einstein (23)

Swift Particles and Dark Matter...



Source: Same source for the Dark Matter definition below.


Topics: Astronomy, Astrophysics, Cosmology, Dark Matter, Einstein, General Relativity


Note: Your "secret decoder ring" for reading the Abstract.


Dark matter: It makes up about 85% of the universe, is invisible, and doesn't interact with matter except for gravitational effects. See: Center for Astrophysics, Harvard


"Tachyonic": Of, or referring to tachyons, (Greek for swift) theoretical particles that already travel faster-than-light and backward in time. Their rest mass, m0i, is assumed to be imaginary. As it loses energy, it's assumed to become infinitely fast, so you can see why it's a favorite science fiction trope, along with dark matter, literally tableau rasas.


ΛCDM assumes that the universe is composed of photons, neutrinos, ordinary matter (baryons, electrons), and cold (non-relativistic) dark matter, which only interacts gravitationally, plus "dark energy," which is responsible for the observed acceleration in the Hubble expansion. Source: Goddard Spaceflight Center: Lambda


H0 defines the Hubble constant, or, the rate at which the universe is expanding, determined by Hubble in the way back year of 1929 to be 500 km/s/Mpc. I'm going to defer to Wikipedia for this one.


km/s/Mpc = kilometers/second/megaparsec. Megaparsec is 1 million parsecs = 3,260,000 light years, or 3.26 x 106 light years.


t0 = the present age of the universe, t0 = 2tH/3, where "tH" is the Hubble time. t0 is roughly 13.7 × 109 years, or 4.32 × 1017 seconds.


Gyr = giga years, or 1 billion years = 1 x 109 years (a lot).




An open or hyperbolic Friedmann-Robertson-Walker spacetime dominated by tachyonic dark matter can exhibit an “inflected” expansion—initially decelerating, later accelerating—similar but not identical to that of now-standard ΛCDM models dominated by dark energy. The features of the tachyonic model can be extracted by fitting the redshift-distance relation of the model to data obtained by treating Type Ia supernovae as standard candles. Here such a model is fitted to samples of 186 and 1048 Type Ia supernovae from the literature. The fits yield values of H0 = (66.6±1.5) km/s/Mpc and H0 = (69.6±0.4) km/s/Mpc, respectively, for the current-time Hubble parameter, and t0 = (8.35 ± 0.68) Gyr and t0 = (8.15 ± 0.36) Gyr, respectively, for the comoving-time age of the Universe. Tests of the model against other observations will be undertaken in subsequent works.


Subject headings: cosmology, dark matter, tachyons, distance-redshift relation, supernovae


Testing Tachyon-Dominated Cosmology with Type Ia Supernovae, Samuel H. Kramer, Ian H. Redmount, Physics arXiv


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Esse Quam Videri...


Credit: Menno Schaefer/Adobe

Starlings flock in a so-called murmuration, a collective behavior of interest in biological physics — one of many subfields that did not always “belong” in physics.

Topics: Applied Physics, Cosmology, Einstein, History, Physics, Research, Science

"To be rather than to seem." Translated from the Latin Esse Quam Videri, which also happens to be the state motto of North Carolina. It is from the treatise on Friendship by the Roman statesman Cicero, a reminder of the beauty and power of being true to oneself. Source: National Library of Medicine: Neurosurgery

If you’ve been in physics long enough, you’ve probably left a colloquium or seminar and thought to yourself, “That talk was interesting, but it wasn’t physics.”

If so, you’re one of many physicists who muse about the boundaries of their field, perhaps with colleagues over lunch. Usually, it’s all in good fun.

But what if the issue comes up when a physics faculty makes decisions about hiring or promoting individuals to build, expand, or even dismantle a research effort? The boundaries of a discipline bear directly on the opportunities departments can offer students. They also influence those students’ evolving identities as physicists, and on how they think about their own professional futures and the future of physics.

So, these debates — over physics and “not physics” — are important. But they are also not new. For more than a century, physicists have been drawing and redrawing the borders around the field, embracing and rejecting subfields along the way.

A key moment for “not physics” occurred in 1899 at the second-ever meeting of the American Physical Society. In his keynote address, the APS president Henry Rowland exhorted his colleagues to “cultivate the idea of the dignity” of physics.

“Much of the intellect of the country is still wasted in the pursuit of so-called practical science which ministers to our physical needs,” he scolded, “[and] not to investigations in the pure ethereal physics which our Society is formed to cultivate.”

Rowland’s elitism was not unique — a fact that first-rate physicists working at industrial laboratories discovered at APS meetings, when no one showed interest in the results of their research on optics, acoustics, and polymer science. It should come as no surprise that, between 1915 and 1930, physicists were among the leading organizers of the Optical Society of America (now Optica), the Acoustical Society of America, and the Society of Rheology.

That acousticians were given a cold shoulder at early APS meetings is particularly odd. At the time, acoustics research was not uncommon in American physics departments. Harvard University, for example, employed five professors who worked extensively in acoustics between 1919 and 1950. World War II motivated the U.S. Navy to sponsor a great deal of acoustics research, and many physics departments responded quickly. In 1948, the University of Texas hired three acousticians as assistant professors of physics. Brown University hired six physicists between 1942 and 1952, creating an acoustics powerhouse that ultimately trained 62 physics doctoral students.

The acoustics landscape at Harvard changed abruptly in 1946, when all teaching and research in the subject moved from the physics department to the newly created department of engineering sciences and applied physics. In the years after, almost all Ph.D. acoustics programs in the country migrated from physics departments to “not physics” departments.

The reason for this was explained by Cornell University professor Robert Fehr at a 1964 conference on acoustics education. Fehr pointed out that engineers like himself exploited the fundamental knowledge of acoustics learned from physicists to alter the environment for specific applications. Consequently, it made sense that research and teaching in acoustics passed from physics to engineering.

It took less than two decades for acoustics to go from being physics to “not physics.” But other fields have gone the opposite direction — a prime example being cosmology.

Albert Einstein applied his theory of general relativity to the cosmos in 1917. However, his work generated little interest because there was no empirical data to which it applied. Edwin Hubble’s work on extragalactic nebulae appeared in 1929, but for decades, there was little else to constrain mathematical speculations about the physical nature of the universe. The theoretical physicists Freeman Dyson and Steven Weinberg have both used the phrase “not respectable” to describe how cosmology was seen by physicists around 1960. The subject was simply “not physics.”

This began to change in 1965 with the discovery of thermal microwave radiation throughout the cosmos — empirical evidence of the nearly 20-year-old Big Bang model. Physicists began to engage with cosmology, and the percentage of U.S. physics departments with at least one professor who published in the field rose from 4% in 1964 to 15% in 1980. In the 1980s, physicists led the satellite mission to study the cosmic microwave radiation, and particle physicists — realizing that the hot early universe was an ideal laboratory to test their theories — became part-time cosmologists. Today, it’s hard to find a medium-to-large sized physics department that does not list cosmology as a research specialty.

Opinion: That's Not Physics, Andrew Zangwill, APS

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Imaging Infinity...


A new image from the Event Horizon Telescope has revealed powerful magnetic fields spiraling from the edge of a supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way, Sagittarius A*.

Topics: Astrophysics, Black Holes, Cosmology, Einstein, General Relativity

Physicists have been confident since the 1980s that there is a supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way galaxy, similar to those thought to be at the center of most spiral and elliptical galaxies. It has since been dubbed Sagittarius A* (pronounced A-star), or SgrA* for short. The Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) captured the first image of SgrA* two years ago. Now the collaboration has revealed a new polarized image (above) showcasing the black hole's swirling magnetic fields. The technical details appear in two new papers published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters.

"The new picture of Sgr A* compared to the old one shows the advantages of using a paintbrush rather than a crayon," Maynooth University cosmologist Peter Coles said on BlueSky. The new image is also strikingly similar to another EHT polarized image of a larger supermassive black hole, M87*, so this might be something that all such black holes share.

The only way to "see" a black hole is to image the shadow created by light as it bends in response to the object's powerful gravitational field. As Ars Science Editor John Timmer reported in 2019, the EHT isn't a telescope in the traditional sense. Instead, it's a collection of telescopes scattered around the globe. The EHT is created by interferometry, which uses light in the microwave regime of the electromagnetic spectrum captured at different locations. These recorded images are combined and processed to build an image with a resolution similar to that of a telescope the size of the most distant locations. Interferometry has been used at facilities like ALMA (the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array) in northern Chile, where telescopes can be spread across 16 km of desert.

Event Horizon Telescope captures stunning new image of Milky Way’s black hole, Jennifer Ouellette, Ars Technica.

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In Medias Res...


Image source: Link below

Topics: Applied Physics, Astrophysics, Computer Modeling, Einstein, High Energy Physics, Particle Physics, Theoretical Physics

In the search for new physics, a new kind of scientist is bridging the gap between theory and experiment.

Traditionally, many physicists have divided themselves into two tussling camps: the theorists and the experimentalists. Albert Einstein theorized general relativity, and Arthur Eddington observed it in action as “bending” starlight; Murray Gell-Mann and George Zweig thought up the idea of quarks, and Henry Kendall, Richard Taylor, Jerome Freidman and their teams detected them.

In particle physics especially, the divide is stark. Consider the Higgs boson, proposed in 1964 and discovered in 2012. Since then, physicists have sought to scrutinize its properties, but theorists and experimentalists don’t share Higgs data directly, and they’ve spent years arguing over what to share and how to format it. (There’s now some consensus, although the going was rough.)

But there’s a missing player in this dichotomy. Who, exactly, is facilitating the flow of data between theory and experiment?

Traditionally, the experimentalists filled this role, running the machines and looking at the data — but in high-energy physics and many other subfields, there’s too much data for this to be feasible. Researchers can’t just eyeball a few events in the accelerator and come to conclusions; at the Large Hadron Collider, for instance, about a billion particle collisions happen per second, which sensors detect, process, and store in vast computing systems. And it’s not just quantity. All this data is outrageously complex, made more so by simulation.

In other words, these experiments produce more data than anyone could possibly analyze with traditional tools. And those tools are imperfect anyway, requiring researchers to boil down many complex events into just a handful of attributes — say, the number of photons at a given energy. A lot of science gets left out.

In response to this conundrum, a growing movement in high-energy physics and other subfields, like nuclear physics and astrophysics, seeks to analyze data in its full complexity — to let the data speak for itself. Experts in this area are using cutting-edge data science tools to decide which data to keep and which to discard and to sniff out subtle patterns.

Opinion: The Rise of the Data Physicist, Benjamin Nachman, APS News

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Liquid Squeezing...


That isn't tea, but the paradox still applies: Dispersing gold nanoparticles in an aqueous chlorine solution. (Courtesy: Ai Du)

Topics: Aerogels, Einstein, Materials Science, Nanomaterials, Soft Materials

If you stir a colloidal solution containing nanoparticles, you might expect the particles to disperse evenly through the liquid. But that’s not what happens. Instead, the particles end up concentrated in a specific region and may even clump together. This unexpected result is an example of Einstein’s tea leaf paradox, and the researchers at Tongji University in China who discovered it – quite by accident – say it could be used to collect particles or molecules for detection in a dilute solution. Importantly, it could also be used to make aerogels for technological applications.

We usually stir a liquid to evenly disperse the substances in it. The phenomenon known as Einstein’s tea leaf paradox describes a reverse effect in which the leaves in a well-stirred cup of tea instead become concentrated in a doughnut-shaped area and gather at the bottom center of the cup once stirring ceases. While this paradox has been known about for more than 100 years and is understood to be caused by a secondary flow effect, there are few studies on how it manifests for nanoparticles in a stirred solution.

Liquid "squeezing"

Researchers led by Ai Du of the School of Physics, Science, and Engineering at Tongji University in Shanghai have now simulated how gold nanoparticle spheres dispersed in water move when the solution is stirred. When they calculated the flow velocity distribution of the fluid, they found that the rate at which the particles moved appeared to follow the fluid’s flow velocity.

“Interestingly, by dividing the whole container into several sectors, we also observed that the high-velocity region driven by the stirrer was also the region in which the particles aggregated,” explains Du. “We think that this phenomenon is probably due to direct ‘squeezing’ of the liquid created by the stirrer and comes from the mass differences between the nanoparticles and the liquid phase.”

Einstein’s tea leaf paradox could help make aerogels, Isabelle Dumé, Physics World.

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Einstein Rings...


Multiple images of a background image created by gravitational lensing can be seen in the system HS 0810+2554. Credit: Hubble Space Telescope / NASA / ESA

Topics: Astronomy, Astrophysics, Dark Matter, Einstein, General Relativity

Physicists believe most of the matter in the universe is made up of an invisible substance that we only know about by its indirect effects on the stars and galaxies we can see.

We're not crazy! Without this "dark matter," the universe as we see it would make no sense.

But the nature of dark matter is a longstanding puzzle. However, a new study by Alfred Amruth at the University of Hong Kong and colleagues, published in Nature Astronomy, uses light's gravitational bending to bring us a step closer to understanding.

Invisible but omnipresent

We think dark matter exists because we can see its gravity's effects on galaxies' behavior. Specifically, dark matter seems to make up about 85% of the universe's mass, and most of the distant galaxies we can see appear to be surrounded by a halo of the mystery substance.

But it's called dark matter because it doesn't give off light or absorb or reflect it, which makes it incredibly difficult to detect.

So what is this stuff? We think it must be some kind of unknown fundamental particle, but beyond that, we're not sure. All attempts to detect dark matter particles in laboratory experiments have failed, and physicists have debated its nature for decades.

Scientists have proposed two leading hypothetical candidates for dark matter: relatively heavy characters called weakly interacting massive particles (or WIMPs) and extremely lightweight particles called axions. Theoretically, WIMPs behave like discrete particles, while axions behave more like waves due to quantum interference.

It has been difficult to distinguish between these two possibilities—but now light bent around distant galaxies has offered a clue.

New look at 'Einstein rings' around distant galaxies just got us closer to solving the dark matter debate, Rossana Ruggeri, Phys.org.

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Heart of Darkness...


The first direct image of the Milky Way's supermassive black hole shows an orange glowing ring — gas heated as it falls into the singularity — with the shadow of the black hole at the center. EHT Collaboration

Topics: Astrophysics, Black Holes, Cosmology, Einstein, General Relativity

In a triumph of observation and data processing, astronomers at the Event Horizon Telescope have captured the first-ever picture of the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way Galaxy.

The black hole is named Sagittarius A* (pronounced “A-star”), and the reveal of its image received an international rollout this morning in simultaneous press conferences held by the National Science Foundation (NSF) at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., and the European Southern Observatory headquarters in Garching, Germany.

The image represents 3.5 million gigabytes of data taken at millimeter wavelengths by eight radio telescopes around the world. “It took several years to refine our image and confirm what we had,” said Feryal Özel, an astronomer at the University of Arizona in Tucson, at the NSF press conference. “But we prevailed.”

Blackhole at the center of Milky Way imaged for the first time, Mark Zastrow, Astronomy

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Shadow of Infinity...


Figure 1: A cartoon showing the “self-lensing” of light by a supermassive black hole binary system. Jordy Davelaar and Zoltán Haiman of Columbia University predict that this effect could be used to study black hole binaries that are too far from Earth to probe with other techniques

Topics: Black Holes, Cosmology, Einstein, General Relativity

When galaxies collide, the central supermassive black holes that they contain begin to orbit each other. This supermassive black hole binary attracts gas, which flows through the system to form two disk-shaped structures, one around each of the supermassive black holes. The gas in these “minidisks” heats as it falls toward the holes and begins to radiate light. Astronomers have detected around 150 galaxies with candidate supermassive black hole binaries. And, as observations become more detailed, they expect the light from the minidisks in those systems to bear recognizable, time-dependent signatures from black hole distortions [1]. Now, Jordy Davelaar and Zoltán Haiman of Columbia University have theoretically tested how one such distortion—the “shadow” of the black hole—affects this light signature, finding that it causes a dip in the signal that should be observable in about 1% of candidate systems [23]. The technique could allow astronomers to study black holes that are currently beyond the reach of conventional imaging methods (Fig. 1).

From gravitational-wave measurements of merging black holes to direct imaging of the plasma circling a black hole, the last decade has seen an explosion of observational evidence for black holes (see Viewpoint: The First Sounds of Merging Black Holes and News Feature: Black Hole Imaging Tests Einstein’s Limits) [46]. Yet despite these achievements, many questions remain about black holes, including a critical one: How do black holes grow to supermassive scales—millions to billions of times the mass of the Sun?

A black hole is a simple object, described by its mass, angular momentum, and electrical charge. Supermassive black holes are typically electrically neutral, so their mass and angular momentum parameters determine their gravitational fields. The gravitational field determines how the black holes bend light and thus how they appear to an observer on Earth. Light passing near the black hole is deflected by the gravitational field, producing a black hole shadow—a dark region that is often encircled by a bright light ring—whose size and shape come directly from the black hole’s mass and angular momentum.

Measuring a Black Hole Shadow, George N. Wong, APS Physics

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Rogue Singularity...


A lone black hole gives off no light - but its gravity does distort the path of light traveling around it. Ute Kraus (background Milky Way panorama: Axel Mellinger), Institute of Physics, Universität Hildesheim

Topics: Astrophysics, Black Holes, Cosmology, Einstein, General Relativity

Each second, a brand new baby black hole is born somewhere in the cosmos as a massive star collapses under its own weight.

But black holes themselves are invisible. Historically, astronomers have only been able to detect these stellar-mass black holes when they are acting on a companion.

Now, a team of scientists has made the first-ever confirmed detection of a stellar-mass black hole that’s completely alone. The discovery opens up the possibility of finding even more — an exciting prospect, considering there should be around 100 million such “rogue” black holes drifting through our galaxy unseen.

Relying on the neighbors

Black holes are difficult to find because they don’t shine like stars. Anything with mass warps the fabric of space-time, and the greater the mass, the more extreme the warp. Black holes pack so much mass into such a tiny area that space folds back in on itself. That means that if anything, even light, gets too close, its path will always bend back toward the center of the black hole.

Astronomers have found a couple hundred of these ghostly goliaths indirectly, by seeing how they influence their surroundings. They’ve identified around 20 black holes of the small, stellar-mass variety in our galaxy by watching as stars are devoured by invisible companions. As the black hole pulls matter from its neighbor, the material forms a swirling, glowing accretion disk that signals the black hole’s presence.

Astronomers detect the first potential 'rogue' black hole, Ashley Balzer, Astronomy Magazine

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Cosmic Existentialism...


An illustration of a black hole and its event horizon. (Image credit: Nicholas Forder/Future Publishing)

Topics: Astronomy, Astrophysics, Black Holes, Cosmology, Einstein, General Relativity

"Small" black holes are estimated to make up 1% of the universe's matter.

Scientists have estimated the number of "small" black holes in the universe. And no surprise: It's a lot.

This number might seem impossible to calculate; after all, spotting black holes is not exactly the simplest task. Because there are as pitch-black as the space they lurk in, the light swallowing cosmic goliaths can be detected only under the most extraordinary circumstances — like when they're bending the light around them, snacking on the unfortunate gases and stars that stray too close, or spiraling toward enormous collisions that unleash gravitational waves.

But that hasn't stopped scientists from finding some ingenious ways to guess the number. Using a new method, outlined Jan. 12 in The Astrophysical Journal, a team of astrophysicists has produced a fresh estimate for the number of stellar-mass black holes — those with masses 5 to 10 times that of the sun — in the universe.

And it's astonishing: 40,000,000,000,000,000,000, or 40 quintillions, stellar-mass black holes populate the observable universe, making up approximately 1% of all normal matter, according to the new estimate.

So how did the scientists arrive at that number? By tracking the evolution of stars in our universe they estimated how often the stars — either on their own or paired into binary systems — would transform into black holes, said first author Alex Sicilia, an astrophysicist at the International School of Advanced Studies (SISSA) in Trieste, Italy.

40 quintillion stellar-mass black holes are lurking in the universe, a new study finds, Ben Turner, Space.com

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Image source: link below

Topics: Applied Physics, Einstein, General Relativity, Special Relativity

According to Einstein’s theory of special relativity, first published in 1905, light can be converted into matter when two light particles collide with intense force. But, try as they might, scientists have never been able to do this. No one could create the conditions needed to transform light into matter — until now.

Physicists claim to have generated matter from pure light for the first time — a spectacular display of Einstein’s most famous equation.

This is a significant breakthrough, overcoming a theoretical barrier that seemed impossible only a few decades ago.

What does E=mc2 mean? The world’s most famous equation is both straightforward and beyond comprehension at the same time: “Energy equals mass times the speed of light squared.” 

At its most fundamental level, it means energy and mass are various forms of the same thing. Energy may transform into mass and vice versa under the right circumstances. 

However, imagine a light beam transforming into, say, a paper clip, and it seems like pure magic. That’s where the “speed of light squared” factors in. It determines how much energy a paper clip or any piece of matter contains. The speed of light is the factor needed to make mass and energy equal. If every atom in a paper clip could be converted to pure energy, it would generate 18 kilotons of TNT. That’s around the size of the Hiroshima bomb from 1945. 

(Still can’t picture it? Me neither.) 

You can go the other way, too: if you crash two highly energized light particles, or photons, into each other, then you can create energy and mass. It sounds simple enough, but no one has been able to make it happen.

Since they couldn’t accelerate light particles, the team opted for ions and used the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC) to accelerate them at extreme speeds. In two accelerator rings at RHIC, the accelerated gold ions to 99.995% of the speed of light. With 79 protons, a gold ion has a strong positive charge. When a charged heavy ion is accelerated to incredible speeds, a strong magnetic field swirls around it. 

That magnetic field produces “virtual photons.” So, in a roundabout way, they accelerated light particles by piggybacking them on an ion.

When the team sped the ions in the accelerator rings with significant energy, the ions nearly collided, allowing the photon clouds surrounding them to interact and form an electron-positron pair — essentially, matter. They published their work in the journal Physical Review Letters.

Scientists observed what Einstein predicted a century ago, Teresa Carey, Free Think

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Five Stages...


Image source: Link below

Topics: Astrophysics, Cosmology, Einstein, General Relativity, Star Trek

Note: One of the things you find out about sophomore, or junior year in physics is faster-than-light travel violates causality: the arrow of time points forward, not in "loop-de-loop." Thus, we can suspend belief as every version of Trek did time travel episodes, because superluminal speeds would allow grandfather paradoxes, so why not?

As a lifelong Trekkie, it pains me to critique genuine attempts at warp field mechanics. Just note the five stages of grief I have traveled often as I read such articles: "denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance" (Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, and David Kessler), but based on the post that will appear in the morning, a little diversion might be a good thing.

For Erik Lentz, it all started with Star Trek. Every few episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation, Captain Jean-Luc Picard would raise his hand and order, “Warp one, engage!” Then stars became dashes, and light-years flashed by at impossible speed. And Lentz, still in elementary school, wondered whether warp drive might also work in real life.

“At some point, I realized that the technology didn’t exist,” Lentz says. He studied physics at the University of Washington, wrote his Ph.D. dissertation on dark matter, and generally became far too busy to be concerned with science fiction. But then, at the start of the coronavirus pandemic, Lentz found himself alone in Göttingen, Germany, where he was doing postdoctoral work. He suddenly had plenty of free time on his hands—and childhood fancies in his head.

Lentz read everything he could find on warp drives in the scientific literature, which was not very much. Then he began to think about it for himself. After a few weeks, something occurred to him that everyone else seemed to have overlooked. Lentz put his idea on paper and discussed it with more experienced colleagues. A year later it was published in a physics journal.

It quickly became clear that Lentz was not the only person dreaming about warp drives. Media outlets all over the world picked up the story, and a dozen journalists asked for interviews. A discussion on the online forum Reddit attracted 2,700 comments and 33,000 likes. One Internet user wrote, “Anyone else feels like they were born 300 years too soon?”

Star Trek’s Warp Drive Leads to New Physics, Robert Gast, Scientific American

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Black Hole Storm...


Topics: Astrophysics, Black Holes, Cosmology, Einstein, General Relativity

Note: From comments on a previous post, maybe science writers need to work on their chosen list of metaphors?

In the far reaches of the Universe, a supermassive black hole is throwing a tantrum.

It's blowing a tremendous wind into intergalactic space, and we're seeing the storm light from 13.1 billion years ago when the Universe was less than 10 percent of its current age. It's the most distant such tempest we've ever identified, and its discovery is a clue that could help astronomers unravel the history of galaxy formation.

"The question is when did galactic winds come into existence in the Universe?" said astronomer Takuma Izumi of the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ).

"This is an important question because it is related to an important problem in astronomy: How did galaxies and supermassive black holes coevolve?"

A Colossal Black Hole Storm Has Been Detected Raging in The Early Universe, Michelle Starr, Science Alert

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Einsteinium Chemistry...


Topics: Chemistry, Einstein, Materials Science, Research

To date, researchers have created more than two dozen synthetic chemical elements that don’t exist naturally on Earth. Neptunium (atomic number Z = 93) and plutonium (Z = 94), the first two artificial elements after naturally occurring uranium, are produced in nuclear reactors by thousands of kilograms. But the accessibility of transuranic elements drops quickly with Z: Einsteinium (Z = 99) can be made only in microgram quantities in specialized laboratories, fermium (Z = 100) is produced by the picogram and has never been purified, and all elements after that are made just one atom at a time.

There are ways to probe the atomic properties of elements produced atom by atom (see, for example, Physics Today, June 2015, page 14). But when it comes to the traditional way of investigating how atoms behave—mixing them with other substances in solution to form chemical compounds—Es is effectively the end of the periodic table.

Now Rebecca Abergel (head of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s heavy element chemistry program) and her colleagues have performed the most complicated and informative Es chemistry experiment to date. They chose to react Es with a so-called octadentate ligand—a single organic molecule, held together by the backbone shown in blue, that wraps around a central metal atom and binds to it from all sides—to create the molecular structure shown in the figure. In their previous work, Abergel and colleagues used the same ligand to study transition metals, lanthanides, and lighter actinides. When they were fortunate enough to acquire a few hundred nanograms of Es from Oak Ridge National Laboratory, they used it on that as well.

Einsteinium chemistry captured, Johanna L. Miller, Physics Today

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No Strings Attached...


Image Source: Physicist finds loose thread of string theory puzzle, Cay Leytham-Powell, University of Colorado at Boulder, Phys.org

Topics: Einstein, General Relativity, Quantum Mechanics, String Theory

For decades, most physicists have agreed that string theory is the missing link between Einstein's theory of general relativity, describing the laws of nature at the largest scale, and quantum mechanics, describing them at the smallest scale. However, an international collaboration headed by Radboud physicists has now provided compelling evidence that string theory is not the only theory that could form the link. They demonstrated that it is possible to construct a theory of quantum gravity that obeys all fundamental laws of physics, without strings. They described their findings in Physical Review Letters last week.

When we observe gravity at work in our universe, such as the motion of planets or light passing close to a black hole, everything seems to follow the laws written down by Einstein in his theory of general relativity. On the other hand, quantum mechanics is a theory that describes the physical properties of nature at the smallest scale of atoms and subatomic particles. Though these two theories have allowed us to explain every fundamental physical phenomenon observed, they also contradict each other. As of today, physicists have severe difficulties to reconcile the two theories to explain gravity on both the largest and smallest scale.

Explaining gravity without string theory, Radboud University, Phys.org

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Perhaps we’ve got it all wrong. Perhaps, for far too long, we’ve believed the story we have told ourselves about ourselves, that self-limiting, redundant account of fear, conformity, and lack. Perhaps Marianne Williamson was right when she told us “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.”
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Primordial Black Holes...

Snapshot from the central region of a numerical simulation of two merging neutron stars. It shows the stars stretched out by tidal forces just before their collision. Credit: CoRe/Jena FSU


Topics: Astronomy, Astrophysics, Black Holes, Einstein, General Relativity

In the nearly five years since their first direct detection, gravitational waves have become one of the hottest topics in astronomy. With facilities such as the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO), researchers have mostly used these ripples in spacetime to study the inner workings of merging black holes, but LIGO has also detected gravitational waves from other sorts of celestial crashes, such as the collisions of ultradense stellar remnants called neutron stars. Sometimes, however, LIGO serves up gravitational waves that leave astronomers scratching their heads—as was the case for GW190425, an event detected last April that was recently attributed to a neutron star merger.

The trouble is that LIGO’s data suggest this neutron star pair was substantially overweight—collectively, some 3.4 times the mass of the sun, which is half a solar mass heavier than the most massive neutron star binaries ever seen. “It is the heaviest known by a pretty wide margin,” says Chad Hanna, an astrophysicist at Pennsylvania State University who hunts gravitational waves.

The trouble is that LIGO’s data suggest this neutron star pair was substantially overweight—collectively, some 3.4 times the mass of the sun, which is half a solar mass heavier than the most massive neutron star binaries ever seen. “It is the heaviest known by a pretty wide margin,” says Chad Hanna, an astrophysicist at Pennsylvania State University who hunts gravitational waves.


Did Astronomers Just Discover Black Holes from the Big Bang? Nola Taylor Redd, Scientific American

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Topics: Black Holes, Cosmology, Dark Energy, Einstein, General Relativity, Gravity

A fifty-year-old hypothesis predicting the existence of bodies dubbed Generic Objects of Dark Energy (GEODEs) is getting a second look in light of a proposed correction to assumptions we use to model the way our Universe expands.

If this new version of a classic cosmological model is correct, some black holes could hide cores of pure dark energy, pushing our Universe apart at the seams.

University of Hawaii astrophysicist Kevin Croker and mathematician Joel Weiner teamed up to challenge the broadly accepted notion that when it comes to the Universe's growing waistline, its contents are largely irrelevant.

"For 80 years, we've generally operated under the assumption that the Universe, in broad strokes, was not affected by the particular details of any small region," said Croker.

"It is now clear that general relativity can observably connect collapsed stars – regions the size of Honolulu – to the behavior of the Universe as a whole, over a thousand billion billion times larger."

Not only could this alternative interpretation of fundamental physics change how we understand the Universe's expansion, but we might need to also consider how that growth might affect compact objects like the cores of collapsing stars.


Black Holes May Hide Cores of Pure Dark Energy That Keep The Universe Expanding
Mike McCrae, Science Alert

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The Gravity of the Matter...

Testing Einstein: conceptual image showing S0-2 (the blue and green object) as it made its closest approach to the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way. The huge gravitational field of the black hole is illustrated by the distorted grid in space–time. (Courtesy: Nicolle R Fuller/National Science Foundation)


Topics: Astrophysics, Black Holes, Cosmology, Einstein, General Relativity

A key aspect of Einstein’s general theory of relativity has passed its most rigorous test so far. An international team led by Tuan Do and Andrea Ghez at the University of California, Los Angeles confirmed the Einstein equivalence principle (EEP) by analyzing the redshift of light from the star S0-2 at its closest approach to Sagittarius A* – the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way. The study combined over 20 years of existing spectroscopic and astrometric measurements of S0-2 with the team’s own observations.

Since Einstein first proposed his general theory of relativity in 1915, the idea has stood up to intense experimental scrutiny by explaining the behaviors of gravitational fields in the solar system, the dynamics of binary pulsars, and gravitational waves emitted by mergers of black holes.

In 2018, the GRAVITY collaboration carried out a particularly rigorous test – observing S0-2 at its closest approach to Sagittarius A* in its 16-year orbit.

As expected, the GRAVITY astronomers observed a characteristic relativistic redshift in light from S0-2. This redshift is a lengthening of the wavelength of the light and arises from both the motion of the star (the Doppler effect) and the EEP. The latter is a consequence of general relativity and predicts a redshift in light from a source that is in a gravitational field such as that of a supermassive black hole.


Einstein’s general theory of relativity tested by star orbiting a black hole
Sam Jarman, Physics World

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Physicists take first-ever photo of quantum entanglement.
Credit: University of Glasgow/CC by 4.0


Topics: Einstein, Entanglement, Laser, Quantum Mechanics

Scientists just captured the first-ever photo of the phenomenon dubbed "spooky action at a distance" by Albert Einstein. That phenomenon, called quantum entanglement, describes a situation where particles can remain connected such that the physical properties of one will affect the other, no matter the distance (even miles) between them.

Einstein hated the idea, since it violated classical descriptions of the world. So he proposed one way that entanglement could coexist with classical physics — if there existed an unknown, "hidden" variable that acted as a messenger between the pair of entangled particles, keeping their fates entwined. [18 Times Quantum Particles Blew Our Minds in 2018]

There was just one problem: There was no way to test whether Einstein's view — or the stranger alternative, in which particles "communicate" faster than the speed of light and particles have no objective state until they are observed — was true. Finally, in the 1960s, physicist Sir John Bell came up with a test that disproves the existence of these hidden variables — which would mean that the quantum world is extremely weird.

This is "the pivotal test of quantum entanglement," said senior author Miles Padgett, who holds the Kelvin Chair of Natural Philosophy and is a professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Glasgow in Scotland. Though people have been using quantum entanglement and Bell's inequalities in applications such as quantum computing and cryptography, "this is the first time anyone has used a camera to confirm [it]."

To take the photo, Padgett and his team first had to entangle photons, or light particles, using a tried-and-true method. They hit a crystal with an ultraviolet (UV) laser, and some of those photons from the laser broke apart into two photons. "Due to conservation of both energy and momentum, each resulting pair [of] photons are entangled," Padgett said.


'Spooky' Quantum Entanglement Finally Captured in Stunning Photo
Yasemin Saplakoglu, Live Science

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