Category: News Posts

The Big Bang: What Really Happened At Our Universe’s Birth?

It took quite a bit more than seven days to create the universe as we know it today.

Our universe was born about 13.7 billion years ago in a massive expansion that blew space up like a gigantic balloon.

That, in a nutshell, is the Big Bang theory, which virtually all cosmologists and theoretical physicists endorse. The evidence supporting the idea is extensive and convincing.

We know, for example, that the universe is still expanding even now, at an ever-accelerating rate.

Scientists have also discovered a predicted thermal imprint of the Big Bang, the universe-pervading cosmic microwave background radiation.




And we don’t see any objects obviously older than 13.7 billion years, suggesting that our universe came into being around that time.

All of these things put the Big Bang on an extremely solid foundation,” said astrophysicist Alex Filippenko of the University of California, Berkeley. “The Big Bang is an enormously successful theory.

So what does this theory teach us? What really happened at the birth of our universe, and how did it take the shape we observe today?

The beginning

Traditional Big Bang theory posits that our universe began with a singularity — a point of infinite density and temperature whose nature is difficult for our minds to grasp.

However, this may not accurately reflect reality, researchers say, because the singularity idea is based on Einstein’s theory of general relativity.

The problem is, there’s no reason whatsoever to believe general relativity in that regime,” said Sean Carroll, a theoretical physicist at Caltech.

It’s going to be wrong, because it doesn’t take into account quantum mechanics. And quantum mechanics is certainly going to be important once you get to that place in the history of the universe.

So the very beginning of the universe remains pretty murky. Scientists think they can pick the story up at about 10 to the minus 36 seconds one trillionth of a trillionth of a trillionth of a second after the Big Bang.

Inflation was the ‘bang’ of the Big Bang,” Filippenko said. “Before inflation, there was just a little bit of stuff, quite possibly, expanding just a little bit. We needed something like inflation to make the universe big.

During inflation, dark energy made the universe smooth out and accelerate. But it didn’t stick around for long.

Scientists don’t know what might have spurred inflation. That remains one of the key questions in Big Bang cosmology, Filippenko said.

Cosmologists and physicists are working hard to refine their theories and bring the universe’s earliest moments into sharper and sharper focus.

But will they ever truly know what happened at the Big Bang?

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Pass it on: New Scientist

How To Succeed In The Asteroid Business Without Really Mining

When most people think of asteroids, they might think of phrases like “civilization killer.” Or “boring rock.”

But other people think “business opportunity.” A growing set of companies, including Deep Space Industries and Planetary Resources, want to mine asteroids for all they’re worth.

After digging out materials like water and precious metals, entrepreneurs can sell those commodities in space—to the maybe-burgeoning exploration industry  and back on Earth.

But Earthlings are still a long way from mining asteroids. In the meantime, then, mining companies need a short-term financial plan to stay in business.




To make money and advance their technology in the lean years the ones between mission planning and cashing in on those sweet, sweet space rocks they sometimes have to get creative.

Not every nascent space company gets to rely on billionaire backing (that’s what the main mining-of-the-future competitor, Planetary Resources, did).

No, Deep Space Industries had to start by searching for funders.

Last fall, the upstart company snagged a seed investment from the firm Metatron Global, money that will help it make general hires and drive product development.

But that’s not the only kind of investment the company is looking for. Other collaborators are putting money into specific R&D projects, like Deep Space Industries’ first planned mission: Prospector-X.

Set for launch in 2017, this nanosatellite will stay in low-Earth orbit, testing the tech that will go to an actual asteroid—like propulsion, navigation, and resistance to radiation.

To support that prototype mission, Deep Space Industries has partnered with Luxembourg. Yes, the country.

Why … Luxembourg? It’s known for finance and banking, says Meagan Crawford, Deep Space Industries’ director of communications, and has “a deep background in mining and the steel industry, as well as a vibrant high-tech industry.

But that money is a long ways away. Which is why it’s important to realize that Prospector-1’s bones are a “solar system exploration platform,” says Crawford.

That platform doesn’t have to be mine-oriented. Once Deep Space Industries has its own Prospector-1, it plans to sell other copies of the platform to other entities.

Businesses, sure. But also nations. “Countries that don’t have their own space programs who are looking to break in to the space industry,” says Crawford.

Kind of like a space-program starter-kit,” I say.

She says yes.

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Pass it on: Popular Science

No, there Hasn’t Been A Human ‘Head Transplant’, And There May Never Be

Neurosurgeon Sergio Canavero is in the news again, claiming to have performed the first successful human head transplant. But even cursory analysis reveals that he hasn’t.

And scientific logic suggests he never will.

In February 2015, Sergio Canavero appeared in this very publication claiming a live human head will be successfully transplanted onto a donor human body within two years.

He’s popped up in the media a lot since then, but two years and nine months later, how are things looking?

Well, he’s only gone and done it! As we can see in this Telegraph story from today, the world’s first human head transplant has been successfully carried out.

Guess all those more timid neurobods who said it couldn’t be done are feeling pretty foolish right now, eh?

Well, not quite. Because if you look past the triumphant and shocking headlines, the truth of the matter becomes very clear, very quickly.




These “successful” procedures are anything but

Many of Canavero’s previous appearances in the media have been accompanied by claims of successful head transplant procedures.

But, how are we defining “successful” here? Canavero’s definition seems to be extremely “generous” at best.

For instance, he recently claimed to have “successfully” performed a head transplant on a monkey. But did he?

While the monkey head did apparently survive the procedure, it never regained consciousness, it was only kept alive for 20 hours for “ethical reasons” and there was no attempt made at connecting the spinal cord.

So even if the monkey had survived long-term it would have been paralysed for life. So, it was a successful procedure.

If you consider paralysis, lack of consciousness and a lifespan of less than a day as indicators of “success”.

There was also his “successful” rat head transplant, which involved grafting a severed rat head onto a different rat, a living one that still had its head.

Exactly how this counts as a “transplant” is anyone’s guess. It’s adding a (functionally useless) appendage onto an otherwise healthy subject.

And this recent successful human head transplant? It was on corpses!

Call me a perfectionist if you must, but I genuinely think that any surgical procedure where the patients or subjects die before it even starts is really stretching the definition of “success” to breaking point.

Maybe the procedure did make a good show of “attaching” the nerves and blood vessels on the broad scale, but, so what?

That’s just the start of what’s required for a working bodily system. There’s still a way to go.

You can weld two halves of different cars together and call it a success if you like, but if the moment you turn the key in the ignition the whole thing explodes, most would be hard pressed to back you up on your brilliance.

Perhaps the techniques used to preserve the heads and attach them have some scientific value, but it’s still a far cry from the idea of someone wandering around with a fully functional body that isn’t the one they were born with.

Canavero seems to have a habit of claiming barnstorming triumph based on negligible achievements, or even after making things much worse. He seems to be the neurosurgical equivalent of the UK Brexit negotiating team.

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Pass it on: Popular Science

Elon Musk Unveils Tesla Electric Truck – And A Surprise New Sports Car

Elon Musk unveiled Tesla’s first electric semi-truck on Thursday evening at an event in Los Angeles that also included the surprise reveal of a new Tesla sports car.

The new Roadster, which has the same name as the first electric vehicle produced by Tesla from 2008 to 2012, emerged from the back of one of the trucks at the end of a presentation that focused largely on the economic and performance needs of truck drivers.

The point of doing this is just to give a hardcore smackdown to gasoline cars,” Musk said. “Driving a gasoline sports car is going to feel like a steam engine with a side of quiche.”




While the sports car provided a jolt of excitement for Tesla enthusiasts, much of the event focused on pitching the truck to truck drivers – customers with very different concerns than the average Tesla owner.

In typical Musk style, the CEO had hyped the truck on Twitter throughout the week.

On Sunday, he promised that it “will blow your mind clear out of your skull and into an alternate dimension”, while on Wednesday he teased that the truck “can transform into a robot, fight aliens and make one hell of a latte”.

There was no espresso machine to be seen, but Musk did promise a laundry list of features that he claimed would ensure the overall cost of ownership will be 20% less per mile compared with diesel trucks.

Among them: faster acceleration, better uphill performance, a 500-mile (805km) range at maximum weight at highway speed, and “thermonuclear explosion-proof glass” in the windshield.

Safety features include enhanced autopilot, lane-keeping technology, and a design that makes jackknifing “impossible”, Musk said.

Musk claimed it would be “economic suicide” to continue using diesel trucks, saying the Tesla version, if driven in convoy, would be cheaper than shipping goods by rail.

The CEO’s promises for the new Roadster were no less ambitious. Musk said the car’s acceleration from 0 to 60 mph and 0 to 100 mph, as well as its quarter-mile speed, were all “world records” for production cars.

He said production on the trucks would begin in 2019 and the sports cars would be available in 2020.

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Pass it on: Popular Science

Scientists Send Secret Message To Aliens In New Search For Intelligent Life

If the “truth is out there,” scientists are determined to find it – so much so that they’ve spent a message into space trying to contact aliens.

But a response could take 25 years – if it comes at all.

Messaging Extraterrestrial Intelligence (METI) International sent an encoded message into space using radio waves known as “Sonar Calling GJ273b,” which the organization’s president and founder Doug Vakoch, believes could be received by intelligent life.

[The message is] distinctive because it’s designed with extraterrestrial SETI scientists in mind. We sent the sort of signal we’d want to receive here on Earth,” he said in an interview with CNET.




METI’s purpose, along with the well-known Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI), has a number of missions, including understanding and communicating “the societal implications and relevance of searching for life beyond Earth, even before detection of extraterrestrial life.

It also conducts programs to “foster increased awareness of the challenges facing our civilization’s longevity” among other directives.

The San Francisco-based METI sent its message toward the red dwarf star GJ 273 (also known as Luyten’s Star), 12 light-years away from Earth.

The message was sent in October from the Eiscat transmitter in Tromsø, Norway and included details such as basic math and science, as well as information on mankind’s understanding of time.

In a statement obtained by CNET, METI said it wanted to know if intelligent life understood the message and then go from there.

While some luminaries, such as Stephen Hawking, have warned against trying to contact extraterrestrials, Vakoch said contact is already being endorsed by many people.

Vakoch added that once news of the initial contact has appeared, it would become almost impossible to stop anyone from trying to contact them on their own.

Once the news gets out that we’ve detected extraterrestrials, anyone with a transmitter can say whatever they want.

Any response probably would be forthcoming in at least 25 years due to the distance the message has to travel between Earth and GJ273b.

The exoplanet was chosen because of its visibility from Earth’s northern hemisphere, even if it is not the closest potentially inhabited exoplanet to Earth. That distinction belongs to Proxima b, which is just 4 light-years away.

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Pass it on: New Scientist

Why Renewable Energy Is Good For Business?

Gone are the days where a focus on renewable energy can be relegated to the “environmentally conscious.”

Now, issues surrounding commercial alternative energy solutions encompass a company’s financial performance as well as its corporate social responsibility.

As a result, an increasing number of organizations are taking a deeper look into the benefits of renewable energy for business.




In October last year, the Energy Collective reported that well-known brands including Apple, Bank of America and General Motors are not only looking to reduce their environmental impact but are actively gaining a competitive edge over other companies by investing in and utilizing renewable energy.

These corporations are leveraging their clean energy usage to bolster their business sustainability strategies and financial success. The article states:

Early adopters are building a critical advantage by being ahead of this market …

And goes on to conclude:

… the buying or selling of renewable power directly to corporations will be a barometer of success for businesses of all types.

Far from being simply a fad, investing in renewable energy is taking the stage like never before. Here’s why businesses are taking the concept of using renewable energy seriously:

  1. Consumers are evaluating and prioritizing companies that are committed to reducing and/or eliminating dependence on fossil fuels.
    The Apple brand isn’t only loved for its great technology. Recently, the company illustrated its dedication to sustainability planning by announcing goals for 100% clean energy reliance
  2. Government regulations will likely soon have an even bigger impact on companies and their energy usages.
    In the US, the EPA’s Clean Power Plan may have a significant role in putting the pressure on businesses for clean energy use.
  3. Companies are seeing the advantage of investing in renewable energy initiatives, and the possibility of financial savings.
    A major player in this effort is the Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance (REBA), which is an organization that helps businesses understand the advantages of moving to renewables, and has over 100 major corporate buyers on its roster.

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Pass it on: Popular Science

Meet The World’s Best Travel Jacket With 15 Features

Whether you’re crossing state lines to squeeze in a trip home with the family this holiday season, you’ll want to be well-prepared for any mode of travel you’re taking.

Kill two (or um, 15) birds with one stone with the BauBax Sweatshirt.

This cold-weather clothing will not only keep you comfortable as you’re moving from planes to automobiles, 15 convenient features keep you organized as you go.

It’s basically like having a carry-on and sweater (or if you’re into different styles: a blazer, or windbreaker, or bomber) all in one.




BauBax outerwear is designed for avid travelers, people who hate to pack and/or dig through their bags for their most-needed items.

All the styles of outerwear feature 15 design elements meant to get you through security and on that plane, train or car with style and ease.

This is one of the most crowdfunded apparel items ever, with more than $9M raised on Kickstarter and $11M on IndieGOGO, and for good reason.

Just check out all the features: for long layovers, red-eyes or those times when the passenger next to you won’t shut off the light, the sweater features an eye mask and inflatable neck pillow.

The neck pillow hides inside the detachable hood and inflates in a lightning fast two seconds. To deflate it? Just press it once and you’re ready to go.

Basically, every single comfort you’ve ever wished you had while traveling exists in this sweater. Cold hands from chilly terminals? Warm them up with built-in gloves.

Earbuds always getting tangled up when you’re trying to leave your seat? Keep them tucked away until you’re ready for them with these earphone holders.

You can even save precious space with the Koozie drink pocket — it’ll keep your tray free for your laptop, and keep cold drinks cold and hot drinks warm.

It’s also perfect if you plan on wearing this sweater during your next ski/snowboarding trip to stay hydrated.

Plus, you’ll be able to easily navigate your way through those security checkpoints with devices thanks to this 10-inch pocket, perfect for iPads or any full-sized tablet.

Those are just a few of BauxBax’s amazing features — not only do they put all other “travel-ready” gear to shame, it practically replaces your carry-on.

Check out a full list of features below:

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Pass it on: Popular Science

Where, When, And How To Perfectly Watch This Week’s Meteor shower

One of the last meteor showers of the year is happening this Friday. So, if you haven’t caught a meteor shower yet this year, this week is your chance.

Don’t miss out on this year’s Leonid meteor shower, which is expected to have ideal conditions for many parts of the US. Following is a transcript of the video.

The Leonid meteor shower is happening this week. The most meteors will happen on the evening of Nov. 17. Expect to see between 10-20 meteors an hour. Viewing conditions will be excellent this year.




The Moon will be a paper-thin crescent. So, the night sky will be especially dark to enjoy the show.

But watch out for the weather. Cloudy skies will cover some parts of the US. Here are the best and worst places to watch on Nov. 17.

Some of the first records of the Leonids date back to the 10th century. They’re famous for some of the most spectacular meteor showers.

In the past, the Leonids have produced 50,000 meteors per hour. For the best show, find a safe, dark place away from city lights.

Many meteors will appear to come from the constellation Leo. But experts advise looking away from Leo.

That way, you’ll spot the meteors with the longest tails. Happy meteor hunting!

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Pass it on: Popular Science

First Earth-Size Planet That Could Support Life Found

For the first time, scientists have discovered an Earth-size alien planet in the habitable zone of its host star, an “Earth cousin” that just might have liquid water and the right conditions for life.

The newfound planet, called Kepler-186f, was first spotted by NASA’s Kepler space telescope and circles a dim red dwarf star about 490 light-years from Earth.

While the host star is dimmer than Earth’s sun and the planet is slightly bigger than Earth, the positioning of the alien world coupled with its size suggests that Kepler-186f could have water on its surface, scientists say.




One of the things we’ve been looking for is maybe an Earth twin, which is an Earth-size planet in the habitable zone of a sunlike star,” Tom Barclay, Kepler scientist and co-author of the new exoplanet research said.

This [Kepler-186f] is an Earth-size planet in the habitable zone of a cooler star. So, while it’s not an Earth twin, it is perhaps an Earth cousin. It has similar characteristics, but a different parent.

Scientists think that Kepler-186f — the outermost of five planets found to be orbiting the star Kepler-186 orbits at a distance of 32.5 million miles, theoretically within the habitable zone for a red dwarf.

Earth orbits the sun from an average distance of about 93 million miles, but the sun is larger and brighter than the Kepler-186 star, meaning that the sun’s habitable zone begins farther out from the star by comparison to Kepler-186.

Other planets of various sizes have been found in the habitable zones of their stars.

However, Kepler-186f is the first alien planet this close to Earth in size found orbiting in that potentially life-supporting area of an extrasolar system, according to exoplanet scientists.

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Pass it on: New Scientist

 

Could This Trick Make You Like Your Vegetables More?

Could we learn to like our vegetables more!? It’s a question that many of us may have wondered, as we struggle to get through a plate of broccoli.

Now, an experiment done with a group of UK school children thinks it might have the answer!

The study wanted to see if it was possible to train ourselves to like a food that we didn’t like before.

To find out, a group of young scientists aged 9 to 11 were split down into two groups.




Half of them were asked to eat a piece of the green vegetable kale every day for 15 days, while the other half ate raisins – and there were some very interesting results!

Most of the kids who ate kale every day found that they did like it more by the end of the experiment.

So, by making yourself eat something you may not really like over a period of time, you could learn to not hate it as much!

However, there were still some in the kale group who really didn’t like it – even after the 15 days was up.

It was discovered this was because they had more fungiform papillae on their tongue, which contain our taste buds.

The more fungiform papillae a person has, the more strongly they will taste flavours – especially bitter ones – so these children are known as ‘supertasters‘.

About one in four people could be ‘supertasters‘, which makes them more sensitive to strong foods, like lemons, spices and bitter vegetables, like Brussels sprouts

Therefore, these people may need to eat kale for slightly longer before they learn to love it.

Jackie Blissett, professor in health behaviour and change at Coventry University, said: “It’s been wonderful to work with these young scientists, and they’ve helped shed some light on one of the great mysteries: why some of us might not like our Brussels sprouts!

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Pass it on: Popular Science