Looking for a space-time wormhole? You may be living in one

Wednesday, 28 January, 2015

Intersellar made wormholes one of the hottest dinner party topics of discussion upon its release last year, and now I bet you can’t get them out of your mind. If that’s the case this is the news you’ve been waiting for… our galaxy, the Milky Way, just might be one gigantic wormhole:

If we combine the map of the dark matter in the Milky Way with the most recent Big Bang model to explain the universe and we hypothesise the existence of space-time tunnels, what we get is that our galaxy could really contain one of these tunnels, and that the tunnel could even be the size of the galaxy itself.

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Project Blue Book, the truth is out there (maybe)

Wednesday, 21 January, 2015

Project Blue Book was the name given to an investigation carried out by the US Air Force from 1952, through to 1970, into Unidentified Flying Objects, or UFOs.

So, was it conclusively established that extraterrestrials had in fact visited Earth? I think we all know the answer to that, but don’t let that stop you from reaching your own conclusions, by way of the Project Blue Book Collection, a digitised archive of the reports produced by the project’s investigators.

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A formula for politely ending a conversation

Tuesday, 20 January, 2015

The situation where you find yourself in what you deem to be a dead-end conversation, but cannot figure out a way to politely terminate proceedings. Well, guess what, there’s a scientific formula for doing just that:

Meanwhile, psychologists Stuart Albert of the University of Pennsylvania and Suzanne Kessler of SUNY-Purchase settled on a common formula for ending social encounters: Content Summary Statement, Justification, Positive Affect Statement, Continuity, and Well-Wishing. The translation, in everyday terms: “Well, we covered everything we needed to [Content Summary Statement], and I have another meeting [Justification]. I really enjoyed getting together [Positive Affect Statement]. Let’s do it again next week [Continuity]. Take care [Well-Wishing].”

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Aliens that eat stars? Them I’d rather not encounter…

Monday, 19 January, 2015

Just because we may not be able to douse the Sun’s… fire, were we able to get our own hands on a big enough container of water, doesn’t make Sol immune to threats to its incandescence from other sources. Indeed it could be starivores, would-be lifeforms dependent on a star’s energy, may be preparing to make a meal of the Sun:

There could be all manner of alien life forms in the universe, from witless bacteria to superintelligent robots. Still, the notion of a starivore – an organism that literally devours stars – may sound a bit crazy, even to a ​seasoned sci-fi fan. And yet, if such creatures do exist, they’re probably lurking in our astronomical data right now.

Sounds more like a screenplay for a sci-fi flick to me, but who really knows?

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Life is but a thought experiment… if you want it to be

Wednesday, 14 January, 2015

Some intriguing food for thought being served up here at Quora, here is but one morsel:

What if oxygen is a highly addictive hallucinogenic drug, and the hallucinations are what we call reality? Once we stop breathing, the hallucinations stop.

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Putting out the Sun with water is like putting it out with gasoline

Monday, 12 January, 2015

If you had a bucket as large as the Sun, full of water, could you extinguish the Sun with it? No. It will probably flare up and fry you.

It is a really good question. Maybe too hard to answer for anybody but an astronomer with some very special software, as nothing like this happens in nature. In nature, a star makes a lot of carbon before it makes any oxygen, and here the oxygen is supplied first. But the probable answer is “no.” The Sun involves a special type of fire that is able to “burn” water, and so it will just get hotter, and six times brighter.

So what then to do with a body of water that cannot in fact dowse the Sun? Float Saturn in it instead? Ever heard the one about the ringed planet being able to float in water, were there a vessel big enough to hold it? Yet that doesn’t appear to hold much water either.

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Some significant scientific achievements and breakthroughs in 2014

Thursday, 18 December, 2014

Twenty-fourteen, the year that was… a summary of what Quora member Howie Reith considers to be significant scientific achievements and discoveries of the last twelve months.

In December of this year a DNA analysis of human remains was completed. Those remains were conclusively determined to be those of King Richard III, the infamous 15th century monarch of England.

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We may live in the past of a parallel universe… heavy

Wednesday, 17 December, 2014

I’m soon about to disappear for a few week’s break and I guess, after all the cake and watermelon, I’m going to need something to contemplate over the holidays… this sounds like it might fit the bill… the notion that we may live in the past of a parallel universe:

Although the model is crude, and does not incorporate either quantum mechanics or general relativity, its potential implications are vast. If it holds true for our actual universe, then the big bang could no longer be considered a cosmic beginning but rather only a phase in an effectively timeless and eternal universe. More prosaically, a two-branched arrow of time would lead to curious incongruities for observers on opposite sides. “This two-futures situation would exhibit a single, chaotic past in both directions, meaning that there would be essentially two universes, one on either side of this central state,” Barbour says. “If they were complicated enough, both sides could sustain observers who would perceive time going in opposite directions. Any intelligent beings there would define their arrow of time as moving away from this central state. They would think we now live in their deepest past.”

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Art versus science, who makes the better creative writer?

Thursday, 4 December, 2014

Who makes the better writer, a scientist, or a creative writing graduate? Not surprisingly, there appears to be a science to the art of writing

For the past three years I have taught creative writing to students in science, technology, engineering and medicine at Imperial who can take humanities options for credit. It was the interdisciplinary challenge that intrigued me, but I’ll admit to being sceptical about the students’ writing potential. So I was delighted to be proved wrong: their writing is easily as good – and often better – than that of creative writing students I have taught elsewhere, including at the University of East Anglia. And my external assessors – also writers who teach and hold PhDs from UEA – agree.

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If there is movement in the air, there is art in the air

Tuesday, 2 December, 2014

Here be an optical technique that shows how candle flames, hair dryers, and other assorted paraphernalia, and what have you, stirs up the air in their vicinity.

Rather… psychedelic, don’t you think?

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