In 1917, a year after Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity was published—but still two years before he would become the international celebrity we know—Einstein chose to tackle the entire universe. His calculations told him that the universe could not stay static: it had to either expand or contract. Einstein chose to ignore what his mathematics was telling him. The story of Einstein’s solution to this problem—the maligned “cosmological constant” (also called lambda)—is well known in the history of science. But this story, it turns out, has a different ending than everyone thought: Einstein late in life returned to considering his disgraced lambda. And his conversion foretold lambda’s use in an unexpected new setting, with immense relevance to a key conundrum in modern physics and cosmology: dark energy.
Through their training, scientists are equipped with what Carl Sagan calls a “baloney detection kit” — a set of cognitive tools and techniques that fortify the mind against penetration by falsehoods. The kit is brought out as a matter of course whenever new ideas are offered for consideration. But the kit, Sagan argues, isn’t merely a tool of science — rather, it contains invaluable tools of healthy skepticism that apply just as elegantly, and just as necessarily, to everyday life. By adopting the kit, we can all shield ourselves against clueless guile and deliberate manipulation. Sagan shares nine of these
After searching hundreds of millions of objects across our sky, NASA’s Wide-Field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) has turned up no evidence of the hypothesized celestial body in our solar system commonly dubbed “Planet X.” Researchers previously had theorized about the existence of this large, but unseen celestial body, suspected to lie somewhere beyond the orbit of Pluto.
The prehistoric monument Stonehenge may have been built as a giant xylophone, researchers have claimed. The Royal College of Art spent months tapping more than 1,000 types of rock to study the monument’s musical qualities. Most rocks produced a “dull thud” while the bluestones, which formed the earliest stone circle, were found to “sing” when struck. The rocks made a range of metallic sounds like bells, gongs and tin drums, the study confirmed. Read more: Rock ‘n’ roll: Stonehenge may have been a giant xylophone
Can your brain detect events before they even occur? That was the stunning conclusion of a 2012 meta-analysis of experiments from seven independent laboratories over the last 35 years, which found that the human body “can apparently detect randomly delivered
stimuli occurring 1-10 seconds in the future” (Mossbridge, Tressoldi, & Utts, 2012). In the studies, physiological readings were taken as participants were subjected to unpredictable events designed to activate the sympathetic nervous system (for example, showing provocative imagery) as well as ‘neutral events’ that did not activate the nervous system. These readings showed that the nervous system aligned with the nature of the event (activated/not activated) – and what’s more, the magnitude of the pre-event response corresponded with the magnitude of the post-event response.
Women are able to carry higher levels of genetic defects without getting brain development disorders such as autism, supporting the possibility of a “female protective effect,” finds a new study. The study gives clues as to why 50 percent more males typically have an intellectual disability than females, and why boys are four times more likely to have autism than girls.
As far as universal limits go, the speed of light gets all the glory. But did you know there is a different speed limit for particles? It’s called the GZK limit, and some people think it has already been exceeded. Which has some pretty weird implications for the laws of the universe.
A 4-month-old infant in Maryland may be the first person to have had teeth form in his brain as a result of a specific type of rare brain tumor, according to a new report of the case. The boy is doing well now that his tumor has been removed, and doctors say the case sheds light on how these rare tumors develop.
A team of scientists has developed a way to turn pain on and off using light. They used a technique known as optogenetics to insert light-sensitive proteins called opsins into the nerves of lab mice. After a couple of weeks, the nerves became light-sensitive. One color of light would increase the sensation of pain; another would decrease it. This bears huge implications in a number of fields, from neuroscience to psychology, and could help millions of people who suffer from chronic pain.
Computing devices still outnumber the people on this planet, but less than 40% of the global population has access to the Internet. Data is a costly commodity in many parts of the world. The Outernet is a plan to bridge the global information divide.
UltimEyes, a new app gives you superhuman vision after repeated use as researchers at the University of California, Riverside have invented the eyesight training program called UltimEyes with the intention of significantly improving the average person’s eyesight. Lissette Padilla and Elliot Hill discuss how this new iPad app works and how it may be able to increase your ability to see in this clip from the Lip News.
Ray Kurzweil popularized the Terminator-like moment he called the ‘singularity’, when artificial intelligence overtakes human thinking. But now the man who hopes to be immortal is involved in the very same quest – on behalf of the tech behemoth Google.
With the help of a tiny fragment of zircon extracted from a remote rock outcrop in Australia, the picture of how our planet became habitable to life about 4.4 billion years ago is coming into sharper focus. READ MORE: Oldest bit of crust firms up idea of cool early Earth