Reader’s Scigest 05-03-15


Bizarre Quasar

Astronomers have detected a black hole larger than any seen before in the centre of the brightest quasar in the distant universe. Having formed only 900 millon years after the Big Bang and with a mass 12 billion times that of the sun, SDSS J0100+2802 is puzzling scientists who can’t understand how an object so large and massive formed so quickly in the early universe using current theories. The quasar containing the enormous black hole was discovered in a recent survey of distant luminous objects.

Drastic tranplants ahead?

Italian surgeon Sergio Canavero has claimed that the first full-body transplant, where a living person’s head is removed and grafted onto the body of a dead donor, could be carried out with humans in just two years. Canavero first proposed the idea in 2013 as a method for lengthening the lives of those with cancer in advanced stages or degenerative diseases. He has recently published an outline of how the radical surgery could be carried out, and is expected to announce detailed plans for making the procedure a reality at the American Academy of Neurological and Orthopaedic Surgeons (AANOS) annual conference this June. Head transplants have previously been performed with partial success in monkeys, though no attempt has yet been made to fuse spinal cords.

Statistical Mechanics of a Zombie Apocalypse

Traditional disease modelling has been applied in the context of a hypothetical zombie outbreak by a group of graduate students from Cornell University. The statisticians, inspired by the book ‘World War Z’ by Max Brooks, simulated an apocalypse in the United States, treating various interactions, such as a human being bitten or killed by a zombie, like radioactive decay by assigning a half-life dependent on relevant parameters. They determined that the safest place for Americans to hide would be the northern Rocky mountains, which would take several weeks for the zombies to reach, with major cities, being the most populous areas, having the highest infection rate.

Photograph: Gage Skidmore

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