Among the unsolved mysteries confronting 21st century physics from gravitational waves to dark energy, neutrinos -the "ghosts of the cosmos"- are near the top of the list. These awesomely low-mass subatomic particles, less than a millionth of the mass of electrons, play a key role in weak interactions and come three flavors: electron, muon, and tau. Stars actively flood the universe with new neutrinos along with ancient particles created some two seconds after the Big Bang. CERN announced this week that a muon-type neutrino dispatched from the CERN research laboratory near Geneva had arrived as a tau neutrino at the INFN Gran Sasso Laboratory in Italy, 730 kilometres (450 miles) away. It is only the third time that the mutation has been observed by the OPERA experiment, an international project launched in 2001 specifically to detect the bizarre change.
Continue reading "Shape-Shifting Neutrinos --Another Challenge to the Prevailing Standard Model of Physics" »
Astronomers estimate that there are between 100 billion and 200 billion galaxies in the known universe. A single galaxy such as the Milky Way contain upwards of 200 billion normal stars. About 75 percent of of all stars in the Milky Way are less than half as massive as our Sun. In the universe at large, the majority of galaxies are classified as dwarfs, each with less than a few hundred million stars. The image above is a computer simulation of a colliding dwarf galaxy triggering the formation of the Milky Ways spiral arms.
Continue reading "An 'Infinity of Dwarfs' --A Visible Universe of 7 Trillion Dwarf Galaxies" »
In 1995, the astronomer Edward Harrison suggested in an audacious paper published in Great Britain in the "Quarterly Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society" that our universe was created by life forms possessing superior intellingence existing in another physical universe in which the constants of physics were finely tuned and therefore similar to our own. Harrison concluded that the very comprehensibility of the universe to the human mind is a subtle clue that the universe was designed by minds similar to our own.
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Continue reading "The Galaxy Poll --"Is the Evolution of Life Coded Into the Physical Laws of the Universe?"" »
Researchers believe they have pinpointed the skeletal remains of the first known human-Neanderthal hybrid, according to a study published Wednesday in the peer reviewed scientific journal PLoS ONE
. The finding comes from northern Italy, where some 40,000 years ago scientists believe Neanderthals and humans lived near each other, but developed separate and distinctly different cultures. A segment of a jawbone found during an archaeological dig in the area reveals that the bone’s owner had facial features attributable to both modern humans and Neanderthals, the study explains.
Continue reading "Is There a Neanderthal in Your DNA? --New Study Says "There Might Be"" »
Saturn’s giant moon Titan has water frozen as hard as granite and Great Lakes-sized bodies of fed by a liquid cycle, much like the hydrological cycles on Earth, but made up of methane and ethane rather than water. Methane and ethane, the simplest hydrocarbon molecules, can assemble themselves into fantastically complex structures. Since complex hydrocarbons form the basis of life on Earth, scientists are wondering if hydrocarbon chemistry on Titan could have crossed the chasm from inanimate matter to some form of life?
Continue reading "Could Titan's Hydrocarbon Chemistry Have Crossed the Chasm to Life? (Today's Most Popular)" »
The Vela pulsar is a neutron star about 12 miles in diameter, itself spinning at a dizzying 11 times per second and the brightest and most persistent source of gamma rays in the sky. The pulsar and the supernova remnant was created by a massive star which exploded over 10,000 years ago. Due to its behavior, it produces tremendously powerful electric and magnetic fields, which go on to accelerate particles in the remnant to nearly the speed of light. In effect, the pulsar is producing a vast, natural particle accelerator.
Continue reading "Image of the Day: The Vela Pulsar --"A Vast, Natural Particle Accelerator"" »
Every second some 65 billion neutrinos from the Sun's nuclear core pass through every centimeter of your skin every second. Stars are actively flooding the Universe with both new and relic neutrinos created two seconds after the Big Bang. These Ghosts of the Cosmos have yet to be conclusively detected, streaking through what to a neutrino is a completely transparent Universe in all directions --through gases, liquids, solids with little likelihood of ever interacting with anything.
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"Observing the rings and moons with Cassini gives us an amazing bird's-eye view of the intricate processes at work in the Saturn system, and perhaps in the evolution of planetary systems as well," said Linda Spilker, Cassini project scientist, based at JPL. "What an object looks like and how it evolves depends a lot on location, location, location."
Continue reading "Saturn's Rings --Artifacts from the Origin of Our Solar Nebula & Beyond" »
VY Canis Majoris, an irregular pulsating variable, A red hypergiant star that is one of the largest and most luminous known stars in the Milky Way Galaxy, lies about 5,000 light-years away in the constellation Canis Major. VY Can is about half a million times as luminous as the Sun, but much of its visible light is absorbed by a large, asymmetric cloud of dust particles that has been ejected from the star in various outbursts over the past 1,000 years or so. The infrared emission from this dust cloud makes VY Can one of the brightest objects in the sky at wavelengths of 5–20 microns.
Continue reading "A Colossal Star --One of the Largest Known Discovered Creating Building Blocks for DNA & RNA" »