Category: Space & Physics

Is Technology Too Good for an Old-School Test of Einstein’s Relativity?

By Terena Bell | May 5, 2017 11:45 am
July 11, 2010 eclipse Image as viewed from Easter Island in the South Pacific. (Credits: Williams College Eclipse Expedition - Jay M. Pasachoff, Muzhou Lu, and Craig Malamut)

July 11, 2010 eclipse Image as viewed from Easter Island in the South Pacific. (Credits: Williams College Eclipse Expedition – Jay M. Pasachoff, Muzhou Lu, and Craig Malamut)

On Aug. 21, sky-gazers from around the world will converge in the United States as a total solar eclipse charts a path from Oregon to South Carolina. In between, on Casper Mountain in Wyoming, you’ll find Don Bruns with his telescope.

A retired physicist, Bruns is using the rare opportunity to test Albert Einstein’s general relativity like Sir Arthur Eddington, who was the first scientist to test the theory back in 1919. At that time, Newton’s law of universal gravity was still vogue, but Einstein shook the status quo by introducing his theory of general relativity, which fused concepts of time and three-dimensional space into a four-dimensional continuum called space-time. According to Einstein, gravity wasn’t a force; instead, it was a distortion in the fabric of space-time. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Space & Physics, Top Posts
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When Earth Became a ‘Mote of Dust’

By Shannon Stirone | February 14, 2017 12:28 pm
pale-blue-dot

Earth, seen as the faint dot in a sunbeam, is 4 billion miles away in this image from Voyager 1. (Credit: NASA/JPL)

We glimpsed Earth’s curvature in 1946, via a repurposed German V-2 rocket that flew 65 miles above the surface. Year-by-year, we climbed a little higher, engineering a means to comprehend the magnitude of our home.

In 1968, Apollo 8 lunar module pilot William Anders captured the iconic Earthrise photo. We contemplated the beauty of our home. Read More

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MORE ABOUT: space exploration

Has Dogma Derailed the Search for Dark Matter?

By Pavel Kroupa, University of Bonn | February 6, 2017 12:56 pm
dark-matter

A Hubble composite image shows a ring of ‘dark matter’ in the galaxy cluster Cl 0024+17. Courtesy NASA, ESA, M.J. Jee and H. Ford. (Credit: Johns Hopkins University)

According to mainstream researchers, the vast majority of the matter in the Universe is invisible: it consists of dark-matter particles that do not interact with radiation and cannot be seen through any telescope. The case for dark matter is regarded as so overwhelming that its existence is often reported as fact. Lately, though, cracks of doubt have started to appear. In July, the LUX experiment in South Dakota came up empty in its search for dark particles – the latest failure in a planet-wide, decades-long effort to find them. Some cosmic surveys also suggest that dark particles cannot be there, which is especially confounding since astronomical observations were the original impetus for the dark-matter hypothesis. Read More

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Real-Life Rogue One: How the Soviets Stole NASA’s Shuttle Plans

By Eric Betz | December 14, 2016 11:54 am
buran

An artist’s illustration of the Buran shuttle. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

In the decrepit ruins of a Cold War-era Kazakhstani hangar, buried beneath decades of detritus, there’s a spaceship that was once the last hope of the Soviet space empire.

And you’d be forgiven for confusing the Buran shuttles (Russian for “snowstorm”) with say, America’s iconic Space Shuttle Enterprise, which is proudly displayed in a Manhattan museum. Their shapes, sizes and technology are almost identical, apart from the sickle and hammer. Read More

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MORE ABOUT: space exploration

Could a Corpse Seed Life on Another Planet?

By William Herkewitz | October 25, 2016 10:40 am
an astronaut drifts through space

(Credit: Shutterstock)

One day, it’s bound to happen. An astronaut dies in space.

Maybe the death occurred en route to Mars. Maybe she was interstellar, on board solo spacecraft. Or maybe the body was thrust out an airlock, a burial at space.

That corpse (or the corpse’s spacecraft) could spend anywhere from decades to millions of years adrift. It would coast listlessly in the void, until the creeping tendrils of gravity eventually pulled it into a final touchdown. Likely this corpse will burn up in a star.

But lets say it lands on a planet. Could our corpse, like a seed on the wind, bring life to a new world? Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Space & Physics, Top Posts

The Arrow of Time? It’s All in Our Heads

By Robert Lanza, Wake Forest University | September 26, 2016 9:45 am
time-arrow

(lassedesignen/Shutterstock)

Have you ever wondered why we age and grow old?

In the movie “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” Brad Pitt springs into being as an elderly man and ages in reverse. 

To the bafflement of scientists, the fundamental laws of physics have no preference for a direction in time, and work just as well for events going forward or going backward in time.  Yet, in the real world, coffee cools and cars break down. No matter how many times you look in the mirror, you’ll never see yourself grow younger. But if the laws of physics are symmetric with respect to time, then why do we experience reality with the arrow of time strictly directed from the past to the future?

A new paper just published in Annalen der Physik — which published Albert Einstein’s theories of special and general relativity — Dmitry Podolsky, a theoretical physicist now working on aging at Harvard University, and I explain how the arrow of time ‒ indeed time itself ‒ is directly related to the nature of the observer (that is, us).

Our paper shows that time doesn’t just exist “out there” ticking away from past to future, but rather is an emergent property that depends on the observer’s ability to preserve information about experienced events. Read More

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MORE ABOUT: physics

‘It’s Just Too Perfect’: Inside the First Gravitational Wave Detection

By Carl Engelking | September 14, 2016 1:18 pm
gravitational-waves

(Credit: National Science Foundation)

A year ago today, a select group of scientists became the first people on the planet to learn that, after a century of theory and experiments, Albert Einstein was right all along.

Researchers at the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) in Livingston, Louisiana had, at last, detected a gravitational wave. The ripple in space-time — a “chirp in the data — emanated from the merger of two black holes that collided some 1.3 billion years ago. This ripple in the fabric of the universe sent the science world abuzz when the findings were announced several months later in February. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Space & Physics, Top Posts

What’s Bad for SpaceX Is Good for Russia

By Carl Engelking | September 1, 2016 3:34 pm

spaxex

An exploding Falcon 9 could send ripples through space-timelines.

By now, you’ve probably heard about SpaceX’s Thursday morning “anomaly” at its Cape Canaveral launch pad. In fact, you can already watch video of it. Thankfully, no one was injured, but the AMOS-6 satellite payload, which would have brought Internet access to sub-Saharan Africa, was lost.

But an audit published, coincidentally, Thursday by the NASA Office of Inspector General, is reason to believe the SpaceX accident should sting a little more. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Space & Physics, Top Posts
MORE ABOUT: space exploration

Earth Proxima: Is Our New Neighbor the Most Promising Exoplanet Yet?

By Eric Betz | August 24, 2016 12:00 pm
This artist’s impression shows the planet Proxima b orbiting the red dwarf star Proxima Centauri, the closest star to the Solar System. The double star Alpha Centauri AB also appears in the image between the planet and Proxima itself. Proxima b is a little more massive than the Earth and orbits in the habitable zone around Proxima Centauri, where the temperature is suitable for liquid water to exist on its surface.

This artist’s impression shows the planet Proxima b orbiting the red dwarf star Proxima Centauri, the closest star to the solar system. (Credit: ESO/M. Kornmesser)

A pale red dot not far from our sun may be orbited by a pale blue dot much different than Earth.

In a shocking find, astronomers Wednesday announced their discovery of an Earth-sized planet orbiting the nearest star, Proxima Centauri, just 4.2 light-years away. This warm world, cataloged as Proxima b, sits smack in the middle of its habitable zone — the sweetest of sweet spots — where liquid surface water could exist.

But Proxima Centauri is not like our sun. It’s a cool, low-mass star known as a red dwarf. So the planet only qualifies as potentially habitable because it circles its sun in an orbit tighter than Mercury’s. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Space & Physics, Top Posts
MORE ABOUT: exoplanets

How Humans Could Go Interstellar, Without Warp Drive

By David Warmflash | August 10, 2016 1:06 pm
alpha-beta

Alpha, Beta and Proxima Centauri (circled). (Credit: CC BY-SA 3.0)

The field equations of Einstein’s General Relativity theory say that faster-than-light (FTL) travel is possible, so a handful of researchers are working to see whether a Star Trek-style warp drive, or perhaps a kind of artificial wormhole, could be created through our technology.

But even if shown feasible tomorrow, it’s possible that designs for an FTL system could be as far ahead of a functional starship as Leonardo da Vinci’s 16th century drawings of flying machines were ahead of the Wright Flyer of 1903. But this need not be a showstopper against human interstellar flight in the next century or two. Short of FTL travel, there are technologies in the works that could enable human expeditions to planets orbiting some of the nearest stars. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Space & Physics, Top Posts
MORE ABOUT: space exploration
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