900-year-Old Viking Code Cracked to Reveal Secret Message: “Kiss Me”

Ria Misra | Io9 | Feb 13th 2014

A 13th-century Viking code that has eluded scholars was finally cracked by a runologist working at the University of Oslo. So, what was the secret message? “Kiss me.”

K. Jonas Nordby is the PhD student in Oslo who figured out the jötunvillur code inscribed on this plank:

Wooden plank inscribed in code via Medievalists.net

Wooden plank inscribed in code via Medievalists.net

The “Kiss me” message is just one of 80 Norse inscriptions also written in the code, many of them just as charming. Medievalists.net explains:

“It’s like solving a puzzle,” said Nordby to the Norwegian website forskning.no. “Gradually I began to see a pattern in what was apparently meaningless combinations of runes.” However, those thinking that the coded runes will reveal deep secrets of the Norse will be disappointed. The messages found so far seem to be either used in learning or have a playful tone. In one case the message was ‘Kiss me’. Nordby explains “We have little reason to believe that rune codes should hide sensitive messages, people often wrote short everyday messages.

[read full post here]

Giant Leap For Nuclear Fusion As Scientists Get More Energy Out Than Fuel Put In

 | Arstechnica | Feb 13th 2014

National_Ignition_Facility-640x426Researchers in the US have overcome a key barrier to making nuclear fusion reactors a reality. In results published in Nature, scientists have shown that they can now produce more energy than the fuel put into an experiment. The use of fusion as a source of energy remains a long way off, but the latest development is an important step toward that goal.

Nuclear fusion is the process that powers the Sun and billions of other stars in the universe. If mastered, it could provide an unlimited source of clean energy because the raw materials are plentiful and the operation produces no carbon emissions.

During the fusion process, smaller atoms fuse into larger ones releasing huge amounts of energy. To achieve this on Earth, scientists have to create conditions similar to those at the center of the Sun. This involves creating very high pressures and temperatures.

There are two ways to achieve this: one uses lasers and is called inertial confinement fusion (ICF), another deploys magnets and is called magnetic confinement fusion (MCF). Omar Hurricane and colleagues at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory opted for ICF, with the help of 192 high-energy lasers at the National Ignition Facility in the US, which was designed specifically to boost fusion research.

A typical fusion reaction at the facility takes weeks of preparation. But the fusion reaction is completed in an instant (150 picoseconds, to be precise, which is less than a billionth of a second). In that moment, at the core of the reaction, the pressure is 150 billion times atmospheric pressure. The density and temperature of the plasma created is nearly three times that at the center of the Sun.

The most critical part of the reaction, and one that had been a real concern for Hurricane’s team, is the shape of the fuel capsule. The capsule is made from a polymer and is about 2mm in diameter (about the size of a pinhead). On the inside it is coated with deuterium and tritium—isotopes of hydrogen—that are frozen to be in a solid state.

Dr. Eddie Dewald/LLNL

This capsule is placed inside a gold cylinder, where the 192 lasers are fired, hitting the capsule and causing a fusion reaction. The lasers hit the gold container, which emit X-rays, which heat the pellet and make it implode instantly, causing a fusion reaction. According to Debbie Callahan, a co-author of the study: “When the lasers are fired, the capsule is compressed 35 times. That is like compressing a basketball to the size of a pea.”

The compression produces immense pressure and temperature, leading to a fusion reaction. Problems with the process were overcome last September, when, for the first time, Hurricane was able to produce more energy output from a fusion reaction than the fuel put into it. Since then he has been able to repeat the experiment.

Hurricane hasn’t yet reached the stated goal to achieve “ignition,” where nuclear fusion generates as much energy as the lasers supply. At that point it would be possible to make a sustainable power plant based on the technology.

In plasma physics, the energy produced by a fusion reaction increases exponentially with the pressure applied to the system. According to Hurricane, they only need to double the pressure to achieve ignition.

Scientists have been trying to tame fusion power for more than 50 years with little success. Although the National Ignition Facility, a $3.5-billion operation, was built for classified government research, half of its laser time was devoted to fusion with an aim to accelerate research.

Zulfikar Najmudin, a plasma physicist at Imperial College, said: “These results will come as a huge relief to scientists at NIF, who were very sure they could have achieved this a few years ago.”

[read full post here]

The Science Delusion by Rupert Sheldrake

Source: iainews.iai.tv

By Rupert Sheldrake – Scientist and author, The Science Delusion

The biggest scientific delusion of all is that science already knows the answers.

The Science Delusion by Rupert Sheldrake

The “scientific worldview” is immensely influential because the sciences have been so successful. Their achievements touch all our lives through technologies and through modern medicine. Our intellectual world has been transformed through an immense expansion of our knowledge, down into the most microscopic particles of matter and out into the vastness of space, with hundreds of billions of galaxies in an ever-expanding universe.

But now that science and technology seem to be at the peak of the power, when their influence has spread all over the world and when their triumph seems indisputable, unexpected problems are disrupting the sciences from within. Most scientists take it for granted that these problems will eventually be solved by more research along established lines, but some, including myself, think that they are symptoms of a deeper malaise.

Contemporary science is based on the philosophy of materialism, which claims that all reality is material or physical. There is no reality but material reality. Consciousness is a by-product of the physical activity of the brain. Matter is unconscious. Evolution is purposeless. God exists only as an idea in human minds, and hence in human heads.

These beliefs are powerful not because most scientists think about them critically, but because they don’t. The facts of science are real enough, and so are the techniques that scientists use, and so are the technologies based on them. But the belief system that governs conventional scientific thinking is an act of faith. The biggest scientific delusion of all is that science already knows the answers.  The details still need working out, but the fundamental questions are settled, in principle.

The scientific creed

Here are the ten core beliefs that most scientists take for granted.

  1. Everything is essentially mechanical. Dogs, for example, are complex mechanisms, rather than living organisms with goals of their own. Even people are machines, “lumbering robots”, in Richard Dawkins’ vivid phrase, with brains that are like genetically programmed computers.
  2. All matter is unconscious. It has no inner life or subjectivity or point of view. Even human consciousness is an illusion produced by the material activities of brains.
  3. The total amount of matter and energy is always the same (with the exception of the Big Bang, when all the matter and energy of the universe suddenly appeared).
  4. The laws of nature are fixed.  They are the same today as they were at the beginning, and they will stay the same forever.
  5. Nature is purposeless, and evolution has no goal or direction.
  6. All biological inheritance is material, carried in the genetic material, DNA, and in other material structures.
  7. Minds are inside heads and are nothing but the activities of brains. When you look at a tree, the image of the tree you are seeing is not “out there”, where it seems to be, but inside your brain.
  8. Memories are stored as material traces in brains and are wiped out at death.
  9. Unexplained phenomena like telepathy are illusory.
  10. Mechanistic medicine is the only kind that really works.

Together, these beliefs make up the philosophy or ideology of materialism, whose central assumption is that everything is essentially material or physical, even minds. This belief-system became dominant within science in the late nineteenth century, and is now taken for granted. Many scientists are unaware that materialism is an assumption; they simply think of it as science, or the scientific view of reality, or the scientific worldview.  They are not actually taught about it, or given a chance to discuss it. They absorb it by a kind of intellectual osmosis.

The credibility crunch for the “scientific worldview”

For more than 200 years, materialists have promised that science will eventually explain everything in terms of physics and chemistry. Believers are sustained by the faith that scientific discoveries will justify their beliefs. The philosopher of science Karl Popper called this stance “promissory materialism” because it depends on issuing promissory notes for discoveries not yet made. Despite all the achievements of science and technology, materialism is now facing a credibility crunch that was unimaginable in the twentieth century.

In 1963, when I was studying biochemistry at Cambridge University, I was invited to a series of private meetings with Francis Crick and Sydney Brenner in Brenner’s rooms in King’s College, along with a few of my classmates. Crick and Brenner had recently helped to “crack” the genetic code. Both were ardent materialists and Crick was also a militant atheist. They explained there were two major unsolved problems in biology: development and consciousness. They had not been solved because the people who worked on them were not molecular biologists, nor very bright. Crick and Brenner were going to find the answers within 10 years, or maybe 20. Brenner would take developmental biology, and Crick consciousness. They invited us to join them.

Both tried their best. Brenner was awarded the Nobel Prize in 2002 for his work on the development of a tiny worm, Caenorhabdytis elegans. Crick corrected the manuscript of his final paper on the brain the day before he died in 2004. At his funeral, his son Michael said that what made him tick was not the desire to be famous, wealthy or popular, but “to knock the final nail into the coffin of vitalism.” (Vitalism is the theory that living organisms are truly alive, and not explicable in terms of physics and chemistry alone.)

Crick and Brenner failed. The problems of development and consciousness remain unsolved. Many details have been discovered, dozens of genomes have been sequenced, and brain scans are ever more precise. But there is still no proof that life and minds can be explained by physics and chemistry alone.

Materialism provided a seemingly simple, straightforward worldview in the late nineteenth century, but twenty-first century science has left it far behind. Its promises have not been fulfilled, and its promissory notes have been devalued by hyperinflation.

science-delusionIn my book The Science Delusion, in the spirit of radical skepticism, I turn each of the ten dogmas of materialism into a question. Entirely new vistas open up when a widely accepted assumption is taken as the beginning of an enquiry, rather than as an unquestionable truth. I am convinced that the sciences would be better off without these dogmas: freer, more interesting, and more fun.

Dr Rupert Sheldrake is a biologist and author of more than 80 technical papers and 10 books, including The Science Delusion. His web site is www.sheldrake.org.

NASA Is Working On Star Trek Healing Devices—’It’s Not Sci-Fi Anymore’

Jesus Diaz | Sploid | Feb 11th 2014

star trek healingNASA and Houston-based company GRoK Technologies will work on the development of new “breakthrough products,” noninvasive medical technologies designed to “regenerate bone and muscle tissues.” It really sounds like something out of Star Trek, but “it’s not just sci-fi anymore.”

That’s exactly what GRoK’s founder and CEO Moshe Kushman says:

It’s not just science fiction anymore. All indications are that 21st century life sciences will change dramatically during the next several decades, and GRoK is working to define the forefront of a new scientific wave.

According to the press release, NASA is “interested in the potential these technologies present for regenerating bone and muscle.” It wants this tissue regeneration technology to help astronauts during long interplanetary travel, when they “are susceptible to developing osteopenia, which is a condition arising from the loss of bone and muscle mass and bone density.”

The products that GRoK wants to build sound even crazier: The first is called BioReplicates—the name alone gives me shivers—a technology that will create “3-D human tissue models that can be used to test cosmetics, drugs and other products for safety, efficacy and toxicity.” Not only this will save animals’ lives, claims NASA, but it will serve to test substances on human tissue “with greater accuracy, reliability and cost-efficiency.”

The second one is called Scionic, a technology that GRoK claims could result in the “development of medical devices designed to target musculoskeletal pain and inflammation in humans and animals noninvasively and without the use of pharmaceuticals.” I really need one of these Scionics right now.

[read full post here]

Creation vs Evolution Debate Between Bill Nye and Ken Ham Summed Up In Two Very Telling Answers

Source: The Young Turks

“On Tuesday evening more than 3 million people tuned in to watch ‘Science Guy’ Bill Nye debate Ken Ham, founder of the biblically literalist Creation Museum on the topic ‘Is creation a viable model of origins?’  Mr. Ham believes that the world was created over a six 24-hour-day period about 6,000 years ago, and that all living land animals today are descended from those taken aboard Noah’s Ark some 4,500 years ago. Nye challenged Ham’s literal biblical view on several fronts, pointing out that radioisotopic and ice core data shows that the Earth has been around for far longer than the 6,000 years that Ham says it is, as does our ability to view stars that are more than 6,000 light years away. Nye also pointed out that Noah’s Ark, were it constructed the way the Bible says it was, wouldn’t actually stay afloat.”*  The Young Turks Ana Kasparian breaks it down.

Read more here from Sudeshma Chowdhury / Christian Science Monitor: Bill Nye versus Ken Ham: Who won?   Watch the complete debate below and draw your own conclusions:

Your Brain Edits Memories With New Experiences: Study

A new study published in the Journal of Neuroscience suggests memory is faulty and can insert things from the present into memories from the past. In terms of accuracy, your memory is no video camera. Rather, memory rewrites the past with current information, updating your recollections with new experiences to aid survival. Love at first sight, for example, is more likely a trick of your memory than a Hollywood-worthy moment. READ MORE: Your memory is no video camera: It edits the past with present experiences

New Theory Suggests the Universe Emerged From a Long, Cold Deep Freeze

George Dvorsky | Io9 | Feb 6th 2014

spaceConventional thinking has it that the universe and all the matter within it exploded out from a single point, the so-called Big Bang Singularity. But a German theoretical physicists says this never happened. Instead, the universe started empty and cold, slowly emerging from a deep freeze.

This isn’t the first time a physicist has challenged the standard Big Bang model of cosmology by positing a Big Freeze sort of explanation. Back in 2012, scientists from the University of Melbourne and RMIT University argued that the early universe went through a dramatic transformation, or phase shift, in a manner similar to how a solid turns to a liquid.

But Heidelberg University’s Christof Wetterich’s theory is a bit different, and it’s one that dovetails nicely off an earlier theory of his — the suggestion that the Universe is not expanding, it’s just getting fat.

In his latest paper, Heidelberg says the universe sprung from a very cold and slowly evolving universe. Over the course of cosmic timescales, the masses of elementary particles slowly increased while the gravitational constant decreased. At the same time, Newtonian attraction remained unchanged. The result is what he’s dubbing a simple three-parameter “crossover model” without a Big Bang Singularity.

Writing in Science News, Gabriel Popkin explains more:

This logic leads to a cosmic history in which the universe still underwent inflation but did not necessarily continue expanding. And instead of starting with a Big Bang, time before inflation could stretch into the infinite past.

No measurement can prove whether particle masses have stayed constant because it is only possible to measure the ratio between different masses, not masses themselves. For instance, all masses on Earth are ultimately referenced to a standard kilogram sitting in a vault in France. So Wetterich’s picture is akin to saying that instead of the universe expanding, the ruler with which we measure it is shrinking, says Niayesh Afshordi, an astrophysicist at the Perimeter Institute of Theoretical Physics in Waterloo, Canada.

[read full article here]

First Brain Map of Speech Units Could Aid Mind-Reading

Aviva Rutkin| Newscientist | Feb 4th 2014

“He moistened his lips uneasily.” It sounds like a cheap romance novel, but this line is actually lifted from quite a different type of prose: a neuroscience study.

Along with other sentences, including “Have you got enough blankets?” and “And what eyes they were”, it was used to build the first map of how the brain processes the building blocks of speech – distinct units of sound known as phonemes.

The map reveals that the brain devotes distinct areas to processing different types of phonemes. It might one day help efforts to read off what someone is hearing from a brain scan.

“If you could see the brain of someone who is listening to speech, there is a rapid activation of different areas, each responding specifically to a particular feature the speaker is producing,” says Nima Mesgarani, an electrical engineer at Columbia University in New York City.

Snakes on a brain

To build the map, Mesgarani’s team turned to a group of volunteers who already had electrodes implanted in their brains as part of an unrelatedtreatment for epilepsy. The invasive electrodes sit directly on the surface of the brain, providing a unique and detailed view of neural activity.

The researchers got the volunteers to listen to hundreds of snippets of speech taken from a database designed to provide an efficient way to cycle through a wide variety of phonemes, while monitoring the signals from the electrodes. As well as those already mentioned, sentences ran the gamut from “It had gone like clockwork” to “Junior, what on Earth’s the matter with you?” to “Nobody likes snakes”.

This showed that there are distinct areas in a brain region called the superior temporal gyrus that are dedicated to different types of sounds – the STG isalready known to be involved in filtering incoming sound.

One cluster of neurons responded only to consonants, while another responded only to vowels. These two areas then appeared to divide into even smaller groups. For example, some of the consonant neurons responded only to fricatives – sounds that force air through a narrow channel, like the s sound at the beginning of “scientist”. Others responded only to plosives – sounds that block airflow, like the b in “brain”.

Other scientists have used neural activity in attempts to recreate what people are looking at or capture people’s thoughts in the form of their inner voice.

Mystery of meaning

Mesgarani thinks that the phoneme map may make it easier to figure out what someone is hearing from nothing but brain signals. He has tried to do this before by analysing neural responses to sound in ferrets and in people. The map should make relating the brain activity to specific sounds much easier.

[read full article here]

Time Is an Illusion: Past, Present, and Future All Exist Now [MUST SEE VIDEO]

People like us, who believe in physics, know that the distinction between past, present, and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion.” – Albert Einstein

Brian Greene, Professor of Physics and Mathematics at Columbia University, presents interesting information about the nature of space-time, including an explanation of how past, present, and future all exist in the now.

Brian Greene’s website – https://www.briangreene.org/

Complete show here: The Illusion of Time

Video Source: Willow Star YouTube Channel

NASA Sued Over Jelly Donut-Shaped Martian Rock

NewsyScience: An astrobiologist says the jelly donut-shaped Martian rock appears to be a kind of fungus that grew into the shot rather than being physically moved there.

Alien life on Mars? NASA lawsuit seeks more information on Red Planet rock

Source: rt.com

Images captured by Opportunity show the mysterious rock 'appeared' on an outcrop that had been empty just 12 Martian days ('Sols') earlier

Images captured by Opportunity show the mysterious rock ‘appeared’ on an outcrop that had been empty just 12 Martian days (‘Sols’) earlier

Is it proof of life on Mars, or just a simple rock? An astrobiologist has sued NASA in an effort to compel the space-exploration agency to offer more information on a mysterious stone that appeared on images taken by the Opportunity rover on Jan. 8.

Dr. Rhawn Joseph filed a lawsuit in California this week against NASA and its administrator, Charles Bolden, calling for the agency to “thoroughly scientifically examine and investigate a putative biological organism.”

NASA called the object a rock, saying that based on its supposed appearance in “after” photos of the spot but not in a “before” image, it was likely knocked into the rover’s purview by its wheels as it was maneuvering in the area.

White around the outside and red on the inside, NASA scientists have said the rock looks a little like a jelly doughnut. Yet the agency ultimately dubbed the rock “Pinnacle Island.”

“We have looked at it with our microscope. It is clearly a rock,” principal rover investigator Dr. Steve Squyres said last week during an event marking the 10th anniversary of Opportunity’s mission on Mars. “It appears that it may have flipped itself upside down.”

Yet Joseph says this may be a hasty assessment. He believes the object looks like a “mushroom-like fungus, a composite organism consisting of colonies of lichen and cyanobacteria, and which on Earth is known as Apothecium,” he wrote in the filed petition.

He also says the rock was present in the “before” photo NASA released. Joseph posted a magnified version of the earlier photo on Cosmology.com, showing, he maintains, that the object is partially visible. He explains in his petition:

“[S]pores were exposed to moisture due to changing weathering conditions on Mars. Over the next 12 days these spores grew and developed into the structure depicted… The evidence is consistent with biological activity and suggests that life on Mars may have been discovered.

However, in the absence of moisture, biological specimens such as Apothecium will dry out, turn brittle and break apart and this appears to be the condition of the structure as depicted.”

Joseph also criticizes NASA for not releasing more close-up photos. That is, assuming they exist.

“Any intelligent adult, adolescent, child, chimpanzee, monkey, dog, or rodent with even a modicum of curiosity, would approach, investigate and closely examine a bowl-shaped structure which appears just a few feet in front of them when 12 days earlier they hadn’t noticed it,” he wrote. “But not NASA and its rover team who have refused to take even a single close-up photo.”

Joseph added that it would be “inexplicable, recklessly negligent, and bizarre” if NASA did not take microscopic, high-resolution photos from a variety of angles.

NASA responded to the suit on Thursday saying it cannot discuss an ongoing legal matter, but that the agency has shared images with the public and is moving forward with research on Pinnacle Island’s composition.

“As we do with all our scientific research missions, NASA will continue to discuss any new data regarding the rock and other images and information as new data becomes available,” agency spokesman Bob Jacobs said in a statement to Popular Science.

Another NASA spokesman emphasized to The Huffington Post that the agency will proceed with caution before making any bold declarations.

“Finding evidence of life on worlds other than Earth is obviously an important goal for NASA,” NASA’s Allard Beutel said. “But it has to be definitive evidence.”

NASA’s caution, in this case, may not appease those eager for more information on any potential evidence of life on the Red Planet.

What’s the Universe Made Of? Math, Says Scientist

Tanya Lewis | LiveScience | Jan 31st 2014

maths universeBROOKLYN, N.Y. — Scientists have long used mathematics to describe the physical properties of the universe. But what if the universe itself is math? That’s what cosmologist Max Tegmark believes.

In Tegmark’s view, everything in the universe — humans included — is part of a mathematical structure. All matter is made up of particles, which have properties such as charge and spin, but these properties are purely mathematical, he says. And space itself has properties such as dimensions, but is still ultimately a mathematical structure.

“If you accept the idea that both space itself, and all the stuff in space, have no properties at all except mathematical properties,” then the idea that everything is mathematical “starts to sound a little bit less insane,” Tegmark said in a talk given Jan. 15 here at The Bell House. The talk was based on his book “Our Mathematical Universe: My Quest for the Ultimate Nature of Reality” (Knopf, 2014).

“If my idea is wrong, physics is ultimately doomed,” Tegmark said. But if the universe really is mathematics, he added, “There’s nothing we can’t, in principle, understand.” [7 Surprising Things About the Universe]

Nature is full of math

The idea follows the observation that nature is full of patterns, such as the Fibonacci sequence, a series of numbers in which each number is the sum of the previous two numbers. The flowering of an artichoke follows this sequence, for example, with the distance between each petal and the next matching the ratio of the numbers in the sequence.

The nonliving worldalso behaves in a mathematical way. If you throw a baseball in the air, it follows a roughly parabolic trajectory. Planets and other astrophysical bodies follow elliptical orbits.

“There’s an elegant simplicity and beauty in nature revealed by mathematical patterns and shapes, which our minds have been able to figure out,” said Tegmark, who loves math so much he has framed pictures of famous equations in his living room.

One consequence of the mathematical nature of the universe is that scientists could in theory predict every observation or measurement in physics. Tegmark pointed out that mathematics predicted the existence of the planet Neptune, radio waves and the Higgs boson particle thought to explain how other particles get their mass.

Some people argue that math is just a tool invented by scientists to explain the natural world. But Tegmark contends the mathematical structure found in the natural world shows that math exists in reality, not just in the human mind.

And speaking of the human mind, could we use math to explain the brain?

Mathematics of consciousness

Some have described the human brain as the most complex structure in the universe. Indeed, the human mind has made possible all of the great leaps in understanding our world.

Someday, Tegmark said, scientists will probably be able to describe even consciousness using math. (Carl Sagan is quoted as having said, “the brain is a very big place, in a very small space.”)

[read full post here]

The Coldest Spot in the Universe Will Be Used to Study Quantum Phenomenon

NASA’s Physical Science Research Program will conduct physics research using the agency’s new microgravity laboratory, which is scheduled to launch to the International Space Station in 2016.  NASA’s Cold Atom Laboratory (CAL) will provide an opportunity to study ultra-cold quantum gases in the microgravity environment of the space station — a frontier in scientific research that is expected to reveal interesting and novel quantum phenomena. This environment makes it possible to conduct research in a way unachievable on Earth because atoms can be observed over a longer period, mixtures of different atoms can be studied free of the effects of gravity, where cold atoms can be trapped more easily by magnetic fields. READ MORE…

Scientists Film How the Brain Makes Memories For the First Time Ever

Sploid | Jan 29th 2014


For the first time in history, scientists at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University have captured how our brain makes memories in video, watching how molecules morph into the structures that, at the end of the day, make who we are. If there’s a soul, this how it gets made.

Before this, Japanese scientists observed how a thought was formed, which was an entirely different process. According to the scientists, the has been a “technological tour de force:”

These insights into the molecular basis of memory were made possible by a technological tour de force never before achieved in animals: a mouse model developed at Einstein in which molecules crucial to making memories were given fluorescent “tags” so they could be observed traveling in real time in living brain cells.

The process, which has been documented in two Science papers, required researchers to “stimulate neurons from the mouse’s hippocampus, where memories are made and stored, and then watched fluorescently glowing beta-actin mRNA molecules form in the nuclei of neurons and travel within dendrites, the neuron’s branched projections.”

[read full post here]

Stephen Hawking Stuns Physicists by Declaring ‘There Are No Black Holes’


Renowned British scientist Stephen Hawking has stunned physicists by declaring there are no black holes. In a paper published online, Professor Hawking says instead of black holes there are grey holes. The fresh theory tries to address what is known as the black-hole firewall paradox, which has puzzled scientists for almost two years. The professor’s new grey hole theory would allow matter and energy to be held for a period of time before being released back into space. The theory offers a solution to the paradox.

Stephen Hawking: There Are No Black Holes

by Ian O’Neill, Discovery News   |   January 25, 2014

On reading a new paper by Stephen Hawking that appeared online this week, you would have been forgiven in thinking the world-renowned British physicist was spoofing us. Hawking’s unpublished work — titled “Information Preservation and Weather Forecasting for Black Holes” and uploaded to the arXiv preprint service — declares that “there are no black holes.”

This annotated image labels several features in the simulation, including the event horizon of the black hole. Credit: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center/J. Schnittman, J. Krolik (JHU) and S. Noble (RIT

This annotated image labels several features in the simulation, including the event horizon of the black hole.
Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/J. Schnittman, J. Krolik (JHU) and S. Noble (RIT

Keep in mind that Hawking’s bedrock theory of evaporating black holes revolutionized our understanding that the gravitational behemoths are not immortal; through a quantum quirk they leak particles (and therefore mass) via “Hawking radiation” over time. What’s more, astronomers are finding new and exciting ways to detect black holes — they are even working on an interferometer network that may, soon, be able to directly image a black hole’s event horizon!

Has Hawking changed his mind? Are black holes merely a figment of our collective imaginations? Are all those crank theories about “alternative” theories of the Cosmos true?!

Fortunately not.

Stephen Hawking hasn’t changed his mind about the whole black hole thing, but he has thrown a complex physics paradox into the limelight, one that has been gnawing at the heart of theoretical physics for the last 18 months.

Black Hole Fight Club

It all boils down to a conflict between two fundamental ideas in physics that control the very fabric of our Universe; the clash of Einstein’s general relativity and quantum dynamics. And it just so happens that the extreme environment in and around a black hole makes for the perfect “fight club” for the two theories to duke it out. But what’s the first rule of the black hole fight club? Don’t talk about the firewall, lest you get sucked into an argument with a theoretical physicist.



New Evidence That Plants Get Their Energy Using Quantum Entanglement

GEORGE DVORSKY  | Io9 | Jan 13th 2014

Fresh_green_leaves_JK186_350ABiophysicists theorize that plants tap into the eerie world of quantum entanglement during photosynthesis. But the evidence to date has been purely circumstantial. Now, scientists have discovered a feature of plants that cannot be explained by classical physics alone — but which quantum mechanics answers quite nicely.

The fact that biological systems can exploit quantum effects is quite astounding. In a way, they’re like mini-quantum computers capable of scanning all possible options in order to choose the most efficient paths or solutions. For plants, this means the ability to make the most of the energy they receive and then deliver that energy from leaves with near perfect efficiency.

Good Vibrations

But for this to work, plants require the capacity to work in harmony with the wild, wacky, and extremely small world of quantum phenomena. The going theory is that plants have light-gathering macromolecules in their cells that can transfer energy via molecular vibrations — vibrations that have no equivalents in classical physics. Most of these light-gathering macromolecules are comprised of chromophores attached to proteins. These macromolecules carry out the first step of photosynthesis by capturing sunlight and efficiently transferring the energy.

Previous inquiries suggested that this energy is transferred in a wave-like manner, but it was a process that could still be explained by classical physics.

In Perfect Quantum Harmony

In the new study, however, UCL researchers identified a specific feature in biological systems that can only be predicted by quantum physics. The team learned that the energy transfer in the light-harvesting macromolecules is facilitated by specific vibrational motions of the chromophores.

“We found that the properties of some of the chromophore vibrations that assist energy transfer during photosynthesis can never be described with classical laws, and moreover, this non-classical behaviour enhances the efficiency of the energy transfer,” noted supervisor and co-author Alexandra Olaya-Castro in a statement.

The vibrations in question are periodic motions of the atoms within a molecule. It’s similar to how an object moves when it’s attached to a spring. Sometimes, the energy of two vibrating chromophores match the energy difference between the electronic transitions of chromophores. The result is a coherent exchange of a single quantum of energy.

[read full post here]