141 posts · 217,451 views
A blog that explores the unknown, technology, space, science and strange things with a skeptical and analytical eye.
In a fair bit of science fiction, we see advanced alien species use some sort of shielding to walk around other planets or survive being ejected into space. Something around them flickers and a protective invisible bubble is raised, protecting them from a horrible death by dehydration as all the fluid in their bodies effectively boils away. As it turns out, that’s actually possible. [...]... Read more »
Takaku, Y., Suzuki, H., Ohta, I., Ishii, D., Muranaka, Y., Shimomura, M., & Hariyama, T. (2013) A thin polymer membrane, nano-suit, enhancing survival across the continuum between air and high vacuum. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1221341110
Since the dawn of modern cosmology there’s been an implicit assumption that no particular spot in the universe was supposed to be any more special than the rest. On the biggest scales of all, scales at which galaxies are treated like tiny particles, the universe is supposed to be isotropic and homogeneous i.e. more or less uniform in composition and its expansion from the Big Bang. [...]... Read more »
Clowes, R., Harris, K., Raghunathan, S., Campusano, L., Sochting, I., & Graham, M. (2013) A structure in the early Universe at z 1.3 that exceeds the homogeneity scale of the R-W concordance cosmology. Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. DOI: 10.1093/mnras/sts497
Another day, another study identifying more potentially habitable worlds in the Kepler data, this time by professional astronomers and volunteers called the Planet Hunters who discussed their planet detections on a specialized message board system called Talk. What they found was that more gas giants orbited stars in their habitable zones than initially thought, giving real evidence for the hypothesis that while alien Earths could be somewhat rare, moons orbiting alien Jupiters and Saturns may b........ Read more »
Ji Wang, Debra A. Fischer, Thomas Barclay, Tabetha S. Boyajian, Justin R. Crepp, Megan E. Schwamb, Chris Lintott, Kian J. Jek, Arfon M. Smith, Michael Parrish.... (2013) Planet Hunters. V. A Confirmed Jupiter-Size Planet in the Habitable Zone and 42 Planet Candidates from the Kepler Archive Data. n/a. arXiv: 1301.0644v1
Suppose you take some potassium atoms and put them in a vacuum where you cool them to as close to absolute zero as you possibly can in a lab. What you’ve done is reduced the entropy of this system of atoms because the colder it gets, the less kinetic energy they have, and the less energy they could exchange with each other. [...]... Read more »
Braun, S., Ronzheimer, J., Schreiber, M., Hodgman, S., Rom, T., Bloch, I., & Schneider, U. (2013) Negative absolute temperature for motional degrees of freedom. Science, 339(6115), 52-55. DOI: 10.1126/science.1227831
Once upon a time, we looked at an explanation for dark matter involving a theory about how all matter around us could decay over 6.6 × 10^33 years and noted that there’s a controversy as to whether protons actually decay. To help settle this, astronomers took advantage of the fact that telescopes are relativistic time machines, and peered through them at a galaxy known as PKS 1830-211 — a name only a scientist could love — that just so happens to be a gravitational lens a........ Read more »
Bagdonaite, J., Jansen, P., Henkel, C., Bethlem, H., Menten, K., & Ubachs, W. (2012) A Stringent Limit on a Drifting Proton-to-Electron Mass Ratio from Alcohol in the Early Universe. Science. DOI: 10.1126/science.1224898
Usually a new discovery in deep space tends to further complicate our picture of the universe, almost as if the cosmos says "oh yeah, you think you have a good idea of how this works?" and throws a monkey wrench into the works, or sometimes, the whole screaming, angry monkey. So when it comes to phenomena as complex and exciting as black holes, surely there can’t be any data that makes them easier to understand. [...]... Read more »
Nemmen, R., Georganopoulos, M., Guiriec, S., Meyer, E., Gehrels, N., & Sambruna, R. (2012) A Universal Scaling for the Energetics of Relativistic Jets from Black Hole Systems. Science, 338(6113), 1445-1448. DOI: 10.1126/science.1227416
It’s a frequent societal stereotype that women in porn must have been sexually abused as kids, otherwise they would never go into this line of work. You can hear it from social conservatives in their dire warnings about porn addiction and from feminists who find the porn to be merely an exploitation of women for the enjoyment of men, alike. [...]... Read more »
Griffith, J., Mitchell, S., Hart, C., Adams, L., & Gu, L. (2012) Pornography actresses: an assessment of the damaged goods hypothesis. Journal of Sex Research, 1-12. DOI: 10.1080/00224499.2012.719168
Welcome back to yet another installment of the question of whether we’re all just products of an advanced simulation that created an entire universe, but this time, instead of plunging deep into the lore of the Matrix with Moore’s Law hijinks and philosophy, we’ll be hunting for physical proof that the universe is actually a simulation [...]... Read more »
Silas R. Beane, Zohreh Davoudi, & Martin J. Savage. (2012) Constraints on the universe as a numerical simulation. n/a. arXiv: 1210.1847v1
As we’re starting to test artificially grown organs, scientists are wondering how to make sure that their methods result in viable tissues. One of the first steps was to take organ growth into three dimensions, letting the cells grow on a scaffold and self-organize into the right muscles, valves, and other soft tissue. Usually these scaffolds are derived from existing organs purified of all their old cells and many are designed to break down into [...]... Read more »
Bozhi Tian,, Jia Liu,, Tal Dvir,, Lihua Jin,, Jonathan H. Tsui,, Quan Qing,, Zhigang Suo,, Robert Langer,, Daniel S. Kohane,, & Charles M. Lieber. (2012) Macroporous nanowire nanoelectronic scaffolds for synthetic tissues. Nature Materials. DOI: 10.1038/nmat3404
Generally, when researchers studied children in same-sex households and measured how well they fared in terms of education, criminal records, and income, then compared them to heterosexual households with the same criteria, they found that as long as the kids get love, support, and attention, they tend to grow up happier and go on to [...]... Read more »
Regnerus, M. (2012) How different are the adult children of parents who have same-sex relationships? Findings from the New Family Structures Study. Social Science Research, 41(4), 752-770. DOI: 10.1016/j.ssresearch.2012.03.009
Maybe the investors behind Planetary Resources should consider creating antimatter instead of building fuel depots on asteroids they want to mine since all they'd need to do to guarantee unimaginable profits is just a single gram of the stuff. Granted, the collider they'd have to build to smash ions until they decay into positrons and [...]... Read more »
Ronan Keane, & Wei-Ming Zhang. (2012) Beamed Core Antimatter Propulsion: Engine Design and Optimization. n/a. arXiv: 1205.2281v1
Here's what sounds like a rather typical experiment with quantum mechanics. A pair of devices we'll call Alice and Bob, or A and B in cryptographic parlance, measure entangled photons which we know can be entangled at least 10,000 times faster than the speed of light. A third device called Victor, or an intermediary in [...]... Read more »
Long time readers probably noticed that the last month was a little off. Posts weren't coming as per the blog's natural rhythm and the annual April Fools gag was also absent. But there was a good reason for this, one I'd be happy to share with you if it wasn't for the fact that you [...]... Read more »
Greg Fish. (2012) Managing contextual artificial neural networks with a service-based mediator. n/a. arXiv: 1204.0262v1
Say that somewhere out there is a species of space-faring aliens which have relativistic rockets or warp drive technology that lets it travel between solar systems. Considering the sheer size of the universe, it's probably a good bet that at least one exists. And as these aliens are tooling around, their spacecraft will likely leave [...]... Read more »
We've already seen the scope-severity paradox, the tendency of humans to lose track of the heinousness of a crime when the numbers of those affected by it are high enough, which explains why millions are outraged when a self-appointed neighborhood watch captain shoots and kills a harmless teenager in his zeal, while a continuing genocide [...]... Read more »
Cushman, F., Gray, K., Gaffey, A., & Mendes, W. (2012) Simulating murder: The aversion to harmful action. Emotion, 12(1), 2-7. DOI: 10.1037/a0025071
Say you need to communicate not just with someone or something far away, but someone or something very, very deep underground, or underwater, or on the other side of a planet. You could create satellite relays which will bounce the signal around to get to your target wherever it is in space, but that requires [...]... Read more »
Speaking of space-based weapons, here’s an interesting one for you. Once upon a time, when writing about warp drive physics, I asked whether the creation of a warp bubble by a superluminal ship could have some very nasty effects on any nearby planets due to the energy involved, and had my fears validated by a [...]... Read more »
Brendan McMonigal, Geraint F. Lewis, & Philip O'Byrne. (2012) The Alcubierre Warp Drive: On the Matter of Matter. Physical Review D. arXiv: 1202.5708v1
Quite a bit of scientific literature on astrobiology is filled with references to very exacting criteria for exoplanets capable of sustaining alien ecosystems. They have to be just the right distance from their suns, have the right kind of atmosphere, fall in the right temperature range, and hopefully, have a large stabilizing moon to counter [...]... Read more »
According to string theorists, our universe is just one of many in an otherwise infinite cosmos and that all the different universes don't just sit quietly in a vacuum, but actively interact with each other when space and time bend and fold to create the right conditions for different forces and particles to jump between [...]... Read more »
Michael Sarrazin, Guillaume Pignol, Fabrice Petit, & Valery V. Nesvizhevsky. (2012) Experimental limits on neutron disappearance into another braneworld. n/a. arXiv: 1201.3949v1
One of the big predictions made by evolutionary theory is that if given the selective pressure to do so, colonies of unicellular organisms will combine into multicellular organisms and start forming divisions of labor. Going from single cell, to cooperative colony, to a macroscopic organism with differentiated cells had to happen over several billions years [...]... Read more »
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