In 2002 an object orbiting inside the solar system, now known as Sedna, was uncovered (see Physics Today, June 2004, page 23). It has a hugely elongated orbit that takes 10 000 Earth years to complete. Current mapping of all system solar objects/planets/moons could not explained its trajectory. It has been suggested that Sedna’s orbit was likely modified by a passing star early in the history of the solar system. The Planet Nine hypothesis was born. (See Physics Today, April 2016, page 23.) If the observations are trustworthy, it appears that Planet Nine – ten time as massive as the Earth – is probably real. Scientists are confident that within a few years an astronomer somewhere will find a faint, slow-moving point of light in the night sky and triumphantly announce the discovery of another new planet in our solar system.
Curiosity Rover, on Mars, has discovered key ingredients that are important for the establishment and sustainability of life as we know it – nitrites (NO2) and nitrates (NO3). Curiosity discovered them in soil and rock samples it took as it traversed the Gale Crater, the site of ancient lakes and groundwater systems on Mars. To understand how fixed nitrogen may have been deposited in the crater, researchers have recreate the early Martian atmosphere here on Earth. The combination of a warm climate with liquid water on the surface and the production of nitrates are key elements which are necessary for life.
The Psi Encyclopedia, edited by Robert McLuhan, is quick becoming the must-have alternative to the skewed and backwards notions so often encountered on Wikipedia. Created by the Society for Psychical Research in London, the site already covers many relevant subjects with articles crafted by top scientists in parapsychology, university professors, and professional authors.
AI is having an enormous impact in science. It started to be used in many disciplines to handle enormous quantity of data, like the study of the cosmos where the quantity of data collected are so huge and constantly increasing that their analysis is no more humanly feasible. Today, machine learning and access to cloud computing are the basic tools to handle such complexity. Visual recognition is also widely used, even if it remains a deterministic process, far from our human capabilities : “Human intuitions are often equally impenetrable. You look at a photograph and instantly recognize a cat — “but you don’t know how you know. Your own brain is in some sense a black box.”
A global analysis of cumulative human impacts on threatened species on the distribution of 5,457 terrestrial vertebrates show that impacts to species are widespread, occurring across 84% of Earth’s surface. Almost one-quarter of assessed species are impacted across >90% of their distribution, and approximately 7% are impacted across their entire range.
Mme Blavatsky wrote (The Theosophist, Vol. VII, N° 76, January 1886) : ” Evolution starts to mold future humanities within the lower scales of being. Therefore, by killing an animal, or even an insect, we arrest the progress of an entity towards its final goal in nature – MAN ; and to this the student of occult knowledge may say that it not only retards the evolution of that entity, but arrests that of the next succeeding human and more perfect race to come.”
Science had already shown that dogs can see and hear the signs of human emotions. A new study focused on the evidence that dogs are sensitive to the human’s attentional state when producing facial expressions, and concluded that : “Dogs’ production of facial expressions is subject to audience effects, and can be tailored to the human attentional state suggesting some communicative function and are not simple emotional displays based on the dogs arousal state.“
It has already been demonstrated that cigarette smoke contains numerous compounds that are harmful to health and has been linked to a reduction of cortical thickness, involving such areas as the medial and lateral frontal cortex and a decrease in activity of the occipital cortex. Some studies investigated the effects of cigarette smoking on cognitive function, but few have evaluated the effects of cigarette smoking on spatial and color vision. A new study tends to indicate that heavy long-term smokers (i.e. tobacco addiction users) have lower contrast sensitivity and poorer color discrimination abilities than their non-smoking peers.
Sleep increases chromosome dynamics that clear out DNA damage accumulated during waking hours. A new study shows that sleep can heal DNA damage induced by many causes, including radiation, oxydative stress, . . . According to current state-of-the-art, sleep process is still far from being understood : “Nevertheless, the core cellular function of sleep is unknown, and there is no conserved molecular marker to define sleep across phylogeny“, “. . . however, why sleep has evolved and which fundamental ancestral functions it regulates, remain enigmatic.“
A major cosmic impact that occurred toward the end of the Pleistocene epoch (12,800 years ago), causing rapid climatic changes, megafaunal extinctions, sudden human population decrease and cultural shifts and widespread wildfires (biomass burning) got additional findings from a Chilean site. According to the on-going study called the Younger Dryas Impact Hypothesis, traces of the multiple impacts have been found in the Americas, Europe, and up to Greenland where a major crater has been recently spotted.
Identifying consciousness in the physical realm is one of the strongest push from the scientific community, in order to validate the materialistic model. This article talks about a new initiative to narrow down the landscape of possibilities :
“Now a new project currently under review hopes to close in on some answers. It proposes to draw up a suite of experiments that will expose theories of consciousness to a merciless spotlight, in the hope of ruling out at least some of them. If all is approved and goes according to plan, the experiments could start this autumn. The initial aim is for the advocates of two leading theories to agree on a protocol that would put predictions of their ideas to the test. Similar scrutiny of other theories will then follow.
No new particles have been found at the Large Hadron Collider since the Higgs boson in 2012. This article highlights the depth of the unknown for modern Science about the basic building blocks of the Universe : “But physicists understand little about the omnipresent Higgs field, or the fateful moment in the early universe when it suddenly shifted from having zero value everywhere (or in other words, not existing) into its current, uniformly valued state. That shift, or “symmetry-breaking” event, instantly rendered quarks, electrons and many other fundamental particles massive, which led them to form atoms and all the other structures seen in the cosmos. But why? Why should the universe decide to have this Higgs presence all over?”
New discovery has found the first direct and unambiguous observational evidence that the magnetopause (boundary layer between the magnetosphere and the surrounding plasma) vibrates in a standing wave pattern, like a drum, when hit by a strong impulse.
55 million indigenous people died following the European conquest of the Americas beginning in 1492. A new study demonstrates that the Great Dying of the Indigenous Peoples of the Americas led to the abandonment of enough cleared land in the Americas that the resulting terrestrial carbon uptake had a detectable impact on both atmospheric CO2 and global surface air temperatures in the two centuries prior to the Industrial Revolution.
What are the basic constituents of our universe, our world, our body, . . . From where came the building blocks of our “material” world, the elementary particles ? How Science classified them ? This paper recapitulates decades of interdisciplinary research in astronomy, chemistry, and nuclear physics to determinate from where came the elements.
All the signs are you’re alive: you respond to stimuli, you’re using energy, your cells are reproducing. Yet plenty of things around you obviously aren’t alive, despite ultimately being made of the exact same atoms. Physics or biology alone can’t explain the difference, and in the first of a new occasional series of “Big Questions”, physicist-turned-biologist Paul Davies marries concepts from the cutting edge of both disciplines to come up with a big answer – one that takes us outside the bounds of the laws of nature as we know them.