Sep. 9th, 2015 11:27 pm
ellestra: (aeryn)
Both LHC and KEK got some weird results in two different experiments that suggest possibility of new particles outside standard model. They also don't fit into the Supersymetry theory. Right now the best guesses are some new type of Higgs boson or leptoquark.

Queen Elizabeth II has become the longest reigning British monarch in history today (she just beat Victoria). It's been just over 63 years, seven months and two days since the coronation and her rule is almost at the retirement age itself.

The 10 best experiments of Dr. Bunsen Honeydew's according to blastr. They use the word scientific accuracy there but we can all agree that it only works in Muppet Labs. Science is universe specific unfortunately which is why we can't just adapt the technology that put pigs in space.

I wondered what could match Miss Piggy cameo but then I saw Team SHIELD effort and I lost it at the last one. Dubsmash battle continues.

Unfortunately only one of these isn't true. Which reminds me to have my existential crisis this week - "why am I even doing this?"
ellestra: (charlie jade)
LHC was supposed to be back in operation after two years of upgrades but it short-circuited during booting so we'll still have to wait for that dark matter explanation a little longer. They need to opposite of vacuum it first by flushing it out with high-pressure helium gas.

For the first time since MIR there will be someone living in space for a year. Or rather two someones. One is Russian and the other is American and a part of real life re-enactment of the famous identical twins experiment. The one when one stays on Earth while the other is in space. Identical twins and space. No near relativistic speeds this time so age difference will be unnoticeable but there are plenty of other things to learn. The last cosmonaut in this mission crew will be only staying for standard 6 months but that will allow him to become the person who spent the most days in space ever nevertheless.

Curiosity discovered another compound that's connected to life as we know it - nitric oxide. Most people think about it as laughing gas but it only has that effect because it's an important signalling molecule that triggers a lot of metabolic pathways. It can also be the result of lightning or meteor impact so it doesn't mean much by itself but might be also another clue in Curiosity's search for life. Meanwhile her landing marks fade.

While Curiosity is still only beginning her journey Opportunity has just finished a marathon. It's been more than 10 years and 42km and it's still going. Maybe xkcd is right. Maybe she's marking what hers. Unless amnesia gets her first.

I thought that starfish ripping themselves apart were horrific enough but now octopodes are eating their own arms. In next Syfy movie this will be an alien virus that just goes up the animal kingdom all the way to humans. The trick is to invent even more horrific form of self mutilation than those already described.

Graphene light bulbs because what is leaving in the future worth without it being made of science fiction materials.

Artificial ants working together just like the real ones
ellestra: (slingers)
In celebration of Yuri's Night tomorrow this is a science post.

There is going to be a series of Lunar eclipses - roughly every 6 months - and the first one will happen this Monday night. By fluke, Monday is also the date of Mars’s closest approach to Earth, when our neighboring planet should appear larger and brighter than usual. Both Americas will see it whole early on Tuesday - the lunar eclipse will start around 2 a.m. EDT and and around 5 with totality, called the umbra, at 3:45 a.m. EDT.

The LHC discovered a strange new particle known as Z(4430). This new particle is about four times more massive than a proton, has a negative charge, and appears to be a theoretical particle known as a tetraquark. There were previous indications of this state of matter but LHC caught ten times more events then anybody else so we are more certain this is something that can exist. Due to strong force rules quarks cannot exist outside particles - they have to be together with other quarks to create a particle that has neutral colour charge. So baryons - protons and neutrons - have neutral colour because they contain quarkks with all three colour charges (blue, red and green) and mesons are neutral because they have a quark with colour charge and quark with a anti-that colour charge.
Under the rules of the strong force, there are other ways quarks could combine to form a neutral particle. One of these, the tetraquark, combines four quarks, where two particles have a particular color and the other two have the corresponding anti-colors. Others, such as the pentaquark (3 colors + a color anti-color pair) and the hexaquark (3 colors + 3 anti-colors) have been proposed. But so far all of these have been hypothetical.
Now we are starting to capture those theoretical particles and we even know what they are made of - Z(4430) is made of a charm, an anti-charm, a down and an anti-up quarks.

Four teenagers were successfully implanted with lab-grown vaginas. The surgery was done 5 to 8 years ago and the organs are are working normally in four teenage patients who were among the first people to receive such an implant. All of them were born with a rare genetic condition - Mayer-Rokitansky-Küster-Hauser (MRKH) syndrome - in which the vagina and uterus are underdeveloped or absent. The The vaginas were grown in a lab from patients own cells from small sample of vulvar tissue. The cells were grown on two sides of scaffold to get the right shape and the two different cell types vaginas are made of - muscle cells and vaginal epithelial cells. When the organs were ready the doctors implanted them connecting uterus with surgically made cavity. And now they work. Hopefully, all the people who need a vagina will have access to this procedure soon.

This Jason Barnes playing drums with his new metal prosthetic arm
ellestra: (telamon)
So I concentrated on body augmentation but other things happened in science recently, too.

We learned last years that dolphins introduce themselves by name (their signature whistle) but it turns out they also call friends and family members by their names (copy their signature whistles) when they look for them. That's makes them the only other animals, other then us, who call each other by names. And they also exhibit almost all our social behaviours - from extremely good to extremely bad - which shows on how fragile foundations our feeling of uniqueness is built (and that you think before you eat someone's mum).

Our whole universe might be even more fragile as scientist who study Higgs boson think that if the the recently discovered Higgs-like particle is really Higgs then its mass would make the universe inherently unstable, like a pencil balanced on its point. The vacuum of space should be most stable at its lowest energy and current Higgs mass calculations indicate that this is not it yet so our space is only temporarily stable and will ultimately collapse. Eventually, a little bubble of an alternate universe will appear somewhere, and it will spread out and destroy us. But some experimental results indicate that there might be more particles so Supersymmetry may save the universe, yet.

Speaking of pens and 3D-prining (I know it seems to pop up everywhere recently) - you can kickstart (and eventually own) a 3D-printing pen. It will use fast solidifying plastic and you will be able to doodle objects that you can then play with. This is like my childhood coming true as one of my favourite Polish children toons was Zaczarowany Ołówek (Enchanted Pencil) - whatever the main hero drew with that pencil became a real 3D-object. I used to wish I could have a pencil like that. Now, I can. I love living in 21st century.
ellestra: (slingers)
Today, finally after two months of waiting we got our missing bench tables and finally have enough workspace not to sit on one another. But the guys bringing the tables came at 8am or rather just before it. We didn't expect it - we thought more like around 10 - so there was no one there. I got the call (because my phone is there as a contact in case no one's inside) just before 8 that said they are waiting at the door. My bus leaves at 8 and the next was in 15 minutes. I went from half dressed to bus stop in 4 minutes. I didn't even have time to brush my hair. Or eat. Or drink.

I'm not used to going to work so early. And after all the moving and rearranging was done I almost crashed on my desk. One of my co-workers overslept so he almost missed the whole thing. I was practically alone for the first hour. Scientist - not very good with early mornings (except for the ones that wake up early anyway - I had a friend like that). I keep forgetting most of the working world doesn't work on the same schedule.

Now, I'm to tired to do anything so here's more scientist at work. Postdocs at LHC made a movie about zombies. 27 km of underground tunnels. I know people for whom that's scary enough even without the undead.

Oh, and Happy All Saints Day.
ellestra: (slingers)
Kelly Thompson wrote a book about two superheroines (and already funded its publication) and decided to do 30 Days Of Superheroines to celebrate that. She posts collections of art for chosen superheroine everyday and it's so pretty. I also learned that there exists a version of Psylocke costume that doesn't suck. Why, oh why can't she wear this in comics:

Hearing the news about discover of Higgs-like particle the researchers at Europe's DANTE decided to hear what the boson sounded like and "sonifyied" the latest batch of collider data and io9 kindly posted it for us all to hear how pretty the mass sound like:
ellestra: (sunrise)
Here, where I an it's a holiday today - the Independence Day - however, in this year, today is a different day for the whole world. Today is the Higgs boson day. CERN announced it officially today - the Higgs boson has been discovered (or it is almost completely sure that they found a particle and that particles fits the theoretically predicted properties of Higgs boson). Everyone expected they are going to say that when they called this seminar as the rumours and experimental results showing in recent months strongly indicated they got it but it's nice to have the official .confirmation. It feels both good and anticlimactic. On one hand there is this "Finally!" feeling with all the wait and money poured into the LHC (this was one of its most famous goals). On the other - nothing changed in our lives. All that calling it the God Particle created too much hype and you can feel a certain disappointment - no hole in the sky or all secrets of the Universe becoming known to us as if we cracked the secret code. And we are left with most important question of in all science - what's next. Probably, even bigger explosions. And of course there's still dark matter and energy.
ellestra: (lightning)
Or at least very close to it as both ATLAS and CMS detectors at LHC seem to have data hinting the Higgs boson has been detected. If the current experiments hinting at it can be repeated with higher significance then this could be it. Many physicist are already convinced as the two independent experiments on two LHC detectors not only discovered it but hinted at the same mass at just about 125 gigaelectronvolts. Before this was announced many expected that the first real chance at detection will come after the LHC restart next spring or maybe only after it'll go to even higher energies in 2015. It's also just a beginning of what we are expecting to find and a proof that theory is a good at pointing where to look.

This is a big thing. It fills up the Standard Model and shows where the mass comes from - the final piece combining electromagnetism and the weak force.

I know it's also a little confusing with Higgs particle and Higgs field and how they are really connected to the mass of particles and why some particles have mass and others don't. Good thing io9 have a things like Ask a Physicist column (it truly justifies its existence) that explains all that.

Particle physics has been really awesome this year. Lets hope at least one - preferably this or FTL neutrinos - will pan out. Think what LHC can do next.
ellestra: (Default)
I was watching Nova 'The Fabric of the Cosmos' tonight and it reminded me I haven't done science post in a while. So here it is.

The biggest news of the day (at least in science) is the discovery of the fraud Dutch psychologist Diederik Stapel has been committing for years. He was one of the most famous social psychologist in the field. He published a lot and collaborated a lot. His work were one of those media loves to report on like the effects of beauty product ads on consumer self-esteem or how littered streets promote discrimination. Now, it turns up he was making up the data.
Many of Stapel’s students graduated without having ever run an experiment, the report says. Stapel told them that their time was better spent analyzing data and writing. The commission writes that Stapel was “lord of the data” in his collaborations. It says colleagues or students who asked to see raw data were given excuses or even threatened and insulted
This exactly opposite of how it should work. His practices were exposed when three junior researchers reported their suspicions of scientific misconduct in his work. He was suspended on all his articles are under review. It is already know that 30 of them contain falsified data. It might be more.

This is why it is so important in science to independently repeat the results of any study. The difficulty to do that in any psychology related science is why so many people don't consider it science at all but conjecture. This may damage whatever credibility it has left. Worst part is that this will spread to tarnish all the scientist's reputations. Because gut feeling is so much better. Funny thing is that all this was based on Diederik Stapel gut feeling on how humans think. If one already knows why bother checking with RLTM.

So, now as an antidote something with verifiable, repeatable results.

We really have that little man in a control room in our brains. Or more precisely 12 of the - 6 for each hemisphere - that rule over all the other. They review, coordinate and oversee everything that is happening. They also heavily connected to each other and disruption of these connections or failure of even one of the centres

LHC is preparing for a winter break. It smashed it's last proton beams this year on Sunday and now is just going with light work of smashing ion beams. But only for the nest 4 weeks. Then it's off till March but we are promised it will come back better, stronger and more powerful. And now way Higgs boson can hide from it anymore.

And finally - look at this. This is like magic, only real (or at least like Star Wars):
ellestra: (Default)
You've probably heard about it by now but the CERN OPERA experiment with neutrinos registered some that apparently seem to travel faster then light.

The experiment sends neutrinos generated by the LHC in Switzerland to a detector at Gran Sasso in Italy. Neutrinos have almost no mass so they travel practically at the speed of light and they almost don't interact with other matter so they go through it as if it isn't there. They should have arrived in Italy in 3 ms. Instead they've been detected 60 ns too early. 15 000 times.

This is not something they expected to see. It's not even something they belive int. It's just something they see in the data. And now they are asking the other physicist if they can find what they did wrong.

Becsuse if they are right then the current mantra of nothing can go faster then light is wrong and our understanding of the rules the universe operates on will have to be reevaluated. However, as most (including the researchers who observed this) point out, it is probably some kind of mistake and even we shouldn't get to excited and run off redefining physics until some independent experiments can replicate the results. Preferably many, many independent experiments.

Or this is proof that the LHC will destroy the universe. Whatever you find to be more likely.

This is big enough to show up in the news everywhere (even the newest xkcd is about this) and CERN is to hold a conference in few minutes (16:00 CEST) that we can all watch live.
ellestra: (Default)
This time everything went according to schedule and the first LHC proton beams collision scheduled for today was a success.  Those who were awake and aware could watch a live transmission. Two 3.5 TeV proton particle beams that have been circling in opposite directions were smashed in 7 TeV event. That was the highest energy yet achieved in a particle accelerator and its giant detectors have begun to gather their first physics data from the collisions. And that's just operating at half power - after refurbishing it will do twice as much energy.

Talking about physics - Tor has a an update on the latest science finds on dark matter and it reads like science fiction. Dark stars, gigantic repositories of matter just outside the universe and catching WIMPs with cryogenics. Who needs a plot?

And if you have any qualms strong magnetic field applied in right place can help. The ability of strong magnetic field to disrupt functioning of brain centers have been known for a while. It can be used to simulate brain damage without lasting effects. This time they it was done to the center processing information about beliefs and disrupted the moral reasoning process. Test subjects were shown scenes where actor does something that intends (but fails) to harm someone.  People who had this part of brain disabled found this actions as less morally forbidden and more morally permissible.
ellestra: (Default)
Large Hadron Collider is getting ready to smash at the record energy of 3.5 trillion electronvolts (TeV) per beam. They already reached that energy with single beam and when they make sure it's stable in both direction there will come a time to smash them. Probably next week. Unless Higgs boson will come again and sabotage LHC to hide its existence.

Cold fusion is back. After 20 years of disgrace its being talk of again. After the last time discovery of cold fusion was announced noone could reproduce the results and it was pushed back into the realm of science fiction but a small group of scientist kept on working on it and now they ready to share it with the rest of the world. Hope it'll turn out better then the last time. and I must I admire the resourcefulness of people doing this research as they managed to do this at all despite the lack of funding. Even if their research doesn't work out at least the tech they created for it can help others.

British Military is working on force fields for tanks. They only work for fraction of a second but deployed in right moment can deflect projectiles. Even the rocket propelled grenades, which detonate on impact that turned conventional armor into unwieldy thickness. Lighter, faster and with supercapacitor armor - the future of tanks.

New kind of human has just been discovered. X-woman (hey, I didn't invent that name) mitochondrial DNA, extracted from a bit of fingerbone found in Siberia, showed she was distinct from both modern humans and Neanderthals. Her people might have even been making tools. We once were not alone. There were other sentient species living alongside us. Fantasy might be more right then they ever imagined.

And the coolest moons of Solar system from oceans of Europa through wind swept terrains of Titan to the awesomeness of the Moon. Pick your own favourite.
ellestra: (Default)
The LHC turend out to be dangerous after all. No, it still won't create black holes or Flash Forward event. It's mostly a danger to itself. LHC is to operate at half power before being shut down for retooling of some parts that turned out to be too week to withstand a full power. I'm afraid discovering the meaning of life, Universe and everything will have to wait.

The physics of the helium voice and why you should be very, very careful doing that. Ah, all the ways people find to kill themselves. The inhaling different gases may give you funny voice but it may kill you. Once again there are to types of breathing - moving your chest and the real one. The second one involves oxygen and other gases just don't cut it no matter how funny it is to die like this.

Vaccinations don't cause autism. Really. Even Jenny McCarthy admitted that (in a very quiet and indirect way). It sad how many people are willing to avoid what is good for their children and the society as a whole for a imaginary, unproven danger. Because real dangerous sickness are not scary enough. Luckily for everyone there are people who actually research what causes autism and try to find the causes. And though the cure is still far away the better test for autism come with more advances in genome analysis. See, autism is often genetic and linked with small deletions or duplications on chromosomes. The old techniques often don't have the resolution to catch the abnormalities. The high density microarrays are better. When whole genome sequencing becomes cheaper it will be even better.

The South Georgia is trying to right wrong with mass extermination. They will try to restore the balance on one of most beautiful wild birds reserve by killing the rats that have been upsetting that ecosystem ever since they get there. It is hard and dangerous operation but I really hope they manage to get all of them. I'm usually against useing the heamorraging poisons because it is a horrible way to die and even rats don't deserve this. But I think in this case it is justified.

TheSF is around every corner now it seems. The program to build artificial brain based on the mermistors which have some of the properties of neurons. Their ability to pass current depends on their last state and the time between the current passage.
ellestra: (Default)
Next time LHC stops it may not be because of technical difficulties but because someone has mistaken disaster movie plot for reality. It seems that some people took the black whole eating Earth seriously and tried to stop LHC at court. And they may make it at least temporarily. Nothing like a made up threat. I blame Ronald Emmerich and Dan Brown.

I always felt that SETI is doing it wrong. After all their search is based on some many assumptions that the silence doesn't mean anything. Here are some other ideas for searching for intelligent life.

There is a plan to fight dengue with sex. The specially bread male mosquitoes carry a gene that is neutral to them but impairs wing development in their female offspring. Since dengue is carried by one species of mosquitoes and spread when females bite their victims this could stop the spread of the disease at least until evolution takes over and either mosquitoes or dengue will escape the trap.

Then there are those who don't need sex at all. Or rather can't really use it so found another way to keep genetic diversity and have babies without opposite sex. The lizards that are self-reproducing by crossing their genetic material with themselves to stay in the Red Queen race.

And it turns out that in vitro reproduction methods are not completely without consequences as it seems they have affect epigenetic information. It means that the pattern of expression of genes is a bit different and it may cause a higher risk of obesity and diabetes later in life. At least they know what to expect.  Most of us can only hope our methylation is correct.
ellestra: (Default)
LHC went through a test run yesterday and this time nothing broke down. It was successful and the beams went both ways. So it seems the Higgs boson no longer tires to sabotage its own creation. Maybe it got bored. Or maybe it went through treatment and no longer feel abhorrent to nature. So next step is collision. And then comes Higgs boson in next few years hopefully. And if it won't work out here are prospects on the next generations of colliders that may be able to do the trick and discover whole new physics on the way.


Oct. 13th, 2009 10:19 pm
ellestra: (Default)
The vegetarian spider has been discovered or rather its diet has been discovered and caused the sensation. There were some species of spiders that eat a little plant food but this ones diet is 90% herbivorous. It also seems to make it more social. Instead of killing each other these spiders live and eat together. This discovery made it's name very ironic, Bagheera kiplingi, was named after loner predator and turned out to be the opposite.

The Economics Nobel Prize in memory of Alfred Nobel went to Elinor Ostrom and Oliver E. Williamson. This marks the first time a woman was awarded a Nobel in this category. High time. We have 21st century for a while now.

You need a crazy conspiracy theory for your next novel Dan Brown? Look no further then the New York Times where two physicist claim that Higgs boson is conspiring to hide its own existence from us humans. It stopped the USA's Superconducting Super Collider from being built and sabotaged th LHC. By traveling in time. Bet you it also caused the Flash Forward.

And last but not least, the NewScientist has a contest:
To win entry for two people to the Origin Day events in central London plus travel, accomodation and subsistence costs, answer this question in no more than 50 words:
Animals and plants are now evolving in response to humans - for example, hedgehogs are less likely to freeze in headlights, and elephants are losing their tusks. What will the selection pressure imposed by humans produce in the future?

The closing date is 5 pm BST on 19 October 2009. The editor's decision is final.

They'll fly you to London from anywhere in the world, give you a place to stay and you'll take part in the "Origin Day" celebrations in London on 24 November. Just use a little imagination.


Sep. 21st, 2008 07:26 pm
ellestra: (Default)
After over a week of cold weather and rain I've seen sun today. For a few minutes. In between rain clouds. But it still counts.

I went to the XXI Święto Kwiatów, Owoców i Warzyw which is a big, open air fair with exposions and market of garden and farmer stuff. There was also parade of kids dressed up as flowers and apparently jedi and sith knights, because everything needs jedis. There were also samurais fighting on stage. World is a strange place indeed.

In the meantime LHC broke down, so we won't learn the secrets of the universe this week. Helium leak. Wonder if they noticed when they started to sound funny.

The Middleman is done, most likely forever (and I blame you USians for not watching it) but I found No Heroics a more accurate portrayal of the superhero everyday life. This one is full of references too although the site has a thing for overexplaining things. And the revival of Red Dwarf is getting more real as the specials are to be made to celebrate show 21st birthday.

ellestra: (sunrise)

This weekend it was still summer-like. Over 30o and sunny. Warm nights, warmer then through most of summer. Only night came early. Dark before 8. And even though I managed to get sunburnt a little on Saturday I could feel it’s autumn already.
The change of season. I find it funny how I can just wake one day and just know it happened. It’s the funny feeling, hard to describe. It’s in the clarity of air, the colour of the sky, the light, the smell. It doesn’t matter that the temperature is high and the sky blue. I could still feel it in how the wind moved the leaves on trees. Summer has ended.
I know how cheesy it sounds but I just try to describe it. After all when the change comes there usually is no visible change. Leaves are still on trees and mostly green. Those who aren’t look rather like dried out then changing colours. Sun is shining. And still I know.
The sun seems more distant the blue of sky changes shade. And in the forest there’s this quiet. And when the wind in the trees sounds different. The morning mists are different and spider webs are everywhere. That’s why we call this time of year “babie lato” - old woman’s (or maybe grandma’s) summer because the web strings look like old woman’s hair.
On Monday it got cold started to rain. It rained again today. The leaves started to fall. There’s no denying it anymore.
Forecast says it’s going to be sunny but no more then 15o all next week.  And really cold nights - like 4
o cold. Not unusual this time of year but it 's usually warmer. Real autumn.

Still it was a good summer. Much better then last year. Warm, mostly hot even. I’m sort of tanned, as much as it’s possible for me. Even legs. I had a great place to swim. River near the place I was at is unregulated and in meander near us it finally broke through and created an island. The meander turned into something in between river and lake. Duckweed will cover it and it will slowly turn into swam. But this year it was a grate place for swimming.

Now it’s the good time for picking mushrooms. Too bad I hate them. Smell, taste, everything. For me they are inedible. Funny how that’s what I’m working on.

Going back to yesterday’s subject – more about LHC and the final answer to the burning question “Has the LHC destroyed the earth”.

ellestra: (Default)
So I'm back home and the LHC started working. Finally. So before little black holes swallow us all I'll try to get connected once again.
I wrote most of my thesis but I still have discussion to write. And of course there's still a lot of corrections . I also managed to get to page 122 of Toll the Hounds. But after hours spent at the computer screen and/or reading science papers my eyes are too tired to read much, so finishing it will probably take me a while. Good I've already spoiled myself and read the end. I couldn't have gone back to work otherwise. Unfortunately for me Return of the Crimson Guard is already out and The Temporal Void is soon to be. It's a conspiracy to keep me from reaching my PhD. I'm sure of that.

Today the first proton beam was sped to 0.999% of speed of light. No collisions as of yet so the end of the world has been delayed once more :P. I always find it funny how everything in big science is considered a good excuse for otherwise serious journalists to make really bad sf scenarios usually involving some kind of end of the world. And I mean bad like an Emmerich's movie. Luckily almost no one pays attention to this anymore, after all we are all still here. So if the world is still here when the beams collide I'll be able to laugh at their silliness once again ;)
ellestra: (Default)
Today I went to visit my friend from primary school - we used to sit. She is an hairdresser and sh ached to get my hair in her hands. This way I had my hair straightened for the first time ever. It's not permanent won't last past next hairwhash. Good -I still feel strange everytime I'm passing by a mirror.

I came back to learn that LHC finally is to be tested with first proton beam this weekend. It's first proper run is set on September 10. I hope so - they keep postponing it. This waiting for the signs of black holes is tiring me. Can't stand this much excitement.

I've also read about Causal Dynamical Triangulations that wants to rival the string theory for quantum gravity theory. It makes space into my beloved fractals. I already like it. Also - the visualization of space according to that theory looks a lot like the glass roof of the Warsaw's Golden Terraces mall. Wander if that's coincidence or was done on purpose.

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