Your Good News Post of the Day
Among the benefits of avoiding Apophis is that my beloved Chicago Cubs will have more time to win a World Series. And Heaven knows they will need it.
Watch Asteroid Flyby Live Today
You can breathe a sigh of relief around lunchtime today, when an asteroid the size of a 15-story building passes close to Earth. The encounter will be the closest ever recorded by scientists for a rock of this size.
The asteroid, known as 2012 DA14, will come within 17,000 miles of the planet. That’s much closer than the moon and even inside the ring of geosynchronous weather and communication satellites. Today at 11:24am PST, it will whiz by at roughly eight times the speed of a bullet.
It won’t be dark enough to see the asteroid from California during the day, but here’s how to watch it.
Good thing that it will only pass by. If it hit us … well … watch.
And that’s just a meteorite.
What lies outside the universe?
Physicists have long studied the nature of the universe. But some go a step further into the unknown (and probably unknowable), contemplating what lies outside the boundaries of our universe.
Is it possible that something else exists beyond existence? Yes. Here are five theories about what that “something” might be.
The “outside the universe” question gets tricky right off the bat, because first you have to define the universe. One common answer is called the observable universe, and it’s defined by the speed of light. Since we can only see things when the light they emit or reflect reaches us, we can never see farther than the farthest distance light can travel in the time the universe has existed. That means the observable universe keeps getting bigger, but it is finite – the amount is sometimes referred to as the Hubble Volume, after the telescope that has given us our most distant views of the universe. We’ll never be able to see beyond that boundary, so for all intents and purposes, it’s the only universe we’ll ever interact with.
Beyond the Hubble Volume. We know with some certainty that there’s “more universe” out there beyond that boundary, though. Astronomers think space might be infinite, with “stuff” (energy, galaxies, etc.) distributed pretty much the same as it is in the observable universe. If it is, that has some seriously weird implications for what lies out there. Beyond the Hubble Volume you won’t just find more, different planets. You will eventually find every possible thing. In fact, cosmologists think that if you go far enough, you will find another Hubble Volume that is perfectly identical to ours. There’s another version of you out there mirroring your every action 10 to the 10^188 meters away. That may seem unlikely, but then, infinity is awfully infinite.
Dark Flow. In 2008, astronomers discovered something very strange and unexpected – galactic clusters were all streaming in the same direction at immense speed, over two million miles per hour. New observations in 2010 confirmed this phenomenon, known as Dark Flow. The movement defies all predictions about the distribution of mass throughout the universe after the Big Bang. One possible cause: massive structures outside the Hubble Volume exerting gravitational influence. This would mean that the structure of the infinite universe beyond our view is not uniform. As for the structures themselves, they could be literally anything, from aggregations of matter and energy on scales we can barely imagine to bizarre warps funneling gravitational forces from other universes.
Infinite Bubbles. Talking about things outside the Hubble Volume might be a bit of a cheat, since it’s still really the same universe, just a part of it we can’t see. It would have all the same physical laws and constants. In another version of the story, the post-Big Bang expansion of the universe caused “bubbles” to form in the structure of space. Each bubble is an area that stopped stretching along with the rest of space and formed its own universe, with its own laws. In this scenario, space is infinite, and each bubble is also infinite (because you can store an infinite number of infinities inside a single infinity). Even if you could somehow breach the boundary of our bubble, the space in between the bubbles is still expanding, so you’d never get to the next bubble no matter how fast you went.
Black Hole Spawning. A theory proposed by physicist Lee Smolin, known as the fecund universes theory, suggests that every black hole in our universe causes the formation of a new universe. Each universe will have slightly different physical laws than the forerunner universe. In this way, Smolin suggests a sort of natural selection for universes, as laws that lead to the frequent formation of black holes lead to the creation of more universes, while non-black hole forming universes “die out.” This theory has since been discounted (by Smolin himself and others).
Many Parallel Universes. There are tons of theories about parallel universes, but the most accepted one these days involves an evolution of the ideas of string theory to involve membranes that vibrate in other dimensions. It’s beyond the scope of this article to get too detailed about string or membrane theory, but the upshot of the whole thing is that these rippling membranes in the 11th dimension are whole other universes, and when the ripples slam into each other they form a new universe. The effects of the rippling motion help explain the observed distribution of matter in our universe. One of the weirdest elements of the theory is the idea that all the gravity we experience in our universe is actually leaking into it from another universe in another dimension (which explains why gravity here seems so weak compared to the other fundamental forces).
Astronomers studying a newborn star have caught a detailed glimpse of planets forming around it, revealing a never-before seen stage of planetary evolution.
Large gas giant planets appear to be clearing a gap in the disk of material surrounding the star, and using gravity to channel material across the gap to the interior, helping the star to grow. Theoretical simulations have predicted such bridges between outer and inner portions of disks surrounding stars, but none have been directly observed until now. - Continue reading at Live Science.
Photo by: ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO)/M.Kornmesser (ESO)
Ed note: This newly discovered Earth-like planet could be habitable.
NASA is actually working on a faster than light warp drive, but it might blow up any planet it travels to
Faster than light (FTL) travel has always been a hallmark of science fiction, but buzz kill scientists have always said the concept was impossible because it violates the cardinal rule of Einstein’s relativity, namely that the very building blocks of the universe mean that nothing can go faster than light.
Now NASA may have found a loophole, enabling them to travel to distant stars that are several light years away, all without violating relativity. The only problem? It might blow up whatever is waiting at its destination.
Anywhere on Earth in four hours? Top-secret Skylon space plane could replace jets and rockets, company claims
A small British company with a dream of building a re-usable space plane has won an important endorsement from the European Space Agency (ESA) after completing key tests on its novel engine technology.
Reaction Engines Ltd believes its Sabre engine, which would operate like a jet engine in the atmosphere and a rocket in space, could displace rockets for space access and transform air travel by bringing any destination on Earth to no more than four hours away. (Wikimedia)
I want this.
(Photo: NASA / JPL-Caltech / Malin Space Science Systems)
NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity has apparently made a discovery “for the history books,” but we’ll have to wait a few weeks to find out what the new Red Planet find may be, media reports suggest.
What could it be? This is going to be on our minds constantly now!
Curiosity About Curiosity Killed the Blogger
I wasn’t going to post this because I don’t want to build up hype and hype is baaaaaad, m’kaaaay? Hype is what happens when a research scientist makes an off-handed remark in an interview about some exciting but unverified data, and then the People Who Choose Quotes™ print it everywhere and then the scientist is all “Oh, brother, what have I done?” and tries to backpedal … but it’s too late, man, you can’t unfire the gun!!!
Of course I can’t resist posting it, because the suspense is just too much to bear!!! Why must you toy with my emotions, Curiosity?!
Inquiring minds are out there asking (I can hear them, trust me) “Hey, Joe! What might this be?” My educated guess is that it’s some interesting organic molecule like methane, or maybe even something more complicated, in a soil sample. It probably won’t give us any definitive answers on the “life” question, but will prove that in once-watery Gale Crater, some things were made that could also be made by life (but not necessarily only by life). If I am wrong in a couple weeks, please forget this post. If I am right, then high-fives line up to the right.
Oh, how I wonder what this could be about.
The family of planets circling a relatively close dwarf star has grown to six, including a potential rocky world at least seven times more massive than Earth that is properly located for liquid water to exist on its surface, a condition believed to be necessary for life.
One thing’s for sure, gravity on that planet will suck.
This is Phobos, one of the two moons of Mars, and it’s living on borrowed time. It is thought to be perhaps a captured asteroid, sucked in by Mars’ gravity, and its pock-marked surface is scarred with craters thanks to debris ejected from its home planet’s own collisions with meteors and the like over the years.
But Phobos won’t be around forever. Unlike our own Moon, which orbits at a safe distance of several hundred thousand kilometers (and will one day be “tidally locked” to Earth), Phobos is less than 6,000 km from Mars. This causes extreme tidal forces, stretching Phobos like saltwater taffy made of solid rock. Eventually, perhaps a million years from now, it will crumble into a ring of debris, with that ring later decaying into an orbital rainstorm of rocky meteoric fireballs.
That’s pretty cool. Mars will eat its own moon one day, in a spectacular show of orbital destruction, and I’m sorry we won’t be around to watch.
i’ve got goosebumps.
Last weekend, the last shuttle went on its last mission ever.
The shuttle Endeavour went from Los Angeles International Airport to the California Science Center last weekend. The trip took two days as NASA engineers working with utility crews, police and other personnel moved the shuttle through the streets of the city of angles.
With the parking of this shuttle, so ends the 30 year mission of the shuttle program. The end of an era of regular, United States-led space travel. The success of the shuttle program is so well known and the image of the shuttle so iconic, it’s almost surreal to see it sharing the same screen as Randy’s Donuts or Roscoe’s chicken and waffles.
This time lapse video of the shuttle’s journey is moving and jaw-dropping. I don’t often say this, but if you watch only one online video this week, it should be this one.
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