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Black Cat 2

Spontaneous gravity-related wave function collapse can suppress acoustic Schrodinger 'cat states'

Schrödinger's cat
© Credit: Wikipedia / CC BY-SA 3.0
Schrödinger's cat: a cat, a flask of poison, and a radioactive source are placed in a sealed box. If an internal monitor detects radioactivity (i.e. a single atom decaying), the flask is shattered, releasing the poison that kills the cat. The Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics implies that after a while, the cat is simultaneously alive and dead. Yet, when one looks in the box, one sees the cat either alive or dead, not both alive and dead. This poses the question of when exactly quantum superposition ends and reality collapses into one possibility or the other.
Schrödinger's famous thought experiment in which a cat hidden in a box can be both dead and alive at the same time demonstrates the concept of superposition on the macroscopic scale. However, the existence of such "cat states" (or simply "Cats") would be problematic in reality, as cat states not only go against common sense, but also pose problems for understanding gravity and space-time.

"Different people emphasize different concerns about Cats," Lajos Diósi, a physicist the Wigner Research Center for Physics in Budapest, Hungary, told Phys.org. "Some people emphasize different ones at different times. So, allow me to pick up two arguments. Penrose (in my words): A Cat implies superposition of macroscopically different space-times, making physical time elusive. Myself: If we measure a Cat state a la von Neumann (why not?), then the collapse will macroscopically violate many conservation laws."

To address such problems, Diósi has expanded upon a model in which gravity-related spontaneous wave function collapses can suppress Schrödinger cat states, forcing them to take on only one value. Diósi's paper on suppressing cat states is published in a recent issue of the New Journal of Physics.
Bug

Watch your email attachments: Microsoft office bug lets hackers take over computers

Microsoft
© AFP Photo/Sam Yeh
A dangerous new security vulnerability has been discovered in Microsoft's Office software, threatening to hijack users of virtually every existing version of Windows.

The bug in question affects programs like Word, PowerPoint, and Excel - and could allow an intruder to gain access to and control over a user's entire computer.

Already, Microsoft has discovered that hackers are using the bug to hack computers through PowerPoint. Windows users should be wary of opening PowerPoint files sent via email unless they completely trust the original source, the company wrote in an online security advisory. Even in cases involving trusted sources, it has advised to not open the files received unexpectedly.
Robot

Real life Transformer introduced at Tokyo expo

The J-deite Quarter
© Screen Capture
If you are a Transformer fan who dreams of someday owning your own transforming robot, Project J-deite will soon make your dream a reality.

The project, which is a collaborative effort between Japan's Brave Robotics, Asratec and Takara Tommy, is the brain child of Kenji Ishida, founder of Brave Robotics.

Ishida's passion for robotics began at the age of 14 and by the time he was 21, he had built his first bi-pedal walking robot. Now, he and his team have developed the J-deite Quarter, a humanoid bi-pedal robot made out of 3D-printed parts.

Introduced last week at the Digital Content Expo in Tokyo, attendees and the media got a glimpse of what J-deite Quarter can do.

The transforming robot stands 1.3 meters (4.3 feet) tall and can walk at a rate of 1 kilometer per hour (0.62 mph). Geek.com reports it takes J-deite Quarter approximately 30 seconds to transform from a walking robot to car mode. Once in car mode, it can travel up to ten kilometers per hour (6.2 mph).
Satellite

Space station dodging 'space junk' - yet again!

The International Space Station has to sidestep a piece of junk on the same day that a Virginia company is sending fresh supplies.

NASA says debris from an old, wrecked Russian satellite was due to come dangerously close to the orbiting lab Monday afternoon - a gap of just two-tenths of a mile. To keep the station and its six inhabitants safe, the station was going to maneuver well out of harm's way.

Mission Control says the move won't affect Monday evening's planned launch of a commercial supply ship.

Orbital Sciences Corp.'s unmanned Cygnus capsule holds 5,000 pounds of cargo, including mini research satellites. Liftoff is scheduled for 6:45 p.m. (2245 GMT) from Wallops Island, Virginia.

The launch, coming a half-hour after sunset, should be visible along much of the Eastern Seaboard.

Comment: If this really is "debris from an old, wrecked Russian satellite", perhaps we ought to ask the following question. Why have more satellites been crashing to Earth since 2011?

Could it be because they're being knocked out of orbit by incoming meteors and comet fragments?

See: Satellite debris or UFO Unidentified metal sphere falls from the sky in Brazil

and Space station dodges space junk again

Magnify

How the air we breathe was created by Earth's tectonic plates

Volcanism
© Simon Redfern
Volcanism, driven by plate tectonics, built Earth’s atmosphere to make a habitable planet.
How is it that Earth developed an atmosphere that made the development of life possible? A study published in the journal Nature Geoscience links the origins of Earth's nitrogen-rich atmosphere to the same tectonic forces that drive mountain-building and volcanism on our planet. It goes some way to explaining why, compared to our nearest neighbours, Venus and Mars, Earth's air is richer in nitrogen.

The chemistry of the air we breathe is, at least partly, the result of billions of years of photosynthesis. Plant life has transformed our world from one cloaked in a carbon dioxide-rich atmosphere - as seen on Mars or Venus - to one with significant oxygen. About a fifth of the air is made up of oxygen, and almost all the rest is nitrogen. But the origins of the relatively high nitrogen content of Earth's air have been something of a mystery.

Geoscientists Sami Mikhail and Dimitri Sverjensky of the Carnegie Institution of Washington have calculated what nitrogen is expected to do when it is cycled through the rocks of the deep Earth by the churning cycle of plate tectonics. Active volcanoes not only shower volcanic rock and superheated ash as they erupt molten rock into the air, they also vent huge amounts of gas from Earth's depths. The latest eruptions in Iceland, for example, have been noted for the amounts of sulphurous fumes that they have emitted.

Alongside sulphur, steam and carbon dioxide, volcanoes next to active tectonic plate boundaries pump massive quantities of nitrogen into the air. Mikhail and Sverjensky explain this through the chemistry of what goes on beneath those volcanic roots.
Telescope

Astronomers capture first ever data of an exploding fireball from a nova star

Researchers reveal the nova was about 14,800 light years from the sun, meaning the explosion witnessed in August last year happened 15,000 years ago

nova
© David A Hardy
An artist’s impression of a star system responsible for a nova.
A team of astronomers have captured the first images of a thermonuclear fireball from a nova star, allowing them to track the explosion as it expanded.

The nova was detected last year in the constellation Delphinus by the Chara Array infrared telescope in the US.

Researchers from 17 institutions around the world, including the University of Sydney and the Australian National University, analysed the resulting data.

It revealed with "unprecedented clarity" how the fireball evolves as the gas fuelling it expands and cools, Professor Peter Tuthill, a co-author on the study, said.

"We haven't had the ability to witness such exquisite magnification or high resolution of images until very recently, when we started building these powerful Array telescopes," Tuthill, from the University of Sydney's Institute for Astronomy, said.
Magnify

How cells know which way to go

Two new studies shed light on how cells sense and respond to chemical trails

© Yulia Artemenko/Johns Hopkins Medicine
A lab-grown human leukemia cells move toward a pipette tip holding an attractive chemical.
Amoebas aren't the only cells that crawl: Movement is crucial to development, wound healing and immune response in animals, not to mention cancer metastasis. In two new studies from Johns Hopkins, researchers answer long-standing questions about how complex cells sense the chemical trails that show them where to go - and the role of cells' internal "skeleton" in responding to those cues.

In following these chemical trails, cells steer based on minute differences in concentrations of chemicals between one end of the cell and the other. "Cells can detect differences in concentration as low as 2 percent," says Peter Devreotes, Ph.D., director of the Department of Cell Biology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. "They're also versatile, detecting small differences whether the background concentration is very high, very low or somewhere in between."

Working with Pablo Iglesias, Ph.D., a professor of electrical and computer engineering at Johns Hopkins, Devreotes' research group members Chuan-Hsiang Huang, Ph.D., a research associate, and postdoctoral fellow Ming Tang, Ph.D., devised a system for watching the response of a cellular control center that directs movement. They then subjected amoebas and human white blood cells to various gradients and analyzed what happened. "Detecting gradients turns out to be a two-step process," says Huang. "First, the cell tunes out the background noise, and the side of the cell that is getting less of the chemical signal just stops responding to it. Then, the control center inside the cell ramps up its response to the message it's getting from the other side of the cell and starts the cell moving toward that signal." The results appear on the Nature Communications website on Oct. 27.
Magnify

New pathway found: Mutant cells fail to deliver new proteins to correct location

DNA
Proteins are the machinery that accomplishes almost every task in every cell in every living organism. The instructions for how to build each protein are written into a cell's DNA. But once the proteins are constructed, they must be shipped off to the proper place to perform their jobs. New work from a team of scientists led by Carnegie's Munevver Aksoy and Arthur Grossman, describes a potentially new pathway for targeting newly manufactured proteins to the correct location. Their work is published in The Plant Cell journal.

The team's discovery concerns a cellular organelle that has been called an acidocalcisome. It is a compartment that isolates potential harmful or disruptive compounds from the rest of the cell and is also involved in the turnover of cellular components (similar to the so-called lysosome in animals). They are rich in phosphate-containing molecules and the team noted that they build up to high levels when cells of the single-celled, green alga Chlamydomonas are deprived of sulfur. They discovered that acidocalcisomes are also, surprisingly, involved in targeting proteins out into the cell space between the cell's membrane and the cell wall.

Working with Chlamydomonas, the team, which also included Carnegie's Wirulda Pootakham, was examining the organism's responses to nutrient deficiency. They found that mutant cells lacking the ability to form these acidocalcisomes also lacked the ability to cope with sulfur and nitrogen deprivation adequately.

What appears to happen with these mutants is that the proteins that specialize in helping the cell survive a deficiency of sulfur or nitrogen don't get shipped out to the space between the membrane and cell wall where they are needed. Because of this, feedback is sent to stop construction of the proteins (and the messenger RNA that encodes those proteins) and the entire response to nutrient deficiency is derailed.
HAL9000

Elon Musk says 'With artificial intelligence we are summoning the demon'

© Reuters
FILE 2014: Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla Motors, says artificial intelligence probably the biggest threat to human existence.
Elon Musk, the chief executive of Tesla and founder of SpaceX, said Friday that artificial intelligence is probably the biggest threat to humans.

Musk, who addressed MIT Aeronautics and Astronautics department's Centennial Symposium for about an hour, mulled international oversight to "make sure we don't do something very foolish," The Washington Post reported.

He was not specific about any particular threat, but appeared to theorize out loud.

"With artificial intelligence we are summoning the demon," he said. "In all those stories where there's the guy with the pentagram and the holy water, it's like yeah he's sure he can control the demon. Didn't work out."
Info

World's largest snake species has 'virgin birth'

Python
© The Independent, UK
A python named Thelma hatched six offspring - without contact with a male.
A 20-foot python from a zoo in America has given birth without the help of a mate.

Thelma, an 11-year-old reticulated python - the longest species of snake in the world - laid 61 eggs in the summer of 2012. This is despite having had no contact with a male in her four years at Louisville Zoo in Kentucky, USA.

After six months of extensive tests on the shed skins of the mother and her daughters, a study published in July this year in the Biological Journal of the Linnean Society confirmed that Thelma was the sole parent, in the first recorded example of virgin birth in the species.

Bill McMahan, Curator of Ectotherms at Louisville Zoo, told National Geographic: "We didn't know what we were seeing. We had attributed it to stored sperm. I guess sometimes truth is stranger than fiction."
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