Behold! The Birth of Stellar Triplets

By Carl Engelking | October 26, 2016 3:05 pm

ALMA captured the image of the triple-star system and the disk of material around the stars and the spiral arms. This region of stellar birth is about five times the size of our solar system. (Credit: University of Oklahoma and ALMA)

Using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), astronomers have captured a stunningly clear, and rare image of stellar triplets still in their infancy.

The three stars are just babies: They’re still bundled in a primordial cloud of gas and dust, and are thought to be no more than 150,000 years old. The sun, by comparison, is some 4.5 billion years old — middle aged by cosmic timescales. Obtaining such a clear image of this young star trio is providing astronomers with new insights into how multi-star systems come into existence. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Space & Physics, top posts

We Now Know When HIV Arrived in the U.S.

By Nathaniel Scharping | October 26, 2016 12:00 pm
(Credit: Shutterstock)

(Credit: Shutterstock)

When healthy young gay men began dying of a rash of rare diseases in 1981, it sparked a panic that soon spread beyond the gay community.

The underlying cause would soon be identified as Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome, and the AIDS crisis was underway. While 1981 marked the first time that AIDS entered the national consciousness, it had been circulating beneath the radar for some time. By the time it was “discovered,” thousands of people had likely already been infected, creating a pandemic just waiting to emerge.

Now, researchers from the University of Arizona and the University of Cambridge say that they have dated when HIV, the disease that leads to AIDS, arrived in the U.S. and tracked its spread across the country. In doing so, they claim to have cleared the name of the infamous Patient 0, a flight attendant often blamed for bringing HIV to the U.S. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine, top posts

Self-Driving Truck Completes 120-Mile Beer Run

By Carl Engelking | October 25, 2016 12:18 pm


As its first act, a self-driving truck proved it could safely deliver the most precious of cargo: 51,000 cans of Budweiser.

Otto, the self-driving vehicle company owned by Uber, on Tuesday announced its prototype had successfully shipped suds from Fort Collins, Colo., to Colorado Springs. To “see” the road, the self-driving system used an array of cameras, radar, lidar and other sensors to follow other vehicles at a safe distance and keep it between the lines. Throughout the 120-mile journey, a professional driver chilled in the sleeper cabin in the back of the truck — you know, just in case. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Technology, top posts

Powerful Solar Storm Could Yield Stunning Auroras Tonight

By Nathaniel Scharping | October 25, 2016 11:38 am

(Credit: Petri jauhiainen/Shutterstock)

If you go outside tonight and look up, you could witness the dazzling effects of some particularly stormy celestial weather.

The Space Weather Prediction Center at NOAA issued an alert this morning warning of a “Strong” geomagnetic storm buffering the upper regions of our atmosphere. The resultant wave of charged electrons could trigger alarms on some power systems in high latitudes and throw off satellite navigation systems, but the most visible effect should be the presence of magnificent auroras reaching down into the continental United States. The storm began around 10 a.m. Eastern time, and should continue for another few hours.

The storm is the result of an uncommonly large hole in the sun’s corona, which ejects a high-velocity stream of electrons into space. When the Earth’s orbit takes it through this stellar wind, the particles interact with our magnetic field creating the fiery light display we call the Northern Lights. The current event is labeled a G3 or “Strong” geomagnetic storm, on a scale that runs up to 5. Such events occur several times a year.

During similar storms, auroras have been seen as low as Illinois and Oregon, according to the NOAA, and residents on a level with Pennsylvania and Iowa and blessed with a clear sky may be able to catch a glimpse of the heavenly light show tonight. The storm is predicted to last until around 2 p.m. Eastern today, but the auroras could continue well into the night.

Those on the other side of the globe have already begun to catch glimpses of the aurora as the storm intensifies. The auroras should peak in North American just before dawn.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Space & Physics, top posts

From Fibs to Fraud: Why Lying Is a Slippery Slope

By Carl Engelking | October 24, 2016 11:43 am

In the 1995 movie “While You Were Sleeping”, lonely Lucy (played by Sandra Bullock) saves a stranger from certain death after he falls on the train tracks. But in the hospital, she lies to the man’s entire family by claiming she’s his fiancé. It goes downhill from there.

It’s the plotline of countless romantic comedies: a tiny lie or deception grows into a monster until everything falls apart in hilarious, heart-breaking and ultimately heart-melting fashion. It’s the ol’ “snowball lie” trope, and it plays out in classics like “Sabrina” to more modern flicks like “Wedding Crashers.”

There’s a reason the snowball lie is a popular premise in movies; it’s a reflection of real life. Tax evaders, cheating spouses and blood-doping athletes often recall dipping their toe in the shallow waters of deception long before they found themselves drowning in a sea of increasingly severe, perhaps criminal, fabrications. So why have so many tumbled down this slippery slope? Maybe we just can’t help ourselves.

Scientists, in a new study, say the lies we tell progressively diminish the brain’s sensitivity to dishonesty, which makes it easier to push the envelope in subsequent deceptions. It’s something we’ve always assumed, but now scientists believe they’ve, for the first time, empirically shown that our brains adapt to deception,   Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Mind & Brain, top posts

Why We Shouldn’t Call Exoplanets ‘Earth-like’ Just Yet

By Nathaniel Scharping | October 21, 2016 12:28 pm

(Credit: sdecoret/Shutterstock)

Every time astronomers discover another exoplanet, the first question is,”Does it look like Earth?” Finding an Earth-like exoplanet would certainly increase our chances of finding life, as we know it, on that distant world. We could finally prove that we’re not all alone in this big, cold universe.

But, when we see planets described as Earth-like, we should be skeptical. With our current instruments, it’s hard for us to even find other planets out there (although it’s gotten much easier), much less see if there are oceans, atmospheres, plants or animals. Furthermore, what does it even mean to be “Earth-like?” Does it just need to be in the habitable zone? Or does it need to have liquid water and a similar atmosphere?  Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Space & Physics, top posts

With a Whiff, Mice Can Transmit Pain to Each Other

By Nathaniel Scharping | October 20, 2016 3:57 pm

(Credit: Preobrajenskiy/Shutterstock)

What hurts one mouse, hurts every mouse.

That’s the conclusion of a new study examining the social transfer of pain in mice. When one group of mice was exposed to a painful stimulus, a completely unaffected group displayed the same kind of heightened sensitivity as the first. Given that mice are mammals like us, the effect could also exist in humans, as well as informing future pain research. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, Mind & Brain, top posts
MORE ABOUT: animals, psychology

Why Pluto ‘Is the New Mars’

By Nola Taylor Redd | October 20, 2016 1:09 pm

The best image of Pluto, thanks to New Horizons. (Credit: NASA / Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory / Southwest Research Institute)

Thanks to all the information pouring in from NASA’s New Horizons mission, Pluto is making a comeback. As New Horizons principle investigator Alan Stern says, “Pluto is the new Mars” – and that’s not just because of its rising popularity.

The nickname, which Stern credits fellow New Horizons team member Jeff Moore with bestowing, comes in part from several intriguing similarities the distant icy world shares with the famous red planet. Both boast an array of surface and atmospheric puzzles sure to keep scientists intrigued for some time.

“There are really so many ways Pluto reminds us of Mars,” says Stern. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Space & Physics, top posts
MORE ABOUT: pluto, solar system

Nanospikes Convert Carbon Dioxide Back Into Ethanol

By Nathaniel Scharping | October 19, 2016 1:40 pm

A microscopic image of the carbon nanospikes created by the researchers. (Credit: ORNL)

A new chemical process turns carbon dioxide into ethanol using commonly-found catalysts and electricity. In a sense, they’ve figured out a way to put the genie back in the bottle.

The alchemic process of converting greenhouse gases into usable energy is an appealing means of both addressing climate change and providing sustainable sources of energy. Converting carbon dioxide into energy and other useful products has been done before, but the process isn’t efficient or cheap enough to implement at a large scale. Researchers from the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, however, say that they have found a chemical reaction that produces hydrocarbons using just copper as a catalyst, and they say it’s quite efficient. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Environment, Technology, top posts

Astronomers Obtain Sharpest-Ever Image of Eta Carinae

By Carl Engelking | October 19, 2016 12:12 pm

An international team of astronomers have used the Very Large Telescope Interferometer to image the Eta Carinae star system in the greatest detail ever achieved. They found new and unexpected structures within the binary system, including in the area between the two stars where extremely high velocity stellar winds are colliding. These new insights into this enigmatic star system could lead to a better understanding of the evolution of very massive stars. (Credit: Gerd Weigelt?ESO)

This is what it’s like when stellar winds collide.

An international team of researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Radioastronomy has captured the sharpest, clearest image of the Eta Carinae star system. Here, some 7,500 light-years away, two massive stars orbit each other while producing stellar winds that reach velocities over 6 million miles per hour. In the space between the two stars in this binary system, the opposing winds violently collide.

Until now, astronomers couldn’t see what was happening at the point of impact, but the Max Planck team cleverly used the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope Interferometer to image Eta Carinae in unprecedented detail and obtain a first glimpse of this exceedingly turbulent corner of the universe. And by peering into the chaos, astronomers are learning more about the life cycle of massive stars. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Space & Physics, top posts
MORE ABOUT: stargazing


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