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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 ...

29 June 2014

Athena to study cosmic evolution

The European Space Agency (ESA) has selected the Athena advanced telescope for high-energy astrophysics as its second “large-class” science mission.

The observatory will study the hot and energetic universe and take the “L2” slot in ESA’s Cosmic Vision 2015–25 plan with a launch foreseen in 2028.

By combining a large X-ray telescope with state-of-the-art scientific instruments, Athena will address key questions in astrophysics, including how and why ordinary matter assembles into the galaxies and galactic clusters that we see today as well as how black holes grow and influence their surroundings.

Scientists believe that black holes lurk at the center of almost all galaxies and that they play a fundamental role in their formation and evolution.

To investigate this connection, Athena will observe X-ray emission from very hot material just before it is swallowed by a black hole, measuring distortions due to gravitational light-bending and time-delay effects in this extreme environment. Athena also will be able to determine the spin of the black hole itself.

Athena’s powerful instruments also will allow unprecedented studies of a wide range of astronomical phenomena. These include distant gamma-ray bursts, the hot gas found in the space around clusters of galaxies, the magnetic interplay between exoplanets and their parent stars, Jupiter’s aurorae, and comets in our solar system.

27 June 2014

Convergent evolution in electrical fish: bioelectrical harmonic bio-immanence

New research by a team led by UW-Madison biochemistry Professor Michael Sussman shows that electric fish, including the electric eel, evolved their electric organ six times independently over the course of evolutionary history. Sussman's team identified the molecular levers and developmental pathways that all six lineages of electric fish worldwide have in common, resolving a longstanding mystery of what scientists call convergent evolution, a problem Darwin himself pondered. (Credit: Jason Gallant, Michigan State University)

The work establishes the genetic basis for the electric organ, an anatomical feature found only in fish and that evolved independently half a dozen times in environments ranging from the flooded forests of the Amazon to murky marine environments.
"These fish have converted a muscle to an electric organ," explains Sussman, a professor of biochemistry and director of the UW-Madison Biotechnology Center, who first undertook the exploration of the electric organ almost a decade ago. The study published in Science provides evidence to support the idea that the six electric fish lineages, all of which evolved independently, used essentially the same genes and developmental and cellular pathways to make an electric organ, needed for defense, predation, navigation and communication.
"What is amazing is that the electric organ arose independently six times in the course of evolutionary history," says Lindsay Traeger, a UW-Madison graduate student in genetics and a co-lead author of the new report along with Jason Gallant, an assistant professor of zoology at Michigan State University.
Adds Gallant: "The surprising result of our study is that electric fish seem to use the same 'genetic toolbox' to build their electric organ," despite the fact that they evolved independently.
Worldwide, there are hundreds of electric fish in six broad lineages. Their taxonomic diversity is so great that Darwin himself cited electric fishes as critical examples of convergent evolution, where unrelated animals independently evolve similar traits to adapt to a particular environment or ecological niche.

The "in-series alignment" of the electrocytes and unique polarity of each cell allows for the "summation of voltages, much like batteries stacked in series in a flashlight," says Sussman.
The additional current required for the power comes from the fact that an eel body contains many millions of such "flashlights" working together and firing their electrical discharge simultaneously.

In addition to sequencing and assembling DNA from the electric eel genome, the team produced protein sequences from the cells of the electric organs and skeletal muscles of three other electric fish lineages using RNA sequencing and analysis. A computationally intense comparative study of the sequences showed that electric organs in fish worldwide used the same genetic tools and cellular and developmental pathways to independently create the electric organ.
"I consider 'exotic' organisms such as the electric fish to be one of nature's wonders and an important 'gift' to humanity," says Sussman. "Our study demonstrates nature's creative powers and its parsimony, using the same genetic and developmental tools to invent an adaptive trait time and again in widely disparate environments. By learning how nature does this, we may be able to manipulate the process with muscle in other organisms and, in the near future, perhaps use the tools of synthetic biology to create electrocytes for generating electrical power in bionic devices within the human body or for uses we have not thought of yet."

26 June 2014

Pro-Russion Rebels Channel U.S. Confederates

Flag of Novorossiya (New Russia)

There are a few key components that make a Ukrainian separatist, among them Kalashnikov rifles, Cossack hats, golden crosses around their necks, America bashing, orange-and-black “World War II” ribbons … and Dixie flags.

The flag of the unrecognized Novorossia confederation is not entirely identical to the banner of the Army of Northern Virginia, as it lacks stars — the Ukrainians would have had to contend with between two to eight such stars, depending on their level of optimism.

But otherwise, it is the same as the Confederate flag, a blue diagonal cross bordered with white on a red background. General Lee would have been proud.

The pro-Russian rebels, known for their dislike of all things American, do not take direct inspiration from the U.S. secession movement or fear the implications of separatist bad luck that their flag entails.

The banner's own exact origins appear murky, much like what happens in Ukraine's strife-torn east. Dnr-news.com, the official news website of the separatist People's Republic of Donetsk, part of Novorossia, on May 31 credited Ukrainian political analyst Mikhail Pavliv with creating the “official banner” of the self-proclaimed territory.

Yet, Pavliv, a support of the insurgency, told The Moscow Times he had simply stumbled upon the flag online somewhere.

“I simply posted the flag on my Vkontakte [social network] page,” he said over Facebook on Monday. “I was not even able to track where later.”

From there, the flag was picked up by Pavel Gubarev, one of the rebel leaders, Pavliv said.

The “Ukrainian Dixie flag” has been used in recent weeks by Gubarev's secessionist party of Nororossia and serves as the backdrop in his numerous video appeals.


Gubarev told The Moscow Times the flag is based on banners used by Cossacks who reclaimed the Novorossia territories from Tatars and Turks for Russia in the 18th century.

"We chose it because the land is in danger from foreign invaders again," he said by telephone.

Though core of the separatist movement is located in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, the separatists claim to be recreating the historical Novorossia — a region from Tsarist times that, at one point, comprised all of modern southern Ukraine, including all of its coastal areas.

However, the official banners of the two major Cossack forces that were based in the Novorossia in the 18th century — the Zaporizhian or Black Sea Cossacks — did not include anything resembling the Confederate flag.

Despite the active use of the flag, however, it remains unofficial — not unlike the Confederate flag. In mid-May, Gubarev actually launched a vote on Novorossia.su to select the territory's flag, and that vote is still going on.

Under the regular flag selection procedure, creators are expected to check if a similar design is already in use and to run their own design by experts, said Russia's chief heraldry expert, Georgy Vilinbakhov.

The Presidential Heraldic Council conducts an expert examination of heraldic devices on request, Vilinbakhov, who heads the council, said Monday.

But Ukrainian representatives have not contacted the council so far, he said by telephone.

The insurgency in Ukraine's east has been campaigning since April for the pro-Russian provinces to secede and join Russia. The rebels claim to control territories with a population of 6 million.

The separatists are vehemently anti-U.S., accusing Washington of backing a “Nazi junta” in Kiev. Gubarev has repeatedly blasted “U.S. totalitarianism” on his blog and Facebook even before the rise of the insurgency.

Gubarev said the comparison to US Confederates did not bother him because the flag dates back to much earlier times. "Learn your history," he said on Monday glumly.

But some historical parallels are, in fact, hard to resist. The Novorossia insurgents are struggling, as they are vastly outnumbered and outgunned by the regular Ukrainian Army which, despite numerous setbacks, has kept them in check and besieged their few strongholds.

So perhaps the spirit of General Lee is with Novorossia, after all.


Monkeys Evolved Unique Faces to Avoid Interbreeding with Close Species

Researchers used human face recognition techniques to identify and compare guenons' features

Guenon monkeys' colourful and varied faces have evolved as a way to avoid crossbreeding, scientists have found.
Many different species of guenons live side-by-side meaning mating with other species, which could lead to infertile offspring, is a possibility.
The researchers used human facial recognition technology to identify primate features from photographs. They found that guenons' looks have evolved to become more distinctive from their relatives living close by.
The findings are reported in the journal Nature Communications and researchers say they are the best evidence to date of visual signs acting as a barrier to breeding across species.
Guenons - Cercopithecini - are a group of more than 25 species of monkeys which originated in the forests of Central and West Africa.
"A key question is what mechanisms keep closely related species that overlap geographically from interbreeding, so that they are maintained as separate species.
"Our findings offer evidence for the use of visual signals to help ensure species recognition: species may evolve to look distinct specifically from the other species they are at risk of interbreeding with," Dr Higham said.
"In other words, how you end up looking is a function of how those around you look. With the primates we studied, this has a purpose: to strengthen reproductive isolation between populations."
Scientists have previously shown examples of species being differentiated (called character displacement) by acoustic and electric signals but the authors believe their research is the best example of visual variety across a broad group.
"These results strongly suggest that the extraordinary appearance of these monkeys has been due to selection for visual signals that discourage hybridisation," lead author William Allen said.
"This is perhaps the strongest evidence to date for a role for visual signals in the key evolutionary processes by which species are formed and maintained, and it is particularly exciting that we have found it in part of our own lineage."
The team is now carrying out more research to find out whether guenons are more distinctive from those species they now live beside or those they were living with at the time their species emerged.

This shit is really getting old

World's oldest human poop may have been found in Spain

Maybe archaeologists should watch where they step. Researchers have stumbled across what may be the world's oldest human poop, deposited by Neanderthals about 50,000 years ago atop an ancient campfire in Spain.

If the discovery is truly a prehistoric latrine – a claim that has provoked skepticism among other researchers – it contradicts the pop-culture image of Neanderthals as hunters who subsisted on hunks of flesh. Two of the new poop samples contain the chemical footprints of both meat and plant consumption, providing the earliest known evidence that humans were omnivores who ate significant quantities of plant-based food.

To the uneducated eye, the newfound Pleistocene poop doesn't look like poop except for its light-brown color, and the scientists who found it weren't looking for coprolites – preserved dung – at all. They were poking around rudimentary hearths at the Neanderthal site known as El Salt, hoping to find evidence of food preparation.

25 June 2014

Night Wolves: The heavy metal bikers Russian President Vladimir Putin calls his brothers

I am riding with the gang of hairy bikers Putin call his brothers and who have become outriders for his fiercely patriotic vision of a nation made great again.
They're known as the Night Wolves, and as evening falls I have been invited to their lair - a dark and forbidding place on the outskirts of Moscow where the bikes are loud and the Russian heavy metal music louder still.
I am for a rare meeting with the leader of the pack. Alexander Zaldostanov does not disappoint. He is a leather clad mountain of a man who in the fading light resembles a latter day tattooed Rasputin lookalike of the road.
But there the cliches end and the surprises begin. Let's start with his menacing nick-name - Alexander is known to his followers as 'The Surgeon.'
There's small scar on his right cheek. I wonder whether it's the result of a run in with a rival gang. But I needn't have worried.
"The nickname? It's because I am a surgeon, a professional surgeon," he corrects me in heavily accented English. "I trained in dental reconstruction.''
And it's true, he attended one of Moscow's leading medical colleges. But that was before a film changed his life.
Mad Max - the cult movie of motorcycles and mayhem with Mel Gibson as an avenging force in a post apocalypse world without law or order. ''The film is kind of about Russia,'' he says.
"The country is ruined and we are looking at its fragments. "We feel pain because we want to glue them back together. It's impossible to survive separately.''
Alexander has spent half a life time transforming the Night Wolves headquarters - part bikers' bar, part junk-yard - into something Mel Gibson himself might recognise as Mad Max city.
Here, we are surrounded by all manner of strange mechanical contraptions. A car with a bonnet fashioned into the form of a wolf's head, fangs bared. And dozens of motorbikes - hand built to resemble the fantasy machines from the movie; one with headlights that shine through a serpent's head. Alexander is evidently very proud.
"I never thought we would be able to create Mad Max City here in today's Russia," he tells me. "But it’s as real now as the re-union of Russia and Crimea.'' He should know.
At the start of the year, Alexander and the Night Wolves showed up in Sebastopol, city of his birth, having driven though Ukraine, officially to deliver aid to pro-Russian rebels. But it was also a moral boosting propaganda coup for Moscow as it sought to rest control of the region from Kiev.
For several years now, the spectacular bike shows the Wolves mount in Russia have been vivid, flag waving exercises in Russian soft power. They are about far more than motorbikes. The shows have featured recreations of battles from the second war, a naval choir, and blazing symbols of the old Soviet Union.
At a show in 2011, Putin rode in with the Wolves (though he played safe on a three wheeler) and praised the biker's patriotism.
It was vital, the President said, to help forge 'one unified and indivisible Russian nation.' Alexander and his Night Wolves have travelled a long road since their formation in the last days of Soviet Russia.
Back in the late eighties they were rebels who raised a collective oily fist to the Kremlin. "You know I was against the ideas of Communism,'' says Alexander, before explaining his change of heart. "In the old country there were more pluses than in today's Russia. It had none of the lies and hypocrisy of modern times."
Clearly the misses the old Soviet Union, not for the straightjacket of Communism, but for the lost glories of Russian prestige and power on the world stage. And in Putin, he sees a man who can restore at least some of that.
"I believe that what happened to my country is a flagrant injustice. A people who were united were artificially divided. I was born in Ukraine, spent my childhood in Sebastopol and I live in Moscow. For me this is one country, and what ever others say, the Ukraine is part of the Russian world."
Alexander 'The Surgeon'

Time-traveling photons connect general relativity to quantum mechanics

Space-time structure exhibiting closed paths in space (horizontal) and time (vertical). A quantum particle travels through a wormhole back in time and returns to the same location in space and time. (Photo credit: Martin Ringbauer)

Scientists have simulated time travel by using particles of light acting as quantum particles sent away and then brought back to their original space-time location. This is a huge step toward marrying two of the most irreconcilable theories in physics.

Since traveling all the way to a black hole to see if an object you’re holding would bend, break or put itself back together in inexplicable ways is a bit of a trek, scientists have decided to find a point of convergence between general relativity and quantum mechanics in lab conditions, and they achieved success.

Australian researchers from the UQ’s School of Mathematics and Physics wanted to plug the holes in the discrepancies that exist between two of our most commonly accepted physics theories, which is no easy task: on the one hand, you have Einstein’s theory of general relativity, which predicts the behavior of massive objects like planets and galaxies; but on the other, you have something whose laws completely clash with Einstein’s – and that is the theory of quantum mechanics, which describes our world at the molecular level. And this is where things get interesting: we still have no concrete idea of all the principles of movement and interaction that underpin this theory.

Natural laws of space and time simply break down there. 

The light particles used in the study are known as photons, and in this University of Queensland study, they stood in for actual quantum particles for the purpose of finding out how they behaved while moving through space and time.

The team simulated the behavior of a single photon that travels back in time through a wormhole and meets its older self – an identical photon. "We used single photons to do this but the time-travel was simulated by using a second photon to play the part of the past incarnation of the time traveling photon,” said UQ Physics Professor Tim Ralph as quoted by The Speaker. 

The findings were published in the journal Nature Communications and gained support from the country’s key institutions on quantum physics.

Some of the biggest examples of why the two approaches can’t be reconciled concern the so-called space-time loop. Einstein suggested that you can travel back in time and return to the starting point in space and time. This presented a problem, known commonly as the 'grandparents paradox,' theorized by Kurt Godel in 1949: if you were to travel back in time and prevent your grandparents from meeting, and in so doing prevent your own birth, the classical laws of physics would prevent you from being born. 

But Tim Ralph has reminded that in 1991, such situations could be avoided by harnessing quantum mechanics’ flexible laws: “The properties of quantum particles are ‘fuzzy’ or uncertain to start with, so this gives them enough wiggle room to avoid inconsistent time travel situations,” he said. 

There are still ways in which science hasn’t tested the meeting points between general relativity and quantum mechanics – such as when relativity is tested under extreme conditions, where its laws visibly seem to bend, just like near the event horizon of a black hole. 

But since it’s not really easy to approach one, the UQ scientists were content with testing out these points of convergence on photons.

"Our study provides insights into where and how nature might behave differently from what our theories predict," Professor Ralph said.

24 June 2014

Revolution is coming and it will conquer the 1% - ex CIA spy

The End of the Global Zionist-plutocracy
Last month, Steele presented a startling paper at the Libtech conference in New York, sponsored by the Internet Society and Reclaim. Drawing on principles set out in his latest book, The Open-Source Everything Manifesto: Transparency, Truth and Trust, he told the audience that all the major preconditions for revolution – set out in his 1976 graduate thesis – were now present in the United States and Britain.
Steele's book is a must-read, a powerful yet still pragmatic roadmap to a new civilisational paradigm that simultaneously offers a trenchant, unrelenting critique of the prevailing global order. His interdisciplinary 'whole systems' approach dramatically connects up the increasing corruption, inefficiency and unaccountability of the intelligence system and its political and financial masters with escalating inequalities and environmental crises. But he also offers a comprehensive vision of hope that activist networks like Reclaim are implementing today.
"We are at the end of a five-thousand-year-plus historical process during which human society grew in scale while it abandoned the early indigenous wisdom councils and communal decision-making," he writes in The Open Source Everything Manifesto. "Power was centralised in the hands of increasingly specialised 'elites' and 'experts' who not only failed to achieve all they promised but used secrecy and the control of information to deceive the public into allowing them to retain power over community resources that they ultimately looted."
Today's capitalism, he argues, is inherently predatory and destructive:
"Over the course of the last centuries, the commons was fenced, and everything from agriculture to water was commoditised without regard to the true cost in non-renewable resources. Human beings, who had spent centuries evolving away from slavery, were re-commoditised by the Industrial Era."
Open source everything, in this context, offers us the chance to build on what we've learned through industrialisation, to learn from our mistakes, and catalyse the re-opening of the commons, in the process breaking the grip of defunct power structures and enabling the possibility of prosperity for all.
"Sharing, not secrecy, is the means by which we realise such a lofty destiny as well as create infinite wealth. The wealth of networks, the wealth of knowledge, revolutionary wealth - all can create a nonzero win-win Earth that works for one hundred percent of humanity. This is the 'utopia' that Buckminster Fuller foresaw, now within our reach."
The goal, he concludes, is to reject:
"... concentrated illicitly aggregated and largely phantom wealth in favor of community wealth defined by community knowledge, community sharing of information, and community definition of truth derived in transparency and authenticity, the latter being the ultimate arbiter of shared wealth."
He points me to his tremendous collection of reviews of books on climate change, disease, environmental degradation, peak oil, and water scarcity. "I see five major overlapping threats on the immediate horizon," he continues. "They are all related: the collapse of complex societies, the acceleration of the Earth's demise with changes that used to take 10,000 years now taking three or less, predatory or shock capitalism and financial crime out of the City of London and Wall Street, and political corruption at scale, to include the west supporting 42 of 44 dictators. We are close to multiple mass catastrophes."
What about the claim that the US is on the brink of revolution? "Revolution is overthrow – the complete reversal of the status quo ante. We are at the end of centuries of what Lionel Tiger calls 'The Manufacture of Evil,' in which merchant banks led by the City of London have conspired with captive governments to concentrate wealth and commoditise everything including humans. What revolution means in practical terms is that balance has been lost and the status quo ante is unsustainable. There are two 'stops' on greed to the nth degree: the first is the carrying capacity of Earth, and the second is human sensibility. We are now at a point where both stops are activating."
Former CIA officer's matrix on the preconditions for revolution

It's not just the US, he adds. "The preconditions of revolution exist in the UK, and most western countries. The number of active pre-conditions is quite stunning, from elite isolation to concentrated wealth to inadequate socialisation and education, to concentrated land holdings to loss of authority to repression of new technologies especially in relation to energy, to the atrophy of the public sector and spread of corruption, to media dishonesty, to mass unemployment of young men and on and on and on."
So why isn't it happening yet?

"Preconditions are not the same as precipitants. We are waiting for our Tunisian fruit seller. The public will endure great repression, especially when most media outlets and schools are actively aiding the repressive meme of 'you are helpless, this is the order of things.' When we have a scandal so powerful that it cannot be ignored by the average Briton or American, we will have a revolution that overturns the corrupt political systems in both countries, and perhaps puts many banks out of business. Vaclav Havel calls this 'The Power of the Powerless.' One spark, one massive fire."
But we need more than revolution, in the sense of overthrow, to effect change, surely. How does your manifesto for 'open source everything' fit into this? "The west has pursued an industrialisation path that allows for the privatisation of wealth from the commons, along with the criminalisation of commons rights of the public, as well as the externalisation of all true costs. Never mind that fracking produces earthquakes and poisons aquifers – corrupt politicians at local, state or province, and national levels are all too happy to take money for looking the other way. Our entire commercial, diplomatic, and informational systems are now cancerous. When trade treaties have secret sections – or are entirely secret – one can be certain the public is being screwed and the secrecy is an attempt to avoid accountability. Secrecy enables corruption. So also does an inattentive public enable corruption."
Is this a crisis of capitalism, then? Does capitalism need to end for us to resolve these problems? And if so, how? "Predatory capitalism is based on the privatisation of profit and the externalisation of cost. It is an extension of the fencing of the commons, of enclosures, along with the criminalisation of prior common customs and rights. What we need is a system that fully accounts for all costs. Whether we call that capitalism or not is irrelevant to me. But doing so would fundamentally transform the dynamic of present day capitalism, by making capital open source.
So how does open source everything have the potential to 're-engineer the Earth'? For me, this is the most important question, and Steele's answer is inspiring. "Open Source Everything overturns top-down 'because I say so at the point of a gun' power. Open Source Everything makes truth rather than violence the currency of power. Open Source Everything demands that true cost economics and the indigenous concept of 'seventh generation thinking' – how will this affect society 200 years ahead – become central. Most of our problems today can be traced to the ascendance of unilateral militarism, virtual colonialism, and predatory capitalism, all based on force and lies and encroachment on the commons. The national security state works for the City of London and Wall Street – both are about to be toppled by a combination of Eastern alternative banking and alternative international development capabilities, and individuals who recognise that they have the power to pull their money out of the banks and not buy the consumer goods that subsidise corruption and the concentration of wealth. The opportunity to take back the commons for the benefit of humanity as a whole is open – here and now."
For Steele, the open source revolution is inevitable, simply because the demise of the system presided over by the 1% cannot be stopped – and because the alternatives to reclaiming the commons are too dismal to contemplate. We have no choice but to step up.

Monarch butterfly uses magnetic, Sun compasses


Each fall millions of monarch butterflies use a sophisticated navigation system to transverse 2,000 miles from breeding sites across the eastern United States to an overwintering habitat in specific groves of fir trees in central Mexico. Scientists at the University of Massachusetts Medical School and Worcester Polytechnic Institute have identified a new component of this complex system. They reported in Nature Communications that monarchs use a light-dependent, inclination magnetic compass to help them orient southward during migration.

23 June 2014

Higgs Boson Theorist Claims Universe Shouldn't Exist

The universe shouldn't exist — at least according to a new theory.
Modeling of conditions soon after the Big Bang [Big Seed] suggests the universe should have collapsed just microseconds after its explosive [sprouting] birth, the new study suggests.
"During the early universe, we expected cosmic inflation — this is a rapid expansion of the universe right after the Big Bang," [Big Seed] said study co-author Robert Hogan, a doctoral candidate in physics at King's College in London. "This expansion causes lots of stuff to shake around, and if we shake it too much, we could go into this new energy space, which could cause the universe to collapse."        
Physicists draw that conclusion from a model that accounts for the properties of the newly discovered Higgs boson particle, which is thought to explain how other particles get their mass. Faint traces of gravitational waves formed at the universe's origin also inform the conclusion.       
Of course, there must be something missing from these calculations. 
       evolutionary transubstantiation
"We are here talking about it," Hogan told LiveScience. "That means we have to extend our theories to explain why this didn't happen."
One possible explanation holds that during the fiery flash after the primordial Big Bang explosion [Big Seed sprouting]  matter raced outward at breakneck speeds in a process known as cosmic inflation. This bent and squeezed space-time, creating ripples known as gravitational waves that also twisted the radiation that passed through the universe, Hogan said.
Though those events would have occurred 13.8 billion years ago, a telescope at the South Pole known as the Background Imaging of Cosmic Extragalactic Polarization, or BICEP, recently detected the faint traces of cosmic inflation in the background microwave radiation that pervades the universe: in particular, characteristic twisted or curled waves called the B-mode pattern. (Other scientists have questioned the findings, saying the results may just be from dust in the Milky Way.)
Gravity wasn't the only force at play in the early universe. A ubiquitous energy field, called the Higgs field, permeates the universe and gives mass to the particles that trudge through the field. Scientists found the telltale sign of that field in 2012, when they discovered the Higgs boson and then determined its mass.        
With a greater understanding of cosmic inflation's properties and the Higgs boson mass, Hogan and his colleague, Malcolm Fairbairn, who is also a physicist at King's College London, tried to recreate the conditions of cosmic inflation after the Big Bang [Big Seed].
What they found was bad news for, well, everything. The newborn universe should have experienced an intense jittering in the energy field, known as quantum fluctuation. Those jitters, in turn, could have disrupted the Higgs field, in essence rolling the entire system into a much lower energy state that would make the collapse of the universe inevitable.
So if the universe shouldn't exist, why is it here?
"The generic expectation is that there must be some new physics that we haven't put in our theories yet, because we haven't been able to discover them," Hogan said.
One leading possibility, known as the theory of supersymmetry, proposes that there are superpartner particles for all the currently known particles, and perhaps more-powerful particle accelerators could find these particles, Hogan said.
But the theory of cosmic inflation is still speculative, and some physicists hint that what looked like primordial gravitational waves to the BICEP telescope may actually be signals from cosmic dust in the galaxy, said Sean Carroll, a physicist at the California Institute of Technology and author of "The Particle at the End of the Universe: How the Hunt for the Higgs Boson Leads Us to the Edge of a New World."
If the details of cosmic inflation change, then Hogan and Fairbairn's model would need to adapt as well, Carroll told LiveScience. Carroll was not involved in the study.
This isn't the first time that physicists have said the Higgs boson spells doom for the universe. Others have calculated that the Higgs boson's mass would lead to a fundamentally unstable universe that could end apocalyptically in billions of years.
The mass of the Higgs boson, about 126 times that of the proton, turns out to be "right on the edge," in terms of the universe's stability, Carroll said. A little bit lighter, and the Higgs field would be much more easily perturbed; a little heavier, and the current Higgs field would be incredibly stable.
Hogan is presenting his findings Tuesday at the Royal Astronomical Society meeting in Portsmouth, England. The study was published May 20 in Physical Review Letters.

22 June 2014

Built into the atomic structure of molecules

What might the world like today look like without rare ... events that happened in the past?
Credit: University of Chicago Medical Center

Chance [sic] events may profoundly shape history. What if Franz Ferdinand's driver had not taken a wrong turn, bringing the Duke face to face with his assassin? Would World War I still have been fought? Would Hitler have risen to power decades later?
Historians can only speculate on what might have been, but a team of evolutionary biologists studying ancient proteins has turned speculation into experiment. They resurrected an ancient ancestor of an important human protein as it existed hundreds of millions of years ago and then used biochemical methods to generate and characterize a huge number of alternative histories that could have ensued from that ancient starting point.
Tracing these alternative evolutionary paths, the researchers discovered that the protein – the cellular receptor for the stress hormone cortisol – could not have evolved its modern-day function unless two extremely unlikely mutations happened to evolve first. These "permissive" mutations had no effect on the protein's function, but without them the protein could not tolerate the later mutations that caused it to evolve its sensitivity to cortisol. In screening thousands of alternative histories, the researchers found no alternative permissive mutations that could have allowed the protein's modern-day form to evolve. The researchers describe their findings June 16, online in Nature.
"This very important protein exists only because of a twist of fate [sic]," said study senior author Joe Thornton, PhD, professor of ecology & evolution and human genetics at the University of Chicago.
"If our results are general – and we think they probably are – then many of our body's systems work as they do because of very unlikely chance [sic] events that happened in our deep evolutionary past," he added.
Thornton specializes in ancestral protein reconstruction, a technique that uses gene sequencing and computational methods to travel backwards through the evolutionary tree and infer the likely sequences of proteins as they existed in the deep past. Through biochemical methods, these ancient proteins can be synthesized and introduced into living organisms to study their function.
Thornton and others have previously shown that the evolution of modern-day proteins required permissive mutations in the past. But no one had
To answer this question, Thornton and co-author Michael Harms, PhD, of the University of Oregon focused on the glucocorticoid receptor (GR), a key protein in the endocrine system that regulates development and stress responses in response to the hormone cortisol. They resurrected the gene for ancestral GR as it existed around 450 million years ago, before it evolved its capacity to specifically recognize cortisol. They included a handful of mutations that occurred slightly later that allowed the protein to evolve its cortisol recognition, but they left out the permissive mutations, rendering the protein nonfunctional.
Thornton and Harms then created millions of copies of this genetic template, using a method that introduced random mutations into every new copy, thus mimicking the variation that evolution could have produced in the protein under alternative scenarios. To identify permissive mutations in these "might-have-been" pathways, they engineered yeast cells that could grow only if they contained a functional GR and then introduced their "library" of mutated versions of ancestral GR into them. If any of the mutations were permissive, they would restore the GR's function and allow the yeast to grow when exposed to cortisol.
Thornton and Harms tested many thousands of variants but found none that restored the function of GR other than the historical mutations that occurred in actuality. "Among the huge numbers of alternate possible histories, there were no other permissive mutations that could have opened an evolutionary path to the modern-day GR," Thornton said.
By studying the effects of mutations on the ancient protein's physical architecture, Harms and Thornton also showed why permissive mutations are so rare. To exert a permissive effect, a mutation had to stabilize a specific portion of the protein – the same part destabilized by the function-switching mutations – without stabilizing other regions or otherwise disrupting the structure. Very few mutations, they showed, can satisfy all these narrow constraints.
"These results show that contingency [sic] – the influence of chance [sic] events on the way evolution unfolds – is built into the atomic structure of molecules," said Irene Eckstrand, Ph.D., of the National Institutes of Health's National Institute of General Medical Sciences, which provided substantial funding for the research. "If the results hold true for other systems, this will be a highly significant contribution to our understanding of exactly how proteins can evolve new functions – a process that accounts for the diversity of life and the origins of genetic variation."
While most prior discussions of historical contingency [sic] in evolution have focused on external events such as asteroid impacts, mass extinctions, climate change, Thornton and Harms showed that the intrinsic complexity of proteins as physical objects also makes evolution depend profoundly on low-probability chance [sic] events.
"It's very exciting to have been able to directly study alternative ancient histories," Thornton said. "If evolutionary history could be relaunched from ancestral starting points, we would almost certainly end up with a radically different biology from the one we have now. Unpredictable genetic events are constantly opening paths to some evolutionary outcomes and closing the paths to others, all within the biochemical systems of our cells.
"Built-in" indicates teleological processes, not "chance" or "randomness." 
Scientists should stick with science, because the moment they start bandying about philosophically loaded terms, they display utter ineptitude. 

19 June 2014

Ancient Dwarf Starburst Galaxies Helped a Young Universe Grow

Massive galaxies in the early Universe formed stars at a much faster clip than they do today — creating the equivalent of a thousand new suns per year. This rate reached its peak 3 billion years after the Big Bang, and by 6 billion years, galaxies had created most of their stars.
New observations from the Hubble Space Telescope show that even dwarf galaxies — the small, low mass clusters of several billion stars — produced stars at a rapid rate, playing a bigger role than expected in the early history of the Universe.
“We already suspected that dwarf starbursting galaxies would contribute to the early wave of star formation, but this is the first time we’ve been able to measure the effect they actually had.”
“They appear to have had a surprisingly significant role to play during the epoch where the Universe formed most of its stars.”
Atek and colleagues looked at 1000 galaxies from roughly three billion years to 10 billion years after the Big Bang. They dug through their data, in search of the H-alpha line: a deep-red visible spectral line, which occurs when a hydrogen electron falls from its third to second lowest energy level.

The team doesn’t yet know why these small galaxies are producing such a vast number of stars. In general, bursts of star formation are thought to follow somewhat chaotic events like galactic mergers or the shock of a supernova. But by continuing to study these dwarf galaxies, astronomers hope to shed light on galactic evolution and help paint a consistent picture of events in the early Universe.

GOODS field containing distant dwarf galaxies forming stars at an incredible rate. Image Credit: NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope

18 June 2014

Elon Musk: ‘I’m Hopeful That The First People Can Be Taken To Mars in 10, 12 Years’

Musk on how quickly he wants to see humans on Mars:
This is a very difficult thing, obviously. I’m hopeful that the first people could be taken to Mars in 10, 12 years. I think it’s certainly possible for that to occur. The thing that matters long term is to have a self-sustaining city on Mars. To make life multi-planetary. That will define a fundamental bifurcation of the future of human civilization. We’ll either be a multi-planet species and out there among the stars, or a single-planet species until some eventual extinction event, natural or man-made.
Artist impression of a Mars settlement with cutaway view
(Photo : NASA Ames Research Center)


Madeleine Jana Korbel Albright is a former United States Secretary of State. She was nominated by U.S. President Bill Clinton on December 5, 1996, and was unanimously confirmed by a U.S. Senate vote of 99–0. She was sworn in on January 23, 1997.
On May 12, 1996, Madeleine Albright (then U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations) appeared on a 60 Minutes segment in which Lesley Stahl asked her "We have heard that half a million children have died. I mean, that's more children than died in Hiroshima. And, you know, is the price worth it?"

Albright replied "we think the price is worth it."

ISIS videos show their weapons, skills in Iraq

17 June 2014

Quantum biology


A research team led by Australian scientists says a strange quantum phenomenon during photosynthesis that allows algae to survive in low lights levels might lead to more efficient organic-based solar cells.
The exact function of the quantum effect known as coherence in algae is unknown, they say, but likely is how they harvest energy from the sun at low light levels.
"We studied tiny single-celled algae called cryptophytes that thrive in the bottom of pools of water, or under thick ice, where very little light reaches them," says senior study author Paul Curmi of the University of New South Wales.
While the light-harvesting method of most such types of algae displays quantum coherence, a genetic mutation altering a light-harvesting type of protein in some algae causes it to be switched off, the researchers found.
The finding will allow the study of the role quantum coherence plays in photosynthesis by comparing algae with and without those proteins, Curmi said.
In the often baffling realm of quantum physics, systems deemed to be coherent -- having all their quantum waves moving in step - can exist in different states at the same time, an effect called superposition, the researchers said.
"The assumption is that this could increase the efficiency of photosynthesis, allowing the algae and bacteria to exist on almost no light," Curmi said.
The assumption is that quantum coherence allows energy from captured sunlight to get to the algae's photosynthesis reaction centers as fast as possible, he said.
"It was assumed the energy gets to the reaction [center] in a random fashion, like a drunk staggering home," Curmi said. "But quantum coherence would allow the energy to test every possible pathway simultaneously before travelling via the quickest route."
The researchers said they utilized X-ray crystallography in order to analyze the structure of light-harvesting centers in three species of algae.
All showed the genetic mutation that changed proteins and affected coherence, they said.
"This shows cryptophytes have evolved an elegant but powerful genetic switch to control coherence and change the mechanisms used for light harvesting," Curmi said.
In addition to possible pointing the way to better and more efficient organic solar cells, the finding could lead to a new class of quantum-based electronic devices, the researchers said.
Their next step, the researchers said, would be to analyze and compare different cryptophytes inhabiting different environmental niche to see if the quantum coherence effect is a factor in their survival.


16 June 2014

Light holds the key to some of nature's deepest secrets

"Light holds the key to some of nature's deepest secrets, but it is very challenging to confine it in small spaces," says Antonio Badolato, professor of physics at the University of Rochester and corresponding author of the Applied Physics Letters paper. "Light has no rest mass or charge that allow forces to act on it and trap it; it has to be done by carefully designing tiny mirrors that reflect light millions of times."
Nanocavities are key components of nanophotonics circuits and Badolato explains that this new approach will help implement a new-generation of highly integrated nanophotonics structures. Researchers are interested in confining light because it allows for easier manipulation and coupling to other devices. Trapping light also allows researchers to study it at its fundamental level, that is, at the state when light behaves as a particle (an area that led to the 2012 Nobel Prize in Physics).
Until now, researchers have been using educated-guess procedures to design the light-trapping nanostructures. However in this case, the team of researchers – which included lead author and Badolato's Ph.D. student, Yiming Lai, and groups from the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne, Switzerland, and the Universita di Pavia, Italy– perfected a numerical technique that lead to the design improvement. Their computational approach allowed them to search for the optimal combination of parameters among thousand of realizations using a "genetic" (or "evolutionary") algorithm tool.
The principle behind the genetic approach is to regard each new nanocavity as an individual in a population. The individuals mutate and "breed," meaning that two single structures combine to create a new one that is a cross between the two "parents." As new generations succeeded one another, the algorithm selected the fittest ones in each generation, in this case, the ones that exhibited the longest trapping time (i.e. highest quality factor).

14 June 2014

Mission Accomplished


Cracks in Pluto's moon could indicate it once had an underground ocean

This artist concept shows Pluto and some of its moons, as viewed from the surface of one of the moons. Pluto is the large disk at center. Charon is the smaller disk to the right. Credit: NASA, ESA and G. Bacon (STScI)
If the icy surface of Pluto's giant moon Charon is cracked, analysis of the fractures could reveal if its interior was warm, perhaps warm enough to have maintained a subterranean ocean of liquid water, according to a new NASA-funded study.

Pluto is an extremely distant world, orbiting the sun more than 29 times farther than Earth. With a surface temperature estimated to be about 380 degrees below zero Fahrenheit (around minus 229 degrees Celsius), the environment at Pluto is far too cold to allow liquid water on its surface. Pluto's moons are in the same frigid environment.

Pluto's remoteness and small size make it difficult to observe, but in July of 2015, NASA's New Horizons spacecraft will be the first to visit Pluto and Charon, and will provide the most detailed observations to date.

Some moons around the gas giant planets in the outer solar system have cracked surfaces with evidence for ocean interiors – Jupiter's moon Europa and Saturn's moon Enceladus are two examples.

Since liquid water is a necessary ingredient for known forms of life, the oceans of Europa and Enceladus are considered to be places where extraterrestrial life might be found. However, life also requires a useable energy source and an ample supply of many key elements, such as carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus. It is unknown if those oceans harbor these additional ingredients, or if they have existed long enough for life to form. The same questions would apply to any ancient ocean that may have existed beneath the icy crust of Charon.

New research on the quantum tunneling effect

A team from the Hanns-Christoph Nägerl Institute for Experimental Physics of the University of Innsbruck, Austria, has observed tunneling dynamics in a system of quantum particles transmitted through five potential barriers.
Quantum tunneling refers to the quantum-mechanical effect of transitioning through an energy state that is forbidden in the context of classical mechanics.
For example, there is a minimum velocity needed for a ball to roll up and over a hill, without which the ball will remain or return to its present location. In quantum mechanics, however, objects do not behave like classical objects. Instead, objects exhibit wavelike behaviors.
Returning to the example of a ball, the ball’s wave function (which describes all the characteristics of the ball’s wavelike behavior) would describe the probability of finding the ball at the other side of the hill. That the ball could be found on the other side, describes the effect of quantum tunneling: in essence, the ball could tunnel through the hill.
Interesting, the quantum tunnel effect explains a number of real-life phenomena including radioactive decay, fusion reactions such as the ones that occur in the Sun and describes how scanning tunneling microscopes work.
Now, a team from the Hanns-Christoph Nägerl Institute for Experimental Physics of the University of Innsbruck, Austria, has observed tunneling dynamics in a system of quantum particles transmitted through five potential barriers. Amazingly, one particle could not penetrate a barrier; however, the particles seemed to assist each other in moving through the barriers.
The experiments were conducted by placing Cesium gas atoms just above absolute zero temperature into an optical lattice of multiple tunneling barriers. Given that the temperatures are so low, the gas molecule kinetic energies were similarly very small. The only way to then move through the lattice was via tunneling through the barriers after a directing force had been applied.
The physicists were able to uncover how the interactions between particles and the strength of the directed force determine the number of barriers the particles can penetrate, which leads to discrete resonances corresponding to the number of barriers penetrated.
In the future, scientists hope to explore how tunnel processes in ultra cold lattice systems as the one described can be used in a variety of physical or even biological systems.

Putting Humans on Mars Is Risk Management for Our Species

SpaceX thinks humanity needs to reach Mars to survive
Manned exploration and the eventual colonization of Mars would not only be a marvel of human achievement, it would also serve as a sort of insurance in case disaster strikes on Earth, SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell told a small crowd here Wednesday

"Exploration is really what separates humans from other living species," Shotwell said during an Atlantic Council Captains of Industry discussion. "If we decide that where we are today is 'it,' that seems like a big disappointment."

SpaceX — which was founded in 2002 by billionaire Elon Musk — didn't talk about Mars in its early days, Shotwell told reporters, policymakers and members of industry. But the company has since demonstrated its "technical chops" with multiple successful launches to orbit.

If humans decided to stop exploring, saying, "This is it, we're done," that's not very inspirational, Shotwell said.

But exploration isn't the only reason to visit the Earth's rouge neighbor. Creating a settlement on Mars also constitutes "risk management" for the human race, Shotwell said.

"The probability of a significant [disastrous] event happening on Earth is very high," Shotwell said. Though she said she doesn't know when it might happen, "it would be nice to have humans living in more than one spot."

By all appearances, SpaceX has been a force in the business of launching rockets into orbit. The company has made nine out of nine successful launches of its Falcon 9 rocket, which has carried its Dragon capsule to the International Space Station on multiple occasions.

The company has recently tested its reusable rockets. SpaceX completed a successful rocket test on April 18 in which it launched a two-stage Falcon 9 rocket from Florida, and landed the first stage vertically on a target in the Atlantic Ocean.

On May 29, the company unveiled its manned Dragon V2 spaceship, which would serve as a kind of space taxi to ferry astronauts to and from the International Space Station.

The company is also developing a massive launch vehicle, the Falcon Heavy, which would be the most powerful U.S. rocket to launch since the Saturn V. "Hopefully we will launch [the Falcon Heavy] in the first half of next year," Shotwell told Space.com.

SpaceX has not yet developed the capability of exploring beyond the Earth's orbit. But Elon Musk, the company's billionaire CEO, has expressed ambitions for reaching the Red Planet, and claims the company has made progress toward establishing a colony there.

During the International Space Development Conference last month, Musk said that "the reason SpaceX was created was to accelerate development of rocket technology, all for the goal of establishing a self-sustaining, permanent base on Mars."

12 June 2014

Rebels are fighting with a moral force that the Iraqi army lacks

The ISIS forces that routed the Iraqi army in Mosul are imbued with a unifying loyalty verging on the fanatic
The disintegration of the Iraqi Army in the face of the ISIS advance should not have taken us by surprise. Napoleon once weighted the fighting worth of his military by commenting: “The moral is to the physical as three is to one.”
If we are to understand events in Iraq, we need to look at the Arab culture, of which we show repeated ignorance.
“[The challenge] is not about equipment or about training, it’s all about loyalty”, I was told in 2007 by a police general who had just survived his third assassination attempt in as many weeks. “And you can’t touch this”.
Iraq is the creation of lines on a map imposed by the French and British after the First World War. The challenge ever since has been to bring together the varied interests and loyalties of a people divided by religion, ethnicity and locality. This is a people who are further subdivided by tribes, few of which are in any way constrained by lines on maps.
In the hierarchy of internal loyalties, the weakest loyalty is to institutions.
The Iraqi Army lacks the historical and cultural foundations that create selfless loyalty and sustain fighting spirit. The ISIS forces that routed the Iraqi army in Mosul are imbued with a unifying loyalty verging on the fanatic.
This weak moral component was throughout the Achilles’ heel of the mission to rebuild Iraq’s army.
Superior Western equipment and training was more evident than relevant.

NASA physicist, artist unveil warp-speed craft design


Thanks to a NASA physicist, the notion of warp speed might just travel out of sci-fi and into the real world.
NASA's Harold White has been working since 2010 to develop a warp drive that will allow spacecraft to travel at speeds faster than light -- 186,000 miles per second.
White, who heads NASA's Advanced Propulsion Team, spoke about his conceptual starship at a conference last fall. But interest in his project reached a new level this week when he unveiled images of what the craft might look like.
At the SpaceVision 2013 Space Conference last November in Phoenix, White talked about his design, the concepts behind it and the progress that's been made in warp-drive development over the decades. He discussed the idea of a "space warp," a loophole in the theory of general relativity that would allow for massive distances to be traveled very quickly, reducing travel times from thousands of years to days.
In his speech, White described space warps as faraway galaxies that can bend light around them. They work on the principle of bending space both in front of and behind a spacecraft. This would essentially allow for the empty space behind the craft to expand, both pushing and pulling it forward at the same time. The concept is similar to that of an escalator or moving walkway.
"There's no speed limit on the expansion and contraction of space," White said at the conference. "You can actually find a way to get around what I like to call the 11th commandment: Thou shall not exceed the speed of light."
The warp drive that White's team has been working on would literally transcend space, shortening the distance between two points and allowing the craft to break the speed of light. This would be a spaceship with no speed limit.
Because travel into space has been extremely limited due to existing means of propulsion, such a technology could blow open the possibilities of space exploration. It could allow for study of the farthest reaches of space, parts that scientists once considered unimaginable.
Although the technology to create the spacecraft or the warp drive doesn't yet exist, the artistic renderings Rademaker created could potentially be a model of what's to come -- the first spacecraft to break the speed-of-light barrier and journey beyond our solar system.
According to NASA, there hasn't been any proof that a warp drive can exist, but the agency is experimenting nonetheless. Although the concept doesn't violate the laws of physics, that doesn't guarantee that it will work.