»  (LINK) 13-Year-Old Makes Solar Power Breakthrough by Harnessing the Fibonacci Sequence

Aidan Dwyer took a hike through the trees last winter and took notice of patterns in the mangle of branches. His studies into how they branch in very specific ways lead him to a central guiding formula, the Fibonacci sequence. Take a number, add it to the number before it in a sequence like 1+1=2 then 2+1=3 then 3+2=5, 8, 13, 21 and so on a very specific pattern emerges. Turns out the pattern and its corresponding ratios are reflected in nature all the time, and Aidan’s keen observation of how trees branch according to the formula lead him to test the theory. First he measured tree branches by how often they branch and at what degree from each other.

To see why they branch this way he built a small solar array using the Fibonacci formula, stepping cells at specific intervals and heights. He then compared the energy output with identical cells set in a row. Aidan reports the results: “The Fibonacci tree design performed better than the flat-panel model. The tree design made 20% more electricity and collected 2 1/2 more hours of sunlight during the day. But the most interesting results were in December, when the Sun was at its lowest point in the sky. The tree design made 50% more electricity, and the collection time of sunlight was up to 50% longer!”

His work is certainly piquing the interest of the solar industry, and even more impressively he is demonstrating the power of biomimicry — a concept that many see as the pinnacle of good design, but one that thus far has been exceptionally difficult to achieve. Way to go!

DEEP BREATH. In. Out. Be calm.

You might have heard some news about something called a “neutrino” that might have moved faster than the speed of light. This news is out of CERN, in Europe, and like Ron Burgundy, it’s kind of a big deal.

Remember Einstein’s E=mc² equation? Well, that wouldn’t exactly be ruined, but relativity would need to be seriously adjusted. As Phil Plait put it, it would turn so much of physics upside-down that it’s like saying “… that gravity pushes, not pulls.” So what did they observe?

A neutrino is a particular subatomic particle, like an uncharged electron. They travel, well, very fast, and can go through matter. Photons are light, and they travel at (wait for it) the speed of light. According to what we know up to now, neutrinos should travel fast, but according to the laws of physics not as fast as light. That’s where the CERN experiment comes in.

The scientists at CERN set up a detector at a very exact distance away from a source of photons and neutrinos. When I say exact I mean exact. Like so precise that they could be within a meter or so of error at a distance of 730 km apart. They know how fast light travels, and it should have taken about 2.43 milliseconds for the light to reach the detector in Italy from CERN. According to the scientists, the neutrinos arrived 60 nanoseconds before the light.

The Swiss are impeccable time-keepers.

They report that their error is within 10 nanoseconds, so it’s a significant result. But there are a couple of problems. Not problems that for sure disprove it, but certainly give reason for caution.

1. It’s very hard to know exactly when neutrinos are created in whatever source you are shooting them from. So the “start” point is a little fuzzy.
2. As noted at Bad Astronomy, a supernova called 1987a throws some more cold water on this. See, that supernova was 160,000 light years away. So if neutrinos traveled faster than light by the same ratio as above, we would have seen the 1987a neutrinos about four years before the light. And that didn’t happen.
3. Neutrinos are pesky little things, and very hard to control and measure, being as they flow right through planets and the like.

The scientists had a webcast from CERN today, and they are being very careful to say that this needs to be checked and über-checked, and then repeated again after that. They also claim no theoretical re-writes of history. The problem is that the press is not being nearly so cautious.

So take a deep breath, relax, let their fellow scientists and the skeptics have at it for a while, and don’t be sad if this turns out to not be as big a deal as thought. Of course, it might be true, but when it comes to extraordinary claims, you have to provide extraordinary proof.

Falling NASA satellite will not hit U.S.
Various components of the satellite, totaling 1,168 pounds, are expected to survive re-entry and make impact with Earth.

Because we only care about ourselves.

cwnl:

Life May Exist Within A Super Massive Black Hole

Despite being considered the most destructive force in space and absolutely uninhabitable, the conditions for life exist inside supermassive black holes, a Russian cosmologist has theorised.

Going out on a scientific limb somewhat, Vyacheslav Dokuchaev has even suggested that if life did exist inside the SBH, it would have evolved to become the most advanced civilisation in the galaxy. Supermassive black holes are such powerful gravitational forces that they suck in everything around them, including light, and nothing that crosses the black hole’s ‘event horizon’ is ever seen again.

But now Dokuchaev, of Moscow’s Institute for Nuclear Research of the Russian Academy of Sciences, says existing evidence combined with new research throws up intriguing possibilities for certain types of black holes. Inside a charged, rotating black hole there are regions where photons can survive in stable periodic orbits. Dokuchaev specialises in studying those orbits and their dynamics.

He speculates, in a paper published in Cornell University’s online journal arXiv, that if there are stable orbits for photons, there is no reason why there could not be stable orbits for larger objects, such as planets. The problem is that these stable orbits would only exist once you have crossed the threshold of the event horizon, where time and space flow into one another. The event horizon, at the lip of the black hole, is known as the point of no return. However, beyond the event horizon is another domain, known as the Cauchy horizon, where time and space return to stable states.

It is inside the Cauchy horizon that life could exist, Dokuchaev argues in a paper published in Cornell University’s online journal arXiv, However, the type of life that could exist in those conditions - where they would be subject to massive fluctuating tidal forces - would have evolved beyond ours. The life that could exist there would likely be a civilisation ranked as Type III on the Kardashev Scale. There are three levels to the scale with one being the lowest and three the highest. Humanity is still looking to attain Level 1 status; mastery of its own planet.

‘Interiors of the supermassive black holes may be inhabited by advanced civilisations… invisible from the outside,’ he says. Though that is a spine-tingling thought, Dokuchaev’s proposition can only ever remain theoretical. Because nothing can ever escape from a black hole due to its enormous gravitational pull, we will never know if it is true.

»  I H8 RELIGION: Michigan Christians: Wanna bully gays? That's OK.

retrospect- submitted:

In this article, it states that Michigan State is in the middle of passing a hatred law that protects the rights of Christian’s bullying homosexual persons because it’s a religious belief. One might wonder if this would be extended to other faiths (which we all…

Wow. Just wow. I expect we’ll be seeing an increase in teen suicide as a result of this, sadly.

:-)

Incredible Photos from Space

On September 22, 2010, following the departure of the Expedition 23 crew, Colonel Douglas H. Wheelock assumed command of the Expedition 25 crew and the International Space Station itself. Wheelock, @Astro_Wheels on twitter, has been tweeting space photos to his followers ever since he arrived.

NASA’s Kepler mission has found the first confirmed planet in the habitable zone of Sun-like star … but hold on just a sec.

Now before when I said I wasn’t that excited about this? I was lying. I am excited. I mean we found a planet SIX HUNDRED LIGHT YEARS AWAY. That is awesome, and we are mighty.

Not only that, but the Kepler mission currently has over 1,000 exoplanet candidates to sift through. What’s special about today’s finding? Well, Kepler-22b is a planet that is only a couple times the size of Earth, but more importantly, it orbits a star much like the Sun at a distance that makes its surface temperature likely pretty close to that on Earth.

But let’s think about this for a minute. The Kepler mission involves continuously observing about 150,000 stars in the Milky Way. When one of them dips in brightness, it means that a planet has traveled in between the star and our planet. Think of a fly traveling in front of your television.

But its important to remember that Kepler is only looking at about one-millionth of the stars in the galaxy. So if you do some math (according to NASA’s newest numbers), that means 207 million Earth-like planets and at least a million of those are in the “habitable zone”.

I think it’s pretty cool that there seem to be so many more Earth-like planets than previously estimated, but picking out Kepler-22b as something special is a one-in-a-million bet. And if we are looking for places that could support life, we’d be well-served to not only use “Earth Life” as our criteria. WHo knows what possibilities exist in distant corners of our galaxy or others.

But its still cool. high fives all around!

(via NASA)

To reiterate:

cwnl:

Monster Black Holes Are Most Massive Ever Discovered

Scientists have discovered the largest black holes yet, and they’re far bigger than researchers expected based on the galaxies in which they were found. The discovery suggests we have much to learn about how monster black holes grow, scientists said.

All large galaxies are thought to harbor super-massive black holes at their hearts that contain millions to billions of times the mass of our sun. Until now, the largest black hole known was a mammoth dwelling in the giant elliptical galaxy Messier 87. This black hole has a mass 6.3 billion times that of the sun.

Now research suggests black holes in two nearby galaxies are even bigger. The scientists used the Gemini and Keck observatories in Hawaii and the McDonald Observatory in Texas to monitor the velocities of stars orbiting around the centers of a pair of galaxies. These velocities reveal the strength of the gravitational pull on those stars, which in turn is linked with the masses of the black holes lurking there.

The new findings suggest that one galaxy, known as NGC 3842, the brightest galaxy in the Leo cluster of galaxies nearly 320 million light years distant, has a central black hole 9.7 billion solar masses large. The other, named NGC 4889, the brightest galaxy in the Coma cluster more than 335 million light years away, has a black hole of comparable or larger mass. Both encompass regions or “event horizons” about five times the distance from the sun to Pluto.

“For comparison, these black holes are 2,500 times as massive as the black hole at the center of the Milky Way galaxy, whose event horizon is one-fifth the orbit of Mercury,” said study lead author Nicholas McConnell at the University of California, Berkeley. Astronomers had suspected that black holes more than 10 billion solar masses large exist, based on light from quasars, cosmic objects from the early universe that are no more than a light year or two across but are thousands of times brighter than our entire galaxy.

The light of quasars is thought to come from matter driven to incandescent brightness as it spirals at high speeds into supermassive black holes. This is the first time scientists have detected black holes approaching such theorized giants in size.

“These two new supermassive black holes are similar in mass to young quasars, and may be the missing link between quasars and the supermassive black holes we see today,” said study co-author Chung-Pei Ma, an astrophysicist at the University of California, Berkeley.

Two new elements are joining the periodic table. Say hello to number 114, flerovium (Fl), and number 116, livermorium (Lv). The two newbies will sit “down in the lower-right corner of the periodic table.”

In real life, both elements are “so large and unstable” that they can only be created in a lab, says Jennifer Welsh at Live Science. Known as “super heavy” or “Transuranium” elements, “they fall apart into other elements very quickly,” so scientists haven’t been able to study their potential applications quite yet. The elements were first synthesized over 10 years ago, but it was only recently — and through repeated experiments — that their existence was finally confirmed.

But how do they get their names?

Sweet!

Early, lucky observations identify star at heart of nearby supernova

Talk about being in the right place at the right time! A supernova event that happened 21 million years ago reached Earth recently, and because one of our telescopes was pointed in the right direction, we were able to catch the action only 11 hours after it “started”. See that bright blob on the right at SN 2011fe? That’s it.

Luck is what happened when preparation meets opportunity.

(via Nature News)

Earth-sized Alien Worlds: Infographic

On Dec. 20, 2011, astronomers announced the discovery an alien solar system 950 light-years from Earth that is chock full of planets, including the first two extrasolar worlds ever confirmed to be the size of our own Earth or smaller.

Finding Earth-size planets has been a major goal for NASA’s Kepler space observatory, which spotted the small alien worlds and their larger cousins around a star known as Kepler 20. The two Earth-size planets (one is actually smaller than Earth) are known as Kepler-20e and Kepler-20f. See how the planets compare to Earth and the other planets in their alien star system in the infographic above.

When Censoring Science Makes Sense

On Tuesday, a federal advisory panel, the National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity, recommended that university scientists who have submitted articles on how to modify a flu virus to two very prestigious journals delete critical informationfrom them before publishing. The papers describe how to alter bird-flu virus to be more infectious and potentially nastier.

Yes, this is same bird flu virus that, as it moved into pigs, was freaking us all out last year. If you had the detailed map of the viral changes needed, then either a terrorist or an amateur “garage” biologist operating without the right safeguards would have a very effective critter for killing you and me.

If there is one thing that scientists hate, it is any policy that restricts research in any way. Scientists are taught that they need to be bold in asking questions and not let anything deter them from following their thinking wherever it leads, no matter how unpopular that might be. They are also taught the absolute necessity of making their claims public in reputable journals so that other scientists can subject them to the critical skepticism from which the truth ultimately emerges.

Once in a long while, however, the price of the truth is simply too high to let scientists disclose their findings publicly. That is so when it comes to publishing detailed information about dangerous viruses and microbes.

We don’t have to hide the genetic map for a killer avian flu virus from all eyes. Access to some who have clearance to see it should be possible. If that is done, then the truth will still be known about whether those making claims of being able to engineer the virus can actually do so.

To go further with potentially catastrophic data is to court trouble.

There are those who will say that the only way to fight terror is to adhere to those values that have proven crucial to the advance of science over the decades. The more we know, the worse for the terrorists.

Unfortunately, that is no longer the world we live in. The ethics of inquiry need to adapt. Handing the complete formula for making a nasty pandemic bug to any nut with access to the Internet or a subscription to a scientific journal makes no sense in a world that has seen the use of anthrax and sarin as weapons of terror.

Freedom is key to good science. Freedom from terror is also key to good science. When they conflict, the latter is more important freedom than the former. Journals and those who write for them ought to do all they can to try and ensure that most important freedom.

Mysterious Mass Sacrifice Found Near Ancient Peru Pyramid

Huge pre-Inca burial pit also held ceramic heads, beer jars.

Skeletons lie in various positions in the mass sacrifice pit near the Huaca Las Ventanas pyramid. Photograph courtesy A. Bryce

An apparent ritual mass sacrifice—including decapitations and a royal beer bash—is coming to light near a pre-Inca pyramid in northern Peru, archaeologists say.

Excavations next to the ancient Huaca Las Ventanas pyramid first uncovered bodies in August, and more have been emerging since then from a 50-by-50-foot (15-by-15-meter) pit.

The pyramid is part of the Sicán site, the capital of the Lambayeque people—also known as the Sicán—who ruled Peru’s northern coast from about A.D. 900 to 1100.

Perhaps more than a hundred bodies—buried nude and some of them headless—lie in the newfound pit, according to Haagen Klaus, a bioarchaeologist at Utah Valley University in Orem who is studying the finds.

The bodies are almost all adult males, with the exception of two children, each accompanied by what appears to be an adult woman.

Despite the huge mass burial, the Sicán were not warmongers, Klaus stressed. Instead the Sicán culture used an economy based on trade to build an empire that, at its peak around A.D. 1000, spanned thousands of miles across what is now Ecuador and Peru.

All the dead in the newfound pit were likely willing participants from local communities engaged in a ritual that celebrated death so that “new life could emerge in the world,” Klaus said in an email to National Geographic News.

“Sicán was holy ground, and only the most sanctified of religious rituals involving ancestors appear to have taken place there,” he added. “Mass ritual sacrifice appears to be the most likely interpretation” of the discovery.

“However, it is unlike any other context found before [among the Sicán], as it blurs the lines between burial ritual and sacrifice.”