Space Station Instrument Will Be the Coldest Thing in the Universe

February 25th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

It’s impossible to know what kind of impact this will have on physics and ultimately technology, but the potential is huge. What we do know, however, is that this Cold Atom Laboratory is pretty freaking amazing.

In 2016, a new instrument due to be added to the ISS — NASA’s Cold Atom Laboratory — will become the coldest location in the known universe. The instrument is capable of achieving a temperature of 100 Pico-kelvin, or one ten-billionth of a degree above absolute zero. For perspective, the average temperature of space is a balmy 2.7 Kelvin, or -454.81 degrees Fahrenheit.

Back in 1995 researchers discovered that if you combine a few million rubidium-87 atoms and cool them to near zero kelvin they will form into a single wave of matter. Known as a Bose–Einstein condensate this is essential quantum phenomena happening at the macroscopic scale. The wave patterns generated by the CAL will be about as thick as a human hair; with that a creature of quantum physics will have entered the observable realm.

More from NASA in this video:

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World’s largest solar plant in pictures

February 13th, 2014 § 2 comments § permalink

The Verge has a nice collection of photos of the Ivanpah solar plant that officially started operations today in the Mojave Desert. Ironic that the latest high-tech power plant is really just a steam engine; technology that has been around for over 2000 years.

The mirrors on the ground reflect sunlight onto the tower to heat water which turns to steam and powers a turbine.

High tech steam engine: the mirrors on the ground reflect sunlight onto the tower to heat water which turns to steam and powers a turbine.

The rest of the photos can be found here.

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In Europe, Neanderthals Beat Homo Sapiens to Specialized Tools

August 15th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

Gemma Tarlach writing for D-brief about the discovery of specialized tools used by Neanderthals 5,000 years before homo sapiens are believed to have arrived in the area.

The Neanderthal lissoirs are a significant find because they could force archeologists to rewrite the chronology of Paleolithic European humans.

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Faster Than the Speed of Light?

July 24th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

Some interesting research is going on over at NASA to study the plausibility of faster than the speed of light travel.

“Dr. White believes that advances he and others have made render warp speed less implausible. Among other things, he has redesigned the theoretical warp-traveling spacecraft — and in particular a ring around it that is key to its propulsion system — in a way that he believes will greatly reduce the energy requirements.

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Amazing Resonance Experiment

June 18th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

I love experiments that turn the invisible, visible. In this case it’s the vibration of a metal plate and it’s pretty neat.

Amazing Resonance Experiment on “With a tone generator, a metal plate, some salt, and a little voodoo, different frequencies create unique geometric patterns during this Chladni plate experiment.”

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New Treatment for Multiple Sclerosis Shows Promise in Small Trial

June 5th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

Interesting development in the ongoing fight against Multiple Sclerosis.

MS is believed to turn the body’s immune system against itself to destroy the nerve-insulating myelin, disrupting how signals travel from the brain and spinal cord. Current treatments thus suppress the overactive immune system—but in the process they leave the patient more vulnerable to infection and relapses of symptoms.

The treatment approach in trials now instead ‘retrains’ patients’ immune systems to tolerate myelin. Previous studies in mice have shown that delivering pieces of the myelin protein to the bloodstream can desensitize the immune system to myelin and slow degeneration.

It was a small trial and was only designed to tolerability, not efficacy, but it’s interesting nonetheless.

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Using Lasers to Manipulate Blood Flow in Live Mice

April 23rd, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

This procedure is years away from being practiced on humans but being able to “operate” without breaking the skin is huge.

Researchers in China have figured out how to use a laser to clog and then clear a blocked blood vessel in a live mouse, without surgery.

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Vortex knots in water with a high speed 3d camera

March 27th, 2013 § 1 comment § permalink

I’ve always wanted to see what wind looks like when it’s doing interesting things.

When air flows around the wing of an airplane, it creates vortices of swirling air. When that wing accelerates suddenly, two vortices form and circle in opposite directions. Sometimes these circles link with one another to create knots. Knots occur in nature and physicists have theorized for the last hundred years that they could be created in liquid, too. Physicists have now figured out a way to create them and have 3-D footage of the results, which were published in Nature Physics on Sunday.

Water knots in 3D

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The end of galaxies

November 13th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

In 5 billion years, the expansion of the universe will have progressed to the point where all other galaxies will have receded beyond detection. Indeed, they will be receding faster than the speed of light, so detection will be impossible. Future civilizations will discover science and all its laws, and never know about other galaxies or the cosmic background radiation. They will inevitably come to the wrong conclusion about the universe……We live in a special time, the only time, where we can observationally verify that we live in a special time.

― Lawrence M. Krauss

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Older Dads Pass on More Mutations to Their Kids

August 31st, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

Men have always enjoyed being able to put off the decision to have kids without having to worry about too much about biological age limits. They might be too old and too tired to play with their kids but they don’t have to worry about needing hormone therapy if they wait too long. If the results of this study can be independently reproduced then perhaps it will give some pause to men that want to put off the big decision.

It turns out that men transmit more mutations than women, and on average, for each increasing year of age, a father passed two additional mutations on to his offspring. By the time a man reached the age of 40, his offspring had on average 65 random mutations that traced back to the paternal genetic material—that’s 260% more mutations than a 20-year-old dad would, on average, give to his children. Earlier research has shown that older men are more likely to father children with bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and autism.

The article goes on to point out that the growing number of older dads may be a contributing factor in the increased rates of autism diagnoses. Obviously we need to be careful about the distinction between causation and correlation. Just because two trends happen at the same time, correlation, that doesn’t mean that one caused the other. The book Freakenomics tried to say that legalizing abortion in the 70’s caused crime rates to go down in certain states. An interesting theory but very hard to prove scientifically. You know what else happened in the 70’s? Lead was removed from gasoline, and subsequently from the air1, and there is scientific evidence that exposure to lead can lead to more violence. I’m looking at you Antivaxxers.

  1. keep in mind that exhaust fumes, and therefore lead, tend to collect in urban areas []
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