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Massive "Dark Halo" Discovered Beyond Edge of the Milky Way

MilkyWayHalo_sm The biggest things in the universe just got bigger - or rather, they've always been bigger and we somehow missed it up to now.  Supercomputer simulations of galactic core black holes indicate that instead of being a mere two billion times the mass of the sun, so insignificant you'd surely lose them if you sneezed, some could be as large as six billion suns -not including the "dark halo" that surrounds the Milky Way, which is more than ten times as much mass as all of the visible stars, gas, and dust in the rest of the galaxy.

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Is Water Common in the Universe? New Search for the Building Blocks of Life


Although we don't know yet whether life exists any place beside Earth, we do know that there are three key pieces of evidence  that point to the fact that life should be common in the universe. One, the chemical elements that created life on Earth -hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, and almost two dozen other key elements are found nearly everywhere in the universe, and complex, carbon-bearing elements appear to form easily under conditions that should be common on many planets and moons; two, life thrives in a vast range of extreme conditions that are likely to be found in our Solar System and beyond; three, life appeared early in Earth's history, make it probable that life is "easy."

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Is Life Embedded in the Cosmos? New Analysis Says "Yes"


A recent mathematical analysis says that life as we know it is written into the laws of reality.  DNA is built from a set of twenty amino acids - the first ten of those can create simple prebiotic life, and now it seems that those ten are thermodynamically destined to occur wherever they can.

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Terzan 5! Cosmic Fossil Discovered Embedded In Milky Way

Terzan5510 It's not the name a Japanese horror movie...Scientists have spotted stellar fossils in the center of the Milky Way, globular clusters orbiting in the central bulge which seem to have come from somewhere else.  Like all fossils these are vital evidence of the evolutionary processes which led to everything we see today.  (Though for fairness we should point out the rival suggestion of an Intelligently Designed galaxy, where over two hundred billion gigantic fusion reactors were carefully constructed as extraordinarily elaborate background for a single planet.)

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Guide to Surviving the "LHC-Restart" -The Search Continues...


The Large Hadron Collider is spooling back up to science-speeds, circulating particle beams last week and looking at ramping up the power to productive levels even now, and you know what that means?  No, not particle physics, or an increases in human knowledge, or even pieces of a new understanding of how the universe operates - it's time for the more vapid scaremongering.  Which is why we're lucky we've got Gizmodo to give such a perfect example.

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The Galaxy Game - Harnessing the Power of Human Imagination

Galaxy_zoo Thousands of people might be pouring their lives into the void of Solitaire right now, but Science has a scheme to harness their brains for good - even if their owner's don't.  The "Galaxy Zoo" game lets anyone play a combination of a cosmic slot machine with an intergalactic Hot or Not.  The result is an amazing fusion of the most pointless time-wasters possible into a valuable tool for understanding cosmic evolution.

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Top Reply To: "The Billion-Year Technology Gap: Could One Exist?"

This is the top reply to our weekend post, The Billion-Year Technology Gap: Could One Exists that had over 100,000 views on Digg, SU, and Reddit.

I think older civilizations than ours would have had a much harder time surviving the massive bombardment of stellar neighborhood supernovas that was prevalent until "recently" in cosmological history.

In other words, I expect most civilizations to be young because life-eradicating supernovas were common even in the galactic rims until 4-5 billion years ago.

Our own position in a "quiet neighborhood" has been a very important factor in the development of multicellular life and complex ecosystems.

I think the decline in the rate of supernovas could really be the triggering factor in a phase change from a universe without life, to one where it is common. We are really only in the start of this process, since the galactic cores are still kill zones for anything carbon-based.

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The Daily Flash -Eco, Space, Tech (11/30)

For decades, paleoartists have told the story of human evolution through sculpture and drawing. Now their tools have evolved, too. Computers allow a level of detail and control that isn’t possible with other media. Their creations can come closer than ever to bringing our ancestors to life.

As CBS News reports, there are actually more than 9 million bicycles in Beijing and they are really a sight to see: “It’s one of the most beautiful sights in China’s capital: flocks of bicycle riders all moving in tandem through the city’s wide boulevards. Metropolitan Beijing is packed with almost 12 million people and 13 million bicycles, making the simple two-wheeler hard to miss.”

Genome Institute of Singapore researchers compiled map based on genome-wide variations of 6,000 samples The first genetic historical map of the Han Chinese, the largest ethnic population in the world, as they migrated from south to north over evolutionary time. was published online today by the American Journal of Human Genetics by scientists at the Genome Institute of Singapore (GIS). Based on genome-wide DNA variation information in over 6,000 Han Chinese samples from 10 provinces in China, this new map provides information about the population structure and evolutionary history of this group of people that can help scientists to identify subtle differences in the genetic diversity of Asian populations.

News from South Korea is that scientists have succeeded in creating plastic without the use of fossil fuels. The scientists created sustainable polymers used in common plastics that could replace traditional polymers that use chemicals from fossil fuels. The bioengineered polymers may be what is needed to create truly green-friendly plastic products.

In recent years, dozens and then hundreds of gray-and-white Magellanic penguins appeared on Brazil's coasts, coming all the way from Patagonia and the Straits of Magellan. They landed on the beach sands, exhausted and starving, and were immediately surrounded by children and bikini-clad women. Subjects of curiosity and affection, they often died at the hands of those who tried to help by putting them in refrigerators or walking them on leashes. But this troubling story doesn’t end there: some of these penguins have since been shipped or even flown back to colder waters further south. And, as I wonder how they feel about this journey, I keep hoping that their plight will help us understand ours.

The Billion-Year Technology Gap: Could One Exist? (The Weekend Feature)

Minims-vatican-observatory (1)Are we the lone sentient life in the universe? So far, we have no evidence to the contrary, and yet the odds that not one single other planet has evolved intelligent life would appear, from a statistical standpoint, to be quite small. There are an estimated 250 billion (2.5 x 10¹¹ ) stars in the Milky Way alone, and over 70 sextillion (7 x 10²² ) in the visible universe, and many of them are surrounded by multiple planets. 

Meanwhile, our 4.5 billion-year old Solar System exits in a universe that is estimated to be between 13.5 and 14 billion years old. Experts believe that there could be advanced civilizations out there that have existed for 1.8 gigayears (one gigayear = one billion years). 

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Do Cosmic Rays Accelerate Growth of Life? New Discovery Says "Yes"

6a00d8341bf7f753ef0120a614b324970b-320wi A new study shows that cosmic radiation could be accelerating the growth of our Earth forests, though - as with most cosmic radiation effects - we don't know how it's happening or what the effects are.  But in accordance with standard "Science From Fantastical Space Radiation" practice, the results were only discovered by accident.

A team from the University of Edinburgh scanned samples from felled Scottish spruce trees to examine the rings.  Which, when you think about it, is just like scanning a document but without all the intermediary steps.  By examining the width of the yearly rings that form you can examine the growth of the tree over time, and while they were expecting climate factors to dominate cosmic ones turned up instead.

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