Evolution and Global Warming are facts, not theories!

Hand Evolution by Megan Godtland

Science and Reason, use them to guide your life.

Microwave Earth by Megan Godtland

Welcome to those interested in Science!


Global Warming Is A Fact! Climate Change Is A Fact!
Burning Fossil Fuels Is The Major Cause Of Global Warming!
Only 24 of 13,950 peer-reviewed climate articles reject climate change!
That's only 0.17 percent! Where would you place your bet?

The year 2015 surpassed 2014 as the hottest year in human history.
And 2016 is way ahead of 2015!

Bring out the protest songs!
We're going to need them again!

Sioux Falls Scientists is a group made up of people who love science as well as those interested in science, and scientists themselves. This website provides news articles, movies, courses and books that describe how science works and the latest discoveries of science, especially the latest discoveries in the fields of evolution science and global warming. Located in Sioux Falls, SD, the Sioux Falls Scientists have meetings and social gatherings where people of free thought and open minds meet and share ideas, share what they have learned about science and share what they think about the latest science discoveries.

To become a member of this group join
Sioux Falls Free Thinkers on Meetup.com

Our meetings and social gatherings are posted at Sioux Falls Free Thinkers on Meetup.com. Sioux Falls Free Thinkers Upcoming Events can be seen on the Meetup.com Calendar.

Review Sioux River Project and Review Hate Crime billboard plans

Fryin' Pan Family Restaurant, 1720 W 12th St, Saturday, December 3, 6:30 PM

As before we'll meet and discuss whatever members have a desire to discuss.

Official plans are for Friends of the Big Sioux River billboards up in January/February, as well as Hate Crime billboards and Teen Dating Violence Prevention billboards. Lots of good information for the citizens of Sioux Falls.

As always you can bring a friend.

And Last meetup before next year, sort of a Christmas party

Spezia Restaurant, 4801 S Louise Ave, Saturday, December 17, 6:30 PM

Let's meetup and celebrate the holidays with a really good Italian dinner. Spezia has the best Italian in Sioux Falls.

Our next meetup will not be until January 14th.

Dale Hemming, founder of Sioux Falls Free Thinkers

The Sioux Falls Scientists group will never have any dues. Membership is not required to attend our meetings. This group will probably never have any formal rules except treating other members and their opinions with respect and giving everyone equal time to speak. This group will never purge members for expressing their opinions or for forming their own group of people interested in science in general or in a particular field of scientific study. The only loose requirement is that members, and those attending our meetings, have an interest in one of the subjects of the Sioux Falls Free Thinkers websites.

We look forward to seeing you at one or more of our events and meetings!

Breaking News!

12-2-16 Bees of the sea: Tiny crustaceans pollinate underwater plants
Bees of the sea: Tiny crustaceans pollinate underwater plants
Seagrass pollen doesn’t just ride the tides - the grains of at least one species hitchhike on undersea invertebrates. Seagrass pollen swirls around on currents and tides, but it turns out that the grains can also hitch a ride on tiny marine creatures. Underwater invertebrates can ferry pollen between flowers, in the same way that bees and other animals pollinate plants on land. Seagrasses provide food and a habitat for everything from microscopic crustaceans to manatees, and stabilise coasts by anchoring sediment with their roots. They can propagate by cloning, or by sexual reproduction through the transfer of pollen from male to female flowers. Until recently, scientists thought that their pollen was conveyed from bloom to bloom by water alone, without the help of pollinators, says Brigitta van Tussenbroek at the National Autonomous University of Mexico’s marine science institute in Puerto Morelos. So van Tussenbroek and her colleagues were surprised when underwater video footage of a turtle-grass bed revealed hundreds of invertebrates, mostly small crustaceans, visiting flowers. “We saw all of these animals coming in, and then we saw some of them carrying pollen,” says van Tussenbroek.

11-30-16 Earth warming to climate tipping point, warns study
Earth warming to climate tipping point, warns study
A warmer world will release vast volumes of carbon into the atmosphere, potentially triggering dangerous climate change, scientists warn. Writing in journal Nature, they project that an increase of 1C (1.8F) will release an additional 55 billion tonnes of carbon into the atmosphere by 2050. This could trigger a "positive feedback" and push the planet's climate system past the point of no-return. Previous assessments have not taken carbon released by soil into account. In their Nature paper, an international team of scientists said that the majority of the Earth's terrestrial store of carbon was in the soil. They warned that as the world warmed, organisms living in the planet's soils would become more active, resulting in more carbon being released into the atmosphere - exacerbating warming.

11-17-16 Chinese tourist town uses face recognition as an entry pass
Chinese tourist town uses face recognition as an entry pass
A face-recognition system built by Chinese web giant Baidu has started to authenticate visitors’ identities as they enter the Wuzhen tourist attraction. From today, the ticketed tourist town of Wuzhen in China is using face-recognition technology to identify people staying in its hotels and to act as their entry pass through the gates of the attraction. The system, which is expected to process 5000 visitors a day, has been created by web giant Baidu – often referred to as the “Chinese Google”. Wuzhen is a historic town that has been turned into a tourist attraction with museums, tours and traditional crafts. When people check in to hotels in the tourist area, they will now have their pictures taken and uploaded to a central database. If they leave and re-enter the town, the face-recognition software will check that they are actually a guest of a hotel there before allowing them back in.

11-17-16 Lift-off for Galileo satellite quartet
Lift-off for Galileo satellite quartet
Europe is extending its satellite-navigation system by putting another four spacecraft in orbit. They are going up on an Ariane 5 rocket. Lift-off from French Guiana occurred at exactly 10:06 (13:06 GMT). It is the first time Europe's premier launch vehicle has been used to loft Galileo satellites. Normally, they go up on a Russian Soyuz, two at a time. The mission will bring Galileo's in-orbit constellation to 18 spacecraft. That is six short of the planned number for the full network, but more than enough for Galileo to start an initial service, which it is expected to do in the next few weeks. When that happens, the very latest smartphones and other types of receivers should start picking up the system's signals - either to get a position fix or to make use of its embedded timing information.

11-16-16 China’s space station now has insects, weeds and rice on board
China’s space station now has insects, weeds and rice on board
The Tiangong-2 space station includes experiments in growing thale cress, an edible weed and rice in microgravity. INSECTS, weeds and rice are growing on the Chinese space station, and could pave the way for future food sources for astronauts. China’s Tiangong-2 space station launched on 15 September, and two astronauts have been living there since mid-October. The station includes experiments growing thale cress – an edible weed – and rice in microgravity. Chinese news sources are reporting that the cress has flowered and some of the rice plants are 10 centimetres tall. The station also hosts an experiment designed by Hong Kong middle school students involving six silkworms, which previous studies have suggested could be protein sources for long space journeys. Five of the silkworms have spun cocoons. When the astronauts return to Earth, which is expected around 18 November, they will bring cress samples back with them. The rice experiment will continue for several months. This is not the first time we’ve grown food in space – astronauts on the International Space Station ate lettuce grown in orbit. But the Tiangong-2 experiment lets scientists on Earth control the incubator environment remotely.

11-9-16 If you thought 2015 was hot, just wait
If you thought 2015 was hot, just wait
Record-setting year soon will be ‘new normal,’ simulations suggest. Many regions around the world saw record-breaking temperatures in 2015. That extreme heat could become the new normal as soon as the 2020s, new research predicts. The sweltering heat that smashed temperature records in 2015 will soon be par for the course. Depending on how much more carbon dioxide humans dump into the atmosphere, 2015 could become the “new normal” for global temperatures as soon as the 2020s, researchers estimate online November 4 in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society. Even if there’s a sharp reduction in CO2 emissions, the record-setting year (SN: 2/20/16, p. 13) will seem typical by 2040. When 2015’s record heat is the new normal, extremely hot years will be beyond anything humans have encountered so far, the researchers predict. That extreme heat could lead to more deadly heat waves (SN: 9/3/16, p. 5), wildfires (SN Online: 7/15/15) and other climate-related disasters.

11-9-16 WMO: Five hottest years on record have occurred since 2011
WMO: Five hottest years on record have occurred since 2011
New data released by the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) shows that the five years from 2011 to 2015 were the warmest on record. The report, published at global climate talks in Morocco, strongly links human activities to rising temperatures. It says that some studies found the the burning of fossil fuels had increased the probability of extreme heat by 10 times or more. The authors say that 2016 will likely break the record for warmest year. In their report on the global climate 2011-2015, the WMO says that the world's temperature was 0.57C above the long term average, which they define as being between 1961 and 1990. The five year period was the warmest for all continents except Africa. Throughout these years, temperatures over most of Europe were more than one degree Celsius above the long term trend. This was also the case in the Asian part of the Russian Federation, over much of the Sahara and Arabian regions, parts of South Africa, southwest US and the interior of Brazil. The mercury even reached three degrees above the average on the Arctic coast of Russia.

11-3-16 China’s Long March 5 heavy-lift rocket takes first flight
China’s Long March 5 heavy-lift rocket takes first flight
The Long March 5 heavy-lift rocket blasted off from China's southern coast at 8:43 pm Beijing time, marking another milestone on the nation's road to building its own space station. China just debuted its biggest rocket yet. The Long March 5 heavy-lift rocket blasted off from the Wenchang launch center off China’s southern coast at 8:43 pm Beijing time, marking another milestone on China’s road to building its own space station. The Chinese space agency sees the Long March 5 as a crucial part of its plans to launch a permanent space station, robotic sample-return missions to the moon, and a future Mars rover. At 57 metres tall and with a total of 2.4 million pounds of thrust, it is supposed to be three times as powerful as the current Long March 2F rocket, which brought China’s second space station, Tiangong-2, into orbit in September. Two astronauts are currently about halfway through a month-long stay on Tiangong-2. Long March 5 can launch about 25 tonnes of cargo to low-Earth orbit, and 14 tonnes to a more distant orbit for geostationary and interplanetary missions. That makes it about as powerful as United Launch Alliance’s Delta IV Heavy launcher, the largest rocket currently available to the US. Not much is known about the cargo on today’s launch, but it is thought to have launched an experimental satellite called Shijian 17, which is meant to test electric propulsion in orbit.

11-3-16 Big Chinese rocket makes maiden flight
Big Chinese rocket makes maiden flight
China has launched its biggest rocket to date. The Long March 5 lifted off from the Wenchang space centre in Hainan Province at 20:43 local time (12:43 GMT). It was carrying an experimental satellite, known as Shijian-17. The Long March 5 gives China the capability to orbit the heaviest of payloads - such as big telecoms spacecraft and sections of its future astronaut space station. The specifications suggest it can put about 25 tonnes in a low-Earth orbit (LEO), an altitude of a few hundred km; and up to 14 tonnes in a geostationary orbit some 36,000km above the planet. This puts the Long March 5 in the same class as America’s current, most powerful rocket - the Delta-IV Heavy.

11-3-16 World is set to warm 3.4°C by 2100 even with Paris climate deal
World is set to warm 3.4°C by 2100 even with Paris climate deal
Without swift reductions in emissions we’re set to warm the planet much more than safe levels and way beyond what nations have agreed through UN’s climate deal. The world must “urgently and dramatically” step up its efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions if it is to have any chance of limiting dangerous climate change, according to a new report. Released in London a day before the Paris Agreement comes into force, the report by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) found that 2030 emissions are set to exceed by more than a quarter the levels needed to keep global warming below the crucial 2 °C level. Without swift reductions in emissions, the world is on track for a temperature rise of 2.9 °C to 3.4 °C this century, even if the pledges agreed in Paris last year are fully implemented, the report warned. The Paris Agreement committed signatories — including the UK — to holding the increase in global average temperatures well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit it to 1.5 °C, which it said would “significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change”. But the UNEP report finds that, on current trends, emissions are set to reach the equivalent of 54-56 gigatonnes (billion tonnes) of carbon dioxide by the end of the next decade – well above the 42 gigatonne maximum if warming is to be kept below 2 °C. The demand for urgent action is reinforced by the fact that 2015 was the hottest year on record and the first six months of 2016 were each the warmest recorded, said the report.

10-28-16 Lightbulb made of modified E. coli fuses biology and electronics
Lightbulb made of modified E. coli fuses biology and electronics
A team from the International Genetically Engineered Machine competition has made an electronic circuit with biological components using modified bacteria. It could soon be possible to make a light source out of bacteria. So says a group of students from Newcastle University in the UK who are attempting to combine electronic engineering and synthetic biology to create “electro-biological” circuits. The students have turned genetically modified, glowing E.coli into something analogous to a light bulb. The bulb is meant to switch on when the bacteria experience heat stress from a miniature microbial fuel cell – a device that acts as a battery by harnessing electrical energy from the action of microbes. The project will debut in Boston this week at the International Genetically Engineered Machine competition (iGEM), an annual global competition that ends in a synthetic biology science fair called the Giant Jamboree. The eight-person team from Newcastle is just one of 300 teams from 40 countries. To make their device, the Newcastle team designed E.coli that, due to the increased expression of a fluorescent gene, would glow when introduced to an electrical current or a heat source at 42 °C. They also designed a circuit to connect the bulb and the power source in the hopes of creating a kit that can snap together as easily as a Lego set.

10-27-16 World wildlife 'falls by 58% in 40 years'
World wildlife 'falls by 58% in 40 years'
Global wildlife populations have fallen by 58% since 1970, a report says. The Living Planet assessment, by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and WWF, suggests that if the trend continues that decline could reach two-thirds among vertebrates by 2020. The figures suggest that animals living in lakes, rivers and wetlands are suffering the biggest losses. Human activity, including habitat loss, wildlife trade, pollution and climate change contributed to the declines. Dr Mike Barrett. head of science and policy at WWF, said: "It's pretty clear under 'business as usual' we will see continued declines in these wildlife populations. But I think now we've reached a point where there isn't really any excuse to let this carry on. "We know what the causes are and we know the scale of the impact that humans are having on nature and on wildlife populations - it really is now down to us to act."

10-19-16 China's Shenzhou 11 docks at Tiangong 2 space station
China's Shenzhou 11 docks at Tiangong 2 space station
Two Chinese astronauts have arrived at the Tiangong 2 space laboratory, in a mission aimed at developing China's capabilities as a space power. The Shenzhou-11 spacecraft blasted off from northern China on Monday, and docked with Tiangong 2 at 03:24 Beijing time (19:24 GMT Tuesday). Jing Haipeng and Chen Dong will be spending the next 30 days in space conducting experiments. It marks the longest space mission by Chinese astronauts.

10-19-16 How to read a book without opening it
How to read a book without opening it
Radiation technique can aid studies of ancient texts. Scientists have devised a way to read without cracking a volume’s spine or risking paper cuts (and no, we’re not talking about e-books). The new method uses terahertz radiation — light with wavelengths that are between microwave and infrared waves — to view the text of a closed book. The technique is not meant for your average bookworm, but for reading rare books that are too fragile to open. Barmak Heshmat of MIT and colleagues started small, with a nine-page book of thick paper that had one letter inked on each page. By hitting the book with terahertz radiation and looking at the reflected waves, the scientists could read the letters within.

10-17-16 China launches two astronauts to stay on its new space station
China launches two astronauts to stay on its new space station
The Shenzhou 11 mission launched from the edge of the Gobi Desert in northern China today - and the astronauts will dock with the Tiangong-2 space station in two days. China has launched a pair of astronauts into space on a mission to dock with an experimental space station. The astronauts will remain on board for 30 days in preparation for the assembly of a full facility six years from now. The Shenzhou 11 mission took off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre on the edge of the Gobi Desert in northern China aboard a Long March-2F carrier rocket. It will dock with the Tiangong 2 space station within two days, and its crew will conduct a variety of experiments during their stay. Tiangong-2 carries 14 experiments, including atmospheric sensing instruments that can detect air pollution. The clock will help measure fluctuations in microgravity with greater precision, according to the space agency. The station will also contain cardiovascular health experiments, a quantum communications experiment, a plant cultivation study and a gamma-ray burst instrument called POLAR, which is a collaboration between Chinese, Swiss and Polish scientists. They will also test systems and processes in preparation for the launching of the station’s core module in 2018.

10-16-16 China poised for space station mission
China poised for space station mission
China is to launch two men into orbit on Monday morning as it continues to develop its ability to explore space. The astronauts will take off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre in northern China, Chinese officials said. The plan is for them to dock with and then spend 30 days on board the Tiangong 2 space station testing its ability to support life. This and previous launches are seen as pointers to possible crewed missions to the Moon or Mars. An earlier Tiangong - or "Heavenly Palace" - space station was decommissioned earlier this year after docking with three rockets.

10-5-16 The reaction that would give us clean fossil fuels forever
The reaction that would give us clean fossil fuels forever
Crack natural gas into its constituent atoms and you can burn it without producing CO2 – giving us green energy without all the pain of renewables. SCARRED landscapes, billowing smoke, seabirds writhing in liquorice gloop: there’s no denying fossil fuels have an image problem. That’s before we even start to factor in the grave risk continuing to burn them poses to Earth’s climate. But what’s the alternative? Nuclear is expensive, renewables are unreliable, and we are a long way from making batteries that could power our fuel-hungry lifestyles. Realistically, we are going to be reliant on fossil fuels for a while yet. What we need is a way to exploit them without emitting any planet-warming carbon dioxide. Alberto Abánades thinks he has the answer. He isn’t a PR man for the fossil fuel industry, and nor does he have anything to do with various schemes to capture and bury carbon emissions after the event. He and his research team think they have cracked the problem using chemistry alone. By simply changing the way we liberate the energy trapped inside natural gas molecules, we can have all the benefits of fossil fuels – and none of the guilt. Too good to be true?

10-3-16 China plans world’s biggest spaceplane to carry 20 tourists
China plans world’s biggest spaceplane to carry 20 tourists
DA state-backed agency is testing its first vehicle to send tourists to the edge of space and back - and hopes to fly up to 20 people at a time. Even China can’t resist the lure of space tourism. A state-backed firm is developing a gigantic spaceplane, New Scientist can reveal. The plane may one day fly up to 20 passengers to the edge of space – significantly more people than any other commercial spaceflight firm has pledged to fly to date. The China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology in Beijing has designed a simple, one-piece spaceplane whose design can be scaled up to carry more people, academy rocket scientist Lui Haiquang told the International Astronautical Congress in Guadalajara, Mexico, last week. They have designed a winged rocket that takes off under its own power. That sets it apart from SpaceShipTwo, which must be carried to high altitude by an aircraft before firing its own rocket. Han’s team has designed two versions of their rocket plane. The first has a mass of 10 tonnes and a wingspan of 6 metres. This one, he says, should be able to fly five people to an altitude of 100 kilometres – where space officially begins – at speeds up to Mach 6, giving 2 minutes of weightlessness. But a scaled up 100-tonne version, with a 12-metre wingspan, could fly 20 people to 130 kilometres at Mach 8, giving 4 minutes of weightlessness. That larger spacecraft is fast enough to help deliver small satellites into orbit, with the help of a small rocket stage add-on that would sit on top of the vehicle. And that payload-carrying capability will reduce tourist ticket prices, says Han. They also intend to make it reusable, so each plane should be good for up to 50 flights.

10-3-16 Men are more violent when there are more women around
Men are more violent when there are more women around
Contrary to conventional wisdom, a surplus of men in a society doesn’t equal more violence – in fact, the more men, the better-behaved they become. More men inevitably means more testosterone-fuelled violence, right? Wrong, according to a comprehensive analysis exploring how a surplus of men or women affect crime rates across the US. In areas where men outnumber women, there were lower rates of murders and assaults as well as fewer sex-related crimes, such as rapes, sex offences and prostitution. Conversely, higher rates of these crimes occurred in areas where there were more women than men. Ryan Schacht of the University of Utah in Salt Lake City and his colleagues analysed sex ratio data from all 3082 US counties, provided by the US Census Bureau in 2010. They compared this with crime data for the same year, issued by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation. They only included information about women and men of reproductive age. For all five types of offence analysed, rising proportions of men in a county correlated with fewer crimes– even when accounting for other potential contributing factors such as poverty. The results suggest that current policies aimed at defusing violence and crime by reducing the amount of men in male-dominated areas may backfire.

9-27-16 Measles has been eliminated in the Americas, WHO says
Measles has been eliminated in the Americas, WHO says
The highly infectious disease, which is marked by flat red spots that can cover the body, has been eliminated from the Americas after decades of wide-spread VACCINATION. A half-century after scientists first introduced a vaccine to combat measles, the disease has been eliminated from a swath of the globe stretching from Canada to Chile — and all the countries in between. The region is the first in the world to have eliminated the viral disease, the Pan American Health Organization and World Health Organization announced September 27. That’s different from eradication, which means an infectious disease has been scrubbed out permanently, worldwide. So far, only smallpox has been eradicated. Though measles outbreaks still crop up occasionally in the Americas (this year 54 people have contracted the disease in the United States), they stem from travelers bringing the virus in from other parts of the world. A home-grown outbreak in the Americas hasn’t occurred since a 2002 outbreak in Venezuela.

9-27-16 Exclusive: World’s first baby born with new “3 parent” technique
Exclusive: World’s first baby born with new “3 parent” technique
Five-month-old Abrahim Hassan is the first baby to be born using a new version of a controversial technique that uses DNA from three people. Five-month-old Abrahim Hassan is the first baby to be born using a new technique that incorporates DNA from three parents, New Scientist can reveal. “This is great news and a huge deal,” says Dusko Ilic at King’s College London, who wasn’t involved in the work. “It’s revolutionary.” The controversial technique, which allows parents with rare genetic mutations to have healthy babies, has only been legally approved in the UK. But the birth of Abrahim, whose Jordanian parents were treated by a US-based team in Mexico, should fast-forward progress around the world, say embryologists. Abrahim’s mother, Ibtisam Shaban, carries genes for Leigh syndrome, a fatal disorder that affects the developing nervous system. Genes for the disease reside in DNA in the mitochondria, which provide energy for our cells and carry just 37 genes that are passed down to us from our mothers. This is separate from the majority of our DNA, which is housed in each cell’s nucleus. Around a quarter of Shaban’s mitochondria have the disease-causing mutation. While she is healthy, Leigh syndrome was responsible for the deaths of her first two children. Shaban and her husband, Mahmoud Hassan, sought out the help of John Zhang and his team at the New Hope Fertility Center in New York City.

9-26-16 Biggest radio telescope on Earth ready to receive alien signals
Biggest radio telescope on Earth ready to receive alien signals
The 500-metre-wide radio telescope in rural China will let us study galaxies, pulsars and potential alien signals that would be too faint for any other scope. Time to power up the largest radio telescope in the world. China’s Five-hundred-metre Aperture Spherical Telescope, or FAST, began spying on outer space on 25 September. FAST will measure radio waves in space, allowing us to study the rotation of galaxies, monitor the behaviour of pulsars and keep an eye out for signals sent by aliens. It is situated in a remote, mountainous area of Guizhou Province in south-western China, which will help protect it from radio-wave interference, like signals sent by cell phones and Wi-Fi. Construction began in 2011, spurring the relocation of a small village. The telescope will go through a testing and debugging phase before full operation begins, according to the Chinese Academy of Sciences. The telescope, named for the size of its dish – 500 metres across – is about 200 metres wider than its closest rival, the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico, built in the early 1960s. That means that it will be able to see dimmer objects than the Arecibo telescope can detect, says Michael Nolan at the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory at the University of Arizona in Tucson. “Being bigger means it collects more light,” Nolan says. “So if you’re looking at a faint signal, it’ll be brighter in the bigger telescope.”

9-25-16 China's colossal radio telescope begins testing
China's colossal radio telescope begins testing
Chinese scientists report that the giant dish, which measures 500m (1,640ft) across, is complete and has received its first signals from space. It will now take three years to calibrate the instrument so it can become fully operational. The facility, part of China's drive to become a science powerhouse, was opened at a ceremony on Sunday. "This is very exciting," Prof Peng Bo, deputy project manager of the Five Hundred Metre Aperture Spherical Telescope (Fast), told the BBC. "For many years, we have had to go outside of China to make observations - and now we have the largest telescope. People can't wait to use it." (Webmaster's comment: It has 3 times the signal gathering capability of the largest American radio telescope.)

9-20-16 Teleportation step toward quantum internet
Teleportation step toward quantum internet
Physicists have set a new bar for quantum teleportation: moving information from one place to another without physically sending anything between the locations. Two separate teams managed to teleport information across several kilometres of optical fibre network in two cities. This form of teleportation differs from that depicted in Star Trek: it involves transferring quantum states of a light particle, not Starfleet officers. But the method offers huge promise. Teleportation over long distances and across optical fibre networks is an important step towards the ultra-secure communications promised by quantum cryptography. And the set-ups described in studies published in Nature Photonics journal could be seen as building blocks for a future "quantum internet".

9-19-16 Quantum teleportation over 7 kilometres of cables smashes record
Quantum teleportation over 7 kilometres of cables smashes record
Two groups have set a new record for quantum teleportation, setting the stage for encoded communications networks that stretch between cities. A new world record for quantum teleportation has been set, bringing quantum communication networks that can stretch between cities a step closer. Two independent teams have transferred quantum information over several kilometres of fibre optic networks. Being able to establish teleportation over long distances is a crucial step towards exchanging quantum cryptographic keys needed for encoding data sent over the fibres. Quantum teleportation is a phenomenon in which the quantum states of one particle can be transferred to another, distant particle without anything physical traveling between them. It relies on a property called entanglement, in which measuring the state of one particle immediately affects the state of its entangled partner, regardless of the distance between them.

9-15-16 China is launching a space station and wants an even bigger one
China is launching a space station and wants an even bigger one
Tiangong-2 is another step in the long march towards China's goal of a permanent space station – and to signal that it won't play second fiddle to the US. China plans to launch its second space station later today, with a two-member crew to follow next month, according to China space agency officials. The launch of Tiangong-2 is another step towards China’s goal of a self-sustaining space station by 2022, and a reminder of the nation’s space prowess. A Long March 2F rocket will launch Tiangong-2 from China’s Gobi Desert at 22:04 local time, coinciding with the lunar Mid-Autumn Festival, Chinese officials announced. It will manoeuvre itself into orbit about 380 kilometres above Earth, then raise its orbit to 393 kilometres when a Shenzhou-11 capsule arrives in October carrying two astronauts, who will live on the station for 30 days. The station is designed for a two-year lifetime, and will dock with China’s first cargo ship, Tianzhou-1, in April 2017. The station is 18.4 metres wide and weighs 8.6 tons, said Wu Ping, deputy director of the China Manned Space Engineering Office, in a press conference broadcast on state-run media. Despite its small size and short lifespan, Tiangong-2 is an important precursor to China’s larger space station, which it aims to launch on a Long March 5 rocket in the next six years, says Dean Cheng, a Chinese space policy expert at the Heritage Foundation in Washington DC. Next year will bring China’s 19th Communist Party Congress, in which prime minister Xi Jinping is expected to win a second term, and a new space station is a sign of the party’s prowess, Cheng adds. “It’s a reminder that China has a manned space programme, including the ability to put its own astronauts into space, something the Americans cannot do,” he says – US astronauts are currently flown by Russia. “It’s about national pride, but it’s also, as the Chinese would put it, ‘very dense in high technology’. And it has military implications, and they are very upfront about this. All of these are elemental to why are they doing this.” (Webmaster's comment: America is losing the space race. Since we only do it for profit for greedy capitalists it must return money to the already super-rich or we won't do it. A for profit space race will also always kill more astronauts because safety costs more money! And it already has!)

9-15-16 China launches second trial space station
China launches second trial space station
China has launched a second experimental space station, as it looks to have a crewed outpost by 2022. The Tiangong 2 blasted off just after 22:00 local time on Thursday from the Gobi desert. Next month, two astronauts will go to the station to conduct research. Beijing has made space exploration a national priority and is the third country, after the Soviet Union and the US, to launch people into space. The mission follows the launch of the Tiangong 1 prototype in 2011, a smaller but also operational model.

9-13-16 Gravitational pull 'has role in quakes'
Gravitational pull 'has role in quakes'
The gravitational forces responsible for high tides may also play a role in triggering major earthquakes, a study suggests. A Japanese research team found that large earthquakes are more likely to occur at times of a full or new Moon. Tides arise from the effects of the gravitational interaction of the Moon and Sun on a rotating Earth. This could put extra strain on geological faults that are already close to slipping, the team reports.

9-12-16 Full and new moons linked to timing of largest, deadliest quakes
Full and new moons linked to timing of largest, deadliest quakes
The tides may have an effect on Earth’s crust, adding stress to earthquake faults and causing larger quakes around the times of the full and new moon. Chalk another one up for the weird effects of the moon. Full and new moons seem to make earthquakes more likely – at least the largest, most devastating quakes. Although the effect is too small to make much difference in preparing for earthquakes in the short term, the discovery could some day provide key insights into the ways that they develop and grow. During full and new moons, the sun, moon and Earth align, meaning that gravity tugs more strongly on the planet’s crustal plates. The resulting “Earth tides” and increased tidal movements in the oceans can add to the stresses on earthquake faults. It therefore seems plausible that they might make the faults more likely to slip. A few studies have previously found hints that this might be true, but the effect of the tides has barely been detectable. Looking at the 12 largest recorded earthquakes – those with a magnitude of 8.2 or more – Ide’s team found that nine occurred on days near new or full moons, when the tidal pull caused high stress across the fault.

9-8-16 Scientists watch as bacteria evolve antibiotic resistance
Scientists watch as bacteria evolve antibiotic resistance
Growth patterns reveal E. coli’s path to becoming superbugs. A petri dish more than a meter long helped scientists visualize the evolution of antibiotic resistance in E. coli bacteria. Bacteria placed on the outer edges had to adapt to higher and higher levels of antibiotics as they moved toward the center of the plate. For bacteria, practice makes perfect: Adjusting to ever higher levels of antibiotics preps them to morph into super resistant strains, and scientists can now watch it happen. A new device — a huge petri dish coated with different concentrations of antibiotics — makes this normally hidden process visible, microbiologist Michael Baym and colleagues report in the Sept. 9 Science. The setup gives a step-by-step picture of how garden-variety microbes become antibiotic-resistant superbugs.

9-7-16 Primate labs give us an edge, says China’s brain project chief
Primate labs give us an edge, says China’s brain project chief
China’s new brain project is uniquely placed to deliver breakthroughs in neuroscience and artificial intelligence. It’s a huge undertaking, one of China’s top scientific priorities. It’s a 15-year project that the National People’s Congress approved in March. The project has three components, or “one body, two wings” as we say. The body is fundamental research into the neural basis of cognitive function. We’ll be using a wide variety of techniques, from profiling gene expression in neurons to brain imaging. The wings are applied science. One will focus on conditions such as depression and addiction, as well as neurodegenerative diseases of old age, including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. In an ageing population – life expectancy in Shanghai is 82 and rising – it’s becoming urgent to resist the onset of degenerative diseases. We will also look at autism. This comes from the information technology and artificial intelligence community. They want to initiate projects that are inspired by the brain. There are two aspects to it. One is to use brain-machine interfaces to develop medical applications, such as neuroprosthetics. The idea is to use brain signals to control machines, to help people with serious injuries. Then there is the information technology part. Even though we don’t know how the brain works, there are many features about it that you can incorporate into artificial neural networks or AI systems to improve them. Those researching AI need brain-inspired computational methods, “neuromorphic” chips – microchips inspired by brain architecture – and devices that take lessons from the brain.

8-16-16 Scorchio! Earth's surface is the hottest it has been in history
Scorchio! Earth's surface is the hottest it has been in history
July 2016 is the hottest month ever recorded, smashing the previous record set in July 2011 as Earth hurtles towards 1.5 °C limit. It’s official: in July, the world’s surface was the hottest it has ever been since we starting measuring its temperature, according to NASA. That means it is likely to be the hottest it has been since the last interglacial period 125,000 years ago. This record for the hottest month ever will not last long: as the planet continues warming, it will get smashed again and again. We are on course to pass the limit we are meant to avoid – 1.5 °C above average pre-industrial temperature – in 2024, give or take a few years. Recent months have set a string of records. Globally, February was a whopping 1.32 °C above the 1951 to 1980 average for this month in NASA’s record. July came in at 0.84 °C above the average for July. So how can the planet be hotter now than in February? The reason is that these monthly figures are relative to previous months, rather than absolute. The absolute temperature of the entire surface of the planet changes over the year, being hottest during the northern hemisphere summer. So a hot July is much hotter than a hot February, as the graph in the article showing the seasonal variation in Earth’s temperature reveals.

8-16-16 China launches quantum-enabled satellite Micius
China launches quantum-enabled satellite Micius
China has successfully launched the world's first quantum-enabled satellite, state media said. It was carried on a rocket which blasted off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre in China's north west early on Tuesday. The satellite is named after the ancient Chinese scientist and philosopher Micius. The project tests a technology that could one day offer digital communication that is "hack-proof". But even if it succeeds, it is a long way off that goal, and there is some mind-bending physics to get past first. (Webmaster's comment: But the Chinese are leading the way!)

8-16-16 China launches world’s first quantum communications satellite
China launches world’s first quantum communications satellite
The Quantum Science Satellite will test quantum entanglement over record distances and could lead to a global network for secure quantum communications. China has just launched the world’s first quantum communications satellite. The 600 kg spacecraft blasted off from the Jiuquan Satellite Center in the Gobi Desert at 0140 local time. The satellite is both an extreme test of the weird properties of quantum mechanics, and a technology testbed for what could be the start of a global, unhackable communications network. Officially known as the Quantum Science Satellite (QUESS), the mission has been renamed Mozi after the ancient Chinese philosopher said to be the first in history to conduct optical experiments. A team led by Jian-Wei Pan of the University of Science and Technology of China in Hefei will conduct their own experiments with QUESS, using photons to test quantum entanglement – in which the quantum properties of two particles are linked even when separated – over a record-breaking 1200 kilometres. The team will also test quantum key distribution, a form of secure communication in which the laws of quantum mechanics prevent eavesdroppers from snooping in. If successful, they hope to create a communications network. “For sure, we will launch more satellites to construct a quantum constellation for global coverage,” says Pan. (Webmaster's comment: This acheivement is so cutting-edge it is beyond cutting-edge! The Chinese are racing ahead of America in leading scientific achievements.)

8-5-16 Siberia has been experiencing a heat wave, with temperatures in the 90s that is melting the permafrost, which is releasing large amounts of methane, a potent greenhouse gas.

8-3-16 Record-breaking year shows Earth’s climate is in real trouble
Record-breaking year shows Earth’s climate is in real trouble
Our planet's “annual physical” check-up finds it severely ill, with dozens of various climate records broken last year. Dozens of climate records were broken last year, according to a report nicknamed the annual physical for the planet. Soon after 2015 ended, it was proclaimed the hottest on record – and the new report shows the broad extent of other records and near-records set last year. Those include record heat energy absorbed by the oceans and the lowest groundwater storage levels globally, according to the research from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in the US. “I think the time to call the doctor was years ago,” said NOAA climate monitoring chief Deke Arndt, co-editor of the report. “We are awash in multiple symptoms.” The 2015 State Of The Climate report examined 50 different aspects of climate, including dramatic melting of Arctic sea ice and glaciers worldwide. A dozen different nations set hottest year records, including Russia and China. South Africa had the hottest temperature ever recorded in the month of October, at 119 °F. “There is really only one word for this parade of shattered climate records: GRIM,” said Georgia Tech climate scientist Kim Cobb. Scientists also said the turbo-charged climate affected walrus and penguin populations and played a role in dangerous algal blooms, such as one off the Pacific Northwest coast. They added that there were brutal heat waves all over the world, with ones in India and Pakistan killing thousands of people. (Webmaster's comment: Again like I've said, we've past the tipping point on Global Warming. People are starting to die!)

8- 3-16 China's elevated bus: Futuristic 'straddling bus' hits the road
China's elevated bus: Futuristic 'straddling bus' hits the road
It may look like something from the future, but China's long-awaited "straddling bus" ran its inaugural test in Hebei province this week. The 2m-high Transit Elevated Bus (TEB) straddles the cars below, allowing them to pass through. Powered by electricity, the bus is able to carry up to 300 passengers in its 72ft (21m) long and 25ft wide body. A video of a mini-model of the vehicle caused great excitement when it was released in May. The trial run was conducted on a 300m-long controlled track in the north-eastern city of Qinhuangdao. The vehicle is expected to reach speeds of up to 60km per hour, running on rails laid along ordinary roads. Up to four TEBs can be linked together. "The biggest advantage is that the bus will save lots of road space," the project's chief engineer, Song Youzhou, told state-media agency Xinhua earlier this year. "The TEB has the same functions as the subway, while its cost of construction is less than one fifth of the subway," another engineer Bai Zhiming told news outlet CCTV. One TEB could replace 40 conventional buses, according to the firm. However, it is unclear when the vehicle will be widely used in Chinese cities. (Webmaster's comment: The U.S. just can not compete. The future is being built in CHINA.)

7-29-16 Heat wave forecast for entire U.S.
Heat wave forecast for entire U.S.
For the first time on record, every square inch of the U.S. is forecast to experience above average temperatures for the next three months, according to a new report by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center. Warmer-than-normal temperatures for August, September, and October are particularly likely in the Northeast, South, and Western states—as well as Alaska. Dan Collins, a meteorologist with the climate center, attributes the heat wave to unusually warm ocean temperatures, which will keep the atmosphere hotter than normal over much of the country into early fall. This year is on track to be Earth’s hottest year since record keeping began in the late 19th century.

7-25-16 Universal ancestor of all life on Earth was only half alive
Universal ancestor of all life on Earth was only half alive
The identification of genes likely to belong to the common ancestor of life suggests its biochemistry was incomplete, forcing it to cling to undersea vents. Many of the genes in our cells evolved billions of years ago and a few of them can be traced back to the last common ancestor of all life. Now we have the best picture yet of what that ancestor was like and where it lived, thanks to a study that identified 355 genes that it probably possessed. “It was flabbergasting to us that we found as many as we did,” says William Martin of the University of Dusseldorf in Germany, who led the study. The findings support the idea that the last universal common ancestor (LUCA) lurked in hydrothermal vents where hot water rich in hydrogen, carbon dioxide and minerals emerged from the sea floor. “It’s spot on with regard to the hydrothermal vent theory,” Martin says. He describes LUCA as half-living, because it may have depended on abiotic reactions in the vents to produce many of the chemicals it needed.(Webmaster's comment: Zeroing in on where life began.)

7-22-16 Drought 'shuts down Amazon carbon sink'
Drought 'shuts down Amazon carbon sink'
The vast tropical forests of Amazonia account for almost one-fifth of the world's terrestrial vegetation carbon stock. A recent drought shut down the Amazon Basin's carbon sink by killing trees and slowing trees' growth rates, a study has shown. The term carbon sink refers to the ability of a natural zone to absorb CO2 from the atmosphere. In the first basin-wide study of the impacts of the 2010 drought, data showed trees' mortality rate went up while growth rates declined. The Amazon Basin is a key player in the Earth's carbon cycle, holding 17% of the terrestrial vegetation carbon stock. (Webmaster's comment: We've hit the global warming tipping point. The positive feedback has begun!)

7-21-16 Dark matter no-show puts favoured particles on death row
Dark matter no-show puts favoured particles on death row
The LUX experiment has seen no sign of WIMPs, the leading candidate for dark matter. That means the elusive particles are running out of hiding places. One of the world’s leading dark matter detectors has wrapped up a nearly two-year-long search for the mysterious particles, without finding a single whiff. The results suggest that the days may be numbered for the dominant model of dark matter. We’ve known since the 1930s that without dark matter‘s gravitational pull, galaxies would spin themselves apart. This mysterious substance, which does not emit light or interact with normal matter except through gravity, should make up around 85 per cent of the universe’s mass. After ruling out ordinary matter that just doesn’t emit much light, theorists settled on some basic characteristics for their quarry: it should be made up of particles that have some mass and interact weakly with other matter. They called them “weakly interacting massive particles”, or WIMPs, and set about building detectors that could catch them. What’s unknown is how often these particles bounce off each other – their scattering cross section – and their mass. They should also occasionally bump into normal matter. These rare collisions are what experiments like the Large Underground Xenon detector (LUX) are designed to pick up, in order to determine WIMPs’ properties. But today at the Identification of Dark Matter conference in Sheffield, UK, the LUX team announced their final 20-month run, from October 2014 to May this year, ended without a single dark matter detection. That means LUX has ruled out a large number of possible cross sections and masses for WIMPs – to the point where some physicists argue it might be time to abandon the idea all together. (Webmaster's comment: And so do I!)

7-21-16 Latest search for dark matter comes up empty
Latest search for dark matter comes up empty
DDark matter has once again given scientists the slip. Physicists with the Large Underground Xenon experiment, or LUX, report that their final set of data, collected from October 2014 to May 2016, contains no evidence of dark matter, the mysterious substance that makes up more than 25 percent of the universe. The LUX detector, located deep underground in Lead, S.D., uses a tank of 370 kilograms of ultra-pure liquid xenon to detect interacting particles by picking out blips of light they produce. The scientists are scheduled to report their results July 21 in Sheffield, England, at the Identification of Dark Matter conference. (Webmaster's comment: The universe may not be only stranger than we think, but stranger than we CAN think!)

7-20-16 Scientists just put a 3D printer in space. This is a huge deal for space travel.
Scientists just put a 3D printer in space. This is a huge deal for space travel.
Space travel is unpredictable. So much can go wrong, and it's impossible to plan for and respond quickly to all of it. As a result, we're limited in how far we can go, and for how long. But that's changing. Right now, orbiting 250 miles above Earth on the International Space Station, sits a tool that could revolutionize human space travel: a 3D printer. If an astronaut needs something — say they let go of a tool and it floated off, never to be seen again — a design team back on Earth creates blueprints that can be uploaded to the 3D printer's system. The object can then be manufactured onboard the ISS and be in the astronaut's hands within a day. Putting a 3D printer in orbit has huge implications for short- and long-term space travel. Until now, anything astronauts wanted either had to be sent up with them at launch, or delivered later during a resupply mission. Both options are expensive and can take days or weeks. In a dire situation, that's not good enough. But perhaps the biggest impact of 3D printing in space is that it brings us one step closer to becoming truly independent space travelers. It releases us from our Earthly bounds, untethers us from our home planet. We could produce, literally out of thin air, nearly anything, most notably, settlements on other planets.

7-8-16 How NASA restored my faith in humanity
How NASA restored my faith in humanity
This week, NASA's Juno spacecraft entered into orbit around Jupiter, after a 1.7 billion–mile journey. Juno arrived just one second off its scheduled arrival time after five years in space, traveling at 165,000 miles per hour — the fastest human-built object ever. Where in everyday life, or in government, do we see such sheer competence? In modern science, miracles are routine. Physicists have hurled beams of protons at each other with such primordial force that they revealed the elusive Higgs boson that serves as glue for all matter. Astrophysicists have detected gravitational waves produced by the collision of two black holes more than a billion light-years away, by creating antennae of such exquisite sensitivity they register infinitesimal ripples in space-time. Molecular biologists are figuring out how to re-engineer genes. Computer scientists keep shrinking the size of chips and doubling our devices' computing power. None of this is to say that scientists are gods, or that they are immune to the shortsightedness and egotism that plagues our species. Underneath their hyperdeveloped cerebral cortexes, even the most brilliant people have a lizard brain, pulsing with primitive impulses. But they provide proof that not all humans are imbeciles, and that's consolation enough.

7-8-16 The next great race between the U.S. and China will be over computer chips
The next great race between the U.S. and China will be over computer chips
There's a new technology race brewing between the U.S. and China. And if it gets going, it won't be in arms or spaceships or nuclear power. It will be in computer chips. The U.S. total first dropped precipitously in November 2015. Six months later, China had already pulled ahead: 167 supercomputers to America's 165. But here's the real twist: The Sunway TaihuLight was built entirely with Chinese-made chips. Even the Tianhe-2 relied on Intel parts. "It's not based on an existing architecture. They built it themselves," Dongarra continued. (Webmaster's comment: The Chinese are Kick-Ass Engineers and Scientists and it's our ass they are kicking. The Chinese are taking a broad lead in Engineering and in Science. The United States is very rapidly becoming second best.)

7-4-16 China fits final piece on world's largest radio telescope
China fits final piece on world's largest radio telescope
China has fitted the final piece on what will be the world's largest radio telescope, due to begin operations in September, state media report. The 500m-wide Aperture Spherical Telescope, or FAST, is the size of 30 football fields. The $180m (£135m) satellite project will be used to explore space and help look for extraterrestrial life, Xinhua news agency reported. Advancing China's space program remains a key priority for Beijing. (Webmaster's comment: As with everything else we can't match the Chinese when they get going.)

7-4-16 China builds world’s largest radio telescope to hunt for aliens
China builds world’s largest radio telescope to hunt for aliens
The gigantic 500-metre disc will boost the search for extraterrestrial life, dark matter and distant pulsars. Covering an area the size of 30 football pitches, China’s Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Telescope (FAST) was officially completed this week, making it the largest radio telescope in the world. The huge disc was assembled from 4450 individual triangular panels and dwarfs its nearest rival — the 300-metre-wide Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico. It should enable the detection of many astronomical objects and phenomena whose radio signals are too weak and distant to be picked up by smaller telescopes. Oh, and it will listen out for aliens. “The size of this telescope is key to its scientific impact,” says Tim O’Brien at the University of Manchester in the UK. “The bigger the telescope, the more radio waves it collects and the fainter objects it will be able to see.” (Webmaster's comment: The Chinese DID NOT build this radio telescope to search for aliens. They built it to study the far reaches of the universe. If they happen to find aliens alone the way that will just be icing on the cake, but that IS NOT the telescope's purpose.)

Of Special Interest

11-2-16 Artificial intelligence needs smart senses to be useful
Artificial intelligence needs smart senses to be useful
True intelligence, Meghan Rosen notes in this issue’s cover story "Robot awakening" (SN: 11/12/16, p. 18), lies in the body as well as the brain. And building machines with the physical intelligence that even the clumsiest human takes for granted — the ability to sense, respond to and move through the world — has long been a stumbling block for artificial intelligence research. While more sophisticated software and ultrafast computers have led to machine “brains” that can beat a person at chess or Go, building a robot that can move the pieces, fetch an iced tea or notice if the chessboard has turned into Candy Land has been difficult.

11-2-16 For robots, artificial intelligence gets physical
For robots, artificial intelligence gets physical
To work with humans, machines need to sense the world around them. By giving robots physical intelligence, researchers hope to build machines that can work alongside humans. In a high-ceilinged laboratory at Children’s National Health System in Washington, D.C., a gleaming white robot stitches up pig intestines. The thin pink tissue dangles like a deflated balloon from a sturdy plastic loop. Two bulky cameras watch from above as the bot weaves green thread in and out, slowly sewing together two sections. Like an experienced human surgeon, the robot places each suture deftly, precisely — and with intelligence.

11-2-16 What is it like to be a bot? The strange world of telerobotics
What is it like to be a bot? The strange world of telerobotics
Telepresence technology may soon give us new insight into one of philosophy's most intriguing questions. Not Like Us is Aviva Rutkin's monthly column exploring the minds of intelligent machines – and how we live with them. “What is it like to be a bat?” the philosopher Thomas Nagel wondered in 1974. You’d flap around, echolocating, eating bugs, hanging out upside-down in someone’s attic. But something essential about the experience was off limits to his imagination. “I am restricted to the resources of my own mind, and those resources are inadequate to the task.” Nagel’s famous essay considered a sticky problem: what is the relationship between our body and our mind? How could we ever comprehend a state of being that isn’t just our own? The question of what it’s like to be someone, or something, else, has continued to tantalise. Now, research into making telerobotics happen may offer a weird and cool possibility – that of beginning to understand, if only a little, the experience of entities that are not at all like us.

10-30-16 ‘A Most Improbable Journey’ offers scientific take on human history
‘A Most Improbable Journey’ offers scientific take on human history
Book zooms through key cosmic, geologic and biological events that shaped past. A new book explores how cosmic and geologic events—such as the particular details of the solar system’s formation—have shaped human history. Most people do not marvel much at sand. We may enjoy how it feels under our bare feet, or get annoyed when someone tracks it into the house. But few of us see those quartz grains the way geologist Walter Alvarez does—as the product of 4.5 billion years of improbable cosmic and geologic events that defined the course of human history. Sandy beaches exist because silicon—a relatively rare element in the solar system—happened to become concentrated on Earth during the solar system’s early days, Alvarez, of the University of California, Berkeley, writes in A Most Improbable Journey. While powerful solar particles swept lighter, gaseous elements toward the outer planets, more massive, mineral-forming elements such as silicon, magnesium and iron were left behind for Earth. Later on, in the molten crucibles between Earth’s colliding tectonic plates, these elements formed the raw materials for pivotal human inventions, including stone tools, glass and computer chips.

10-21-16 Astronauts’ ‘space brain’
Astronauts’ ‘space brain’
Astronauts on a years-long trip to Mars may have more than just boredom to worry about: They could end up with “space brain.” One of NASA’s biggest concerns about taking humans to the Red Planet is the danger of excessive exposure to cosmic radiation, reports NBCNews.com. To investigate, researchers from the space agency exposed rats and mice to fully ionized oxygen and titanium particles, which are similar to the cosmic rays that would bombard astronauts on lengthy space flights. The rodents developed brain inflammation and other neural damage, and performed poorly on tests of memory and learning—a condition researchers called “space brain.” Studies involving animals often fail to translate to people, but brain cancer patients who have received high-dose, photon-based radiation treatment have developed similar cognitive problems. In another worrying sign, the radiation-zapped rats and mice also displayed heightened levels of anxiety and stress. Such conditions, says study leader Charles Limoli, could reduce astronauts’ capability “to operate efficiently over the course of a deep space mission.” The only way to block out cosmic radiation is with more efficient shielding material, or an electromagnetic field to deflect the rays. NASA is exploring both options.

10-17-16 Extreme lightning events set records
Extreme lightning events set records
The furthest strike was in Oklahoma, with the longest in France. New techniques allow scientists to better monitor lightning flashes, leading to extreme records. Two electrifying light shows were much more than flashes in the pan. A 2007 thunderstorm over Oklahoma produced a lightning flash that stretched more than 321 kilometers horizontally — roughly the distance from Washington, D.C., to New York City. In southern France in 2012, a single lightning flash lit up the sky nonstop for 7.74 seconds, enough time for light to make about three round trips from Earth to the moon.

10-14-16 Strange signals from 234 stars could be ET – or human error
Strange signals from 234 stars could be ET – or human error
Two Canadian astrophysicists claim they’ve detected intelligent signals from 234 sun-like stars - but don’t get your hopes up yet. Two astronomers think they have spotted messages from not just one extraterrestrial civilisation, but 234 of them. The news has sparked a lively debate in the field as other astronomers think the claim is premature and are working fast to get to the bottom of the signals. In 2012, Ermanno Borra at Laval University in Quebec suggested that an extraterrestrial civilisation might use a laser as a means of interstellar communication. If the little green men simply flashed a laser toward the Earth like a strobe light, we would see periodic bursts of light hidden in the spectrum of their host star. They would be incredibly faint and rapid, but a mathematical analysis could uncover them. “The kind of energy needed to generate this signal is not crazy,” says Borra. In fact, Borra showed that technology we have on Earth today – specifically the Helios laser at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory – could generate that kind of signal, should we want to reveal ourselves to the cosmos. With this in mind, Borra’s graduate student Eric Trottier combed through 2.5 million stars recorded by the Sloan Digital Sky Survey in search of such a signal. He found it, down to the exact shape, in 234 stars. The overwhelming majority of those stars are in the same spectral class as the sun, which Borra says supports his hypothesis that this signature must be the result of extraterrestrial intelligent life. And with the data in hand, he thinks that 234 distinct civilisations are beaming pulses of the same periodicity (roughly 1.65 picoseconds) toward the Earth. (Webmaster's comment: And what's the point? Any communications would take hundreds or thousands or millions of years, and even longer to visit. Get Real!)

10-14-16 Scientists plan to create 'Asgardia' nation state in space
Scientists plan to create 'Asgardia' nation state in space
A group of scientists is launching what they say will be a new pacifist nation-state in space. Asgardia "will become a place in orbit which is truly 'no man's land'," its website says. The new "nation" aims to launch its first satellite late next year and hopes to one day be recognised by the UN. But some experts have cast doubt on the viability of the plan, given international law prohibits national sovereignty claims in outer space. "Citizens" of Asgardia, who will be scrutinised before admission, will eventually obtain passports, says Lena de Winne, a senior member of the project team who worked for the European Space Agency for 15 years. "Clearly it's difficult to wrap your head around the concept [of] how can you be a citizen of something you cannot put your foot on," she told the BBC. "But I'm a citizen of the Netherlands and I'm now in Paris… There is nothing unusual about it if you are a citizen of a land where you don't live and where you don't go." The project is being directed by the Vienna-based Aerospace International Research Center, a private company founded by Russian scientist and businessman Dr Igor Ashurbeiyli.

10-12-16 Disco-ball sail propelled by laser could fly to a nearby star
Disco-ball sail propelled by laser could fly to a nearby star
IF WE really want to send probes outside our solar system, interstellar disco balls propelled by lasers may be the way to go. Earlier this year, billionaire Yuri Milner announced Breakthrough Starshot, an ambitious plan to send tiny probes through space at a fifth of the speed of light. At that pace, a probe could reach neighbouring star system Proxima Centauri in just 20 years. The LightSail craft showed last year that it is possible for sails to propel spacecraft using sunlight. But to achieve the speeds required for interstellar travel, it might be better to use high-powered lasers shot from Earth. The principle is the same, but the sail’s design will look completely different. One challenge for Breakthrough Starshot will be keeping the sail’s orientation just right in relation to the laser beam. Zachary Manchester and Abraham Loeb at Harvard University have now suggested a possible approach. Part of this involves using a spherical sail rather than the cone shape that others have suggested to help resolve orientation problems. “I looked at the proposed laser-propelled sails and found that none of them would be very stable,” says Manchester. “But I found that a spherical sail would be, and it’s very elegant.” This sail would look a lot like a disco ball, with the probe hidden in the centre. When a laser beam hits its slender mirror-like surface, the light would bounce off and push the probe along. The beam would be weakest at its centre and strongest at its edges, helping to stabilise the probe when it is slightly off track (arxiv.org/abs/1609.09506).

9-21-16 Reality guide: Six radical ideas to change physics
Reality guide: Six radical ideas to change physics
Is all the universe vibrating strings? Or is information the most essential thing? All is up for grabs as we seek solutions for a fuller understanding of reality. Our understanding of the universe has been completely rewritten in the past century – and the obvious gaps we still have in our understanding mean it is likely to be rewritten again. But what ideas provide possible ways forward? Here we explore some of the most promising. For the lowdown on our current best theories of the universe, take a look at Reality guide: The essential laws of cosmology and Reality guide: The essential laws of quantum physics. To read more about the outstanding problems in physics today, turn to Reality guide: Six problems physics can’t explain

  1. Modified gravity: Our theories of gravity have only ever been tested on small scales
  2. Supersymmetry: More particles can explain why the universe is as it is
  3. A fifth force: Could a quintessence banish cosmic ghosts?
  4. String theories: An ultimate theory must subsume quantum theory and relativity
  5. The multiverse: The universe is as it is – because every other universe is out there too
  6. Everything is information: Energy and matter don’t matter – bits are where it’s at

9-21-16 Reality guide: Six problems physics can’t explain
Reality guide: Six problems physics can’t explain
From the dark energy ripping the cosmos apart to the part consciousness plays in creating reality, quantum physics and cosmology retain many mysteries. General relativity and quantum theory are the two pillars of modern physics, peerlessly accurate in their respective realms of the very large and the very small. But where they meet, they produce contradictory answers – and other problems they create mean they provide a far from complete picture. For more on the basics of the theories, take a look at Reality guide: The essential laws of cosmology and Reality guide: The essential laws of quantum physics.

  1. Dark matter: Galaxies rotate too quickly for their visible matter
  2. Dark energy: The universe is flying apart faster and faster
  3. Inflation: Faster-than-light expansion spawns many other universes
  4. Force unification: Our theories of reality don’t get along
  5. Fine-tuning: We can’t explain the numbers that rule the universe
  6. The measurement problem: Do we inadvertently control everything that happens?

9-14-16 Cold fusion: Science's most controversial technology is back
Cold fusion: Science's most controversial technology is back
The claim to have tamed the sun in the lab was debunked 25 years ago. So why are governments and investors now pouring money into it again? SCIENCE has had its share of embarrassing moments. Take Piltdown man, the missing link in human evolution exposed as a fraud after 40 years. Or the Allan Hills meteorite, hailed by US president Bill Clinton in a televised announcement in 1996 because it seemed to contain evidence of life on Mars – only it probably doesn’t. But few scientific embarrassments raised temperatures quite as much as cold fusion. In 1989, University of Utah chemists Stanley Pons and Martin Fleischmann announced that they had, at room temperature in the lab, tamed the process that powers the sun: nuclear fusion. This would have been an almost unimaginable technological leap. But no one could reproduce the result, at least not provably, reliably, or to general satisfaction. With no convincing theory to back up the observations either, Pons and Fleischmann were ostracised. Cold fusion – and anyone still willing to work on it – was frozen out. Fast forward 25 years, and thaw is in the air. You won’t hear the words “cold fusion”, but substantial sums of money are quietly pouring into a field now known as low-energy nuclear reactions, or LENRs. Earlier this year, the US House of Representatives Committee on Armed Services declared it was “aware of recent positive developments” in developing LENRs and noted their potential to “produce ultra-clean, low-cost renewable energy” and their “strong national security implications”. Highlighting too the interest of Russia, China, Israel and India, it suggested the US could not afford to be left behind, and requested that the Secretary of Defense provide a briefing on the science by 22 September. Cold fusion seems to be coming in from the cold – but why?

9-7-16 Lessons in reality from particles that don’t exist
Lessons in reality from particles that don’t exist
A breed of subatomic particle made from nothing has huge implications for technology – and shows how tenuous reality itself is. WHEN you hear the word “particle”, what image floats into your mind? Chances are you’re thinking small, and then some – like the tiniest billiard ball imaginable. Indivisible chunks of matter pinging off each other in the vast expanses of space, or jostling for position in a crowded chunk of stuff. Chances are, too, you’re nowhere near the vision of particles painted by our best picture of how they work, quantum theory. This says that despite making up stuff that definitely has a size – ourselves, the paper or screen you’re reading this on – particles occupy a point in space precisely zero metres across. While you’re chewing that one over, you might consider how quantum theory also allows these size-zero particles to occupy multiple places at once, or be “entangled” so the state of one becomes inextricably bound up with the state of another. But even that doesn’t prepare you for the latest assault on any common-sense conception of a particle that physicists have been preparing. Strike the billiard balls from the table. An alternative breed of shape-shifting particles can be split up, change their mass, and be combined with other stuff to make more than the sum of the parts. These particles don’t seem to exist in any way that makes sense, and yet we are increasingly bending them to our will. The results are reshaping technology, from superconductors to quantum computers — and helping us probe deeper into the fabric of reality than ever before.

9-5-16 Planet smash-up 'brought carbon to Earth'
Planet smash-up 'brought carbon to Earth'
Much of Earth's life-giving carbon could have been delivered in a planetary collision about 4.4 billion years ago, a theory suggests. Carbon is the key ingredient for all life on our planet. But how Earth acquired its "volatile elements" - which have low boiling points - such as carbon and sulphur remains a subject of some debate. A team now argues that a collision between Earth and an embryonic planet like Mercury could provide the answer. The team suggests Earth merged with a Mercury-like protoplanet. Details of the work appear in the journal Nature Geoscience.

9-1-16 Spoiler alert: Why strange signals are never really from aliens
Spoiler alert: Why strange signals are never really from aliens
Given the wealth of planets in our universe, aliens must be dwelling somewhere, right? Maybe. But we’re never going to get our sci-fi moment, says Jacob Aron. I’m not saying it’s aliens, but… No, I’m just not saying it’s aliens, full stop. It is never aliens. Reports of a strong radio signal picked up by Russian astronomers observing the distant star HD 164595 sent the internet into a frenzy this week. It has now been confirmed as a terrestrial source, perhaps a previously unlisted Soviet military satellite – more spy-fi than sci-fi. The incident is the latest in a seemingly endless string of potential discoveries of aliens, including Proxima b, Tabby’s star and Planet Nine, that have driven a resurgence of interest in SETI not seen since the heady days of ufology, Contact and The X-Files in the 1990s. Like Fox Mulder, we desperately want to believe that aliens are out there. In recent years, this desire has been legitimised by the rise of the exoplanet, one of the most exciting scientific fields around today. When The X-Files first aired in 1993, astronomers had only just made the first tentative claims of planets outside the solar system. When the series returned to our screens earlier this year, astronomers could boast thousands of discoveries, suggesting a universe filled with billions upon billions of worlds, far more than anyone had imagined. But...

8-30-16 Mysterious signal unlikely to be aliens after SETI draws a blank
Mysterious signal unlikely to be aliens after SETI draws a blank
Radio telescopes across the world are swinging toward an intriguing signal that could point toward an intelligent extraterrestrial civilisation, but have come up empty. That’s how quiet the cosmos appears to be despite news that a year-old spike in radio signals could point toward an intelligent extraterrestrial civilisation. The signal, detected on 15 May 2015 by a radio telescope operated by the Russian Academy of Sciences, was so powerful it evoked a radio beacon built by an intelligent civilisation. It appeared to originate from the star HD 164595, in the constellation Hercules, which has one known planet roughly the size of Neptune. SETI astronomers across the globe have jumped into action to try to confirm that signal. But so far, there’s no sign of ET.

8-30-16 Radio signal probably not from extraterrestrials
Radio signal probably not from extraterrestrials
Reports stir excitement, but there’s no sign of alien activity. A signal detected by the Russian RATAN-600 radio telescope has triggered speculation about a message from extraterrestrials. A radio signal detected last year has sparked speculation that an advanced alien civilization is broadcasting from a relatively nearby planet. But recent scans have turned up nothing, suggesting the blip was a false alarm and nothing more than earthly interference. In May 2015, astronomers detected a blast of radio waves coming from the direction of HD 164595, a sunlike star about 94 light-years away in the constellation Hercules. The signal, reported online August 27 on the blog Centauri Dreams, lasted just a few seconds and reached a peak power of about 750 millijansky — fairly strong by radio astronomy standards (1 jansky equals 10-26 watts per square meter per hertz). The researchers aren’t claiming that they found E.T., but they are asking other astronomers to monitor the star — home to a planet at least 16 times as massive as Earth — in case the signal repeats.

8-29-16 Mysterious SETI signal sends alien-hunting telescopes scrambling
Mysterious SETI signal sends alien-hunting telescopes scrambling
An intriguing radio spike spotted last year could point toward an intelligent extraterrestrial civilisation, but follow-up observations so far have come up empty. Are you there, ET? Recent news of a spike in radio signals that could fit the profile for an intelligent, extraterrestrial source has SETI astronomers across the globe swinging their radio dishes in hopes of confirming the detection. Although so far they have all come back empty-handed, two observatories will follow up on the tantalising signal again tonight. The signal was detected on May 15, 2015 by a radio telescope operated by the Russian Academy of Science. It appeared to come from the star HD 164595, a sun-like star located roughly 95 light-years from Earth. The system has only one known planet: a warm Neptune, so called because it is gaseous like Neptune but orbits its star in only 40 days. But the star probably has other planets — perhaps rocky ones — as well. The researchers speculate that such a bright signal, if real, could have been produced by a radio beacon built by an intelligent civilisation. (Webmaster's comment: Don't hold your breath.)

8-25-16 Visits to Proxima Centauri’s planet are probably millennia away
Visits to Proxima Centauri’s planet are probably millennia away
Even alpha particle propulsion is too slow for trip to new world. Proxima Centauri, the nearest member of the Alpha Centauri triple star system, is just a little more than 4 light-years away from the sun. With a proposed propulsion scheme using alpha particle decay, travel time to the star's newly discovered planet would be no shorter than 4,000 years. If you’d like to vacation at the newly found planet orbiting Proxima Centauri, you might want to reconsider. It’s nearby astronomically — a mere 4.2 light-years away — but still too far away for any plausible transportation technology to reach within the current millennium. In fact, it’s a pretty safe bet the Chicago Cubs will win the World Series before any human steps foot on Earth’s nearest exoplanetary neighbor (known as Proxima b). Unless P. Centaurian aliens arrive soon with a “To Serve Man” cookbook, your chances of visiting Proxima b before you die are about the same as sainthood for Ted Bundy. By the time anybody from here goes there, years will have five digits. It took NASA’s New Horizons probe — the fastest spacecraft humans have ever launched — over nine years just to get to Pluto. At its top speed of 16 kilometers per second, New Horizons would need almost 80,000 years to get to Proxima Centauri.

8-19-16 Quantum trick sees two things happen before and after each other
Quantum trick sees two things happen before and after each other
By placing the order of two events into a quantum superposition, physicists have probed the nature of causality. Alice sent a present to Bob. No wait, Bob sent the present to Alice. Actually… they kind of sent it to each other at the same time. A new experiment shows how gift-giving gets confusing when you’re using quantum mechanics to muck about with causality. You may have heard of the double-slit experiment, in which a single particle fired at two small gaps appears to interfere with itself, as if it had passed through both slits at once. That happens because, until it is measured by a detector on the other side, the particle is in a quantum superposition of two states. In some sense it is able to take both paths. It’s weird, and difficult to wrap your head around, but now a team at the University of Vienna in Austria have performed a different kind of experiment that is even more mind-bending: putting the order of events into a superposition. Normally, it’s easy for us to say that event A happens before event B, or vice versa. But Giulia Rubino and her colleagues have created a superposition in which these seemingly contradictory scenarios are in superposition. “If you put together quantum mechanics and causal relations, a situation arises in which there is no pre-defined causal order,” she says. “It’s counter-intuitive.” (Webmaster's comment: We'll probably never understand how this can be. The universe is stranger than we can think. We are smarter than chimps but that probably isn't smart enough.)

8-12-16 Space travel affects heart
Space travel affects heart
Exposure to cosmic radiation during deep-space missions may damage an astronaut’s heart, a new NASA-funded study suggests. Researchers at Florida State University compared the deaths of 35 astronauts who never traveled into space with those of 42 astronauts who ventured beyond Earth’s protective magnetic field, including seven Apollo veterans who flew to the moon between 1968 and 1972. The study found that lunar astronauts were five times more vulnerable to heart disease—43 percent of them died from cardiovascular ailments compared with only 9 percent of the astronauts that didn’t journey to the moon. A follow-up study involving mice reveals that radiation can trigger long-term changes in the lining of blood vessels associated with atherosclerosis, or “hardening of the arteries.” While researchers hesitate to draw definitive conclusions, the findings do have important implications for future missions to Mars or beyond. “We’ve probably underestimated the impact of deep-space radiation,” study author Dr. Michael Delp tells NBCNews.com, “on not just cardiovascular disease but health in general.”

7-25-16 Ancient air bubbles could revise history of Earth’s oxygen
Ancient air bubbles could revise history of Earth’s oxygen
If new findings are correct, rise in gas preceded earliest animals. Ancient air embedded inside rock salt for 815 million years suggests that oxygen was already abundant when the first animals appeared. The microscopic air bubbles were trapped inside rectangular inclusions in the rock. Whiffs of ancient air trapped in rock salt for hundreds of millions of years are shaking up the history of oxygen and life on Earth. By carefully crushing rock salt, researchers have measured the chemical makeup of air pockets embedded inside the rock. This new technique reveals that oxygen made up 10.9 percent of Earth’s atmosphere around 815 million years ago. Scientists have thought that oxygen levels would not be that high until 100 million to 200 million years later. The measurements place elevated oxygen levels well before the appearance of animals in the fossil record around 650 million years ago, the researchers report in the August issue of Geology. “I think our results will take people by surprise,” says study coauthor Nigel Blamey, a geochemist at Brock University in St. Catharines, Canada. “We came out of left field, and I think some people are going to embrace it, and other people are going to be very skeptical. But the data is what the data is.” (Webmaster's comment: And that's what I report here, whether or not anyone likes it, including myself.)

7-22-16 Space: A giant leap for Africa
Space: A giant leap for Africa
Around the world there is growing appetite for space exploration and Africa is no exception. Images from the MeerKAT telescope - currently being built in Carnarvon, South Africa - have been unveiled, showing that it has picked up 13,000 galaxies since construction of the telescope began in 2009. The BBC's Lerato Mbele has been to Carnarvon to find out more about the continent's contribution to the international space race. (Webmaster's comment: But not here in America. We don't want to pay for hard science in Ameica! We just want to be heroes and do the flash in the pan of getting to Mars first. And how will that benefit us in any way? And how will that help us understand anything about the universe in which we live?)

7-18-16 DNA sequencer sent to space station
DNA sequencer sent to space station
Nasa has sent a DNA sequencer to the International Space Station in an effort to help astronauts monitor their own health. The device is designed to show whether DNA sequencing is possible in microgravity. Nasa hopes DNA sequencers could enable the environmental monitoring of microbes to identify potential causes of illness and understand the health of astronauts. Last year, Nasa microbiologist Dr Sarah Castro said of the project: "Currently aboard the space station there is not a real-time method for identifying microbes, diagnosing infectious disease, and collecting any form of genomic and genetic data concerning crew health. "Meeting these needs relies on returning samples from space to Earth and subsequent ground-based analysis, which takes time." The sequencer, which is just 9.5cm long and weighs 120g, is tiny compared to the microwave-sized devices used on Earth. (Webmaster's comment: 40 years ago DNA sequencing used to take a whole laboratory of equipment. Eventually all that was reduced to an instrument the size of a microwave, and now it can be done with an instrument that fits in your hand. Science and Technology is truly amazing.)

7-14-16 Europe backs lunar drilling technology
Europe backs lunar drilling technology
The European Space Agency has signed a contract to build a prototype drill and chemistry lab that will be flown on a Russian mission to the Moon in 2021. Known as Prospect, the instrument package will be a key contribution to Moscow's Luna-Resurs venture. The equipment will pull up sub-surface material and analyse it for the presence of water and other substances. The contract to build the package has been signed with Italian aerospace giant Leonardo-Finmeccanica. That money will however also include the funds for the autonomous navigation system, called Pilot, which will be used to land the probe. "Luna-Resurs is fully planned in the Russian space programme, and they are pushing us to finalise all the agreements to go forward with the project," explained David Parker, Esa's director for human spaceflight and robotic exploration. (Webmaster's comment: While we're chasing probably non-existing bacteria on Mars and on landing people there for some unknown purpose, others - Europe, Russia, and the Chinese - are moving ahead on more practical missions to develop resources on a much, much easier and cheaper to reach Moon.)

7-2-16 The simple problem with complex science
The simple problem with complex science.
Researchers like their studies complicated, but the public needs their daily dose of science to be spoon-fed. Scientists like their studies like Game of Thrones: ridiculously long and unimaginably complex. Big surprise, huh? It's reassuring to know that scientists are big on detail — they are scientists, after all — but news audiences prefer their science a little more like the Big Bang Theory: simple, slapstick, and easy to comprehend. (Webmaster's comment: And what would you expect? Twenty-five years ago the average American was reading and writing at the 8th grade level. But now the average American now reads and writes at the 6th grade level and can't alphabetize. They struggle with multiplication and can't do division, and can't do change in their heads. They struggle to think and solve problems above the 6th grade level. How could one expect this mass ignorance of the average American public to understand anything about the results of science studies and the complexities of science research? It's simply beyond their comprehension! To reach half of the American public you have to dumb your reporting down so 6th graders can understand it.)

What is our Universe Made of?

10-28-16 At least 2 trillion galaxies
At least 2 trillion galaxies
The vast scale of the universe just became even more unfathomable. Until now, astronomers believed there were up to 200 billion galaxies that could theoretically be detected from Earth. But a new study suggests the actual figure could be 10 times that—at least 2 trillion, and possibly many more. Researchers at the University of Nottingham in England used all the available data on deep space to create a 3-D map of the observable universe. When they then ran that information through their mathematical models, they concluded that for the universe to behave in the way it does, it must contain more than 2 trillion galaxies. The findings don’t suggest the universe is any bigger than previously thought, or that it contains more stars; they simply imply that stars are dispersed among a larger number of smaller galaxies. That would confirm the “top-down” theory of universe formation: the idea that many small galaxies grew over time, eventually merging into the ones we see today. The researchers believe the most powerful telescopes we have can pick up only about 10 percent of the 2 trillion galaxies. “It boggles the mind that over 90 percent of the galaxies in the cosmos have yet to be studied,” lead researcher Christopher Conselice tells Slate.com. “Who knows what interesting properties we will find when we study these galaxies with the next generation of telescopes?”

10-25-16 Latest dark matter searches leave scientists empty-handed
Latest dark matter searches leave scientists empty-handed
Physicists ponder possibilities for bulk of universe’s mass. Scientists indirectly detected this dark matter through its gravitational influence, which bends and distorts the light of galaxies in the background. So far, all efforts to directly detect particles of the invisible matter have fallen flat. Scientists have lost their latest round of hide-and-seek with dark matter, but they’re not out of the game. Despite overwhelming evidence that an exotic form of matter lurks unseen in the cosmos, decades of searches have failed to definitively detect a single particle of dark matter. While some scientists continue down the road of increasingly larger detectors designed to catch the particles, others are beginning to consider a broader landscape of possibilities for what dark matter might be. (Webmaster's comment: The universe is not only stranger than we think, it is stranger than we can think. We have not evolved the intelligence, the ability, to understand it yet. It will take a new breed of creature, or maybe artifical intelligence.)

9-9-16 The Milky Way’s ‘dark twin’
The Milky Way’s ‘dark twin’
Astronomers have spotted a “dark twin” of the Milky Way, a discovery that blows apart their already patchy understanding of dark matter. Located 300 million light-years from Earth, Dragonfly 44 is about the same size as our own galaxy, but contains a tiny fraction of its stars. Only about 0.1 percent of the newly discovered galaxy is made up of ordinary, visible matter like stars—100 times less than the Milky Way. The rest apparently consists of dark matter, the elusive, mysterious substance that astrophysicists believe makes up 80 percent of the matter in the universe. Scientists have never actually seen dark matter; its existence is predicated on the theory that without its gravitational effect, stars and other celestial objects would drift apart rather than clump together in galaxies. Dragonfly 44 isn’t the first dark galaxy astronomers have discovered, but it’s the only one comparable in size to the Milky Way. “We thought we had sort of figured out what the relationship is between galaxies and dark matter,” the study’s lead author, Pieter van Dokkum, tells CNN.com. “This discovery turns that on its head. It means we don’t understand, kind of fundamentally, how galaxy formation works.” Physicists hope to discover other dark galaxies, to increase their understanding of one of the most puzzling building blocks of the universe.

9-6-16 Supersymmetry’s absence at LHC puzzles physicists
Supersymmetry’s absence at LHC puzzles physicists
Lack of new particles suggests need to consider new theories. New data from the LHC has revealed no hints of new particles, despite physicists’ high hopes. A beautiful but unproved theory of particle physics is withering in the harsh light of data. For decades, many particle physicists have devoted themselves to the beloved theory, known as supersymmetry. But it’s beginning to seem that the zoo of new particles that the theory predicts —the heavier cousins of known particles — may live only in physicists’ imaginations. Or if such particles, known as superpartners, do exist, they’re not what physicists expected. New data from the world’s most powerful particle accelerator — the Large Hadron Collider, now operating at higher energies than ever before — show no traces of superpartners. And so the theory’s most fervent supporters have begun to pay for their overconfidence — in the form of expensive bottles of brandy. On August 22, a group of physicists who wagered that the LHC would quickly confirm the theory settled a 16-year-old bet. In a session at a physics meeting in Copenhagen, theoretical physicist Nima Arkani-Hamed ponied up, presenting a bottle of cognac to physicists who bet that the new particles would be slow to materialize, or might not exist at all.

8-26-16 A fifth force of nature?
A fifth force of nature?
The Standard Model of physics holds that four fundamental forces govern the interaction of all matter in the universe: gravitation, electromagnetism, and the strong and weak nuclear forces. But physicists in Hungary have discovered a previously unknown subatomic particle that suggests the presence of a fifth force of nature, Space.com reports. Their findings may turn the Standard Model on its head and shed light on a range of mysterious phenomena—including dark matter and dark energy, which account for 85 per­cent of the total mass of the universe. The researchers had originally been trying to hunt down “dark photons,” hypothetical particles that physicists theorize may be indicators of dark matter, which is impossible to detect directly because it neither absorbs nor emits light. They didn’t find dark photons, but they did discover a “protophobic X boson,” a strange particle that only interacts with electrons and neutrons at very close range. Since it’s not a mass-bearing particle and isn’t governed by any of the four known forces, the researchers proposed that it could be evidence of a fifth fundamental force of nature. “If true, it’s revolutionary,” says astrophysicist Jonathan Feng, author of a University of California at Irvine study that analyzed the Hungarian team’s results. “If confirmed by further experiments, this discovery of a possible fifth force would completely change our understanding of the universe.”

8-25-16 Ghost galaxy is 99.99 per cent dark matter with almost no stars
Ghost galaxy is 99.99 per cent dark matter with almost no stars
We've spotted a galaxy that weighs almost as much as the Milky Way yet has 1 per cent the number of stars, suggesting it’s chock-full of dark matter. The Milky Way has a dark twin. A dimly lit massive galaxy, called Dragonfly 44, consists of a record 99.99 per cent dark matter, and could help rewrite our theories of galaxy formation. Dragonfly 44 is the Milky Way’s doppelgänger in mass, but its opposite in number of stars and structure. “If you take the Milky Way and for every 100 stars you keep only one, then you’re getting pretty close,” says Pieter van Dokkum at Yale University. “You also have to put those remaining stars in a blender and mix them all up into a blob.” This galaxy doesn’t have the iconic spiral structure of the Milky Way nor is it a flat disc.

8-9-16 IceCube telescope in Antarctica rules out sterile neutrinos
IceCube telescope in Antarctica rules out sterile neutrinos
A search for a fourth kind of neutrino, a ghostly particle that could explain dark matter, has turned up empty. A particle ghost has been laid to rest. Physicists have spent decades hunting for “sterile neutrinos”, a fourth flavour in addition to the three known neutrinos, of which trillions pass through your body unnoticed every second. Now they’re pretty sure it doesn’t exist. The IceCube Neutrino Observatory at the South Pole is the latest to join the hunt. A new analysis of almost 100,000 neutrino events hitting its detectors, which are buried beneath the Antarctic surface, has found no sign of the sterile version, concluding with 99 per cent certainty that it doesn’t exist. Theorists lauded sterile neutrinos for their potential to explain both dark matter, the mysterious particles though to make up the bulk of stuff in our universe, and why the universe began with an imbalance of matter and antimatter that prevented the cosmos from annihilating itself from the start. Sterile neutrinos would also extend the standard model of particle physics, hinting at a new direction for our understanding of particles and the forces that govern them. Sterile neutrinos were already killed off in 2007 when an experiment called MiniBooNE failed to see any evidence for them, but rose from the dead in 2010 when the experiment found signs of an antimatter version of the particle. Data from the Planck space telescope in 2013 also ruled out sterile neutrinos. Now it seems that IceCube has landed the killing blow.

8-5-16 New particle hopes fade as LHC data 'bump' disappears
New particle hopes fade as LHC data 'bump' disappears
Hopes for the imminent discovery of a particle that might fundamentally change our understanding of the Universe have been put on hold. Results from the Large Hadron Collider show that a "bump" in the machine's data, previously rumoured to represent a new particle, has gone away. The discovery of new particles, which could trigger a paradigm shift in physics, may still be years away. All the latest LHC results are being discussed at a conference in Chicago.

8-5-16 Upon further review, suspected new particle vanishes
Upon further review, suspected new particle vanishes
Hints of discovery fade away with new data from Large Hadron Collider. Two experiments at the Large Hadron Collider, ATLAS and CMS, have seen no evidence of a new particle in their most recent data, despite previous hints. Particle physicists’ hopes have been dashed. A possible new particle hasn’t been sighted in new data from the Large Hadron Collider, scientists reported August 5 at the International Conference on High Energy Physics. Evidence of the particle, in the form of a bump on a plot — an excess of events at a particular energy — popped up after the LHC, at the European particle physics laboratory CERN near Geneva, began smashing together protons at a newly boosted energy of 13 trillion electron volts. The hint appeared in collisions that produced two high-energy photons. The bump “unfortunately is not confirmed by the new data,” CMS physicist Chiara Ilaria Rovelli of the National Institute for Nuclear Physics in Rome said in a session at ICHEP. Similarly, in ATLAS data, “there is no significant excess seen,” said CERN physicist Bruno Lenzi of the ATLAS collaboration.

8-5-16 Physicists mourn as hinted particle vanishes in leaked LHC data
Physicists mourn as hinted particle vanishes in leaked LHC data
Results from the CMS and ATLAS collaborations were due today, but a paper accidentally posted last night reveals the Large Hadron Collider is yet to find new particles. For nearly eight months, physicists have been waiting for confirmation of a potential new particle that could change our entire view of physics. Now it seems the hinted particle was nothing more than a statistical blip. In December 2015, the ATLAS and CMS collaborations at CERN announced that they had each found a bump in their data at an energy of 750 gigaelectronvolts (GeV): an excess in the number of photon pairs produced inside the Large Hadron Collider, compared with predictions from the standard model of particle physics. A week after the announcement, theorists had written over 100 possible explanations; today, there are over 500. Nearly all of these papers posit the existence of a particle with a mass of 750 GeV or higher whose decay created the extra photons. Because this particle would have been outside the standard model of particle physics, it could have forced a reconsideration of how particles and forces interact. Sadly, it seems that the 750 GeV particle wasn’t meant to be. Physicists at the International Conference on High Energy Physics (ICHEP) in Chicago were due to reveal the latest data on the excess of photon pairs at 750 GeV later today, but a paper accidentally posted online last night by the CMS collaboration states that their new round of data found no extra photons. This suggests the earlier hints were just a statistical fluke.(Webmaster's comment: The end of an era. The human super chimp will have to evolve again to get to the next step.)

8-3-16 Ghost particles may explain why gravity is so surprisingly weak
Ghost particles may explain why gravity is so surprisingly weak
Gravity is weaker than it should be – a new theory suggests that’s because the universe is full of invisible particle families which ignore each other. A new theory claims that the cosmos is full of unseen particle families that don’t interact with each other. If true, the model could explain why gravity is so puzzlingly weak. The idea is an alternative to supersymmetry, a theory in which every known particle has a heavier partner. Such superparticles would explain why the mass of our familiar set of particles is low enough to account for gravity’s weakness. But the particle-smashing Large Hadron Collider, near Geneva, Switzerland, still hasn’t seen any superparticles, despite years of searching. Maybe that’s because we need not just one set of partner particles, but many, says Nima Arkani-Hamed at Princeton University.

7-21-16 Dark matter no-show puts favoured particles on death row
Dark matter no-show puts favoured particles on death row
The LUX experiment has seen no sign of WIMPs, the leading candidate for dark matter. That means the elusive particles are running out of hiding places. One of the world’s leading dark matter detectors has wrapped up a nearly two-year-long search for the mysterious particles, without finding a single whiff. The results suggest that the days may be numbered for the dominant model of dark matter. We’ve known since the 1930s that without dark matter‘s gravitational pull, galaxies would spin themselves apart. This mysterious substance, which does not emit light or interact with normal matter except through gravity, should make up around 85 per cent of the universe’s mass. After ruling out ordinary matter that just doesn’t emit much light, theorists settled on some basic characteristics for their quarry: it should be made up of particles that have some mass and interact weakly with other matter. They called them “weakly interacting massive particles”, or WIMPs, and set about building detectors that could catch them. What’s unknown is how often these particles bounce off each other – their scattering cross section – and their mass. They should also occasionally bump into normal matter. These rare collisions are what experiments like the Large Underground Xenon detector (LUX) are designed to pick up, in order to determine WIMPs’ properties. But today at the Identification of Dark Matter conference in Sheffield, UK, the LUX team announced their final 20-month run, from October 2014 to May this year, ended without a single dark matter detection. That means LUX has ruled out a large number of possible cross sections and masses for WIMPs – to the point where some physicists argue it might be time to abandon the idea all together. (Webmaster's comment: And so do I!)

7-21-16 Latest search for dark matter comes up empty
Latest search for dark matter comes up empty
DDark matter has once again given scientists the slip. Physicists with the Large Underground Xenon experiment, or LUX, report that their final set of data, collected from October 2014 to May 2016, contains no evidence of dark matter, the mysterious substance that makes up more than 25 percent of the universe. The LUX detector, located deep underground in Lead, S.D., uses a tank of 370 kilograms of ultra-pure liquid xenon to detect interacting particles by picking out blips of light they produce. The scientists are scheduled to report their results July 21 in Sheffield, England, at the Identification of Dark Matter conference. (Webmaster's comment: The universe may not be only stranger than we think, but stranger than we CAN think!)

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