Tuesday, August 14, 2018

What's up, Doc?

Astronomical news, of course :-)

Neutrinos are amazing particles. They interact so weakly with more familiar matter that it took decades to decide a neutrino had any mass at all. Aim a beam of neutrinos at a light-year thickness of lead, and half the neutrinos will emerge out the far side.

Our neighborhood neutrino factory -- aka, the Sun -- spits out a torrent of these particles. "Theoretical calculations say that about 65 billion neutrinos pass through every square centimeter region of the Earth's surface every second." (*) So how amazing is it that one neutrino recently made big news?
(*) "Nobel neutrinos

Blazar saddles?
IMO, pretty amazing. Because this extremely high-energy neutrino was correlated to a particular event: a blazar -- aka, an active galactic nucleus -- about four billion light-years (and years) distant. 

This correlation marks the first step toward a third type of observation in the nascent science of multi-modal astronomy. That is, in addition to traditional observations (using, from longest to shortest wavelengths: radio waves, microwaves, infrared, visible light, ultraviolet, X-ray, and/or gamma-ray electromagnetic radiation) and -- for a very few years now -- gravitational-wave observations, we can now foresee combining neutrino observations. In a word: awesome.

For more on this particularly fascinating neutrino detection, see "Why a 4-Billion-Year-Old Particle That Hit Antarctica Is Such a Big Deal."

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Curioser and curioser

Among the terrific -- and the terrible -- aspects of the web are the many odd articles that one somehow happens upon. Setting aside the disinformation among them, and the ulcer-inducing pieces, and the hoary repetitions, we're left with ... fascinating time sinks. Herewith, several such:

In the beginning?
How did life on Earth begin? There's lots of speculation, and precious little by way of answers. (I'm talking about biology here, not theology.) One theory is that life didn't begin on Earth, but arrived from elsewhere. That's the Panspermia ("all seeds") explanation. What if primitive life drifted to Earth from another star system(s) and, once here, then evolved?  

And almost as speculatively, what if humans could hibernate? What if, to conquer the vastness of the void between stars, humans could be put into -- and revived from -- some kind of suspended animation?

In seeming -- but certainly, incomplete -- support of both these "what ifs," consider: "Siberian Worms Frozen In Permafrost For Up To 42,000 Years Defrosted Back To Life." The ability of any terrestrial life to survive millennia frozen makes both Panspermia and human hibernation seem slightly less impossible.