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Researchers take 'strange' glimpse into neutron stars and symmetry violation

antihypertriton decay
© J. Adam et al., Nat. Phys., 2020/Brookhaven National Laboratory
Two RHIC detectors record the trajectories of the decay products of the antihypertriton.
Inner vertex components of the STAR detector at the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (righthand view) allow scientists to trace tracks from triplets of decay particles picked up in the detector's outer regions (left) to their origin in a rare "antihypertriton" particle that decays just outside the collision zone. Measurements of the momentum and known mass of the decay products (a pi+ meson, antiproton, and antideuteron) can then be used to calculate the mass and binding energy of the parent particle. Doing the same for the hypertriton (which decays into different "daughter" particles) allows precision comparisons of these matter and antimatter varieties.

New results from precision particle detectors at the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC) offer a fresh glimpse of the particle interactions that take place in the cores of neutron stars and give nuclear physicists a new way to search for violations of fundamental symmetries in the universe. The results, just published in Nature Physics, could only be obtained at a powerful ion collider such as RHIC, a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science user facility for nuclear physics research at DOE's Brookhaven National Laboratory.

The precision measurements reveal that the binding energy holding together the components of the simplest "strange-matter" nucleus, known as a "hypertriton," is greater than obtained by previous, less-precise experiments. The new value could have important astrophysical implications for understanding the properties of neutron stars, where the presence of particles containing so-called "strange" quarks is predicted to be common.

Comment: Early research on the hypertriton and its antimatter counterpart: Physicists create heaviest form of antimatter ever seen


NASA data shows gas is leaking from Uranus

It's been several decades since NASA's Voyager 2 spacecraft reached the chilly planet Uranus. The probe cruised past the frigid world at a distance of around 50,000 miles, sending back a wealth of data for scientists to dig through. Now, 34 years after it visited Uranus, the data that Voyager 2 sent back has revealed something entirely new.

As NASA reports in a new post, researchers recently discovered that Voyager 2 cruised through a blob of charged gas called a plasmoid as it passed the planet. The spacecraft's journey through the plasmoid lasted only about a minute, but that was still long enough for scientists to spot the anomaly in the decades-old data.


18-year-old blind pianist is so talented that scientists are studying his brain to learn why

Matthew Whitaker
© Screenshot, Youtube.
A blind piano prodigy has met major success in his life, entertaining audiences across the world since he was 11. And now scientists are studying his brain to find out what exactly makes him so good.

When Matthew Whitaker was born prematurely at 24 weeks, he was not only blind but he had a series of health problems and his parents were told that he had less than a 50 percent chance of survival. Before he even reached the age of two Whitaker had to undergo 11 surgeries.

However, not only did Whitaker manage to survive but by the age of three he was already able to skillfully play the piano and even write his own songs — without even needing a teacher.

Now 18, the Hackensack, New Jersey, native is now a universally praised tunesmith and jazz pianist who has performed at prestigious venues including the Lincoln Center, the Kennedy Center, Carnegie Hall, and the Apollo Theater. The virtuoso can even play anything by ear, ranging from Beyonce or Dvorak.

And now, the prodigiously talented musician is the focus of a new medical study that seeks to find out how exactly the brains of brilliant musicians work and how they are different from those of average people.


Tsunami-like rampaging quasars can rip their host galaxies to shreds, new study reveals

© Flickr / European Southern Observatory
A supermassive black hole lies at the heart of almost every galaxy in the universe, swallowing matter and emitting large amounts of radiation, with the most voracious ones called quasars - objects that when observed through most telescopes look like bright stars.

Some of the most "energetic" objects of the universe are likely preventing the biggest galaxies from bulking up even more, according to new research.

Quasars - extremely bright quasi-stellar objects powered by black holes a billion times as massive as our Sun - have fascinated astronomers since their discovery half a century ago.

In a spate of six studies that were published on 16 March in a special edition of The Astrophysical Journal Supplement Series, astronomers state the case that the very same radiation that is emitted by the voracious objects as they swallow matter may be ripping apart their host galaxies.

Comment: See also:


Australia found a way to save water from plastic pollution and we can start doing the same

Water pollution
Plastic is everywhere around us polluting every corner of our planet affecting our life, health and well-being. Our oceans are packed with plastic endangering the existence of marine life.

The National Geographic states the following:
"Each year, an estimated 18 billion pounds of plastic waste enters the world's ocean from coastal regions. That's about equivalent to five grocery bags of plastic trash piled up on every foot of coastline on the planet".
Furthermore, it reports the devastating state of the oceans including the environment. The coral reefs are smothered in bags, turtles gagging on straws, whales and seabirds starving their bodies as due to the bits of plastic there is not enough place for real food, and so on.

The plastic that is discarded mainly comes from single-item use and around 40% of it ends in the oceans. Many companies are recycling the plastic, but that is less than a fifth of all plastic, so there is the need for new innovative solutions to improve this condition.


Coronavirus and disease from outer space - Q & A with Dr. Wickramasinghe

Chandra Wickramasinghe
© When Worlds Collide

Q: Dr. C, thank you for joining us here at the Tusk. Do you believe person-to-person viral transmission occurs with Coronavirus or other viruses? If the infection comes from space, how do you account for the "close quarters" effect where infection rates run so much higher on cruise ships and such?

It appears that this new virus can be infective only on very close contact. The many cases occurring simultaneously on cruise ships or chalets in ski resorts can be explained if clouds carrying the virus come down in local regions. As for freak "superspreaders" this is a myth based on ignorance. If a group of people were exposed to a cloud of the virus and became simultaneously infected from a non-human environmental source of any kind, there would be a dispersion in the times before illness shows up. That is to say the incubation period would have statistical spread, so one case will appear first. To crown him/her a superspreader with a mysterious power is akin to a medieval myth (explained in the attached article.)

This idea was first discussed scientifically by the late Sir Fred Hoyle and me in two books - Diseases from Space (1979) and Evolution from Space (1980). Here we introduced the theory that comets carry bacteria and viruses and that impacts by comets were important for both the beginning of life on Earth and for its further evolution. The first point to make is that the standard view that life originates spontaneously on Earth in a primordial soup or in deep sea thermal vents has no evidence whatsoever to support it. Every experiment that has been done to demonstrate this possibility has been a dismal failure over more than 50 years. The molecular complexity of life - the information content of life - is of an exceedingly specific kind and is superastronomical in quantity, and so the origin of life could not have happened on Earth.

A few years ago the very oldest evidence of microbial life on Earth was discovered in rocks dated 4300 million years ago - and this was at a time when the Earth was being relentlessly pounded by comet and asteroid impacts. So there is little doubt now that life on Earth came from impacting comets, and the subsequent evolution of life happened against the backdrop of new bacteria and viruses being introduced via comets, adding new potential for evolution. It is this potential for evolution with new cosmic genes against which Darwinian evolution takes place. So there is no doubt cosmic viruses are in our genes. And this is the reason that new viruses coming from space today can relate to evolved life forms like ourselves.


Sleep inconsistency may increase risk to cardiovascular health

© University of Notre Dame
Despite increasing awareness of how critical sleep is to our health, getting a good night's rest remains increasingly difficult in a world that's always "on" — responding to emails at all hours, news cycles that change with every tweet and staring endlessly into the blue light of cell phone, tablet and computers screens.

Scientists have stressed the importance of healthy sleep habits, recommending at least seven hours each night, and have linked lack of sleep to an increased risk in numerous health conditions, including diabetes, stroke and cardiovascular disease.

Now a new study shows whether or not you go to bed on time could also have an effect on your health. Researchers at the University of Notre Dame studied the correlation between bedtime regularity and resting heart rate (RHR) and found that individuals going to bed even 30 minutes later than their usual bedtime presented a significantly higher resting heart rate that lasted into the following day.

"We already know an increase in resting heart rate means an increased risk to cardiovascular health," said Nitesh Chawla, the Frank M. Freimann professor of Computer Science and Engineering at Notre Dame, director of the Center for Network and Data Science and a lead author of the study. "Through our study, we found that even if you get seven hours of sleep a night, if you're not going to bed at the same time each night, not only does your resting heart rate increase while you sleep, it carries over into the next day."

Microscope 2

Scientists 'reset' the age of stem cells from a supercentenarian who lived to 114

Embryonic stem cells
© Science Photo Library/Steve Gschmeissner/Getty Images
Embryonic stem cells (ESCs), coloured scanning electron micrograph.
For the first time, scientists have reprogrammed the stem cells of a 114-year-old woman, the oldest donor to date.

After first transforming cells from her blood sample into induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), the researchers then generated mesenchymal stem cells, which help to maintain and repair tissues like bone, cartilage and fat.

"We set out to answer a big question: Can you reprogram cells this old?" says stem cell biologist Evan Snyder at Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute in California.

"Now we have shown it can be done, and we have a valuable tool for finding the genes and other factors that slow down the aging process."

Stem cells are sometimes called "cellular Rosetta stones", because they allow us to study disease, cancer, ageing and regeneration like never before.


Finally, an origin-of-life scientist debates evolution skeptic James Tour

Prof. Lee Cronin
© University of Glasgow
Prof. Lee Cronin engaged in debate with intelligent design proponent James Tour
Justin Brierley is a very thoughtful radio and video debate host in the U.K. His program, Unbelievable?, recently hosted a conversation on the origin of life that included University of Glasgow chemist Lee Cronin. As Brierley reports, he was flooded with requests afterward for a rematch, this time with skeptical synthetic organic chemist James Tour at Rice University.

Readers of Evolution News will be familiar with Tour, who spoke last year at Discovery Institute's Dallas Conference on Science & Faith and who contributed a chapter to the new updated and expanded book from Discovery Institute Press, The Mystery of Life's Origin: The Continuing Controversy. Now Brierley has brought together Tour and Cronin for a debate that is substantive, combative, and enlightening:


Squids can edit their own genes

Giant Axon in Squid
© Vallecillo-Viejo et al, Nucl. Acids Res., 2020.
Top, schematic of squid anatomy showing the location of the “giant axon,” an unusually large neural projection that partly controls the squid’s jet propulsion system, used for very fast movement, attacks and escapes. Below, schematic of a neuron, showing the location of the nucleus where all RNA editing was previously thought to occur, and the axon, where local RNA editing was identified in squid.
Woods Hole, Mass. - Revealing yet another super-power in the skillful squid, scientists have discovered that squid massively edit their own genetic instructions not only within the nucleus of their neurons, but also within the axon — the long, slender neural projections that transmit electrical impulses to other neurons. This is the first time that edits to genetic information have been observed outside of the nucleus of an animal cell.

The study, led by Isabel C. Vallecillo-Viejo and Joshua Rosenthal at the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL), Woods Hole, is published this week in Nucleic Acids Research.

The discovery provides another jolt to the central dogma of molecular biology, which states that genetic information is passed faithfully from DNA to messenger RNA to the synthesis of proteins. In 2015, Rosenthal and colleagues discovered that squid "edit" their messenger RNA instructions to an extraordinary degree - orders of magnitude more than humans do — allowing them to fine-tune the type of proteins that will be produced in the nervous system.