An Extraordinary Image of the Black Hole at a Galaxy’s Heart

(Event Horizon Telescope Collaboration et al)

What We’re Following

Until now, no one had actually seen a black hole, though black holes have long been a mesmerizing staple of astronomy class. Researchers today released the first-ever direct image of a black hole—one of the darkest spots in the cosmos, with a gravitational pull so strong that anything that approaches it is quickly devoured. This photogenic black hole, known as Messier 87, is 6.5 billion times the size of the sun and 55 million light-years away. The photo, in all its blurry smudges of black and orange, is a gargantuan scientific achievement that required a team of researchers to wade though 1,000 hard drives’ worth of data to stitch together one composite photo.

Elite colleges dominate headlines for their hyper-selectivity, skewing the higher education conversation in America. (Harvard accepted a record-low 4.5 percent of its applicants for the class of 2023, while Yale boasted of a 5.9 percent acceptance rate.) While the smattering of ivy-laden institutions that accept fewer than one in 10 applicants might disproportionately carry news stories, they comprise less than 1 percent of the roughly 11 million undergraduates in the U.S. The heavy-duty work of educating most American students—and especially low-income students—happens at a broad swath of institutions far beyond the gates of brand-name colleges.

Saahil Desai


Snapshot

A Photo Visit to Mount Fanjing

(Costfoto / Barcroft Media via Getty)

A new UNESCO World Heritage Site, Mount Fanjing in China, is the home of nature reserves and Buddhist temples, including one sitting atop a 330-foot-tall mountain spire, jutting out from the surrounding range.

→ View the full photo essay


Evening Reads

The long-ago senator from Alaska is running for president

Yes, he’s another Democratic candidate running for president. But no, he doesn’t actually want the job:

It’s hard to pick the strangest thing about Mike Gravel’s campaign for president.

Is it the candidate’s 88 years of age? His blunt critique of American foreign policy? Or the fact that he refuses to travel anywhere to sell his candidacy?

Perhaps it’s that the former senator from Alaska’s campaign manager is a 17-year-old finishing his senior year of high school. Or that the stated goal of the Gravel fundraising apparatus is to raise as little money as possible.

No. The single strangest thing about the campaign is that neither the candidate nor the staff supports his bid for president.

→ Read the rest

Hot People Are Stressful

(Yoshiyoshi Hirokawa / Getty)

“Even if they don’t mean any harm, hot people can be very, very stressful,” writes Amanda Mull. It’s science: unexpectedly encountering a person you find extremely attractive can leave any reasonable person very flustered.

The problem starts with brain chemistry. “When you see an attractive person, the left ventral tegmental area of the brain becomes active and will pump out dopamine,” says Helen Fisher, a biological anthropologist who studies attraction at the Kinsey Institute. “Dopamine is a stimulant to the brain, so some people might react with surprise or awkwardness.” That feeling is the weak-kneed giddiness that very attractive people can inspire, which can leave you fumbling for words and feeling off balance, even though a dopamine rush is a fundamentally pleasurable experience.

Based on Fisher’s research, which used fMRI scans to observe the brain lighting up in response to stimuli, the left ventral tegmental area (commonly referred to as the left VTA) is responsible for pleasurable reactions to beauty.

→ Read the rest


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