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4 posts tagged science

Rare Book: Wunderzeichenbuch, or ‘Book Of Miracles’, 1552

“In AD 1119, fiery arrows or spears appeared in the sky, everywhere in the whole sky. And stars fell from the sky and when water was poured over them, they made a sound or screamed.”

It doesn’t exactly have the militaristic crispness of a Patrick Moore, but in these words (or, at least, their High German equivalent) we can see the modern science of astronomy emerging from under a shroud of superstition and folklore. The words are taken from an unparalleled Wunderzeichenbuch – or “book of miracles” – recently sold by James Faber, of Bond Street fine-art dealers Day & Faber. The miracles in question, all 167 of them, are hand-painted in gouache and watercolor and arranged in chronological order, from Old Testament scenes (the Flood, the parting of the Red Sea) to the Last Judgement. The main body of the work, however, is given over to events from recorded history, apocalyptic scenes such as a rain of meat in Liguria or a plague of vipers in Hungary; it’s a Renaissance equivalent of cranks’ newsletter The Fortean Times, albeit with a distinct focus on the astronomical. Some 60 or so of the folios depict cosmic events, particularly comets, painted with inventive élan and highlighted with gold leaf.

The Holographic Universe Principle: What is & What Should Never be
as read on fromquarkstoquasars.com
Given all of the recent coverage on the radical idea that the universe is one massive hologram, we thought we would take a few minutes to delve into what that really means for us. Basically, the holographic universe principle suggests that we’re living in a simulated reality (different from the hypothesis that states we live in a computer simulation), where our physical world is nothing more than a detailed illusion. This illusion is actually projected by our brains, as energy fields are being decoded into the seemingly 3 dimensional universe we see around us. In a more speculative sense, the theory suggests that the entire universe can be seen as a two-dimensional information structure, which is “painted” on the cosmological horizon, such that the three dimensions (four, if you include time) we observe are only an effective description at macroscopic scales and at low energies.
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“Our brain mathematically constructs objective reality by interpreting frequencies that are ultimately from another dimension, a deeper order of existence that is beyond both space and time” says David Bohm, who is the primary voice behind the holographic universe principle. (He certainly is not the only scientist that consider it a viable hypothesis. Brian Greene, author of “The Elegant Universe” is one of them.)  Bohm was dissatisfied with standard cosmological theories that couldn’t explain diverse phenomena predicted by quantum mechanics. He was also very interested in  understanding how they relate to the neuropathology of the brain.

Einstein called entanglement “spooky action at a distance.”–       Image Source

So, in 1982, an experiment was conducted by a research team led by physicist Alain Aspect at the Institute of Theoretical And Applied Optics, in Paris. It was discovered that under certain conditions, subatomic particles (such as electrons) are able to instantaneously communicate with each other regardless of the distance separating them. It doesn’t matter whether they are 10 feet or 10 billion miles apart. Somehow the particles always seem to know what the other is doing. We now call this “quantum entanglement, and it’s one of the more baffling aspects of particle physics, mostly because the underlying theme appears to contradict Einstein’s theory of special relativity, which says NOTHING can travel faster than the speed of light. (including information)

Overall, the experiment demonstrated that the web of subatomic particles that compose  our physical universe – the so-called “fabric of reality itself” – possess what appears to be an undeniable “holographic” property. If true, the holographic principle would comprehensively include reality as we know it, but also previously unexplained phenomena, such as the paranormal, along with “out-of-body experiences,” telepathy, lucid dreaming and near-death experiences (among other things).
Before we get ahead of ourselves with why this theory is unlikely, lets talk a bit about the properties that would give this hypothesis some credence:

“The Laser Interferometer Space Antenna” searches for gravitational waves – Image Source

First, we know that dense celestial objects, like black holes, neutron stars and pulsars, have immense gravitational fields that should give way togravitational waves — one of the most sought after aspects of quantum physics. One particular German team that is searching for evidence of gravitational waves, the GEO600 team, were met with some kind ofunexplainable eerie noise, which disrupted the GEO 600 detector from doing its job properly. One researcher from the Fermilab in Batavia, Craig Hogan, has proposed an interesting solution to the mystery (formally known as “quantum noise“): He thinks that there must be a fundamental limit of space/time, where the smoothness of the space/time continuum begins to break down into “grains,” similar to pixels that comprise images on a computer screen.
In his mind, this finding (the noise)  suggests that the entirety of the universe is merely the 3D projection of information found on a 2 dimensional information structure (you can liken it to that of a CD). Said structure is located at the very “edge” of the universe and the projection occurs when light bounces off from it, causing the light to scatter throughout the universe. His conclusion is somewhat vindicated by some of the observations we’ve made about the manner in which black holes behave, along with the Hawking radiation that continues to leak from them over time.
Enter stage left, the “Black Hole Firewall Paradox,” which has been a highly debated subject amongst physicists far more intelligent than I am. So, I’ll let one of them explain this:


Image Source:

“Information encoded in an event horizon “is born from other well known interpretations of the cosmos, in particularly the black hole paradox. As something falls into a black hole, passing the event horizon, the quantum information held in the event horizon can be encoded to reveal information about the interior. Therefore, the information inside the black hole’s event horizon is not destroyed (note: for details on this, see the Thorne-Hawking-Preskill bet). If the information about the interior of a black hole is encoded in its event horizon, scientists have come forward to point out that perhaps the information inside our Universe is encoded in the Universe’s horizon.”
What does that mean? Well, If you’ve been an avid reader of this page, you may remember an article I wrote about what would hypothetically happen to you if you were to survive the descent into the event horizon of a super-duper massive black-hole. In this, I basically said that along with the time dilation associated with the curvature of space/time, you would (hypothetically) be able to observe the entire history of the black hole’s existence simultaneously. The holographic principle is the same on a larger scale. All of the information should be encoded in the event horizon of our universe in Planck Length bits of space/time, and everything within is a projection of the 2D inner shell.
Now, as for why this theory is unlikely:


This is the gamma ray in question. Image: ESA – Source


The European Space Agency’s “Integral gamma-ray observatory” was initially opened in 2010. It’s capable of measuring gamma-radiation and its counterpart, gamma-ray bursts, which is one of the most powerful and destructive forces of nature. Depending on their highly unpredictable behavior, it’s possible for the observatory to be able to study these bursts to determine if space/time does indeed become “grainy” or pixilated at a quantum level. One particular burst traversed space for nearly 300 million light-years, before reaching our planet. Yet,  no blurriness in the fabric of space/time was observed, at least not down to 10^48 meters — ten trillion times smaller than the fundamental unit of length in quantum physics, Planck length. Of which, physicists are unsure if it’s even possible for a unit of length that’s smaller than Planck length to exist. So, this is one pretty monumental strike against the holographic universe principle.
There is still one other explanation that can’t be ruled out though, on this train of thought; perhaps gamma-ray photons behave differently than expected via the holographic principle? We still have a lot more to understand about the fabric of space/time, the universe and rectifying quantum mechanics with other well established scientific theories. This one.. this one makes my head hurt.
To read more about the latest developments concerning the holographic universe principle, click here

as read on fromquarkstoquasars.com

The Holographic Universe Principle: What is & What Should Never be

as read on fromquarkstoquasars.com

Given all of the recent coverage on the radical idea that the universe is one massive hologram, we thought we would take a few minutes to delve into what that really means for us. Basically, the holographic universe principle suggests that we’re living in a simulated reality (different from the hypothesis that states we live in a computer simulation), where our physical world is nothing more than a detailed illusion. This illusion is actually projected by our brains, as energy fields are being decoded into the seemingly 3 dimensional universe we see around us. In a more speculative sense, the theory suggests that the entire universe can be seen as a two-dimensional information structure, which is “painted” on the cosmological horizon, such that the three dimensions (four, if you include time) we observe are only an effective description at macroscopic scales and at low energies.

Will our Universe end in a “big slurp”?
Higgs-like particle suggests it might
If the “Higgs-like particle” discovered last year is really the long-sought Higgs boson, the bad news is that its mass suggests the universe will end in a fast-spreading bubble of doom. The good news? It’ll probably be tens of billions of years before that particular doomsday arrives.
That’s one of the weirder twists coming out of the continuing analysis of results from Europe’s Large Hadron Collider, which produced the first solid evidence for the existence of the Higgs boson last year. Current theory holds that the Higgs boson plays a role in imparting mass to other fundamental particles. Confirming the discovery of the Higgs would fill in the last blank spot in that theory, known as the Standard Model.
Physicists discussed the state of the Higgs quest in Boston on Monday during the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
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So far, the particle that was found at the LHC fits all the requirements for the Higgs boson, but scientists aren’t quite ready to confirm that the particle is really, truly the Higgs boson. It could be, say, just the first of multiple particles involved in the process. “The door is still very much open that there’s [another] particle that has a role to play, or even more than that,” said Christopher Hill, a physicist at Ohio State University who is also deputy physics coordinator for the LHC’s Compact Muon Solenoid experiment.
The LHC has just started a two-year shutdown for equipment upgrades — and Howard Gordon, deputy chair of the physics program at Brookhaven National Laboratory, said “it’s going to take another few years” after the collider is restarted to confirm definitively that the newfound particle is the Higgs boson.
In the meantime, physicists have tightened their estimates of the particle’s mass: Hill said the current estimate from the Compact Muon Solenoid is 125.8 billion electron volts, or 125.8 GeV, plus or minus 0.6 GeV. The figure from the LHC’s other Higgs-boson detector, known as ATLAS, is 125.2 GeV, plus or minus 0.7 GeV.
Those figures can be factored into equations that point to the long-term fate of the universe, said Joseph Lykken, a theoretical physicist at Fermilab.
So what’s the outlook?
"If you use all the physics that we know now, and we do what we think is a straightforward calculation, it’s bad news," Lykken said. “It may be that the universe we live in is inherently unstable. At some point, billions of years from now, it’s all going to be wiped out."
He said the parameters for our universe, including the Higgs mass value as well as the mass of another subatomic particle known as the top quark, suggest that we’re just at the edge of stability, in a “metastable” state. Physicists have been contemplating such a possibility for more than 30 years. Back in 1982, physicists Michael Turner and Frank Wilczek wrote in Naturethat “without warning, a bubble of true vacuum could nucleate somewhere in the universe and move outwards at the speed of light, and before we realized what swept by us our protons would decay away.”
Lykken put it slightly differently: “The universe wants to be in a different state, so eventually to realize that, a little bubble of what you might think of as an alternate universe will appear somewhere, and it will spread out and destroy us.”
That alternate universe would be “much more boring,” Lykken said. Which led him to ask a philosophical question: “Why do we live in a universe that’s just on the edge of stability?” He wondered whether a universe has to be near the danger zone to produce galaxies, stars, planets … and life.
Even Hill found it interesting that the parameters of particle physics put our universe right along the critical line. “That’s something new, which we didn’t know before, and which leads some of us to that there’s something else coming,” Hill said.
When Hill referred to “something else,” he was talking about new discoveries in physics — not the end of the world. Lykken emphasized that it would be at least tens of billions of years before vacuum instability took hold.
"To get the exact number, we need more funding," he joked.
Read article here
Image Credit: Corbis

Will our Universe end in a “big slurp”?

Higgs-like particle suggests it might

If the “Higgs-like particle” discovered last year is really the long-sought Higgs boson, the bad news is that its mass suggests the universe will end in a fast-spreading bubble of doom. The good news? It’ll probably be tens of billions of years before that particular doomsday arrives.

That’s one of the weirder twists coming out of the continuing analysis of results from Europe’s Large Hadron Collider, which produced the first solid evidence for the existence of the Higgs boson last year. Current theory holds that the Higgs boson plays a role in imparting mass to other fundamental particles. Confirming the discovery of the Higgs would fill in the last blank spot in that theory, known as the Standard Model.

Physicists discussed the state of the Higgs quest in Boston on Monday during the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

(via astronomerinprogress)

Female Stars in the Galaxy of Science

source

As a double-winner of the Nobel Prize, Marie Curie brought global prestige to the Nobel institution in the early part of the Twentieth Century. But few names of Women scientists have been noticed, leave alone, celebrated in the annals of Nobel Prize history ever since. For instance, how many have heard of Dorothy Hodgkin who won the Chemistry Nobel in 1964 for determining the structures of important biochemical substances using X-ray techniques, and was a key figure in the famous Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs? And, how many have cared to know who Maria Goeppert-Mayer was? (She was a co-laureate of the Physics Nobel in 1963 tor findings related to nuclear shell structure, and remains the only woman after Marie curie, to have won the Nobel Prize in this category.)

marie curieSimilar fundamental, anxious questions could be raised about Gerty Cori, the first Nobel Prize winning woman of America and the first female medical scientist to be inducted into the Nobel hall of fame (for identifying the course of catalytic conversion of glycogen), as well as Rita Levi-Montalcini, the Italian neurologist who co-win the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1986 (for discovery of the Nerve Growth Factor) and is the oldest living, longest-lived Nobel laureate today. (She completed 102 Years in April 2011).