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Sun, 23 Apr 2017
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Cosmic numbers: Pauli and Jung's love of numerology

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© edududas, stock.xchng
On the surface, Arthur I. Miller's latest book is a joint biography of two great minds of the 20th century: quantum physics pioneer Wolfgang Pauli and psychoanalysis master Carl Jung. This two-in-one approach has served Miller well; his 2001 book Einstein, Picasso attracted wide acclaim. But whereas Einstein and Picasso never actually met, Pauli, we learn, met Jung on numerous occasions. They grew to be close friends, and Pauli became one of Jung's regular clients.

The two shared similar obsessions. Both were scientists, but each feared that physics would always be missing something if it neglected the inner workings of the mind.

Jung obsessed over mental archetypes - primitive, subconscious symbols hard-wired into our perception of the world - and was fascinated by the Kabbalah, a fiendishly complex branch of Jewish mysticism.

Pauli, for his part, was enamoured by Johannes Kepler, who tried (unsuccessfully) to explain the structure of the solar system in terms of geometry alone. He was also intrigued by a lesser known contemporary of Kepler - Robert Fludd, a member of the Rosicrucian secret society, who believed that simple geometrical forms held the key to unlocking the cosmos. As Pauli struggled with problems in quantum physics, Miller explains, he felt "the need for a fusion of physics with Jung's analytical psychology in order to understand first the unconscious and then the conscious".

Telescope

Dark matter may have ripped up early universe

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© ilco, stock.xchng
A billion years after the big bang, hydrogen atoms were mysteriously torn apart. Could dark matter be the culprit?
By about a billion years after the big bang, our universe was reionised. Hydrogen atoms were torn apart into electrons and protons, but the perpetrator has been something of a mystery. Could dark matter be responsible?

Neutral atoms, mostly of hydrogen, formed about 380,000 years after the big bang, when the universe cooled enough for electrons and nuclei to combine. Most astronomers suspect that the hydrogen was reionised by the first generation of stars (see diagram below). No telescope has ever peered far enough back in time to see the first stars form, but they are thought to have been giants, and their ferocious ultraviolet light could have done the trick.
But Dan Hooper and Alexander Belikov of Fermilab in Batavia, Illinois, think that dark matter - the unseen stuff that makes up about 85 per cent of all matter - could have reionised the universe. Dark matter is thought to be made of massive particles that are predicted to annihilate when they collide, spewing out radiation.

When dark matter clumped together under gravity in the early universe, some of the particles would have annihilated, resulting in high-energy gamma rays. Each gamma ray would have knocked out an electron from a hydrogen atom, which in turn would have dislodged an electron in another atom, and so on. "A single gamma ray might reionise 1000 hydrogen atoms," says Hooper. "The mechanism could easily have reionised the universe."

Blackbox

Fluorescent puppy is world's first transgenic dog

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© Byeong Chun Lee
Ruppy the transgenic puppy at 10 days old. Even under natural light the red protein can be seen in the skin and fur..
A cloned beagle named Ruppy - short for Ruby Puppy - is the world's first transgenic dog. She and four other beagles all produce a fluorescent protein that glows red under ultraviolet light.

A team led by Byeong-Chun Lee of Seoul National University in South Korea created the dogs by cloning fibroblast cells that express a red fluorescent gene produced by sea anemones.

Lee and stem cell researcher Woo Suk Hwang were part of a team that created the first cloned dog, Snuppy, in 2005. Much of Hwang's work on human cells turned out to be fraudulent, but Snuppy was not, an investigation later concluded.

This new proof-of-principle experiment should open the door for transgenic dog models of human disease, says team member CheMyong Ko of the University of Kentucky in Lexington. "The next step for us is to generate a true disease model," he says.

However, other researchers who study domestic dogs as stand-ins for human disease are less certain that transgenic dogs will become widespread in research.

Laptop

Innovation? Mind-reading headsets will change your brain

This week, engineer Adam Wilson made global headlines by updating Twitter using his brainwaves. "USING EEG TO SEND TWEET" he explained.

Wilson's achievement was actually pretty trivial. He used a system called BCI2000, found in hundreds of laboratories across the globe, that can do the job of a keyboard for any software program. But it was significant precisely because it was trivial: mind-reading tech is going to have a massive impact this year.

In the coming months, cheap headsets that let you control technology with the electrical signals generated by your firing neurons will go on sale to the general public. Our relationship with technology - and our brains - will never be the same again.

Info

Gene technology threatens new racism: Vatican

Geneva - Technology allowing parents to choose the genetic characteristics of their babies threatens to breed new forms of racism, the Vatican told a United Nations race conference on Wednesday.

Pope Benedict earlier this week said the heated U.N. forum, which several Western powers are boycotting to avoid giving legitimacy to criticism of Israel, was an important initiative to confront all forms of modern discrimination.

Info

Scientists make super-strong metallic spider silk

London - Spider silk is already tougher and lighter than steel, and now scientists have made it three times stronger by adding small amounts of metal.

The technique may be useful for manufacturing super-tough textiles and high-tech medical materials, including artificial bones and tendons.

"It could make very strong thread for surgical operations," researcher Seung-Mo Lee of the Max Planck Institute of Microstructure Physics in Halle, Germany, said in a telephone interview.

Cell Phone

Japanese to unveil solar-powered mobile phone

A solar-powered mobile phone that can be entirely operated by exposure to sunlight is to be launched this summer in Japan.

The new phone is a waterproof, sunlight-powered device which will be sold by the Japanese mobile phone company KDDI from June.

Ten minutes of explosure to sunlight is sufficient for a one minute call or to power the handset in standby mode for two hours.

Saturn

Rhythm in Saturns Rings

© NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute
Saturn's Ring Rhythm
Radio signals sent by NASA's Cassini spacecraft to Earth through Saturn's rings revealed the presence of highly unusual regular formations of densely grouped ring particles. The harmonic ring structure caused the radio signal frequency to separate into three distinct components. The observed frequencies determine the regular spacing to be as small as 100 meters (320 feet), the finest-scale ring structure observed so far.

The regularly spaced yellow grid depicts the harmonic structure in Saturn's inner Ring A, and the image on the bottom right shows an actual observed frequency pattern (spectrogram). Color represents the observed signal strength. The structure acts like an enormously extended natural diffraction grating that separates the signal frequency into the three distinct components shown. The frequencies determine the regular spacing of the diffraction grating, 160 meters (500 feet) in this case. The image of Saturn was taken with Cassini's cameras and is shown here to illustrate the occultation. For additional information on the radio observations see PIA10233.

Saturn

Saturn's rings have own atmosphere

During its close fly-bys of the ring system, instruments on Cassini have been able to determine that the environment around the rings is like an atmosphere, composed principally of molecular oxygen. This atmosphere is very similar to that of Jupiter's moons Europa and Ganymede.

The finding was made by two instruments on Cassini, both of which have European involvement: the Ion and Neutral Mass Spectrometer (INMS) has co-investigators from USA and Germany, and the Cassini Plasma Spectrometer (CAPS) instrument has co-investigators from US, Finland, Hungary, France, Norway and UK.

Saturn's rings consist largely of water ice mixed with smaller amounts of dust and rocky matter. They are extraordinarily thin: though they are 250 000 kilometres or more in diameter they are no more than 1.5 kilometres thick.

Robot

Killer robots and a revolution in warfare

Washington--They have no fear, they never tire, they are not upset when the soldier next to them gets blown to pieces. Their morale doesn't suffer by having to do, again and again, the jobs known in the military as the Three Ds - dull, dirty and dangerous.

They are military robots and their rapidly increasing numbers and growing sophistication may herald the end of thousands of years of human monopoly on fighting war. "Science fiction is moving to the battlefield. The future is upon us," as Brookings scholar Peter Singer put it to a conference of experts at the U.S. Army War College in Pennsylvania this month.

Singer just published Wired For War - the Robotics Revolution and Conflict in the 21st Century, a book that traces the rise of the machines and predicts that in future wars they will not only play greater roles in executing missions but also in planning them.

Numbers reflect the explosive growth of robotic systems. The U.S. forces that stormed into Iraq in 2003 had no robots on the ground. There were none in Afghanistan either. Now those two wars are fought with the help of an estimated 12,000 ground-based robots and 7,000 unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), the technical term for drone, or robotic aircraft.