… and stay out!

•March 23, 2017 • Leave a Comment

Galaxy with an ejected supermassive black hole

“Researchers estimate that it took the equivalent energy of 100 million supernovas exploding simultaneously to jettison the black hole. The most plausible explanation for this propulsive energy is that the monster object was given a kick by gravitational waves unleashed by the merger of two hefty black holes at the center of the host galaxy.

… Hubble’s observations of the wayward black hole surprised the research team. ‘When I first saw this, I thought we were seeing something very peculiar,’ said team leader Marco Chiaberge of the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) and Johns Hopkins University, in Baltimore, Maryland. ‘When we combined observations from Hubble, the Chandra X-ray Observatory, and the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, it all pointed towards the same scenario. The amount of data we collected, from X-rays to ultraviolet to near-infrared light, is definitely larger than for any of the other candidate rogue black holes.'”

Gravitational wave kicks monster black hole out of galactic core – Phys.org

Solipsism Shrugged

•February 21, 2017 • 5 Comments


“While physicists have debated about the nature of the quantum state since the early days of quantum theory (with, most famously, Bohr being in favor of the ontic interpretation and Einstein arguing for the epistemic one), most modern evidence has supported the view that the quantum state does indeed represent reality.

Philosophically, this interpretation can be hard to swallow, as it means that the many counterintuitive features of quantum theory are properties of reality, and not due to limitations of theory. One of the most notable of these features is superposition. Before a quantum object is measured, quantum theory says that the object simultaneously exists in more than one state, each with a particular probability. If these states are ontic, it means that a particle really does occupy two states at once, not merely that it appears that way due to our limited ability to prepare particles, as in the epistemic view…”

Proposed test would offer strongest evidence yet that the quantum state is real – Phys.org

Entropy: Side Effects May Include Consciousness

•February 16, 2017 • Leave a Comment


“Scientists recently found parts of the brain which may form a circuit that provides consciousness. But how did it come about? A group of scientists from France and Canada believe that consciousness may have arisen in response to entropy. Our brains, just like any other system, are hurdling towards the end. Consciousness, these scientists argue, is a byproduct of that process…

‘We find a surprisingly simple result,’ they wrote. ‘Normal wakeful states are characterized by the greatest number of possible configurations of interactions between brain networks, representing highest entropy values.’ Consciousness in this view isn’t due to connectivity in and of itself, but how many different ways the brain can connect certain bundles of neurons to others. Due to the presence of high entropy, these scientists believe that to maximize the exchange of information between neurons, consciousness arose as an ’emergent property,’ helping to improve survival, but leading to a higher rate of entropy as a result.’

New Theory Suggests That Consciousness Is a Byproduct of Entropy – Big Think

Time in a bottle

•February 5, 2017 • Leave a Comment


“It’s no longer just a wild theory. Two independent teams of physicists have followed a recipe to build the world’s first versions of an enigmatic form of matter – time crystals.

MIT physicist and Nobel laureate Frank speculated about the existence of time crystals in 2012, while teaching a class on ordinary crystals, such as salt, or snowflakes. In a typical crystal, the atoms or molecules are tightly arranged in regularly repeating patterns in three-dimensional space, resembling a lattice.

Wilczek thought it might be possible to create a similar crystal-like structure in time, which is treated as a fourth dimension under relativity. Instead of regularly repeating rows of atoms, a time crystal would exhibit regularly repeating motion.

Many physicists were sceptical, arguing that a time crystal whose atoms could loop forever, with no need for extra energy, would be tantamount to a perpetual motion machine – forbidden by the laws of physics.

Wilczek countered that a time crystal was more akin to a superconductor in which electrons flow with no resistance, and in theory could do so forever without the need to add energy to the system. In a time crystal, electrons would travel in a loop rather than a line and occasionally bunch up rather than flow smoothly, repeating in time the way atoms in ordinary crystals repeat in space.

Now, in a paper published this week, Norman Yao at the University of California, Berkeley, and his colleagues have revealed a blueprint for making a time crystal. The recipe has already been followed by two teams…”

World’s first time crystals cooked up using new recipe – New Scientist

A Rocketry Revolution?

•January 27, 2017 • Leave a Comment


“Nearly a century after it was theorized, Harvard scientists report they have succeeded in creating the rarest material on the planet, which could eventually develop into one of its most valuable.

Thomas D. Cabot Professor of the Natural Sciences Isaac Silvera and postdoctoral fellow Ranga Dias have long sought the material, called atomic metallic hydrogen. In addition to helping scientists answer some fundamental questions about the nature of matter, the material is theorized to have a wide range of applications, including as a room-temperature superconductor. Their research is described in a paper published today in Science.

‘This is the Holy Grail of high-pressure physics,’ Silvera said of the quest to find the material. ‘It’s the first-ever sample of metallic hydrogen on Earth, so when you’re looking at it, you’re looking at something that’s never existed before.'”

Advance in high-pressure physics – Harvard Gazette

It’s just a(nother) phase

•January 11, 2017 • Leave a Comment


“Water is simple enough, but not too simple. This means that one possibility for explaining the apparent extra phase of water is that it behaves a little bit like a liquid crystal. The hydrogen bonds between molecules keep some order at low temperatures, but eventually could take a second, less-ordered liquid phase at higher temperatures. This could explain the kinks observed by the researchers in their data.

If confirmed, the authors’ findings could have many applications. For example, if changes in the environment (such as temperature) cause changes in a substance’s physical properties, then this can potentially be used for sensing applications. Perhaps more fundamentally, biological systems are mostly made of water. How biological molecules (such as proteins) interact with each other likely depends on the specific manner in which water molecules arrange to form a liquid phase. Understanding how water molecules arrange themselves on average at different temperatures could shed light on the workings of how they interact in biological systems.”

Scientists Find That Water Might Exist in a Whole New State – Smithsonian magazine 

Flipping [on] the Light Fantastic

•January 5, 2017 • Leave a Comment


“‘We can take the whole, intact protein, just the way nature made it, and stick this little knob on it that allows us to turn it on and off with light,’ said Hahn, Thurman Distinguished Professor of Pharmacology and a UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center member. ‘It’s like a switch.’

The switch that Hahn, Dokholyan and colleagues developed is versatile and fast – they can toggle a protein on or off as fast as they can toggle their light. By changing the intensity of light, they can also control how much of the protein is activated or inactivated. And by controlling the timing of irradiation, they can control exactly how long proteins are activated at different points in the cell…”

Scientists use light to control the logic networks of a cell – Phys.org