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Scientists have captured the first image of a black hole, and the size and scope of it alone will blow your mind.

Scientists have captured the first image of a black hole, and the size and scope of it alone will blow your mind.

It's a hugely historic day for us puny little humans. For the first time ever, astronomers have definitive, visual proof that black holes are actually a real thing in the universe.

A team of 200 scientists captured the image over the course of 10 days, using eight linked telescopes positioned around the globe. Professor Sheperd Doeleman of the Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics, one of the scientists who led the telescope project, has called it "an extraordinary scientific feat."


First image of a black hole seen from Earth. Handout/Getty Images.

"We have achieved something presumed to be impossible just a generation ago," Doeleman told the BBC. Yay, humans.

The numbers are mind-boggling. This black hole is located in a galaxy 500 quadrillion km away from Earth. The black hole itself is 40 million miles across—larger than our entire solar system—and has a mass 6.5 billion times the mass of our sun.

"It is one of the heaviest black holes that we think exists," Professor Heino Falcke, of Radboud University in the Netherlands told the BBC. "It is an absolute monster, the heavyweight champion of black holes in the Universe."

Seeing something so incredibly massive highlights how unbelievably minuscule we humans are in the universe.

Let's try to get a hold of some of these numbers. First of all, 500 quadrillion km (that's 500,000,000,000,000,000, if you want to actually see the crapload of zeroes) is an incomprehensible distance. Even if we could travel at the speed of light—which we can't even come close to—it would take us 50 million years to get there. The fact that we've invented telescopes that can actually see anything that far away is freaking amazing, but it's also a reminder that we are mere flecks upon a speck floating about here in space.

Our planet feels so big to us here on the ground. As an individual, I am one out of approximately 7,000,000,000 humans on Earth. On my feet, I take up about one square foot of the surface area of the Earth, the total of which is 196.9 million square miles. That alone is enough to make me feel pretty small.

But when I think about how a million Earths could fit inside our sun, and the mass of this black hole I'm looking at is 6.5 billion times that?  

Nope. Too big. I just can't.

We could let these numbers spiral us into an existential crisis, or we can use them to gain some much needed perspective.

Trying to ponder the physical expanse of the known universe is enough to make anyone's head explode. And when we add our own individual, physical puniness on top of it? Well, that's a quick and easy way to plunge ourselves into despair over our own insignificance, isn't it?

But one cool thing about being human is that we can choose how we view things. And laying our eyes on a black hole that's 50 million light years away and larger than our solar system offers us an opportunity for some physical and philosophical perspective.

How do our lives appear from that far away? Is that spat with our neighbor or coworker or in-law really that big a deal in the large scheme of things? What does the grudge we're holding onto look like from space? How many things do we blow into huge proportions in our lives that just aren't that important when we get some distance from them? What if we let all of that go?

I know I'm getting all deep-and-feely here, but that's what happens when you start pondering the immensity of space and time and our place in it. An image like this can remind us how tiny our "one wild and precious life" really is. Each of us has one unique shot at our earthly existence, so it only makes sense to focus on what really matters.

Yes, we are small and insignificant compared to the vastness of space. But we are here, and we might as well make the most of our fleeting time, in our teeny tiny spot in the universe, while we have the chance.

Photo courtesy of Girls at Work

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14 things that will remain fun no matter how old you get

Your inner child will thank you for doing at least one of these.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Swings can turn 80-year-olds into 8-year-olds in less that two seconds.

When we’re kids, fun comes so easily. You have coloring books and team sports and daily recess … so many opportunities to laugh, play and explore. As we get older, these activities get replaced by routine and responsibility (and yes, at times, survival). Adulthood, yuck.

Many of us want to have more fun, but making time for it still doesn’t come as easily as it did when we were kids—whether that’s because of guilt, a long list of other priorities or because we don’t feel it’s an age-appropriate thing to long for.

Luckily, we’ve come to realize that fun isn’t just a luxury of childhood, but really a vital aspect of living well—like reducing stress, balancing hormone levels and even improving relationships.

More and more people of all ages are letting their inner kids out to play, and the feelings are delightfully infectious.

You might be wanting to instill a little more childlike wonder into your own life, and not sure where to start. Never fear, the internet is here. Reddit user SetsunaSaigami asked people, “What always remains fun no matter how old you get?” People’s (surprisingly profound) answers were great reminders that no matter how complex our lives become, simple joy will always be important.

Here are 14 timeless pleasures to make you feel like a kid again:

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All images provided by Adewole Adamson

It begins with more inclusive conversations at a patient level

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Adewole Adamson, MD, of the University of Texas, Austin, aims to create more equity in health care by gathering data from more diverse populations by using artificial intelligence (AI), a type of machine learning. Dr. Adamson’s work is funded by the American Cancer Society (ACS), an organization committed to advancing health equity through research priorities, programs and services for groups who have been marginalized.

Melanoma became a particular focus for Dr. Adamson after meeting Avery Smith, who lost his wife—a Black woman—to the deadly disease.

melanoma,  melanoma for dark skin Avery Smith (left) and Adamson (sidenote)

This personal encounter, coupled with multiple conversations with Black dermatology patients, drove Dr. Adamson to a concerning discovery: as advanced as AI is at detecting possible skin cancers, it is heavily biased.

To understand this bias, it helps to first know how AI works in the early detection of skin cancer, which Dr. Adamson explains in his paper for the New England Journal of Medicine (paywall). The process uses computers that rely on sets of accumulated data to learn what healthy or unhealthy skin looks like and then create an algorithm to predict diagnoses based on those data sets.

This process, known as supervised learning, could lead to huge benefits in preventive care.

After all, early detection is key to better outcomes. The problem is that the data sets don’t include enough information about darker skin tones. As Adamson put it, “everything is viewed through a ‘white lens.’”

“If you don’t teach the algorithm with a diverse set of images, then that algorithm won’t work out in the public that is diverse,” writes Adamson in a study he co-wrote with Smith (according to a story in The Atlantic). “So there’s risk, then, for people with skin of color to fall through the cracks.”

Tragically, Smith’s wife was diagnosed with melanoma too late and paid the ultimate price for it. And she was not an anomaly—though the disease is more common for White patients, Black cancer patients are far more likely to be diagnosed at later stages, causing a notable disparity in survival rates between non-Hispanics whites (90%) and non-Hispanic blacks (66%).

As a computer scientist, Smith suspected this racial bias and reached out to Adamson, hoping a Black dermatologist would have more diverse data sets. Though Adamson didn’t have what Smith was initially looking for, this realization ignited a personal mission to investigate and reduce disparities.

Now, Adamson uses the knowledge gained through his years of research to help advance the fight for health equity. To him, that means not only gaining a wider array of data sets, but also having more conversations with patients to understand how socioeconomic status impacts the level and efficiency of care.

“At the end of the day, what matters most is how we help patients at the patient level,” Adamson told Upworthy. “And how can you do that without knowing exactly what barriers they face?”

american cancer society, skin cacner treatment"What matters most is how we help patients at the patient level."https://www.kellydavidsonstudio.com/

The American Cancer Society believes everyone deserves a fair and just opportunity to prevent, find, treat, and survive cancer—regardless of how much money they make, the color of their skin, their sexual orientation, gender identity, their disability status, or where they live. Inclusive tools and resources on the Health Equity section of their website can be found here. For more information about skin cancer, visit cancer.org/skincancer.

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This article originally appeared on 02.25.21


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As if the social pressure wasn't enough, a child that age has to deal with the intensely awkward psychological and biological changes of puberty at the same time.

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