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Sun, 28 Nov 2021
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Telescope

17 planets? Astronomers' heads spinning

The discovery of new objects in the icy junkyard called the Kuiper Belt forces science to rethink the definition of a planet.

Clock

Wait a sec for leap into 2006

Get ready for a minute with 61 seconds. Scientists are delaying the start of 2006 by the first "leap second" in seven years, a timing tweak meant to make up for changes in the Earth's rotation.

Calculator

Is string theory in trouble?

Ever since Albert Einstein wondered whether the world might have been different, physicists have been searching for a “theory of everything” to explain why the universe is the way it is. Now string theory, one of today's leading candidates, is in trouble. A growing number of physicists claim it is ill-defined and based on crude assumptions. Something fundamental is missing, they say. The main complaint is that rather than describing one universe, the theory describes 10500, each with different constants of nature, even different laws of physics.

But the inventor of string theory, physicist Leonard Susskind, sees this “landscape” of universes as a solution rather than a problem. He says it could answer the most perplexing question in physics: why the value of the cosmological constant, which describes the expansion rate of the universe, appears improbably fine-tuned for life. A little bigger or smaller and life could not exist. With an infinite number of universes, says Susskind, there is bound to be one with a cosmological constant like ours.

The idea is controversial, because it changes how physics is done, and it means that the basic features of our universe are just a random luck of the draw. He explains to Amanda Gefter why he thinks it's a possibility we cannot ignore.

Einstein

Discovery of a new physical phenomenon governed by a quantum law

A team of researchers has just discovered a new macroscopic physical phenomenon governed by a quantum law: quantum magnetic deflagration. The discovery, published in November in the American journal Physical Review Letters, was made by a team led by Javier Tejada, Professor of Fundamental Physics at the UB, and Paul Santos, a researcher at the Paul Drude Institute in Berlin.

Comment: Comment: There is something fishy about this story:
"The researchers have discovered that the propagation speed at which the compass poles are reversed follows a law determined by quantum mechanics. In other words, and contrary to expectations, it is a macroscopic effect governed by a quantum law."
Is it a surprise that something "follows a law determined by quantum mechanics"? What else would the researchers expect?


Meteor

The solar system gets crazier: astronomers discover new bodies beyond Neptune

A swath of space beyond Neptune is getting stranger all the time as astronomers find an ever-more diverse array of objects in various orbits and groupings.

A pair of discoveries this month along with a handful of others in 2005 have begun to reveal what some astronomers long suspected: The outer solar system contains a dizzying array of round worlds on countless odd trajectories around the sun, often with multiple satellite systems.

The problem is, current theories of the solar system's formation and evolution can't account for it all.

Fish

Shocked scientists find tsunami legacy: a dead sea

A "DEAD zone" devoid of life has been discovered at the epicentre of last year's tsunami four kilometres beneath the surface of the Indian Ocean.

Scientists taking part in a worldwide marine survey made an 11-hour dive at the site five months after the disaster.

They were shocked to find no sign of life around the epicentre, which opened up a 1000-metre chasm on the ocean floor.

Instead, there was nothing but eerie emptiness. The powerful lights of the scientists' submersible vehicle, piercing through the darkness, showed no trace of anything living.

A scientist working on the Census of Marine Life project, Ron O'Dor, of Dalhousie University in Canada, said: "You'd expect a site like this to be quickly recolonised, but that hasn't happened. It's unprecedented."

Bulb

A 5,500-year-old mystery emerges

In the shadow of a much more recent war, a five-year excavation on the Syrian-Iraqi border has uncovered an ancient settlement of unexpected sophistication that was suddenly wiped out by invaders 5,500 years ago.

The discovery sheds light on an early stage of human history in a time and place when cities were first emerging, and it suggests a massive battle waged at its walls.

It also poses a mystery: Who destroyed the city, and why?

Star

Manitoba man finds record number of meteorites

The discovery of a third meteorite by one man in Manitoba shows the province is a dumping ground for rocks from space.

Bulb

'Stone Age gold' earliest evidence of humans in northern Europe

Early humans were living in a balmy Britain 200,000 years earlier than previously thought, say researchers who discovered a set of flint tools.

Sherlock

More Research Urged on Nanoparticle Risk

Providence, Rhode Island. - Those stain-resistant khakis you just picked up at the mall, the tennis ball that holds its bounce longer and sunscreen that's clear instead of white have something in common — nanotechnology.

Scientists manipulating matter at the molecular level have improved on hundreds of everyday products in recent years and are promising dramatic breakthroughs in medicine and other industries as billions of dollars a year are pumped into the nascent sector.

But relatively little is known about the potential health and environmental effects of the tiny particles —- just atoms wide and small enough to easily penetrate cells in lungs, brains and other organs.