisdictions. The report also found that the rural affairs agency had spent more money on administrative expenses than on actual work projects, spending 98 percent of its administrative money from the first round — $12.3 million — but only 17 percent of the money designated for projects.

RTFA. Between incompetent state officialdom, corrupt local and county government, bigots and footdraggers at every level, ordinary working people – especially those who are non-white – have received about 10% of the aid dedicated to that purpose by the federal government, ultimately American taxpayers.

Helluva job, Rick Perry.

How’s that Republican mantra about states rights doing folks in Texas?

IgNobel prize awards once again precede the more serious variety

The Peace Prize to Vilnius’ mayor – who solved the problem of illegal parking

Prognosticators who predicted the end of the world and got it wrong, scientists who built a wasabi fire alarm, and researchers who studied how the urge to urinate affects decision-making were among the winners of spoof Ig Nobel prizes on Thursday.

The annual prizes, meant to entertain and encourage scientific research, are awarded by the Journal of Improbable Research as a whimsical counterpart to the Nobel Prizes, which will be announced next week.

Ig Nobels also went to researchers who found that the male buprestid beetle likes to copulate with Australian beer bottles called stubbies, and researchers who showed why discus throwers become dizzy and hammer throwers do not.

Former winners of the real Nobel prizes hand out the prizes at a ceremony held at Harvard University in Massachusetts…

Peter Snyder, a professor of Neurology at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, was part of two research teams who won the Medicine Prize for studying how the urge to urinate affects decision-making.

Snyder’s team set up an experiment in which volunteers did computer tests and then periodically drank 250 ml (about 8 ounces) of water as the scientists measured the effects of the volunteers’ gradually swelling bladders on attention and working memory. The aim was to see who could last the longest before bolting for the toilet.

The study found that attention and working memory suffer when you are so focused on having to pee.

“When you gotta go, you gotta go,” Snyder said…

— John Perry of Stanford University for his Theory of Structured Procrastination, which holds procrastinators can be motivated to do important things as long as they are doing them as a way of avoiding something even more important…

— Anna Wilkinson of the University of Lincoln in the United Kingdom, Natalie Sebanz of Radboud University Nijmegen in the Netherlands and others for their study that found no evidence of contagious yawning in red-footed turtles…

— Karl Halvor Teigen of the University of Oslo, Norway, for trying to understand why, in everyday life, people sigh.

Americans Dorothy Martin who predicted the world would end in 1954; Pat Robertson who predicted the world would end in 1982; Elizabeth Clare Prophet who predicted the world would end in 1990; and Harold Camping who predicted the world would end on September 6, 1994, and on October 21, 2011; Lee Jang Rim of Korea who predicted the world would end in 1992; Shoko Asahara of Japan who predicted the world would end in 1997; Credonia Mwerinde of Uganda who predicted the world would end in 1999 — for teaching the world to be careful when making mathematical assumptions and calculations.

It takes a profound sense of humor for any dedicated scientist to work at serious tasks in so many societies mostly founded upon absolute nonsense.

Here’s a list of all this year’s winners.

Which corporate telecom giant stores your data the longest?

The nation’s major mobile-phone providers are keeping a treasure trove of sensitive data on their customers, according to newly-released Justice Department internal memo that for the first time reveals the data retention policies of America’s largest telecoms.

The single-page Department of Justice document…is a guide for law enforcement agencies looking to get information — like customer IP addresses, call logs, text messages and web surfing habits – out of U.S. telecom companies, including AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon.

The document, marked “Law Enforcement Use Only” and dated August 2010, illustrates there are some significant differences in how long carriers retain your data.

Verizon, for example, keeps a list of everyone you’ve exchanged text messages with for the past year, according to the document. But T-Mobile stores the same data up to five years. It’s 18 months for Sprint, and seven years for AT&T…

The document was unearthed by the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina via a Freedom of Information Act claim. (After the group gave a copy to Wired.com, we also discovered it in two other places on the internet by searching its title.)

“People who are upset that Facebook is storing all their information should be really concerned that their cell phone is tracking them everywhere they’ve been,” said Catherine Crump, an ACLU staff attorney. “The government has this information because it wants to engage in surveillance…”

“I don’t think there there is anything on this list the government would concede requires a warrant,” said Kevin Bankston, a staff attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “This brings cellular retention practices out of the shadows, so we can have a rational discussion about how the law needs to be changed when it comes to the privacy of our records.”

Vermont’s Patrick Leahy has introduced legislation to alter the Electronic Privacy Communications Act to protect Americans from intrusions on our privacy. How much chance do you think it has of being passed into law?

Do you think Obama would sign it – if it passed Congress? That’s a tough question for many of us who don’t care to vote for the proto-fascist populists who seem to be the Republican alternative.

Nestle produces first TV advert to pitch directly at canine customers

Nestle, one of the world’s biggest makers of pet food, said on Friday it had launched the first television commercial designed especially for dogs, using a high-frequency tone to grab their attention.

“Dogs’ hearing is twice as sharp as humans. They can pick up frequencies which are beyond our range and they are better at differentiating sounds,” said Georg Sanders, a nutrition expert at Nestle Purina PetCare in Germany.

Nestle asked experts in pet behavior in the United States to research what would appeal to dogs and used the results to create the 23-second commercial for its Beneful dog food brand.

The advert, to be screened on Austrian television this week, features a tone similar to a dog whistle, which humans can barely hear, as well as an audible “squeak” like the sound dogs’ toys make and a high-pitched “ping.”

So delicious, so healthy, so happy,” ends the commercial in German, which features a dog pricking up his ears…

Nestle said in a statement the commercial follows an award-winning campaign in Germany that featured “sniffable” posters to attract dogs.

I guess if you hear all the sounds you end up salivating by the end of the commercial, eh?