Entire Buildings Can Be Wrapped In Jackets To Save Energy
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Scientific American:
On a normally peaceful residential road outside The Hague, the Dutch city that serves as seat of government, the whine of a hoisting crane and welding tools heralds a not-so-quiet housing revolution. Four workers standing above me on a scissor lift next to an apartment complex guide a thermally insulated facade 40 feet wide and one story tall into place against the existing wall. Its brickwork pattern of muted brown, grey and beige, and the triple glazed windows, perfectly fit the building's existing frame and openings. The original windows and the very old brick walls had allowed cold drafts inside, and warm interior air to escape, wasting much of the energy used to heat the building. The new facade is primarily fire-resistant expanded polystyrene -- essentially, hollow spheres that trap air to create a thick insulation layer -- faced with hardened clay and sculpted into hundreds of very thin rectangles known as "brick slips."
This new building skin, prebuilt in a factory, was one of a dozen such facades to be attached to local buildings when I visited the suburb on a rainy day in early summer, each structure measured to millimeter precision. The installation is part of a concerted effort to transform energy-inefficient public housing into a set of ultralow-emission homes -- without having to open a wall or remake an attic. The building was being wrapped in the equivalent of a winter jacket -- or summer beer koozie -- avoiding the need to insert insulation inside dozens of walls, lofts and attics. A similarly premade, lightweight, highly insulating material, complete with solar panels, would be installed on the roof, too. The report notes that the average cost to retrofit a family home in the Netherlands is "about $94,000," but it's "comparable to the cost of other routine renovations that deliver no energy savings."
"In one neighborhood in the city of Utrecht, more than a dozen houses and some 250 separate apartments retrofitted in 2019 saw their energy requirements fall from 225 kilowatt-hours per square meter to just 50 kilowatt-hours per square meter, on average. The remaining demand for energy was met with solar power."
Estonia Says a Hacker Downloaded 286,000 ID Photos From Government Database
Estonian officials said they arrested last week a local suspect who used a vulnerability to gain access to a government database and
downloaded government ID photos for 286,438 Estonians. From a report:
The attack took place earlier this month, and the suspect was arrested last week on July 23, Estonian police said in a press conference yesterday, July 28. The identity of the attacker was not disclosed, and he was only identified as a Tallinn-based male. Officials said the suspect discovered a vulnerability in a database managed by the Information System Authority (RIA), the Estonian government agency which manages the country's IT systems.
Mexico Says Officials Spent $61 Million On Pegasus Spyware
Mexico's top security official said Wednesday that two previous administrations
spent $61 million to buy Pegasus spyware that has been
implicated in government surveillance of opponents and journalists around the world. PBS reports:
Public Safety Secretary Rosa Icela Rodriguez said records had been found of 31 contracts signed during the administrations of President Felipe Calderon in 2006-2012 and President Enrique Pena Nieto in 2012-18. Some contracts may have been disguised as purchases of other equipment. The government said many of the contracts with the Israeli spyware firm NSO Group were signed with front companies, which are often used in Mexico to facilitate kickbacks or avoid taxes.
Last week, the government's top anti-money laundering investigator said officials from the two previous administrations had spent about $300 million in government money to purchase spyware. But that figure may reflect all spyware and surveillance purchases, or may include yet-unidentified contracts. Santiago Nieto, the head of Mexico's Financial Intelligence Unit, said the bills for programs like the Pegasus spyware appear to have included excess payments that may have been channeled back to government officials as kickbacks. Nieto said the amounts paid, and the way they were paid, suggested government corruption in an already questionable telephone tapping program that targeted journalists, activists and opposition figures, who at the time included now President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador and his inner circle. The report notes that Mexico "had the largest list -- about 700 phone numbers -- among the thousands reportedly selected by NSO clients for potential surveillance."
Playdate, the Console With a Crank, Will Not Ship Until 2022
Playdate, the portable,
one-bit gaming system with an analog crank as a primary control option, won't be shipping to those who preordered the console anytime soon. According to CNET, "shipping has been
delayed to some point in 2022." From the report:
There's only one place you will be able to get yourself a Playdate. You'll need to head straight to the Playdate website, and be ready to pay $179 for the console. This price is for just the console, and not its Stereo Dock accessory or Pen, which can be ordered separately. The only accessory available right now is a $30 cover, which is only available in a bright purple. The prices and availability for these other accessories have not yet been announced.
To avoid a PlayStation 5-style hunt for availability, the Playdate will not sell out. Instead, the ship date will be bumped incrementally back to match the company's ability to acquire the parts necessary to assemble the consoles. At the time this was last updated, shipping has been delayed to some point in 2022. Oddly enough, there is no set launch date for this console just yet. The Playdate is supposed to be shipping the first 20,000 units at some point in 2021. It's likely Panic will be giving more information on a shipping date in one of its video updates like the one we saw in June.
ISS Briefly Loses Control After New Russian Module Misfires
destinyland shares a report from CNN:
An unusual and potentially dangerous situation unfolded Thursday at the International Space Station, as the newly-docked Russian Nauka module inadvertently fired its thrusters causing a "tug of war" with the space station and briefly pushing it out of position, according to NASA flight controllers. Nauka -- a long-delayed laboratory module that Russian space agency Roscosmos' launched to the International Space Station last week -- inadvertently fired its thrusters after docking with the International Space Station Thursday morning.
NASA officials declared it a "spacecraft emergency" as the space station experienced a loss of attitude (the angle at which the ISS is supposed to remain oriented) control for nearly one hour, and ground controllers lost communications with the seven astronauts currently aboard the ISS for 11 minutes during the ordeal. A joint investigation between NASA and the Russian space agency Roscosmos is now ongoing. "The incident also delayed the launch of the Boeing Starliner uncrewed test flight to the station, which had been set to launch on Friday," adds CNN.
"NASA says the move allows the 'International Space Station team time to continue working checkouts of the newly arrived Roscosmos' Nauka module and to ensure the station will be ready for Starliner's arrival.'"
Tesla Battery Supplier CATL Debuts Cheaper Sodium-Ion Batteries
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg:
Contemporary Amperex Technology Co. unveiled a sodium-ion battery Thursday, a type of lower-density cell that uses cheaper raw materials than batteries made from lithium-ion metals. As well as a first generation of sodium batteries, the Ningde, Fujian-based company also launched a battery-pack solution that can integrate sodium-ion cells and lithium-ion cells into one case, compensating for the energy-density shortage of the former while preserving its advantages.
"Sodium-ion batteries have unique advantages in low-temperature performance, fast charging and environmental adaptability," CATL Chairman Zeng Yuqun said. "Moreover, they're compatible and complementary with lithium-ion batteries. Diversified technical routes are an important guarantee for the long-term development of the industry." While China's CATL is the world's biggest battery maker, supplying Telsa and selling 34.1 gigawatt hours in the first half, up 234% year-on-year for a market share of 30%, like other manufacturers it has been hit by rising raw materials costs. The price of lithium carbonate, a core ingredient in most electric vehicle batteries, has doubled this year while the price of nickel, another key metal, is at a five-month high.
Outside of their lower raw materials costs -- there are abundant sodium resources in the Earth's crust -- sodium-ion batteries have a few advantages. A long charging time won't cause battery damage and their chemical reaction is free of corrosivity. But their lower energy density tends to exclude them from powering passenger vehicles that require decent range, so they're mainly used for low-speed electric vehicles and low-end energy storage solutions. Notwithstanding, CATL said that through breakthroughs in R&D, its first-generation sodium-ion batteries have reached 160 watt-hours/kilogram, a measure of energy density of energy, and should exceed 200 Wh/kg in coming generations.
The European Union Pulls Ahead of the United States In Vaccinations
gollum123 shares a report from The New York Times:
The 27 member states of the European Union altogether have now administered more coronavirus vaccine doses per 100 people than the United States, in another sign that inoculations across the bloc have maintained some speed throughout the summer, while they have stagnated for weeks in the United States. E.U. countries had administered 102.66 doses per 100 people as of Tuesday, while the United States had administered 102.44, according to the latest vaccination figures compiled by Our World in Data. This month, the European Union also overtook the United States in first injections; currently, 58 percent of people across the bloc have received a dose, compared with 56.5 percent in the United States. The latest figures provide a stark contrast with the early stages of the vaccination campaigns this year, when E.U. countries, facing a shortage of doses and delayed deliveries, looked in envy at the initially more successful efforts in the United States, Britain and Israel. But the European Union is now vaccinating its populations at a faster pace than most developed countries. More than 70 percent of adults in the bloc have now received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine.
Google Bans 'Sugar Daddy' Apps From Play Store
updated its inappropriate content policy to
ban "compensated sexual relationships" -- i.e., sugar daddy or sugar dating apps. Ryne Hager writes via Android Police:
If somehow you aren't familiar with the term, a "sugar daddy" is more than a caramel candy on a stick. In the more common vernacular, a sugar daddy is a person -- usually an older man, but you could have a "sugar mommy" or maybe a gender-neutral "sugar parent?" -- that spends or gives money in what is typically a transactional relationship, often for sexual favors.
I don't judge, different people enjoy different things, and if all parties are consenting with full knowledge, I don't see how an arrangement like that really harms anyone. But, it seems Google does care, though the company is clear it's not objecting to the nature of the relationship, merely the fact that they're often sexual relationships with a perceived compensation basis, and the company has a blanket ban on sexual content -- at least partly ignoring the primary impulse for many customers behind more generalized dating apps like Tinder and Hinge, as well as many of the messages that even mainstream dating app users swap.
48 Advocacy Groups Call On the FTC To Ban Amazon Surveillance
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard:
On Thursday, a coalition of 48 civil rights and advocacy groups organized by Athena asked the Federal Trade Commission to exercise its rulemaking authority by banning corporate facial surveillance technology, banning continuous corporate surveillance of public spaces, and protecting the public from data abuse. "The harms caused by this widespread, unregulated corporate surveillance pose a direct threat to the public at large, especially for Black and brown people most often criminalized using surveillance," the coalition wrote in an open letter. "Given these dangers, we're calling on the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to use its rulemaking authority to ban corporate use of facial surveillance technology, ban continuous surveillance in places of public accommodation, and stop industry-wide data abuse."
While a number of firms offer networked surveillance devices to try and make homes "smart," the coalition uses Amazon as a case study into how dangerous corporate surveillance can become (and the sorts of abuses that can emerge) when in the hands of a dominant and anti-competitive firm. From Amazon's Ring -- which has rolled out networked surveillance doorbells and car cameras that continuously surveil public and private spaces -- to Alexa, Echo, or Sidewalk, the company has launched numerous products and services to try and convince consumers to generate as much data as possible for the company to eventually capitalize on. "Pervasive surveillance entrenches Amazon's monopoly. The corporation's unprecedented data collection feeds development of new and existing artificial intelligence products, further entrenching and enhancing its monopoly power," the coalition letter argues.
From this nexus of monopolistic power and unchallenged power, the coalition draws a long list of abuses committed by Amazon that have harmed consumers, communities, and total bystanders. Ring's surveillance devices have been hacked multiple times, have leaked owners' Wi-Fi passwords, and shared locations over the Neighbors App. Vulnerabilities in Alexa risked revealing personally identifiable information, and all this takes place within the context of a lack of transparency around security protocols that force consumers to opt out of surveillance conducted without their consent. On Ring's Neighbors App, racial profiling has been gamified to encourage and escalate surveillance of "suspicious" people. The company collects personal information on children -- a potential violation of the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act -- but has also seen the adoption of its various surveillance devices increase in schools, libraries, and communities across the country. Paired with Amazon's development of deeply biased facial surveillance technology and its partnerships with the police and fire departments of over 2,000 cities, the group argues the potential for abuse outstrips a threshold anyone should be comfortable with. "This type of surveillance is illegal under the FTC Act in Section 5 and in particular the section that talks about unfair and deceptive practices," said Jane Chung, the Big Tech Accountability Advocate at Public CItizen, in an interview. "There's a list of three things that have to be true in order for a practice to be unfair and deceptive according to the FTC. Number 1: it has to cause substantial injury. Number 2: the injury can't be avoidable. And number 3: the injury isn't outweighed by benefits."
"Rulemaking is needed to stop widespread systematic surveillance, discrimination, lax security, tracking of individuals, and the sharing of data. While Amazon's smart home ecosystem, facial surveillance technology, and e-learning devices provide a good case study, these rules must extend beyond this one technology corporation to include any entity collecting, using, selling, and/or sharing personal data."
Weight Lifting, an Original Olympic Sport, May Be Dropped
Weight lifting was one of just nine sports at the first Olympics in 1896, but its
days on the summer program may be numbered. From a report:
After decades of rampant doping, bribery, vote-rigging and corruption at weight lifting's highest levels, the International Olympic Committee finally took action last year by threatening to drop the sport from the Games in the coming months if the International Weightlifting Federation does not introduce a host of fixes, including rigorous drug testing measures and governance reforms.
The prognosis is not good. The leaders of the weight lifting federation failed during a key vote on June 30 to get the support needed to pass a new constitution aimed at addressing concerns from the Olympic committee. Delegates from the United States, Germany and China, among others, could not persuade their counterparts from the former Soviet republics, Latin America and other "old guard" weight lifting nations that would be hurt by tighter antidoping measures. If the federation, known as the I.W.F., cannot keep weight lifting on the Olympic program, millions of dollars would be cut off from a sport that lacks major television contracts or sponsors. Already, the I.O.C. had reduced the number of lifters in Tokyo to 196 from 260 during the Rio de Janeiro Games in 2016. The number will be cut again, to 120, at the Paris Games in 2024.
Windows 11 Now Has Its First Beta Release
released the first beta of Windows 11, available to those enrolled in its Windows Insider Program. From a report:
Until today, getting access to Windows 11 meant installing the Dev preview, which Microsoft says is for "highly technical users" as it has "rough edges." According to Microsoft, the beta release is less volatile, with builds being validated by Microsoft (though it's still probably something you'll want to install on a test machine or second partition). Of course, to install the beta you'll need a compatible computer. Figuring out if your hardware will work with the next version of Windows has been notoriously tricky to pin down, but Microsoft's article about preparing for Insider builds directs people to its system requirements page. The company has said that it will be paying close attention to how well 7th Gen Intel and AMD Zen 1 CPUs work during the testing period, so it's possible those systems could be allowed to run the beta but not the final release.
Tencent Is World's Worst Stock Bet With $170 Billion Wipeout
China's unprecedented crackdown on its technology industry has turned Tencent Holdings from a market darling into the
world's biggest stock loser this month. From a report:
The Chinese Internet giant had tumbled 23% in July as of Wednesday, set for its worst month ever after erasing about $170 billion of market value. That marks the fastest evaporation of shareholder wealth worldwide during this period, Bloomberg data shows. Nine of the top 10 losers in shareholder value this month are Chinese companies, including Meituan and Alibaba Group Holding. Tencent's shares rebounded by 7.1% on Thursday morning, tracking broader gains in Chinese stocks after Beijing intensified efforts to alleviate concerns about its crackdown on the private education industry. The Shenzhen-based firm is one of the key casualties of an official campaign that targets some of the nation's tech behemoths considered posing a potential threat to China's data security and financial stability. The selloff in its shares intensified earlier this week after Beijing broadened the regulatory clampdown to include other once high-flying industries such as private education.
Scarlett Johansson Sues Disney Over 'Black Widow' Streaming Release
Black Widow has a new enemy: the Walt Disney. From a report:
Scarlett Johansson, star of the latest Marvel movie "Black Widow," filed a lawsuit Thursday in Los Angeles Superior Court against Disney, alleging her contract was breached when the media giant released the film on its Disney+ streaming service at the same time as its theatrical debut. Ms. Johansson said in the suit that her agreement with Disney's Marvel Entertainment guaranteed an exclusive theatrical release, and her salary was based in large part on the box-office performance of the film.
"Disney intentionally induced Marvel's breach of the agreement, without justification, in order to prevent Ms. Johansson from realizing the full benefit of her bargain with Marvel," the suit said. The suit could be a bellwether for the entertainment industry. Major media companies are prioritizing their streaming services in pursuit of growth, and are increasingly putting their high-value content on those platforms. Those changes have significant financial implications for actors and producers, who want to ensure that growth in streaming doesn't come at their expense.
Facebook's Next Hardware Launch Will Be Its Ray-Ban 'Smart Glasses'
Facebook's next hardware launch
will be its long-awaited Ray-Ban 'smart glasses,' CEO Mark Zuckerberg confirmed on an earnings call this week. When exactly the glasses will arrive is unclear. We least heard they were launching some time in 2021, but the pandemic has changed a lot of companies' plans, and Zuckerberg did not comment on a time frame. From a report:
"Looking ahead here, the next product release will be the launch of our first smart glasses from Ray-Ban in partnership with EssilorLuxottica," said the Facebook CEO. "The glasses have their iconic form factor, and they let you do some pretty neat things."
We don't know what those "neat things" are, though Facebook has previously confirmed that the glasses will not have an integrated display and are not classified as an augmented reality device. Will they be able to make voice calls? Will they have access to a smart assistant? It's not clear. Though without an integrated display, they will presumably rely on a paired smartphone app for controls, similar to Snap Spectacles or Amazon's Echo Frames.
White House Touts Broadband Part of New Infrastructure Deal
The White House announced Wednesday that its "
once-in-a-generation investment in our infrastructure" would include a part dedicated to improving Americans' access to the internet. From a report:
Later, the Senate passed a critical test vote by 67-32, suggesting possible passage of the entire infrastructure bill in the coming days. "This bipartisan deal is the most important investment in public transit in American history and the most important investment in rail since the creation of Amtrak 50 years ago," President Joe Biden said in a statement Wednesday afternoon. "It will deliver high speed internet to every American."
Neither precise details of the broadband section nor the text of the whole bill has been released yet. The White House said in a related statement that a $65 billion investment for broadband, out of $550 billion in new spending, would ensure that "every American has access to reliable high-speed internet," comparing it to the electrification of the country a century ago. The National Telecommunications and Information Administration, part of the Commerce Department, published a comprehensive interactive online map last month. The document shows how poorer, more rural and tribal areas generally don't have affordable broadband access.
Nikola Founder Trevor Milton Indicted on Three Counts of Fraud
A federal grand jury on Thursday indicted Nikola's founder and former executive chairman, Trevor Milton, and
charged the former executive three counts of fraud, the company confirmed. The grand jury charged Milton with two counts of securities fraud and wire fraud while allegedly lying about "nearly all aspects of the business." From a report:
"Today's government actions are against Mr. Milton individually, and not against the company," a Nikola spokesperson said in a statement. "Nikola has cooperated with the government throughout the course of its inquiry. We remain committed to our previously announced milestones and timelines and are focused on delivering Nikola Tre battery-electric trucks later this year from the company's manufacturing facilities." The US Attorney's Office in Manhattan did not immediately return Roadshow's request for comment, but CNBC reports that Milton surrendered to authorities and will appear in court later today. Milton resigned as executive chairman of Nikola last September following an in-depth financial investigation report from Hindenburg Research. Hindenberg confirmed it took a short position on the company's stock when revealing numerous allegations against the company, including a number of falsehoods Milton presented.
New Android Malware Records Smartphones via VNC To Steal Passwords
Security researchers have discovered a novel piece of Android malware that
uses the VNC technology to record and broadcast a victim's smartphone activity, allowing threat actors to collect keyboard presses and app passwords. From a report:
First spotted in March 2021 by Dutch security firm ThreatFabric, this new piece of malware, named Vultur, is a departure from other Android malware strains that usually rely on fake login screens floating on top of legitimate apps to collect a victim's credentials. Instead, Vultur opens a VNC server on the infected phone, and broadcasts screen captures to an attacker command and control server, where the Vultur operator extracts passwords for desired apps.
LinkedIn To Allow Most Employees To Work Remotely, Reversing Course
LinkedIn will allow most employees to
opt for full-time remote work as offices gradually reopen, Chief People Officer Teuila Hanson told Reuters. From the report:
This new policy from Microsoft's professional social networking site is a reversal of the company's initial indication last October that employees would be expected to work from an office 50% of the time, when COVID-19 pandemic restrictions lift. The updated policy, offering employees the flexibility to work remotely full-time or work at an office part-time, will apply to LinkedIn's global workforce of more than 16,000 employees. "We anticipate that we'll definitely see more remote employees than what we saw prior to the pandemic," Hanson said in a Wednesday interview ahead of the announcement, adding that some jobs would require in-office work.
Cook, Pichai Join CEOs Urging Congress Pass Path to Citizenship
More than 90 chief executive officers, including those at Apple, Amazon and Facebook on Thursday urged Congress to pass a law offering a citizenship
path to young immigrants brought illegally to the U.S. as children. From a report:
In a letter to President Joe Biden and congressional leaders, the executives said thousands of the immigrants -- known as Dreamers -- are "valued employees at our companies," but a federal judge's recent ruling against a program protecting them "throws into chaos" their ability to live and work legally in the U.S. "Securing a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers not only is the right thing to do, but is a huge economic benefit to the United States," the CEOs wrote in the letter. "The latest court ruling makes it all the more urgent that Congress take up and pass a legislative solution right away." The letter seeks to increase pressure on Republicans in Congress who are likely to oppose Democrats' efforts to pass the measure allowing for legal status for as many as 8 million undocumented immigrants.
Pfizer Vaccine Effectiveness Drops To 84 Percent After Six Months, Study Finds
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Hill:
The effectiveness of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine fell from 96 percent to 84 percent over six months, according to data released on Wednesday. The preprint study funded by the companies determined that the vaccine's effectiveness reached a high point of 96.2 percent within two months after the second dose. But the efficacy "declined gradually" to 83.7 percent within six months, with an average decrease of about 6 percent every two months. But even with the slip in efficacy, the data indicates the vaccine offers protection six months later.
The ongoing study with more than 44,000 participants across the Americas and Europe determined the vaccine was overall 91.1 percent effective, after 81 cases emerged among the vaccinated and 873 among those who received the placebo. The efficacy of the vaccine against severe disease including hospitalizations remained high, at 97 percent. Researchers will continue to observe participants of the study up to two years and combined with "real-world" data "will determine whether a booster is likely to be beneficial after a longer interval." If the efficacy continued to decrease at the current rate, it could fall below 50 percent within 18 months, suggesting that booster shots could be needed.
Amazon's Older Kindles Will Start To Lose Their Internet Access In December
Amazon's Kindle e-readers with built-in 3G
will begin to lose the ability to connect to the internet on their own in the US in December, according to
an email sent to customers on Wednesday. The Verge reports:
The change is due to mobile carriers transitioning from older 2G and 3G networking technology to newer 4G and 5G networks. For older Kindles without Wi-Fi, this change could mean not connecting to the internet at all. As Good e-Reader first noted in June, newer Kindle devices with 4G support should be fine, but for older devices that shipped with support for 3G and Wi-Fi like the Kindle Keyboard (3rd generation), Kindle Touch (4th generation), Kindle Paperwhite (4th, 5th, 6th, and 7th generation), Kindle Voyage (7th generation), and Kindle Oasis (8th generation), users will be stuck with Wi-Fi only. In its email announcement, Amazon stresses that you can still enjoy the content you already own and have downloaded on these devices, you just won't be able to download new books from the Kindle Store unless you're doing it over Wi-Fi.
Things get more complicated for Amazon's older Kindles, like the Kindle (1st and 2nd generation), and the Kindle DX (2nd generation). Since those devices relied solely on 2G or 3G internet connectivity, once the networks are shut down, the only way to get new content onto your device will be through an old-fashioned micro-USB cable. For customers affected by the shutdown, Amazon is offering a modest promotional credit (NEWKINDLE50) through August 15th for $50 towards a new Kindle Paperwhite or Kindle Oasis, along with $15 in-store credit for ebooks. While arguably the company could do more to help affected customers (perhaps by replacing older devices entirely) this issue is largely out of Amazon's hands.
First Detection of Light From Behind a Black Hole
Stanford University astrophysicist Dan Wilkins has
spotted the first detection of light from behind a black hole. Phys.Org reports:
"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 Wilkins, who is a research scientist at the Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology at Stanford and SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory. It is another strange characteristic of the black hole, however, that makes this observation possible. "The reason we can see that is because that black hole is warping space, bending light and twisting magnetic fields around itself," Wilkins explained. The strange discovery, detailed in a paper published July 28 in Nature, is the first direct observation of light from behind a black hole -- a scenario that was predicted by Einstein's theory of general relativity but never 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 Roger Blandford, a co-author of the paper who is the Luke Blossom Professor in the School of Humanities and Sciences and Stanford and SLAC professor of physics and particle physics.
The original motivation behind this research was to learn more about a mysterious feature of certain black holes, called a corona. Material falling into a supermassive black hole powers the brightest continuous sources of light in the universe, and as it does so, forms a corona around the black hole. This light -- which is X-ray light -- can be analyzed to map and characterize a black hole. [...] As Wilkins took a closer look to investigate the origin of the flares, he saw a series of smaller flashes. These, the researchers determined, are the same X-ray flares but reflected from the back of the disk -- a first glimpse at the far side of a black hole. [...] The mission to characterize and understand coronas continues and will require more observation.