I think it's very important to have a feedback loop, where you're constantly thinking about what you've done and how you could be doing it better. I think that's the single best piece of advice: constantly think about how you could be doing things better and questioning yourself.
- Elon Musk
Two great things happened this week - two companies announced flights to space! It started with Virgin Galactic. Virgin Galactic has signed a deal with the US Federal Aviation Authority (FAA), which will allow it to charter space flights from its base in the US state of New Mexico. The agreement lays out rules for how the flights will be integrated into US air space. In a statement, Virgin Galactic said the deal brings it "another step closer" to commercial space flights. The firm hopes to launch its first flight by the end of 2014.
It continued with incredible Elon Musk and his SpaceX. SpaceX, which has flown unmanned cargo capsules to the International Space Station, planned to unveil a spacecraft Thursday designed to ferry astronauts to low-Earth orbit. In a NASA briefing with reporters last year, Musk said the manned version would look futuristic, like an "alien spaceship" with side-mounted thrusters, landing legs that pop out and large windows for astronauts to marvel at Earth's curvature. Since the shuttle fleet retired in 2011, NASA has depended on Russian rockets to transport astronauts to orbit and back, paying nearly $71 million per seat. The space agency has said it wants U.S. companies to fill the void by 2017 and has given out seed money to spur innovation. SpaceX- short for Space Exploration Technologies Corp. - has made four cargo runs to the orbiting outpost. Just last month, its Dragon capsule splashed into the Pacific, returning nearly 2 tons of science experiments and old equipment.
What we saw today is called Dragon v2. This is the first attempt by a private company to restore Americans' ability to send people to the orbiting space station in the wake of the space shuttle program's retirement in 2011. The shiny Dragon V2 shown on a white stage floor, as a scorched Dragon cargo capsule was suspended above, bearing the blackened markings of a capsule that had returned to Earth from orbit. Musk said a key feature of the Dragon V2 is that it will be able to "land anywhere on Earth with the accuracy of a helicopter". The crew spacecraft will be able to use rocket propulsion and deploy legs to land, instead of using parachutes to make an ocean splash-landing the way the cargo capsule does. It will however still have parachutes that it can use for a landing in case any engine problems are detected before touchdown on Earth. The V2 also carries an improved heat shield and will be able to autonomously dock with the space station, instead of needing the space station's robotic arm to catch it and pull it in. Musk touted the reusability of the Dragon V2, allowing it to cut back on expensive space journeys. Well, finally, as throwing aways rockets and ships made space journeys very expensive. SpaceX has said its crew capsule may be able to reach the ISS with astronauts aboard by 2017. Meanwhile, NASA says it is focusing on building a new deep space capsule that could take humans to Mars by the 2030s. You can check Dragon V2: The SpaceX next generation space capsule for mode details and whole recording of presentation.
What about doing something about transportation here on the ground... No problem - check The Flying Car That Could Expedite Your Morning Commute.
Meanwhile, Google is becoming corporation as from some futuristic movie with fingers everywhere - including earthly traffic with their Google self-driving cars.
ATLAS has launched a very intriguing competition. You can participate too, if you have some programming skills; no knowledge of particle physics is needed as Tommaso says on this blog - see ATLAS Challenges You: Can You Discover The Higgs ?. All you need to do is - go through the given data set and find Higgs. Well, I doubt you can do this without any knowledge of particle physics. It was funny to see some reaction on other blogs. Tommaso, who is part of CDF @ LHC joined challenge and I was quote sure Lubos Motl would too - just to be better than him. His first blog about this was The Reference Frame: ATLAS: find Higgs, win $7k and he did quick and dirty code and got into the challenge. Then, after just two days, he refined his code and got number 9 - see The Reference Frame: Higgs contest, top ten. Well, congratulations to Lubos. And as expected, he didn't miss to mention Tommaso neither who holds 116th place (at least back then). Lubos message to him was - "Maybe he should try to learn some string theory if he's not too good at evaluating the data from particle physics experiments. Or better not... ;-)" It remains to be seen how this game will finish, but it is loads of fun for sure. Lubos blog also has some nice updates in comment area.
The recent BICEP2 observations - of swirls in the polarisation of the cosmic microwave background - have been proclaimed as many things, from evidence of the Big Bang and gravitational waves to something strange called the multiverse. Adam Falkowski, a physicist working at CERN, on his Particle Physics Blog, is claiming that researchers on the BICEP2 team that uploaded a paper to the arXiv preprint server this past March have acknowledged to some in the science community that there may be a problem with their methodology. Members of the BICEP2 research team are denying Falkowski's claim, but the assertion has led to rumors on the Internet that the team may not have found evidence of cosmic inflation after all. Now, you may remember when I wrote on this subject that this has to be confirmed first by the others - and same statement remains. It is exciting claim and I cheer for it, but it needs to be verified first.
For those who might not remember, BICEP2 is a project working to detect polarized light within the cosmic microwave background (CMB). Specifically they were looking for a type of polarization known as B-mode polarization. Detection of B-mode polarization is important because one mechanism for it is cosmic inflation in the early universe, which is exactly what BICEP2 claimed to have evidence of. Part of the reason BICEP2 got so much press is because B-mode polarization is particularly difficult to detect. It is a small signal, and you have to filter through a great deal of observational data to be sure that your result is valid. But you also have to worry about other sources that look like B-mode polarization, and if you don't account for them properly, then you could get a "false positive". That's where this latest drama arises.
In general this challenge is sometimes called the foreground problem. Basically, the cosmic microwave background is the most distant light we can observe. All the galaxies, dust, interstellar plasma and our own galaxy is between us and the CMB. So to make sure that the data you gather is really from the CMB, you have to account for all the stuff in the way (the foreground). We have ways of doing this, but it is difficult. The big challenge is to account for everything. Soon after the BICEP2 results, another team noted a foreground effect that could effect the BICEP2 results. It involves an effect known as radio loops, where dust particles trapped in interstellar magnetic fields can emit polarized light similar to B-mode polarization. How much of an effect this might have is unclear. Another project being done with the Planck satellite is also looking at this foreground effect, and has released some initial results, but hasn't yet released the actual data yet.
Now it has come to light that BICEP2 did, in fact, take some of this foreground polarization into account, in part using results from Planck. But since the raw data hadn't been released, the team used data taken from a PDF slide of Planck results and basically reverse-engineered the Planck data. It is sometimes referred to as "data scraping", and it isn't ideal, but it works moderately well. Now there is some debate as to whether that slide presented the real foreground polarization or some averaged polarization. If it is the latter, then the BICEP2 results may have underestimated the foreground effect. Does this mean the BICEP2 results are completely invalid? Given what I've seen so far, I don't think it does. Keep in mind that the Planck foreground is one of several foreground effects that BICEP2 did account for. It could be a large error, but it could also be a rather minor one.
The important thing to keep in mind is that the BICEP2 paper is still undergoing peer review. Critical analysis of the paper is exactly what should happen, and is happening. This type review used to be confined to the ivory towers, but with social media it now happens in the open. This is how science is done. BICEP2 has made a bold claim, and now everyone gets to whack at them like a piñata. The BICEP2 team stands by their work, and so we'll have to see whether it holds up to peer review. We'll also have to wait for the Planck team to release their results on B-mode polarization. Eventually the dust will settle and we'll have a much better handle on the results.
Here is Peter Woit's take on this subject: BICEP2 News. Sabine Hossenfelder had her take in Backreaction: What is direct evidence and does the BICEP2 measurement prove that gravity must be quantized? Jester was following this very closely and you can read his pieces: Is BICEP wrong?, Follow up on BICEP and Weekend plot: BICEP limits on tensor modes. Lubos Motl has his take in BICEP2 vs Planck: nothing wrong with screen scraping. Matt Strassler joined too with Will BICEP2 Lose Some of Its Muscle? and The BICEP2 Dust-Up Continues. As Jester said, "BICEP may remain a Schrödinger cat for a little while longer".
One important note: even if BICEP2 results turn out to be bogus, this has no effect on inflation theory. Read Don’t believe in cosmic inflation? You’re not alone, but you’re probably wrong for some more details.
New images of Earth's Moon reveal more than can be seen with the naked eye, thanks to the combined efforts of the two largest radio telescopes of their kind - the National Radio Astronomy Observatory's Green Bank Telescope (GBT) in West Virginia and the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico.
The first image reveals previously hidden features around an area known as Mare Serenitatis, or the Sea of Serenity, which is near the Apollo 17 landing site. The radar observations were able to "see" approximately 10-15 meters below the lunar surface. The light and dark features are the result of compositional changes in the lunar dust and differences in the abundance of rocks buried within the soil.
The second image is a similar observation of the lunar impact crater known as Aristillus. The radar echoes reveal geologic features of the large debris field created by the force of the impact. The dark "halo" surrounding the crater is due to pulverized debris beyond the rugged, radar-bright rim deposits. The image also shows traces of lava-like features produced when lunar rock melted from the heat of the impact. The crater is approximately 55 km in diameter and 3.5 km deep.
An El Niño is a change in Pacific Ocean and atmosphere that typically causes drought, extreme heat and bushfires in Australia. Last year was a neutral El Niño and we have been surprisingly lucky with only a few small El Niño's since the 21st century started, despite having two of the hottest years on record globally in 2005 and 2010. The last really big El Niño was in 1997/98. It is no coincidence that 1998 is the only remaining year from the past century that still sits in the top 10 for the hottest years, globally, on record. We are about to leave May and despite being seven months away from next summer in the southern hemisphere, climate researchers are seeing the beginnings of what could be the most powerful El Niño event since 1997/98. By itself, research shows an El Niño event can raise the global average temperature for the following year by 0.1 to 0.2C. It is one of the reasons many climate scientists have been concerned about what could happen if another strong El Niño was to occur.
Over the past month and a half, three strong westerly wind blasts along the equator appear to have triggered ocean subsurface warming. The warming has intensified and rolled to the eastern equatorial Pacific - a strong sign of a developing El Niño. But it is not the ocean warming by itself that is significant, it is also the amount of water involved. Even at this early stage the equatorial Pacific is storing the largest amount of warm water since 1997/98. From these observations, it appears that a very strong El Niño may be initiated. Forecasters suggest the probability of an El Niño is now above 70%, which is a remarkable estimate considering the time of year.
To trigger an El Niño requires significant warming of the ocean and a number of very strong wind blasts from west to east off the coast of Papua New Guinea. These blasts push the warm ocean waters to the eastern Pacific off South America and set up El Niño conditions. This year has already seen three such powerful wind blasts. The most recent directly led to the tropical low that generated severe flooding in the Solomon Islands and later developed into Category 5 Tropical Cyclone Ita. It is only when the wind blasts pick up across the equator in winter, when the ocean and atmosphere interaction becomes stronger, that forecasters can get a better estimate of the likely strength of the El Niño by monitoring two key indicators:
- The first is the temperature difference between water in the eastern Pacific and the western Pacific. The smaller the difference, the more likely it will be a strong El Niño event.
- The second is the volume of warm water across the equatorial Pacific Ocean – the greater the volume, the stronger the event.
These indicators usually appear six months before the event which is why the winter period is important for forecasting an El Niño. But as we have seen, the amount of warm water is already large this autumn - the largest since the 1997/98 Super El Niño event. Recent research found that the Super El Niño events of 1982 and 1997 had a very distinct characteristic that didn't appear until spring. Standard El Niño events warm first in the Eastern Pacific and then spread to the west. Super El Niño events do the reverse, starting in a more westerly location and then spreading east back towards the Americas. This causes much higher sea surface temperatures over a much larger area, which in turn has powerful effects on the location of rainfall and weather systems. The research also showed that these unusual El Niño occurrences would double in frequency with global warming and new research is pointing to how El Niño events may change in the future.
And just to give you a clue why does this matter, check this out: up to half of the recent warming in Greenland and neighboring parts of the Canadian Arctic may be due to climate variations that originate in the tropical Pacific and are not connected with the overall warming of the planet. The other portion is likely due to global warming. For details, see here. Rising temperatures and ash from Northern Hemisphere forest fires combined to cause large-scale surface melting of the Greenland ice sheet in 1889 and 2012, contradicting conventional thinking that the melt events were driven by warming alone. For details see Climate change and forest fires synergistically drive widespread melt events of the Greenland Ice Sheet.
Inspired by the Titanic ship sinking, photographer Simon Harsent's book, Melt: Portrait of an Iceberg, explores how these huge chunks of ice change over time. Often photographs of icebergs are saturated with color and bright light - looking like postcards - but Harsent took a different approach. Please check Melt: Portrait of an Iceberg.
Atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations have crossed a new threshold, the UN's weather agency said Monday, highlighting the urgency of curbing manmade, climate-altering greenhouse gases. In April, for the first time, the mean monthly CO2 concentration in the atmosphere topped 400 parts per million (ppm) throughout the northern hemisphere, which pollutes more than the south, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said.
New research shows the first detailed look at global land surface warming trends over the last 100 years, illustrating precisely when and where different areas of the world started to warm up or cool down. For example, from about 1910 to 1980, while the rest of the world was warming up, some areas south of the equator - near the Andes - were actually cooling down, and then had no change at all until the mid 1990s. Other areas near and south of the equator didn't see significant changes comparable to the rest of the world at all. For more details check here.
New research has explained why Antarctica is not warming as much as other continents, and why southern Australia is recording more droughts. Researchers have found rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are strengthening the stormy Southern Ocean winds which deliver rain to southern Australia, but pushing them further south towards Antarctica. See Ocean winds keep Australia dry, Antarctica cold for details.
Scientists have revealed that Earth's mantle under Antarctica is at a lower viscosity and moving at such a rapid rate it is changing the shape of the land at a rate that can be recorded by GPS. They have explained for the first time why the upward motion of Earth's crust in the Northern Antarctic Peninsula is currently taking place so quickly. For details see Rapid bedrock uplift in the Antarctic Peninsula explained by viscoelastic response to recent ice unloading.
A newly-discovered source of oceanic bioavailable iron could have a major impact our understanding of marine food chains and global warming. Scientists have discovered that summer meltwaters from ice sheets are rich in iron, which will have important implications on phytoplankton growth. For details, see Study shows iron from melting ice sheets may help buffer global warming.
However, the biggest new most likely in past few weeks was one of a new study finding a rapidly melting section of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet to be in an irreversible state of decline, with nothing to stop the glaciers in this area from melting into the sea. The study presents multiple lines of evidence, incorporating 40 years of observations that indicate the glaciers in the Amundsen Sea sector of West Antarctica "have passed the point of no return". These glaciers already contribute significantly to sea level rise, releasing almost as much ice into the ocean annually as the entire Greenland Ice Sheet. They contain enough ice to raise global sea level by 1.2 meters and are melting faster than most scientists had expected. The good news is that while the word "collapse" implies a sudden change, the fastest scenario is 200 years, and the longest is more than 1000 years. Still, sea level rise is threatening the majority of NASA's launch pads and multi-billion dollar complexes famous for training astronauts and launching historic missions to space.
Three years of observations show that the Antarctic ice sheet is now losing 159 billion tons of ice each year - twice as much as when it was last surveyed. Scientists have now produced the first complete assessment of Antarctic ice sheet elevation change. For details, see Increased ice losses from Antarctica detected by CryoSat-2 - McMillan - Geophysical Research Letters - Wiley Online Libr…
Three major lines of evidence point to the glaciers' eventual demise: the changes in their flow speeds, how much of each glacier floats on seawater, and the slope of the terrain they are flowing over and its depth below sea level. The glaciers flow out from land to the ocean, with their leading edges afloat on the seawater. The point on a glacier where it first loses contact with land is called the grounding line. Nearly all glacier melt occurs on the underside of the glacier beyond the grounding line, on the section floating on seawater. Just as a grounded boat can float again on shallow water if it is made lighter, a glacier can float over an area where it used to be grounded if it becomes lighter, which it does by melting or by the thinning effects of the glacier stretching out. The Antarctic glaciers studied have thinned so much they are now floating above places where they used to sit solidly on land, which means their grounding lines are retreating inland.
The team used radar observations captured between 1992 and 2011 by the European Earth Remote Sensing (ERS-1 and -2) satellites to map the grounding lines' retreat inland. The satellites use a technique called radar interferometry, which enables scientists to measure very precisely - within less than a quarter of an inch - how much Earth's surface is moving. Glaciers move horizontally as they flow downstream, but their floating portions also rise and fall vertically with changes in the tides. The accelerating flow speeds and retreating grounding lines reinforce each other. As glaciers flow faster, they stretch out and thin, which reduces their weight and lifts them farther off the bedrock. As the grounding line retreats and more of the glacier becomes waterborne, there's less resistance underneath, so the flow accelerates.
Slowing or stopping these changes requires pinning points - bumps or hills rising from the glacier bed that snag the ice from underneath. To locate these points, researchers produced a more accurate map of bed elevation that combines ice velocity data from ERS-1 and -2 and ice thickness data from NASA's Operation IceBridge mission and other airborne campaigns. The results confirm no pinning points are present upstream of the present grounding lines in five of the six glaciers. Only Haynes Glacier has major bedrock obstructions upstream, but it drains a small sector and is retreating as rapidly as the other glaciers. The bedrock topography is another key to the fate of the ice in this basin. All the glacier beds slope deeper below sea level as they extend farther inland. As the glaciers retreat, they cannot escape the reach of the ocean, and the warm water will keep melting them even more rapidly. Because of the importance of this part of West Antarctica, NASA's Operation IceBridge will continue to monitor its evolution closely during this year's Antarctica deployment, which begins in October. IceBridge uses a specialized fleet of research aircraft carrying the most sophisticated suite of science instruments ever assembled to characterize changes in thickness of glaciers, ice sheets and sea ice.
The US Global Change Research Program has released the Third National Climate Assessment, the most comprehensive, authoritative, transparent scientific report on U.S. climate change impacts ever generated. The report confirms that climate change is affecting every region of the country and key sectors of the U.S. economy and society, underscoring the need to combat the threats climate change presents and increase the preparedness and resilience of American communities. The Third National Climate Assessment is available to download and can be explored interactively (http://nca2014.globalchange.gov/) through a newly redeployed website (http://www.globalchange.gov/).
A new analysis of corn production in the American Midwest has determined that today's crop yields are more sensitive than ever to bad weather, and especially to drought conditions anticipated under likely climate change scenarios. For details see Greater Sensitivity to Drought Accompanies Maize Yield Increase in the U.S. Midwest. Ask American farmers about climate change and who or what is causing it, though, and you're likely to get a collective shrug in response.
Powerful, destructive tropical cyclones are now reaching their peak intensity farther from the equator and closer to the poles, according to a new study. The results of the study show that over the last 30 years, tropical cyclones - also known as hurricanes or typhoons - are moving poleward at a rate of about 33 miles per decade in the Northern Hemisphere and 38 miles per decade in the Southern Hemisphere. For more information see Study: Dangerous storms peaking further north, south than in past.
Ozone pollution across the continental United States will become far more difficult to keep in check as temperatures rise, according to new research led by the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR). The detailed study shows that Americans face the risk of a 70 percent increase in unhealthy summertime ozone levels by 2050. For details see Climate change threatens to worsen U.S. ozone pollution.
Dryland ecosystems, which include deserts to dry-shrublands, play a more important role in the global carbon cycle than previously thought. In fact, they have emerged as one of its drivers. Surprised by the discovery, researchers urged global ecologists to include the emerging role of dryland ecosystems in their research. For more details. see here.
A small team of researchers from Australia and New Zealand has found that large waves caused by ocean storms appears to be playing a bigger role in breaking up polar sea ice than has been thought. In their paper published in the journal Nature, the team describes how they set up sensors to measure the impact of waves on sea ice and how their findings might help explain why sea ice is increasing in some parts of the world and decreasing in others. For more details, see here.
Researchers found that negative media reports seem to have only a passing effect on public opinion, but that positive stories don't appear to possess much staying power, either. This dynamic suggests that climate scientists should reexamine how to effectively and more regularly engage the public. For more information, see Public interest in climate change unshaken by scandal, but unstirred by science.
A new study has shown that streaming can be much better for the environment, requiring less energy and emitting less carbon dioxide, than some traditional methods of DVD renting, buying and viewing. The study's authors cite modern devices such as laptops and tablets as the reason for this improvement, as they are much more efficient than older, energy-sapping DVD players. For more information, see The energy and greenhouse-gas implications of internet video streaming in the United States.
And for the end - there is still hope for the climate, even if a world-wide climate accord proves to be unattainable. A new report shows that regional measures can hold the global rise in temperature within the two-degree limit. For details, see Regional cures for planetary fever.
In the movies, humans often fear invaders from Mars. These days, scientists are more concerned about invaders to Mars, in the form of micro-organisms from Earth. Three recent scientific papers examined the risks of interplanetary exchange of organisms using research from the International Space Station.
Organisms hitching a ride on a spacecraft have the potential to contaminate other celestial bodies, making it difficult for scientists to determine whether a life form existed on another planet or was introduced there by explorers. So it's important to know what types of micro-organisms from Earth can survive on a spacecraft or landing vehicle. Currently, spacecraft landing on Mars or other planets where life might exist must meet requirements for a maximum allowable level of microbial life, or bioburden. These acceptable levels were based on studies of how various life forms survive exposure to the rigors associated with space travel. Spore-forming bacteria are of particular concern because spores can withstand certain sterilization procedures and may best be able to survive the harsh environments of outer space or planetary surfaces. Spores of Bacillus pumilus SAFR-032 have shown especially high resistance to techniques used to clean spacecraft, such as ultraviolet (UV) radiation and peroxide treatment. When researchers exposed this hardy organism to a simulated Mars environment that kills standard spores in 30 seconds, it survived 30 minutes. For one of the recent experiments, Bacillus pumilus SAFR-032 spores were exposed for 18 months on the European Technology Exposure Facility (EuTEF), a test facility mounted outside the space station - some of the spores survived for 18 months. These surviving spores had higher concentrations of proteins associated with UV radiation resistance and, in fact, showed elevated UV resistance when revived and re-exposed on Earth. For details see here.
In another investigation, spores of Bacillus pumilus SAFR-032 and another spore-forming bacteria, Bacillus subtilis 168, were dried on pieces of spacecraft-quality aluminum and subjected for 1.5 years to the vacuum of space, cosmic and extraterrestrial solar radiation and temperature fluctuations on EuTEF. These samples also were subjected to a simulated Martian atmosphere using EuTEF. Most of the organisms exposed to solar UV radiation in space and in the Mars spectrum were killed, but when UV rays were filtered out and samples were kept in the dark, about 50 percent or more of those subjected to other space- and Mars-like conditions survived. That makes it likely that spores could survive a trip on a spacecraft to Mars if they are sheltered against solar radiation, perhaps in a tiny pocket of the spacecraft surface or underneath a layer of other spores. For details see here.
The third study placed rock-colonizing cellular organisms in the EuTEF facility for 1.5 years, further testing a theory of how organisms might move from one planet to another, known as lithopanspermia. In this scenario, rocks ejected from a planet by impact with, say, a meteor, carried organisms on their surface through space and then landed on another planet, bringing that life with them. For this investigation, researchers selected organisms especially adapted to cope with the environmental extremes of their natural habitats on Earth, and found that some are also able to survive in the even more hostile environment of outer space. Lithopanspermia would require thousands or even millions of years, much longer than the experiment's duration, but results provide the first evidence of the hardiness of these organisms in space and suggest the possibility that space-traveling rocks could carry life between planets. For details see here.
October 24, 2012, observatories across the world were alerted about a huge stellar explosion, the GRB121024A, which had been located just hours before in the Eridanus constellation by NASA's Swift satellite. However, only the European Southern Observatory using its Very Large Telescope (VLT) located in the Atacama desert in Chile managed to take accurate polarimetric measurements of the phenomenon. The data obtained on that explosion, which took place about 11,000 million years ago, have made it possible to reconstruct how a black hole is formed. There is no other event in the cosmos that can compete in terms of energy and intensity with stellar explosions on the outer reaches of the universe and which are known as LGRBs (Long Gamma-Ray Bursts): in just one second a single GRB can emit as many as hundreds of stars like the Sun during its 10000-million-year-lifetime. For the last decade astrophysicists have been in possession of strong evidence that LGRBs occur when the so-called massive stars burst; these are huge stars with masses of up to hundreds of times bigger than that of the Sun and which, moreover, spin rapidly on a rotation axis.
As these stars are massive and spin, they do not explode like a normal star, which does so radially, as a ball does when it deflates, for example. The implosion of these huge stars would produce, according to theoretical models, a huge spinning top, which would turn in the way that water rotates down the plughole of a basin, until a black hole is finally formed. The energy given off by this gigantic explosion would be emitted in two jets displaying a high level of energy and which would be aligned with the rotation axis of the dying star. What is more, all these stars have magnetic fields. And these are intensified further if they rotate rapidly, as in the case of the LGRBs. So during the internal collapse of the star towards the central black hole, the magnetic fields of the star would also swirl around the star's rotation axis. And during the collapse of the star, a powerful "magnetic geyser" would be produced and be ejected from the environment of the black hole that is being formed; the effects of this can be felt at distances of billions of kilometres.
This complex scenario led one to predict that the light emitted during the explosion of the star must have been circularly polarized as if it were a *****. And that is what, for the first time, the authors have detected in Chile: a circularly polarized light that is the direct consequence of a black hole "recently" created on the outer reaches of the Universe and which has been confirmed by the theoretical model. What is more, an optical circular polarization to such a high degree had never been detected, and nor had one been detected in such a distant source. All this indicates that the GRB121024A is an extraordinary event.
Top left box (a): Image of the field of the GRB121024A captured by the Very Large Telescope (VLT), Chile. The GRB121024A is the point marked by the dotted lines. The glow of the GRB121024A in the image does not correspond to its distance from the Earth. In fact, as can be seen, the GRB121024A is one of the brightest objects in the field, despite being one of the most distant, if not the most distant one, in the image. So the point marked corresponds to the explosion of a star about ~11,000 million years ago when the age of the Universe was only one third of what it is now. General box (b): Artist's impression of the GRB121024A. It is possible to see the jets emerging from the dying star in the centre of which a black hole would form. The blue wave spread by the jet represents the circular polarization detected.
- Remember this October a comet will brush past Mars, giving scientists a chance to study how it possibly interacts with a planetary atmosphere? Although an impact of the comet on the surface of the Red Planet has long been ruled out, a paper in the May 2014 issue of Icarus raises the interesting possibility of possible interactions of the coma of A1 Siding Spring and the tenuous atmosphere of Mars. For more details see Perturbation of the Mars atmosphere by the near-collision with Comet C/2013 A1 (Siding Spring).
- The stage is set for a new, super-heavy element to be added to the periodic table following research published in the latest Physics Review Letters. Led by researchers at Germany's GSI laboratory, the team created atoms of element 117, matching the heaviest atoms ever observed, which are 40 per cent heavier than an atom of lead. Initial reports about the discovery of an element with atomic number 117 were released in 2010 from a Russia-U.S. collaboration working at the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research in Dubna, Russia. For details see Phys. Rev. Lett. 112, 172501 (2014).
- Cassini spacecraft has captured its first-ever image of the pale blue ice-giant planet Uranus in the distance beyond Saturn's rings. The image is available at Space Images: Blue Orb on the Horizon.
- Scientists have discovered a new species of long-snouted tyrannosaur, nicknamed Pinocchio rex, which stalked the Earth more than 66 million years ago. Researchers say the animal, which belonged to the same dinosaur family as Tyrannosaurus rex, was a fearsome carnivore that lived in Asia during the late Cretaceous period. The newly found ancient predator looked very different from most other tyrannosaurs. For more information see here.
- How does Earth move through galaxy? Ethan has answer - see Ask Ethan #37: The Earth’s Motion Through The Galaxy.
- Magnetars are a class of neutron star—both trace their origins to a supernova. What sets them apart is the strength of their magnetic fields - magnetars, as their name implies, are very strongly magnetic, with some measured at 10^11 Tesla, approximately a billion times stronger than anything found on Earth. They are also extremely dense, of course, and somewhat small - generally no more than 20km in diameter. For some time, space scientists have theorized that magnetars also have a second doughnut-shaped (torus) magnetic field surrounding their equator, perhaps even stronger than the one measured at their surface. In new effort, the researchers appear to have found evidence for just such a magnetic field surrounding magnetar 4U 0142+61. If this new theory by the team in Japan proves to be true, then the wobbling of 4U 0142+61 should be causing gravity waves to be generated, and if that is the case, then future gravity wave detectors should be able to prove that magnetars due indeed have extremely strong gravity fields hovering over their equators.
- All of Rosetta's 11 science instruments and the lander Philae have now been successfully switched on.
- Scientists analyzed the chemical elements in the faintest known galaxy, called Segue 1, and determined that it is effectively a fossil galaxy left over from the early universe. Stars form from gas clouds and their composition mirrors the chemical composition of the galactic gas from which they were born. Results suggests that Segue 1 is the least chemically evolved galaxy known. After the initial few supernova explosions, it appears that only a single generation of new stars were formed, and then for the last 13 billion years the galaxy has not been creating stars. Because it has stayed in the same state for so long, Segue 1 offers unique information about the conditions in the universe shortly after the Big Bang. Other galaxies have undergone multiple supernova explosions since their formation. The first supernovae to blow up, from the most massive stars, produce elements like magnesium, silicon, and calcium. Later explosions of smaller stars primarily make iron. Segue 1's uniquely low iron abundance relative to other elements shows that its star formation must have stopped before any of the iron-forming supernovae occurred. This truncated evolution means that the products of the first explosions in Segue 1 have been preserved. Intriguingly, very heavy elements like barium and strontium are nearly absent from Segue 1's stars. For more information see here.
- An eight-kilometer-wide crater suggests a meteorite strike devastated southern Alberta within the last 70 million years, experts theorize. Time and glaciers have buried and eroded much of the evidence, making it impossible at this point to say with full certainty the ring-like structure was caused by a meteorite impact, but that's what seismic and geological evidence strongly suggests. For more details see The Bow City structure, southern Alberta, Canada: The deep roots of a complex impact structure? - Glombick - 2014 - Mete…
- The largest moon in our solar system, a companion to Jupiter named Ganymede, might have ice and oceans stacked up in several layers like a club sandwich. For more information see Ganymede׳s internal structure including thermodynamics of magnesium sulfate oceans in contact with ice.
- What is the secret to aging more slowly and living longer? Not antioxidants, apparently. Many people believe that free radicals, the sometimes-toxic molecules produced by our bodies as we process oxygen, are the culprit behind aging. Yet a number of studies in recent years have produced evidence that the opposite may be true. A team of researchers discovered that free radicals - also known as oxidants - act on a molecular mechanism that, in other circumstances, tells a cell to kill itself. For more information see here.
- Scientists from the University of the Philippines, Los Baños have discovered a new plant species with an unusual lifestyle - it eats nickel for a living - accumulating up to 18000 ppm of the metal in its leaves without itself being poisoned. For more information, see Rinorea niccolifera (Violaceae), a new, nickel-hyperaccumulating species from Luzon Island, Philippines.
- When the doctor gives us medicine, it is often in the shape of a pill. But when it comes to brain diseases, pills are actually an extremely inefficient way to deliver drugs to the brain, and according to researchers, we need to find new and more efficient ways of transporting drugs to the brain. Spraying the patient's nose could be one such way. For details, see β-Cyclodextrin-dextran polymers for the solubilization of poorly soluble drugs.
- The House Appropriations Committee recommended $17.9 billion in funding for NASA, significantly boosting planetary science programs at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and continuing operation of a flying telescope. However, the committee also expressed doubts about the feasibility of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's proposed plan to capture an asteroid and tow it into orbit around the moon. Because of this, the committee said that funding for the so-called Asteroid Redirect Mission should be "carefully constrained".
- On March 29, 2014, an X-class flare erupted from the right side of the sun ... and vaulted into history as the best-observed flare of all time. The flare was witnessed by four different NASA spacecraft and one ground-based observatory - three of which had been fortuitously focused in on the correct spot as programmed into their viewing schedule a full day in advance.
- Short height and long life have a direct connection in Japanese men, according to new research. Shorter men are more likely to have a protective form of the longevity gene, FOXO3, leading to smaller body size during early development and a longer lifespan. Shorter men are also more likely to have lower blood insulin levels and less cancer. For details see Mānoa: Short men may live longer, according to UH-Kuakini Medical Center study.
- Astronomers have identified the first "sibling" of the Sun - a star that was almost certainly born from the same cloud of gas and dust as our star. The newly developed methods for locating the Sun's 'siblings' will help other astronomers find other "solar siblings," work that could lead to an understanding of how and where our Sun formed, and how our solar system became hospitable for life.
The solar sibling his team identified is a star called HD 162826, a star 15 percent more massive than the Sun, located 110 light-years away in the constellation Hercules. The star is not visible to the unaided eye, but easily can be seen with low-power binoculars, not far from the bright star Vega. The team identified HD 162826 as the Sun's sibling by following up on 30 possible candidates found by several groups around the world looking for solar siblings. All of these observations used high-resolution spectroscopy to get a deep understanding of the stars' chemical make-up. Combining information on both chemical make-up and dynamics of the candidates narrowed the field down to one: HD 162826. The idea is that the Sun was born in a cluster with a thousand or a hundred thousand stars. This cluster, which formed more than 4.5 billion years ago, has since broken up. A lot of things can happen in that amount of time. The member stars have broken off into their own orbits around the galactic center, taking them to different parts of the Milky Way today. A few, like HD 162826, are still nearby. Others are much farther afield. For more details see Astronomers Find Sun’s ‘Long-Lost Brother,’ Pave Way for Family Reunion.
- A new type of computing architecture that stores information in the frequencies and phases of periodic signals could work more like the human brain to do computing using a fraction of the energy of today’s computers. For detail see Strongly Interacting Electrons in Wacky Oxide Synchronize to Compute Like the Brain.
- Although quantum tunneling has been observed on large scales, no one has yet actually measured the tunneling of a single particle until now. Physicists report using an ion trap system to observe the Aharonov-Bohm effect with quantum tunneling. The AB effect demonstrates that a magnetic field inside a confined region can have a measureable impact on a charged particle which never traveled inside the region. For more details see here.
- Scientists have discovered new evidence to suggest that lightning on Earth is triggered not only by cosmic rays from space, but also by energetic particles from the sun. Researchers found a link between increased thunderstorm activity on Earth and streams of high-energy particles accelerated by the solar wind, offering compelling evidence that particles from space help trigger lightning bolts. For more information see Evidence for solar wind modulation of lightning.
- Recent Hubble observations confirm that Jupiter's Great Red Spot, a swirling storm feature larger than Earth, has shrunken to the smallest size astronomers have ever measured (Jupiter's Great Red Spot is a churning anticyclonic storm). For more information see The shrinking of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot.
- Ethan has nice article about asteroids - see Throwback Thursday: The Truth About Asteroids.
- Using one of the world's largest telescopes, astronomers have tracked the orbit of a planet at least four times the size of Jupiter. The scientists were able to identify the orbit of the exoplanet, Beta Pictoris b, which sits 63 light years from our solar system, by using the Gemini Planet Imager's (GPI) next-generation, high-contrast adaptive optics (AO) system. For details see Giant telescope tackles orbit and size of exoplanet.
- Physicists have discovered how to create matter from light -- a feat thought impossible when the idea was first theorized 80 years ago. In just one day over several cups of coffee in a tiny office, three physicists worked out a relatively simple way to physically prove a theory first devised by scientists Breit and Wheeler in 1934. Breit and Wheeler suggested that it should be possible to turn light into matter by smashing together only two particles of light (photons), to create an electron and a positron - the simplest method of turning light into matter ever predicted. The calculation was found to be theoretically sound, but Breit and Wheeler said that they never expected anybody to physically demonstrate their prediction. For details see Scientists discover how to turn light into matter after 80-year quest.
- Many people are concerned that electric cars produce dangerous magnetic fields. New research shows that this is not the case. For more details see No danger from magnetic fields in electric cars.
- Scientists at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) have engineered a bacterium whose genetic material includes an added pair of DNA "letters," or bases, not found in nature. The cells of this unique bacterium can replicate the unnatural DNA bases more or less normally, for as long as the molecular building blocks are supplied. We are officially gods now.
- Preserved giant sperm from tiny shrimps that lived at least 17 million years ago have been discovered at the Riversleigh World Heritage Fossil Site by a team including UNSW Australia researchers. The giant sperm are thought to have been longer than the male's entire body, but are tightly coiled up inside the sexual organs of the fossilised freshwater crustaceans, which are known as ostracods. For details, see here.
- Radio waves disrupt the magnetic "compass" in robins, according to a study published that is likely to fuel debate about the safety of electronic devices. For details see here.
- Oxygen is a signal of life on our own planet, but that's not necessarily the case elsewhere. Particularly when it comes to young planets, signs of oxygen do not necessarily indicate the presence of biological processes. You can find more information by reading [1403.2713] Abiotic oxygen-dominated atmospheres on terrestrial habitable zone planets.
- For a century biologists have thought they understood how the gooey growth that occurs inside cells caused their protective outer walls to expand. Now, using new microscopic video techniques, Stanford researchers have captured the visual evidence to prove the prevailing wisdom wrong. More information can be found in Response of Escherichia coli growth rate to osmotic shock.
- A star was recently spotted speeding at 2.2 million km/hr, which happened to be the closest and second-brightest of the so-called "hypervelocity" stars found so far. What's interesting about the star, besides its pure speed, is it is travelling in a "dark matter" halo surrounding our galaxies. We can't see the dark matter halo, but its gravity acts on the star. We gain insight from the star's trajectory and velocity, which are affected by gravity from different parts of our galaxy.
- Carbon-rich planets may be more common than previously thought. Some of these planets, all located far beyond Earth's solar system, could contain vast deposits of graphite or diamonds, and their apparent abundance prompts new questions about the implications of carbon-intense environments for climate, plate tectonics, and other geological processes, as well as for life. For details, please see [1405.3253] Chemistry in an Evolving Protoplanetary Disk: Effects on Terrestrial Planet Composition.
- Scientists have long believed an asteroid that collided with the Earth around 66 million years ago, leaving an enormous crater near Chicxulub Mexico, caused the demise of the dinosaurs and many other living things. Ash and dust thrown into the air during the impact would have caused darkness and a drop in global temperature, leading to a mass extinction. Johan Vellekoop and his colleagues have found evidence of this global cooling by studying lipids in sediment formed at the same time as the collision. For details, see Rapid short-term cooling following the Chicxulub impact at the Cretaceous–Paleogene boundary — Rapid short-term cooling …
- A senior Russian official said that Russia will only need the International Space Station (ISS) until 2020, as previous plans by Washington to use it until 2024 were thrown into doubt amid the Ukraine crisis. I suspect Ukranian crises will be resolved by 2020 so I doubt this will happen, but Russians and Chinese might also go together on future projects. Meanwhile Russian rocket carrying its most advanced communication satellite to date fell back to Earth minutes after lift-off in the latest blow to the country's once-proud space industry. Even worse, a Russian built rocket engine planned for future use in the first stage of Orbital Sciences Corp. commercial Antares rocket launching to the ISS failed during pre-launch acceptance testing on May 22, at NASA's Stennis Space Center in Mississippi. Semi-related, SpaceX comes to the rescue - see SpaceX: Resusable rocket flight and a lawsuit against the government.
- This supercomputer simulation shows one of the most violent events in the universe: a pair of neutron stars colliding, merging and forming a black hole. A neutron star is the compressed core left behind when a star born with between eight and 30 times the sun's mass explodes as a supernova. Neutron stars pack about 1.5 times the mass of the sun - equivalent to about half a million Earths - into a ball just 20 km across.
- Magnetars are the super-dense remnants of supernova explosions. They are the strongest magnets known in the Universe - millions of times more powerful than the strongest magnets on Earth. A team of astronomers using ESO's Very Large Telescope now believe they've found the partner star of a magnetar for the first time. This discovery helps to explain how magnetars form and why this particular star didn't collapse into a black hole as astronomers would expect. For details see here.
- South African astronomers have discovered the very first known stars in the flared disk of our Milky Way Galaxy. These stars are situated on the far side of our Galaxy, 80 thousand light years from the Earth and beyond the Galactic Centre. For more information, see here.
- After eight years in orbit, ESA's Venus Express has completed routine science observations and is preparing for a daring plunge into the planet's hostile atmosphere.
- NASA and its international partners now have the go-ahead to begin construction on a new Mars lander, after it completed a successful Mission Critical Design Review.
- Researchers have invented a way to wirelessly beam power to programmable devices deep inside the body. These medical chips could be as small as a grain of rice. They would sit alongside nerves, muscles and other tissues. The chips could be programmed for a wide variety of medical tasks. The wireless power recharging would enable them to be implanted once and repowered as need be. This is a platform technology to enable a new therapeutic category - electroceutical devices.
- The intergalactic medium is an excellent recorder of the Universe's history. It retains memory of the big events that affected its properties, such as temperature and composition, during its different phases of evolution. An international team, led by researchers from Swinburne University of Technology, has found evidence that the Universe broke its rising 'fever' about 11 billion years ago. The quasar light suggests that the Universe had cooled by about 1000 degrees C within 1 billion years after reaching its maximum of 13000 degrees. This cooling trend has probably continued to the present day. Researchers think the answer why is this so is helium. Fourteen per cent of the intergalactic gas is helium and, 12 billion years ago, it was absorbing the intense radiation from active galaxies, losing electrons in the process. The electrons whizz around, heating up the gas. It's similar to the greenhouse effect on Earth: Carbon dioxide gas absorbs infrared radiation and heats our atmosphere. Once all the helium was ionized, the radiation would simply pass through the gas without heating it. Then, as the Universe expands the gas cools down, just like the cold gas sprayed from an aerosol can – it quickly cools as it expands out of the can.
- Scientists have discovered that the earliest living organisms on Earth were capable of making a mineral that may be found on Mars. One of the paper's authors, Dr Penny King from ANU, is a science co-investigator on NASA's Mars Curiosity rover, which uncovered the presence of possible Martian stevensite. For details, see here. We were always generous with our germs, didn't we?
- Alpha waves appear to be even more active and important than neuroscientists already thought. A new theory has been postulated on how the alpha wave controls attention to visual signals. Brain cells 'spark' all the time. From this electronic activity brain waves emerge: oscillations at different band widths. And like a radio station uses different frequencies to carry specific information far away from the emitting source, so does the brain. And just like radio listeners, brain areas tune into the wave length relevant for their functioning. For more details, see Alpha waves organize a to-do list for the brain.
- What would you do without oxygen? Well, check this - "No Oxygen? No Problem!" Says Squid That Can Shut Down Its Metabolism.
- A new fuel-cell concept will allow biodiesel plants to eliminate the creation of hazardous wastes while removing their dependence on fossil fuel from their production process. The platform, which uses microbes to glean ethanol from glycerol and has the added benefit of cleaning up the wastewater, will allow producers to reincorporate the ethanol and the water into the fuel-making process. For details, see New, fossil-fuel-free process makes biodiesel sustainable.
- Scientists have prepared new details and the first comprehensive overview of the on-orbit performance of their record-shattering laser-based communication uplink between the moon and Earth, which beat the previous record transmission speed last fall by a factor of 4800. For details, see First Broadband Wireless Connection…to the Moon?! Yes, Moon is getting famous. China wants to go there in 2025 (see Why China is fixated on the Moon) and Russia in 2030 (Russia will begin Moon colonization in 2030 - draft space program). If there will be drones war on the Moon, we might get a first seat view.
- Researchers have discovered on the Red Planet the largest fresh meteor-impact crater ever firmly documented with before-and-after images. The images were captured by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. The crater spans half the length of a football field and first appeared in March 2012. The impact that created it likely was preceded by an explosion in the Martian sky caused by intense friction between an incoming asteroid and the planet's atmosphere. For more information, see here.
- Some folks believe they can hack laws of nature. Lubos Motl explains why this is not possible in his Laws of physics cannot be hacked.
- Sean Caroll vs Lubos Motl saga continues - latest piece is Combining Boltzmann brains with additional psychotic explosions.
- A pair of researchers in the Netherlands has found that if a running wheel is placed outdoors in a natural setting, wild animals will come and run on it. Neurophysiologists Johanna Meijer and Yuri Robbers describe in a paper they've had published , how they set up running wheels in natural settings then filmed wild animals using the wheels.
The researchers claim the animals ran on the wheels because they enjoyed it, which could be a little bit of anthropomorphizing, as no one has been able to prove that animals other than humans experience emotions. Still, the experiments should put to rest the argument about whether mice in the lab are running on wheels because they live in cages—they'll do it anywhere they find one.
- A team of researchers with members from several European countries has published a paper arguing that new archeological evidence suggests not all deep sea creatures evolved in shallow waters and then moved deeper. Fossil discoveries in the Austrian Alps, they claim, offer evidence that some deep sea creatures actually evolved in the deep sea and are the ancestors of many modern deep sea creatures. For more details, see First glimpse into Lower Jurassic deep-sea biodiversity: in situ diversification and resilience against extinction
- University of Cambridge physicist Luke Butcher has uploaded a paper to the arXiv preprint server suggesting that there might exist some type of wormhole that is capable of staying open long enough for a photon to pass through—which of course suggests the possibility of sending messages backwards or forwards in time. For more details, see [1405.1283v1] Casimir Energy of a Long Wormhole Throat
- Exotic sea creatures called comb jellies may reshape how scientists view early evolution - as their genes suggest nature created more than one way to make a nervous system. For details, see The ctenophore genome and the evolutionary origins of neural systems.
- Like a bullet wrapped in a full metal jacket, a high-velocity hydrogen cloud hurtling toward the Milky Way appears to be encased in a shell of dark matter, according to a new analysis. Astronomers believe that without this protective shell, the high-velocity cloud known as the Smith Cloud would have disintegrated long ago when it first collided with the disk of our Galaxy. For more information, see Failed Dwarf Galaxy Survives Galactic Collision Thanks to Full Dark-Matter Jacket. Speaking of dark matter, if you wish to see current state of affairs, check Dark Matter Debates by Matt Strassler. And, historically, you may be interested to read also The Death of Dark Matter’s #1 Competitor and Throwback Thursday: The Whole Story on Dark Matter. Actually, Ethan expands this also with The Temperature of Dark Matter.
- Astronomers have created the most advanced simulation to date of the evolution of the universe over billions of years. The simulation, called the Illustris, begins just 12 million years after the Big Bang and illustrates the formation of stars, heavy elements, galaxies, exploding supernovae and dark matter over the 14 billion years since. The simulation encapsulates the universe in a cube roughly 350 million light years on each side.
- At the European Lunar Symposium held at the Museum earlier this month, NASA officials revealed that the Moon could be used as a practice ground for sending humans to Mars within 20 years.
- The Martian volcano Arsia Mons may have been home to one of the most recent habitable environments yet found on the Red Planet, geologists say. The research shows that volcanic eruptions beneath a glacial ice sheet would have created substantial amounts of liquid water on Mars's surface around 210 million years ago. Where there was water, there is the possibility of past life. For more information, see Volcano–ice interactions in the Arsia Mons tropical mountain glacier deposits.
- Worldwide, there has been a startling increase in rates of obesity and overweight in both adults (28% increase) and children (up by 47%) in the past 33 years, with the number of overweight and obese people rising from 857 million in 1980 to 2.1 billion in 2013, according to a major new analysis. However, the rates vary widely throughout the world with more than half of the world’s 671 million obese individuals living in just ten countries - the USA, China and India, Russia, Brazil, Mexico, Egypt, Germany , Pakistan, and Indonesia. For more information, see here. With that in mind, I suggest also to read Want to lose weight? Try playing Tetris. No, really.
- When electrical pulses are applied to the ventral tegmental area of their brain, macaques presented with two images change their preference from one image to the other. The study is the first to confirm a causal link between activity in the ventral tegmental area and choice behavior in primates. As I said many times before, no such thing as free choice. For more details, see here.
- A robot developed by researchers at Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland adjusts on the fly to catch a variety of objects tossed in its direction. Empty and half-full bottles, hammers, tennis rackets and ***** - of course - were all safely snatched out of midair by the 1.5-meter-long robotic arm.
- On February 15 2013, an asteroid exploded about 30 kilometers above Chelyabinsk, Russia. The explosion, shared on video around the world, was the Earth's second largest recorded airburst. By analyzing fragments of the meteorite that fell to Earth, Shin Ozawa at Tohoku University in Sendai, Japan and colleagues determined that the asteroid formed when a parent asteroid collided with another asteroid and then broke apart. For more details, see Jadeite in Chelyabinsk meteorite and the nature of an impact event on its parent body
- he way that algae and plants respond to light has been reinterpreted based on results from experiments studying real-time structural changes in green algae. Under particular lighting conditions during photosynthesis, the well-ordered stacking and alignment of light-sensitive membranes in the algae are disrupted. There is no significant movement of the membrane embedded light harvesting proteins, which rather become largely inactive. These new findings challenge widely accepted views of how algae respond to light where the light harvesting proteins were thought to move around the membranes. For more details, see Chloroplast remodeling during state transitions in Chlamydomonas reinhardtii as revealed by noninvasive techniques in vi…
- China's troubled Jade Rabbit moon rover is still alive after more than five months on the moon but is heading for an icy death. The rover launched in December can still send data back to Earth, but it is unable to move after its wheels broke down and is suffering from chills after solar panels for thermal insulation during freezing lunar nights stopped working.
- Did you know that Sabine Hossenfelder from Backreaction is also doing sing&song? Check it out:
- Ever wondered Why Octopus Arms Don’t Get Tangled? Follow the link to find out more.
- The empirical sciences, like physics and chemistry, are partially invented and partially discovered. Although the empirical observations are surely discovered, the models that describe them are invented through human ingenuity. But what about mathematics which is based on pure thought? Are its results invented or discovered? I go for discovered, but you should read Quantum Diaries article first.
- An interesting read: Do We Need Asimov's Laws?
- Suspect having cancer? Get a dog! No, seriously. Dogs Sniff Out Prostate Cancer With 98 Percent Accuracy.
- A great site for great fun - http://www.tylervigen.com/
- Double rainbow and lightning - no problem. Phil Plait explains in his Double rainbow and lightning: Fantastic photo by Joan Wallner.
- Neptune: Voyager images updated for portrait of the eighth planet. Interesting feature there - hex just as seen on Saturn too.
- What if.... What if the Moon orbited much closer to Earth? Well, read the article and check video below.
- I've seen video of supercell forming last week (see below). Phil Plait has an article on that subject - Time-lapse: Formation of a supercell in Wyoming and Supercells time-lapse: Birth of huge storm systems.
- No matter how absurd theory might be, experiment might just show it to be right. Why? See The Unparalleled Power of Experiment.
- Some silly claims - Universe is not expanding. And then even more silly claims: Constructor theory: Deutsch and Marletto are just vacuously bullšiting.