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Friday, August 14, 2009

First Black Holes Born Starving

"The first black holes in the universe had dramatic effects on their surroundings despite the fact that they were small and grew very slowly, according to new supercomputer simulations."

"The simulations were carried out by astrophysicists Marcelo Alvarez and Tom Abel of the Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology, jointly located at the Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and Stanford University, and John Wise, formerly of KIPAC and now of NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.
Several popular theories posit that the first black holes gorged themselves on gas clouds and dust in the early universe, growing into the supersized black holes that lurk in the centers of galaxies today. However, the new results, published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters, point to a much more complex role for the first black holes."

"To make their discovery, the researchers created the most detailed simulations to date of the first black holes in the universe that formed from the collapse of stars. The simulations started with data taken from observations of the cosmic background radiation—the earliest view of the structure of the universe. The researchers then applied the basic laws that govern the interaction of matter, allowing the early universe in their simulation to evolve as it did in reality.

In the simulation, clouds of gas left over from the Big Bang slowly coalesced under the force of gravity, and eventually formed the first stars. These massive, hot stars burned bright for a short time, emitting so much energy in the form of starlight that they pushed nearby gas clouds far away. Yet these stars could not sustain such a fiery existence for long, and they soon exhausted their internal fuel. This caused one of the stars in the simulation to collapse under its own weight, forming a black hole located in a pocket of emptiness. With very little matter in the near vicinity, this black hole was essentially "starved" of food on which to grow."

"Quasars [extremely strong sources of radiation] powered by black holes a billion times more massive than our sun have been observed in the early universe, and we have to explain how these behemoths could have grown so big so fast,” said Alvarez. "Their origin remains among the most fundamental unanswered questions in astrophysics."
One explanation for the existence of supermassive black holes in the early universe postulates that the first black holes were "seeds" that grew into much larger black holes by gravitationally attracting and then swallowing matter. But in their simulation, Alvarez, Abel and Wise found that such growth was negligible, with the black hole in the simulation growing by less than one percent of its original mass over the course of a hundred million years."

"Although the simulations do not yet completely rule out the theory, this makes it less likely that these first black holes could have grown directly into the supermassive black holes observed to have existed less than a billion years later, Alvarez said."

"Although the early stars pushed away nearby clouds of gas, delaying significant growth of the black holes the stars later became, wisps of gas sometimes found their way to the black holes. As this matter was sucked into the black hole in the researchers’ simulation, it accelerated and released enough X-ray radiation to heat gas as much as a hundred light years away to several thousand degrees. The additional heat from the X-rays caused the gas to expand away from the black hole, helping to keep the snack from turning into a feast."

"Heating due to the X-rays was also enough to effectively prevent nearby gas from collapsing to form stars for tens and maybe even hundreds of millions of years. As a result, the researchers hypothesize, significantly larger than usual gas clouds may have had the opportunity to form without creating stars. Such enormous gas clouds may have eventually collapsed under their own weight, creating a supermassive black hole."

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Thoughts worth thinking about

"Our subconscious minds have no sense of humor, play no jokes and cannot tell the difference between reality and an imagined thought or image. What we continually think about eventually will manifest in our lives."-Sidney Madwed

Laws alone can not secure freedom of expression; in order that every woman and man present their views without penalty, there must be spirit of tolerance in the entire population.- Albert Einstein Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around. - Leo Buscaglia

A person's true wealth is the good he or she does in the world. - Mohammed

Our task must be to free ourselves... by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and its beauty. -Albert Einstein

The best way to find yourself, is to lose yourself in the service of others. - Ghandi

The unselfish effort to bring cheer to others will be the beginning of a happier life for ourselves. - Helen Keller

Aim for success, not perfection. Never give up your right to be wrong, because then you will lose the ability to learn new things and move forward with your life. Remember that fear always lurks behind perfectionism. Confronting your fears and allowing yourself the right to be human can, paradoxically, make yourself a happier and more productive person. - Dr. David M. Burns

Life is as dear to a mute creature as it is to man. Just as one wants happiness and fears pain, just as one wants to live and not die, so do other creatures. -His Holiness The Dalai Lama

Mankind's true moral test, its fundamental test (which lies deeply buried from view), consists of its attitude towards those who are at its mercy: animals. And in this respect mankind has suffered a fundamental debacle, a debacle so fundamental that all others stem from it. -

Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being

The worst sin towards our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to be indifferent to them. That's the essence of inhumanity. -George Bernard Shaw

Ego's trick is to make us lose sight of our interdependence. That kind of ego-thought gives us a perfect justification to look out only for ourselves. But that is far from the truth. In reality we all depend on each other and we have to help each other. The husband has to help his wife, the wife has to help the husband, the mother has to help her children, and the children are supposed to help the parents too, whether they want to or not.-Gehlek Rinpoche Source: "The Best Buddhist Writing 2005 pg. 165

The hostile attitude of conquering nature ignores the basic interdependence of all things and events---that the world beyond the skin is actually an extension of our own bodies---and will end in destroying the very environment from which we emerge and upon which our whole life depends.