Have physicists finally detected gravitational waves? Breaking News - Updates to Come


By Mika McKinnon, images via io9 Space,

The Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics has news so big it announced that it would announce something. The press conference will stream live tomorrow at noon, but cosmologists everywhere are gossiping about what that news could be. The leading theory: Scientists have detected gravitational waves, in what would be a landmark discovery for the field of physics.

Gravitational waves are the last chunk of Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity that was predicted but not yet observed. If gravitational waves have been observed, it most likely was done by the Background Imaging of Cosmic Extragalactic Polarization (Bicep) telescope at the south pole. It stared at the cosmic microwave background radiation from 2003 to 2008, but it takes a long time to process and analyze the data when looking for a faint signal in a lot of noise.

2007 photograph of telescopes at the Dark Center at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station. From top to bottom, the partly-buried AST/ROQUaDViper, and finally BICEP and SPT at the bottom. Image credit: Robert Schwarz

The Bicep mission page describes anticipated gravitational waves as faint, polarized, and distorted by gravitational lensing of objects between us and the cosmic microwave background radiation. They released a video of their observations in 2008. The colour scale adjusts throughout the movie to highlight temperature fluctuations of both the cosmic microwave background radiation, and the galactic plane:


Why look at the cosmic microwave background radiation for signs of gravitational waves? Because an infinitesimal moment after the universe started — 10-34 seconds after the big bang — we think it went through an inflationary period. If it did, that inflation could have amplified gravitational waves to such an extent that we can actually detect them. This would not only fill in that last missing chunk of things predicted by General Relativity that we haven’t seen yet, but also offer a glimpse into the primeval universe. They won’t be insta-proof that inflationary theory is correct, but they would rule out some cyclic theories for the origin of the universe.

Some pre-announcement articles are already mixing up very common gravity waves with gravitational waves. To differentiate, I’ll pass things off to an exasperated Dr. Katherine Mack:


Gravity waves are common phenomena in both the ocean and the sky, as seen in this MODIS image. Read more about them at the Earth Observatory.

As for the press conference, I’m already bracing for disappointment. “Breaking news! We’ll have breaking news for you on Monday!” announcements produce so much hype that the actual discovery probably won’t live up to expectations. I’m not the only one feeling that way — the Guardian ran an entire piece interviewing cautiously excited cosmologists warning that the observations would need to be highly robust if they’re going to be momentous.

Source: thescienceofreality
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Color Palettes

They tell a story as deep as the paintings they inspire…

Source: acrylicalchemy
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Scientists just revived a 30,000 year-old frozen virus in Siberia

In what’s either the beginning of a Michael Crichton movie or a scientific breakthrough, researchers have successfully revived a 30,000-year-old virus buried deep in the permafrosts of Siberia, the largest virus ever discovered.

The virus, known as Pithovirus sibericum, was revived from samples from ancient permafrost, which the researchers used to infect amoebas in their lab. Fortunately, they say that the virus is not infectious to animals or humans. Which is good, because in addition to being large, it is also apparently incredibly tough.

Via National Geographic:

Giant viruses are not just bigger but are hardier than others as well, said the researchers. This hardiness, along with a favorable environment, likely helped the newly discovered specimen stay intact for the thousands of years that it did. Viruses are often destroyed or rendered inactive by a number of factors, including light and biochemical degradation. “Among known viruses, the giant viruses tend to be very tough, almost impossible to break open,” said Claverie and Abergel. “Special environments such as deep ocean sediments and permafrost are very good preservers of microbes [and viruses] because they are cold, anoxic [lacking oxygen], and in the dark.”

You can read more over at National Geographic, or also check out the whole paper, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of the Scienceshere.

(via thescienceofreality)

Source: scinewsnetwork
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Doctor saves child’s life by practicing heart surgery on 3D-printed model

Heart surgery is an extremely difficult procedure. Even more so when the tiny anatomy of a small child is involved. When 14-month old Roland Lian Cung Bawi’s heart was failing him, his surgeon Erle Austin knew that he had to prepare meticulously for an intricate operation. Initially he consulted other surgeons, but this yielded conflicting advice. So Austin turned to 3D printing for help.

Using the facilities at the University of Louisville’s engineering school, Austin and his medical team produced a three dimensional model of little Ronald’s heart. Pediatric operations are difficult because the interior structures of a child’s organs are small and hard to see clearly. This model allowed the surgical team to come up with a precise plan to limit the amount of exploratory incisions, reduce operating time and prevent the need for follow-up operations.

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Fuck. This is important.

(via magikarpgod)

Source: policymic