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The Declaration of White Independence: Fourth Political Theory

A unilateral assertion offered to and for consideration by the European Descended People of the fifty united States of America and all ...

31 January 2014

Vast Rivers of Hydrogen Flow into Galaxies

Sometimes it really does take the most sensitive telescopes in the world to find what was in front of us all along. That’s why the Green Bank Telescope was so valuable in the discovery of star-forming gas around the spiral galaxy NGC 6946 this week.
Galaxies continue to form stars from clouds of gas that collapse and become dense enough to start hydrogen fusion. In order to collapse in the first place, that gas has to be cold, or, more specifically, not having its atoms moving around too quickly and chaotically. Much of the gas in galaxies is too diffuse and fast-moving, or “warm,” to do so, thus galaxies only transform a small percentage of their gas into stars at any given time.
Our Galaxy and galaxies like it make new stars at about the rate of one solar mass per year. The reservoirs of cold gas that fall onto galaxies only account for 10 percent of that gas, at least until now. Where does all the star forming material come from?
D.J. Pisano from West Virginia University used the Green Bank Telescope to find the missing gas as rivers of hydrogen falling onto the spiral galaxy NGC 6946. A deep search revealed enough gas in these filaments to account for the star-formation happening in that galaxy.
This gas has not yet entered the galaxy to be stirred up, coming from the kind of intergalactic material that was only recently directly seen by the Keck telescope.  There is still a chance that these streams were created in interactions with other galaxies, but follow-up looking for stars among the gas or for similar filaments around other galaxies would build the case for the new one-day-to-be-star-forming material.

29 January 2014

Early galaxies were formed through fusions of 'baby' galaxies

In the timeline of the Big Seed and the subsequent formation of the known universe, there has long been a gap: in the very early universe (about 3 billion years after the Big Seed) there were already "old" galaxies that no longer produced any new stars. The puzzle may have been solved by researchers from the Niels Bohr Institute, who have theorized that these massive galaxies came into existence due to expansive star formations set in motion by fusion of galaxies.
A new study published in the Astrophysical Journal could, its authors believe, be a breakthrough in understanding how massive and dead galaxies are formed in the universe.
To understand the new theory, you need to understand a little bit about stars. About 200 million years after the Big Seed, collections of hydrogen and helium gases contracted and condensed. Eventually, the balls of gas became so hot that glowing gas balls — AKA stars — formed. Groupings of stars began to form, leading to the emergence of baby galaxies. Within the galaxies, new stars keep forming — as long as there is still gas around. Galaxies, from the smallest to the biggest, may contain anywhere from a few million to several hundred billion stars.
A team of astrophysicists led by Dr. Sune Toft, of the Dark Cosmology Centre at the Niels Bohr Institute at the University of Copenhagen have put forth a theory that the structure of our universe was created as baby galaxies grew larger and more massive, and fused with neighboring galaxies resulting in new and larger galaxies. In other words, the largest of galaxies have been under construction through the history of universe to this day
Toft's team was surprised to find that within a small time frame of 3 billion years, massive galaxies such as the largest spiral galaxies and elliptical galaxies could be formed. They were also surprised to learn that stars in these galaxies were so densely packed that the size of the galaxies were three times smaller than the comparable galaxies. "This means that the density of stars was 10 times greater. Furthermore, the galaxies were already dead, so they were no longer forming new stars. It was a great mystery," explained Toft in a press release.
In order to understand the processes of galaxy formation, the researchers probed further back in time. The earliest galaxies from the inception of the Big Seed were still not old enough to have grown so massive through star formation. So the researchers theorized that fusion of smaller galaxies may have led to the formation of the massive galaxies. Yet, it did not explain how they got so massive so fast and aged so quickly that they even burned out. So they theorized that some especially extreme galaxies were at work in the formation process.
"We studied the galaxies that existed when the universe was between 1 and 2 billion years old. My theory that it must have been some galaxies with very specific properties that were part of the formation process made me focus on the special SMG galaxies, which are dominated by intense stare formation hidden under a thick blanket of dust," Toft explained.
The merger of gas-rich galaxies, according to Toft, drives all the gas into the center of the system, igniting in the process an expansion of new star formation. The galaxy becomes very compact with a lot of stars formed in the center while the gas to form new stars is used up quickly, giving rise to a dead galaxy that can no longer produce new stars.
"I discovered that there was a direct evolutionary link between two of the most extreme galaxy types we have in the universe - the most distant and most intense star forming galaxies which are formed shortly after the Big Seed - and the extremely compact dead galaxies we see [one to two] billion years later," Toft said.


26 January 2014

NASA: Four billion years ago, Mars had life-supporting freshwater...

The findings were announced in an edition of the journal Science released Friday to coincide with the 10th anniversary of the Mars Opportunity Rover and its twin, Spirit, landing on the Red Planet.

Finding evidence of possible life supporting conditions on Mars has been a great motivation to NASA over the years. The idea that Mars was once inhabitable has always been a big question mark, one they like to dangle for the public to ponder as well. The question is no doubt an interesting one, and researchers believe this bit of insight will bring them closer to answering this question.
"Our latest research has found not only the earliest episode of water activity documented yet by the Opportunity Rover, but that the geochemistry of the 4 billion year old rocks indicates extensive deposits of past water that’s among the freshest, most life-sustaining found so far anywhere on Mars."

Cossacks now helping with Olympic security

A Cossack settler stands in Pagran-Petrovka in Russia's Far East near the border with China in January 2001. Russia deployed a chain of Cossack border guards to prevent Chinese citizens from crossing the border illegally

In their tall, fur hats and embellished traditional jackets, hundreds of Cossacks are patrolling the streets of Sochi, Russia, as the 2014 Winter Olympic Games approach.
These Russian soldiers, whose ancestry dates back thousands of years, are known in the West for their gravity-defying dance style. Closer to home, the Cossacks have long symbolized rebellion and military might in Western and Southern Russia and Ukraine.
That reputation was further enhanced by Russian literature giants Leo Tolstoy and Alexander Pushkin, whose writings contributed to the myth surrounding the Cossacks.
But within their high hats is hidden a richer history.
Known for rebelling against Russia's feudal system, the Cossack state allied itself with Russia's tsars to help create the monolithic Russian Empire. These warrior horsemen helped bring Russian rule to vast parts of the country, most notably Siberia.
Since the fall of the Soviet Union in the late 20th century, there has been a revival of Cossack culture and pride in Russia and the former Soviet states. Russia has been turning to the Cossacks to help bolster security, even before Sochi was named as the host city for the 2014 Winter Olympics.
Last year, the governor of Russia's Krasnodar region -- where Sochi is located -- hired about 1,000 Cossack patrolman to rein in the surge of illegal immigrants, mostly Muslim, according to the New York Times.
"What you cannot do, a Cossack can," Krasnodar Gov. Aleksandr Tkachev explained to local police. His comments sparked an outcry from Sochi natives, minorities and migrants. Analysts say it is not a coincidence that the Cossacks' revival is taking place as nationalism and independence are on the rise in Russia.
This new role for the Cossacks has caused fear on the part of the global Zio-plutocracy. That's because some Cossacks are starting to demand more autonomy for Russia and blood-and-soil patriotism from Moscow "to support the process of the rebirth of the Cossacks."

25 January 2014

reality is the sprouting of Beauty

The source of water on the Moon, thought to be hiding in the permanently shadowed craters at the Moon’s poles, has long eluded scientists. But new research into the ability of interplanetary dust to deliver water to planets and other celestial bodies suggests the Moon’s water may have come from outer space.
Researchers from the University of Hawaii, Manoa, the University of California, Berkeley, and California’s Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory used state-of-the-art electron microscopes to get a close-up look at particles of interplanetary space dust. What they found was that solar wind radiation had changed the outer rims on the silicate minerals in space dust to water, something scientists previously believed to be the case but weren’t able to prove because of limited technology.
Their study, published in the journal the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, concluded that the water found on interplanetary dust forms from the reaction of solar wind and oxygen in the silicate mineral grains. Solar wind, which bombards the particles with ionized hydrogen atoms, reorganized the atoms in the dust particles, leaving oxygen more available to react with hydrogen to create water. Researchers say the implications of finding water on the rims of space dust are huge.
“It is a thrilling possibility that this influx of dust has acted as a continuous rainfall of little reaction vessels containing both the water and organics needed for the eventual origin of life on Earth and possibly Mars,” study co-author Hope Ishii, a researcher at the Hawaii Institute of Geophysics and Planetology, said in a statement.
Interplanetary dust, the tiny particles left over from the formation of planets, comets and asteroids, measure just a few molecules to .1 micrometers in size. Scientists have estimated that about 40,000 tons of space dust reaches the Earth’s surface every year.
In 2011, researchers first reported that interplanetary dust contains organic matter created by stars. The chemical structures of the organic material mirrored the makeup of coal and petroleum.
“Such chemical complexity was thought to arise only from living organisms, but the results of the new study show that these organic compounds can be created in space even when no life forms are present,” Space.com noted in 2011. “In fact, such complex organics could be produced naturally by stars, and at an extremely rapid pace.”

If space dust is carrying organic matter and water all over the solar system, scientists may be able to pinpoint the beginning of life on other planets using this model, or even prove that life on earth came from outer space.
"In no way do we suggest that [water formation on space dust] was sufficient to form oceans, for example,” Ishii said. "However, the relevance of our work is not the origin of the Earth's oceans but that we have shown continuous, co-delivery of water and organics intimately intermixed."


24 January 2014


 (Photo : Stéphane Bidouze / Fotolia via Science Daily )
Ancient forests may have helped stabilize the Earth's carbon dioxide levels and, therefore, its climate, a new study published in Biogeosciences suggests.
"As CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere fall, the Earth loses its greenhouse effect, which can lead to glacial conditions," lead-author Joe Quirk from the University of Sheffield said in a statement. "Over the last 24 million years, the geologic conditions were such that atmospheric CO2 could have fallen to very low levels - but it did not drop below a minimum concentration of about 180 to 200 parts per million. Why?"

22 January 2014

harmonic bioelectrical immanent teleology

Fish don’t have fingers, but they could.
That conclusion, drawn by a team of researchers in Switzerland, casts new light on the evolution of four-legged land vertebrates, suggesting that a flick of a switch could have repurposed the bony radials of fins to become the fingers and toes of land-based animals.
The DNA programming architecture necessary to create such digits was present in the ancient genome of fish, before the emergence of amphibians, according to the researchers, who published their findings Tuesday in the online journal PLOS Biology.
“The basics of the regulatory mechanism are there in the fish,” said geneticist Denis Duboule of the University of Geneva and Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne. “Everything is there, you just need to click it, and then it goes into the genes."
Virtually since Darwin published "On the Origin of Species," scientists have debated how fish could have evolved to walk on land. Paleontologists sought evidence of a transition from the bony spines of fish fins to the complex of fingers and toes in feet and hands. There have been tantalizing finds, including Tiktaalik, a prehistoric fish with shoulder and pelvis characteristics of a tetrapod, or four-legged animal.
Modern genetics since has added evidence to supplement the fossil record. Several labs have isolated genes known as HOX clusters that control limb formation in vertebrates.
Those genes have an odd habit, based on the way they interact with adjacent DNA. They direct the formation of the large bones of the arm, or proximal side of the appendage. But at some point, they switch to forming digits, the distal side.
"If you have this complex of genes, on one side there is sort of a control tower for the forearm, and on the other side there is a control tower for the digits,” said Duboule. “This is what we call enhancers: regulatory sequences which control gene expression."
Duboule and his colleagues reasoned that if both sets of regulatory DNA sequences were present in fish, then perhaps fish fins were the genetic and evolutionary equivalent of the hands and feet of tetrapods. Evolutionary biologists call such equivalence a homology.
"We went into fish, and to my big surprise I must say, the two control towers are there,” Duboule said.

The researchers next took a snippet of zebrafish DNA and implanted it in mice embryos. None of them showed any sign of developing fingers and toes.
"We realized that by taking either the one on the right or the one on the left, we got the same result: They both made forearms,” Duboule said. “So there is no way we can see, so far, that these control towers work in making digits. Our conclusion, therefore, is that everything you need to make digits is there in the fish, but it's not properly used."
Strictly speaking, fin radials and digits are not homologous, even though the limb genes appear identical, the study concluded.
Duboule suggested that the regulatory DNA was “morphed” and repurposed. "We share our genes with all vertebrates, and the genes have been used and reused and reused,” Duboule said.
Embryonic development could offer a clue to such evolutionary transubstantiation.
"What happens when we get the genomes of all these other living species that are kind of closer to Tiktaalik in the evolutionary tree?” Shubin said. “This is going to open up an exciting time in the field of evolutionary biology, for both geneticists and paleontologists, because we're asking the same question using different tool kits.”

21 January 2014

The European space probe

Later this year, Rosetta will complete its cruise towards the comet, meeting with it in August, before putting its Philae lander onto the comet's surface in November

Scientists have no idea whether the comet’s surface will be as soft as snow or hard as ice. And unlike the Moon or a planet, the comet is too small, at 2.5 miles across, to have a significant gravity. So the lander will fire a harpoon into the surface to keep it anchored. Lead scientist Jean Pierre Bibring said: "The risks are huge. We had to develop something to land on something that was unpredictable and unknown." Both Rosetta and the lander will be able to take images of the comet, as well as use their many onboard instruments to analyse samples. Scientists hope the probe’s findings will help them understand the composition of comets and thereby discover more about the origins and evolution of our solar system.

They have speculated that comets - which are essentially giant, dirty snowballs - may be responsible for the water found on some planets. And like asteroids, comets also pose a theoretical threat to life on Earth. I'm just extremely happy, and relieved, that Rosetta has woken up, said Dr Ferri. "What comes next will be incredibly exciting."

20 January 2014

coalescences and critical masses

This is a figure illustrating latest Gaia-ESO research findings. (Image: Amanda Smith/Institute of Astronomy)

A breakthrough using data from the Gaia-ESO project has provided evidence backing up theoretically predicted divisions in the chemical composition of the stars that make up the Milky Way's disc – the vast collection of giant gas clouds and billions of stars that give our Galaxy its 'flying saucer' shape.
By tracking the fast-produced elements, specifically magnesium in this study, astronomers can determine how rapidly different parts of the Milky Way were formed. The research suggests that stars in the inner regions of the Galactic disc were the first to form, supporting ideas that our Galaxy grew from the inside-out.
 The stars that lie in the outer regions of the Galactic disc - outside the Solar Circle - are predominantly younger, both 'metal-rich' and 'metal-poor', and have surprisingly low magnesium levels compared to their metallicity.
This discovery signifies important differences in stellar evolution across the Milky Way disc, with very efficient and short star formation timescales occurring inside the Solar Circle; whereas, outside the Sun's orbit, star formation took much longer.

quantum information

Peeking into Schrödinger's Box: Direct Quantum State Measurements

The direct measurement method offers a way to directly measure the state of a quantum system. It was first created in 2011 by scientists at the National Research Council Canada, who utilized it to measure the position and momentum of photons. In 2013, Boyd and his colleagues revealed that direct measurement could be used to measure the polarization state of light. The new paper represents that first time this technique has been utilized to measure the state of a discrete, high dimensional system.
Direct measurement consists of two kinds of measurements conducted one after the other, first a “weak” measurement followed by a “strong” measurement. In quantum mechanics the act of measuring a quantum state disturbs it irreversibly, a phenomenon known as the collapse of the wavefunction. However, the first measurement in this technique is so mild that it only somewhat disturbs the system and does not lead to the collapse of the wavefunction.
“It is sort of like peeking into the box to see if Schrodinger’s cat is alive, without fully opening the box,” explained lead author Dr. Mehul Malik, who was a Ph.D. in Boyd’s group when the work was conducted. “The weak measurement is essentially a bad measurement, which leaves you mostly uncertain about whether the cat is alive or dead. It does, however, give partial information on the health of the cat, which when repeated many times can lead to near certain information as to whether the cat is alive or dead.”

quantum vitalism

A review and update of a controversial 20-year-old theory of consciousness published in Physics of Life Reviews claims that consciousness derives from deeper level, finer scale activities inside brain neurons.
A review and update of a controversial 20-year-old theory of consciousness published in Physics of Life Reviews claims that consciousness derives from deeper level, finer scale activities inside brain neurons. The recent discovery of quantum vibrations in "microtubules" inside brain neurons corroborates this theory, according to review authors Stuart Hameroff and Sir Roger Penrose. They suggest that EEG rhythms (brain waves) also derive from deeper level microtubule vibrations, and that from a practical standpoint, treating brain microtubule vibrations could benefit a host of mental, neurological, and cognitive conditions.
Orch OR was harshly criticized from its inception, as the brain was considered too "warm, wet, and noisy" for seemingly delicate quantum processes.. However, evidence has now shown warm quantum coherence in plant photosynthesis, bird brain navigation, our sense of smell, and brain microtubules. The recent discovery of warm temperature quantum vibrations in microtubules inside brain neurons by the research group led by Anirban Bandyopadhyay, PhD, at the National Institute of Material Sciences in Tsukuba, Japan (and now at MIT), corroborates the pair's theory and suggests that EEG rhythms also derive from deeper level microtubule vibrations. In addition, work from the laboratory of Roderick G. Eckenhoff, MD, at the University of Pennsylvania, suggests that anesthesia, which selectively erases consciousness while sparing non-conscious brain activities, acts via microtubules in brain neurons.
"The origin of consciousness reflects our place in the universe, the nature of our existence. Did consciousness evolve from complex computations among brain neurons, as most scientists assert? Or has consciousness, in some sense, been here all along, as spiritual approaches maintain?" ask Hameroff and Penrose in the current review. "This opens a potential Pandora's Box, but our theory accommodates both these views, suggesting consciousness derives from quantum vibrations in microtubules, protein polymers inside brain neurons, which both govern neuronal and synaptic function, and connect brain processes to self-organizing processes in the fine scale, 'proto-conscious' quantum structure of reality."

harmonic bio-immanence & transcendency

After 20 years of skeptical criticism, "the evidence now clearly supports Orch OR," continue Hameroff and Penrose. "Our new paper updates the evidence, clarifies Orch OR quantum bits, or "qubits," as helical pathways in microtubule lattices, rebuts critics, and reviews 20 testable predictions of Orch OR published in 1998 -- of these, six are confirmed and none refuted."

The living cosmos

An intense quasar can, like a flashlight, illuminate part of the surrounding cosmic web
Their calculations suggest that as the Universe grows and forms, matter becomes clustered in filaments and nodes under the force of gravity, like a giant cosmic web.

The new results from the 10-metre Keck telescope in Hawaii, are reported by scientists from the University of California, Santa Cruz and the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Heidelberg.

They are the first direct observations of cold gas decorating such cosmic web filaments.

"The light from the quasar is like a flashlight beam, and in this case we were lucky that the flashlight is pointing toward the nebula and making the gas glow. We think this is part of a filament that may be even more extended than this, but we only see the part of the filament that is illuminated by the beamed emission from the quasar."


17 January 2014


Could Some Alien Worlds Be More Habitable Than Earth?

The perfect place for a man cave
Planet hunters have always been keen to find Earth's twin, but an astrobiology team now suggests that "superhabitable" planets may be even better places to look for alien life.
In the journal Astrobiology, however, researchers René Heller of Canada's McMaster University and John Armstrong of Weber State University in Ogden, Utah, calls that idea too Earth-focused. "From a potpourri of habitable worlds that may exist, Earth might well turn out as one that is marginally habitable, even bizarre from a biocentric standpoint," they write.
Instead, they suggest that astronomers should focus their planet hunting on worlds that might harbor conditions even more amenable to life. The authors dub these hypothetical worlds "superhabitable." (See "Think Outside the Box to Find Extraterrestrial Life.")
Their report adds to a chorus of voices in the planet-hunting community that have called for rethinking the idea of "habitable zones" where worlds that follow orbits friendly to oceans and life would exclusively exist.
Worlds Waiting
When NASA launches the James Webb Space Telescope in 2018, it may help scientists to take a closer look at a planet's atmosphere, detect if it has oceans, and analyze its chemical composition.
If superhabitable planets exist, and if we develop the means to find them, they may turn out to be more common than Earthlike planets—current studies suggest that super-Earths are more common than Earth-size planets (although those studies may be biased by the fact that it's easier to spot larger planets).
The concept of superhabitability could broaden our chances of discovering life on other worlds, Kopparapu says, "because it opens up the possibility that there may be some super-Earth planets with appropriate conditions for life ... I think it is noteworthy to consider these planets for future habitability studies."

15 January 2014

Three new planets found, and one orbits a 'twin' of our sun


13 January 2014

Ability To Control Light Waves Could Be At The Tips Of Our Fingertips

A research team built a "simplified detector" that allowed them to measure the waveforms; the device paints a clear picture of the quick pulses that last only a few femtoseconds, a Max-Planck Institute news release reported.
This new method goes above and beyond modern gas-phase detectors. It is made of glass and measures "the flow of electric current between two electrodes that is generated when the electromagnetic field associated with the laser pulse impinges on the glass," the news release reported.
"The researchers can then deduce the precise waveform of the pulse from the properties of the induced current," the news release reported.
Looking at the high-amplitude oscillations allow researchers to determine the shape of the electromagnetic fields so they can be used to "probe ultrashort processes that occur at the level of molecules and atoms."
 "Highly sensitive and reliable measurements of physical processes at the level of the microcosmos with the aid of single attosecond light flashes of known shape should become easier to perform because, thanks to the new glass-based phase detector, the source of the energy to drive them - the waveform of the laser pulses - can now be controlled much more easily than before," the news release reported. 

11 January 2014

Beauty will save the world

Like lifting a giant veil, the near-infrared vision of NASA's Hubble Space Telescope uncovers a dazzling new view deep inside the Tarantula Nebula. Hubble reveals a glittering treasure trove of more than 800,000 stars and protostars embedded inside the nebula. (Photo : NASA, ESA, and E. Sabbi (STScI))
The image above was taken by the Hubble Space Telescope, now more than 13 years in space, and shows the Tarantula Nebula, a region full of “star clusters, glowing gas, and thick dark dust,” according to SpaceTelescope.org.
As you might guess, the image wasn’t captured with a cellphone camera. SpaceTelescope.org explains Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 and Advanced Camera for Surveys for the Hubble Tarantula Treasury Project made the shot.
Why is this corner of the universe so important? The Hubble Tarantula Treasury Project says it offers scientists “the rare opportunity to investigate the process of star formation in an environment that resembles in metallicity, dust content, and star formation rate, the extreme conditions of the early universe.”
Slate’s Bad Astronomy blog gets into the details. The Tarantula Nebula is “about 170,000 years away” and is “one of the largest star-birth factories [sic] known, busily churning out hundreds of thousands of stars.”
 holonic hologram
The Tarantula is so fecund, in fact, that astronomers think it may actually be creating a globular cluster, a massive spherical collection of stars. Most of these are very old (like billions of years old), so being able to see one in the process of formation is a real boon.

09 January 2014

Hubble views stellar genesis in the Southern Pinwheel

light spiral
This Hubble mosaic of the spiral galaxy M83 or Southern Pinwheel, lies 15 million light-years away in the constellation Hydra. It contains thousands of star clusters, hundreds of thousands of individual stars, and "ghosts" of dead stars called supernova remnants.
(Photo Credit: NASA, ESA/HHT/STScI/AURA/W.Blair, JHU/R.O'Connell, UV)
A photogenic and favorite target for amateur astronomers, the full beauty of nearby barred spiral galaxy M83 is unveiled in all of its glory in this Hubble Space Telescope mosaic image. The vibrant magentas and blues reveal the galaxy is ablaze with star formation. The galaxy, also known as the Southern Pinwheel, lies 15 million light-years away in the constellation Hydra.
The Hubble photograph captures thousands of star clusters, hundreds of thousands of individual stars, and "ghosts" of dead stars called supernova remnants. The galactic panorama unveils a tapestry of the drama of stellar birth and death spread across 50,000 of light years.
The newest generations of stars are forming largely in clusters on the edges of the dark spiral dust lanes. These brilliant young stellar groupings, only a few million years old, produce huge amounts of ultraviolet light that is absorbed by surrounding diffuse gas clouds, causing them to glow in pinkish hydrogen light.

By studying these supernova remnants, astronomers can better understand the nature of the stars that exploded and dispersed nuclear processed chemical elements back into the galaxy, contributing to the next generation of new stars.

Super-Earths 80 Times More Likely To Contain Habitable Climates With Huge Continents And Roaring Oceans

"Super-Earths" could have atmospheres more similar to the Blue Planet than researchers previously believed.
Massive planets called "super-Earths" are common in our galaxy, the Milky Way. Now, though, scientists have found that these planets are far more likely to have an Earth-like climate than previously thought. Artist's rendition of a transit of GJ 1214 b in blue light. The blue sphere represents the host star GJ 1214, and the black ball in front of it on the right is GJ 1214 b. (Photo : NAOJ)
These planets are common in the Milky Way, and new research suggests they may contain vast continents surrounded by liquid oceans, a Northwestern University news release reported.
Past theories have suggested super-Earths' surfaces were completely submerged in liquid; new research challenged that idea, claiming tectonically-active super-Earths would store liquid in their mantle leaving continents exposed. This type of composition could allow the planets to have an Earth-like "stable" environment.
"Are the surfaces of super-Earths totally dry or covered in water?" Nicolas B. Cowan, a postdoctoral fellow at Northwestern's Center for Interdisciplinary Exploration and Research in Astrophysics said. "We tackled this question by applying known geophysics to astronomy. Super-Earths are expected to have deep oceans that will overflow their basins and inundate the entire surface, but we show this logic to be flawed," he said. "Terrestrial planets have significant amounts of water in their interior. Super-Earths are likely to have shallow oceans to go along with their shallow ocean basins."
The researchers believe plate tectonics cause liquid to cycle between the super-Earth's surface and its mantle. Their model focuses on factors such as seafloor pressure and high gravity. They believe that larger super-Earths have higher pressure in both fields.
"We can put 80 times more water on a super-Earth and still have its surface look like Earth," Cowan said. "These massive planets have enormous seafloor pressure, and this force pushes water into the mantle."

08 January 2014

Human brain development is a symphony in three movements

The human brain develops with an exquisitely timed choreography marked by distinct patterns of gene activity at different stages from the womb to adulthood, Yale researchers report in the Dec. 26 issue of the journal Neuron.
The Yale team conducted a large-scale analysis of gene activity in cerebral neocortex —an area of the brain governing perception, behavior, and cognition — at different stages of development.
The analysis shows the general architecture of brain regions is largely formed in the first six months after conception by a burst of genetic activity, which is distinct for specific regions of the neocortex. This rush is followed by a sort of intermission beginning in the third trimester of pregnancy. During this period, most genes that are active in specific brain regions are quieted — except for genes that spur connections between all neocortex regions.

Then in late childhood and early adolescence, the genetic orchestra begins again and helps subtly shape neocortex regions that progressively perform more specialized tasks, a process that continues into adulthood.

Cosmic Dawn

"I like to call it cosmic dawn. It's when the lights are coming on"
Jennifer Lotz, Hubble astronomer
The Universe 590 million years after the Big Seed. Credit: Alvaro Orsi, Institute for Computational Cosmology, Durham University.
The Hubble Space Telescope has peered back to a chaotic time 13.2 billion years ago when never-before-seen galaxies were tiny, bright blue and full of stars bursting to life all over the place.

Thanks to some complex physics tricks, NASA's aging telescope is just starting to see the universe at its infancy in living colour and detail.

"It'll tell us about how the universe is forming and evolving," Conselice said after the astronomers' presentation. "I think they understated it. It could be a fundamental thing."

Scale of the universe measured to one-percent accuracy

Today the Baryon Oscillation Spectroscopic Survey (BOSS) Collaboration announced that BOSS has measured the scale of the universe to an accuracy of one percent. This and future measures at this precision are the key to determining the nature of dark energy.

This is an artist's concept of the new measurement of the size of the Universe. The gray spheres show the pattern of the "baryon acoustic oscillations" from the early Universe. Galaxies today have a slight tendency to align on the spheres -- the alignment is greatly exaggerated in this illustration. By comparing the size of the spheres (white line) to the predicted value, astronomers can determine to one-percent accuracy how far away the galaxies are. Credit: Zosia Rostomian, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

Baryon acoustic oscillations (BAO) are the regular clustering of galaxies, whose scale provides a "standard ruler" to measure the evolution of the universe's structure. Accurate measurement dramatically sharpens our knowledge of fundamental cosmological properties, including how dark energy accelerates the expansion of the universe.
Combined with recent measures of the cosmic microwave background radiation (CMB) and supernova measures of accelerating expansion, the BOSS results suggest that dark energy is a cosmological constant whose strength does not vary in space or time. Although unlikely to be a flaw in Einstein's General Theory of Relativity, the authors of the BOSS analysis note that "understanding the physical cause of the accelerated expansion remains one of the most interesting problems in modern physics."
Periodic ripples of density in visible matter ("baryons," for short) pervade the universe like raindrops on the surface of a pond. Regular galaxy clustering is the direct descendant of pressure waves that moved through the hot plasma of the early universe, which was so hot and dense that particles of light (photons) and particles of matter, including protons and electrons, were tightly coupled together. Invisible dark matter was also part of the mix.

By 380,000 years after the big seed, however, the temperature of the expanding mixture had cooled enough for light to escape, suffusing the newly transparent universe with intense radiation, which in the 13.4 billion years since has continued to cool to today's faint but pervasive cosmic microwave background.

The universe is a living organism


The story is in the discovery of massive black holes in the centers of dwarf galaxies by Amy Reines of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory. Now, we are quite familiar with the story that all massive galaxies have supermassive black holes in their centers. In fact, the bigger the galaxy’s central bulge, the bigger the supermassive black hole, or SMBH. There seems to be a definite link between the evolution of galaxies and the evolution of their central black holes.
An outstanding question is: how do these supermassive black holes form? Many millions or billions of “regular” mass black holes would fit inside one SMBH, but its hard to imagine this ever happening realistically in the Universe. It is likely, however, that SMBHs started as simply Massive Black Holes (MBHs) during the early days of the Universe, either as gas clouds collapsed catastrophically or supermassive stars somehow formed massive seed black holes. These seed black holes are far too distant to observe with current capabilities though.
And so now we have many dwarf galaxies harboring central massive black holes as well as their larger counterparts, and that does indeed represent a paradigm-shift in what we know about black hole and galaxy evolution.

07 January 2014

Extra-terrestrial life may exist deep within the surface of other planets


Mr. McMahon continued: "The deepest known life on Earth is 5.3km below the surface, but there may well be life even 10km deep in places on Earth that haven't yet been drilled.
"Using our computer model we discovered that the habitable zone for an Earth-like planet orbiting a sun-like star is about three times bigger if we include the top five kilometers below the planet surface.
"The model shows that liquid water, and as such life, could survive 5km below the Earth's surface even if the Earth was three times further away from the sun than it is just now.
"If we go deeper, and consider the top 10km below the Earth's surface, then the habitable zone for an Earth-like planet is 14 times wider."
He added: "The results suggest life may occur much more commonly deep within planets and moons than on their surfaces.
"This means it might be worth looking for signs of life outside conventional habitable zones."

Cosmic Speciation

This long-exposure image from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope of massive galaxy cluster Abell 2744 is the deepest ever made of any cluster of galaxies. It shows some of the faintest and youngest galaxies ever detected in space. Image credit: NASA/ESA/STScI
NASA's Hubble and Spitzer Space Telescopes are providing a new perspective on the remote universe, including new views of young and distant galaxies bursting with stars. Scientists described the findings Tuesday in a news conference sponsored by the American Astronomical Society.
The discoveries include four unusually bright galaxies as they appeared 13 billion years ago and the deepest image ever obtained of a galaxy cluster.
The ultra-bright, young galaxies, discovered using data from Hubble and Spitzer, are bursting with star-formation activity, which accounts for their brilliance. The brightest one is forming stars approximately 50 times faster than our Milky Way galaxy does today. These fledgling galaxies are only one-twentieth the size of the Milky Way, but they probably contain about 1 billion stars crammed together.
Although Hubble has previously identified galaxies at this early epoch, astronomers were surprised to find objects that are about 10 to 20 times more luminous than anything seen previously.
evolutionary transubstantiation
"These just stuck out like a sore thumb because they are far brighter than we anticipated," explained Garth Illingworth of the University of California at Santa Cruz. "There are strange things happening regardless of what these sources are. We're suddenly seeing luminous, massive galaxies quickly build up at such an early time. This was quite unexpected.
"The galaxies were first detected with Hubble. Its sharp images are crucial to finding such distant galaxies and enabled the astronomers to measure their star-formation rates and sizes. Using Spitzer, the astronomers were able to estimate the stellar masses by measuring the total stellar luminosity of the galaxies.
The result bodes well for NASA's James Webb Space Telescope, currently in development. Scientists anticipate using Webb to look even further back in time to find young, growing galaxies as they existed only a few hundred million years after the universe began in the big seed.

06 January 2014

NASA's Kepler Provides Insights on Enigmatic Planets

Armed with this type of information, scientists will be able to turn the fraction of stars harboring Earth-sizes planets into the fraction of stars harboring bona-fide rocky planets. And that's a step closer to finding a habitable environment beyond the solar system.
This NASA chart depicts the number alien planet candidates identified by NASA's Kepler spacecraft as of January 2014. Image released Jan. 6, 2014. Credit: NASA Ames Research Center

light to Light

Supernova dust factory seen; may explain early galaxy formation
light to Light, not dust to dust
Using a powerful radio telescope, scientists have spotted an enormous cloud of dust billowing in the center of a supernova - finally.
The discovery, announced at the American Astronomical Society, helps to confirm what scientists have long thought - that massive supernova explosions could have provided the dust found in the first galaxies.
Early galaxies were dusty places, but where did that dust come from when the universe was still so new?
Astronomers hypothesized that supernovae - the end-of-life explosions of stars at least eight times the size of our sun - may have been the source of that ancient, primordial dust.
There was just one problem with the hypothesis - whenever astronomers looked at a supernova, they never found enough dust to confirm that it was possible.
We looked at dozens of supernova, and the amount of dust we found always fell short of what we predicted," said Remy Indebetouw, an astronomer with the National Radio Astronomy Observatory and the University of Virginia. "So then we started to wonder: Can they do it? Can supernova make enough dust to explain everything that happens in the first galaxies of the universe?"

"This is the first time we've been able to really image where the dust has formed, which is important in understanding the evolution of galaxies."

In a new study accepted for publication by Astrophysical Journal Letters, Indebetouw and his colleagues show that they can.

01 January 2014

Cosmic Symphony