Fake News Sharing In US Is a Rightwing Thing, Says Oxford Study ( 997

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: Low-quality, extremist, sensationalist and conspiratorial news published in the U.S. was overwhelmingly consumed and shared by rightwing social network users, according to a new study from the University of Oxford. The study, from the university's "computational propaganda project", looked at the most significant sources of "junk news" shared in the three months leading up to Donald Trump's first State of the Union address this January, and tried to find out who was sharing them and why. "On Twitter, a network of Trump supporters consumes the largest volume of junk news, and junk news is the largest proportion of news links they share," the researchers concluded. On Facebook, the skew was even greater. There, "extreme hard right pages -- distinct from Republican pages -- share more junk news than all the other audiences put together." The research involved monitoring a core group of around 13,500 politically-active U.S. Twitter users, and a separate group of 48,000 public Facebook pages, to find the external websites that they were sharing.

Facebook Hired a Full-Time Pollster To Monitor Zuckerberg's Approval Ratings ( 109

According to The Verge, Facebook hired a full-time pollster to track Mark Zuckerberg's approval ratings last year as the young CEO was making his 50-state tour across the country. The pollster, Tavis McGinn, reportedly "decided to leave the company after only six months after coming to believe that Facebook had a negative effect on the world." From the report: It was April, and Facebook was caught up in the fallout of the 2016 U.S. presidential election. After initially discounting the possibility that fake news had contributed to Donald Trump's victory, Facebook acknowledged that Russia-linked groups had spent more than $100,000 on political advertising. Zuckerberg undertook a nationwide listening tour modeled after a modern political campaign. McGinn would fill another role common to political campaigns: leading an ongoing poll operation dedicated to tracking minute changes in Zuckerberg's public perception. "It was a very unusual role," McGinn says. "It was my job to do surveys and focus groups globally to understand why people like Mark Zuckerberg, whether they think they can trust him, and whether they've even heard of him. That's especially important outside of the United States."

McGinn tracked a wide range of questions related to Zuckerberg's public perception. "Not just him in the abstract, but do people like Mark's speeches? Do they like his interviews with the press? Do people like his posts on Facebook? It's a bit like a political campaign, in the sense that you're constantly measuring how every piece of communication lands. If Mark's doing a barbecue in his backyard and he hops on Facebook Live, how do people respond to that?" Facebook worked to develop an understanding of Zuckerberg's perception that went beyond simple "thumbs-up" or "thumbs-down" metrics, McGinn says. "If Mark gives a speech and he's talking about immigration and universal health care and access to equal education, it's looking at all the different topics that Mark mentions and seeing what resonates with different audiences in the United States," he says. "It's very advanced research."


What Apple's Battery Health 'Fix' Looks Like ( 69

Apple has released new battery health features in iOS 11.3 beta 2, which was seeded to developers today. BGR reports what those battery health functions look like, and how to disable power management if you're using an older iPhone: The feature is contained within a new "Battery Health" menu, which is under the "Battery" tab on iOS 11.3. The page only really has two fields: Maximum Capacity, which shows what percentage of the original charge your battery can still hold; and Peak Performance Capacity, which tells you if your phone's performance is being throttled due to the battery. Right now, there are no options to change anything within the menu. Maximum Capacity should be at 100% for newer phones, and it should fall down to around 80% over the course of about two years of normal use. A Redditor on the iOSBeta forum uploaded a photo of his iPhone 7, which is sitting at 87% capacity. That device still shows peak performance.

On older devices with a worse battery, the phone will show that reduced Maximum Capacity, as well as detail any performance slowdowns due to the decreased battery capacity. On devices that have weaker batteries, the Peak Performance Capability will change to read "This iPhone has experienced an unexpected shutdown because the battery was unable to deliver the necessary peak power. Performance management has been applied to help prevent this from happening again." A small blue hyperlink then says "Disable," which lets you manually turn off your iPhone's performance management.


SpaceX Successfully Lands Two Falcon Heavy Boosters Simultaneously After Rocket Launch [Update] ( 446

After nearly a decade of development, SpaceX's Falcon Heavy rocket has successfully launched from pad 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida today. After reaching orbit, the two side boosters simultaneously landed at Landing Zone One. We do not know the status of the central core of the rocket, which was destined to land on the "Of Course I Still Love You" drone ship roughly 8:19 minutes into the flight.

According to, the Falcon Heavy is the most powerful rocket to launch since NASA's Saturn V -- the iconic vessel that, with 7.5 million pounds of thrust, accomplished the definitive Apollo-era feat of putting astronauts on the moon. Elon Musk says that Falcon Heavy is "twice as powerful as any other booster operating today." As for the payload, it includes a Tesla Roadster electric car. "The Falcon Heavy will send the vehicle around the sun in an elliptical orbit that will extend farther than Mars' orbit," reports

UPDATE: SpaceX has confirmed The Verge's reporting that the middle core of SpaceX's Heavy Rocket missed the drone ship where it was supposed to land. "The center core was only able to relight one of the three engines necessary to land, and so it hit the water at 300 miles per hour," reports The Verge. "Two engines on the drone ship were taken out when it crashed, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said in a press call after the rocket launch. It's a small hiccup in an otherwise successful first flight."

Apple Homepod Review: Locked In ( 73

On Tuesday, the review embargo lifted for full reviews of Apple's new HomePod smart speaker. The Verge's Niley Patel shared his thoughts on Apple's new HomePod in video and written form. Patel found that while it offers best-in-class sound for the price, Siri is frustratingly limited and the voice controls only work with Apple Music. Furthermore, Siri can't tell different voices apart, therefore raising some privacy concerns as anyone can come up to the speaker and ask Siri to send and read text messages and other private information aloud. Here's an excerpt from the report: The HomePod, whether Apple likes it or not, is the company's answer to the wildly popular Amazon Echo and Google Home smart speakers. Apple is very insistent that the $349 HomePod has been in development for the past six years and that it's entirely focused on sound quality, but it's entering a market where Amazon is advertising Alexa as a lovable and well-known character during the Super Bowl instead of promoting its actual features. Our shared expectations about smart speakers are beginning to settle in, and outside of engineering labs and controlled listening tests, the HomePod has to measure up. And while it's true that the HomePod sounds incredible -- it sounds far better than any other speaker in its price range -- it also demands that you live entirely inside Apple's ecosystem in a way that even Apple's other products do not. The question is: is beautiful sound quality worth locking yourself even more tightly into a walled garden? As for technical specifications, the HomePod comes in at 6.8 inches high, 5.6 inches wide, and weights 5.5 pounds. It features a high-excursion woofer with custom amplifier, array of seven horn-loaded tweeters, each with its own custom amplifier, six-microphone array, internal low-frequency calibration microphone for automatic bass correction, direct and ambient audio beamforming, and transparent studio-level dynamic processing.
The Internet

FCC Report Claims Broken Broadband Market Has Been Fixed By Killing Net Neutrality ( 116

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: The FCC has released a new report falsely claiming that the agency's attack on net neutrality is already paying huge dividends when it comes to sector investment and competition. Unfortunately for the FCC, the data the agency is relying on to "prove" this claim comes from before current FCC boss Ajit Pai even took office and doesn't remotely support that conclusion. The Trump FCC's latest broadband deployment report [concludes] that "advanced telecommunications capability is being deployed to all Americans in a reasonable and timely fashion." That claim comes despite the fact that this same data also shows that two thirds of U.S. homes lack access to 25 Mbps broadband from more than one ISP, resulting in numerous broadband monopolies in markets nationwide.

An accompanying press release goes on to claim that "steps taken last year have restored progress by removing barriers to infrastructure investment, promoting competition, and restoring the longstanding bipartisan light-touch regulatory framework for broadband that had been reversed by the Title II Order." The FCC has repeatedly tried to claim that the FCC's 2015 net neutrality rules devastated sector investment -- despite the fact this is easily disproved by ISP earnings reports, SEC filings, and numerous CEO statements to investors. That hasn't stopped this FCC from repeating this claim anyway, apparently hoping that repetition forges reality.
"The problem: these deployments aren't new, and industry watchers note that they all technically began under the oversight of the previous FCC," Motherboard concludes. "All of the examples provided by the agency cite deployments that predominantly occurred in 2017 as the result of obligations attached to mergers or subsidies under the previous Tom Wheeler-run FCC."

Facebook is Talking About Expanding Its TV-like Service, Watch, Into a Rival To YouTube ( 33

Facebook is talking about expanding its TV-like service, Watch, into a rival to Google's YouTube by opening the platform to more individual creators, CNBC reports citing people familiar with the plans. From the report: This would increase the amount of long-form video content that Facebook can sell ads against, and could reverse a decline in the time users are spending on the site. Facebook wants to allow more people to create their own shows on Watch, according to three media agencies who asked they remain anonymous because the conversations are private. Instead of buying rights to these shows, however, Facebook wants to create a system where creators can upload their shows for free, then earn a cut of the revenue from ads placed on that content -- similar to how YouTube pays its online creators. Another source with knowledge of the situation said Facebook's ultimate goal is to create a sustainable ad-supported video platform, where it won't have to pay for the majority of content.

Female Uber Drivers Get Paid Less Than Men, Says Study ( 338

According to a new study by Uber and Stanford economists, male Uber drivers get paid 7 percent more than their female counterparts in the U.S. "That's surprising, because Uber's driver assignments and pay are gender-blind, meaning a driver's gender isn't considered when matching riders or assigning fares," reports Recode. "Rather, pay has to do with trip length, distance and whether it's happening during surge-price hours or not." From the report: There are more male drivers -- women make up 27 percent of Uber drivers in the U.S. -- and male drivers tend to work longer hours. However, on an hourly rate, women still make less, according to the data, which measured trips by 1.8 million drivers from 2015 to 2017. According to the study, discrimination on the customer side isn't the reason for the pay gap, either. So why are female Uber drivers paid less than men? The study points to three reasons that make the gap disappear:

When and where: The times and places female Uber drivers work seem to be less profitable. That could be fewer overnight shifts, shifts with shorter wait times or surge-price shifts than men.
Driver experience: Drivers who've been with Uber longer get paid more, on account of knowing which routes and times tend to pay more. In general, men work for Uber longer than women so they are more experienced. The attrition rate after six months is 77 percent for women and 65 percent for men.
Speed: Male Uber drivers conduct more trips per hour than women, meaning they're actually driving faster, according to the data. More trips mean more money. About 50 percent of the earnings gap is explained away by differences in driving speed.


A Flaw In Hotspot Shield Can Expose VPN Users, Locations ( 25

An anonymous reader quotes a report from ZDNet: A security researcher has found a way to identify users of Hotspot Shield, a popular free virtual private network service that promises its users anonymity and privacy. Hotspot Shield, developed by AnchorFree, has an estimated 500 million users around the world relying on its privacy service. By bouncing a user's internet and browsing traffic through its own encrypted pipes, the service makes it harder for others to identify individual users and eavesdrop on their browsing habits. But an information disclosure bug in the privacy service results in a leak of user data, such as which country the user is located, and the user's Wi-Fi network name, if connected. That information leak can be used to narrow down users and their location by correlating Wi-Fi network name with public and readily available data.

The Mutant All-Female Crayfish, Which Reproduces by Cloning Itself, Is Filling Europe at Alarming Speed ( 279

The marbled crayfish looks much like any other freshwater crustacean. It has two claws, ten legs, and an attractive blue-brown marbled shell. Yet this six-inch creature, found in streams and lakes around the world, is far more sinister than you might expect. From a report: Its new scientific name gives a few clues: Procambarus virginalis. Every marbled crayfish, known as a marmorkreb in German, is female -- and they reproduce by cloning themselves. Frank Lyko, a biologist at the German Cancer Research Center, first heard about the marbled crayfish from a hobbyist aquarium owner, who picked up some "Texas crayfish" at a pet shop in 1995. They were strikingly large, and they laid enormous batches of eggs -- hundreds, in a single go. Soon, the New York Times reports, the hobbyist was beset with so many crayfish he was giving them away to his friends. And soon after that, marmorkrebs were showing up in pet stores upon Europe.

There was something very strange about these crayfish. They were all female, and they all laid hundreds of eggs without mating. These eggs, in turn, hatched into hundreds more females -- with each one growing up fully able to reproduce by herself. In 2003, scientists sequenced their DNA and confirmed what many owners already believed to be the case: Each baby crayfish was a clone of its mother, and they were filling Europe's fishtanks at alarming speed. Just 25 years ago, the marbled crayfish did not exist at all. Now, they can be found in the wild by the millions in Germany, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Croatia, the Ukraine, Japan, and Madagascar.

Social Networks

False Tsunami Warning Sent To the East Coast, Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean ( 51

An anonymous reader shares a report: Some residents along the East Coast received a false tsunami warning on Tuesday morning after a private company sent out an alert following a monthly test by the National Weather Service. A tweet from the National Weather Service (NWS) in Charleston, South Carolina, said the alert was sent around 8:30 a.m. ET. "We have been notified that some users received this test message as an actual Tsunami Warning," the NWS tweeted, adding that a tsunami warning was "not in effect." In a statement to NBC News, the NWS said that a routine test was sent out and that the agency is investigating why it was communicated as an actual tsunami.

Japan Wants To Increase Acceptance of Technology That Could Help Fill the Gap in the Nursing Workforce ( 57

With Japan's ageing society facing a predicted shortfall of 370,000 caregivers by 2025, the government wants to increase community acceptance of technology that could help fill the gap in the nursing workforce. From a report: Developers have focused their efforts on producing simple robotic devices that help frail residents get out of their bed and into a wheelchair, or that can ease senior citizens into bathtubs. But the government sees a wider range of potential applications and recently revised its list of priorities to include robots that can predict when patients might need to use the toilet. Dr Hirohisa Hirukawa, director of robot innovation research at Japan's National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology, said the aims included easing the burden on nursing staff and boosting the autonomy of people still living at home. "Robotics cannot solve all of these issues; however, robotics will be able to make a contribution to some of these difficulties," he said. Hirukawa said lifting robotics had so far been deployed in only about 8% of nursing homes in Japan, partly because of the cost and partly because of the "the mindset by the people on the frontline of caregiving that after all it must be human beings who provide this kind of care."

Drones Could Soon Be Used To Deliver Medical Supplies in North Carolina ( 32

Drones could soon be ferrying blood and other medical supplies to hospitals and clinics in North Carolina if the N.C. Department of Transportation's bid to be part of a federal test program is approved. From a report: NCDOT is leading a team of private companies that proposes to set up a network of distribution centers that would use unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) to make medical deliveries in North Carolina. The drone delivery companies, including Matternet and Zipline, operate overseas but not in the U.S. "We're really excited that drone technology may allow doctors and hospitals to save more lives in North Carolina soon," Bobby Walston, the state Director of Aviation, said in a statement. "We've been researching and investing in drone technology for years at NCDOT. This proposal represents the next big step for us as we remain a national leader in the UAS field." The North Carolina proposal is one of about 210 applications to the Federal Aviation Administration's Drone Integration Pilot Program, a three-year effort launched by the Trump administration last fall to test drones for various purposes to help determine how to safely expand the use of commercial drones in the U.S.

Apple Is Seeing 'Strong Demand' For Replacement iPhone Batteries ( 83

In a letter addressed to the U.S. lawmakers, Apple said earlier this month that it was seeing "strong demand" for replacement iPhone batteries. The company added that it may offer rebates for consumers who paid full price for new batteries. From a report: Apple confirmed in December that software to deal with aging batteries in iPhone 6, iPhone 6s and iPhone SE models could slow down performance. The company apologized and lowered the price of battery replacements for affected models from $79 to $29. In the letter released Tuesday, amid nagging allegations that it slowed down phones with older batteries as a way to push people into buying new phones, the company said it was considering issuing rebates to consumers who paid full price for replacement batteries.

AI Tailors Can Wait ( 71

Bloomberg Businessweek: Original Stitch has all the trappings of an e-commerce success story. The pitch is simple: Original Stitch uses computer-vision software to review photos of your most beloved dress shirts uploaded to the company website, then delivers perfectly tailored copies. We tried it -- the only problem was that it didn't work. When the first shirt arrived too tight around the chest and too long in the sleeves, we figured an editor's sloppy photography was to blame, but the problems persisted with a second attempt. A third shirt, ordered under a different name to make sure we wouldn't get special treatment, could barely be buttoned up. The sleeves felt like tourniquets. "We tried to push the envelope," Original Stitch founder Jin Koh acknowledged after we confronted him with the results. "Obviously, it's still in beta." In December, three months after launching the service, Koh quietly pulled it down. He's returned to asking users to fill out a questionnaire with their own measurements while he works out the bugs.

A Bug in Browser Extension Grammarly, Now Patched, Could Have Allowed an Attacker To Read Everything Users Wrote Online ( 57

Copyediting app Grammarly included a gaping security hole that left users of its browser extension open to more embarrassment than just misspelled words. From a report: The Grammarly browser extension for Chrome and Firefox contained a "high severity bug" that was leaking authentication tokens, according to a bug report by Tavis Ormandy, a security researcher with Google's Project Zero. This meant that any website a Grammarly user visited could access the user's "documents, history, logs, and all other data," according to Ormandy. Grammarly provides automated copyediting for virtually anything you type into a browser that has the extension enabled, from blogs to tweets to emails to your attorney. In other words, there is an unfathomable number of scenarios in which this kind of major vulnerability could result in disastrous real-world consequences. Grammarly has approximately 22 million users, according to Ormandy, and the company told Gizmodo in an email that it "has no evidence that any user information was compromised" by the security hole. "We're continuing to monitor actively for any unusual activity," a Grammarly spokesperson said.

YouTube Kids App Still Showing Disturbing Videos ( 169

YouTube says it is "very sorry" after more disturbing videos were found on the YouTube Kids app. From a report: BBC's Newsround found several videos not suitable for children, including one showing how to sharpen knives. Another had characters from children's cartoon Paw Patrol on a burning plane. YouTube has been criticised for using algorithms rather than human curators to decide what appears on YouTube Kids. In 2015, two child safety groups complained after disturbing videos were found on the YouTube Kids app. YouTube said it needed to "do more" to tackle inappropriate videos being seen by children. Newsround had arranged for five children to meet Google's Katie O'Donovan. They spoke about distressing videos they had seen on the main YouTube website and app. The videos included images of clowns with blood on them, scary advertisements and messages telling them someone was at their door.

The Arctic is Full of Toxic Mercury, and Climate Change is Going To Release it ( 195

We already knew that thawing Arctic permafrost would release powerful greenhouse gases. On Monday, scientists revealed it could also release massive amounts of mercury -- a potent neurotoxin and serious threat to human health. From a report: Permafrost, the Arctic's frozen soil, acts as a massive ice trap that keeps carbon stuck in the ground and out of the atmosphere -- where, if released as carbon dioxide, the greenhouse gas would drive global warming. But as humans warm the climate, they risk thawing that permafrost and releasing that carbon, with microbial organisms becoming more active and breaking down the ancient plant life that had previously been preserved in the frozen earth. That would further worsen global warming, further thawing the Arctic -- and so on. That cycle would be scary enough, but U.S. government scientists on Monday revealed that the permafrost also contains large volumes of mercury, a toxic element humans have already been pumping into the air by burning coal. There are 32 million gallons worth of mercury, or the equivalent of 50 Olympic swimming pools, trapped in the permafrost, the scientists wrote in a study published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters. For context, that's "twice as much mercury as the rest of all soils, the atmosphere, and ocean combined," they wrote.

Apple is Sending Some Developers Ad Spend and Install Details For Other People's Apps ( 14

An issue at Apple appears to be resulting in app developers getting emails of ad spend and install summaries for apps belonging to other developers. From a report: The issue -- which appears specific right now to developers using Search Ads Basic, pay-per-install ads that appear as promoted apps when people search on the App Store -- was raised on Twitter by a number of those affected, including prominent developer Steve Troughton-Smith, who posted a screenshot of an email that summarized January's ad spend and install data another developer's two apps. Several others replied noting the same issue, listing more developers and random apps.
Open Source

A Look at How Indian Women Have Persevered Through Several Obstacles To Contribute to the Open Source Community ( 274

A fascinating story of how Indian women have persevered through various roadblocks, including cultural, to actively contribute to the open source community. An excerpt from the story: As Vaishali Thakker, a 23-year old open source programmer looked over the hall filled with around 200 people, she didn't know how to react to what she had just heard. Thakker was one of the five women on the stage at PyCon India 2017, a conference on the use of the Python programming language, in New Delhi. The topic of the discussion was "Women in open source." As the women started discussing the open source projects they had been working on, the challenges and so on, someone from the audience got up and drew the attention of the gathering to the wi-fi hotspots in the hall. They were named "Shut the fk up" and "Feminism sucks." "It was right on our faces," remembers Thakker. For their part, the organisers were upset and even warned the audience. But the event had no code of conduct for anyone to really penalise or expel the culprits.

"It's disheartening when you're talking about the problem, someone is actually giving a proof that it (gender bias) indeed is a problem. In a way, I found it funny, because how stupid can you be to give the proof that the problem actually exists," says Thakker. And how. It's just been three years in her coding career but she is familiar with the high wall that gender stereotyping puts up in the world of software scripting. More so in her chosen field of coding. Thakker is among a small -- but fast-growing -- set of women coders from India shaping the future of several open source platforms globally including the Linux kernel, the core software program behind the world's biggest eponymous open source software.


Senator Warns YouTube Algorithm May Be Open To Manipulation By 'Bad Actors' ( 179

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: The top-ranking Democrat on the Senate intelligence committee has warned that YouTube's powerful recommendation algorithm may be "optimizing for outrageous, salacious and often fraudulent content" or susceptible to "manipulation by bad actors, including foreign intelligence entities." Senator Mark Warner, of Virginia, made the stark warning after an investigation by the Guardian found that the Google-owned video platform was systematically promoting divisive and conspiratorial videos that were damaging to Hillary Clinton's campaign in the months leading up to the 2016 election.

"Companies like YouTube have immense power and influence in shaping the media and content that users see," Warner said. "I've been increasingly concerned that the recommendation engine algorithms behind platforms like YouTube are, at best, intrinsically flawed in optimizing for outrageous, salacious and often fraudulent content." He added: "At worst, they can be highly susceptible to gaming and manipulation by bad actors, including foreign intelligence entities."
YouTube's algorithm determines which videos to promote in the "Up next" column beside the video player. The Guardian found that "the algorithm was six times more likely to recommend videos that was damaging to Clinton than Trump, and also tended to amplify wild conspiracy theories about the former secretary of state."

US Startups Don't Want To Go Public Anymore ( 154

According to a new working paper from the National Bureau of Economics, the number of American firms listed publicly in the U.S. has dropped more than half. In 1997, more than 7,500 American firms were listed publicly in the U.S. Nearly two decades later, in 2016, the number had dropped to 3,618 firms. Quartz reports: The crux of the issue is that U.S. startups are increasingly shunning stock market boards. That could have worrying implications for America's long-term economic prospects. One big reason young companies are shying away from IPOs is that public listings don't offer much benefit to promising startups, say the paper's authors, economists Craig Doidge, Kathleen Kahle, Andrew Karolyi, and Rene Stulz. In fact, going public can hurt them. The upside of public listing is that it lets companies raise huge sums of capital, issue more shares, issue debt with relative ease, and use equity to fund acquisitions. But because of the ways the American economy has evolved, those advantages are less important than they once were.

When industry powered U.S. growth, companies grew by spending on capital investments like factories and machinery. Back in 1975, firms once spent six times more on capital investments than they did on research and development. But as the U.S. shifted toward a services and knowledge-based economy, intangible investments became increasingly important. In 2002, R&D expenditures for the average firm surpassed capital expenditures for the first time. It's stayed that way since; nowadays, average R&D spending is roughly twice that of capital expenditures. The problem is, two features of public listings -- disclosure and accounting standards -- make things tough on companies with more intangible assets. U.S. securities law requires companies to disclose their activities in detail. But startups are wary of sharing information that might benefit their competitors.


Scientists May Have Discovered the First Planets Outside the Milky Way ( 74

Using data from a NASA X-ray laboratory in space, Xinyu Dai, an astrophysicist and professor at the University of Oklahoma, detected a population of planets beyond the Milky Way galaxy (Warning: source may be paywalled; alternative source). The planets range in size from Earth's moon to the massive Jupiter. From the report: There are few methods to determine the existence of distant planets. They are so far away that no telescope can observe them, Dai told The Washington Post. So Dai and postdoctoral researcher Eduardo Guerras relied on a scientific principle to make the discovery: Albert Einstein's theory of relativity. Einstein's theory suggests light bends when tugged by the force of gravity. In this case, the light is coming from a quasar -- the nucleus of a galaxy with a swirling black hole -- that emits powerful radiation in the distance. Between that quasar and the space-based laboratory is the galaxy of newly discovered planets. The gravitational force of the galaxy bends the light heading toward the Milky Way, illuminating the galaxy in an effect called microlensing. In that way, the galaxy acts as a magnifying glass of sorts, bringing a previously unseen celestial body into X-ray view. In a university news release, Guerras had a less formal way to describe the complicated process: "This is very cool science."

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