Science & Technology


Scientists finally prove the existence of a new particle: The pentaquark

© PopularMechanics
Collected images and data have revealed the face of the pentaquark for the first time. They usually consist of two different types of quarks, namely, a down quark, a charm quark and an anti-charm quark
As the name would suggest, it's five quarks bound up together. For more than half a century, physicists have predicted the existence of the pentaquark, a subatomic particle that's made of four quarks and one antiquark all bound up together. Now, thanks to new experiments at the Large Hadron Collider's LHCb experiment, they've finally found it and confirmed that it's the real deal.

Quarks are the super-small elementary particles that make up the neutrons and protons that make up atoms. (Neutrons and protons are each made of three quarks.) Quarks can also combine to form an array of stranger composite particles, though, such as the pentaquark. Says The Verge:
Like the Higgs boson before it, the pentaquark's existence has been theorized for years, but experiments in the early-2000s claiming to have detected the exotic form of matter were later invalidated. Many scientists had since given up on the pentaquark for good, but this time, say CERN physicists, there's no doubt it's been found.

ScienceDaily, July 14, 2015

In 1964 American physicist, Murray Gell-Mann, proposed that a category of particles known as baryons, which includes protons and neutrons, are composed of three fractionally charged objects called quarks, and that another category, mesons, are formed of quark-antiquark pairs. Gell-Mann was awarded the Nobel Prize in physics for this work in 1969. This quark model also allows the existence of other quark composite states, such as pentaquarks composed of four quarks and an antiquark. Until now, however, no conclusive evidence for pentaquarks had been seen.

Snowflake Cold

Winter is coming: Earth approaching 'mini ice age' in 15 years, solar cycle study suggests

© Reuters / Brian Snyder
Earth is facing the prospect of a 'mini ice age' this century, with our sun's activity projected to fall 60 percent in the 2030s, British astrophysicists say, based on the results of new research that they claim allows exact predictions of solar cycles.

Our planet is just 15 years from a new 'mini ice age' that could cause extremely cold winters characterized by the freezing of normally ice-free rivers as well as by year-round snow fields in areas that have never witnessed such climate conditions before, a group of astrophysicists claim.

The scientists could draw such a conclusion based on a new model of the sun's activity that reportedly enables the researchers to make "extremely accurate predictions" of changes in solar activity.

Although, the fact that the sun's activity varies within a 10-12 year long cycles was first discovered almost two centuries ago, in 1843, all the previously existing explanatory models failed to fully explain the fluctuations with each cycle as well as between the cycles.

Comment: May we actually be overdue for a mini ice age or was this scientist predicting one just a bit soon? OR, are we farther along in the process than the above article would seem to suggest?

See also:

Ice Ages start and end so suddenly, "it's like a button was pressed," say scientists
Reflections on the Coming Ice Age
'Forget global warming, prepare for Ice Age'


Infrasound: Humans can hear sounds an octave lower than previously assumed

© Max-Planck Institut für Bildungsforschung
Are wind farms harmful to humans? Some believe so, others refute this; this controversial topic makes emotions run high. To give the debate more objectivity, an international team of experts dealt with the fundamentals of hearing in the lower limit range of the audible frequency range (i.e. infrasound), but also in the upper limit range (i.e. ultrasound). The project, which is part of the European Metrology Research Programme (EMRP), was coordinated by the Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt (PTB).

At PTB, not only acoustics experts, but also experts from the fields of biomagnetism (MEG) and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) were involved in the research activities. They have found out that humans can hear sounds lower than had previously been assumed. And the mechanisms of sound perception are much more complex than previously thought. Another vast field of research opens up here in which psychology also has to be taken into account. And there is definitely a need for further research.

If there is a plan to erect a wind turbine in front of someone's property, many an eager supporter of the "energy transition" quickly turns into a wind energy opponent. Fear soon starts spreading: the infrasound generated by the rotor blades and by the wind flow might make someone ill. Many people living in the vicinity of such wind farms do indeed experience sleep disturbances, a decline in performance, and other negative effects. Infrasound designates very low sounds, below the limit of hearing, which is around 16 hertz. The wind energy sector and the authorities often try to appease the situation, declaring that the sounds generated are inaudible and much too weak to be the source of health problems.

Comment: Whether or not humans can actually hear infrasound, many have reported becoming ill and have experienced severe negative emotional and behavioral impacts from both natural and man-made infrasonic activity. Increasingly, populations are reporting the persistence of ultralow pitch sounds which render them weak and fatigued. As an example, in certain locations across the Mediterranean coast some individuals suffer from "seasonal nervous exhaustion" and other "neurophysical maladies" from the Mistral. It is known that whenever the Mistral blows, there will be increased emotional tension, depression, irritability and in numerous cases, it has produced fatalities.

Infrasound: "There is geometry in the humming of the strings, there is music in the spacing of the spheres"


What an interstellar flight through the Milky Way would look like (VIDEO)

© Still from YouTube video/daveachuk
Hundreds of thousands of NASA Spitzer space telescopes photos compiled in a single stunning video by YouTube user daveachuk present a unique chance for everyone to take a flight through the Milky Way, usually hidden under thick clouds of dust and gas.

Comment: For more on our cosmic environment, check out:

Light Saber

Scientists discover near-infrared light turbocharges chemical reactions providing cellular energy

© Andrei Sommer et al
A near infrared laser beam makes it easier for a nanoscale probe to pass through water
It sounds too good to be true. Shining red light on skin or cells in a dish gives an instant energy boost that could help heal wounds, relieve pain and perhaps help male infertility and other medical conditions.

The curious healing effect has been known for decades - researchers have been investigating its use in eye injuries since 2002 - but why it works has been a mystery. It turns out the explanation could be simple and yet strange: the red light seems to alter the physical properties of water, which turbocharges the chemical reactions that provide a cell's energy.

The revelation has come from work led by Andrei Sommer of the University of Ulm in Germany.

The effect on cells of near-infrared light, which has a wavelength of 670 nanometres, was first reported 40 years ago. The light causes mitochondria, the cell's powerhouses, to produce more ATP, a compound that provides the cell's energy.


Scientists network brains to create a mind-melded computer

© Srivas Chennu
Two heads are better than one, and three monkey brains can control an avatar better than any single monkey. For the first time, a team has networked the brains of multiple animals to form a living computer that can perform tasks and solve problems.

If human brains could be similarly connected, it might give us superhuman problem-solving abilities, and allow us to communicate abstract thoughts and experiences. "It is really exciting," says Iyad Rahwan at the Masdar Institute in Dubai, UAE, who was not involved in the work. "It will change the way humans cooperate."

The work, published today, is an advance on standard brain-machine interfaces - devices that have enabled people and animals to control machines and prosthetic limbs by thought alone. These tend to work by converting the brain's electrical activity into signals that a computer can interpret.

Comment: Also see: Scientists get first ever visual glimpse into how new concepts form inside brain


Record-breaking explosion 2.5 times brighter than any previous superluminous supernova found

© Nasa/GSFC
Swift has been keeping a close eye on the possible supernova
The supernova world has a new brightness champ. A supernova discovered on 14 June appears to shine more than 400 billion times brighter than the sun would if they sat next to each other.

An ordinary supernova usually marks the death of a massive star, but a so-called superluminous supernova shines at least 10 times brighter and has more mysterious origins. The newly found explosion, called ASASSN-15lh, is at least 2.5 times brighter than any superluminous supernova seen before.

The All-Sky Automated Survey for Supernovae (ASAS-SN), a suite of automated 14-centimetre telescopes that scour the sky for stellar explosions, discovered the bright object in the southern constellation of Indus.


NASA finds gnarly surfer waves in universe

Is it a wave or a cloud?
"Surfer's waves" are known for their iconic series of curved hills all moving in the same direction and this pattern isn't just confined to coastal beaches. Scientists have seen this pattern all over the known universe - on a scale as small as the cellular level and as large as the galactic level.

According to two newly published studies - surfer's waves, also called Kelvin-Helmholtz waves, can also be found in near-Earth space, a region of space that affects how solar radiation reaches our civilization.
NASA photography of KH clouds.
Scientists have known that Kelvin-Helmholtz waves are caused by a fast fluid, such as wind, moving over a slower fluid, like the ocean. This pattern can also be seen in cloud formations and on the surface of the sun.

"We have known before that Kelvin-Helmholtz waves exist at the boundaries of Earth's magnetic environment - but they were considered relatively rare and thought to only appear under specialized conditions," study author Shiva Kavosi, a space scientist at the University of New Hampshire, said in a press release. "It turns out they can appear under any conditions and are much more prevalent than we thought. They're present 20 percent of the time."

Comment: We find these wave clouds on Jupiter and Saturn which means they are common phenomena throughout our solar system. Kelvin Helmholtz clouds are named for Lord Kelvin and Hermann von Helmholtz, who studied the physics of the instability that leads to this type of cloud formation. It's widely believed that these waves in the sky inspired the swirls in van Gogh's masterpiece Starry Night.

Cloud Grey

Project Nimbus: Researchers use lasers to project moving images onto clouds

© New Scientist
A green ghost rider appeared in the sky over the British city of Nottingham when scientists started testing a newly developed projecting device which allows the beaming of moving images directly onto clouds for the first time ever.

The image of a galloping horse rider was projected onto the clouds from a distance of 50 meters by a special laser-based projection system mounted on an aircraft.

The system beaming the images into the clouds was invented by a research team, calling itself Project Nimbus. It is composed of a designer, Dave Lynch, and a chemist, Dr Mike Nix, from the University of Leeds, who ultimately want to be able to beam the movies onto the clouds from the ground.

Comment: What a nice tool to take the blame and/or deflect attention away from UFO apparitions and cometary activity.


Bonobos observed making wooden spears, daggers and stone shovels like our human ancestors


The bonobos used sticks to dig out food hidden under the ground and lever large rocks out of the way, as shown in the sequence of images above.
They are our closest living relatives in the animal kingdom and now it seems bonobos may actually be far more human-like than we ever believed.

The great apes, which are cousins of chimpanzees, have been seen creating and using tools much like our early human ancestors.

Researchers have reported witnessing bonobos modifying branches to create spears and using antlers and rocks as daggers, scrapers, shovels and hammers.

They claim their skills with these tools resembles the techniques attributed to the Oldowan stone tool culture that appeared in ancient humans living between 2.6 million and 1.7 million years ago.