1. A beautiful big black hole
The black hole is located inside the Messier 87 galaxy some 54 million light years from Earth, that’s a mere 500 million trillion km, so what you see is a snapshot of something that happened 54 million years ago. Described as “a monster” it measures 40 billion km across.
- The first ever close up an image of a black hole was captured by eight radio telescopes around the world spanning six cities on three continents, and involved the work of more than 200 scientists.
I heard on the radio that they were dealing with 9 million gigabytes of data. If you think that was floating around on the interwebs, you are wrong. Astromony says, for example, they flew a pallet packed with the hard drives from the South Pole to the Max Planck Institute in Bonn, Germany, and the MIT-Haystack Observatory in Westford, Massachusetts for analysis.
Astonishingly, the actual black hole, which is 6.5 billion times the mass of our sun, takes up no space at all (that does my head in). So what you see is a shadow of the black hole surrounded by an accretion disc. Feryal Özel is an astrophysicist at the University of Arizona explains:
“When the light falls into the event horizon, that part is dark in the image. Whether or not shadow is the perfect word, it imprints this darkness on the surrounding emission.”
I guess that explains why it looks like a donut rather than a fiery ball. The bloke on the radio said it was a marvelous tribute to science that the image looked exactly like what they expected. No-one had managed to see one before. Their existence and size was inferred by the gravitational effect on their surrounds.
The image also shows that Einstein was right, again. Dr Ziri Younsi, of University College London, helpfully explains:
“Although they are relatively simple objects, black holes raise some of the most complex questions about the nature of space and time, and ultimately of our existence,” he said.
But exactly what it says about our existence, origins and the nature of reality is still a mystery.
2. China has plans – for us
The Oz carried a story on Monday saying Chinese state-owned coal power stations putting out tenders for coal are openly preferring Indonesian coal. S&P Global Platts’ Asian thermal coal expert Michael Cooper said, “the traders say there is a political dimension to it”.
The AFR has a man in China, Michael Smith, who writes that China’s buyers are shifting from Australian coal. He’s attended a couple of coal conferences and spoke to a lot of people. Some are oblique, but try this:
“The ban on Australian coal has created a lot of disturbance for coal traders, coal users and related industries. But it is more important for China to give Australia a good lesson,” Liang Chengbao, a coal trader for Quan Jun Da Industrial, said.
“Australia has been following the United States closely and blindly while it reaps huge profit from Chinese resource buyers.
“We must take some action to make Australia understand China’s stand and the serious consequences [it faces] by offending China.”
Here’s the official line:
- Officially, China is not targeting Australian coal with restrictions which are delaying shipments by up to 45 days. Both Canberra and Beijing have said the move is not politically-motivated.
So the ban is not a ban and there is nothing to see- except that everyone can see it. For example, Australian coal is being singled out for environmental tests compared to shipments from Indonesia, Russia or Mongolia.
There is no doubt in anyone’s mind that what is happening is related to Australia’s decision to ban China’s Huawei from selling 5G telecommunications equipment.
China has made an informal complaint to the World Trade Organisation. If China lodges a formal WTO challenge Australia may struggle to defend it:
If China were to lodge a formal challenge, former WTO legal officer and Melbourne University lecturer Professor Tania Voon warned Australia would face significant challenges defending either of these positions, with the national security argument in particular “a stretch”.
However, Prof Voon said if the WTO were to rule in China’s favour, it could prompt the US to make good on it’s threat to withdraw from the WTO which couldn’t really function without the US.
3. NSW senate election
This article in the Oz highlighted the fact that the last seat in the NSW Legislative Council was won by vegan body builder Emma Hurst for the Animal Justice Party:
She defeated Liberal Democrat David Leyonhjelm and Keep Sydney Open’s Tyson Koh for the final spot. So:
One Nation under Mark Latham has won two seats in the NSW upper house and will form a conservative coalition to hold the balance of power with the Christian Democrats and Shooters, Fishers and Farmers.
Overall, after the final NSW Legislative Council preferences distribution this morning from the March 23 state election, the Coalition won eight seats (taking their number to 17), Labor won seven seats (taking their number to 14), the Greens one (three), the Shooters Fishers and Farmers one (two), One Nation’s Mark Latham two, Animal Justice Party one (two).
The Christian Democrats have one seat, with Paul Green missing out. Justin Field moved from the Greens to sit as an independent after the election.
If the Oz story is pay-walled, there is an AAP report in The Guardian.
4. Will Israel Folau get the flick?
Almost certainly, yes.
Izzy stoked controversy again by posting a message on his Instagram account that said “hell awaits” “drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists and idolators” — adding they should “repent”.
Rugby Australia and the NSW Waratahs wasted no time in standing him down. Apart from Alan Jones, who defended Folau on free speech grounds, there was little support for Folau. However, reporter Andrew Webb said:
“When Israel Folau posts something like that, I couldn’t care less. It doesn’t hurt me, because if I allow myself to be hurt by something like that, then I’ll go insane. I’ll have to live in a cave.
“It would have hurt the 17-year-old me for sure and that’s why I agree with them (Rugby Australia) being so tough on him.
“But when you’re on the end of real homophobia, really, really tough stuff, which I have been in the last few years since I’ve been out in my job … what Israel Folau says doesn’t hurt me.
“What I get upset about is when I write about it, and when I wrote about it a year ago, when certain figures at Rugby Australia said, ‘You’re only writing about this because you’re gay’. Now that’s homophobia, and that pisses me off.”
Folau doubled down on his statement – see ‘I’m more than happy to do what He wants me to do’: unrepentant Folau in the SMH who went to church with him.
Apparently God wants him to speak up about what is right. Of course, Folau means no harm, he’s only trying to help people, and bear witness as God wants him to do.
Rugby League don’t want him back. There may be opportunities to play rugby union in Japan or France, and former player Tim Horan suggested Izzy may have engineered his own sacking to do just that. I think that underestimated his sincerity.
It has been suggested that Folau has grounds for legal claim against religious discrimination, say experts.
Personally, I’d just ignore what he says, rather than put accelerant on it by making it into a huge issue. Ironically he’s acting out of love rather than hate, but in the current climate that gets lost. I don’t think what he’s done amounts to “bullying, harassment or discrimination”.
Behind it all, Qantas is a sponsor, headed by Alan Joyce, who is gay and has an opinion as well as purse strings. You may remember Joyce from this post from May 2017:
But really, I’d like to remember Folau for this try in State of Origin: