Help scan the realm beyond Neptune for brown dwarfs and planet nine!

Help scan the realm beyond Neptune for brown dwarfs and planet nine! Yes, you can join the search for icy worlds, brown dwarfs and other yet to be discovered objects beyond the orbit of Neptune, using a technique that’s not all that different from the method that led to Pluto’s discovery some 87 years ago. Anyone can join the online hunt here: Backyard Worlds: Planet 9


Gravitational Waves Discovered from Colliding Black Holes


A team of physicists announced that they had heard and recorded the sound of two black holes colliding a billion light years away. Albert Einstein first predicted gravitational waves in 1916 based on his general theory of relativity, and scientists began seeking these ripples in spacetime in the 1960s but none succeeded in measuring their effects on Earth until now. Gravitational waves are ripples in the fabric of space-time that Einstein predicted a century ago. This is one of the major breakthroughs in physics that we all hoped to prove. It opens the doors to many more theories and lays a solid foundation to help further our knowledge of our Universe

Does dark matter cause mass extinctions and geologic events on Earth?

earth's orbit in milky wayThe galactic disk is the region of the Milky Way Galaxy where our solar system resides. It is crowded with stars and clouds of gas and dust and also a concentration of elusive dark matter — small subatomic particles that can be detected only by their gravitational effects.

Previous studies have shown that Earth rotates around the disk-shaped galaxy once every 250 million years. But Earth’s path around the galaxy is wavy, with the Sun and planets weaving through the crowded disk approximately every 30 million years. Analyzing the pattern of Earth’s passes through the galactic disk, these disk passages seem to correlate with times of comet impacts and mass extinctions of life. The famous comet strike 66 million years ago that led to the extinction of the dinosaurs is just one example.

What causes this correlation between Earth’s passes through the galactic disk and the impacts and extinctions that seem to follow?

While traveling through the disk, the dark matter concentrated there disturbs the pathways of comets typically orbiting far from Earth in the outer solar system. This means that comets that would normally travel at great distances from Earth instead take unusual paths, causing some of them to collide with the planet.

But even more remarkably, with each dip through the disk, the dark matter can apparently accumulate within Earth’s core. Eventually, the dark matter particles annihilate each other, producing considerable heat. The heat created by the annihilation of dark matter in Earth’s core could trigger events such as volcanic eruptions, mountain building, magnetic field reversals, and changes in sea level, which also show peaks every 30 million years. Astrophysical phenomena derived from Earth’s winding path through the galactic disk and the consequent accumulation of dark matter in the planet’s interior can result in dramatic changes in Earth’s geological and biological activity.


Google picks Charlotte as next possible Google Fiber location

charlotte_googleWe’re excited to start discussions with Charlotte to bring Google Fiber there. Share this graphic to let your neighbors know the news. Learn more and sign up for updates:

Understanding Gravity and the Speed of Light

Thanks to Einstein’s General theory of relativity we know that gravity is an indirect result of mass and not a direct result. The Earth is not pulling us down because it has gravity, it’s “pulling” all mass towards it because it’s large mass is causing a distortion of the geometry of space and time. The “fabric” of space is becoming bent because mass and space can not coexist at the same point and the fabric of space is becoming displaced by the mass of the object in this case our planet Earth. The more mass an object has the more distortion it causes. This distortion is why all mass including zero mass photons (light) falls towards the Earth; the Earth is causing a curved path in space which allows objects to fall towards it. An extreme example of this is a black hole. The geometry of space and time is distorted so much that it begins to fold over it’s self causing all mass including light from escaping it’s distortion of space time after it crosses it’s event horizon (the point of no return). – Rick Viegas


The Large Hadron Collider concludes first 3 year run and will continue in 2015


The LHC is the worlds largest and highest energy particle accelerator. It was built by CERN (The European Organization for Nuclear Research) and used by physicists to study the smallest known sub atomic particles which are the fundamental building blocks of all things. The 17 mile long particle accelerator is located near Geneva, Switzerland. It has helped test different theories of particle physics, high-energy physics, supersymmetric theories, and most importantly prove the existence of the Higgs boson! It will undergo maintenance and upgrades for the next two years and resume proton to proton collisions in 2015. -Rick Viegas


Asteroid Won’t Hit Earth, But Don’t Rule Out Communication Satellites

2012Asteroid.jpgAsteroid 2012 DA14 is about half the width of a football field (150 feet) and will fly within 17,200 miles of our planet on Friday, Feb. 15, zooming closer to the planet than the ring of satellites in geosynchronous orbit. While Earth is safe from 2012 DA14, an asteroid that size would do a lot of damage if it did impact our planet. A similar-sized rock slammed into Tunguska,  Siberia, in 1908, and flattened some 500,000 acres of forest over an area about the size of Tokyo.

How to program a Quantum Computer?

Quantum Internet at the speed of light?


As the number of transistors on a microprocessor continues to increase at the rate that they are, I predict by the year 2045 will find the circuits on a microprocessor measured on an atomic scale. And, the logical next step will be to create quantum computers, which will harness the power of atoms and molecules to perform memory and processing tasks. 

Thanks to the strange laws of quantum mechanics, quantum computers would be able to carry out certain computational tasks much faster than conventional silicon based computers. And, were not just talking about the local processing power of PC’s, Tablets, and Smart Phones it’s much more about the internet then local processing power as the shift to cloud based processing over local becomes the norm. 

Not only do optical fibers transmit information every day around the world at the speed of light, but they can also be harnessed for the transport of quantum information. Computer Networks will be able to directly transfer the quantum information stored in an atom onto a particle of light. Such information could then be sent over optical fiber to a distant atom (quantum PC). Among the most promising technologies for the construction of a quantum computer are systems of single atoms, confined in so-called ion traps and manipulated with lasers. In the laboratory, these systems have already been used to test key building blocks of future quantum computers. What makes the construction of these interfaces especially challenging is that the laws of quantum mechanics don’t allow quantum information to be simply copied. Instead, a future quantum internet that is, a network of quantum computers linked by optical channels would have to transfer quantum information onto individual particles of light, known as photons. These photons would then be transported over an optical-fiber link to a distant computing site. Now, for the first time, quantum information has been directly transferred from an atom in an ion trap onto a single photon. The quantum information stored in the photon could thus be conveyed over the optical fiber to a distant quantum computer, where the same technique could be applied in reverse to write it back onto an atom. 

Pairing a quantum microprocessor with DNA memory which can achieve a density of 2 petabytes or more per gram of DNA which calculates to allow at least 100 million hours of high-definition video to be stored in about the size of a synthetic DNA teacup. Now you have a recipe that’s more powerful then any super computer cluster in the world today just sitting on your desk! The future of computer technology is bright indeed.


New Telescope in Chile Unveils Stunning First Images

A gorgeous photo of a star-forming region of space called the Carina Nebula marks the inauguration of a new telescope — the largest instrument in the world devoted to surveying the sky in visible light. It’s called the VLT Survey Telescope (VST). The VST is a 2.6-meter telescope with a 268-megapixel camera, called OmegaCAM, at its core. The visible-light telescope is designed to map the sky both quickly and with precise image quality.



Technology is changing our understanding of Dark Matter in the Universe

Astronomers puzzled? I would be too if I were to observe what they did earlier this year when they spotted an overabundance of dark matter in the heart of the merging galaxy cluster Abell 520. Now with a new group of astronomers viewing the same cluster with a different Hubble camera it completely paints a different picture. It also raises questions of our understanding of the mysterious substance we call dark matter. Because dark matter is not visible, its presence and distribution is found indirectly through its gravitational effects. The gravity from both dark matter and luminous matter warps space, bending and distorting light from galaxies behind it like a giant magnifying glass. Astronomers use this technique to map dark matter in the merging cluster. Using the new Hubble camera astronomers now measured less shear (shear is the warping and stretching of galaxies by gravity of dark matter. More warping indicates the presence of more gravity than is inferred from the presence of luminous matter, therefore requiring the presence of dark matter to explain the observation) in the clusters core. The earlier observation showed 6 to 1 dark matter to normal matter. The new study now shows a ratio of 2.5 to 1! All of this further challenges our theories of how dark matter behaves. It also illustrates the importance of how the evolution of technology is to Astronomy and our understanding of the Universe.

Rick Viegas

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Felix Baumgartner sets high altitude skydiving and Supersonic free fall record!

Felix Baumgartner is an Austrian skydiver, daredevil and BASE jumper. He set the world record for skydiving an estimated 39 kilometres (127,953 ft; 24 mi), reaching an estimated speed of 1,342 kilometres per hour (834 mph), or Mach 1.24. He sets the record for the highest and fastest speed record for a human free fall. First person in history to free fall at supersonic speed.

What is Dark Matter?

Why humans shouldn’t live in space!

Space commander

We have all seen footage of astronauts floating freely in space, performing twists and turns that seem to defy gravity. As a result of these portrayals, many people believe that there is zero gravity in space. However, this statement could not be further from the truth. Gravity exists everywhere in the universe and is the most important force affecting all matter in space. In fact, without gravity, all matter would fly apart and everything would cease to exist.

Gravity is the attractive force between two objects at a fixed distance r. The strength of gravity is proportional to the mass of the two objects and inversely related the distance between them. A larger massed object has a greater gravitational force than a smaller massed object does which explains the difference between the gravitational field of the Earth and Moon. The force of gravity between two objects decreases rapidly at a rate of 1/r2. Thus, the gravitational force of two equal masses 1 meter apart is 100 times stronger than if the masses were 10 meters apart. Using the two parameters, mass and distance, we can understand how gravity operates in the universe and causes objects to appear as though they are experiencing zero gravity in space.

Pluto’s Moon tally is now up to 5!

Pluto family1Pluto is still not a planet, but it does boast an impressive entourage.

Astronomers said Wednesday that they had spotted a fifth moon orbiting Pluto, which they already knew had four. The discovery, made with the Hubble Space Telescope, gives Pluto more moons than Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars combined.

The announcement, initially conveyed on Twitter, caught the attention of some science-minded comedians on the same medium. ”It’s like, since being kicked out of the planet gang, it’s decided to form a rival solar system,” said Dean Burnett, a neuroscientist and stand-up comic in Britain. ”Good one Pluto, I say.”
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