#science

tylerhwillis
tylerhwillis:

Which of the following would be brighter, in terms of the amount of energy delivered to your retina:
1. A supernova, seen from as far away as the Sun is from the Earth, or 2. The detonation of a hydrogen bomb pressed against your eyeball?
Applying the physicist rule of thumb suggests that the supernova is brighter.
And indeed, it is … by nine orders of magnitude.

Eye-opening.

tylerhwillis:

Which of the following would be brighter, in terms of the amount of energy delivered to your retina:

1. A supernova, seen from as far away as the Sun is from the Earth, or
2. The detonation of a hydrogen bomb pressed against your eyeball?

Applying the physicist rule of thumb suggests that the supernova is brighter.

And indeed, it is … by nine orders of magnitude.

Eye-opening.

Raffi Khatchadourian on the race to make fusion power a reality:

Years from now—maybe in a decade, maybe sooner—if all goes according to plan, the most complex machine ever built will be switched on in an Alpine forest in the South of France. The machine, called the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor, or ITER, will stand a hundred feet tall, and it will weigh twenty-three thousand tons—more than twice the weight of the Eiffel Tower. At its core, densely packed high-precision equipment will encase a cavernous vacuum chamber, in which a super-hot cloud of heavy hydrogen will rotate faster than the speed of sound, twisting like a strand of DNA as it circulates. The cloud will be scorched by electric current (a surge so forceful that it will make lightning seem like a tiny arc of static electricity), and bombarded by concentrated waves of radiation. Beams of uncharged particles—the energy in them so great it could vaporize a car in seconds—will pour into the chamber, adding tremendous heat. In this way, the circulating hydrogen will become ionized, and achieve temperatures exceeding two hundred million degrees Celsius—more than ten times as hot as the sun at its blazing core.

It will essentially be a miniature star. Yes, the kind found in space.

Well, at least theoretically:

What will happen when ITER is turned on? The answer, as with all experiments, is something of a mystery, since no one has yet produced a plasma that is hot and dense and durable enough to heat itself. Will such a thing be more difficult to contain, or will it possess an unforeseen equilibrium?

This reads like complete science fiction, but it’s very real. The billions spent — and the billions yet to be spent — by several governments will prove it.

Signe Brewster:

The first experiment, which comes out of the University of Tokyo and Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, transferred four qubits at a time with an accuracy of 79 to 82 percent. The qubits were sent more than 6,500 miles between Japan and Germany. Qubits have been transferred on-demand before, but at shorter distances and with a low success rate.

Scientists are interested in quantum teleportation because it could lead to faster, more efficient computing and communication. Photons travel at the speed of light and the connection in state between any entangled particles is nearly instant.

We continue to creep closer to science fiction…

Carl Zimmer, reporting on the ecosystems called Páramo found in the Andes in Venezuela, Ecuador and Colombia, growing at altitudes 9,200 to 14,800 feet above sea level:

“They’re like islands in a sea of forest,” said Santiago Madriñán, an expert on Páramos at the University of the Andes in Colombia. All told, Páramos cover about 13,500 square miles — an area the size of Maryland. In that small space, Dr. Madriñán and other researchers have found 3,431 species of vascular plants, most of them found nowhere else on Earth. The Páramos are home to strange variations on familiar forms, such as a daisy known as Espeletia uribei that grows as tall as trees.

Evolution appears to occur more quickly in these pockets of life.

science-junkie
science-junkie:

Scientists generate first map of clouds on an exoplanet
On the exoplanet Kepler 7b, the weather is highly predictable, an international team of scientists has found: On any given day, the exoplanet, which orbits a star nearly 1,000 light-years from Earth, is heavily overcast on one side, while the other side likely enjoys clear, cloudless weather. 
Image: Kepler 7b (left), which is 1.5 times the radius of Jupiter (right), is the first exoplanet to have its clouds mapped. The cloud map was produced using data from NASA’s Kepler and Spitzer space telescopes. NASA/JPL-CALTECH/MIT
Read more

Amazing.

science-junkie:

Scientists generate first map of clouds on an exoplanet

On the exoplanet Kepler 7b, the weather is highly predictable, an international team of scientists has found: On any given day, the exoplanet, which orbits a star nearly 1,000 light-years from Earth, is heavily overcast on one side, while the other side likely enjoys clear, cloudless weather. 

Image: Kepler 7b (left), which is 1.5 times the radius of Jupiter (right), is the first exoplanet to have its clouds mapped. The cloud map was produced using data from NASA’s Kepler and Spitzer space telescopes. NASA/JPL-CALTECH/MIT

Read more

Amazing.

Ashlee Vance spoke to Musk about his Hyperloop idea:

As for safety? Musk has heard of it. “There’s an emergency brake,” he says. “Generally, though, the safe distance between the pods would be about 5 miles, so you could have about 70 pods between Los Angeles and San Francisco that leave every 30 seconds. It’s like getting a ride on Space Mountain at Disneyland.” Musk imagines that riding on the Hyperloop would be quite pleasant. “It would have less lateral acceleration—which is what tends to make people feel motion sick—than a subway ride, as the pod banks against the tube like an airplane,” he says. “Unlike an airplane, it is not subject to turbulence, so there are no sudden movements. It would feel supersmooth.”

The hot thing amongst pundits at the moment seems to be to snark this to no end and mention it in the same breath as things like the Segway. But I unequivocally love everything about this. I want to live in a world where this exists. I really hope someone builds it.

Amy Harmon:

His quest to save the orange offers a close look at the daunting process of genetically modifying one well-loved organism — on a deadline. In the past several years, out of public view, he has considered DNA donors from all over the tree of life, including two vegetables, a virus and, briefly, a pig. A synthetic gene, manufactured in the laboratory, also emerged as a contender.

Which sounds absolutely insane, but…

Before humans were involved, corn was a wild grass, tomatoes were tiny, carrots were only rarely orange and dairy cows produced little milk. The orange, for its part, might never have existed had human migration not brought together the grapefruit-size pomelo from the tropics and the diminutive mandarin from a temperate zone thousands of years ago in China. And it would not have become the most widely planted fruit tree had human traders not carried it across the globe.

A fair point. Fascinating stuff.

Caleb Scharf:

No matter how conservative or optimistic we are, the statistics tell us that something like an astonishing one out of every seven stars must harbor a planet similar in size to the Earth, and at roughly the right orbital distance to allow for the possibility of a temperate surface environment. In other words, roughly 15 percent of all suns could, in principle, be hosting a place suitable for life as we know it.

Which is crazy, when you think about it. The likelihood of life not existing elsewhere becomes very small with these ratios.

But to discover whether or not we are alone, whether or not something akin to this Earth has happened somewhere else, and perhaps, just perhaps, whether or not there are other minds, on other worlds, thinking these same kinds of thoughts? That’s big, perhaps the biggest thing that could ever happen to a species.