space

Life offers second chances, it’s called tomorrow

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Simulation suggests 68 percent of the universe may not actually exist

According to the Lambda Cold Dark Matter (Lambda-CDM) model, which is the current accepted standard for how the universe began and evolved, the ordinary matter we encounter every day only makes up around five percent of the universe’s density, with dark matter comprising 27 percent, and the remaining 68 percent made up of dark energy, a so-far theoretical force driving the expansion of the universe. But a new study has questioned whether dark energy exists at all, citing computer simulations that found that by accounting for the changing structure of the cosmos, the gap in the theory, which dark energy was proposed to fill, vanishes.

{ New Atlas | Continue reading }

art { Portia Munson, Her Coffin, 2016 }

cloaked in the pall of the ace of spaces

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With tens or even hundreds of billions of potentially habitable planets within our galaxy, the question becomes: are we alone?

Many scientists and commentators equate “more planets” with “more E.T.s”. However, the violence and instability of the early formation and evolution of rocky planets suggests that most aliens will be extinct fossil microbes.

Just as dead dinosaurs don’t walk, talk or breathe, microbes that have been fossilised for billions of years are not easy to detect by the remote sampling of exoplanetary atmospheres.

In research published [PDF] in the journal Astrobiology, we argue that early extinction could be the cosmic default for life in the universe. This is because the earliest habitable conditions may be unstable. […] Inhabited planets may be rare in the universe, not because emergent life is rare, but because habitable environments are difficult to maintain during the first billion years.

Our suggestion that the universe is filled with dead aliens might disappoint some, but the universe is under no obligation to prevent disappointment.

{ The Conversation | Continue reading }

previously { Where is the Great Filter? Behind us, or not behind us? If the filter is in our past, there must be some extremely improbable step in the sequence of events whereby an Earth-like planet gives rise to an intelligent species comparable in its technological sophistication to our contemporary human civilization. }

still { The Day the Earth Stood Still, 1951 }

‘War is like love, it always finds a way.’ –Bertolt Brecht

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On 26 September 1983, the nuclear early warning system of the Soviet Union twice reported the launch of American Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles from bases in the United States.

These missile attack warnings were correctly identified as a false alarm by Stanislav Yevgrafovich Petrov, an officer of the Soviet Air Defence Forces. This decision is seen as having prevented a retaliatory nuclear attack based on erroneous data on the United States and its NATO allies, which would have likely resulted in nuclear war and the deaths of hundreds of millions of people.

Investigation of the satellite warning system later confirmed that the system had malfunctioned.

{ Wikipedia | Continue reading }

related { Human Extinction Isn’t That Unlikely and Scientists discover potentially habitable planets }

See the sun turn green

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Sally Ride’s tampons might be the most-discussed tampons in the world. Before Ride became the first American woman in space, scientists pondered her tampons, weighed them, and NASA’s professional sniffer smelled them—better to take deodorized or non-deodorized?—to make sure they wouldn’t smell too strongly in a confined space capsule. Engineers considered exactly how many she might need for a week in space. (Is 100 the right number?, they famously asked her. No, Ride said. That is not the right number.)

The engineers were trying to be thoughtful, though; reportedly they packed the tampons with their strings connected so that they wouldn’t float away. […]

Before women went into space, there were not only the sadly typical concerns that women would become weepy or unable to function during their periods, but also that the menstrual cycle might somehow break in space. Would the blood come out without gravity to pull it from the womb? Maybe it would all pool up in there, or even flow backward through the fallopian tubes into the abdomen—a frightening condition called retrograde menstruation.

In the end, someone just had to try it and see what happened. And what happened was … nothing much. The uterus is pretty good at expelling its lining sans gravity, it turns out.

{ Phenomena | Continue reading | More: The Conversation }

related { Early Menarche is Associated With Preference for Masculine Male Faces and Younger Preferred Age to Have a First Child }

photo { Eri Morita }

Five-by, Eagle. We’re standing by for your burn report. Over.

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The Lunar Flag Assembly (LFA) was a kit containing a flag of the United States designed to be planted by astronauts on the Moon during the Apollo program. Seven such flag assemblies were sent to the Moon, six of which were planted.

{ Wikipedia | Continue reading }

Do the Apollo flags remain where they were planted or have they fallen or have they disintegrated after four decades of exposure the lunar environment? […] The (Apollo 11’s) flag is probably gone. Buzz Aldrin saw it knocked over by the rocket blast as he and Neil Armstrong left the moon 39 summers ago. […]

Intuitively, experts mostly think it highly unlikely the Apollo flags (See Platoff’s article  Where No Flag Has Gone Before: Political and Technical Aspects of Placing a Flag on the Moon for details), could have endured the 42 years of exposure to vacuum, about 500 temperature swings from 242 F during the day to -280 F during the night, micrometeorites, radiation and ultraviolet light, some thinking the flags have all but disintegrated under such an assault of the environment. […]

The high-resolution images from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter camera of the Apollo sites enable us to see if any of the flags still cast shadows. […] Combined with knowledge of the Apollo site maps which show where the flag was erected relative to the Lander, long shadows cast by the flags at three sites  - Apollo 12, Apollo 16, and Apollo 17 - show that the these flags are still “flying”, held aloft by the poles.

{ NASA | Continue reading }

NASA has finally answered a long-standing question: all but one of the six American flags on the Moon are still standing up. The only problem is that they aren’t American flags anymore. They are all white.

{ Gizmodo | Continue reading }

‘Being is the absence that appearances conceal.’ –Georges Bataille

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The universe may have existed forever, according to a new model that applies quantum correction terms to complement Einstein’s theory of general relativity. The model may also account for dark matter and dark energy, resolving multiple problems at once.

The widely accepted age of the universe, as estimated by general relativity, is 13.8 billion years. In the beginning, everything in existence is thought to have occupied a single infinitely dense point, or singularity. Only after this point began to expand in a “Big Bang” did the universe officially begin.

Although the Big Bang singularity arises directly and unavoidably from the mathematics of general relativity, some scientists see it as problematic because the math can explain only what happened immediately after—not at or before—the singularity.

{ Phys.org | Continue reading }

We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things

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{ Margaret Hamilton standing next to listings of the Apollo Guidance Computer source code, January 1969 | Margaret Hamilton (born August 17, 1936) is a computer scientist, systems engineer, and business owner. She was Director of the Software Engineering Division of the MIT Instrumentation Laboratory, which developed on-board flight software for the Apollo space program. | Wikipedia | Continue reading }

A gradual decline into disorder

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Physicist Enrico Fermi famously asked the question “Where are they?” to express his surprise over the absence of any signs for the existence of other intelligent civilizations in the Milky Way Galaxy. […]

Observations have shown that the Milky Way contains no fewer than a billion Earth-size planets orbiting Sun-like (or smaller) stars in the “Goldilocks” region that allows for liquid water to exist on the planet’s surface (the so-called habitable zone). Furthermore, the search for extraterrestrial intelligent life has recently received a significant boost in the form of “Breakthrough Listen”—a $100-million decade-long project aimed at searching for non-natural transmissions in the electromagnetic bandwidth from 100 megahertz to 50 gigahertz.

Simple life appeared on Earth almost as soon as the planet cooled sufficiently to support water-based organisms. To be detectable from a distance, however, life has to evolve to the point where it dominates the planetary surface chemistry and has significantly changed the atmosphere, creating chemical “biosignatures” that can in principle be detected remotely. For instance, Earth itself would probably not have been detected as a life-bearing planet during the first two billion years of its existence. […]

[A]n excellent first step in the quest for signatures of simple extrasolar life in the relatively near future would be to: search for oxygen, but try to back it up with other biosignatures. […]

One would ideally like to go beyond biosignatures and seek the clearest sign of an alien technological civilization. This could be the unambiguous detection of an intelligent, non-natural signal, most notably via radio transmission, the aim of the SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) program. Yet there is a distinct possibility that radio communication might be considered archaic to an advanced life form. Its use might have been short-lived in most civilizations, and hence rare over large volumes of the universe. What might then be a generic signature? Energy consumption is a hallmark of an advanced civilization that appears to be virtually impossible to conceal. […]

More pessimistically, biologically-based intelligence may constitute only a very brief phase in the evolution of complexity, followed by what futurists have dubbed the “singularity”—the dominance of artificial, inorganic intelligence. If this is indeed the case, most advanced species are likely not to be found on a planet’s surface (where gravity is helpful for the emergence of biological life, but is otherwise a liability). But they probably must still be near a fuel supply, namely a star, because of energy considerations. Even if such intelligent machines were to transmit a signal, it would probably be unrecognizable and non-decodable to our relatively primitive organic brains.

{ Scientific American | Continue reading }

Blackjack Ruby and Nimrod Cain, the moon is the color of a coffee stain

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Sensitive new telescopes now permit astronomers to detect the waste heat that is expected to be a signature of advanced alien civilisations that can harness enormous energies on the scale of the stellar output of their own galaxy. Professor Michael Garrett has used radio observations of candidate galaxies to show that such advanced civilisations are very rare or entirely absent from the local Universe.

{ Astron | Continue reading }

When most I wink, then do my eyes best see

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Einstein wondered what would happen if the Sun were to suddenly explode. Since the Sun is so far away that it takes light eight minutes to travel to Earth, we wouldn’t know about the explosion straight away. For eight glorious minutes we’d be completely oblivious to the terrible thing that was about to happen.

But what about gravity? The Earth moves in an ellipse around the Sun, due to the Sun’s gravity. If the Sun wasn’t there, it would move off in a straight line. Einstein’s puzzle was when that would happen: straight away, or after eight minutes? According to Newton’s theory, the Earth should know immediately that the Sun had disappeared. But Einstein said that couldn’t be right. Because, according to him, nothing can travel faster than the speed of light — not even the effects of gravity. […]

Before Einstein people thought of space as stage on which the laws of physics play out. We could throw in some stars or some planets and they would move around on this stage.

Einstein realised that space isn’t as passive as that. It is dynamic and it responds to what’s happening within it. If you put something heavy in space — let’s say a planet like Earth — then space around it gives a little. The presence of the planet causes a small dent in space (and in fact, in time as well). When something else moves close to the planet — say the Moon — it feels this dent in space and rolls around the planet like a marble rolling in a bowl. This is what we call gravity. […] Stars and planets move, causing space to bend in their wake, causing other stars and planets to move, causing space to bend in their wake. And so on. This is Einstein’s great insight. Gravity is the manifestation of the curvature of space and time.

{ Plus Magazine | Part One | Part Two }

‘The road up and the road down is one and the same.’ –Heraclitus

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Our best theories of physics imply we shouldn’t be here. The Big Bang ought to have produced equal amounts of matter and antimatter particles, which would almost immediately annihilate each other, leaving nothing but light.

So the reality that we are here – and there seems to be very little antimatter around – is one of the biggest unsolved mysteries in physics.

In 2001, Tanmay Vachaspati from Arizona State University offered a purely theoretical solution. Even if matter and antimatter were created in equal amounts, he suggested that as they annihilated each other, they would have briefly created monopoles and antimonopoles – hypothetical particles with just one magnetic pole, north or south.

As the monopoles and antimonopoles in turn annihilated each other, they would produce matter and antimatter. But because of a quirk in nature called CP violation, that process would be biased towards matter, leaving the matter-filled world we see today.

If that happened, Vachaspati showed that there should be a sign of it today: twisted magnetic fields permeating the universe. […] So Vachaspati and his colleagues went looking for them in data from NASA’s Fermi Gamma ray Space Telescope.

{ New Scientist | Continue reading }

related { Rogue antimatter found in thunderclouds }

Is it tomorrow or just the end of time?

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All galaxies are thought to have supermassive black holes at their center. These start out small—with masses equivalent to between 100 and 100,000 suns—and build up over time by consuming the gas, dust, and stars around them or by merging with other black holes to reach sizes measured in millions or billions of solar masses. Such binge eating usually takes billions of years, but a team of astronomers was stunned to discover what is, in galactic terms, a monstrous baby: a gigantic black hole of 12 billion solar masses in a barely newborn galaxy, just 875 million years after the big bang.

{ Science | Continue reading }