Science & Tech

Neither Rome nor universe built in a day

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Theoretical astrophysicists have explained seeming paradox

Theoretical astrophysicists Stuart B. Wyithe and Abraham Loeb at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) have explained a paradox that has troubled scientists for years. Observations seem to show that giant black holes containing as much mass as three billion suns formed less than a billion years after the Big Bang. Collecting so much material so quickly was as unlikely as building a 20-room mansion in a day’s time. Recently the researchers calculated that the light from a significant fraction of the most-distant quasars is likely being magnified by intervening matter, making the quasars’ central black holes seem 10 to 100 times larger than they actually are. It’s the equivalent of learning that what you thought was a 20-room mansion actually was a one-room shed, easily constructed in a day. The findings were published in the June 27, 2002, issue of the scientific journal Nature.