New evaluation confirms speculation for supply of mysterious auroral “dunes”

Revisiting the aurora “dunes”: A time-lapse video recorded by a Scottish aurora borealis hobbyist Graeme Whipps was used to find out the pace of the phenomenon at over 200 m/s.

A number of years in the past, beginner astronomers first noticed a uncommon kind of aurora nicknamed “the dunes” due to its luminous, rolling wave patterns. Final yr, astronomers proposed a doable underlying mechanism—a rise within the density of oxygen atoms—though the speculation was admittedly speculative. Now, a brand new evaluation by researchers on the College of Helsinki gives proof to substantiate that clarification, in response to a current paper printed within the journal AGU Advances.

Most individuals have a passing familiarity with the atmospheric phenomenon often called aurora borealis, aka the northern lights (or the southern lights if they seem within the southern hemisphere). The spectacular kaleidoscopic results are the results of charged particles from the Solar being dumped into the Earth’s magnetosphere, the place they collide with oxygen and nitrogen molecules—an interplay that excites these molecules and makes them glow. Auroras usually current as shimmering ribbons within the sky, with inexperienced, purple, blue, and yellow hues. The lights are likely to solely be seen in polar areas as a result of the particles observe the Earth’s magnetic area traces, which fan out from the neighborhood of the poles.

Discoveries of doable new varieties of auroras are uncommon. Again in 2016, fans noticed a unique form of aurora that was seen at extra southern latitudes. The aurora seemed like a ribbon of pink or mauve mild, typically with “picket fence” columns of inexperienced mild passing by the ribbon.

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Does nuclear secrecy make us safer? New e-book provides counterargument

A "Restricted Data" classification stamp on a document from the US Atomic Energy Commission in the early 1950s. The document pertains to the classification of opacity calculations that were part of the work on the hydrogen bomb. The document is no longer classified and is available in the US National Archives.

Enlarge / A “Restricted Knowledge” classification stamp on a doc from the US Atomic Vitality Fee within the early 1950s. The doc pertains to the classification of opacity calculations that have been a part of the work on the hydrogen bomb. The doc is now not categorized and is on the market within the US Nationwide Archives. (credit score: Alexander Wellerstein/CC-BY-3.0)

The revolutionary discovery of nuclear fission in December 1938 helped launch the atomic age, bringing with it a novel want for secrecy concerning the scientific and technical underpinnings of nuclear weapons. This secrecy developed right into a particular class of proscribed data, dubbed “Restricted Knowledge,” which continues to be in place at this time. Historian Alex Wellerstein spent over ten years researching numerous features of nuclear secrecy, and his first e-book, Restricted Knowledge: The Historical past of Nuclear Secrecy in the US (College of Chicago Press), was launched earlier this month.

Wellerstein is a historian of science on the Stevens Institute of Expertise in New Jersey, the place his analysis facilities on the historical past of nuclear weapons and nuclear historical past. (Enjoyable reality: he served as a historic guide on the short-lived TV sequence Manhattan.) A self-described “devoted archive rat,” Wellerstein maintains a number of do-it-yourself databases to maintain monitor of all of the digitized information he has collected through the years from official, non-public, and private archives. The bits that do not discover their manner into educational papers sometimes find yourself as gadgets on his weblog, Restricted Knowledge, the place he additionally maintains the NUKEMAP, an interactive software that allows customers to mannequin the affect of assorted varieties of nuclear weapons on the geographical location of their alternative.

The scope of Wellerstein’s thought-provoking e-book spans the scientific origins of the atomic bomb within the late 1930s right through the early 21st century. Every chapter chronicles a key shift in how the US method to nuclear secrecy steadily developed over the following a long time—and the way it nonetheless shapes our interested by nuclear weapons and secrecy at this time.

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The controversy continues: ‘Oumuamua could possibly be remnant of Pluto-like planet

ASU astrophysicists Steven Desch and Alan P. Jackson got down to clarify the odd options of ‘Oumuamua and have decided that it’s probably a chunk of a Pluto-like planet from one other photo voltaic system.

The mysterious pancake-shaped object dubbed ‘Oumuamua (Hawaiian for “messenger from afar arriving first”) generated appreciable controversy earlier this 12 months with the publication of Harvard astronomer Avi Loeb’s bestselling new ebook arguing that it could possibly be a chunk of alien expertise. Now two astrophysicists at Arizona State College (ASU) are counter-arguing that the key to at the very least one side of the thing’s uncommon properties lies in stable nitrogen ice. They described their findings in two new papers printed within the Journal of Geophysical Analysis: Planets.

As we reported beforehand, in late 2017, our Photo voltaic System acquired its very first recognized interstellar customer: a weird cigar-shaped object hurtling previous at 44 kilometers per second. Scientists have been puzzling over the origin and strange traits of ‘Oumuamua ever since. It was first found by the College of Hawaii’s Pan-STARRS1 telescope, a part of NASA’s Close to-Earth Object Observations program to trace asteroids and comets that come into Earth’s neighborhood. Different telescopes around the globe quickly kicked into motion, measuring the thing’s numerous traits.

As a result of it had a hyperbolic, or escape, orbit across the Solar, ‘Oumuamua is unlikely to move our method once more. So astronomers solely had a quick window of time to assemble as a lot knowledge as they may concerning the object earlier than it went on its merry method. For starters, ‘Oumuamua was accelerating away from our Solar a lot quicker than could possibly be defined by gravity alone—i.e., by way of a “rocket impact” that’s frequent in comets, attributable to daylight vaporizing the ice such our bodies are product of. Whereas its odd orbit initially had it categorized as a comet, imaging did not present any indication of gasoline and dirt being launched, as is typical when a comet approaches the Solar. Its elongated, cigar-like form, mixed with its comparatively fast rotation, led to an early suggestion that it is also an asteroid.

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Scientists clear up one other piece of the puzzling Antikythera mechanism

"Exploded" view of the new computer model of the Antikythera mechanism, showing how it might have worked.

Enlarge / “Exploded” view of the brand new laptop mannequin of the Antikythera mechanism, exhibiting the way it might need labored. (credit score: Tony Freeth)

Scientists have lengthy struggled to resolve the puzzle of the gearing system on the entrance of the so-called Antikythera mechanism—a fragmentary historical Greek astronomical calculator, maybe the earliest instance of a geared gadget. Now, an interdisciplinary group at College Faculty London (UCL) has give you a computational mannequin that reveals a stunning show of the traditional Greek cosmos, based on a brand new paper printed within the journal Scientific Stories. The group is at present constructing a reproduction mechanism, transferring gears and all, utilizing fashionable equipment. You may watch an intensive 11-minute video concerning the mission right here (embedding at present disabled).

“Ours is the primary mannequin that conforms to all of the bodily proof and matches the descriptions within the scientific inscriptions engraved on the mechanism itself,” mentioned lead writer Tony Freeth, a mechanical engineer at UCL. “The Solar, Moon, and planets are displayed in a powerful tour de power of historical Greek brilliance.”

“We imagine that our reconstruction suits all of the proof that scientists have gleaned from the extant stays so far,” co-author Adam Wojcik, a supplies scientist at UCL, advised the Guardian.

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Meet Maxwell’s playing demon—good sufficient to give up whereas it’s forward

In a new version of the classic 19th century thought experiment, Maxwell’s demon plays the role of a gambler who knows when to quit while it's ahead.

Enlarge / In a brand new model of the traditional 19th century thought experiment, Maxwell’s demon performs the function of a gambler who is aware of when to give up whereas it is forward. (credit score: Aurich Lawson / Getty Photos)

Entropy (aka the second legislation of thermodynamics) is a harsh mistress. Should you consider the universe as a cosmic on line casino, the legal guidelines of thermodynamics quantity to the home edge: you possibly can’t win, you possibly can’t break even, and—barring opening a portal to an alternate universe with completely different bodily legal guidelines—you possibly can’t get out of the sport. You simply must hold enjoying, and hopefully provide you with profitable methods to attenuate your losses as a lot as doable—and possibly even come out forward sometimes, at the very least within the quick time period.

That is the essence of a brand new paper printed within the journal Bodily Assessment Letters, updating a traditional 19th century thought experiment referred to as Maxwell’s demon, which supplies a possible loophole to subvert the second legislation—at the very least quickly. Now physicists have proposed a playing model of the demon enjoying a slot machine, unable to manage when the machine pays out (by way of free power accessible for work), however ready to decide on when to cease enjoying to maximise its “winnings.” The analysis would possibly in the future result in improved effectivity of microscopic warmth engines and motors.

As we have reported beforehand, round 1870, James Clerk Maxwell envisioned a tiny imp able to creating order out of dysfunction in a closed container full of gasoline. The imp achieved this by making warmth circulate from a chilly compartment to a scorching one in obvious violation of the second legislation. The 2 compartments can be separated by a wall with a shutter protecting a pinhole simply massive sufficient for a gasoline molecule to move by means of. 

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Meet this yr’s winners of the Dance Your PhD contest

Finnish researcher Jakub Kubecka gained this yr’s Dance Your PhD contest with a rap-based dance impressed by his work on the physics of atmospheric molecular clusters.

The worldwide pandemic ruined most of our plans for 2020, but it surely could not hold graduate college students all over the world from setting their thesis analysis to bop, submitting movies produced in strict adherence to native COVID-19 restrictions. With a little bit assist from his associates, Ivo Neefjes and Vitus Besel, Jakub Kubecka, a Finnish graduate pupil, gained with a rap-based dance concerning the physics of atmospheric molecular clusters. Incorporating pc animation and drone footage, Kubecka beat out 40 different contestants to take high honors, in addition to profitable the physics class.

As we have reported beforehand, the Dance Your PhD contest was established in 2008 by science journalist John Bohannon. It was beforehand sponsored by Science journal and the American Affiliation for the Development of Science (AAAS), and is now sponsored by AI firm Primer, the place Bohannon is director of science. Bohannon instructed Slate in 2011 that he got here up with the concept whereas making an attempt to determine how one can get a gaggle of stressed-out PhD college students in the course of defending their theses to let off a little bit steam. So he put collectively a dance social gathering at Austria’s Institute of Molecular Biotechnology, together with a contest for whichever candidate might finest clarify their thesis subjects with interpretive dance.

The competition was such successful that Bohannon began getting emails asking when the subsequent such contest can be—and Dance Your PhD has continued ever since. It is now in its thirteenth yr. There are 4 broad classes: physics, chemistry, biology, and social science, with a reasonably liberal interpretation of what subjects fall beneath every.

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“Locked” for 300 years: Digital unfolding has now revealed this letter’s secrets and techniques

In 1697, a person named Jacques Sennacque wrote a letter to his cousin, a French service provider named Pierre Le Pers, requesting an authorized demise certificates for an additional man named Daniel Le Pers (presumably additionally a relation). Sennacque sealed the letter with an intricate folding technique generally known as “letterlocking,” a kind of bodily cryptography—the higher to safeguard the contents from prying eyes. That letter was by no means delivered or opened. Greater than 300 years later, researchers have just about “unlocked” the letter to disclose its contents for the primary time, proper right down to the watermark within the form of a chook. They described their leads to a brand new paper printed within the journal Nature Communications.

Co-author Jana Dambrogio, a conservator at MIT Libraries, coined the time period “letterlocking” after discovering such letters whereas a fellow on the Vatican Secret Archives in 2000. The Vatican letters dated again to the 15th and 16th centuries, and so they featured unusual slits and corners that had been sliced off. Dambrogio realized that the letters had initially been folded in an ingenious method, basically “locked” by inserting a slice of the paper right into a slit, then sealing it with wax. It might not have been doable to open the letter with out ripping that slice of paper—proof that the letter had been tampered with.

Dambrogio has been finding out the follow of letterlocking ever since, usually creating her personal fashions to showcase totally different methods. The follow dates again to the 13th century—a minimum of in Western historical past—and there are numerous totally different folding and locking methods that emerged over the centuries. Queen Elizabeth I, Machiavelli, Galileo Galilei, and Marie Antoinette are among the many well-known personages identified to have employed letterlocking for his or her correspondence.

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Scientists create new class of “Turing patterns” in colonies of E. coli

Scientists have proven how a brand new class of Turing patterns work by utilizing artificial biology to create them from scratch within the lab.

Shortly earlier than his loss of life, Alan Turing revealed a provocative paper outlining his principle for a way advanced, irregular patterns emerge in nature—his model of how the leopard acquired its spots. These so-called Turing patterns have been noticed in physics and chemistry, and there’s rising proof that additionally they happen in organic programs. Now a crew of Spanish scientists has managed to tweak E. coli within the laboratory in order that the colonies exhibit branching Turing patterns, in keeping with a current paper revealed within the journal Artificial Biology.

“Through the use of artificial biology, we’ve a novel alternative to interrogate organic buildings and their generative potential,” stated co-author Ricard Solé of Universitat Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona, Spain, who can be an exterior professor on the Santa Fe Institute. “Are the noticed mechanisms present in nature to create patterns the one options to generate them, or are there options?” (Artificial biology sometimes includes stitching collectively stretches of DNA—which will be present in different organisms, and be totally novel—and inserting into an organism’s genome.)

In artificial biology, scientists sometimes sew collectively lengthy stretches of DNA and insert them into an organism’s genome. These synthesized items of DNA might be genes which are present in different organisms or they might be totally novel.

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A curious observer’s information to quantum mechanics, pt. 5: Catching a wave

A curious observer’s guide to quantum mechanics, pt. 5: Catching a wave

Enlarge (credit score: Aurich Lawson / Getty Photos)

One of many quietest revolutions of our present century has been the entry of quantum mechanics into our on a regular basis expertise. It was once that quantum results have been confined to physics laboratories and delicate experiments. However fashionable expertise more and more depends on quantum mechanics for its primary operation, and the significance of quantum results will solely develop within the many years to come back. As such, physicist Miguel F. Morales has taken on the herculean process of explaining quantum mechanics to laypeople on this seven-part sequence (no math, we promise). Under is the fifth story within the sequence, however you’ll be able to at all times discover the beginning story plus a touchdown web page for the complete sequence to this point on website.

Sung to the abbess’s traces in “Maria” from The Sound of Music:

“How do you catch a wave like Maria? How do you seize a cloud and pin it down? Oh, how do you resolve a particle like Maria? How do you maintain a moonbeam in your hand?”

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Remastered photographs reveal how far Alan Shepard hit a golf ball on the Moon

This image consists of six photographs taken from the Apollo 14 Lunar Module, enhanced and stitched into a single panorama to show the landing scene, along with the location from where Alan Shepard hit two golf balls. Both astronaut's PLSS' (life-support backpacks) can also be seen at left.

Enlarge / This picture consists of six pictures taken from the Apollo 14 Lunar Module, enhanced and stitched right into a single panorama to point out the touchdown scene, together with the placement from the place Alan Shepard hit two golf balls. Each astronaut’s PLSS’ (life-support backpacks) may also be seen at left. (credit score: NASA / JSC / ASU / Andy Saunders)

Fifty years in the past this week, NASA astronaut Alan B. Shepard Jr. made area historical past when he took a number of golf swings on the Moon in the course of the Apollo 14 mission, efficiently hitting two golf balls throughout the lunar floor. House fans have debated for many years simply how far that second ball traveled. It appears we now have a solution, due to the efforts of imaging specialist Andy Saunders, who digitally enhanced archival photographs from that mission and used them to estimate the ultimate resting spots of the golf balls.

Saunders, who has been working with america Golf Affiliation (USGA) to commemorate Shepard’s historic feat, introduced his findings in a Twitter thread. Saunders concluded that the primary golf ball Shepard hit traveled roughly 24 yards, whereas the second golf ball traveled 40 yards.

Shepard’s fondness for cheeky irreverence had popped up often throughout his profitable pre-NASA naval profession, most notably when he was a check pilot on the Naval Air Station Patuxent River in Maryland. He was almost court-martialed for looping the Chesapeake Bay Bridge throughout a check flight, however thankfully, his superiors intervened. When President Dwight D. Eisenhower established NASA in 1959, Shepard was chosen as one of many seven Mercury astronauts. (The others had been Scott Carpenter, Gordon Cooper, John Glenn, Gus Grissom, Wally Schirra, and Deke Slayton.)

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