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The New York Times 03 August, 2021 - 09:20am 73 views

Brack’s departure follows a California lawsuit against Activision Blizzard

Activision Blizzard employees walked out of work last week to protest leadership response to a lawsuit that alleged “constant sexual harassment” and sexism at the company.

Oneal previously acted as executive vice president of development, while Ybarra led platform and technology at the company. Oneal also previously led Vicarious Visions, which Blizzard acquired in January. Ybarra was previously at Microsoft, serving as corporate vice president for Xbox Live and Xbox Game Pass. He joined Blizzard in 2019.

“Both leaders are deeply committed to all of our employees; to the work ahead to ensure Blizzard is the safest, most welcoming workplace possible for women, and people of any gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or background; to upholding and reinforcing our values; and to rebuilding your trust,” a Blizzard spokesperson said in a statement. “With their many years of industry experience and deep commitment to integrity and inclusivity, Jen and Mike will lead Blizzard with care, compassion, and a dedication to excellence. You’ll hear more from Jen and Mike soon.”

Brack issued a statement published on the Blizzard website:

I am confident that Jen Oneal and Mike Ybarra will provide the leadership Blizzard needs to realize its full potential and will accelerate the pace of change. I anticipate they will do so with passion and enthusiasm and that they can be trusted to lead with the highest levels of integrity and commitment to the components of our culture that make Blizzard so special.

Brack’s departure from the studio comes not long after its parent company, Activision Blizzard, was sued by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) for creating a “frat boy culture” that allowed gender-based discrimination and sexual harassment to proliferate. The lawsuit alleges that Brack knew about the behavior because he had received complaints directly, and that he did little to stop it beyond disciplinary actions that amounted to “a slap on the wrist.”

A 15-year Blizzard veteran, Brack had been the company’s president since October 2018, when then-president and -CEO Mike Morhaime decided to step down and pass the baton to him. Prior to his ascension to studio head, Brack served for many years as a leader of the World of Warcraft development team. Morhaime, who co-founded Blizzard in 1991, described Brack at the time of his promotion as “an inspiring leader who has shown unwavering commitment to Blizzard’s community.”

Immediately following the lawsuit, Activision Blizzard made an official statement in which it said the lawsuit included “distorted, and in many cases false, descriptions of Blizzard’s past.” Internally, various executives published statements; Brack, in one of these letters, called the allegations “extremely troubling.”

Activision Blizzard executive and former George W. Bush homeland security adviser Frances Townsend called the lawsuit “truly meritless and irresponsible” in a statement that’s since been criticized by current and former staff. Thousands of Activision Blizzard employees signed a letter asking for Townsend to step down as the executive sponsor of the women’s network. Following the letter, Activision Blizzard employees in California and elsewhere walked out of work in protest of leadership response.

Townsend later tweeted about “The Problem with Whistleblowing,” a story published in The Atlantic in July. The curious timing for the tweet — immediately following major whistleblowing at Activision Blizzard — did not sit well with current and former employees, who responded in turn with criticism. Townsend reportedly began blocking current employees speaking out against her.

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Read full article at The New York Times

Light spotted behind black hole for first time, proving Einstein right | WTOP

WTOP 03 August, 2021 - 10:29am

For the first time ever, astronomers have directly detected light from behind a supermassive black hole. The discovery proves Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity was right — again

Using the European Space Agency‘s XMM-Newton and NASA’s NuSTAR space telescopes, researchers were observing the black hole as it flung X-rays out into the universe. The black hole is about 10 million times more massive than our sun, and is located in the center of a nearby spiral galaxy called I Zwicky, 1,800 million light-years away from Earth.

After observing a series of bright flares of X-rays, something unprecedented occurred — more flashes that were smaller, later and different “colors” than their predecessors. According to a study published this week in the journal Nature, the “echoes” of light appeared consistent with X-rays reflected from behind the black hole — a very strange place for light to originate.  

Black holes’ gravitational pulls are so powerful that light cannot escape them. However, light can “echo,” wrapping around the back of the celestial phenomenon and allowing astronomers to see it. 

“Any light that goes into that black hole doesn’t come out, so we shouldn’t be able to see anything that’s behind the black hole,” said lead author Dan Wilkins in a statement. “The reason we can see that is because that black hole is warping space, bending light and twisting magnetic fields around itself.” 

While Einstein predicted the ability of a black hole’s gravity to bend light around it in 1916, it has never been confirmed — until now.

“Fifty years ago, when astrophysicists starting speculating about how the magnetic field might behave close to a black hole, they had no idea that one day we might have the techniques to observe this directly and see Einstein’s general theory of relativity in action,” said co-author Roger Blandford. 

Researchers weren’t even looking to confirm Einstein’s theory. They were originally attempting to uncover the mysteries of an odd feature of black holes known as the corona, the source of the bright X-ray light. 

“I’ve been building theoretical predictions of how these echoes appear to us for a few years,” said Wilkins. “I’d already seen them in the theory I’ve been developing, so once I saw them in the telescope observations, I could figure out the connection.”

The prevailing theory is that the corona forms after gas falls continuously into the black hole, forming a spinning disk around it, “like water flushing down a drain.” The gas disk is then heated up to millions of degrees, generating a twisted magnetic field that eventually snaps, releasing its energy and producing the corona.

“This magnetic field getting tied up and then snapping close to the black hole heats everything around it and produces these high energy electrons that then go on to produce the X-rays,” said Wilkins. 

From here, astronomers hope to use the various “colors” observed as the X-ray echoes travel around the black hole to create a 3D map of the black hole surroundings. They also hope to learn how the corona produces such bright flares.

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Scientists spot light echo from behind a black hole

TechSpot 03 August, 2021 - 09:10am

A Black Hole Emitted a Flare Away From us, but its Intense Gravity Redirected the Blast Back in our Direction - Universe Today

Universe Today 03 August, 2021 - 09:10am

In 1916, Albert Einstein put the finishing touches on his Theory of General Relativity, a journey that began in 1905 with his attempts to reconcile Newton’s own theories of gravitation with the laws of electromagnetism. Once complete, Einstein’s theory provided a unified description of gravity as a geometric property of the cosmos, where massive objects alter the curvature of spacetime, affecting everything around them.

What’s more, Einstein’s field equations predicted the existence of black holes, objects so massive that even light cannot escape their surfaces. GR also predicts that black holes will bend light in their vicinity, an effect that can be used by astronomers to observe more distant objects. Relying on this technique, an international team of scientists made an unprecedented feat by observing light caused by an X-ray flare that took place behind a black hole.

The team was led by Dr. Dan Wilkins, an astrophysicist with the Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology at Stanford University and a NASA Einstein Fellow. He was joined by researchers from Saint Mary’s University in Halifax, Nova Scotia; the Institute for Gravitation and the Cosmos at The Pennsylvania State University, and the SRON Netherlands Institute for Space Research.

Using the ESA’s XMM-Newton and NASA’s NuSTAR space telescopes, Wilkins and his team observed bright X-ray flares coming from around a supermassive black hole (SMBH) located at the center of I Zwicky 1 – a spiral galaxy located 1,800 light-years from Earth. Astronomers were not expecting to see this, but because of the SMBH’s extreme gravity (which comes from 10 million Solar masses), flares from behind it were made visible to the XMM-Newton and NuSTAR.

The discovery was made in the course of a survey designed to learn more about the bright and mysterious X-ray light that surrounds a black hole’s event horizon. This “corona” (as its nicknamed) is thought to be the result of gas that falls continuously into the black hole and forms a spinning disk around it. As the ring is accelerated to near the speed of light, it is heated to millions of degrees and generated magnetic fields that get twisted into knots.

Eventually, these fields get twisted up to the point that they snap and release all the energy they have stored within. This energy is then transferred to matter in the surrounding disk, which produces the “corona” of high-energy X-ray electrons. The X-ray flares were first visible to Wilkins and his team as light echoes, which were reflected from infalling gas particles being accreted onto the face of the black hole.

In this case, the X-ray flare observed was so bright that some of the X-rays shone down onto the disk of gas falling into the black hole. As the flares subsided, the telescopes picked up fainter flashes, which were the echoes of the flares bouncing off the gas behind the black hole. The light from these flashes was bent around by the black hole’s intense gravity and became visible to the telescopes, though with a slight delay.

The team was able to discern where the X-ray flashes came from based on the specific “colors” of light (their specific wavelength) they emitted. The colors of the X-rays that came from the far side of the black hole were slightly altered by the extreme gravitational environment. Add to that the fact that X-ray echoes are seen at different times depending on where on the disk they were reflected from, they contain a lot of information about what is happening around a black hole.

As a result, these observations not only confirmed behavior predicted by General Relativity, they also allowed the team to study processes taking place behind a black hole for the first time. In the near future, Wilkins and his team want to use this technique to create a 3D map of the black hole surroundings and to investigate other black hole mysteries. For instance, Wilkins and his colleagues want to solve the mystery of how the corona produced such bright X-ray flares.

These missions will continue to rely on the XMM-Newton space telescope, as well as the ESA’s proposed next-generation X-ray observatory, known as the Advanced Telescope for High-ENergy Astrophysics (ATHENA). These and other space telescopes that are scheduled to launch in the coming years promise to reveal a great deal more about the parts of the Universe we cannot see, and to shed more light on its many mysteries.

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Scientists spot light behind a black hole for the first time

Yahoo Tech 02 August, 2021 - 04:23am

The latest breakthrough is a "key part of the puzzle to understanding" how the universe came to be, according to Stanford astrophysicist Dan Wilkins. What's more, it appears to confirm Einstein's theory of relativity from over a century ago. 

While studying the bright flares of x-rays emanating from the black hole, a feature known as the corona, researchers also witnessed fainter flashes of light. These were the "luminous echoes" of of the flares bouncing off the gas behind the black hole. This phenomena was first predicted by Einstein in his theory of relativity published in 1916.

“Any light that goes into that black hole doesn’t come out, so we shouldn’t be able to see anything that’s behind the black hole," Wilkins explained. “The reason we can see that is because that black hole is warping space, bending light and twisting magnetic fields around itself.”

The supermassive black hole is 10 million times as massive as our Sun and located in the centre of a nearby spiral galaxy called I Zwicky 1. An international group of scientists witnessed the echoes using the European Space Agency's XMM-Newton and NASA’s NuSTAR space telescopes. Their findings were published in the journal Nature.

"The color of these flashes, the color of those echoes as well as the time that they were delayed after the original flare told us that these were the echoes coming from the gas that's hidden from our view behind the black hole," Wilkins noted. "Some of it will shine back down onto the gas that's falling into the black hole, and this gives us really quite a unique view of this material in its final moments before it's lost into the black hole."

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A Supermassive Black Hole Emitted a Flare Away From Us, but Its Intense Gravity Redirected the Blast Back in Our Direction

SciTechDaily 02 August, 2021 - 04:22am

Seen nearly edgewise, the turbulent disk of gas churning around a black hole takes on a crazy double-humped appearance. The black hole’s extreme gravity alters the paths of light coming from different parts of the disk, producing the warped image. The black hole’s extreme gravitational field redirects and distorts light coming from different parts of the disk, but exactly what we see depends on our viewing angle. The greatest distortion occurs when viewing the system nearly edgewise. Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/Jeremy Schnittman

In 1916, Albert Einstein put the finishing touches on his Theory of General Relativity, a journey that began in 1905 with his attempts to reconcile Newton’s own theories of gravitation with the laws of electromagnetism. Once complete, Einstein’s theory provided a unified description of gravity as a geometric property of the cosmos, where massive objects alter the curvature of spacetime, affecting everything around them.

What’s more, Einstein’s field equations predicted the existence of black holes, objects so massive that even light cannot escape their surfaces. GR also predicts that black holes will bend light in their vicinity, an effect that can be used by astronomers to observe more distant objects. Relying on this technique, an international team of scientists made an unprecedented feat by observing light caused by an X-ray flare that took place behind a black hole.

The team was led by Dr. Dan Wilkins, an astrophysicist with the Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology at Stanford University and a NASA Einstein Fellow. He was joined by researchers from Saint Mary’s University in Halifax, Nova Scotia; the Institute for Gravitation and the Cosmos at The Pennsylvania State University, and the SRON Netherlands Institute for Space Research.

Illustration of how light echoes from behind a black hole. Credit: ESA

Using the ESA’s XMM-Newton and NASA’s NuSTAR space telescopes, Wilkins and his team observed bright X-ray flares coming from around a supermassive black hole (SMBH) located at the center of I Zwicky 1 – a spiral galaxy located 1,800 light-years from Earth. Astronomers were not expecting to see this, but because of the SMBH’s extreme gravity (which comes from 10 million Solar masses), flares from behind it were made visible to the XMM-Newton and NuSTAR.

The discovery was made in the course of a survey designed to learn more about the bright and mysterious X-ray light that surrounds a black hole’s event horizon. This “corona” (as its nicknamed) is thought to be the result of gas that falls continuously into the black hole and forms a spinning disk around it. As the ring is accelerated to near the speed of light, it is heated to millions of degrees and generated magnetic fields that get twisted into knots.

Eventually, these fields get twisted up to the point that they snap and release all the energy they have stored within. This energy is then transferred to matter in the surrounding disk, which produces the “corona” of high-energy X-ray electrons. The X-ray flares were first visible to Wilkins and his team as light echoes, which were reflected from infalling gas particles being accreted onto the face of the black hole.

In this case, the X-ray flare observed was so bright that some of the X-rays shone down onto the disk of gas falling into the black hole. As the flares subsided, the telescopes picked up fainter flashes, which were the echoes of the flares bouncing off the gas behind the black hole. The light from these flashes was bent around by the black hole’s intense gravity and became visible to the telescopes, though with a slight delay.

This illustration shows the X-ray mission XMM-Newton, the largest scientific satellite built by ESA (European Space Agency) to date, in Earth orbit. Credit: ESA/D. Ducros

The team was able to discern where the X-ray flashes came from based on the specific “colors” of light (their specific wavelength) they emitted. The colors of the X-rays that came from the far side of the black hole were slightly altered by the extreme gravitational environment. Add to that the fact that X-ray echoes are seen at different times depending on where on the disk they were reflected from, they contain a lot of information about what is happening around a black hole.

As a result, these observations not only confirmed behavior predicted by General Relativity, they also allowed the team to study processes taking place behind a black hole for the first time. In the near future, Wilkins and his team want to use this technique to create a 3D map of the black hole surroundings and to investigate other black hole mysteries. For instance, Wilkins and his colleagues want to solve the mystery of how the corona produced such bright X-ray flares.

These missions will continue to rely on the XMM-Newton space telescope, as well as the ESA’s proposed next-generation X-ray observatory, known as the Advanced Telescope for High-ENergy Astrophysics (ATHENA). These and other space telescopes that are scheduled to launch in the coming years promise to reveal a great deal more about the parts of the Universe we cannot see, and to shed more light on its many mysteries.

Originally published on Universe Today.

There are NO galaxies 1,8000 ly from Earth. The rest of the article is mute because of this error.

What is an X-ray electron? X-ray photon maybe? Or high energy electron? Interesting article.

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Scientists observe light bending from behind black hole for the first time, confirming Einstein's theory

Channel3000.com - WISC-TV3 31 July, 2021 - 10:52am

TORONTO, Ontario (CTV Network) — For the first time, scientists have been able to directly observe light bending from behind a black hole.

It’s something that Albert Einstein predicted would be possible under his theory of relativity. But this is the first time the phenomenon has directly observed by scientists.

“Any light that goes into that black hole doesn’t come out, so we shouldn’t be able to see anything that’s behind the black hole,” said Stanford University astrophysicist Dan Wilkins, who made the observation, in a news release. “The reason we can see that is because that black hole is warping space, bending light and twisting magnetic fields around itself.”

Wilkins, along with his colleagues from the Netherlands and Canada, published their findings in the journal Nature on Thursday. They used NASA’s NuSTAR telescope and the European Space Angency’s XMM-Newton telescope to observe a black hole in centre of the galaxy I Zwicky 1, located 800 million light-years away.

Through the telescopes, Wilkins observed a bright X-ray flare that was shortly followed by smaller X-ray flashes that came in a smattering of different colours. The researchers concluded that the secondary smaller flashes of X-ray light had actually bent around from behind the black hole.

How is light able to bend around a black hole? Researchers say it has to do with “coronas.”

Gas particles form a disk around a black hole while these particles get sucked in. A corona is created when these gas particles get heated to millions of degrees.

Because of the heat, these particles lose electrons and become magnetically charged while turning into plasma. But the strength of the black hole’s pull breaks the magnetic fields generated by the plasma particles, which causes X-ray flares to appear.

“This magnetic field getting tied up and then snapping close to the black hole heats everything around it and produces these high energy electrons that then go on to produce the X-rays,” Wilkins said.

The X-ray flares then reflect off the disk around the black hole, creating what researchers describe as “X-ray echoes.” Gravitational forces from the black hole allow the X-ray echoes to bend around the black hole and escape, creating the different colours that Wilkins observed through the telescopes.

“Fifty years ago, when astrophysicists started speculating about how the magnetic field might behave close to a black hole, they had no idea that one day we might have the techniques to observe this directly and see Einstein’s general theory of relativity in action,” said paper co-author and Stanford University particle physics professor Roger Blandford in the news release.

Researchers still aren’t exactly sure how the corona can produce bright X-ray flares. Their next step is to use an enhanced X-ray telescope from the European Space Agency in order to continue studying how coronas work.

“It’s got a much bigger mirror than we’ve ever had on an X-ray telescope and it’s going to let us get higher resolution looks in much shorter observation times,” said Wilkins. “So, the picture we are starting to get from the data at the moment is going to become much clearer with these new observatories.”

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1 Odd Trick Restores Your Eyes To Perfect 20/20 Vision

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