Big news: the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) has detected its first gravitational-wave signal! Not only is the detection of this signal a major technical accomplishment and an exciting confirmation of general relativity, but it also has huge implications for black-hole astrophysics.
What did LIGO see?
LIGO is designed to detect the ripples in space-time created by two massive objects orbiting each other. These waves can reach observable amplitudes when a binary system consisting of two especially massive objects — i.e., black holes or neutron stars — reach the end of their inspiral and merge.
LIGO has been unsuccessfully searching for gravitational waves since its initial operations in 2002, but a recent upgrade in its design has significantly increased its sensitivity and observational range. The first official observing run of Advanced LIGO began 18 September 2015, but the instruments were up and running in “engineering mode” several weeks before that. And it was in this time frame — before official observing even began! — that LIGO spotted its first gravitational wave signal: GW150914.
One of LIGO’s two detection sites, located near Hanford in eastern Washington. [LIGO] The signal, detected on 14 September, 2015, provides astronomers with a remarkable amount of information about the merger that caused it. From the detection, the LIGO team has extracted the masses of the two black holes that merged, 36+5-4 and 29+4-4 solar masses, as well as the mass of the final black hole formed by the merger, ~62 solar masses. The team also determined that the merger happened roughly a billion light-years away (at a redshift of z~0.1), and the direction of the signal was localized to an area of ~600 square degrees (roughly 1% of the sky).
Why is this detection a big deal?
This is the first direct detection of gravitational waves, providing spectacular further confirmation of Einstein’s general theory of relativity. But the implications of GW150914 go far beyond this confirmation. This detection is a huge deal for astrophysics because it’s the first direct evidence we’ve had that:
“Heavy” stellar-mass black holes exist.
We’ve reliably measured black holes of masses up to 10–20 solar masses in X-ray binaries (binary systems in which a single neutron star or black hole accretes matter from a donor star). But this is the first proof we’ve found that stellar-mass black holes of >25 solar masses can form in nature.
Binaries consisting of two black holes can form in nature.
As we’ll discuss shortly, there are two theorized mechanisms for the formation of these black-hole binaries. Until now, however, there was no guarantee that either of those mechanisms worked!
These black-hole binaries can inspiral and merge within the age of the universe.
The formation of a black-hole binary is no guarantee that it will merge on a reasonable timescale: if the binary forms with enough separation, it could take longer than the age of the universe to merge. This detection proves that black-hole binaries can form with small enough separation to merge on observable timescales.
What can we learn from GW150914?
One of the key questions we’d like to answer is: how do binary black holes form? Two primary mechanisms have been proposed:
A binary star system contains two stars that are each massive enough to individually collapse into a black hole. If the binary isn’t disrupted during the two collapse events, this forms an isolated black-hole binary. Single black holes form in dense cluster environments and then — because they are the most massive objects — sink to the center of the cluster. There they form pairs through dynamical interactions. Now that we’re able to observe black-hole binaries through gravitational-wave detections, one way we could distinguish between the two formation mechanisms is from spin measurements. If we discover a clear preference for the misalignment of the two black holes’ spins, this would favor formation in clusters, where there’s no reason for the original spins to be aligned.
The current, single detection is not enough to provide constraints, but if we can compile a large enough sample of events, we can start to present a statistical case favoring one channel over the other.
What does GW150914 mean for the future of gravitational-wave detection?
The fact that Advanced LIGO detected an event even before the start of its first official observing run is certainly promising! The LIGO team estimates that the volume the detectors can probe will still increase by at least a factor of ~10 as the observing runs become more sensitive and of longer duration.
In addition, LIGO is not alone in the gravitational-wave game. LIGO’s counterpart in Europe, Virgo, is also undergoing design upgrades to increase its sensitivity. Within this year, Virgo should be able to take data simultaneously with LIGO, allowing for better localization of sources. And the launch of (e)LISA, ESA’s planned space-based interferometer, will grant us access to a new frequency range, opening a further window to the gravitational-wave sky.
The detection of GW150914 marks the dawn of a new field: observational gravitational-wave astronomy. This detection alone confirms much that was purely theory before now — and given that instrument upgrades are still underway, the future of gravitational-wave detection looks incredibly promising.
This awesome video (produced by SXS lensing) shows an actual simulation of the black-hole merger GW150914. Time is slowed by a factor of 100, compared to the actual merger. The two black holes — of 29 and 36 solar masses — warp the space-time around them, causing the distorted view.
Einstein's gravitational waves 'seen' from black holes
Scientists are claiming a stunning discovery in their quest to fully understand gravity. They have observed the warping of space-time generated by the collision of two black holes more than a billion light-years from Earth.
The international team says the first detection of these gravitational waves will usher in a new era for astronomy. It is the culmination of decades of searching and could ultimately offer a window on the Big Bang. The research, by the Ligo Collaboration, has been published today in the journal Physical Review Letters.
The collaboration operates a number of labs around the world that fire lasers through long tunnels, trying to sense ripples in the fabric of space-time.
The signals they detect are incredibly subtle and disturb the machines, known as interferometers, by just fractions of the width of an atom. But this black hole merger was picked up almost simultaneously by two widely separated Ligo facilities in the US. The merger radiated three times the mass of the sun in pure gravitational energy. "We have detected gravitational waves," Prof David Reitze, executive director of the Ligo project, told journalists at a news conference in Washington DC. "It's the first time the Universe has spoken to us through gravitational waves. Up until now, we've been deaf."
Prof Karsten Danzmann, from the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics and Leibniz University in Hannover, Germany, is a European leader on the collaboration. He said the detection was one of the most important developments in science since the discovery of the Higgs particle, and on a par with the determination of the structure of DNA. "There is a Nobel Prize in it - there is no doubt," he told the BBC. "It is the first ever direct detection of gravitational waves; it's the first ever direct detection of black holes and it is a confirmation of General Relativity because the property of these black holes agrees exactly with what Einstein predicted almost exactly 100 years ago."
Gravitational waves are prediction of the Theory of General Relativity
Their existence has been inferred by science but only now directly detected
They are ripples in the fabric of space and time produced by violent events
Accelerating masses will produce waves that propagate at the speed of light
Detectable sources ought to include merging black holes and neutron stars
Ligo fires lasers into long, L-shaped tunnels; the waves disturb the light
Detecting the waves opens up the Universe to completely new investigations
That view was reinforced by Prof Stephen Hawking, who is an expert on black holes. Speaking exclusively to BBC News, he said he believed that the detection marked a key moment in scientific history.
"Gravitational waves provide a completely new way at looking at the Universe. The ability to detect them has the potential to revolutionise astronomy. This discovery is the first detection of a black hole binary system and the first observation of black holes merging," he said.
"Apart from testing (Albert Einstein's theory of) General Relativity, we could hope to see black holes through the history of the Universe. We may even see relics of the very early Universe during the Big Bang at some of the most extreme energies possible." Team member Prof Gabriela González, from Louisiana State University, said: "We have discovered gravitational waves from the merger of black holes. It's been a very long road, but this is just the beginning. "Now that we have the detectors to see these systems, now that we know binary black holes are out there - we'll begin listening to the Universe."
The Ligo laser interferometers in Hanford, in Washington, and Livingston, in Louisiana, were only recently refurbished and had just come back online when they sensed the signal from the collision. This occurred at 10.51 GMT on 14 September last year. On a graph, the data looks like a symmetrical, wiggly line that gradually increases in height and then suddenly fades away. "We found a beautiful signature of the merger of two black holes and it agrees exactly - fantastically - with the numerical solutions to Einstein equations... it looked too beautiful to be true," said Prof Danzmann.
Prof Sheila Rowan, who is one of the lead UK researchers involved in the project, said that the first detection of gravitational waves was just the start of a "terrifically exciting" journey.
"The fact that we are sitting here on Earth feeling the actual fabric of the Universe stretch and compress slightly due to the merger of black holes that occurred just over a billion years ago - I think that's phenomenal. It's amazing that when we first turned on our detectors, the Universe was ready and waiting to say 'hello'," the Glasgow University scientist told the BBC.
Being able to detect gravitational waves enables astronomers finally to probe what they call "dark" Universe - the majority part of the cosmos that is invisible to the light telescopes in use today.
Not only will they be able to investigate black holes and strange objects known as neutron stars (giant suns that have collapsed to the size of cities), they should also be able to "look" much deeper into the Universe - and thus farther back in time. It may even be possible eventually to sense the moment of the Big Bang.
"Gravitational waves go through everything. They are hardly affected by what they pass through, and that means that they are perfect messengers," said Prof Bernard Schutz, from Cardiff University, UK. "The information carried on the gravitational wave is exactly the same as when the system sent it out; and that is unusual in astronomy. We can't see light from whole regions of our own galaxy because of the dust that is in the way, and we can't see the early part of the Big Bang because the Universe was opaque to light earlier than a certain time.
"With gravitational waves, we do expect eventually to see the Big Bang itself," he told the BBC. In addition, the study of gravitational waves may ultimately help scientists in their quest to solve some of the biggest problems in physics, such as the unification of forces, linking quantum theory with gravity. At the moment, General Relativity describes the cosmos on the largest scales tremendously well, but it is to quantum ideas that we resort when talking about the smallest interactions. Being able to study places in the Universe where gravity is really extreme, such as at black holes, may open a path to new, more complete thinking on these issues.
A laser is fed into the machine and its beam is split along two paths
The separate paths bounce back and forth between damped mirrors
Eventually, the two light parts are recombined and sent to a detector Gravitational waves passing through the lab should disturb the set-up
Theory holds they should very subtly stretch and squeeze its space. This ought to show itself as a change in the lengths of the light arms (green). The photodetector captures this signal in the recombined beam Scientists have sought experimental evidence for gravitational waves for more than 40 years.
Einstein himself actually thought a detection might be beyond the reach of technology. His theory of General Relativity suggests that objects such as stars and planets can warp space around them - in the same way that a billiard ball creates a dip when placed on a thin, stretched, rubber sheet. Gravity is a consequence of that distortion - objects will be attracted to the warped space in the same way that a pea will fall in to the dip created by the billiard ball.
Einstein predicted that if the gravity in an area was changed suddenly - by an exploding star, say - waves of gravitational energy would ripple across the Universe at light-speed, stretching and squeezing space as they travelled.
Although a fantastically small effect, modern technology has now risen to the challenge. Much of the R&D work for the Washington and Louisiana machines was done at Europe's smaller GEO600 interferometer in Hannover. "I think it's phenomenal to be able to build an instrument capable of measuring [gravitational waves]," said Prof Rowan. "It is hugely exciting for a whole generation of young people coming along, because these kinds of observations and this real pushing back of the frontiers is really what inspires a lot of young people to get into science and engineering."
Earth-like Planets Have Earth-like Interiors
Every school kid learns the basic structure of the Earth: a thin outer crust, a thick mantle, and a Mars-sized core.
But is this structure universal? Will rocky exoplanets orbiting other stars have the same three layers? New research suggests that the answer is yes - they will have interiors very similar to Earth.
"We wanted to see how Earth-like these rocky planets are. It turns out they are very Earth-like," says lead author Li Zeng of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA).
To reach this conclusion Zeng and his co-authors applied a computer model known as the Preliminary Reference Earth Model (PREM), which is the standard model for Earth's interior. They adjusted it to accommodate different masses and compositions, and applied it to six known rocky exoplanets with well-measured masses and physical sizes.
They found that the other planets, despite their differences from Earth, all should have a nickel/iron core containing about 30 percent of the planet's mass. In comparison, about a third of the Earth's mass is in its core. The remainder of each planet would be mantle and crust, just as with Earth.
"We've only understood the Earth's structure for the past hundred years. Now we can calculate the structures of planets orbiting other stars, even though we can't visit them," adds Zeng.
The new code also can be applied to smaller, icier worlds like the moons and dwarf planets in the outer solar system. For example, by plugging in the mass and size of Pluto, the team finds that Pluto is about one-third ice (mostly water ice but also ammonia and methane ices).
The model assumes that distant exoplanets have chemical compositions similar to Earth. This is reasonable based on the relevant abundances of key chemical elements like iron, magnesium, silicon, and oxygen in nearby systems. However, planets forming in more or less metal-rich regions of the galaxy could show different interior structures. The team expects to explore these questions in future research.
Physicists find signs of four-neutron nucleus
The suspected discovery of an atomic nucleus with four neutrons but no protons has physicists scratching their heads. If confirmed by further experiments, this “tetraneutron” would be the first example of an uncharged nucleus, something that many theorists say should not exist. “It would be something of a sensation,” says Peter Schuck, a nuclear theorist at the National Center for Scientific Research in France who was not involved in the work. Details on the tetraneutron appear in the Feb. 5 Physical Review Letters.
Have Gravitational Waves Finally Been Spotted?
Astronomers may finally have found elusive gravitational waves, the mysterious ripples in the fabric of spacetime whose existence was first predicted by Albert Einstein in 1916, in his famous theory of general relativity.
Scientists are holding a news conference Thursday (Feb. 11) at 10:30 a.m. EST (1530 GMT) at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., to discuss the search for gravitational waves, which zoom through space at the speed of light.
A media advisory describing the news conference is brief and somewhat vague, promising merely a "status report" on the ongoing hunt by the scientists using the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory, or LIGO. But there's reason to suspect that researchers will announce a big discovery at the Thursday event.
Astronomers build Earth-sized telescope to see Milky Way black hole
An Earth-sized telescope will allow astronomers to glimpse the black hole at the centre of the Milky Way.
Scientists across the globe are currently linking up telescopes across the globe to form the Event Horizon Telescope which will be the first instrument ever to take detailed pictures of a black hole.
Even though the Milky Way’s black hole, known as Sagittarius A* (pronounced ‘Sagittarius A-star’), is four million times more massive than the sun, it is tiny to the eyes of astronomers.
It is the equivalent of standing in New York and reading the date on a penny in Germany or seeing a grapefruit on the Moon for someone standing on Earth.
But if successful, it will prove for the first time that black holes have ‘event horizons’ – an edge from which nothing can escape, not even light.
"The goals of the EHT are to test Einstein's theory of general relativity, understand how black holes eat and generate relativistic outflows, and to prove the existence of the event horizon, or 'edge,' of a black hole," says Dan Marrone.
The telescope gets its first major upgrade in centuries
The general design of a telescope has remained more or less the same since the techology was first invented in the 17th century.
Like an eye, the telescope collects light, and that light is then reflected to form an image. If you want to use one to see a really long way - into the depths of space, say - you'll need a really big one.
“We can only scale the size and weight of telescopes so much before it becomes impractical to launch them into orbit and beyond,” says Danielle Wuchenich, senior research scientist at Lockheed Martin’s Advanced Technology Center in California. “Besides, the way our eye works is not the only way to process images from the world around us.”
Lockheed Martin is now working on a new technology that promises to drastically reduce the size of telescope needed to see long distances.
Its new system, SPIDER, (or 'Segmented Planar Imaging Detector for Electro-optical Reconnaissance', to give it its full title) does away with the large lenses or mirrors found in traditional refracting and reflecting telescopes, and replaces them with hundreds or thousands of tiny lenses. Dr Alan Duncan at Lockheed Martin explains: "SPIDER is a new way of collecting light to form images ... We collect the light, couple it into the silicon chip, move it around and combine it in a way that we can measure it with just ordinary detectors like you would have in your cellphone camera. And then (we) take all that data that's collected by those detectors, process it in a computer and form an image."
New Theory of Secondary Inflation Expands Options for Avoiding an Excess of Dark Matter
Standard cosmology -- that is, the Big Bang Theory with its early period of exponential growth known as inflation -- is the prevailing scientific model for our universe
It suggest that he entirety of space and time ballooned out from a very hot, very dense point into a homogeneous and ever-expanding vastness. This theory accounts for many of the physical phenomena we observe. But what if that's not all there was to it?
A new theory from physicists at the U.S. Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory, Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, and Stony Brook University, which will publish online on January 18 in Physical Review Letters, suggests a shorter secondary inflationary period that could account for the amount of dark matter estimated to exist throughout the cosmos.
"In general, a fundamental theory of nature can explain certain phenomena, but it may not always end up giving you the right amount of dark matter," said Hooman Davoudiasl, group leader in the High-Energy Theory Group at Brookhaven National Laboratory and an author on the paper. "If you come up with too little dark matter, you can suggest another source, but having too much is a problem."
Measuring the amount of dark matter in the universe is no easy task. It is dark after all, so it doesn't interact in any significant way with ordinary matter. Nonetheless, gravitational effects of dark matter give scientists a good idea of how much of it is out there. The best estimates indicate that it makes up about a quarter of the mass-energy budget of the universe, while ordinary matter -- which makes up the stars, our planet, and us -- comprises just 5 percent. Dark matter is the dominant form of substance in the universe, which leads physicists to devise theories and experiments to explore its properties and understand how it originated.
Some theories that elegantly explain perplexing oddities in physics -- for example, the inordinate weakness of gravity compared to other fundamental interactions such as the electromagnetic, strong nuclear, and weak nuclear forces -- cannot be fully accepted because they predict more dark matter than empirical observations can support.
This new theory solves that problem. Davoudiasl and his colleagues add a step to the commonly accepted events at the inception of space and time.
In standard cosmology, the exponential expansion of the universe called cosmic inflation began perhaps as early as 10-35 seconds after the beginning of time -- that's a decimal point followed by 34 zeros before a 1. This explosive expansion of the entirety of space lasted mere fractions of a fraction of a second, eventually leading to a hot universe, followed by a cooling period that has continued until the present day. Then, when the universe was just seconds to minutes old -- that is, cool enough -- the formation of the lighter elements began. Between those milestones, there may have been other inflationary interludes, said Davoudiasl.
"They wouldn't have been as grand or as violent as the initial one, but they could account for a dilution of dark matter," he said.
In the beginning, when temperatures soared past billions of degrees in a relatively small volume of space, dark matter particles could run into each other and annihilate upon contact, transferring their energy into standard constituents of matter-particles like electrons and quarks. But as the universe continued to expand and cool, dark matter particles encountered one another far less often, and the annihilation rate couldn't keep up with the expansion rate.
"At this point, the abundance of dark matter is now baked in the cake," said Davoudiasl. "Remember, dark matter interacts very weakly. So, a significant annihilation rate cannot persist at lower temperatures. Self-annihilation of dark matter becomes inefficient quite early, and the amount of dark matter particles is frozen."
However, the weaker the dark matter interactions, that is, the less efficient the annihilation, the higher the final abundance of dark matter particles would be. As experiments place ever more stringent constraints on the strength of dark matter interactions, there are some current theories that end up overestimating the quantity of dark matter in the universe. To bring theory into alignment with observations, Davoudiasl and his colleagues suggest that another inflationary period took place, powered by interactions in a "hidden sector" of physics. This second, milder, period of inflation, characterized by a rapid increase in volume, would dilute primordial particle abundances, potentially leaving the universe with the density of dark matter we observe today.
"It's definitely not the standard cosmology, but you have to accept that the universe may not be governed by things in the standard way that we thought," he said. "But we didn't need to construct something complicated. We show how a simple model can achieve this short amount of inflation in the early universe and account for the amount of dark matter we believe is out there."
Proving the theory is another thing entirely. Davoudiasl said there may be a way to look for at least the very feeblest of interactions between the hidden sector and ordinary matter.
"If this secondary inflationary period happened, it could be characterized by energies within the reach of experiments at accelerators such as the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC) and the Large Hadron Collider," he said. Only time will tell if signs of a hidden sector show up in collisions within these colliders, or in other experimental facilities.
Stephen Hawking: Black Holes Have 'Hair
Black holes may sport a luxurious head of "hair" made up of ghostly, zero-energy particles, says a new hypothesis proposed by Stephen Hawking and other physicists.
The new paper, which was published online Jan. 5 in the preprint journal arXiv, proposes that at least some of the information devoured by a black hole is stored in these electric hairs.
Still, the new proposal doesn't prove that all the information that enters a black hole is preserved.
the Riemann Hypothesis has finally been SOLVED by a Nigerian professor
Riemann Hypothesis is considered one of the hardest maths problem Devised in 1859, it has been resolved by professor Dr Opeyemi Enoch He has been given $1million (£658,000) for the work into prime numbers Riemann Hypothesis was one of the seven Millennium Problems in Mathematics set by the Clay Mathematics Institute in 2000 Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-3321924/It-pays-good-maths-Nigerian-professor-solves-156-year-old-Riemann-problem-scoop-1million-prize.html#ixzz3rmUdR0Iu
Physicists propose the first scheme to teleport the memory of an organism
In "Star Trek", a transporter can teleport a person from one location to a remote location without actually making the journey along the way. Such a transporter has fascinated many people. Quantum teleportation shares several features of the transporter and is one of the most important protocols in quantum information.
In a recent study, Prof. Tongcang Li at Purdue University and Dr. Zhang-qi Yin at Tsinghua University proposed the first scheme to use electromechanical oscillators and superconducting circuits to teleport the internal quantum state (memory) and center-of-mass motion state of a microorganism.
They also proposed a scheme to create a Schrodinger's cat state in which a microorganism can be in two places at the same time. This is an important step towards potentially teleporting an organism in future.
Scientists struggle to stay grounded after possible gravitational wave signal
Not for the first time, the world of physics is abuzz with rumours that gravitational waves have been detected by scientists in the US.
Lawrence Krauss, a cosmologist at Arizona State university, tweeted that he had received independent confirmation of a rumour that has been in circulation for months, adding: “Gravitational waves may have been discovered!!”
My earlier rumor about LIGO has been confirmed by independent sources. Stay tuned! Gravitational waves may have been discovered!! Exciting.
— Lawrence M. Krauss (@LKrauss1) January 11, 2016">
The excitement centres on a longstanding experiment known as the Advanced Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (Ligo) which uses detectors in Hanford, Washington, and Livingston, Louisiana to look for ripples in the fabric of spacetime.
According to the rumours, scientists on the team are in the process of writing up a paper that describes a gravitational wave signal. If such a signal exists and is verified, it would confirm one of the most dramatic predictions of Albert Einstein’s century-old theory of general relativity.
Krauss said he was 60% confident that the rumour was true, but said he would have to see the scientists’ data before drawing any conclusions about whether the signal was genuine or not.
Researchers on a large collaboration like Ligo will have any such paper internally vetted before sending it for publication and calling a press conference. In 2014, researchers on another US experiment, called BICEP2, called a press conference to announce the discovery of gravitational waves, but others have since pointed out that the signal could be due entirely to space dust.
Speaking about the LIGO team, Krauss said: “They will be extremely cautious. There’s no reason for them to make a claim they are not certain of.”
If gravitational waves have been discovered, astronomers could use them to observe the cosmos in a way that has been impossible to date. “We would have a new window on the universe,” Krauss said. “Gravitational waves are generated in the most exotic, strange locations in nature, such as at the edge of black holes at the beginning of time. We are pretty certain they exist, but we’ve not been able to use them to probe the universe.”
NASA's Kepler Comes Roaring Back with 100 New Exoplanet Finds
Kepler has now discovered more than 100 confirmed alien planets during its second-chance K2 mission, researchers announced today (Jan. 5) here at the 227th Meeting of the American Astronomical Society (AAS). The $600 million Kepler mission launched in March 2009, tasked with determining how commonly Earth-like planets occur throughout the Milky Way galaxy. Kepler has been incredibly successful, finding more than 1,000 alien worlds to date, more than half of all exoplanets ever discovered.
Physicists figure out how to retrieve information from a black hole
Black holes earn their name because their gravity is so strong not even light can escape from them. Oddly, though, physicists have come up with a bit of theoretical sleight of hand to retrieve a speck of information that's been dropped into a black hole. The calculation touches on one of the biggest mysteries in physics: how all of the information trapped in a black hole leaks out as the black hole "evaporates." Many theorists think that must happen, but they don't know how.
Unfortunately for them, the new scheme may do more to underscore the difficulty of the larger "black hole information problem" than to solve it. "Maybe others will be able to go further with this, but it's not obvious to me that it will help," says Don Page, a theorist at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada, who was not involved in the work.
You can shred your tax returns, but you shouldn't be able to destroy information by tossing it into a black hole. That's because, even though quantum mechanics deals in probabilities—such as the likelihood of an electron being in one location or another—the quantum waves that give those probabilities must still evolve predictably, so that if you know a wave's shape at one moment you can predict it exactly at any future time. Without such "unitarity" quantum theory would produce nonsensical results such as probabilities that don't add up to 100%.
But suppose you toss some quantum particles into a black hole. At first blush, the particles and the information they encode is lost. That's a problem, as now part of the quantum state describing the combined black hole-particles system has been obliterated, making it impossible to predict its exact evolution and violating unitarity.
Physicists think they have a way out. In 1974, British theorist Stephen Hawking argued that black holes can radiate particles and energy. Thanks to quantum uncertainty, empty space roils with pairs of particles flitting in and out of existence. Hawking realized that if a pair of particles from the vacuum popped into existence straddling the black hole's boundary then one particle could fly into space, while the other would fall into the black hole. Carrying away energy from the black hole, the exiting Hawking radiation should cause a black hole to slowly evaporate. Some theorists suspect information reemerges from the black hole encoded in the radiation—although how remains unclear as the radiation is supposedly random.
Now, Aidan Chatwin-Davies, Adam Jermyn, and Sean Carroll of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena have found an explicit way to retrieve information from one quantum particle lost in a black hole, using Hawking radiation and the weird concept of quantum teleportation.
New study asks: Why didn't the universe collapse?
he models that best describe the Big Bang and birth of the universe have one glaring problem. Most of them predict a collapse almost immediately after inflation.
There was nothing, then there was something. And then there was nothing again.
As we know from living and breathing and looking up at a sky action-packed with cosmic activity, there's definitely something more than nothing out there. So why is there still something? Why did the universe's tendency to expand overcome its tendency to collapse?
A new study published in the Physical Review Letters is just the latest to try to inch closer to a place where physicists might be able to answer those questions.
In this particular paper, researchers try to work out the details of the relationship between Higgs boson particles and gravity -- a relationship scientists believe kept an early, unstable universe from collapsing.
Their latest calculations confirm that the stronger the bond between Higgs fields and gravity, the greater the chance of instability and a transition to a negative energy vacuum state, a place with little energy only a few particles popping in and out of existence.
A coupling strength above one would have certainly spelled doom for the early universe, scientists at the University of Copenhagen determined. The new math helps narrow the likely coupling range to between 0.1 and 1.
Physicists in Europe Find Tantalizing Hints of a Mysterious New Particl
Two teams of physicists working independently at the Large Hadron Collider
at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, reported on Tuesday
that they had seen traces of what could be a new fundamental particle of nature. One possibility, out of a gaggle of wild and not-so-wild ideas springing to life's the day went on, is that the particle — assuming it is real — is a heavier version of the Higgs boson, a particle that explains why other particles have mass. Another is that it is a graviton, the supposed quantum carrier of gravity, whose discovery could imply the existence of extra dimensions of space-time.
At the end of a long chain of “ifs” could be a revolution, the first clues to a
theory of nature that goes beyond the so-called Standard Model, which has ruled physics for the last quarter-century. It is, however, far too soon to shout “whale ahoy,” physicists both inside and outside CERN said, noting that the history of particle physics is rife with statistical flukes and anomalies that disappeared when more data was compiled. A coincidence is the most probable explanation for the surprising bumps in data from the collider, physicists from the experiments cautioned, saying that a lot more data was needed and would in fact soon be available. “I don’t think there is anyone around who thinks this is conclusive,” said Kyle Cranmer, a physicist from New York University who works on one of the CERN teams, known as Atlas. “But it would be huge if true,” he said, noting that many theorists had put their other work aside to study the new result.
German physicists see landmark in nuclear fusion quest
Scientists in Germany said Thursday they had reached a milestone in a quest to derive energy from nuclear fusion, billed as a potentially limitless, safe and cheap source.
Nuclear fusion entails fusing atoms together to generate energy -- a process similar to that in the Sun -- as opposed to nuclear fission, where atoms are split, which entails worries over safety and long-term waste.
After spending a billion euros ($1.1 billion) and nine years' construction work, physicists working on a German project called the "stellarator" said they had briefly generated a super-heated helium plasma inside a vessel -- a key point in the experimental process.
Scientists detect the magnetic field that powers our galaxy’s supermassive black hole
The Milky Way, like most galaxies, has a supermassive black hole sitting right in its center. Now, for the first time, scientists have detected a magnetic field just outside the event horizon — or outer boundary — of that black hole. Why do we care? Because that magnetic field is probably what makes our neighborhood black hole so powerful.
Controversial experiment sees no evidence that the universe is a hologram
It's a classic underdog story: Working in a disused tunnel with a couple of lasers and a few mirrors, a plucky band of physicists dreamed up a way to test one of the wildest ideas in theoretical physics—a notion from the nearly inscrutable realm of "string theory" that our universe may be like an enormous hologram. However, science doesn't indulge sentimental favorites. After years of probing the fabric of spacetime for a signal of the "holographic principle," researchers at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab) in Batavia, Illinois, have come up empty, as they will report tomorrow at the lab.
The null result won't surprise many people, as some of the inventors of the principle had complained that the experiment, the $2.5 million Fermilab Holometer, couldn't test it. But Yanbei Chen, a theorist at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, says the experiment and its inventor, Fermilab theorist Craig Hogan, deserve some credit for trying. "At least he's making some effort to make an experimental test," Chen says. "I think we should do more of this, and if the string theorists complain that this is not testing what they're doing, well, they can come up with their own tests."
The holographic principle springs from the theoretical study of black holes, spherical regions where gravity is so intense that not even light can escape. Theorists realized that a black hole has an amount of disorder, or entropy, that is proportional to its surface area. As entropy is related to information content, some theorists suggested that an information-area connection might be extended to any properly defined volume of space and time, or spacetime. Thus, crudely speaking, the maximum amount of information contained in a 3D region of space would be proportional its 2D surface area. The universe would then work a bit like a hologram, in which a 2D pattern captures a 3D image.
How to encrypt a message in the afterglow of the big bang
If you’ve got a secret to keep safe, look to the skies. Physicists have proposed using the afterglow of the big bang to make encryption keys.
The security of many encryption methods relies on generating large random numbers to act as keys to encrypt or decipher information. Computers can spawn these keys with certain algorithms, but they aren’t truly random, so another computer armed with the same algorithm could potentially duplicate the key. An alternative is to rely on physical randomness, like the thermal noise on a chip or the timing of a user’s keystrokes. Now Jeffrey Lee and Gerald Cleaver at Baylor University in Waco, Texas, have taken that to the ultimate extreme by looking at the cosmic microwave background (CMB), the thermal radiation left over from the big bang.
LISA Pathfinder Heads to Space
A trailblazing mission took to the skies early this morning as a Vega rocket carrying the LISA Pathfinder lit up the night over Kourou, French Guiana.
Originally known as the Small Missions for Advanced Research in Technology (SMART 2) and a forerunner to the full-fledged Evolved Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (eLISA) project, LISA Pathfinder will test the technologies key to conducting long-baseline laser interferometry in space. Coming almost exactly 100 years after Einstein proposed his theory of general relativity, this mission will prove vital in the hunt for one of the theory’s more bizarre predictions: gravitational waves.
The equations of general relativity say that accelerating massive objects, such as exploding stars or a pair of whirling black holes, ought to send ripples through spacetime. There’s solid indirect evidence that gravitational waves exist, but direct detection has eluded scientists so far.
LISA Pathfinder paves the way for eLISA, which will take that hunt into space. Slated for launch in 2034, eLISA will use three free-flying spacecraft to create a triangular baseline a million kilometers on a side — a feat impossible on Earth. Lasers will measure the position of two masses suspended at the end of each arm, and then researchers will analyze the data to look for the very slight jiggling induced by gravitational waves passing by. The unique setup and location will give eLISA an unprecedented sensitivity .
Scientists Create New Kind Of Diamond At Room Temperature
Researchers have created a new phase of solid carbon with qualities previously thought to be impossible that can be used to create diamonds at room temperature and the same atmospheric pressure as the ambient air. Scientists at North Carolina State University call it Q-carbon and say it is distinct from the other known solid forms of carbon – graphite and diamond.
“The only place it may be found in the natural world would be possibly in the core of some planets,” says NC State’s Jay Narayan, lead author of three papers on the findings, including one published today in Journal of Applied Physics. Q-carbon is ferromagnetic, which he says was thought to be impossible,and is also harder than diamond and can glow when exposed to even a small amount of energy.
Japanese scientists create touchable holograms
A group of Japanese scientists have created touchable holograms, three dimensional virtual objects that can be manipulated by human hand. Using femtosecond laser technology the researchers developed 'Fairy Lights, a system that can fire high frequency laser pulses that last one millionth of one billionth of a second. The pulses respond to human touch, so that - when interrupted - the hologram's pixels can be manipulated in mid-air.
Positrons Are Plentiful In Ultra-Intense Laser Blasts
Physicists from Rice University and the University of Texas at Austin have found a new recipe for using intense lasers to create positrons — the antiparticle of electrons — in record numbers and density.
In a series of experiments described recently in the online journal Scientific Reports published by Nature, the researchers used UT’s Texas Petawatt Laser to make large number of positrons by blasting tiny gold and platinum targets.
Although the positrons were annihilated in a fraction of a microsecond, the experiments have implications for new realms of physics and astrophysics research, medical therapy and perhaps even space travel, said Rice physicist Edison Liang, lead author of the study.
“There are many futuristic technologies related to antimatter that people have been dreaming about for the last 50 years,” said Liang, the Andrew Hays Buchanan Professor of Astrophysics. “One is that antimatter is the most efficient form of energy storage. When antimatter annihilates with matter, it becomes pure energy. Nothing is left behind, unlike in fusion or fission or chemical-based reactions.”
Scientists Link Moon’s Tilt and Earth’s Gold
At its birth, the moon was quite close to the Earth, probably within 20,000 miles. Because of the tidal pulls between the Earth and moon, the moon’s orbit has slowly been spiraling outward ever since, and as it does, Earth’s pull diminishes, and the pull of the sun becomes more dominant.
By now, with the moon a quarter million miles from Earth, the sun’s gravity should have tipped the moon’s orbit to lie in the same plane as the orbits of the planets. But it has not. The moon’s orbit is about 5 degrees askew. “That the lunar inclination is as small as it is gives us some confidence that the basic idea of lunar formation from an equatorial disk of debris orbiting the proto-Earth is a good one,” said Kaveh Pahlevan, a planetary scientist at the Observatory of the Côte d’Azur in Nice, France. “But the story must have a twist.”
Writing in this week’s issue of the journal Nature, Dr. Pahlevan and his observatory colleague Alessandro Morbidelli propose the twist. The moon did indeed form in the Earth’s equatorial plane, the scientists said, but then a few large objects, perhaps as large as the moon, zipping through the inner solar system repeatedly passed nearby over a few tens of millions of years and tipped the moon’s orbit.
NASA's New 'Star Trek' Tech Is Designed to Detect Alien Life
New NASA technology straight out of "Star Trek" could help scientists detect life on other worlds.
The device, dubbed the "chemical laptop," is a miniature, portable laboratory that resembles the TV show's famous tricorder scanning device, and is designed to make data collection easier and faster than ever before.
The laptop, currently in development at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, is a chemical analyzer made to detect both amino acids and fatty acids, often called "the building blocks of life," in samples from extraterrestrial terrain. Amino acids bind together to create proteins, which are vital to almost all processes that occur within a cell, and fatty acids are an important component of cell membranes, so researchers believe finding both could indicate that life is now or was once present.
A Century Ago, Einstein’s Theory of Relativity Changed Everything
By the fall of 1915, Albert Einstein was a bit grumpy. And why not? Cheered on, to his disgust, by most of his Berlin colleagues, Germany had started a ruinous world war. He had split up with his wife, and she had decamped to Switzerland with his sons.
He was living alone. A friend, Janos Plesch, once said, “He sleeps until he is awakened; he stays awake until he is told to go to bed; he will go hungry until he is given something to eat; and then he eats until he is stopped.”
Worse, he had discovered a fatal flaw in his new theory of gravity, propounded with great fanfare only a couple of years before. And now he no longer had the field to himself. The German mathematician David Hilbert was breathing down his neck.
So Einstein went back to the blackboard. And on Nov. 25, 1915, he set down the equation that rules the universe. As compact and mysterious as a Viking rune, it describes space-time as a kind of sagging mattress where matter and energy, like a heavy sleeper, distort the geometry of the cosmos to produce the effect we call gravity, obliging light beams as well as marbles and falling apples to follow curved paths through space.
Is Earth Growing a Hairy Dark Matter 'Beard'?
Dark matter is thought to be everywhere, literally, but we can’t see it; we can only detect its gravitational presence over large cosmic scales. Now, theoretical physicists are theorizing what configuration the dark stuff may take around Earth. And it’s becoming a bit of a hairy subject.
If we are to take the findings of a recent computer simulation to heart, it looks as if the planets in our solar system are growing rather trendy dark matter “beards,” an idea that not only reveals previously unknown interplanetary fashion trend, it could also provide a guide as to where to seek out direct evidence of the invisible matter that is thought to make up 85 percent of the mass of the entire universe.
Scientists caught a new planet forming for the first time ever
When a new star is born, it creates a disk full of gas and dust — the stuff of planetary formation. But it's hard to catch alien stars in the process of planetary baby-making, because the same dust that creates planets helps obscure these distant solar systems from our sight. We've found young planets and old ones alike, but none of them have actually been in the process of forming — until now.
This new study was led by University of Arizona graduate student Stephanie Sallum and Kate Follette, a former fellow graduate student who has since moved on to postdoctoral research at Stanford University. The two women were working on separate PhD projects, but had decided to focus on the same star — LkCa15, located 450 light years from Earth.
"The reason we selected this system is because it’s built around a very young star that has material left over from the star-formation process," Follette said in a statement. "It’s like a big doughnut. This system is special because it’s one of a handful of disks that has a solar-system size gap in it. And one of the ways to create that gap is to have planets forming in there."
The women and their colleagues set high-powered telescopes to look at the system and used a new technique to look for protoplanets. They searched for the light emitted by hydrogen as the gas falls toward a newly forming planet. That process is hot — roughly 17,500 degrees Fahrenheit — and it produces a signature red glow.
Experiment records extreme quantum weirdness
An experiment in Singapore has pushed quantum weirdness close to its absolute limit. Researchers from the Centre for Quantum Technologies (CQT) at the National University of Singapore and the University of Seville in Spain have reported the most extreme 'entanglement' between pairs of photons ever seen in the lab. The result was published 30 October 2015 in Physical Review Letters.
The achievement is evidence for the validity of quantum physics and will bolster confidence in schemes for quantum cryptography and quantum computing designed to exploit this phenomenon. "For some quantum technologies to work as we intend, we need to be confident that quantum physics is complete," says Poh Hou Shun, who carried out the experiment at CQT. "Our new result increases that confidence," he says.
The researchers looked at 33.2 million optimized photon pairs. Each pair was split up and the photons measured separately, then the correlation between the results quantified.
In such a Bell test, the strength of the correlation says whether or not the photons were entangled. The measures involved are complex, but can be reduced to a simple number. Any value bigger than 2 is evidence for quantum effects at work. But there is also an upper limit.
Quantum physics predicts the correlation measure cannot get any bigger than 2sqrt(2) ~2.82843. In the experiment at CQT, they measure 2.82759 +/- 0.00051 - within 0.03% of the limit. If the peak value were the top of Everest, this would be only 2.6 metres below the summit.
Scientists look into hydrogen atom, find old recipe for pi
Published in 1655 by the English mathematician John Wallis, the Wallis product is an infinite series of fractions that, when multiplied, equal pi divided by 2. It has not appeared in physics at all until now, when University of Rochester scientists Carl Hagen and Tamar Friedmann collaborated on a problem set that Dr. Hagen had developed for his quantum mechanics class.
Instead of using Niels Bohr’s near-century-old calculations for the energy states of hydrogen, Hagen had his students use a method called the variational principle, just to see what might happen. Ultimately, the calculations demanded mathematical expertise, which came in the form of Dr. Friedmann, who is both a mathematician and a physicist.
“One of the things that I’m able to do is talk to both mathematicians and physicists, and that basically requires translating between two languages,” says Friedmann, who studied mathematics as an undergraduate student at Princeton, where she also earned a PhD. in Theoretical and Mathematical Physics.
Friedmann says that asking new questions in math from physics and seeking to understand the physical systems from a mathematical standpoint enriched her understanding of problems in both disciplines. Friedmann tends to take on problems that might not even have an answer; she thinks that’s the type of approach that can lead to new discoveries. “And when they happen,” Friedmann says, “it’s really amazing.”
Strong forces make antimatter stick
Antimatter is a shadowy mirror image of the ordinary matter we are familiar with. For the first time, scientists have measured the forces that make certain antimatter particles stick together. The findings, published in Nature, may yield clues to what led to the scarcity of antimatter in the cosmos today.
The forces between antimatter particles - in this case antiprotons - had not been measured before. If antiprotons were found to behave in a different way to their "mirror images" (the ordinary proton particles that are found in atoms) it might provide a potential explanation for what is known as "matter/antimatter asymmetry".
Birth of universe modeled in massive data simulation
Researchers are sifting through an avalanche of data produced by one of the largest cosmological simulations ever performed, led by scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory.
The simulation, run on the Titan supercomputer at DOE's Oak Ridge National Laboratory, modeled the evolution of the universe from just 50 million years after the Big Bang to the present day - from its earliest infancy to its current adulthood. Over the course of 13.8 billion years, the matter in the universe clumped together to form galaxies, stars and planets; but we're not sure precisely how.
Modern Mystery: Ancient Comet Is Spewing Oxygen
The Rosetta spacecraft has detected molecular oxygen in the gas streaming off comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, a curious finding that has scientists rethinking the ingredients that were present in the early solar system.
What's mystifying astronomers about the new find is why the oxygen wasn't annihilated during the solar system's formation. Molecular oxygen is extremely reactive with hydrogen, which was swirling in abundance as the sun and planets were created. Current solar system models suggest the molecular oxygen should have disappeared by the time 67P was created, about 4.6 billion years ago.
Ingredients for Life Were Always Present on Earth, Comet Suggests
The basic building blocks of life may have been present on Earth from the very beginning.
Astronomers detected 21 different complex organic molecules streaming from Comet Lovejoy during its highly anticipated close approach to the sun this past January. Many of these same carbon-containing compounds have also been spotted around newly forming sunlike stars, researchers said.
"This suggests that our proto-planetary nebula was already enriched in complex organic molecules (as disk models suggested) when comets and planets formed," study lead author Nicolas Biver, of the Paris Observatory, told Space.com via email.
Life May Have Begun 4.1 Billion Years Ago on an Infant Earth
Life may have emerged on Earth 4.1 billion years ago, much earlier than scientists had thought, and relatively soon after the planet formed, researchers say.
Previous research suggested life may have arisen on Earth 3.83 billion years ago. The new findings suggest life started 270 million years earlier, and only about 440 million years after Earth formed about 4.54 billion years ago.
If life on Earth did spring up relatively quickly, that suggests life could be abundant in the universe, scientists added.
Earth Bloomed Early: A Fermi Paradox Solution?
Our place in the universe is a conundrum — life on Earth evolved to create a technologically-savvy race that is now looking for other technologically-savvy intelligences populating our galaxy. But there’s a problem; it looks like humanity is the only “intelligent” species in our little corner of the universe — what gives?
This question forms the basis of the Fermi Paradox: given the age of the universe and the apparent high probability of life evolving on other planets orbiting other stars, where are all the smart aliens? According to a new study based on data collected by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope and NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope, it might be that Earth (and all life on it) is an early bloomer. By extension, the logical progression from this new study is that we’re not hearing from advanced alien civilizations because, in short, the universe hasn’t had the time to spawn many more habitable worlds.
Perfectly accurate clocks turn out to be impossible
Can the passage of time be measured precisely, always and everywhere? The answer will upset many watchmakers. A team of physicists from the universities of Warsaw and Nottingham have just shown that when we are dealing with very large accelerations, no clock will actually be able to show the real passage of time, known as "proper time".
Our Universe: It's the 'Simplest' Thing We Know
Our universe is actually really simple, it's just our cosmological theories that are getting needlessly complex, argues one of the world's leading theoretical physicists.
This conclusion may sound counterintuitive; after all, to fully understand the true complexities of Nature, you need to think bigger, study things on finer and finer scales, add new variables to equations, and think up "new" and "exotic" physics. Eventually we'll discover what dark matter is; eventually we'll gain a grasp of where those gravitational waves are hiding – if only our theoretical models were more advanced and more... complex.
Baylor Physicist Appointed to Management Team of Major Scientific Experiment at CERN
They're Out There! Most People Believe in E.T.
Are humans alone in the universe? A majority of people, particularly guys, in the United States, United Kingdom and Germany say they believe that intelligent life is out there.
Fifty-six percent of Germans, 54 percent of Americans and 52 percent of people from the United Kingdom believe that alien life capable of communication lives somewhere among the stars, according to a new survey by the marketing research firm YouGov.
Salty Water Flows on Mars Today, Boosting Odds for Life
The enigmatic dark streaks on Mars — called recurring slope lineae (RSL) — that appear seasonally on steep, relatively warm Martian slopes are likely caused by salty liquid water, researchers said.
"Liquid water is a key requirement for life on Earth," study lead author Lujendra Ojha, of the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, told Space.com via email. "The presence of liquid water on Mars' present-day surface therefore points to environment[s] that are more habitable than previously thought." [Flowing Water on Mars: The Discovery in Pictures ]
Democracy suffers a blow—in particle physics
Upon learning of the discovery of the muon, I. I. Rabi famously quipped, “Who ordered that?” After all, the muon appeared to be identical to the electron except for its mass. Indeed, in the standard model of particle physics, the charged leptons—electron, muon, and tau—interact in the same way with the model’s gauge bosons, the particles that transmit force. As a consequence of that lepton democracy, the standard model prescribes the relative probabilities, or branching ratios, for a heavy particle to decay into one or another of the charged leptons plus other particles in common. Three years ago the BaBar collaboration at SLAC measured the branching ratios for B-meson decay to produce either a muon or a tau. For two slightly different decays, they found 2σ or greater deviations from the democratic standard-model expectation. Now the LHCb collaboration at CERN has confirmed the BaBar result for one of the decays. In a preprint, the Belle group at KEK in Japan has also announced results that show a similar though less strong deviation from the standard model. The figure below (from the Heavy Flavor Averaging Group) shows the branching ratios (R) measured by the groups for the two decays, denoted D and D*, along with the standard-model prediction. Taken together, the groups’ measurements have struck a 3.9-σ blow to the principle of lepton democracy. If they hold up, the standard model will have to be modified—perhaps by the addition of a new charged Higgs boson, whose interactions would depend on mass. (R. Aaij et al., LHCb collaboration, Phys. Rev. Lett. 115, 111803, 2015.)
Evidence suggests subatomic particles could defy the standard model
The Standard Model of particle physics, which explains most of the known behaviors and interactions of fundamental subatomic particles, has held up remarkably well over several decades. This far-reaching theory does have a few shortcomings, however--most notably that it doesn't account for gravity. In hopes of revealing new, non-standard particles and forces, physicists have been on the hunt for conditions and behaviors that directly violate the Standard Model.
Now, a team of physicists working at CERN's Large Hadron Collider (LHC) has found new hints of particles--leptons, to be more precise--being treated in strange ways not predicted by the Standard Model. The discovery, scheduled for publication in the September 4, 2015 issue of the journal Physical Review Letters, could prove to be a significant lead in the search for non-standard phenomena.
The team, which includes physicists from the University of Maryland who made key contributions to the study, analyzed data collected by the LHCb detector during the first run of the LHC in 2011-12. The researchers looked at B meson decays, processes that produce lighter particles, including two types of leptons: the tau lepton and the muon. Unlike their stable lepton cousin, the electron, tau leptons and muons are highly unstable and quickly decay within a fraction of a second.
According to a Standard Model concept called "lepton universality," which assumes that leptons are treated equally by all fundamental forces, the decay to the tau lepton and the muon should both happen at the same rate, once corrected for their mass difference. However, the team found a small, but notable, difference in the predicted rates of decay, suggesting that as-yet undiscovered forces or particles could be interfering in the process.
"The Standard Model says the world interacts with all leptons in the same way. There is a democracy there. But there is no guarantee that this will hold true if we discover new particles or new forces," said study co-author and UMD team lead Hassan Jawahery, Distinguished University Professor of Physics and Gus T. Zorn Professor at UMD. "Lepton universality is truly enshrined in the Standard Model. If this universality is broken, we can say that we've found evidence for non-standard physics."
Extreme Conditions Create 'Perfect,' but Fleeting, Matter
US-based laboratory has produced tiny droplets of a state of matter that existed in the first few milliseconds after the Big Bang after slamming particles together at close to the speed of light.
The matter, known as a quark-gluon plasma (or QGP), is predicted to exist when temperatures and densities are so extreme that regular matter cannot exist. Instead, a “perfect liquid” exists for a short time before it cools and condenses into the regular stuff that forms the building blocks of matter.
Although physicists have announced the detection of this exotic state of matter before, new results from the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC) at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory, in Upton, New York, appear to show the tiniest droplets of quark-gluon plasma appear, in a specific pattern, after colliding helium-3 nuclei with gold ions.
“These tiny droplets of quark-gluon plasma were at first an intriguing surprise,” said Berndt Mueller, Associate Laboratory Director for Nuclear and Particle Physics at Brookhaven, in a statement. “Physicists initially thought that only the nuclei of large atoms such as gold would have enough matter and energy to set free the quark and gluon building blocks that make up protons and neutrons. But the flow patterns detected by RHIC’s PHENIX (Pioneering High Energy Nuclear Interaction eXperiment) collaboration in collisions of helium-3 nuclei with gold ions now confirm that these smaller particles are creating tiny samples of perfect liquid QGP.”
Quantum weirdness proved real in first loophole-free experiment
It’s official: the universe is weird. Our everyday experience tells us that distant objects cannot influence each other, and don’t disappear just because no one is looking at them. Even Albert Einstein was dead against such ideas because they clashed so badly with our views of the real world.
But it turns out we’re wrong – the quantum nature of reality means, on some level, these things can and do actually happen. A groundbreaking experiment puts the final nail in the coffin of our ordinary “local realism” view of the universe, settling an argument that has raged through physics for nearly a century.
Teams of physicists around the world have been racing to complete this experiment for decades. Now, a group led by Ronald Hanson at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands has finally cracked it. “It’s a very nice and beautiful experiment, and one can only congratulate the group for that,” says Anton Zeilinger, head of one of the rival teams at the University of Vienna, Austria. “Very well done.”
Astronomers discover the biggest thing in the Universe
There's some pretty big stuff out there in the Universe, but how big is the biggest? According to a team of Hungarian-US scientists led by Prof Lajos Balazs, the largest regular formation in the Universe is a ring of nine galaxies 7 billion light years away and 5 billion light years wide. Though not visible from Earth, the newly discovered feature covers a third of our sky.
The ring was revealed by nine Gamma-Ray Bursts (GRB) originating from the nine galaxies. GRBs are the brightest, most energetic events in the cosmos, putting out as much energy in seconds as the Sun will in its entire lifetime. They're caused by supernovae or hypernovae – supermassive stars collapse into neutron stars or black holes in times ranging from milliseconds to a few hours. Aside from their spectacular deaths, they also help astronomers to measure the distance of other galaxies.
In this case, the observed GRB's indicate that the nine galaxies are positioned in a ring shaped like a shell. They also show that the galaxies are all of a very similar distance from Earth – according to Prof Balazs, there's only a 1 in 20,000 chance that the ring's arrangement is accidental.
If it was visible to us, the ring would cover 36 percent of the sky, making it 70 times bigger than a full moon.
The importance of the ring isn't just that it appears to be a record breaker – it raises questions about the architecture of the Universe. In particular, it casts doubts on the Cosmological Principle. First asserted by Sir Isaac Newton and developed based on observations of the cosmic microwave background radiation and the structure of the early universe in the past century, it states that at the largest scale, the Universe is uniform, so no matter where you are, it looks essentially the same.
Possible new particle hints that universe may not be left-handed
PHYSICS may be shifting to the right. Tantalising signals at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider near Geneva, Switzerland, hint at a new particle that could end 50 years of thinking that nature discriminates between left and right-handed particles.
Like your hands, some fundamental particles are different from their mirror images, and so have an intrinsic handedness or “chirality”. But some particles only seem to come in one of the two handedness options, leading to what’s called “left-right symmetry breaking”.
In particular, W bosons, which carry the weak nuclear force, are supposed to come only in left-handed varieties. The debris from smashing protons at the LHC has revealed evidence of unexpected right-handed bosons.
Stephen Hawking says he has a way to escape from a black hole
Stuff that falls into a black hole is gone forever, right? Not so, says Stephen Hawking.
“If you feel you are in a black hole, don’t give up,” he told an audience at a public lecture in Stockholm, Sweden, yesterday. He was speaking in advance of a scientific talk today at the Hawking Radiation Conference being held at the KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm. “There’s a way out.”
You probably know that black holes are stars that have collapsed under their own gravity, producing gravitational forces so strong that even light can’t escape. Anything that falls inside is thought to be ripped apart by the massive gravity, never to been seen or heard from again.
What you may not know is that physicists have been arguing for 40 years about what happens to the information about the physical state of those objects once they fall in. Quantum mechanics says that this information cannot be destroyed, but general relativity says it must be – that’s why this argument is known as the information paradox.
Now Hawking says this information never makes it inside the black hole in the first place. “I propose that the information is stored not in the interior of the black hole as one might expect, but on its boundary, the event horizon,” he said today.
COMETS COULD HAVE KICKSTARTED LIFE ON EARTH AND OTHER WORLDS
Comets are typically associated with extinction. However, there is growing evidence pointing to their ability to "seed" or create life on planets, a controversial idea, but one boosted by a groundbreaking experiment that re-created a comet impact as it would have occurred on a young Earth.
In Memoriam: Jacob Bekenstein (1947–2015) and Black Hole Entropy
Sad news reached Jen-Luc Piquant this morning via Jonathan Oppenheim's Twitter feed: physicist Jacob Bekenstein, a professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, passed away last night. I never had the honor of meeting Dr. Bekenstein in person, but I certainly know the name. He received many well-deserved honors during his long career, most recently the 2015 Einstein Prize from the American Physical Society, awarded "For his ground-breaking work on black hole entropy, which launched the field of black hole thermodynamics and transformed the long effort to unify quantum mechanics and gravitation." According to Oppenheim, he was "a gentle soul and a brilliant physicist," adding that Bekenstein's insights into black hole entropy were "mind bogglingly remarkable."
Wormhole Created in Lab Makes Invisible Magnetic Field
Ripped from the pages of a sci-fi novel, physicists have crafted a wormhole that tunnels a magnetic field through space.
"This device can transmit the magnetic field from one point in space to another point, through a path that is magnetically invisible," said study co-author Jordi Prat-Camps, a doctoral candidate in physics at the Autonomous University of Barcelona in Spain. "From a magnetic point of view, this device acts like a wormhole, as if the magnetic field was transferred through an extra special dimension."
The idea of a wormhole comes from Albert Einstein's theories. In 1935, Einstein and colleague Nathan Rosen realized that the general theory of relativity allowed for the existence of bridges that could link two different points in space-time. Theoretically these Einstein-Rosen bridges, or wormholes, could allow something to tunnel instantly between great distances (though the tunnels in this theory are extremely tiny, so ordinarily wouldn't fit a space traveler). So far, no one has found evidence that space-time wormholes actually exist. The new wormhole isn't a space-time wormhole per se, but is instead a realization of a futuristic "invisibility cloak" first proposed in 2007 in the journal Physical Review Letters. This type of wormhole would hide electromagnetic waves from view from the outside. The trouble was, to make the method work for light required materials that are extremely impractical and difficult to work with, Prat said.
Experiment attempts to snare a dark energy 'chameleon'
If dark energy is hiding in our midst in the form of hypothetical particles called "chameleons," Holger Muller and his team at the University of California, Berkeley, plan to flush them out.
The results of an experiment reported in this week's issue of Science narrows the search for chameleons a thousand times compared to previous tests, and Muller, an assistant professor of physics, hopes that his next experiment will either expose chameleons or similar ultralight particles as the real dark energy, or prove they were a will-o'-the-wisp after all.
Antarctica Scientists Confirm Existence of Cosmic Neutrinos
Buried deep in the Antarctic ice, an observatory has spotted ghostly, nearly massless particles coming from inside our galaxy and points beyond the Milky Way.
Finding these cosmic neutrinos not only confirms their existence but also sheds light on the origins of cosmic rays, the researchers said.
The IceCube Neutrino Observatory is made up of 86 shafts dug 8,000 feet into the ice near the South Pole. The shafts are equipped with detectors that look for the telltale light from high-energy particles plowing through the surrounding ice. Neutrinos have little mass, and zip through matter so easily that a block of lead a light-year across wouldn't stop them. These elusive particles come from high-energy sources: exploding stars, black holes and galactic cores among them.
Mystery Deepens: Matter and Antimatter Are Mirror Images
Matter and antimatter appear to be perfect mirror images of each other as far as anyone can see, scientists have discovered with unprecedented precision, foiling hope of solving the mystery as to why there is far more matter than antimatter in the universe.
Everyday matter is made up of protons, neutrons or electrons. These particles have counterparts known as antiparticles — antiprotons, antineutrons and positrons, respectively — that have the same mass but the opposite electric charge. (Although neutrons and antineutrons are both neutrally charged, they are each made of particles known as quarks that possess fractional electrical charges, and the charges of these quarks are equal and opposite to one another in neutrons and antineutrons.)
The known universe is composed of everyday matter. The profound mystery is, why the universe is not made up of equal parts antimatter, since the Big Bang that is thought to have created the universe 13.7 billion years ago produced equal amounts of both. And if matter and antimatter appear to be mirror images of each other in every respect save their electrical charge, there might not be much any of either type of matter left — matter and antimatter annihilate when they encounter each other
Are Aliens Trying To Contact Us? Mathematical Radio Waves From Deep Space Baffle Scientitsts.
In the 1997 film "Contact," which was an adaptation of a novel written by Carl Sagan, an astrophysicist played by Jodie Foster becomes the first human to make contact with an extraterrestrial civilization after detecting a strong, patterned radio signal from outer space.
Though fictional, the movie may have been prophetic. For the last 15 years, scientists have been detecting strange radio bursts from deep space that appear mathematical in nature, reports New Scientist. The fact that they display a mathematical pattern is the linchpin: There are no known natural phenomenon capable of generating radio bursts with this kind of pattern.
So either these radio waves represent some yet undiscovered celestial event, or they are being produced by some kind of technology. In other words, if they do have a technological origin and they aren't being generated by us, that means they could be signals from an extraterrestrial intelligence. Yep, that's right: aliens.
The reason this may be the first you've heard about these potential alien radio broadcasts is that scientists still aren't entirely sure what to make of them. There are a lot of possible explanations that don't involve little green men. But the fact that scientists can't rule out the possibility of an alien origin is rather mind-blowing, if not downright frightening.
Earth-Like Alien World Could Have Vast Oceans
A small, rocky planet could host liquid water on its surface, if it also contains a carbon-dioxide atmosphere, researchers say.
The planet, which scientists have dubbed Kepler-62f, has a diameter 40 percent larger than that of Earth, and could contain oceans of water if its atmosphere keeps the planet warm.
"A high carbon-dioxide atmosphere is a reliable way to put liquid water on this planet," Aomawa Shields, a scientist at the University of California, Los Angeles, who was involved in the new research, said at the Astrobiology Science Conference in Chicago in June. [The 6 Most Earth-like Alien Planets]
Super Strong Magnetic Fields Could Be the Key to Our Nuclear Fusion Future
The era of true nuclear fusion may be fast approaching thanks to some cutting-edge work from MIT. While fusion has been demonstrated before, it's always used more energy than it's created. But finding a new way to apply a strong magnetic field to a prototype device, the MIT team has learned how to better contain super-hot plasma, and that's a step towards practical application.
A fusion reactor works like a mini-star, fusing hydrogen atoms into helium just as the sun does. But without the immense gravity of a star, the plasma escapes, requiring more energy to keep it in place. This new magnetic field keeps the core together, and maximizes the energy output of the tiny star.
New study predicts the slow, inevitable death of the universe
Like all good things, our universe will one day come to an end. Just how that end will look is still something of a mystery. But one new study suggests that our universe won't go out with a bang, but with a whimper: According to these scientists, stars are growing dim.
Researchers presented their findings on Monday at the International Astronomical Union XXIX General Assembly. The survey, which is part of the Galaxy and Mass Assembly (GAMA) project, used several powerful telescopes to measure the energy output of some 200,000 galaxies, some far enough away to give us a glimpse into the past -- because of how long it takes the light from those stars to reach our telescopes.
NASA estimates 1 billion ‘Earths’ in our galaxy alone
There are a billion Earths in this galaxy, roughly speaking. Not a million. A billion. We’re talking 1 billion rocky planets that are approximately the size of the Earth and are orbiting familiar-looking yellow-sunshine stars in the orbital “habitable zone” where water could be liquid at the surface.
A SIMPLE WAY TO RETRIEVE INFO YOU LOST IN A BLACK HOLE
Black holes are full of conundrums. Like, what would happen if you threw a book inside one of these gravity wells? The theory of general relativity (the physics laws that govern really big things in the universe) predicts that the book would disappear forever. But quantum mechanics (the laws that govern really small things) says that's impossible--that energy, matter, and information can neither be created nor destroyed. They can get transformed, but the total amount has to stay the same.
To try to solve this paradox, a team of physicists has come up with a way that someone could theoretically recover information from a black hole. There’s a catch though: the experiment only works on one bit of quantum information (or qubit) at a time. That’s not a lot of information.
Although the study hasn’t been peer-reviewed yet, it is posted on arXiv so the researchers could collect feedback from their colleagues before submitting it to a journal. It’s also not the kind of experiment scientists are likely to try out--it’s just meant to be a fun thought experiment. “In essence, our protocol amounts to a teleportation scheme,” they write.
Ancient Galaxy Is Most Distant Ever Found
Astronomers have spotted the farthest-flung galaxy in the known universe. The newfound galaxy, known as EGSY8p7, lies about 13.2 billion light-years from Earth — meaning astronomers are now seeing the mass of stars as it existed just 600 million years or so after the Big Bang that created the universe.
LHC Keeps Bruising 'Difficult to Kill' Supersymmetry
In a new blow for the futuristic "supersymmetry" theory of the universe's basic anatomy, experts reported fresh evidence Monday of subatomic activity consistent with the mainstream Standard Model of particle physics.
New data from ultra high-speed proton collisions at Europe's Large Hadron Collider (LHC) showed an exotic particle dubbed the "beauty quark" behaves as predicted by the Standard Model, said a paper in the journal Nature Physics.
Previous attempts at measuring the beauty quark's rare transformation into a so-called "up quark" had yielded conflicting results. That prompted scientists to propose an explanation beyond the Standard Model -- possibly supersymmetry.
Dark Pion Particles May Explain Universe's Invisible Matter
Dark matter is the mysterious stuff that cosmologists think makes up some 85 percent of all the matter in the universe. A new theory says dark matter might resemble a known particle. If true, that would open up a window onto an invisible, dark matter version of physics.
Is the universe ringing like a crystal glass?
two physicists at The University of Southern Mississippi, Lawrence Mead and Harry Ringermacher, have discovered that the universe might not only be expanding, but also oscillating or "ringing" at the same time. Their paper on the topic has been published in the April 2015 issue of the Astronomical Journal.
NASA Finds Closest Earth Twin Yet in Haul of 500 Alien Planets
NASA's Kepler space telescope has spotted the most Earth-like alien planet yet discovered — a world called Kepler-452b that's just slightly bigger than our own and orbits a sunlike star at about the same distance Earth circles the sun.
"This is the first possibly rocky, habitable planet around a solar-type star," Jeff Coughlin, Kepler research scientist at the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) Institute in Mountain View, California, said during a news briefing July 23.
Physicists Observe Weyl Points for the First Time
Part of a 1929 prediction by physicist Hermann Weyl — of a kind of massless particle that features a singular point in its energy spectrum called the “Weyl point” — has finally been confirmed by direct observation for the first time, says an international team of physicists led by researchers at MIT. The finding could lead to new kinds of high-power single-mode lasers and other optical devices, the team says.
For decades, physicists thought that the subatomic particles called neutrinos were, in fact, the massless particles that Weyl had predicted — a possibility that was ultimately eliminated by the 1998 discovery that neutrinos do have a small mass. While thousands of scientific papers have been written about the theoretical particles, until this year there had seemed little hope of actually confirming their existence.
A Dark Matter bridge in our cosmic neighborhood
By using the best available data to monitor galactic traffic in our neighborhood, Noam Libeskind from the Leibniz Institute for Astrophysics Potsdam (AIP) and his collaborators have built a detailed map of how nearby galaxies move.
In it they have discovered a bridge of Dark Matter stretching from our Local Group all the way to the Virgo cluster - a huge mass of some 2,000 galaxies roughly 50 million light years away, that is bound on either side by vast bubbles completely devoid of galaxies. This bridge and these voids help us understand a 40 year old problem regarding the curious distribution of dwarf galaxies.
Neutrons find 'missing' magnetism of plutonium
Finally, after seven decades, this scientific mystery on plutonium's "missing" magnetism has been resolved. Using neutron scattering, researchers from the Department of Energy's Los Alamos and Oak Ridge (ORNL) national laboratories have made the first direct measurements of a unique characteristic of plutonium's fluctuating magnetism.
Superconductor could be realized in a broken Lorenz invariant theory
Today theoretical physicists are facing the difficulty that General Relativity is not (pertubatively) renormalizable, and find that it is very hard to construct the quantum theory of gravity with LI. A possible solution is to break the LI in the ultraviolet (UV) region, so that the theory is renormalizable and unitary. However, the invariance should be recovered in the infrared (IR), so that all of the gravitational experiments in the IR can be satisfied.
According to this idea, Horava proposed a Horava-Lifshitz (HL) gravity without LI [P. Horava, Phys. Rev. D 79 (2009) 084008], and recently it was shown that LI can be broken at very high energy scale [K. Lin, S. Mukohyama, A. Wang and T. Zhu, Phys. Rev. D 89 (2014) 084022], without causing conflict with observations [M. Pospelov and C. Tamarit, J. High Energy Phys. 01 (2014) 048]. Therefore, it would be very interesting to study effects due to the broken LI, and we find that it is possible to realize the holographic superconductor in HL gravity. This work was a generalization of the AdS/CFT correspondence proposed by Hartnoll, Herzog and Horowitz [S. A. Hartnoll, C. P. Herzog and G. T. Horowitz, Phys.Rev.Lett. 101 (2008) 031601]. They used AdS/CFT correspondence to explain the phase change in black hole spacetime, and successfully obtained the holographic superconductor curve lines of a black hole.
Rare system of five stars discovered
Astronomers have discovered a very rare system of five connected stars.
The quintuplet consists of a pair of closely linked stars - binaries - one of which has a lone companion; it is the first known system of its kind.
The pair of stars orbit around a mutual centre of gravity, but are separated by more than the distance of Pluto's orbit around the Sun. The findings have been presented at the UK National Astronomy Meeting in Llandudno.
The unusual system lies 250 light-years away in the constellation Ursa Major. It was discovered in data gathered by the SuperWASP (Wide Angle Search for Planets) project.
Dark matter map begins to reveal the universe's early history
Researchers from the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ), the University of Tokyo and other institutions have begun a wide-area survey of the distribution of dark matter in the universe using Hyper Suprime-Cam, a new wide-field camera installed on the Subaru Telescope in Hawai'i. Initial results from observations covering an area of 2.3 square degrees on the sky toward the constellation Cancer revealed nine large concentrations of dark matter, each the mass of a galaxy cluster. Surveying how dark matter is distributed and how the distribution changes over time is essential to understanding the role of dark energy that controls the expansion of the universe. These first results demonstrate that astronomers now have the techniques and tools to understand dark energy. The next step is for the research team to expand the survey to cover a thousand square degrees on the sky, and thereby unravel the mystery of dark energy and the expansion of the universe.
Mapping dark matter over a wide region is key to understanding the properties of dark energy, which controls the expansion of the universe. These early results demonstrate that with current research techniques and Hyper Suprime-Cam, the team is now ready to explore how the distribution of dark matter in the universe has changed over time, unravel the mystery of dark energy, and explore the universe?s expansion history with great detail.
Astronomers Discover Hundreds of Weird Galaxies Filled With Dark Matter
Last year, astronomers were surprised to detect 47 galaxies in the Coma Cluster that were made almost entirely of dark matter. So how much more surprised are they to see 800 more dark galaxies in the same cluster? Even that many concentrations of mysterious dark matter may be merely the "tip of the iceberg," said Jin Koda, an astrophysicist at Stony Brook University in New York. "We may find more if we look for fainter galaxies embedded in a large amount of dark matter," Koda said in a news release about the latest find. The discovery, detailed in the June issue of the Astrophysical Journal Letters, is based on observations from the 8.2-meter (27-foot) Subaru Telescope in Hawaii.
NASA Telescopes Set Limits on Space-time Quantum "Foam"
A team of scientists has used X-ray and gamma-ray observations of some of the most distant objects in the Universe to better understand the nature of space and time. Their results set limits on the quantum nature, or "foaminess" of space-time at extremely tiny scales.
Forget Space-Time: Information May Create the Cosmos
What are the basic building blocks of the cosmos? Atoms, particles, mass energy? Quantum mechanics, forces, fields? Space and time — space-time? Tiny strings with many dimensions?
A new candidate is "information," which some scientists claim is the foundation of reality. The late distinguished physicist John Archibald Wheeler characterized the idea as "It from bit" — "it" referring to all the stuff of the universe and "bit" meaning information.
It's no revelation that information is changing society. What's novel is that information is changing science. So, the question then becomes how to understand "information," a common term whose technical or scientific sense can be disruptive.
Left-handed cosmic magnetic field could explain missing antimatter
The discovery of a 'left-handed' magnetic field that pervades the universe could help explain a long standing mystery -- the absence of cosmic antimatter. A group of scientists, led by Prof Tanmay Vachaspati from Arizona State University in the United States, with collaborators at Washington University and Nagoya University, announce their result in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.
Electron pairing without superconductivity seen at long last
Electron pairing without superconductivity has been seen for the first time by a team of physicists in the US. Confirming a prediction made in 1969, the electron pairs were spotted in strontium titanate using a single-electron transistor. The observation could provide useful insights into the nature of superconductivity, and perhaps even help in the design of new high-temperature superconductors.
Atomic gas puts the brakes on light in optical fibres
Light in an optical fibre has been slowed to a virtual standstill for the first time by a team of physicists in France and Austria. The technique makes use of an effect called electromagnetically induced transparency (EIT), which normally occurs in clouds of atomic gases. The discovering could provide a practical solution to the vexing problem of how to build quantum memories for use in quantum-information networks.
Black Holes Might Make Dark Matter Shine
Dark matter circling the drain of a massive black hole could radiate gamma-rays that might be visible from Earth, according to new research. Dark matter is five times more plentiful in the universe than regular matter, but it does not emit, reflect or absorb light, making it not just dark but entirely transparent. But if dark-matter particles around black holes can produce gamma-rays (high-energy light), such emissions would give scientists a new way to study this mysterious material.
Ancient star raises prospects of intelligent life
Can life survive for billions of years longer than the expected timeline on Earth? As scientists discover older and older solar systems, it's likely that before long we'll find an ancient planet in a habitable zone. Knowing if life is possible on this exoplanet would have immense implications for habitability and the development of ancient life, one researcher says.In January, a group led by Tiago Campante—an astroseismology or "starquake" researcher at the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom—announced a discovery of five tiny, likely rocky worlds close to an ancient star. The star is named Kepler-444 after NASA's planet-hunting Kepler mission, which first made a tentative discovery. Campante's contribution was narrowing down the age of Kepler-444 and its planets to an astounding 11.2 billion years old. That's nearly 2.5 times as old as our solar system. None of Kepler-444's planets are thought to be habitable, as they circle the star at a scorchingly-close distance. However, Campante said that finding those planets is a great stride forward in the search for older, habitable worlds and the best may be yet to come.
Evidence Found in Asteroid Debris For How Water Reached Earth
Water delivery via asteroids or comets is likely taking place in many other planetary systems, just as it happened on Earth, new research strongly suggests.
Published by the Royal Astronomical Society and led by the University of Warwick, the research finds evidence for numerous planetary bodies, including asteroids and comets, containing large amounts of water.
The research findings add further support to the possibility water can be delivered to Earth-like planets via such bodies to create a suitable environment for the formation of life.
A Hot Start to the Origin of Life?
DNA is synonymous with life, but where did it originate? One way to answer this question is to try to recreate the conditions that formed DNA's molecular precursors.
These precursors are carbon ring structures with embedded nitrogen atoms, key components of nucleobases, which themselves are building blocks of the double helix.
Now, researchers from the U.S. Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Lab (Berkeley Lab) and the University of Hawaii at Manoa have shown for the first time that cosmic hot spots, such as those near stars, could be excellent environments for the creation of these nitrogen-containing molecular rings.
In a new paper in the Astrophysical Journal, the team describes the experiment in which they recreate conditions around carbon-rich, dying stars to find formation pathways of the important molecules.
This Galaxy Far, Far Away Is the Farthest One Yet Found
A galaxy far, far away — farther, in fact, than any other known galaxy — has been measured by astronomers. The galaxy EGS-zs8-1 lies 13.1 billion light-years from Earth, the largest distance ever measured between Earth and another galaxy. The universe is thought to be about 13.8 billion years old, so galaxy EGS-zs8-1 is also one of the earliest galaxies to form in the cosmos. Further studies could provide a glimpse at how these early galaxies helped produce the heavy elements that are essential for building the diversity of life and landscapes we see on Earth today.
Physicists detect radio waves from a single electron
Physicists have long known that charged particles like electrons will spiral in a magnetic field and give off radiation. But nobody had ever detected the radio waves emanating from a single whirling electron—until now. The striking new technique researchers used to do it might someday help particle physicists answer a question that has vexed them for decades: How much does a ghostly particle called the neutrino weigh?
A Cold Cosmic Mystery Solved
n 2004, astronomers examining a map of the radiation leftover from the Big Bang (the cosmic microwave background, or CMB) discovered the Cold Spot, a larger-than-expected unusually cold area of the sky.
The physics surrounding the Big Bang theory predicts warmer and cooler spots of various sizes in the infant universe, but a spot this large and this cold was unexpected.
Now, a team of astronomers led by Dr. Istvan Szapudi of the Institute for Astronomy at the University of Hawaii at Manoa may have found an explanation for the existence of the Cold Spot, which Szapudi says may be "the largest individual structure ever identified by humanity."
Biggest void in space is 1 billion light years across
Radio astronomers have found the biggest hole ever seen in the universe. The void, which is nearly a billion light years across, is empty of both normal matter and dark matter. The finding challenges theories of large-scale structure formation in the universe.
This Molecule Could've Created the Backbone of DNA and Helped to Kick-Start Life
In a new study out today, scientists may have taken another key step toward explaining how genetic materials—and life—may have first formed on the Earth.
The molecule is question is called formamide. It's pretty simple; the molecular formula is NH2CHO. It's incredibly abundant in our universe, appearing in absurdly huge interstellar clouds, and is believed to be a vital component of almost all infantile, planet-forging star systems. And some researchers think formamide could have a key player in the origin of life. Last December, for example, a team of Czech researchers discovered that the energy you'd get form a comet or asteroid impact would be enough to instantaneously transform formamide into many of the molecular letters of our genetic alphabet.
That surprising discovery had pretty profound implications, leaving many to wonder if such impacts on our young Earth could have heralded the dawn of life. But the puzzle was incomplete: While the Czech researchers could account for the genesis of the letters inside DNA, they couldn't account for the spine of the molecule—the sugars and phosphate groups that hold everything together to form the iconic double helix.
In this new study, a team of Italian and Russian scientists has solved half that problem. In a science paper published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, they found that simply bombarding formamide (alongside various ground-up meteorites) with solar wind—the stream of charged particles from the sun—could spawn a veritable alphabet soup of life's necessary molecules, including the sugary half of that missing genetic spine.
First Signs of Self-interacting Dark Matter?
Using the MUSE instrument on ESO's VLT in Chile, along with images from Hubble in orbit, a team of astronomers studied the simultaneous collision of four galaxies in the galaxy cluster Abell 3827.
The team could trace out where the mass lies within the system and compare the distribution of the dark matter with the positions of the luminous galaxies.
Although dark matter cannot be seen, the team could deduce its location using a technique called gravitational lensing. The collision happened to take place directly in front of a much more distant, unrelated source. The mass of dark matter around the colliding galaxies severely distorted spacetime, deviating the path of light rays coming from the distant background galaxy -- and distorting its image into characteristic arc shapes.
Our current understanding is that all galaxies exist inside clumps of dark matter. Without the constraining effect of dark matter's gravity, galaxies like the Milky Way would fling themselves apart as they rotate. In order to prevent this, 85 percent of the Universe's mass  must exist as dark matter, and yet its true nature remains a mystery.
In this study, the researchers observed the four colliding galaxies and found that one dark matter clump appeared to be lagging behind the galaxy it surrounds. The dark matter is currently 5000 light-years (50 000 million million kilometres) behind the galaxy -- it would take NASA's Voyager spacecraft 90 million years to travel that far.
A lag between dark matter and its associated galaxy is predicted during collisions if dark matter interacts with itself, even very slightly, through forces other than gravity . Dark matter has never before been observed interacting in any way other than through the force of gravity.
Dark matter map unveils first results
A huge effort to map dark matter across the cosmos has released its first data.
Dark matter is the invisible "web" that holds galaxies together; by watching how clumps of it shift over time, scientists hope eventually to quantify dark energy - the even more mysterious force that is pushing the cosmos apart.
The map will eventually span one-eighth of the sky; this first glimpse covers just 0.4%, but in unprecedented detail.
It shows fibres of dark matter, studded with galaxies, and voids in between.
The international collaboration, known as the Dark Energy Survey (DES), will present its preliminary findings on Tuesday at a meeting of the American Physical Society and publish them on the Arxiv preprint server.
The survey involves more than 300 scientists from six countries and uses images taken by one of the best digital cameras in the world: a 570-megapixel gadget mounted on the Victor Blanco telescope at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory, high in the Chilean Andes.
Accelerating Universe? Not So Fast
Certain types of supernovae, or exploding stars, are more diverse than previously thought, a University of Arizona-led team of astronomers has discovered The results, reported in two papers published in the Astrophysical Journal, have implications for big cosmological questions, such as how fast the universe has been expanding since the Big Bang. Most importantly, the findings hint at the possibility that the acceleration of the expansion of the universe might not be quite as fast as textbooks say.
The team, led by UA astronomer Peter A. Milne, discovered that type Ia supernovae, which have been considered so uniform that cosmologists have used them as cosmic "beacons" to plumb the depths of the universe, actually fall into different populations. The findings are analogous to sampling a selection of 100-watt light bulbs at the hardware store and discovering that they vary in brightness. "We found that the differences are not random, but lead to separating Ia supernovae into two groups, where the group that is in the minority near us are in the majority at large distances -- and thus when the universe was younger," said Milne, an associate astronomer with the UA's Department of Astronomy and Steward Observatory. "There are different populations out there, and they have not been recognized. The big assumption has been that as you go from near to far, type Ia supernovae are the same. That doesn't appear to be the case."
The discovery casts new light on the currently accepted view of the universe expanding at a faster and faster rate, pulled apart by a poorly understood force called dark energy. This view is based on observations that resulted in the 2011 Nobel Prize for Physics awarded to three scientists, including UA alumnus Brian P. Schmidt.
Complex Organic Molecules Discovered in Infant Star System
For the first time, astronomers have detected the presence of complex organic molecules, the building blocks of life, in a protoplanetary disk surrounding a young star, indicating that the conditions that spawned our Earth and Sun are not unique in the universe.
This discovery, made with the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), reveals that the protoplanetary disk surrounding the million-year-old star MWC 480 is brimming with methyl cyanide (CH3CN), a complex carbon-based molecule. Both this molecule and its simpler cousin hydrogen cyanide (HCN) were found in the cold outer reaches of the star's newly formed disk, in a region that astronomers believe is analogous to our own Kuiper Belt - the realm of icy planetesimals and comets beyond Neptune.
Scientists understand that comets retain a pristine record of the early chemistry of our solar system, from the period of planet formation. As the planets evolved, it's believed that comets and asteroids from the outer solar system seeded the young Earth with water and organic molecules, helping set the stage for life to eventually emerge.
Black holes don’t erase information, scientists say
Shred a document, and you can piece it back together. Burn a book, and you could theoretically do the same. But send information into a black hole, and it’s lost forever. That’s what some physicists have argued for years: That black holes are the ultimate vaults, entities that suck in information and then evaporate without leaving behind any clues as to what they once contained.
But new research shows that this perspective may not be correct. “According to our work, information isn’t lost once it enters a black hole,” says Dejan Stojkovic, PhD, associate professor of physics at the University at Buffalo. “It doesn’t just disappear.” Stojkovic’s new study, “Radiation from a Collapsing Object is Manifestly Unitary,” appeared on March 17 in Physical Review Letters, with UB PhD student Anshul Saini as co-author. The paper outlines how interactions between particles emitted by a black hole can reveal information about what lies within, such as characteristics of the object that formed the black hole to begin with, and characteristics of the matter and energy drawn inside.
Two Earth-sized exoplanets may exist in closest star system, Hubble observations reveal
The closest star system to our own Sun may have two Earth-sized exoplanets orbiting it, a new study has shown based on observations by the Hubble Space Telescope. If confirmed, the discovery would help to illustrate just how common exoplanets are; data from Kepler and other telescopes has also already shown that the vast majority of stars have exoplanets orbiting them, and the number of exoplanets in our galaxy alone is now thought to number in the billions. Both candidate exoplanets, if real, orbit Alpha Centauri B, one of two stars in the Alpha Centauri binary star system, the closest star system to Earth at only 4.3 light-years away. That would be an exciting find, since most exoplanets have so far been found orbiting stars much farther away, due to the nature of observations required for different kinds of searches. A third star, Alpha Centauri C (or Proxima Centauri), may or may not be gravitationally associated with the first two stars.
New Research Suggests Solar System May Have Once Harbored Super-Earths
Long before Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars formed, it seems that the inner solar system may have harbored a number of super-Earths—planets larger than Earth but smaller than Neptune. If so, those planets are long gone—broken up and fallen into the sun billions of years ago largely due to a great inward-and-then-outward journey that Jupiter made early in the solar system's history.
This possible scenario has been suggested by Konstantin Batygin, a Caltech planetary scientist, and Gregory Laughlin of UC Santa Cruz in a paper that appears the week of March 23 in the online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). The results of their calculations and simulations suggest the possibility of a new picture of the early solar system that would help to answer a number of outstanding questions about the current makeup of the solar system and of Earth itself. For example, the new work addresses why the terrestrial planets in our solar system have such relatively low masses compared to the planets orbiting other sun-like stars.
Dark matter 'ghosts' through galactic smash-ups
Dark matter is the mysterious, invisible stuff that makes up 85% of the matter in the cosmos - and these results rule out several theoretical models put forward to explain it. This is because it barely interacts with anything at all, including the dark matter in the oncoming galaxies.
The work appears in Science magazine.
Astronomers Discover Dwarf Galaxies Orbiting the Milky Way
Astronomers have discovered a ‘treasure trove’ of rare dwarf satellite galaxies orbiting our own Milky Way. The discoveries could hold the key to understanding dark matter, the mysterious substance which holds our galaxy together.
Terraforming Mars by Polluting its Atmosphere
Four University of Leicester physics students have co-written a paper which highlights a problematic concept when planning a human colony on Mars. Colonizing the Red Planet is exactly the kind of goal that the privately funded Mars One program me has set for itself and hopes to achieve by 2025. It has recently announced the penultimate stage of its colonist selection program.
So undergraduates Alex Longman, 22, Kieran Flatt, 21, Sam Turnpenney, 32, and Maria Garreffa, 22, got together to look at the possibility of terraforming Mars in preparation for its first human settlers. As part of a course module which invites them to consider alternative and off-the-wall suggestions based on real scientific principles, the groups looked at burning copious amounts of coal on Mars to create enough carbon dioxide to alter the Martian atmosphere. The process would increase the atmospheric density and eliminate the need for pressurized spacesuits making the Red Planet more habitable. However, the group performed some short calculations to demonstrate that, unsurprisingly, there are some major difficulties with this proposal. Lead author Alex said: "The paper found that terraforming Mars was unfeasible and unlikely to happen any time soon due to the large values of coal being needed to produce a greenhouse effect.
Fresh hint of dark matter seen in neutrino search
Flashes of X-rays from crowded galaxy clusters could be the long-awaited sign that we have found particles of dark matter – the elusive substance thought to make up the bulk of all matter in the universe.
If the results stand up, dark matter would consist of ghostly particles called "sterile" neutrinos. These tantalising particles would be the first kind found beyond the standard set known to science.
Dark matter interacts with ordinary matter via gravity but otherwise scarcely makes itself known. Physicists think its mass could be tied up in an unknown particle. The leading theoretical candidate is a weakly interacting massive particle (WIMP), but our best detectors have yet to yield a confirmed sighting.
Gamma Rays May Be Clue on Dark Matter
A small, newly discovered galaxy orbiting the Milky Way is emitting a surprising amount of electromagnetic radiation in the form of gamma rays, astronomers reported Tuesday. The finding may be the latest in a long string of cosmic false alarms, they said, or it might be that the mysterious dark matter that permeates the universe is finally showing a bit of leg. If confirmed, the results could mean that most of the matter of the universe is in the form of as-yet-unidentified elementary particles, 20 to 100 times as heavy as a proton, that have been drifting and clumping like fog in space ever since the Big Bang.
Nasa finds evidence of a vast ancient ocean on Mars
A massive ancient ocean once covered nearly half of the northern hemisphere of Mars making the planet a more promising place for alien life to have gained a foothold, Nasa scientists say. The huge body of water spread over a fifth of the planet’s surface, as great a portion as the Atlantic covers the Earth, and was a mile deep in places. In total, the ocean held 20 million cubic kilometers of water, or more than is found in the Arctic Ocean, the researchers found.