Matryoshka World

Friday, September 13, 2013

Data Opens Possibility Of A Curved Cosmos

 This article at discusses recent data from the Planck satellite launched by the European Space Agency in 2009 that supports the existence of the same anomaly NASA's Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP), launched in 2001, found.  The Wilkinson data unexpectedly suggested that the universe may be lopsided — hot and cold spots on one side of the cosmos appear hotter and colder than on the other. One explanation for the data is that the universe is curved, or saddle shaped.  From the article:
Researchers investigating a major anomaly in the afterglow of the Big Bang suggest the fabric of space and time may actually be curved like a saddle, possibly upending the currently leading notion that light and anything else traveling through spacetime zips through a "flat" universe in straight lines. In a saddle-shaped universe, however, any object that seems like it is traveling parallel to another item will actually veer away from it after vast distances.
Andrew Liddle, a cosmologist at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland Liddle and his colleague Marina Cortês detail their findings in the Sept. 13 issue of the journal Physical Review Letters.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

A New Theory of Consciousness

In an article published in Aeon Magazine, Michael Graziano presents a new theory of consciousness.  His theory is that the evolution of attention was a useful data handling mechanism in brains that became more complex over time.  Further, "Attention requires control. In the modern study of robotics there is something called control theory, and it teaches us that, if a machine such as a brain is to control something, it helps to have an internal model of that thing."  Graziano proceeds to explain his theory:

The brain will attribute a property to itself and that property will be a simplified proxy for attention. It won’t be precisely accurate, but it will convey useful information. What exactly is that property? When it is paying attention to thing X, we know that the brain usually attributes an experience of X to itself — the property of being conscious, or awareof something. Why? Because that attribution helps to keep track of the ever-changing focus of attention...I call this the ‘attention schema theory’. It has a very simple idea at its heart: that consciousness is a schematic model of one’s state of attention. Early in evolution, perhaps hundreds of millions of years ago, brains evolved a specific set of computations to construct that model. At that point, ‘I am aware of X’ entered their repertoire of possible computations.

Link to the article in Aeon Magazine

Michael Graziano is a professor of neuroscience at Princeton University. His latest book, Consciousness and the Social Brain, is scheduled for release in September.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Frank Wilczek's paper on the prsopect of a multiverse: "Multiversality"

Valid ideas that physical reality is vastly larger than human perception of it, and that the perceived part may not be representative of the whole, exist on many levels and have a long history. After a brief general inventory of those ideas and their implications, I consider the cosmological “multiverse” much discussed in recent scientific literature. I review its theoretical and (broadly) empirical motivations, and its disruptive implications for the traditional program of fundamental physics. I discuss the inflationary axion cosmology, which provides an example where firmly rooted, plausible ideas from microphysics lead to a well-characterized “mini-multiverse” scenario, with testable phenomenological consequences

Swirls in the Afterglow of the Big Bang Could Set Stage for Major Discovery

From Science Now:

Scientists have spotted swirling patterns in the radiation lingering from the big bang, the so-called cosmic microwave background (CMB). The observation itself isn't Earth-shaking, as researchers know that these particular swirls or "B-modes" originated in conventional astrophysics, but the result suggests that scientists are closing in on a much bigger prize: B-modes spawned by gravity waves that rippled through the infant universe. That observation would give them a direct peek into the cosmos' first fraction of a second and possibly shed light on how it all began.

Friday, June 21, 2013

A New Equation Reveals Our Exact Odds of Finding Alien Life

...well, not exactly.  But the new equation, the Seager Equation, hopes to estimate the number of worlds we can hope to find in the near future with detectible biosignature gases.  This isn't a search for intelligent life, but instead a search for any type of life that is somewhat similar to our own.

According to Seager's estimate, we should be able to detect a few planets with biosignatures, indicating they are inhabited by some form of life, within the next decade or so.

The Seager Equation

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

A theory of everything ... has physics gone too far?

Jim Baggott and Mike Duff debate the limits of physics

I agree with Duff.  While observation and confirmation of theory will always be fundamental to the process of real science, the fact that we can not directly observe something in the present does not invalidate a theory that is developed through scientific analysis.

As Duff explains:

 Similarly, string theorists did not assume supersymmetry, extra dimensions, the dualities of M-theory or the myriad possible universes; they discovered them to be consequences of a theory that subsumes empirically well-established features such as general relativity, gauge field theory and chiral quarks and leptons. Current research is devoted to finding out what else M-theory requires.  Moreover, there is a feeling, hard to convey to the layman but shared by many experienced theorists, that these ideas all hang together. As Peter Higgs said recently, "I'm a big fan of supersymmetry because it seems the only way to get gravity into the game''.
Finally, you offer no credible alternative. If you don't like string theory the answer is simple: come up with a better one. The battle for the correct theory will not be won on Amazon or on the blogosphere, however. It will be won in the pages of scholarly scientific journals. Sadly, many critics of string theory, having lost their case in the court of science, try to win it in the court of popular opinion. A science writer calling the theorists who are actually doing the research "confidence tricksters'' or Stephen Hawking "a fairytale physicist'' doesn't cut the mustard.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

New Physics Complications Lend Support to Multiverse Hypothesis

Is Nature Unnatural? by Natalie Wolchover 

 With the discovery of only one particle, the LHC experiments deepened a profound problem in physics that had been brewing for decades. Modern equations seem to capture reality with breathtaking accuracy, correctly predicting the values of many constants of nature and the existence of particles like the Higgs. Yet a few constants — including the mass of the Higgs boson — are exponentially different from what these trusted laws indicate they should be, in ways that would rule out any chance of life, unless the universe is shaped by inexplicable fine-tunings and cancellations.

Eric Weinstein may have found the answer to physics' biggest problems

"A physicist has formulated a mathematical theory that purports to explain why the universe works the way it does – and it feels like 'the answer'"

LINK to article in The Guardian

The Guardian article was written by mathematician Marcus du Sautoy, who is a supporter of Weinstein's theory which has been dubbed Geometric Unity.  However, most scientists remain skeptical, and Weinstein's equations have not been submitted for review yet, as discussed in this New Scientist article.

Friday, March 8, 2013

How does the Anthropic Principle change the meaning of the universe?

 Are the finely-tuned physical laws that surround us mere coincidence, or does it imply that we are somehow meant to be here? That's where the Anthropic Principle comes into play.
How does the Anthropic Principle change the meaning of the universe?

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Subatomic calculations indicate finite lifespan for universe

The universe is going to end says Joseph Lykken, a theoretical physicist with the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia, Illinois. Lykeen spoke before presenting his research at the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in Boston on Monday, February 18, 2013.

"A little bubble of what you might think of as an ‘alternative' universe will appear somewhere and then it will expand out and destroy us," Lykken said, adding that the event will unfold at the speed of light.

This conclusion is based on the most up to date calculations of the mass of the Higgs boson-126 billion electron volts - a critical number in figuring out the fate of the universe.

The good news: this will not happen for many billions of years. 

See also:  The top quark and Higgs boson masses and the stability of the electroweakvacuum

Friday, February 15, 2013

New York Times has a collection of Russian meteor videos

Spectacular Videos of Meteor Over Siberia

Why we will never build a space elevator

I do not agree with this assessment which I believe to be overly pessimistic.  However there is not doubt the technological hurdles are very real, and it will probably be several decades before such a project becomes at all feasible under even a best case scenario. 

Much more promising is the prospect for a space elevator on the moon.  This paper discusses the possibility of and potential design of a lunar elevator.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

New study of Kepler data suggests there are billions of habitable planets in our galaxy

New research from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics suggests that as many as 6% of all red dwarfs host Earth-sized planets within their habitable zones — a calculation that brings the total number of red dwarf alien Earths across the galaxy to 4.5 billion.

7 TED talks on the wonder of 3D printing

3d printing holds untold promise in a number of areas.  This link provides a list of recent TED talks on the promise and potential peril of 3d printing.

This post on the European Space Agency website discusses using 3d printing to build a lunar base.  

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Is the universe fine tuned for making life...or black holes?

io9 has a summary of the argument presented by Lee Smolin in The Life of the Cosmos: What is the purpose of the Universe? Here is one possible answer

Smolin's Theory of Cosmological Natural Selection posits that a process analogous to biological natural selection applies to the creation of universes. From Wikipedia:
The theory surmises that a collapsing black hole causes the emergence of a new universe on the "other side", whose fundamental constant parameters (speed of light, Planck length and so forth) may differ slightly from those of the universe where the black hole collapsed. Each universe therefore gives rise to as many new universes as it has black holes. Thus the theory contains the evolutionary ideas of "reproduction" and "mutation" of universes, but has no direct analogue of natural selection. However, given any universe that can produce black holes that successfully spawn new universes, it is possible that some number of those universes will reach heat death with unsuccessful parameters. So, in a sense, fecundity cosmological natural selection is one where universes could die off before successfully reproducing, just as any biological being can die without having offspring.
 Leonard Susskind, who promotes a similar string theory landscape, stated: "I'm not sure why Smolin's idea didn't attract much attention. I actually think it deserved far more than it got"

Monday, February 4, 2013

The Fabric of the Cosmos: What Is Space

I've posted a clip from Nova's Fabric of the Cosmos before, but this entire episode is worth watching. Narrated by Brian Greene