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The Life (& Death) of The Universe’s First Star

Timeline of the universe after the big bang (Image Credit: NASA)

Timeline of the universe after the big bang (Image Credit: NASA)

More than 13.8 billion years ago, out popped the universe, or at least the raw ingredients for it, in an event to beat all events, now called the Big Bang. The package from which it sprang is by no means neat or tidy. Nor is it wrapped in a pretty bow, but understanding these first few moments, along with those that preceded them, is paramount to understanding every facet of the universe as we know it today (from the quantum realm all the way to the large-scale stuff).

Based on our current understanding of the universe’s formative years, space was a soupy mess—much too hot for charged electrons and protons to come together to produce electrically neutral hydrogen atoms. That is, until about 378,000 years old after the big bang, a period of time known as the recombination era. From there, the very first generation of stars came into being, sparking the end of the so-called dark ages. However, the first generation of stars behaved a lot differently than those that live and die in this current epoch.

Now, researchers from the University of California, Santa Cruz and the University of Minnesota have formulated “explosive” renderings that show the death of the first star to ever grace the universe with its presence.

Computer simulations show that, in death, the star itself — which, like other stars in its age-group, weighed between 55,000 and 56,000 solar masses — could have disintegrated into nothingness, not even leaving a black hole behind. However, a key point in its demise was when it ejected the bulk of its heavy metals out into the interstellar medium—from which, the universe formed.

Computer simulation of the supernova of the first star that ever lived and died (Credit: Ken Chen/UCSC)

Computer simulation of the supernova of the first star that ever lived and died   (Image Credit: Ken Chen/UCSC)

“We found that there is a narrow window where supermassive stars could explode completely instead of becoming a supermassive black hole—no one has ever found this mechanism before,” says Ke-Jung Chen, a postdoctoral researcher and the lead author of the paper.

The physicists used the supercomputers situated at the Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center (NERSC) and Minnesota Supercomputing Institute at the University of Minnesota to run the new simulations. What’s more is that they employed the use of something called CASTRO (short for “Compressible Astrophysics”) — a code that was developed by DOE’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s (Berkeley Lab’s) Computational Research Division — along with a different code called KEPLER..

KEPLER is sophisticated in the fact that it was designed to factor in important functions like nuclear fusion and stellar convection (the internal mechanism that circulates fuel throughout a star), and, relevantly, for massive stars, “photo-disintegration of elements, electron-positron pair production, and special relativistic effects.” (The last part is particularly important for stars that pass over 1,000 solar masses threshold).

Using both codes in conjunction with one another, they learned that stars in the 55,000 to 56,000 solar mass weight class live for just 1.69 million years until relativistic effects knock the stars off-kilter, sending them on a downward spiral that culminates in the stars collapsing in on themselves and going supernova.

However, to backtrack a bit, just before the trigger is pulled, larger stars start feverishly synthesizing heavier elements in their core, like oxygen, magnesium, neon, leading up to iron. Once they start burning iron (the heaviest element stars can fuse), they are as good as dead, as the release of pent-up energy irrevocably destabilizes the stars, triggering the expulsion of the elements that were synthesized during a high-mass star’s final moments. This gravitational binding energy, conversely, also prevents the star from further collapsing into a singularity (something called neutron degeneracy also plays a huge role).

The Progression of a Supernova (Image Credit:  NASA/CXC/SAO/JPL-Caltech)

The Progression of a Supernova  (Image Credit: NASA/CXC/SAO/JPL-Caltech)

However, the new simulation sheds additional light on how the process differed in a first generation star. According to the researchers, “These simulations show that once collapse is reversed, Rayleigh-Taylor instabilities mix heavy elements produced in the star’s final moments throughout the star itself.” 

“Depending on the intensity of the supernovae, some supermassive stars could, when they explode, enrich their entire host galaxy and even some nearby galaxies with elements ranging from carbon to silicon. In some cases, supernova may even trigger a burst of star formation in its host galaxy, which would make it visually distinct from other young galaxies.”

The team hopes these signatures might be perceptible with help from the European Space Agency’s upcoming Euclid near-infrared observatory, which won’t launch for another year.

This work is listed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. Learn more about our republishing policy here.

The post The Life (& Death) of The Universe’s First Star appeared first on From Quarks to Quasars.

Ask Hackaday: Help NASA With Their High Altitude Problem

image of hackaday logo on box at high altitude

Unless you’ve been living under a high voltage transformer, you’ve probably heard that NASA has grounded the Space Shuttle fleet. This makes getting stuff to and from the International Space Station slightly more difficult. With the growing need to get small experiments back to the surface quickly and safely, NASA is researching an idea they call Small Payload Quick Return, or SPQR (pdf warning). Basically, they toss the experiment out of the window, use drag to slow it down, and then use a High Altitude High Opening (HAHO) self guiding parafoil to steer the thing down to a predefined location on the surface.

Now, what we’re interested in is the self guided parafoil part, as it takes place in known hacker territory – around 100,000 feet. This is the altitude where most high altitude balloon experiments take place. NASA is throwing a bunch of money and brainpower to research this part of the system, but they’re having problems. Lots of problems.

Stick around after the break and see if you can help, and maybe pick up some ideas on how to steer your next High Altitude Balloon project back to the launch pad.

diagram of spqr program

Want to get on NASA’s radar? Send up a HAB payload to the Stratosphere and return it to a specific GPS address in one piece. Post it on and keep your phone handy. Because they are having a lot of trouble doing this, and would surely be interested in your tech.

So the basic idea is:

  1. Deploy para foil
  2. Get GPS lock.
  3. Use a microcontroller to move some servos and steer the Near Space Craft to a specified GPS address.
  4. Corkscrew down to the surface.
  5. Profit!

Pulling this off is not as easy as it sounds, and NASA is finding this out the hard way. The AMES Research Center has delegated the HAHO part of the SPQR project to a handful of select universities. They have done several studies and experiments, most of which have ended in complete failure. (All links are pdf)

image of a failed HAB systemTo summarize just a few of the problems -

  • There is a tendency for the system to develop a flat spin, where the payload and para foil ‘orbit’ each other at a high speed, proving to be unrecoverable.
  • The para foil will not inflate because of the low air density.
  • The lines get tangled easily.

Be sure to check out some of the studies and let us know your thoughts. NASA just might be listening. How would you solve these difficult problems?

Filed under: Ask Hackaday, Hackaday Columns

Threat Intelligence firm mistakes research for nation-state attack

George Clooney ‘forced wedding guests to leave phones in hotel and provided cameras with traceable CODES’

Esri story map features the location of celebrity weddings.

A Day on the Road: A Story-Map View of Allentown

Esri story map features sights from Allentown, PA.

Pirate Bay Founders Celebrated in Promo Bay Tribute

Since 2012, The Pirate Bay has been periodically donating its front page to artists looking to increase their profile and reach out to new fans.

The initiative, known as The Promo Bay, attracted 10,000 applications in a matter of months, and has exposed dozens of artists to hundreds of millions of views, at zero cost to them.

Many bands have been featured to date, but the group currently featured on the front page could be one of the best ‘fits’ to date.

Dubioza Kolektiv are an already successful band that have been selling records and playing festivals all around Europe for the past 11 years. Their views on the music industry are a great match for The Pirate Bay.

“We live in a fast changing world and the music industry is really struggling to maintain the monopolistic role they’ve enjoyed for decades,” Dubioza bass player Vedran Mujagić told TorrentFreak.

“They perceive this freedom of expression and ability to share culture and knowledge in the digital age as a major threat to their profits and they employ really ugly methods in trying to suppress these practices.”


The seven piece group, who hail from Bosnia and Herzegovina and promote their style as a fusion of hip-hop, reggae, dub and rock, are currently front and center on The Promo Bay with a track from their new EP, and things are working out perfectly.

“We sent the video of our song ‘No Escape (from Balkans)’ and our new EP ‘Happy Machine’ to Pirate Bay and now the video has been on the TPB homepage for a little more than 48 hours. It resulted in big traffic and more than 200,000 views of our video on YouTube – and it keeps growing,” Vedran reveals.

“This was really great because the song and Dubioza Kolektiv got exposed to people who would otherwise might never have heard of the band – from Siberia to South Africa. Reactions and comments have been really positive so far.”

But while ‘No Escape‘ has captured the big views so far, the second track from the EP has been flying under the radar. It’s an infectious ska-influenced romp that was written with the jailed founders of The Pirate Bay in mind.

“Free.mp3 (The Pirate Bay Song) is dedicated to founders of website,” the band reveals. “Gottfrid Svartholm Warg a.k.a. Anakata and who is currently being held in solitary confinement and is facing six-year prison sentence in Denmark and Peter Sunde Kolmisoppi a.k.a. brokep who is incarcerated in Sweden.”

The track, which is upbeat, cheerful and extremely catchy, begins with a couple of BitTorrent terms and recounts how file-sharing scares the music industry.

Lines including ‘We don’t give a shit about a copyright law we take it from the rich and give it to the poor’ give way to Games of Thrones downloads and name checks for Kim Dotcom, Barack Obama and Wikileaks.

“We admire enthusiasts like people from The Pirate Bay, people like Edward Snowden, people from Wikileaks – who are fighting big corporations and governments – not for profit but because they believe in these ideals, even at the price of their own personal freedoms. It is always inspiring to see people who are finding the way to outsmart the system,” Vedran says.

Dubioza say they aim to deliver positivity “that hits you like a blast of fresh air” and they’ve certainly hit the mark with their attitudes towards file-sharing. Both the new EP and their entire discography have been uploaded in their name on the The Pirate Bay in the past few days and are mirrored on sites including KickassTorrents.

Those enjoying the style and the band’s ethos can join them on tour for the rest of the month.

Source: TorrentFreak, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing and anonymous VPN services.

Why location matters

Esri India hosted the Location Intelligence Summit 2014 in Mumbai and talked about how companies like Bank of America, CISCO, Starbucks and others use location to make better decisions.

Get Started with ArcGIS Open Data

Watch a free online seminar on October 9 to learn how to make the authoritative data from your ArcGIS Online organization accessible, explorable, and downloadable by everyone.

McAfee’s most dangerous cyber celebrities of 2014

Sine Waves, Squares Waves, and the Occasional FFT

I became aware of harmonics and the sound of different shaped waveforms early in my electronics career (mid 1970’s) as I was an avid fan of [Emerson Lake and Palmer], [Pink Floyd], [Yes], and the list goes on. I knew every note of [Karn Evil 9] and could hear the sweeping filters and the fundamental wave shapes underneath it.


I remember coming to the understanding that a square wave, which is a collection of fundamental and (odd) harmonics frequencies, could then be used to give an indication of frequency response. If the high frequencies were missing the sharp edges of the square wave would round off. The opposite was then true, if the low frequencies were missing the square wave couldn’t “hold” its value and the top plateau would start to sag.

Image3Using a copy of [SPICE] a free circuit simulation application, I have created several sine wave sources and summed them together. Seen here, the waves combine into a square wave with it looking squarer as I add more and more signals that are multiples of the main frequency called harmonics. When building a square wave only odd harmonics are used as even harmonics tend to cancel themselves out.

Knofreq1wing now that we can build a square wave from multiple signals it then stands to reason that we can take a waveform apart and display its constituent pieces or signals.

Enter the Spectrum Analyzer; In this case it’s some math that occurs in my Digital [Tektronix] scope in the form of a Fast Fourier Transform (FFT). For this demonstration I left the 102 pound [HP] RF Spectrum Analyzer in its nook below the bench.

Sure enough, the odd harmonics stand out right where they are supposed to be. I could lay a small ruler touching the tips of the waves and they form a straight line. This is possible as the display itself has already been converted to a logarithmic scale.










My inclination is to launch into a diatribe of how these frequencies, always higher than the fundamental, combine to create noise in the RF Spectrum and how the interaction of these waves also get caught up in transmission lines, ground planes, apertures and antennas. Instead I will go back to my roots and put the signals to a speaker so that they might be heard. It’s easy to hear a note from [ELP Lucky Man] and when listening carefully one can start to equate sine wave distortions with “spray” or the extra harmonics that give some depth to a note being played on a synth. Play around with this. Who knows, maybe you’ll end up getting the band back together?



Filed under: classic hacks, Featured

Journey To The Center of Earth

There are a billion Carl Sagan quotes that commemorate Earth, but a personal favorite reminds us that Earth is the shore of the cosmic ocean. As insightful as that is, it glosses over the fact that Earth, in and of itself, is wondrous and full of enigmas. So many, in fact, that modern science has barely scratched the surface. Some might even say that our civilization could thrive for a million more years and we still wouldn’t know everything there is to know about mother Earth.

WATCH: Everything You Need to Know About Planet Earth

The infographic below, created by Neil Walker for GeoCon Investigations, takes you on a tour of Earth’s many layers, even extending all the way down to its core (it literally takes you on a journey to the center of the Earth, in image form.. not the movie). See the depth at which we place graves and see how it measures up to other natural and man-made geological formations:

Image Credit: GeoCon

Image Credit: GeoCon

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. Learn more about our republishing policy here.

The post Journey To The Center of Earth appeared first on From Quarks to Quasars.

Astronomy Photo of the Day (APotD): 10/01/14 — NGC 2452

Image Credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA (Acknowledgements: Luca Limatola, Budeanu Cosmin Mirel)

NGC 2452 (Image Credit: ESA/NASA (Acknowledgements: Luca Limatola, Budeanu Cosmin Mirel) (See a high-resolution image here.)

Meet NGC 2452: a planetary nebula that lurks within the constellation of Puppis.

This region, along with all other regions that are designated as planetary nebulae, formed once a star with the Sun’s mass progressed beyond the red giant phase of stellar evolution (our own Sun will meet a similar fate in about 4 billion years). From that point, the star sheds what’s left of its gaseous envelope, which then forms intricate filamentary structures. In its wake, it also leave behind a tiny, yet impressively hot (for a time) and luminous remnant—called a white dwarf.

Taken using the Hubble Space Telescope, NGC 2452 is a rare gem in many ways. Firstly, we have the extensive number of “petals” that intersect with the bright orbs of light from other stars (which are background and foreground stars that aren’t directly associated with the nebula itself). These petals, in turn, are set alight by the small, dense, Earth-sized white dwarf that holds the remainder of the progenitor star’s mass.

Our dead star still has one trick up its sleeve, it belongs to a subclass of white dwarfs that pulsate. According to the ESA, these pulsations, which see the star’s luminosity vary over time, are driven by “gravity causes waves that pulse throughout the small star’s body.”

Planetary Nebulae:

This article is listed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License (the image attached was released to the public domain). Learn more about our republishing policy here.

The post Astronomy Photo of the Day (APotD): 10/01/14 — NGC 2452 appeared first on From Quarks to Quasars.

Unreal Line-up and Live Stream of Hackaday’s 10th

10th-Anniversary-Lineup-scaledYeah, check out that line-up poster. We’re so lucky to have an unreal collection of talented people pitching in to make this event happen. This Saturday is going to be Epic! Good thing since we’re celebrating 10-years-of-Hackaday!

What’s that you say? You don’t live in Los Angeles and are going to miss out? We’ll be live-streaming the event on:

Hackervision #1

Hackervision #2

You should put this feed on in the background while you hone your solding skills on that project you’ve been meaning to finish.

We will also be recording and posting the talks so that you may watch at your leisure.

Here’s a quick run-through of all that we have going on:

The day will start with three workshops, the first is a tiny-robot build based on [shlonkin's] design. The second is a lockpicking workshop hosted by [datagram] and [Jon King]. And the third is a Lithium charger workshop and build hosted by [Todd Black].

The afternoon brings the mini-conference with major talks by [Ryan '1o57' Clarke], [Steve Collins], [Quinn Dunki], [Jon McPhalen], and [ThunderSqueak]. There will be Lighting Talks by [Tod Kurt] and [Arko], as well as special appearances by Hackaday head editors from the past decade.

In the evening we’ll move into party mode. Music is presented by [The Gentlemen Callers] with interactives by [Deezmaer] and [Two Bit Circus].

If you are interested in attending there may still be conference tickets available. The others are sold out but we’ve asked anyone who is unable to attend to cancel their ticket so they may become available as that happens. Yep, fans of Hackaday are courteous people. Yet another reason to celebrate.

Filed under: Featured

FBI opens malware tool to public as part of radical crowdsourcing plan

The FBI is close to allowing anonymous outsiders to use its Malware Investigator tool for the first time through a dedicated crowdsourcing portal, an official reportedly confirmed at last week's Virus Bulletin conference.

News of the initiative emerged earlier this year, at which point the plan was to give state investigators and enterprises - the FBI's 'community of interest' - the ability to submit malware samples for rapid assessment.

To read this article in full or to leave a comment, please click here

Wounded Warrior Project Sues ‘Rival’ Over Copyright

Helping the most disadvantaged in society is an honorable aim, so it’s always sad when groups with similar missions choose to fight each other in the courts. Making lawyers rich is not what most donors have in mind when they make their contributions.

Still, this is the path being embarked on by the Wounded Warrior Project (WWP). The non-profit, which was founded after the events of 9/11 in order to support wounded veterans of the military, says another non-profit is unfairly piggybacking on its image and marketing.

Keystone Wounded Warriors is an Eastern Pennsylvania-based non-profit which aids veterans by raising awareness and seeking the public’s support for related programs and services.

“Funds donated to Keystone Wounded Warriors are used to support local post-9/11 veterans and their families located in or with ties to Pennsylvania,” KWW says.

Unfortunately WWP have a number of issues with KWW and have ordered their legal team to resolve them via action in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

Lawyers for Wounded Warrior Project are seeking an injunction against Keystone Wounded Warriors on several grounds, including copyright and trademark. Firstly, WWP say that the logo used by KWW is too similar to its own. Both use silhouettes to depict scenes of war in which veterans help veterans, and each use a similar font.


According to PennRecord, the Wounded Warrior Project has used its logo for 10 years and received trademark approval in 2005. This trademark, WWP says, has an estimated publicity value of $500 million.

In addition to a dispute over WWP imagery allegedly present in photographs of KWW fund-raising events, the Wounded Warrior Project says the Keystone Wounded Warriors mission statement is far too close to their own. WWP promise “To honor and empower Wounded Warriors” while their ‘rival’ claims “To honor, empower, aid, and assist Pennsylvania service members.”

While WWP appear to have a reasonable point that KWW’s branding is likely to cause confusion, their demands are such that if KWW lose the case, KWW-supported veterans will suffer. In addition to an advertising campaign to educate donors and the public that the WWP and KWW are not affiliated, WWP is seeking punitive and compensatory damage for any infringements.

According to its latest report, Wounded Warrior Project generated revenues of $300 million, up from $200 million the year before.

Source: TorrentFreak, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing and anonymous VPN services.

Developed on Hackaday: Sometimes, All You Need Is a Few Flags


The development of the Hackaday community offline password keeper has been going on for a little less than a year now. Since July our beta testers have been hard at work giving us constant suggestions about features they’d like to see implemented and improvements the development team could make. This led up to more than 1100 GitHub commits and ten thousand lines of code. As you can guess, our little 8bit microcontroller’s flash memory was starting to get filled pretty quickly.

One of our contributors, [Miguel], recently discovered one compilation and one linker flags that made us save around 3KB of Flash storage on our 26KB firmware with little added processing overhead. Hold on to your hats, this write-up is going to get technical…

Many coders from all around the globe work at the same time on the Mooltipass firmware. Depending on the functionality they want to implement, a dedicated folder is assigned for them to work in. Logically, the code they produce is split into many C functions depending on the required task. This adds up to many function calls that the GCC compiler usually makes using the CALL assembler instruction.

This particular 8-bit instruction uses a 22-bit long value containing the absolute address of the function to call. Hence, a total of 4 flash bytes are used per function call (without argument passing). However, the AVR instruction set also contains another way to call functions by using relative addressing. This instruction is RCALL and uses an 11-bit long value containing the offset between the current program counter and the function to call. This reduces a function call to 2 bytes and takes one less clock cycle. The -mrelax flag therefore made us save 1KB by having the linker switch CALL with RCALL instructions whenever possible.

Finally, the -mcall-prologues compiler flag freed 2KB of Flash storage. It creates master prologue/epilogue routines that are called at the start and end of program routines. To put things simply, it prepares the AVR stack and registers in a same manner before any function is executed. This will therefore waste a little execution time while saving a lot of code space.

More space saving techniques can be found by clicking this link. Want to stay tuned of the Mooltipass launch date? Subscribe to our official Google Group!

Filed under: Hackaday Columns

Young adults clueless on cybersecurity profession

The cybersecurity profession and its role in keeping the Internet safe is lost among young adults, who are therefore less likely to pursue a career in the field, a survey shows.

Millennials aged 18 to 26 understand the importance of protecting themselves online and the majority take steps to do so, the poll of 1,000 young adults, found. But while this awareness has sparked an interest in Internet security, more than six in 10 of the respondents were unaware of the cybersecurity profession and what the job entailed.

"There's an information gap," Michael Kaiser, executive director of the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA), said.

The NCSA commissioned the study, released Wednesday, with defense contractor Raytheon.

To read this article in full or to leave a comment, please click here

5 horror movies that scare security pros

scary movies

Image by Dreamworks

Here are five iconic movies whose plot lines might be adapted to strike fear into the heart of today's tech professionals. The horror movie genre has given us some great classics through the years, but for IT managers the real nightmares are the threats they face every day. This information was supplied by Troy Gill of AppRiver.

To read this article in full or to leave a comment, please click here

Google triples bug bounty reward range to $15,000

Google has tripled its maximum reward for finding flaws in its software to $15,000, a figure the company hopes will deter independent researchers from selling their information on shady markets.

The company had paid a minimum of $500 up to $5,000. But it is now becoming more difficult to find bugs in software such as Chrome, and Google wants to reward the extra effort, wrote Tim Willis of Chrome Security Team in a blog post on Tuesday.

Bug bounty programs have proven fruitful for large Web companies such as Google and Facebook, who can attract a greater number of eyes to their software without hiring more security analysts.

To read this article in full or to leave a comment, please click here

Malware program targets Hong Kong protesters using Apple devices

A malware program that targets Hong Kong activists using Apple devices has trademarks of being developed by a nation-state, possibly China, according to a security company.

Lacoon Mobile Security of San Francisco wrote on its blog on Tuesday that the malware, called Xsser mRAT, is the "first and most advanced, fully operational Chinese iOS trojan found to date."

The Apple malware is related to a malicious Android one found last month that advertised itself as a way for activists to coordinate protests, Lacoon wrote.

Hong Kong has seen massive demonstrations after China moved to only allow candidates it approves to run in the election of the territory's chief executive in 2017. Activists charge China reneged on a promise of an election without restrictions.

To read this article in full or to leave a comment, please click here