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September 12 2014

Is the universe a stable quantum system?


According to legend, when Damocles declared that his king, Dionysius, must have a posh and easy life, Dionysius offered to trade places with Damocles. There was only one catch. Dionysius decreed that a sword be suspended over the throne by a single horse hair, so that Damocles would always know the peril of being king. Since then the Sword of Damocles has come to represent a threat of doom that could strike without warning. While the prospect of living under a hanging sword doesn't seem pleasant, stories of impending doom are quite popular, particularly within popular science.

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September 12 2014

A Black Hole Doesn't Die -- It Does Something A Lot Weirder


Black holes are basically "game over, man," for anything that gets too close to them, but they aren't invincible. In fact, they're always in the process of self-destructing. We'll look at how they fizzle out, and see if we can help them do it faster.

Realistically speaking, you are dead as soon as you get anywhere near a black hole.

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September 12 2014

Big Bang Mystery Extends Into Nearby Galaxy, Puzzling Cosmologists


A star cluster some 80,000 light-years from Earth looks mysteriously deficient in the element lithium, just like nearby stars, astronomers reported on Wednesday.

That curious deficiency suggests that astrophysicists either don't fully understand the big bang, they suggest, or else don't fully understand the way that stars work.

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September 12 2014

20-Year Mystery of the Universe's Brightest Objects Solved


Quasars are the brightest objects in the universe, and display a mysterious diversity in their appearance that has puzzled astronomers for more than two decades.

Now, scientists find this mystery can be solved by looking at two simple features of quasars — how quickly matter is getting fed into the quasars and the direction from which the quasars are seen.

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September 12 2014

Looking at Jupiter's radio frequencies


In the visible spectrum, Jupiter is a bright, star-like point in the night sky. Viewing it with the naked eye, it would be easy to confuse it with a star except for the fact that it doesn't twinkle. At radio frequencies Jupiter appears very different. It doesn't have a simple round shape, for example, and it is extraordinarily bright. So bright that it can outshine the Sun at some radio frequencies.

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September 12 2014

Mystery of 'Hot Jupiter' Planets' Crazy Orbits May Be Solved


Giant alien planets known as "hot Jupiters" orbit their stars much closer than Mercury does the sun. But the mystery of the origins of hot Jupiters deepened when astronomers recently discovered the scorching orbits of these worlds are often bizarrely skewed, tilted when compared with the equators of their stars.

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September 12 2014

Here's What Happens When Scientists Turn Solar Wind Data Into Sound


So that's what the sun sounds like.

There may be no sound in deep space, but researchers are converting data from the sun into sound so that NASA scientists can listen to it as well as look at it.

The result of this sonification process can be pretty eerie--just have a listen to the video above, which features the sounds of solar wind data from NASA's WIND spacecraft.

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September 12 2014

Back-to-Back Sun Storms May Supercharge Earth's Northern Lights


Powerful solar flares from the sun this week may amplify the northern lights displays over parts of the northern United States through the weekend, space weather scientists say.

The forecast for potentially supercharged auroras comes after powerful solar storms fired off eruptions of solar material, first on Monday (Sept. 8), then again on Wednesday (Sept. 10).

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September 12 2014

‘Extreme’ solar storm heading straight for Earth following ‘giant magnetic explosion’ on the Sun


A massive explosion on the Sun has sent a solar storm heading straight for Earth, experts have said, which may disrupt communications equipment and power grids when it strikes.

The solar flare registered in the “extreme” band on the scale used by forecasters – a magnitude not seen by observers for a number of years.

Originating from a collection of sunspots right in the centre of our nearest star, it poses a direct threat because “it’s pointed right at us”, according to experts at the Space Weather Prediction Center in Boulder, Colorado.

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September 11 2014

First Evidence for Water Ice Clouds Found outside Solar System


A team of scientists led by Carnegie's Jacqueline Faherty has discovered the first evidence of water ice clouds on an object outside of our own Solar System. Water ice clouds exist on our own gas giant planets--Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune--but have not been seen outside of the planets orbiting our Sun until now. Their findings are published today by The Astrophysical Journal Letters and are available here.

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September 11 2014

Engineer aims to connect the world with ant-sized radios


A Stanford engineering team has built a radio the size of an ant, a device so energy efficient that it gathers all the power it needs from the same electromagnetic waves that carry signals to its receiving antenna – no batteries required.

Designed to compute, execute and relay commands, this tiny wireless chip costs pennies to fabricate – making it cheap enough to become the missing link between the Internet as we know it and the linked-together smart gadgets envisioned in the "Internet of Things."

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September 11 2014

Training computers to understand the language of music


We often describe songs using terms like "warm" and "dreamy" - but do these words mean anything to a computer?

New software presented at the British Science Festival aims to give music producers the power to manipulate sounds more intuitively.

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September 11 2014

Car crash victim wakes up from coma speaking fluent Chinese


Being in a coma for week was reportedly a fast track method of learning Mandarin for this young man.

Ben McMahon, from Melbourne, Australia, would have been happy to just wake up following a serious car crash but he also apparently found he was able to speak the foreign language.

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September 11 2014

Uncanny Valley Not So Uncanny for Lonely People


Loneliness breeds wishful thinking, according to a new study that finds that eerily unrealistic faces seem more realistic to people when they feel isolated and alone.


Related: Depression Alleviated By Feeling Connected to a Group

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September 11 2014

Biologists delay the aging process by 'remote control'


UCLA biologists have identified a gene that can slow the aging process throughout the entire body when activated remotely in key organ systems.

Working with fruit flies, the life scientists activated a gene called AMPK that is a key energy sensor in cells; it gets activated when cellular energy levels are low.


Related: Roll back aging, win $1 million

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September 11 2014

Shattering DNA may have let gibbons evolve new species


Gibbons have such strange, scrambled DNA, it looks like someone has taken a hammer to it. Their genome has been massively reshuffled, and some biologists say that could be how new gibbon species evolved.

Gibbons are apes, and were the first to break away from the line that led to humans. There are around 16 living gibbon species, in four genera. They all have small bodies, long arms and no tails. But it's what gibbons don't share that is most unusual.

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September 11 2014

Scientists discover 3 new mammals that lived alongside dinosaurs


In rocky outcroppings near a cornfield in northern China, paleontologists have unearthed three species of squirrel-like mammals that lived at the same time as the dinosaurs.


Related: Chisel-Toothed Beasts Push Back Origin of Mammals

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