Weird Science 04-19-10
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Editor, The Konformist
'Oriental yeti' discovered in China
A creature dubbed the 'oriental yeti' is being examined by scientists after emerging from ancient woodlands in remote central China.
05 Apr 2010
This bizarre creature dubbed the oriental yeti has baffled scientists after emerging from ancient woodlands in remote central China.
The hairless beast was trapped by hunters in Sichuan province after locals reported spotting what they thought was a bear.
Hunter Lu Chin explained: "It looks a bit like a bear but it doesn't have any fur and it has a tail like a kangaroo."
"It also does not sound like a bear - it has a voice more like a cat and it is calling all the time - perhaps it is looking for the rest of its kind or maybe it's the last one?
"There are local legends of a bear that used to be a man and some people think that's what we caught," he added.
Local animal experts now plan to shipped the mystery beast to scientists in Beijing who will perform DNA tests on the beast.
Our Universe at Home Within a Larger Universe? So Suggests Physicist's Wormhole Research
ScienceDaily (Apr. 7, 2010) Could our universe be located within the interior of a wormhole which itself is part of a black hole that lies within a much larger universe?
Such a scenario in which the universe is born from inside a wormhole (also called an Einstein-Rosen Bridge) is suggested in a paper from Indiana University theoretical physicist Nikodem Poplawski in Physics Letters B. The final version of the paper was available online March 29 and will be published in the journal edition April 12.
Poplawski takes advantage of the Euclidean-based coordinate system called isotropic coordinates to describe the gravitational field of a black hole and to model the radial geodesic motion of a massive particle into a black hole.
In studying the radial motion through the event horizon (a black hole's boundary) of two different types of black holes -- Schwarzschild and Einstein-Rosen, both of which are mathematically legitimate solutions of general relativity -- Poplawski admits that only experiment or observation can reveal the motion of a particle falling into an actual black hole. But he also notes that since observers can only see the outside of the black hole, the interior cannot be observed unless an observer enters or resides within.
"This condition would be satisfied if our universe were the interior of a black hole existing in a bigger universe," he said. "Because Einstein's general theory of relativity does not choose a time orientation, if a black hole can form from the gravitational collapse of matter through an event horizon in the future then the reverse process is also possible. Such a process would describe an exploding white hole: matter emerging from an event horizon in the past, like the expanding universe."
A white hole is connected to a black hole by an Einstein-Rosen bridge (wormhole) and is hypothetically the time reversal of a black hole. Poplawski's paper suggests that all astrophysical black holes, not just Schwarzschild and Einstein-Rosen black holes, may have Einstein-Rosen bridges, each with a new universe inside that formed simultaneously with the black hole.
"From that it follows that our universe could have itself formed from inside a black hole existing inside another universe," he said.
By continuing to study the gravitational collapse of a sphere of dust in isotropic coordinates, and by applying the current research to other types of black holes, views where the universe is born from the interior of an Einstein-Rosen black hole could avoid problems seen by scientists with the Big Bang theory and the black hole information loss problem which claims all information about matter is lost as it goes over the event horizon (in turn defying the laws of quantum physics).
This model in isotropic coordinates of the universe as a black hole could explain the origin of cosmic inflation, Poplawski theorizes.
Poplawski is a research associate in the IU Department of Physics. He holds an M.S. and a Ph.D. in physics from Indiana University and a M.S. in astronomy from the University of Warsaw, Poland.
April 05, 2010
Freaky Physics Proves Parallel Universes Exist
John Brandon - FOXNews.com
Look past the details of a wonky discovery by a group of California scientists -- that a quantum state is now observable with the human eye -- and consider its implications: Time travel may be feasible.
In the movie "Back to the Future," Doc Brown builds a time machine into a Delorean. New research brings that vehicle one step closer to reality.
Look past the details of a wonky discovery by a group of California scientists -- that a quantum state is now observable with the human eye -- and consider its implications: Time travel may be feasible. Doc Brown would be proud.
The strange discovery by quantum physicists at the University of California Santa Barbara means that an object you can see in front of you may exist simultaneously in a parallel universe -- a multi-state condition that has scientists theorizing that traveling through time may be much more than just the plaything of science fiction writers.
And it's all because of a tiny bit of metal -- a "paddle" about the width of a human hair, an item that is incredibly small but still something you can see with the naked eye.
UC Santa Barbara's Andrew Cleland cooled that paddle in a refrigerator, dimmed the lights and, under a special bell jar, sucked out all the air to eliminate vibrations. He then plucked it like a tuning fork and noted that it moved and stood still at the same time.
That sounds contradictory, and it's nearly impossible to understand if your last name isn't Einstein. But it actually happened. It's a freaky fact that's at the heart of quantum mechanics.
A UC Santa Barbara physicist has found a way to move this tiny metal paddle into two states simultaneously, such that it both vibrates and holds still.
How Is That Possible?
To even try to understand it, you have to think really, really small. Smaller than an atom. Electrons, which circle the nucleus of an atom, are swirling around in multiple states at the same time -- they're hard to pin down. It's only when we measure the position of an electron that we force it to have a specific location. Cleland's breakthrough lies in taking that hard-to-grasp yet true fact about the atomic particle and applying it to something visible with the naked eye.
What does it all mean? Let's say you're in Oklahoma visiting your aunt. But in another universe, where your atomic particles just can't keep up, you're actually at home watching "The Simpsons." That may sound far-fetched, but it's based on real science.
"When you observe something in one state, one theory is it split the universe into two parts," Cleland told FoxNews.com, trying to explain how there can be multiple universes and we can see only one of them.
The multi-verse theory says the entire universe "freezes" during observation, and we see only one reality. You see a soccer ball flying through the air, but maybe in a second universe the ball has dropped already. Or you were looking the other way. Or they don't even play soccer over there.
Sean Carroll, a physicist at the California Institute of Technology and a popular author, accepts the scientific basis for the multi-verse -- even if it cannot be proven.
"Unless you can imagine some super-advanced alien civilization that has figured this out, we aren't affected by the possible existence of other universes," Carroll said. But he does think "someone could devise a machine that lets one universe communicate with another."
It all comes down to how we understand time.
Carroll suggests that we don't exactly feel time -- we perceive its passing. For example, time moves fast on a rollercoaster and very slowly during a dull college lecture. It races when you're late for work . . . but the last few minutes before quitting time seem like hours.
Back to the Future
"Time seems to be a one-way street that runs from the past to the present," says Fred Alan Wolf, a.k.a. Dr. Quantum, a physicist and author. "But take into consideration theories that look at the level of quantum fields ... particles that travel both forward and backward in time. If we leave out the forward-and-backwards-in-time part, we miss out on some of the physics."
Wolf says that time -- at least in quantum mechanics -- doesn't move straight like an arrow. It zig-zags, and he thinks it may be possible to build a machine that lets you bend time.
Consider Sergei Krikalev, the Russian astronaut who flew six space missions. Richard Gott, a physicist at Princeton University, says Krikalev aged 1/48th of a second less than the rest of us because he orbited at very high speeds. And to age less than someone means you've jumped into the future -- you did not experience the same present. In a sense, he says, Krikalev time-traveled to the future -- and back again!
"Newton said all time is universal and all clocks tick the same way," Gott says. "Now with Einstein's theory of Special Relativity we know that travel into the future is possible. With Einstein's theory of gravity, the laws of physics as we understand them today suggest that even time travel to the past is possible in principle. But to see whether time travel to the past can actually be realized we may have to learn new laws of physics that step in at the quantum level."
And for that, you start with a very tiny paddle in a bell jar.
Cleland has proved that quantum mechanics scale to slightly larger sizes. The next challenge is to learn how to control quantum mechanics and use it for even larger objects. Do so -- and we might be able to warp to parallel universes just by manipulating a few electrons.
"Our concepts of cause and effect will fly out the window," says Ben Bova, the science fiction author. "People will -- for various reasons -- try to fix the past or escape into the future. But we may never notice these effects, if the universe actually diverges. Maybe somebody already has invented a time machine and our history is being constantly altered, but we don't notice the kinks in our path through time."
Where does science end and 'magic' begin?
Paranormal & Unexplained
The third edition of Rupert Sheldrake's book, A New Science of Life, will be published in the UK this week. Unlike most enthusiasts for the paranormal, Sheldrake, who enjoyed success for many years as a conventional biochemist, frames his hypotheses as science and then designs, performs and reports his experiments.
When A New Science of Life was first published, the editor of Nature famously wondered whether it merited being publicly burned. What is it about his work that his critics feel takes it beyond the bounds of science?
Below is Dr Rupert Sheldrake response to his critics.
By Rupert Sheldrake
Scientific fundamentalism serves deep emotional needs, but it is counter-productive for the progress of science itself
The question: Where does science end and 'magic' begin?
Magic is an attempt to control and forecast natural events. Sir James Frazer distinguished two categories. First, sympathetic magic by similarity: like produces like. For example, manipulating a model of something is believed to give power over that which is modelled. Second, magic by contact or contagion: objects that were once joined together retain a mysterious connection when separated, so that a change in one can affect the other.
Science is also about controlling and forecasting natural events. Much of its power comes from making models of natural processes. Mathematical modelling gives scientists ever more power to predict and control. And many modern technologies depend on a sympathetic resonance between similar patterns of vibration at a distance. A hundred years ago, television would have been magic, and so would mobile telephones.
Second, in quantum theory, objects that were once joined together retain a connection at a distance when separated, as in magic by contact or contagion. Einstein dismissed quantum non-locality as "spooky action at a distance". But quantum entanglement is real, and is applied technologically in quantum computing.
Isaac Newton ran into the science/magic problem with gravity. The idea that the moon influenced the tides through empty space sounded like magic, and Newton was embarrassed by his failure to explain what he called the "occult" or hidden force of gravitation. His critics, mainly French, accused him of magical thinking.
John Maddox, as editor of Nature, proclaimed me a heretic for "putting forward magic instead of science." He used magic as a pejorative word for any action at a distance not yet recognised by science. Morphic resonance may indeed sound like magic, but it is a testable scientific hypothesis.
The hypothesis of formative causation implies that there is an inherent memory in nature, and that the laws of nature are more like habits. Each member of a species draws upon a collective memory and in turn contributes to it. The greater the similarity, the stronger the resonance. Organisms are generally most similar to themselves in the past, and I suggest that their self-resonance underlies individual memory. You resonate with yourself in the past, rather than store countless memories as "traces" inside your brain. Despite decades of effort and billions of dollars of research funding, these hypothetical long-term memory traces have continued to elude detection. The simplest explanation for this negative finding is that they do not exist. There is good evidence for intense rhythmic activity in the hippocampus and other regions of the brain when memories are formed and when they are retrieved. But in between they seem to disappear.
I summarise the evidence for morphic resonance and discuss 10 new tests in the new edition of my book A New Science of Life. I do not claim that the evidence is conclusive, only that the question is open. Those who assert that there is no evidence, like Susan Blackmore and Adam Rutherford, are willfully ignorant. They believe they know the truth without needing to look at the facts.
The same is true of controversies about telepathy. Sceptics like Rutherford, who accused me of "crimes against reason", rely on the claims of other skeptics, like Michael Shermer, who rely on yet other skeptics such as David Marks, who ignore any evidence that goes against their beliefs.
Adam Rutherford, who works for Nature, dismisses scientific ideas presented in books, rather than in scientific journals. He would therefore rule out Charles Darwin's Origin of Species, whose 150th anniversary we celebrate this year, as well as most of the work of Richard Dawkins. My own research is published in peer-reviewed journals (including Nature) as well as in books. My papers on the sense of being stared at, and on telepathy in people and in animals are all available online.
I have recently launched a new telephone telepathy experiment that works through mobile phones. Anyone interested can try it here.
Science is our best method for exploring what we do not understand. But for some people science has become a religion. They need authority and certainty, and want to believe that the fundamental answers are already known.
Scientific fundamentalism serves deep emotional needs, but it is counter-productive for the progress of science itself. It inhibits scientific exploration, gives science a bad name and puts young people off. Science advances through questioning dogmas, by considering new possibilities, and through open-minded enquiry.
New Human Ancestor Fossils Found
April 8, 2010
Photograph courtesy Brett Eloff
Remarkably well preserved for a two-million-year-old fossil, this child's skull belongs to Australopithecus sediba, a previously unknown species of ape-like creature that may have been a direct ancestor of modern humans, according to a new study in Science.
Scientists think this particular Australopithecus sediba fossil is from a male between 8 and 13 years old. The child's fossils were found in the remnants of a subterranean South African cave system alongside the fossil remains of an adult female in her 30s.
"It's the opinion of my colleagues and I that [A. sediba] may very well be the Rosetta stone that unlocks our understanding of the genus Homo," the biological group that includes humans, study leader Lee Berger, of the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, said in a statement, referring to the artifact that helped decipher ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics.
A. sediba could help anthropologists understand, to a greater degree than any human-ancestor species discovered so far, the transition from late australopithecinesthe apelike group of species that came before the first Homo speciesto the first direct ancestors of humans, Berger added.
Chinese Government to Build 215-MPH Bullet Trains in California
The US has looked to China for help building railroads ever since Chinese laborers laid down the tracks for the Transcontinental Railroad in the 1860s. Now, California hopes a partnership with the Middle Kingdom can do for 21st Century high-speed rail what that far less pleasant 19th Century "partnership" did for the Transcontinental Railroad. America's most populous state and the world's most populous country have already signed preliminary agreements on the Chinese government building bullet trains on the West Coast, with Governor Schwarzenegger hoping to visit China later this year to further develop the project.
As it stands now, the deal involves the leasing of Chinese bullet train technology to General Electric. GE claims that 80 percent of the train components would be manufactured in the US, with China providing the technical know how and the other 20 percent of parts. To build the parts, GE may convert a joint GE/Toyota plant in Fremont, California that's currently slated for closure.
In recent years, China has outpaced the US in high-speed rail technology, and has even begun to challenge early adopters like Europe and Japan. China has already built 4,000 miles of high-speed rail at home, and will add another 1,200 miles to its system this year. Like in other rail projects initiated by the China Government, China would foot the bill for a significant portion of the construction.
Naturally, the project is far from a done deal. California is also entertaining offers from Japan, Germany, South Korea, Spain, France and Italy, and China has yet to prove it can maintain its low costs and speed production times in countries with strict labor and environmental protection laws. However, with China also proposing to connect Beijing and London with bullet trains within the next ten years, already building similar bullet train systems in Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey, and hoping to build similar high-speed rail routes to Germany, Iran, and the Czech Republic, China is poised to be the world's go-to manufacturer of futuristic trains.
H.P. Sees a Revolution in Memory Chip
April 7, 2010
PALO ALTO, Calif. Hewlett-Packard scientists on Thursday are to report advances in the design of a new class of diminutive switches capable of replacing transistors as computer chips shrink closer to the atomic scale.
The devices, known as memristors, or memory resistors, were conceived in 1971 by Leon O. Chua, an electrical engineer at the University of California, Berkeley, but they were not put into effect until 2008 at the H.P. lab here.
They are simpler than today's semiconducting transistors, can store information even in the absence of an electrical current and, according to a report in Nature, can be used for both data processing and storage applications.
The researchers previously reported in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that they had devised a new method for storing and retrieving information from a vast three-dimensional array of memristors. The scheme could potentially free designers to stack thousands of switches in a high-rise fashion, permitting a new class of ultradense computing devices even after two-dimensional scaling reaches fundamental limits.
Memristor-based systems also hold out the prospect of fashioning analog computing systems that function more like biological brains, Dr. Chua said.
"Our brains are made of memristors," he said, referring to the function of biological synapses. "We have the right stuff now to build real brains."
In an interview at the H.P. research lab, Stan Williams, a company physicist, said that in the two years since announcing working devices, his team had increased their switching speed to match today's conventional silicon transistors. The researchers had tested them in the laboratory, he added, proving they could reliably make hundreds of thousands of reads and writes.
That is a significant hurdle to overcome, indicating that it is now possible to consider memristor-based chips as an alternative to today's transistor-based flash computer memories, which are widely used in consumer devices like MP3 players, portable computers and digital cameras.
"Not only do we think that in three years we can be better than the competitors," Dr. Williams said. "The memristor technology really has the capacity to continue scaling for a very long time, and that's really a big deal."
As the semiconductor industry has approached fundamental physical limits in shrinking the size of the devices that represent digital 1's and 0's as on and off states, it has touched off an international race to find alternatives.
New generations of semiconductor technology typically advance at three-year intervals, and today the industry can see no further than three and possibly four generations into the future.
The most advanced transistor technology today is based on minimum feature sizes of 30 to 40 nanometers by contrast a biological virus is typically about 100 nanometers and Dr. Williams said that H.P. now has working 3-nanometer memristors that can switch on and off in about a nanosecond, or a billionth of a second.
He said the company could have a competitor to flash memory in three years that would have a capacity of 20 gigabytes a square centimeter.
"We believe that that is at least a factor of two better storage than flash memory will be able to have in that time frame," he said.
The H.P. technology is based on the ability to use an electrical current to move atoms within an ultrathin film of titanium dioxide. After the location of an atom has been shifted, even by as little as a nanometer, the result can be read as a change in the resistance of the material. That change persists even after the current is switched off, making it possible to build an extremely low-power device.
The new material offers an approach that is radically different from a promising type of storage called "phase-change memory" being pursued by I.B.M., Intel and other companies.
In a phase-change memory, heat is used to shift a glassy material from an amorphous to a crystalline state and back. The switching speed of these systems is slower and requires more power, the H.P. scientists say.
A version of this article appeared in print on April 8, 2010, on page B3 of the New York edition.