ESA prepares IXV concept spaceplane for maiden flight
The European Space Agency is preparing to test the atmospheric re-entry capabilities of its new early concept spaceplane, the Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle (IXV). The test flight is slated for launch in November atop a European made Vega rocket, with the hope that results will inform the design of future ESA spacecraft. The overriding goal in pursuing the project is to lessen the ESA’s dependence on the current generation of Russian made Soyuz return vehicles. Whilst the IXV test vehicle is designated as a spaceplane, you could be forgiven for thinking that, at least on the outside, it looks anything but. Instead, in its current stage of development the IXV resembles a simple fuselage. The apparent simplicity in the design of the IXV is due to the fact that the spacecraft represents a preliminary stage of testing, with an emphasis on proving basic but vital technology for more advanced concepts in the future. The agency intends to take the lessons taken from the November launch and begin the process of creating a viable autonomous re-entry spacecraft with a focus on modularity and flexibility in orbital operations. (via ESA prepares IXV concept spaceplane for maiden flight)
ESA prepares IXV concept spaceplane for maiden flight
Salt water-powered Quant e-Sportlimousine gets European approval
After making a debut at the 2014 Geneva Motor Show, the Quant e-Sportlimousine has received approval from Germany’s TÜV Süd. The car, which uses an electrolyte flow cell power system, is now certified for use on German and European roads. (via Salt water-powered Quant e-Sportlimousine gets European approval)
Is our universe a bubble in the multiverse?
Researchers at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics are working to bring the multiverse hypothesis — we are living in one universe of many — into the realm of testable science. Perimeter Associate Faculty member Matthew Johnson and his team are looking for clues for the existence of multiverses (a.ka. parallel universes) in the cosmic microwave background data, assumed to be left over from the Big Bang. To do that, “we simulate the whole universe,” he says. “We start with a multiverse that has two bubbles in it, we collide the bubbles on a computer to figure out what happens, and then we stick a virtual observer in various places and ask what that observer would see from there.” For example, if another universe had collided with ours n the early universe, it would have left evidence in the form of a “a disk on the sky,” creating a “bruise” in the pattern, he says. That the search for such a disk has so far come up empty makes certain collision-filled models less likely.
Meanwhile, the team is at work figuring out what other kinds of evidence a bubble collision might leave behind. It’s the first time, the team writes in their paper, that anyone has produced a direct quantitative set of predictions for the observable signatures of bubble collisions. And though none of those signatures has so far been found, some of them are possible to look for.
The real significance of this work is as a proof of principle: it shows that the multiverse can be testable. In other words, if we are living in a bubble universe, we might actually be able to tell.
Abstract of Journal of Cosmology and Astroparticle Physics paper
The theory of eternal inflation in an inflaton potential with multiple vacua predicts that our universe is one of many bubble universes nucleating and growing inside an ever-expanding false vacuum. The collision of our bubble with another could provide an important observational signature to test this scenario. We develop and implement an algorithm for accurately computing the cosmological observables arising from bubble collisions directly from the Lagrangian of a single scalar field. We first simulate the collision spacetime by solving Einstein’s equations, starting from nucleation and ending at reheating. Taking advantage of the collision’s hyperbolic symmetry, the simulations are performed with a 1+1-dimensional fully relativistic code that uses adaptive mesh refinement. We then calculate the comoving curvature perturbation in an open Friedmann-Robertson-Walker universe, which is used to determine the temperature anisotropies of the cosmic microwave background radiation. For a fiducial Lagrangian, the anisotropies are well described by a power law in the cosine of the angular distance from the center of the collision signature. For a given form of the Lagrangian, the resulting observational predictions are inherently statistical due to stochastic elements of the bubble nucleation process. Further uncertainties arise due to our imperfect knowledge about inflationary and pre-recombination physics. We characterize observational predictions by computing the probability distributions over four phenomenological parameters which capture these intrinsic and model uncertainties. This represents the first fully-relativistic set of predictions from an ensemble of scalar field models giving rise to eternal inflation, yielding significant differences from previous non-relativistic approximations. Thus, our results provide a basis for a rigorous confrontation of these theories with cosmological data.
Concept of cuteness is ‘hardwired from age of three,’ say scientists
Perhaps it explains their love of cuddly toys and baby animals –children as young as three instinctively recognise “cute” features. Toddlers view babies, kittens and puppies as “cuter” than their grown-up counterparts, according to a recent study. And these cute traits, termed “baby schema” by psychologists, are key to encouraging care-giving behaviour in adults. Previous research had already demonstrated that adults are perceptive of infantile traits, which elicit affectionate behaviour and reduce aggression. But it was unclear at what stage in a person’s development this intuition first emerges, and how it relates to human-animal interaction. Marta Borgi, from the University of Lincoln, who led the new research, said: “We already knew that adults experience this baby schema effect, finding babies with more infantile features cuter. “Our results provide the first rigorous demonstration that a visual preference for these traits emerges very early during development.” She added: “Independently of the species viewed, children in our study spent more time looking at images with a higher degree of these baby-like features.” The researchers carried out two experiments, which involved children aged three to six looking at images of humans, dogs and cats, to find out how they responded to baby schema. (via Concept of cuteness is ‘hardwired from age of three,’ say scientists - Science - News - The Independent)
"No single vice causes so much mental and physical debility,” began a section of a popular home medical guide published in 1921, “than masturbation. It impairs the intellect, weakens the memory, debases the mind, ruins the nervous system and destroys body, mind and soul." Its author, Isaac D Johnson, wasn’t saying anything particularly new. At the turn of the 20th century, moral panic about masturbation was so widespread, everyone from the Boy Scouts of America to Kellogg’s – who sold Cornflakes on the basis they were a “non-stimulating” dietary option for adolescent boys – was telling young men to keep their hands out of their pants. Believing it to cause everything from acne to depravity, the anti-masturbation movement saw the creation in 1876 of such devices as the “Stephenson Spermatic Truss”, a metal cage that fitted like a pair of boxer shorts and made an erection physically impossible (or at least, extremely painful). Like something from a Game of Thrones torture scene, there was even, in 1903, the development of an electrified version that would frazzle your penis like a fly if it dared venture upwards.
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Humans Already Use Way, Way More Than 10 Percent of Their Brains
It’s a complex, constantly multi-tasking network of tissue—but the myth persists.
By now, perhaps you’ve seen the trailer for the new sci-fi thriller Lucy. It starts with a flurry of stylized special effects and Scarlett Johansson serving up a barrage of bad-guy beatings. Then comes Morgan Freeman, playing a professorial neuroscientist with the obligatory brown blazer, to deliver the film’s familiar premise to a full lecture hall: “It is estimated most human beings only use 10 percent of the brain’s capacity. Imagine if we could access 100 percent. Interesting things begin to happen.” Johansson as Lucy, who has been kidnapped and implanted with mysterious drugs, becomes a test case for those interesting things, which seem to include even more impressive beatings and apparently some kind of Matrix-esque time-warping skills. Of course, the idea that “you only use 10 percent of your brain” is, indeed, 100 hundred percent bogus. Why has this myth persisted for so long, and when is it finally going to die? (via Humans Already Use Way, Way More Than 10 Percent of Their Brains - Sam McDougle - The Atlantic)
Even the Gorillas and Bears in Our Zoos Are Hooked on Prozac
In May 1950 Henry Hoyt and Frank Berger, researchers at a small pharmaceutical company in New Jersey, submitted a patent application for a substance called meprobamate. They were impressed with the way the drug relaxed muscles in mice and calmed their notoriously testy lab monkeys: “We had about 20 rhesus and java monkeys. They’re vicious, and you’ve got to wear thick gloves and a face guard when you handle them. After they were injected with meprobamate though, they became very nice monkeys—friendly and alert. Where they wouldn’t previously eat in the presence of human beings, they now took grapes from your bare hand.” The drug caused such relaxation in the monkeys that it prompted researchers to wonder if meprobamate, which would soon be called Miltown, might be a productive complement to psychoanalysis in people. At the same time, a pharmacist at the French company Rhône-Poulenc screened a new drug, called chlorpromazine, for behavioral effects on rats. To reach a platform with food on it, the rats simply had to climb a rope. The drugged rats didn’t climb the rope, even when they learned that a shock was coming.
They seemed totally indifferent: They weren’t concerned with the shock or the food. And it wasn’t because they were sedated or uncoordinated; they were wide awake and physically unimpaired. At Sainte-Anne Hospital in Paris in the early 1950s, doctors began giving chlorpromazine to patients with delirium, mania, confusion, and psychosis. The drug didn’t sedate these people or put them to sleep as other sedatives had done. Instead, patients on chlorpromazine were aware and, like the rats, indifferent to the outside world but could engage with it when needed. In 1954 Rhône-Poulenc sold the U.S. chlorpromazine license to Smith Kline, which named the drug Thorazine. The market for the new drug was mind-boggling, generating $75 million in sales in its first year. Miltown went to market in 1955 and became the fastest-selling drug in U.S. history. By 1957 more than 36 million Miltown prescriptions had been filled and a billion tablets manufactured. Tranquilizers accounted for one-third of all prescriptions in the United States, and the drug was active in redefining the very idea of what anxiety was and who could suffer from it. (via Even the Gorillas and Bears in Our Zoos Are Hooked on Prozac | Opinion | WIRED)
New Super-Black, Light-Absorbing Material Looks Like a Hole in Reality
UK nanotechnology company, Surrey NanoSystems, has created what they say is the darkest material known to man. Vantablack consists of a dense forest of carbon nanotubes—single atom carbon tubes 10,000 times thinner than a human hair—that drinks in 99.96% of all incoming radiation.First announced last year, the material is a deep, featureless black even when folded and scrunched. “You expect to see the hills and all you can see…it’s like black, like a hole, like there’s nothing there. It just looks so strange,” Ben Jensen, the firm’s chief technical officer, told the Independent. A number of other groups have been working to make super-black materials from carbon nanotubes in recent years. A prime application for the material is in sensitive optical equipment, like telescopes. A NASA Goddard team, led by John Hagopian, has been developing nanotube materials since 2007. To make the super-black material, they lay down a catalyst layer of iron oxide and then, in an 1,832 degree-Fahrenheit (750 C) oven, bathe the surface in carbon-enriched gas. The resulting multi-walled carbon nanotubes—nanotubes layered inside one another like Russian nesting dolls—can be grown on titanium, copper, and stainless steel. (via New Super-Black, Light-Absorbing Material Looks Like a Hole in Reality | Singularity Hub)
ABD AL-RAHMAN III was an emir and caliph of Córdoba in 10th-century Spain. He was an absolute ruler who lived in complete luxury. Here’s how he assessed his life: “I have now reigned above 50 years in victory or peace; beloved by my subjects, dreaded by my enemies, and respected by my allies. Riches and honors, power and pleasure, have waited on my call, nor does any earthly blessing appear to have been wanting to my felicity.” Fame, riches and pleasure beyond imagination. Sound great? He went on to write: “I have diligently numbered the days of pure and genuine happiness which have fallen to my lot: They amount to 14.” Abd al-Rahman’s problem wasn’t happiness, as he believed — it was unhappiness. If that sounds like a distinction without a difference, you probably have the same problem as the great emir. But with a little knowledge, you can avoid the misery that befell him. What is unhappiness? Your intuition might be
that it is simply the opposite of happiness, just as darkness is the absence of light. That is not correct. Happiness and unhappiness are certainly related, but they are not actually opposites. Images of the brain show that parts of the left cerebral cortex are more active than the right when we are experiencing happiness, while the right side becomes more active when we are unhappy.