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Re: Science News

Postby nightlock » Tue May 17, 2011 12:39 am

16/05/2011 - First Habitable Exoplanet? Climate Simulation Reveals New Candidate That Could Support Earth-Like Life

The planetary system around the red dwarf Gliese 581, one of the closest stars to the Sun in the galaxy, has been the subject of several studies aiming to detect the first potentially habitable exoplanet. Two candidates have already been discarded, but a third planet, Gliese 581d, can be considered the first confirmed exoplanet that could support Earth-like life. This is the conclusion of a team of scientists from the Institut Pierre Simon Laplace (CNRS, UPMC, ENS Paris, Ecole Polytechnique) in Paris, France, whose study is published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters.

Are there other planets inhabited like Earth, or at least habitable? The discovery of the first habitable planet has become a quest for many astrophysicists who look for rocky planets in the "habitable zone" around stars, the range of distances in which planets are neither too cold nor too hot for life to flourish.

In this quest, the red dwarf star Gliese 581 has already received a huge amount of attention. In 2007, scientists reported the detection of two planets orbiting not far from the inner and outer edge of its habitable zone. While the more distant planet, Gliese 581d, was initially judged to be too cold for life, the closer-in planet was thought to be potentially habitable by its discoverers. However, later analysis by atmospheric experts showed that if it had liquid oceans like Earth, they would rapidly evaporate in a 'runaway greenhouse' effect similar to that which gave Venus the hot, inhospitable climate it has today. A new possibility emerged late in 2010, when a team of observers led by Steven Vogt at the University of California, Santa Cruz, announced that they had discovered a new planet, which they dubbed Gliese 581g, or 'Zarmina's World'. This planet, they claimed, had a mass similar to that of Earth and was close to the centre of the habitable zone. For several months, the discovery of the first potential Earth twin outside the Solar System seemed to have been achieved. Unfortunately, later analysis by independent teams has raised serious doubts on this extremely difficult detection. Many now believe that Gliese 581g may not exist at all. Instead, it may simply be a result of noise in the ultra-fine measurements of stellar 'wobble' needed to detect exoplanets in this system.

Today, it is finally Gliese 581g's big brother -- the larger and more distant Gliese 581d -- which has been shown to be the confirmed potentially habitable exoplanet by Robin Wordsworth, François Forget and co-workers from Laboratoire de Météorologie Dynamique (CNRS, UPMC, ENS Paris, Ecole Polytechnique) at the Institute Pierre Simon Laplace in Paris. Although it is likely to be a rocky planet, it has a mass at least seven times that of Earth, and is estimated to be about twice its size. At first glance, Gliese 581d is a pretty poor candidate in the hunt for life: it receives less than a third of the stellar energy Earth does and may be tidally locked, with a permanent day and night side. After its discovery, it was generally believed that any atmosphere thick enough to keep the planet warm would become cold enough on the night side to freeze out entirely, ruining any prospects for a habitable climate.

To test whether this intuition was correct, Wordsworth and colleagues developed a new kind of computer model capable of accurately simulating possible exoplanet climates. The model simulates a planet's atmosphere and surface in three dimensions, rather like those used to study climate change on Earth. However, it is based on more fundamental physical principles, allowing the simulation of a much wider range of conditions than would otherwise be possible, including any atmospheric cocktail of gases, clouds and aerosols.

To their surprise, they found that with a dense carbon dioxide atmosphere -- a likely scenario on such a large planet -- the climate of Gliese 581d is not only stable against collapse, but warm enough to have oceans, clouds and rainfall. One of the key factors in their results was Rayleigh scattering, the phenomenon that makes the sky blue on Earth. In the Solar System, Rayleigh scattering limits the amount of sunlight a thick atmosphere can absorb, because a large portion of the scattered blue light is immediately reflected back to space. However, as the starlight from Gliese 581 is red, it is almost unaffected. This means that it can penetrate much deeper into the atmosphere, where it heats the planet effectively due to the greenhouse effect of the CO2 atmosphere, combined with that of the carbon dioxide ice clouds predicted to form at high altitudes. Furthermore, the 3D circulation simulations showed that the daylight heating was efficiently redistributed across the planet by the atmosphere, preventing atmospheric collapse on the night side or at the poles.

Scientists are particularly excited by the fact that at 20 light years from Earth, Gliese 581d is one of our closest galactic neighbours. For now, this is of limited use for budding interstellar colonists -- the furthest-travelled human-made spacecraft, Voyager 1, would still take over 300,000 years to arrive there. However, it does mean that in the future telescopes will be able to detect the planet's atmosphere directly. While Gliese 581d may be habitable there are other possibilities; it could have kept some atmospheric hydrogen, like Uranus and Neptune, or the fierce wind from its star during its infancy could even have torn its atmosphere away entirely. To distinguish between these different scenarios, Wordsworth and co-workers came up with several simple tests that observers will be able to perform in future with a sufficiently powerful telescope.

If Gliese 581d does turn out to be habitable, it would still be a pretty strange place to visit -- the denser air and thick clouds would keep the surface in a perpetual murky red twilight, and its large mass means that surface gravity would be around double that on Earth. But the diversity of planetary climates in the galaxy is likely to be far wider than the few examples we are used to from the Solar System. In the long run, the most important implication of these results may be the idea that life-supporting planets do not in fact need to be particularly like Earth at all. (Emphasis mine)
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Re: Science News

Postby nightlock » Thu May 19, 2011 1:03 am

18/05/2011 - Invisibility Cloak: Scientists Achieve Optical Invisibility in Visible Light Range of Spectrum

"Seeing something invisible with your own eyes is an exciting experience," say Joachim Fischer and Tolga Ergin. For about one year, both physicists and members of the team of Professor Martin Wegener at KIT's Center for Functional Nanostructures (CFN) have worked on refining the structure of the Karlsruhe invisibility cloak to such an extent that it is also effective in the visible spectral range.

In invisibility cloaks, light waves are guided by the material such that they leave the invisibility cloak again as if they had never been in contact with the object to be disguised. Consequently, the object is invisible to the observer. The exotic optical properties of the camouflaging material are calculated using complex mathematical tools.

These properties result from a special structuring of the material. It has to be smaller than the wavelength of the light that is to be deflected. For example, the relatively large radio or radar waves require a material "that can be produced using nail scissors," says Wegener. At wavelengths visible to the human eye, materials have to be structured in the nanometer range.

The minute invisibility cloak produced by Fischer and Ergin is smaller than the diameter of a human hair. It makes the curvature of a metal mirror appear flat, as a result of which an object hidden underneath becomes invisible. The metamaterial placed on top of this curvature looks like a stack of wood, but consists of plastic and air. These "logs" have precisely defined thicknesses in the range of 100 nm. Light waves that are normally deflected by the curvature are influenced and guided by these logs such that the reflected light corresponds to that of a flat mirror.

"If we would succeed again in halving the log distance of the invisibility cloak, we would obtain cloaking for the complete visible light spectrum," says Fischer.

Last year, the Wegener team presented the first 3-D invisibility cloak in the journal Science. Until that time, the only invisibility cloaks existed in waveguides and were of practically two-dimensional character. When looking onto the structure from the third dimension, however, the effect disappeared. By means of an accordingly filigree structuring, the Karlsruhe invisibility cloak could be produced for wavelengths from 1500 to 2600 nm. This wavelength range is not visible to the human eye, but plays an important role in telecommunications. The breakthrough was based on the use of the direct laser writing method (DLS) developed by CFN. With the help of this method, it is possible to produce minute 3-D structures with optical properties that do not exist in nature, so-called metamaterials.

In the past year, the KIT scientists continued to improve the already extremely fine direct laser writing method. For this purpose, they used methods that have significantly increased the resolution in microscopy. With this tool, they then succeeded in refining the metamaterial by a factor of two and in producing the first 3-D invisibility cloak for non-polarized visible light in the range of 700 nm. This corresponds to the red color.

"The invisibility cloak now developed is an attractive object demonstrating the fantastic possibilities of the rather new field of transformation optics and metamaterials. The design options that opened up during the last years had not been deemed possible before," emphasizes Ergin. "We expect dramatic improvements of light-based technologies, such as lenses, solar cells, microscopes, objectives, chip production, and data communication."
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Re: Science News

Postby The Master » Mon Nov 21, 2011 3:39 am

Study rejects "faster than light" particle finding
http://news.yahoo.com/study-rejects-fas ... 33888.html

GENEVA (Reuters) - An international team of scientists in Italy studying the same neutrino particles colleagues say appear to have travelled faster than light rejected the startling finding this weekend, saying their tests had shown it must be wrong.

The September announcement of the finding, backed up last week after new studies, caused a furor in the scientific world as it seemed to suggest Albert Einstein's ideas on relativity, and much of modern physics, were based on a mistaken premise.

The first team, members of the OPERA experiment at the Gran Sasso laboratory south of Rome, said they recorded neutrinos beamed to them from the CERN research center in Switzerland as arriving 60 nanoseconds before light would have done.

But ICARUS, another experiment at Gran Sasso -- which is deep under mountains and run by Italy's National Institute of National Physics -- now argues that their measurements of the neutrinos energy on arrival contradict that reading.

In a paper posted Saturday on the same website as the OPERA results, http://arxiv.org/abs/1110.3763v2, the ICARUS team says their findings "refute a superluminal (faster than light) interpretation of the OPERA result."

They argue, on the basis of recently published studies by two top U.S. physicists, that the neutrinos pumped down from CERN, near Geneva, should have lost most of their energy if they had travelled at even a tiny fraction faster than light.

But in fact, the ICARUS scientists say, the neutrino beam as tested in their equipment registered an energy spectrum fully corresponding with what it should be for particles traveling at the speed of light and no more.

Physicist Tomasso Dorigo, who works at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, and the U.S. Fermilab near Chicago, said in a post on the website Scientific Blogging that the ICARUS paper was "very simple and definitive."

It says, he wrote, "that the difference between the speed of neutrinos and the speed of light cannot be as large as that seen by OPERA, and is certainly smaller than that by three orders of magnitude, and compatible with zero."

Under Einstein's 1905 theory of special relativity, nothing can travel faster than light. That idea lies at the heart of all current science of the cosmos and of how the vast variety of particles that make it up behave.

There was widespread skepticism when the OPERA findings were first revealed, and even the leaders of the experiment insisted that they were not announcing a discovery but simply recording measurements they had made and carefully checked.

However, last Friday they said a new experiment with shorter neutrino beams from CERN and much larger gaps between them had produced the same result. Independent scientists said however this was not conclusive.

Other experiments are being prepared -- at Fermilab and at the KEK laboratory in Japan -- to try to replicate OPERA's findings. Only confirmation from one of these would open the way for a full scientific discovery to be declared.

(Reported by Robert Evans; Editing by Andrew Heavens)
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Re: Science News

Postby Golden Knight » Mon Nov 21, 2011 3:37 pm

I was watching a news program the other day, and they had this New Zealand man on who did a much more simple experiment 40 or so years ago, that showed light traveled at different speeds. At the time it was rejected. He still has the equipment for the experiment.
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Ba-BOOM!

Postby Boikat » Fri Feb 15, 2013 6:14 am

Vid of effect of the Russian meteor as it detonated earlier today. Lot's of minor, and three serious, injuries reported, mostly from flying glass.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QE54T1XGxRI
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