News Update 1
Penn astrophysicists zero in on gravity theory
Most people take gravity for granted. But for University of Pennsylvania astrophysicist Bhuvnesh Jain, the nature of gravity is the question of a lifetime. As scientists have been able to see farther and deeper into the universe, the laws of gravity have been revealed to be under the influence of an unexplained force.
Earth has less water than you think
If you were to take all of the water on Earth — all of the fresh water, sea water, ground water, water vapor and water inside our bodies — take all of it and somehow collect it into a single, giant sphere of liquid, how big do you think it would be?
Paper stirs up controversy over the nature of the quantum wave function
Back in November, a paper posted to a preprint server arXiv by three British physicists prompted some heated debate regarding the nature of the quantum wave function, a probability function that physicists use to help them better understand the quantum world. At the time, the three refrained from joining in on subsequent discussions on the paper due to pending acceptance of the paper in the journal Nature Physics. Now that the paper has been accepted and printed, the three, Matthew Pusey, Jonathan Barrett and Terry Rudolph are openly defending their assertion that the wave function is real, not some function that is dependent on available information for the user when using it.
Spitzer sees the light of alien ‘super earth’
NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope has detected light emanating from a “super-Earth” planet beyond our solar system for the first time. While the planet is not habitable, the detection is a historic step toward the eventual search for signs of life on other planets.
Enzyme corrects more than one million faults in DNA replication
Scientists from the Medical Research Council (MRC) Institute of Genetics and Molecular Medicine (IGMM) at the University of Edinburgh have discovered an enzyme that corrects the most common mistake in mammalian DNA.
Painted ancient Maya numbers reflect calendar reaching well beyond 2012 (w/ Video)
A vast city built by the ancient Maya and discovered nearly a century ago is finally starting to yield its secrets.
Self-driving cars set for test drive in Nevada (Update)
Nevada drivers could soon be sharing the road with vehicles that don’t need them.
Researchers unlock mystery of how ‘handedness’ arises
The overwhelming majority of proteins and other functional molecules in our bodies display a striking molecular characteristic: They can exist in two distinct forms that are mirror images of each other, like your right hand and left hand. Surprisingly, each of our bodies prefers only one of these molecular forms.
Why we’ve got the cosmological constant all wrong
Some scientists call the cosmological constant the “worst prediction of physics.” And when today’s theories give an estimated value that is about 120 orders of magnitude larger than the measured value, it’s hard to argue with that title. In a new study, a team of physicists has taken a different view of the cosmological constant, Λ, which drives the accelerated expansion of the universe. While the cosmological constant is usually interpreted as a vacuum energy, here the physicists provide evidence to support the possibility that the mysterious force instead emerges from a microscopic quantum theory of gravity, which is currently beyond physicists’ reach.
‘Anti-atomic fingerprint’: Physicists manipulate anti-hydrogen atoms for the first time (Update)
The ALPHA collaboration at CERN in Geneva has scored another coup on the antimatter front by performing the first-ever spectroscopic measurements of the internal state of the antihydrogen atom. Their results are reported in a forthcoming issue of Nature and are now online.
Oldest organism with skeleton discovered in Australia
A team of paleontologists has discovered the oldest animal with a skeleton. Called Coronacollina acula, the organism is between 560 million and 550 million years old, which places it in the Ediacaran period, before the explosion of life and diversification of organisms took place on Earth in the Cambrian.
Proposed nuclear clock may keep time with the Universe
A proposed new time-keeping system tied to the orbiting of a neutron around an atomic nucleus could have such unprecedented accuracy that it neither gains nor loses 1/20th of a second in 14 billion years - the age of the Universe.
Study supports theory of extraterrestrial impact
A 16-member international team of researchers that includes James Kennett, professor of earth science at UC Santa Barbara, has identified a nearly 13,000-year-old layer of thin, dark sediment buried in the floor of Lake Cuitzeo in central Mexico. The sediment layer contains an exotic assemblage of materials, including nanodiamonds, impact spherules, and more, which, according to the researchers, are the result of a cosmic body impacting Earth.
First-ever images of atoms moving in a molecule captured
Using a new ultrafast camera, researchers have recorded the first real-time image of two atoms vibrating in a molecule.
Human origins traced to worm fossil in Canada
Most primitive known vertebrate and therefore the ancestor of all descendant vertebrates, including humans, discovered.
First results from Daya Bay find new kind of neutrino transformation
The Daya Bay Reactor Neutrino Experiment, a multinational collaboration operating in the south of China, today reported the first results of its search for the last, most elusive piece of a long-standing puzzle: how is it that neutrinos can appear to vanish as they travel? The surprising answer opens a gateway to a new understanding of fundamental physics and may eventually solve the riddle of why there is far more ordinary matter than antimatter in the universe today.
Gravitational lens reveals details of distant, ancient galaxy
Thanks to the presence of a natural “zoom lens” in space, University of Chicago scientists working with NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope have obtained a uniquely close-up look at the brightest gravitationally magnified galaxy yet discovered.
New type of extra-chromosomal DNA discovered
A team of scientists from the University of Virginia and University of North Carolina in the US have discovered a previously unidentified type of small circular DNA molecule occurring outside the chromosomes in mouse and human cells. The circular DNA is 200-400 base pairs in length and consists of non-repeating sequences. The new type of extra-chromosomal circular DNA (eccDNA) has been dubbed microDNA. Unlike other forms of eccDNA, in microDNA the sequences of base pairs are non-repetitive and are usually found associated with particular genes. This suggests they may be produced by micro-deletions of small sections of the chromosomal DNA.
Researchers prove Landauer was right in saying heat is dissipated when memory is erased
For over half a century, physicists and computer scientists have been troubled by a theoretical concept set forth by Rolf Landauer. He suggested that the very act of erasing a bit of memory in a digital system causes heat to be dissipated. This little idea has bothered researchers for two reasons. One is because if true, it will mean there will come a time within the next couple of decades when fabricated memories will reach a point where they cannot be made any smaller due to the heat that will be dissipated when memory is erased. The other reason is because until now, no one has been able to prove whether it was really true or not; now all that has changed, much to the dismay of computer engineers. Eric Lutz and his colleagues at the University of Augsburg in Germany have devised an experiment that proves that Landauer was right. They have published their findings in the journal Nature.
NASA’s RXTE captures thermonuclear behavior of unique neutron star
A neutron star is the closest thing to a black hole that astronomers can observe directly, crushing half a million times more mass than Earth into a sphere no larger than a city. In October 2010, a neutron star near the center of our galaxy erupted with hundreds of X-ray bursts that were powered by a barrage of thermonuclear explosions on the star’s surface. NASA’s Rossi X-ray Timing Explorer (RXTE) captured the month-long fusillade in extreme detail. Using this data, an international team of astronomers has been able to bridge a long-standing gap between theory and observation.
Researchers send ‘wireless’ message using neutrinos
A group of scientists led by researchers from the University of Rochester and North Carolina State University have for the first time sent a message using a beam of neutrinos – nearly massless particles that travel at almost the speed of light. The message was sent through 240 meters of stone and said simply, “Neutrino.”
S.Korean, Russian scientists bid to clone mammoth
Russian and South Korean scientists have signed a deal on joint research intended to recreate a woolly mammoth, an animal which last walked the earth some 10,000 years ago.
3D-printer with nano-precision
Printing three dimensional objects with incredibly fine details is now possible using “two-photon lithography”. With this technology, tiny structures on a nanometer scale can be fabricated. Researchers at the Vienna University of Technology (TU Vienna) have now made a major breakthrough in speeding up this printing technique: The high-precision-3D-printer at TU Vienna is orders of magnitude faster than similar devices (see video). This opens up completely new areas of application, such as in medicine.