Black hole observed that “expels” material almost at the speed of light

A research team observed a particular black hole that ejects material almost at the speed of light. Researchers at the University of Oxford used e-MERLIN, an array of radio telescopes from the UK based on the Jodrell Bank Observatory. They also used VLA and MeerKAT telescopes.

The study has been published in Nature Astronomy and may prove useful to understand even more about the powerful jets that shoot out of black holes, especially the supermassive jets at the centre of galaxies.

The researchers have in fact identified MAXI J1820 + 070, a black hole located 11,300 light years away from us detected for the first time already in March 2018 characterized by strong and fast expulsions of materials. In reality, these are not real “ejections” but materials, especially gas, which “bounce” before being sucked into the black hole, i.e. before passing the horizon of events, and splash away at very high speeds.

The materials splashed away move so fast that, for an effect only apparent, they seem to move faster than the speed of light (this is a known phenomenon, only apparent and known as superluminal movement).

“Using our radio observations we were able to better estimate how much energy is contained in these ejections using a new method for this type of system,” explains Joe Bright, one of the Oxford Physics Department researchers involved in the study.
MAXI J1820 + 070 could be a miniature version of the supermassive black holes that are at the centre of galaxies and that determine all their gravitational movement.

Voyager 2 still communicates with Earth

Voyager 2, the space probe launched by NASA in 1987, which is now more than 120 astronomical units away, almost in interstellar space, has resumed communication returning to normal operations as reported in a statement on the site of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
On January 25 this year, in fact, there had been an anomaly and the five scientific instruments with which the probe is equipped were disabled for safety.

Now engineers and scientists have reactivated the instruments discovering that they continue to work and that communications between the Earth and the probe are also quite good since the telemetry continues to arrive. This means that Voyager 2 has resumed collecting data as it has done over the last forty years and more.

The probe is powered by a radioisotopic thermoelectric generator that transforms the color caused by the decay of a radioactive material, present in small doses inside a small chamber of the probe, into electricity. The energy budget of the probe decreases by about four watts per year.
At the same time, operators from Earth also have to worry about the probe’s heating, especially the fuel lines, which would break if they were to freeze and the probe itself would no longer be able to do things like pointing its antenna at Earth.

The temperature of these pipes and the probe in general is kept more or less constant through the use of small heaters that take advantage of the little excess heat from the on-board electrical instrumentation.
The engineers then re-evaluated its distance from Earth, which has now been estimated at 18.5 billion kilometres. The communications coming from the probe take about 17 hours to reach Earth and any command sent from Earth takes the same time of course.

New Zealand parrot can predict probability of an event

A new study, published in Nature Communications, provides some interesting details about the Nestor notabilis, a New Zealand parrot also called “kea”.
Researchers have in fact discovered that this bird can predict the probability of an event occurring, a neurobiological characteristic that was seen only in humans and in some more evolved primates.

In fact, making predictions about an event is one of the characteristics in which humans are very good, as explained by the main author of the study, Amalia Bastos, PhD candidate at the University of Auckland.
The kea lives in the mountainous regions of South Island, New Zealand, an area where food is scarce. They are quite exploratory birds compared to many other species of parrots. In the course of the experiments organized by Bastos and colleagues, this clever bird has shown that it can predict the course of events by thinking only about a few clues.

The researchers showed the bird two jars containing black and orange tokens. The jars were transparent, so the bird could see the contents. The birds were then taught that black tokens could be exchanged for food.
Two researchers side by side pulled a token out of each jar with a closed hand and the bird had to touch one of the two closed hands trying to guess the presence of the black token to get the reward.

This means that the birds had to choose the jar that offered them the best chance to get a reward, also because the jars contained different amounts of black or orange tokens.
The birds were able to choose the hand that they thought was most likely to contain a black token depending on which jar the hand had taken the token from. In practice, the bird observed the colour ratios in the jars, imagined the quantities and made the most appropriate choice, thus trying to predict the future.

The confirmation also came from another experiment when the bird had to choose between two researchers who took the tokens from the jars. The birds had previously observed one of the two researchers always taking black tokens even when the orange ones were outnumbered. The birds showed that they could remember who this person was and chose his hand.

The parrot showed that it could command different information from different sources in order to recreate a prediction of probability in the mind, something that surprised the researchers themselves and showed that such a characteristic, typical of human intelligence, can evolve even in such small brains.

Bowel bacteria reprogram mucosal genetic activity

Another way in which microbes in the intestines affect the human body has been discovered by the research group of the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
Comparing the DNA of the cells in the intestinal mucosa of two groups of mice, one with a normal microbiome and the other made up of mice grown under sterile conditions, the researchers found that the same microbes in the intestine can reprogram genetic activity by controlling the development of intestinal inflammation.

In essence, intestinal bacteria can reprogram DNA activity in mucosal cells, something that can have a big impact on the health of the intestine itself.
In order to confirm this, the researchers carried out experiments on mice, dividing them into two groups, one with mice with a normal intestinal microbiome, i.e. the intestine normally colonized by bacteria, and another with mice that grew in sterile conditions, and therefore with much fewer bacteria in the intestine.

The mice were then treated with a chemical that attacks the intestinal mucosa, which produces acute inflammation.
In mice with a normal microbiome, the treatment led to a decrease in DNA methylation in the cells of the intestinal mucosa.

As a result, several genes were activated that play an important role in inflammation and cancer. In the other group, however, the chemical did not cause many changes in genetic activity, which shows that the differences in methylation were caused by bacteria and not by the chemical directly, as Frank Lyko, who conducted the research together with Yehudit Bergman, explains.

“The microbiome seems to have a significant influence on animal health: it ensures normal intestinal development by using epigenetic programming to activate the genes that guide the regeneration of the intestinal mucosa. In mice without microbes, however, this activation does not take place,” explains Lyko again, implying the important role of intestinal bacteria in epigenetic regulation.

“We have shown that exposure to microbiota in acute dextrans-induced sodium sulfate inflammation causes deep DNA methylation and changes in the accessibility of chromatin to regulatory elements, leading to alterations in gene expression programs enriched with functions associated with colitis and colon cancer,” the researchers report again in the study abstract where it is clearly reported that epigenetic changes caused by microbes in the gut are essential for proper homeostasis in vivo.

Obesity promotes high blood pressure: scientists discover why

Obesity promotes the onset of high blood pressure and hypertension and a team of researchers from the School of Medicine at the University of Virginia seems to have discovered the trigger.
As Swapnil K. Sonkusare of the Department of Molecular Physiology and Biological Physics of UVA explains, there are cellular mechanisms that cause blood pressure in obese people to increase.
This means that if appropriate compounds are designed to target these mechanisms, it may be possible to treat and eliminate hypertension in obese patients.

Obesity is a global problem: the number of obese people has almost tripled since 1975 (especially in Western countries) and with it the risk of diseases such as cardiovascular disease, hypertension and strokes has also increased.
Scientists have already concluded in the past that hypertension in obese passers-by is related to problems in the behaviour of endothelial cells lining the arteries, but the reasons have been unclear.

The Sonkusare research team discovered the existence of a protein called TRPV4 on the membranes surrounding endothelial cells. These proteins allow calcium to enter the cells while maintaining stable blood pressure levels.
Obesity affects this very protein and makes it defective, as Sonkusare himself explains: “Under healthy conditions, TRPV4 in these tiny microdomains helps maintain normal blood pressure. For the first time, we show the sequence of events leading to a microenvironment that is harmful to calcium intake through TRPV4. I think the concept of pathological microdomain will be very important not only for studies on obesity, but also for studies on other cardiovascular disorders”.

The same researchers have also found that obesity increases the levels of enzymes that produce peroxynitrites in microdomains containing TRPV4. So targeting peroxynitrite or enzymes directly could become an effective way to prevent or treat high blood pressure from obesity without the side effects that would result from directly targeting the TRPV4 protein.
TRPV4 protein is present in many other tissues, from the brain to the bladder, so if you target it with a drug you would get desired side effects.