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.
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.”
Archaeologists have discovered a large network of Mayan structures in the jungles of Guatemala that would alter our understanding of Mayan civilization. Using a laser technology called Lidar (light detecting and ranging), the researchers were able to see 60,000 ruins beneath the forest canopy.
“I think this is one of the greatest advances in over 150 years of Maya archaeology,” said Stephen Houston, Professor of Archaeology and Anthropology at Brown University.
“Lidar is revolutionizing archaeology the way the Hubble Space Telescope revolutionised astronomy,” said Francisco Estrada-Belli, a Tulane University archaeologist. “We’ll need 100 years to go through all [the data] and really understand what we’re seeing.”
The Mayan civilization is believed to have attained its peak 1,500 years ago, and was estimated to have five million people. “With this new data it’s no longer unreasonable to think that there were 10 to 15 million people there,” said Mr Estrada-Belli, “including many living in low-lying, swampy areas that many of us had thought uninhabitable.”
Note: The Secret Doctrine refers to the work of Auguste le Plongeon “Sacred Mysteries among the Mayas and the Quiches, 11,500 years ago”, who shows the identity between the Egyptian rites and beliefs and those of the people he describes.The ancient hieratic alphabets of the Maya and the Egyptians are almost identical.
H.P.B. suggests that there was an ancient connection between the Central American peoples, the Mayas and other races, and the Egyptians by means of a connecting Atlantis.