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Tue, 25 Jul 2017
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'New frontier' in physics: CERN discovers subatomic particle with double dose of 'charm'

© Daniel Dominguez / CERN
A long sought subatomic particle has finally been found, according to physicists at the Large Hadron Collider. Scientists hope the discovery will help to further explain a key force that binds matter together.

High-speed collisions in the Large Hadron Collider - the world's biggest atom smasher - helped to discover a baryon particle called Xi cc, according to a report issued by the University of Glasgow on Thursday.

"LHCb data collected last year contains more than 300 of the new Xi-cc++ particles," the report says.

"This is the first time that a baryon has been conclusively observed containing two heavy charm quarks and is a new frontier in understanding the strong force that binds quarks together," Professor of Experimental Particle Physics at the University of Glasgow Paul Soler said of the breakthrough discovery.


Physicist wants to find out if the entire universe is conscious

You don't have to look far to find outlandish theories on the nature of the cosmos and human consciousness. These days, notions once relegated to science fiction are finding their way into esoteric academic journals, and from there, into mainstream discourse. One example of this is the Simulation Argument, recently championed by Elon Musk; another is 'time crystals,' a tantalizing non-linear phase of matter. The newest symphony of mind jazz being broadcast across the Internet posits new ideas about the embattled theory of "panpsychism," or the belief that mind is a fundamental property of the physical universe and is imbued into all states of matter.

A new paper, published by physicist Gregory Matloff, has brought the idea back into scientific discussions, promising experimental tests that could "validate or falsify" the concept of a ubiquitous "proto-consciousness field." Matloff also pushes the controversial idea of volitional stars, suggesting there is actually evidence that stars control their own galactic paths.

As absurd as the theory sounds, it has several prominent adherents, including British theoretical physicist Sir Roger Penrose, who introduced panpsychism three decades ago. Penrose believed consciousness arises from the properties of quantum entanglement. He and anesthesiologist Stuart Hameroff authored the Orchestrated Objective Reduction (Orch-OR) hypothesis, which asserts, among other things, that consciousness results from quantum vibrations inside microtubules.

Comment: See also:

Fireball 5

88 pound meteor strikes the moon causing a massive explosion

© Getty
The moon was struck by a meteor creating an explosion visible with the naked eye.
A METEOR with the explosive power of TEN cruise missiles has struck the Moon - sparking a massive explosion visible with the naked eye.

And terrifyingly the 56,000 mph collision - captured by NASA scientists highlighting the catastrophic danger planet earth faces from similar meteors - was caused by a space rock weighing no more than 88 lbs (40 kilos).

Despite the meteor's tiny proportions - about the size of a small boulder and the weight of an average 10-year-old boy - the impact damage was colossal and the explosion shone with the brightness of a magnitude 4 star.


Study reports temperature adjustments account for 'nearly all of the warming' in climate data

© NASA/Shutterstock/Martin Capek
Having a hot one, are we?
A new study found adjustments made to global surface temperature readings by scientists in recent years
"are totally inconsistent with published and credible U.S. and other temperature data. Thus, it is impossible to conclude from the three published [global average surface temperature (GAST)] data sets that recent years have been the warmest ever - despite current claims of record setting warming," according to a study published June 27 by two scientists and a veteran statistician.
The peer-reviewed study tried to validate current surface temperature datasets managed by NASA, NOAA and the UK's Met Office, all of which make adjustments to raw thermometer readings. Skeptics of man-made global warming have criticized the adjustments.

Climate scientists often apply adjustments to surface temperature thermometers to account for "biases" in the data. The new study doesn't question the adjustments themselves but notes nearly all of them increase the warming trend.

Basically, "cyclical pattern in the earlier reported data has very nearly been 'adjusted' out" of temperature readings taken from weather stations, buoys, ships and other sources.

In fact, almost all the surface temperature warming adjustments cool past temperatures and warm more current records, increasing the warming trend, according to the study's authors.

Comment: Are we surprised? One would think 'science' is one of the most mutable disciplines that welcomes course-correction to isolate the truth of a process. Nah. Nope. Nada.


Solar minimum: The sun is getting quieter, displaying some weird behavior

The sun is about to enter a period of quiet, known as a solar minimum. This cycle happens every 11 years and is characterized of decreased activity—when sunspots fade away and produce fewer solar flares. With this latest period of inactivity approaching, scientists have been monitoring the sun to better understand some of the unusual activity observed over recent years.

In a study published in May the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, a team of scientists from the U.S., U.K. and Denmark analyzed 31 years' worth of data from the Birmingham Solar Oscillations Network (BiSON)—a group of six ground-based telescopes that provide constant monitoring of the sun's oscillations.

In the study, Yvonne Elsworth and colleagues studied the sound waves from the sun over the last three solar minimums to see how they have changed during different periods of activity. Elsworth will present the findings at the National Astronomy Meeting at the University of Hull, U.K., on Tuesday.
"The sun is very much like a musical instrument except that its typical notes are at a very low frequency—some 100,000 times lower than middle C," she said in a statement. "Studying these sound waves, using a technique called helioseismology, enables us to find out what's going on throughout the Sun's interior."


New study shows that music boosts brain cell connectivity and communication

Using music to learn a physical task significantly develops an important part of the brain, according to a study.

People who practised a basic movement to music showed "increased structural connectivity" between the regions of the brain that process sound and control movement, the University of Edinburgh research shows.

The findings - published in the medical journal Brain & Cognition - showed that brain wiring enables cells to communicate with each other.

Experts say the study could have positive implications for future research into rehabilitation for patients who have lost some degree of movement control.

Comment: And on that note, enjoy:

Ice Cube

European ice sheet collapse caused chaos

© H.Patton/CAGE
Based on the latest reconstruction of the famous ice age river system, Fleuve Manche, the scientists have calculated that its catchment area was similar to that of the Mississippi.
Scientists have reconstructed in detail the collapse of the Eurasian ice sheet at the end of the last ice age. The big melt wreaked havoc across the European continent, driving home the original Brexit 10,000 years ago.

© H.Patton/CAGE
The Eurasian ice sheet was an enormous conveyor of ice that covered most of northern Europe some 23,000 years ago. Its extent was such that a skier could have traversed 4,500 km continuously across its expanse from the far southwestern isles in Britain to Franz Josef Land in the Siberian Arctic. Its existence had a massive and extremely hostile impact on Europe at the time.

This ice sheet alone lowered the global sea level by over 20 meters. As it melted and collapsed, it caused severe flooding across the continent, led to dramatic sea level rise, and diverted mega-rivers that raged on the continent. A new model investigating the retreat of this ice sheet and its many impacts has just been published in Quaternary Science Reviews.


Walking speed gives clues to declining cognition

The connection between slowed walking speed and declining mental acuity appears to arise in the right hippocampus, a finger-shaped region buried deep in the brain that is important to memory and spatial orientation, according to research from the University of Pittsburgh.

The findings suggest that older patients may benefit if their doctors regularly measure their walking speed and watch for changes over time, which could be early signs of cognitive decline and warrant referral to a specialist for diagnostic testing.
"Prevention and early treatment may hold the key to reducing the global burden of dementia, but the current screening approaches are too invasive and costly to be widely used. Our study required only a stopwatch, tape, and an 18-foot-long hallway, along with about five minutes of time once every year or so,"
says lead author Andrea Rosso, assistant professor of epidemiology at the University of Pittsburgh.


Male fish showing feminized behavior and growing eggs due to large amounts of chemicals in water supply

© Norbert Probst / Global Look Press
A leading eco-toxicologist has warned that the quantity of synthetic chemicals entering our watershed is feminizing fish populations to such a degree that several species now boast transgender and intersex fish, with eggs in their testicles.
"If you look in terms of what gets into a fish's liver or gonad, the analysis of the chemicals it contains is a bit of a blueprint in terms of what's flushed down the toilet," Professor Charles Tyler, of the University of Exeter said, speaking to The Independent.

"We're starting to establish not just effects on gender, but that they can also affect other physiological processes in the fish as well," he added.
Tyler will give a keynote speech on the topic of 'transgender' or 'intersex' fish at the 50th Anniversary Symposium of the Fisheries Society in the British Isles at Exeter University from July 3 to 7.


Lunar robots deployed on Mount Etna to prepare for future landings on Mars and moon

© Antonio Parrinello / Reuters
Robots are seen on the Mount Etna, Italy July 2, 2017.
Europe's most active volcano welcomes tourists every day, but now it's hosting some rather unusual visitors - lunar robots whose skills are being tested for future landing missions on the moon and Mars.

Located on the Italian island of Sicily, Mount Etna exhibits seismic activity similar to what scientists believe will be found on the Earth's lunar satellite.

"We choose Etna because the volcanic, the seismic [activity] here is near that [which] we could expect it to be on the lunar surface," researcher Armin Welder told Reuters.