SELFIE WITH BLACKHOLE USING COMPUTER SCIENCE

Black holes are one of the most amazing and intriguing things that we can find in our entire universe. You might be curious to know its attributes. In short, black holes are the last state of a massive star, in which the core collapses within itself due to immense gravity to form a funnel in space-time, which never ends. 

This guy sounds awesome — let us get a picture of it! Well, not so fast. No particle or even electromagnetic radiation such as light can escape from it, which makes it impossible to observe.

Despite such traits, this bad boy leaves traces of a ring of light of hot plasma zipping around it, which reveals the black hole’s event horizon. Einstein’s equation predicts the shape and size of this ring, and acquiring its picture will help to verify that those equations holds the extremist of the conditions in the universe. Now, without further ado, let’s get the picture of the traceable sides of a black hole.
Again, hold your horses! Black holes are so far away from us that these rings will appear astronomically small from the earth. It’s like taking a picture of an orange on the surface of the moon. 

We have an equation:

smallest size = wavelength/telescope size

The equation says, “In order to see smaller objects we need to make our telescope bigger and bigger”. Again, even with the assistance of the most powerful telescope on earth, we cannot reach close to it. For reference, Figure: 1 is the highest resolution image ever taken of the moon, and it contains roughly 13000 pixels. However, you can nearly fit 1.5 million of those balls of vitamin C in a single pixel. So, how big of a telescope do we need to see an orange on the moon’s surface? The answer is 510.1 million km squared. You guessed it right! It’s the size of the earth! It is almost impossible to create such a thing unless you are a green guy with a UFO.

Figure 1: Highest Resolution photograph of Moon

What can we do? It turns out that we can use the magic of computers to create a computational telescope that is the size of the earth, just to take the picture. To do so, we will scatter some powerful telescopes around the globe and synchronize each of them with precise atomic clocks. These telescopes will work together to freeze lights at those instances to collect terabytes of data simultaneously (remember those atomic clocks). To make it more elegant, imagine the earth as a large spinning disco ball as in Figure 2. Now, imagine those telescopes are the individual mirrors like those disco balls, which collects light individually and then combines it to create a full picture. Though covering the whole planet with those mirrors is difficult, but, we can fill them in little spaces and use earth’s rotation to observe different parts of the image. Despite those clever tricks, there will still be gaps in the image; however, we can solve this problem by using advanced algorithms to fill those gaps.

Figure 2: Disco Ball Analogy

Did we take its picture yet?

Well technically speaking, the answer to this question is a big yes and even a big no! We can only see some samples, but there is an infinite number of possible images that are consistent with our results. Now, this is where computer science shines! We can create algorithms that can find the most reasonable image fitting our results. Those algorithms can be considered as a forensic artist who creates the face of the criminals using descriptions. The algorithm ranks the possible images and chooses the most likely image. But here’s the bummer — we have never seen black holes before. What should we assume about the structures of the black holes? We could take a little help from Einstein’s equations, but we still want the picture of what is really happening! If we relied upon Einstein too much then we will get a biased result. In other words, we would like the option open for a giant alien Vacuum cleaner to exist inside a black hole. One way to solve this problem is to impose the features of different kinds of images and see if we get the same results each time. It’s like giving the same description to different sketch artists around the globe, and if all of them produce similar faces then we can be more confident that there are no biasness. Finally, (the drum roll please!) we can complete this puzzle by putting together all of those pieces and obtaining the picture of the bad boy of the universe.

If you are planning to make a run for the Nobel Prize using this ingenious technique, then you are a bit late. On 10th April 2019, a group of dedicated astronomers, physicists, mathematicians, and engineers of Event Horizon Telescope revealed the first-ever picture of a black hole (Messier-87). Similarly, Katherine L. Bouman, a graduate-level computer science student at MIT, was credited for the development of such a powerful algorithm. Without her immense contribution, achieving this milestone would not be possible.

Figure 3: Katherine L. Bouman

Bibliography: Event Horizon Telescope, TED

Images: NASA, Event Horizon Telescope, Google images

Article by
Anurag Timilsina

Computer Engineering 1st year

KU as Hogwarts and Computing as Wizardry

KU as Hogwarts and Computing as Wizardry

If coders were wizards, their coding skills would be their wands and their codes would be the spells they cast. The magic here would be their creations!

Being the student of DoCSE here at KU, hovering around this ‘if’, we could say that we chose KU to be our Hogwarts to learn the magic of the computing world. If KU was my Hogwarts, I would find Platform 9 3/4s at Ratna Park as my King’s Cross Station

Where would you find your Platform 9 3/4s?

I have often wondered if a huge black dog that shows up at KU was an Animagus, Sirius Black and the pigeons that show up all the time at the top of our block if you have noticed, were our version of owls. But, thank god, I have not encountered any Peter Pettigrew as any of my friend’s pet or any Moaning Myrtle in the bathroom.

For many of us in the first semester, COMP 101(C Programming Language) would definitely be the Defense Against The Dark Arts, the most interesting one and in the second semester, PHYS 102 (the one with gradients, curl and divergence) would definitely be the Potions, the toughest one. Metaphorically, for me and my classmates, Manoj Sir, who taught us C, would be Professor Lupin and Ganesh Sir, who taught us Physics would be Professor Snape

What about you people?

You know, what would be more interesting with this ‘if’? Our block 9 could be the Hogwarts Castle and could have The Chamber of Secrets. And who knows, one of us could speak Parseltongue with the snakes we keep seeing while chilling at the fountain near our block. The KU canteen could be the Great Hall, where we dined together. The administration block could be the Shrieking Shack of KU. That way, Harry Potter would get to know his godfather in the KU corner. Moreover, IT Meet could be our Quidditch Cup and IT Park our battlefield
Competing teams, you better work hard if you want to grab a Snitch!

Sadly, having an Invisibility Cloak or a Marauder’s Map is quite impossible in our world. And what’s worse is that the dementors would try to suck happiness from our soul at the times of pressure due to assignments and exams. 
So, wizards, be prepared with your Patronus Charm!

Being a potterhead, I can go on and on about this imaginary wizard world at KU, and those of you who could relate, may want to add some of your imaginations too, here. However, this needs an end; an end that we can learn something valuable from. So, in order to wrap this article up in the most serious and inspirational way possible, I want to emphasize on two major things. First, there is no Sorting Hat in our world. We must recognize our strengths on our own. Second, as I said earlier, our skills are our wands, but, unlike in Harry Potter’s world, neither some Ollivander will be making any wands for us, nor those wands would choose any metaphorical wizard of a real world. Instead, we must choose and build our own wands, our own set of skills.

Finally, as a believer of magic in this real world, only one thing remains to be said, ‘Explore the magic in you, and be the wizard you have always wanted to become!’


PRANIMA KANSAKAR
CE- II/II