Take one swimming pool. Add dry ice. What do you get?

Wednesday, 25 May, 2016

I’m not sure what drew me to this experiment. That it was being conducted by someone, Taras Kul, calling himself the CrazyRussianHacker, or that it involved throwing dry ice into a swimming pool. It’s something I must try one day.

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When it comes to ageing, it’s about physics not biology

Monday, 16 May, 2016

Now I wish I had paid more attention in my physics classes… is ageing a function of biology, or rather physics? It seems it might be the latter, as opposed to the former.

This tendency is codified in the second law of thermodynamics, which dictates that everything ages and decays: Buildings and roads crumble; ships and rails rust; mountains wash into the sea. Lifeless structures are helpless against the ravages of thermal motion. But life is different: Protein machines constantly heal and renew their cells. In this sense, life pits biology against physics in mortal combat. So why do living things die? Is aging the ultimate triumph of physics over biology? Or is aging part of biology itself?

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2016 has been a bumper year for exoplanets and it’s only May

Thursday, 12 May, 2016

1284 exoplanets, found by by the Kepler Space Telescope, have been validated as being the real deal so far this year. I’m not sure if they were all discovered in 2016 though, but you have wonder what the tally might be by the end of the year. There sure are a lot of planets out there.

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Carbon dioxide count soon to reach new, unsettling, milestone

Wednesday, 11 May, 2016

The atmosphere of our planet could be confirmed as containing 400 parts of carbon dioxide per million within a matter of weeks, a level from which they may be no return, and something that is likely to see temperatures continue to rise.

While the 400 figure is in itself of no particular note, compared with 399 or 401, it was a marker likely to carry important symbolism. “People react to these things when they see thresholds crossed,” Dr Etheridge said. While the fraction may seem small, it is 0.04 per cent of the atmosphere. By comparison, a similar level of alcohol would be close to the legal driving limit in Australia. “These things act at low concentrations,” he said, noting that ozone-destroying chemicals at levels of parts per trillion were enough to damage that important component of the atmosphere.

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Will the LHC confirm the existence of a mysterious new particle?

Wednesday, 4 May, 2016

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is due to resume operations soon, after a maintenance shutdown, and some scientists think that a batch of upcoming experiments will prove the existence of a new particle, one that might redefine their understanding of the universe. Fascinating…

Last year, researchers there recorded faint but extremely promising signs of what could be a new particle that does not fit within the current theoretical model. The LHC is now about to resume operation after being shut down since December for annual maintenance. If its next run confirms the existence of the new particle, that could open the long-sought passage to ‘the new physics’ – and, hopefully, answer some big, longstanding questions.

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Black holes, gateways to other universes, rather than dead ends?

Friday, 29 April, 2016

Hadn’t people thought this to be the case already? British physicist Stephen Hawking thinks that black holes, rather than being objects from which nothing can escape, including light, could possibly be portals to other universes. Anyone game enough to find out?

“For more than 200 years, we have believed in the science of determinism, that is that the laws of science determine the evolution of the universe” Stephen Hawking said. If information was lost in black holes, we wouldn’t be able to predict the future because the black hole could emit any collection of particles.” In an earlier talk, Hawking had said things can escape out a black hole, both from the outside and probably through another universe.

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MOON, a globe of the Moon to end all globes of the Moon

Friday, 22 April, 2016

MOON, by Oscar Lhermitte and Kudu

MOON stands to be the most topographically accurate globe ever produced of the Earth’s satellite, if designer Oscar Lhermitte, and design studio Kudu, are able to raise sufficient funds to make the idea a reality, something they already appear to have achieved.

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I was busted by my brainwaves during last night’s heist

Thursday, 21 April, 2016

Forget about wearing the balaclava and gloves during tonight’s heist, it’s not your facial features, or finger prints, that will give you away, but rather your brainwaves, or brain prints, that stand to reveal your identity to the powers that be (though possibly a tin-foil hat might help).

Researchers at Binghamton University in US recorded the brain activity of 50 people wearing an electroencephalogram (EEG) headset while they looked at a series of 500 images designed specifically to elicit unique responses from person to person – eg a slice of pizza, a boat, or the word “conundrum.” They found that participants’ brains reacted differently to each image, enough that a computer system was able to identify each volunteer’s ‘brainprint’ with 100 per cent accuracy.

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Fresh water? That stuff is older than the Sun…

Tuesday, 19 April, 2016

It’s a fair bet the water you drink daily may not be quite as fresh as you’d think. And I don’t mean it’s been sitting on the shelf for a week or something, but rather it may be billions of years old:

It’s a mystery how the world became awash in it. But one prevailing theory says that water originated on our planet from ice specks floating in a cosmic cloud before our sun was set ablaze, more than 4.6 billion years ago. As much as half of all the water on Earth may have come from that interstellar gas according to astrophysicists’ calculations. That means the same liquid we drink and that fills the oceans may be millions of years older than the solar system itself.

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Wanted, two comets transmitting would-be signals from aliens

Tuesday, 19 April, 2016

In 1977, US astronomer Jerry Ehman, while listening into the cosmos by way of the Ohio State University’s Big Ear radio telescope, detected a short radio signal that some scientists felt could only have been transmitted by an extraterrestrial intelligence elsewhere in the galaxy.

Ehman’s find soon became known as the WOW! signal, but to the disappointment of those hoping to have found another civilisation within the Milky Way, no more transmissions were ever picked up in the vicinity of the Chi Sagittarii group of stars, the signal’s apparent source.

Now forty years later, Antonio Paris, a professor at Florida’s St Petersburg College, thinks he has found an explanation for the mysterious signal, it may have something to do with two comets that were in the same part of the sky, when the WOW! signal was detected.

Known as 266P/Christensen and 335P/Gibbs, they have never been investigated before because they were only discovered in 2006 and 2008 respectively. Paris found that they were both in the vicinity of Chi Sagittarii on the day that the ‘Wow!’ signal was detected. This could be significant because comets are surrounded by clouds of hydrogen gas that are millions of kilometres in diameter. The ‘Wow!’ signal itself was detected by Ehman at 1420MHz, which is a radio frequency that hydrogen naturally emits.

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