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Thu, 22 Aug 2019
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Science & Technology


Part-matter, part-light: Newly discovered 'hybrid particles' open doors to exciting new tech

© Globallookpress.com
Every type of atom in the universe has a unique fingerprint: It only absorbs or emits light at the particular energies that match the allowed orbits of its electrons. That fingerprint enables scientists to identify an atom wherever it is found. A hydrogen atom in outer space absorbs light at the same energies as one on Earth.

While physicists have learned how electric and magnetic fields can manipulate this fingerprint, the number of features that make it up usually remains constant. In work published July 3 in the journal Nature, University of Chicago researchers challenged this paradigm by shaking electrons with lasers to create "doppelganger" features at new energies — a breakthrough that lets scientists create hybrid particles which are part-atom and part-light, with a wide variety of new behaviors.

The research is part of a greater effort in Assoc. Prof. Jonathan Simon's lab to break down the walls between matter and light, in order to investigate their fundamental properties. In addition to learning about how materials behave at the quantum level, this work could one day help create more powerful computers or virtually "unhackable" quantum communications.

Cloud Precipitation

Winter monsoons became stronger during geomagnetic reversal 780,000 years ago

monsoon changes
© Owen Shieh, University of Hawaii
New evidence suggests that high-energy particles from space known as galactic cosmic rays affect the Earth's climate by increasing cloud cover, causing an "umbrella effect."
When galactic cosmic rays increased during the Earth's last geomagnetic reversal transition 780,000 years ago, the umbrella effect of low-cloud cover led to high atmospheric pressure in Siberia, causing the East Asian winter monsoon to become stronger. This is evidence that galactic cosmic rays influence changes in the Earth's climate. The findings were made by a research team led by Professor Masayuki Hyodo (Research Center for Inland Seas, Kobe University) and published on June 28 in the online edition of Scientific Reports.

The Svensmark Effect is a hypothesis that galactic cosmic rays induce low cloud formation and influence the Earth's climate. Tests based on recent meteorological observation data only show minute changes in the amounts of galactic cosmic rays and cloud cover, making it hard to prove this theory. However, during the last geomagnetic reversal transition, when the amount of galactic cosmic rays increased dramatically, there was also a large increase in cloud cover, so it should be possible to detect the impact of cosmic rays on climate at a higher sensitivity.

Comment: With the wandering poles, a significant weakening of Earth's magnetic field and cosmic rays rising for the fourth consecutive year, scientists are predicting that a geomagnetic shift is in process, at the same time we're seeing more extreme weather events, as well as an overall drop in temperatures around the globe, along with a variety of other unusual phenomena. Also check out SOTT radio's: Behind the Headlines: Earth changes in an electric universe: Is climate change really man-made?


Another mysterious deep space signal traced to the other side of the universe

Owens Valley Array
© Caltech/OVRO/G. Hallinan
The Owens Valley Array in California's Sierra Nevada mountains.
Since 2007, astronomers have been finding very brief, powerful signals from across the cosmos in observations gathered by radio telescopes. In the past week, researchers pinpointed the location of a non-repeating signal for the first time, and two days later, another group announced they'd discovered nine more. The sources of these so-called "fast radio bursts" remains a mystery, but recently researchers have been honing their ability to locate their origins.

On Tuesday, a team using CalTech's Owens Valley Radio Observatory near Bishop, California, reported that it managed to capture a new, non-repeating signal dubbed FRB 190523 and trace it back to a galaxy nearly 8 billion light-years away.

A number of possible explanations for what causes FRBs have been proposed, ranging from powerful neutron stars to extraterrestrial intelligence.

An accelerated article preview of the OVRO discovery was published online in the journal Nature, less than a week after an Australian team working with the Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder announced it had also traced a non-repeating burst back to its source galaxy, some 4 billion light-years away.

Comment: So what's with the sudden surge in activity? It's notable that there has been an uptick in various kinds of activity throughout our own solar system: Cosmic climate change: Is the cause of all this extreme weather to be found in outer space?

See also:

Better Earth

Ancient tree to reveal secrets of Earth's polar reversal

ancient tree new zealand

The ancient kauri tree was uncovered during excavations at Ngāwhā for a geothermal power plant expansion.
A team of international scientists believe they have found the answers to the mysteries of Earth's last polar reversal in the tree rings of an ancient kauri.

The 20 metre-long kauri log could map out what to expect during a geomagnetic reversal - a change in the planet's magnetic field - including its impact on climate change and solar radiation.

The kauri, measuring a massive 2.5m in diameter, is one of the oldest trees ever found.

The ancient kauri tree was uncovered during excavations at Ngāwhā for a geothermal power plant expansion.

Comment: All signs point to significant changes in Earth's magnetic field are happening now and that a shift of some kind appears to be coming in the near future so information on what we can expect could be invaluable:


Searching for a mirror universe? Scientists say it could be sitting right in front of you!

© Gianni Dominici/Flickr/CC by-NC-SA 2.0
If the "mirrorverse" exists, upcoming experiments involving subatomic particles could reveal it.

At Oak Ridge National Laboratory in eastern Tennessee, physicist Leah Broussard is trying to open a portal to a parallel universe. She calls it an "oscillation" that would lead her to "mirror matter," but the idea is fundamentally the same. In a series of experiments she plans to run at Oak Ridge this summer, Broussard will send a beam of subatomic particles down a 50-foot tunnel, past a powerful magnet and into an impenetrable wall. If the setup is just right — and if the universe cooperates — some of those particles will transform into mirror-image versions of themselves, allowing them to tunnel right through the wall. And if that happens, Broussard will have uncovered the first evidence of a mirror world right alongside our own.

"It's pretty wacky," Broussard says of her mind-bending exploration.

The mirror world, assuming it exists, would have its own laws of mirror-physics and its own mirror-history. You wouldn't find a mirror version of yourself there (and no evil Spock with a goatee — sorry "Star Trek" fans). But current theory allows that you might find mirror atoms and mirror rocks, maybe even mirror planets and stars. Collectively, they could form an entire shadow world, just as real as our own but almost completely cut off from us.
Leah Broussard
© Genevieve Martin/Oak Ridge National Laboratory/U.S. Dept. of Energy
Leah Broussard studies subatomic particles at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, where she will be searching for mirror matter this summer.


Nerve surgery by Australian surgeons restores movement in paralysed hands

Nerve Transfers
© imran kadir photography / Getty images
Nerve transfers allow direct reanimation of paralysed muscles.
Australian surgeons have restored arm and hand movement to patients with tetraplegia - paralysis of both upper and lower limbs - using a technique that connects healthy nerves with injured nerves to restore power in paralysed muscles.

Two years after surgery, and following intensive physical therapy, the patients were able to reach their arm out in front of them and open their hand to pick up and manipulate objects as well as propel their wheelchair and transfer into bed or a car.

They can now perform everyday tasks independently, including feeding themselves, brushing teeth and hair, writing, and using tools and electronic devices.

Details are published in a paper in the journal The Lancet.

While it was only a small study, the researchers have seen enough to suggest nerve transfers could achieve similar functional improvements to traditional tendon transfers, with the benefit of smaller incisions and shorter immobilisation times after surgery.

"For people with tetraplegia, improvement in hand function is the single most important goal," says research leader Natasha van Zyl, from Austin Health in Melbourne.

Microscope 2

If you have this gene you could have schizophrenia, 18-year-long study finds

dna strands
© Public Domain Pictures
Scientists have identified a gene they say is directly linked to schizophrenia in an important development after 18 years of extensive brain and genetic research.

A team of scientists from Australia and India studied the DNA of over 3,000 Indians in a quest to find the causes of schizophrenia and potential treatments. They discovered that people with the condition were more likely to have a gene variation called NAPRT1, which encodes an enzyme involved in vitamin B3 metabolism.

"We were also able to find this gene in a large genomic dataset of schizophrenia patients with European ancestry,"said Bryan Mowry from the University of Queensland.


'Development in full swing': Russian Helicopters plans to enter air taxi market

VRT 500 helicopter
© russianhelicopters.aero
VRT 500 helicopter
As air taxi services promise to become an everyday reality soon, Russian Helicopters says it is also 'seriously' considering entering the market.

The company's chief executive Andrei Boginsky told TASS: "We are interested in this segment. Furthermore, we have opened a tender of developments and startups on the topic of air mobility and integration of helicopters with the urban environment, being ready to consider interesting projects."

According to Boginsky, the firm plans to convert its light single-engine VRT-500 helicopter to an air taxi.


Professor Zharkova's Grand Solar Minimum 2020 - 2055 paper accepted by Nature - 300 years of warming from 2370

sun solar
© NASA/SDO/Goddard Space Flight Center
Professor Valentina Zharkova's full paper released June 24 entitled, 'Oscillations of the Baseline of Solar Magnetic Field and Solar Irradiance on a Millennial Timescale' has been accepted for publishing in Nature. It confirms a Grand Solar Minimum from 2020 to 2055, as all four magnetic fields of the sun go out of phase, while now also suggesting centuries of natural warming post-Minima.

Zharkova's team's expanded 'double dynamo' calculations match-up almost perfectly with the timelines of past Grand Minimas: the Maunder Minimum (1645-1715), Wolf minimum (1300-1350), Oort minimum (1000-1050), Homer minimum (800-900 BC); as well as with the past Grand Maximas: the Medieval Warm Period (900-1200), the Roman Warm Period (400-150 BC), and so on.

Now, following the well-documented super Grand Solar Minimum cycle (2020-2055), and coming somewhat as a surprise, Zharkova's analysis goes on to suggest the sun will then enter a 300+ year spell of increased-activity, actually warming the earth at a rate of 0.5C (0.9F) per century, running until the next GSM cycle (2370-2415).

Comment: As is the cyclical and fluctuating nature of our planet's climate, warm spells can be expected to follow periods of cold, and sometimes they can even punctuate ice ages - historical records show bumper harvests occurred during previous minimums. However, what is probably most critical to our era is that, as we enter this grand solar minimum and all its associated turmoil, coupled with how poorly prepared our planet is, the 300 years of warming, which many of us will unlikely be alive to see, may be welcoming a drastically different planet to that which entered the minimum.

Also, while Zharkova's model can account for the cycles our planet undergoes, there are other factors that aren't included in her model, such as the rise of fireball activity and the influence of our star's theorized twin, which, at some point in the future, could radically affect her calculations: For more, check out SOTT radio's: Behind the Headlines: Earth changes in an electric universe: Is climate change really man-made?

Microscope 2

The world's smallest MRI machine just captured the magnetic field of a single atom

single atom MRI
© Wilke et al., Nature Physics, 2019
Using a new technique, scientists have performed the world's smallest magnetic resonance imaging to capture the magnetic fields of single atoms. It's an incredible breakthrough that could improve quantum research, as well as our understanding of the Universe on subatomic scales.

"I am very excited about these results," said physicist Andreas Heinrich of the Institute for Basic Sciences in Seoul. "It is certainly a milestone in our field and has very promising implications for future research."

You're probably most familiar with magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI, as a method used to image internal body structures in medicine. An MRI machine uses highly powerful magnets to induce a strong magnetic field around the body, forcing the spin of the protons in the nuclei of your body's hydrogen atoms to align with the magnetic field, all without producing side-effects.

Comment: See also: