einstein (12)

Five Stages...

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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...

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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...

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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...

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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...

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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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Geodes...

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(Just_Super/iStock)

 

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...

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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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Entanglement...

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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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Wormhole Slow-Mo...

Credit: CC0 Public Domain

 

Topics: Black Holes, Einstein, General Relativity, Science Fiction, Wormholes


“Sometimes people don't want to hear the truth because they don't want their illusions destroyed.” Friedrich Nietzsche, Good Reads

A Harvard physicist has shown that wormholes can exist: tunnels in curved space-time, connecting two distant places, through which travel is possible.

But don't pack your bags for a trip to other side of the galaxy yet; although it's theoretically possible, it's not useful for humans to travel through, said the author of the study, Daniel Jafferis, from Harvard University, written in collaboration with Ping Gao, also from Harvard and Aron Wall from Stanford University.

"It takes longer to get through these wormholes than to go directly, so they are not very useful for space travel," Jafferis said. He will present his findings at the 2019 American Physical Society April Meeting in Denver.

Despite his pessimism for pan-galactic travel, he said that finding a way to construct a wormhole through which light could travel was a boost in the quest to develop a theory of quantum gravity.

 

Travel through wormholes is possible, but slow, American Institute of Physics, Phys.org

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Event Horizon...

Scientists have obtained the first-ever image of a black hole — at center of the galaxy M87. Credit: Event Horizon Telescope collaboration et al.

 

Topics: Astrophysics, Black Holes, Cosmology, Einstein


(Yesterday) At six simultaneous press conferences around the globe, astronomers on Wednesday announced they had accomplished the seemingly impossible: taking a picture of a black hole, a cosmic monster so voracious that light itself cannot escape its clutches.

This historic feat, performed by the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT)—a planet-spanning network of radio observatories—required more than a decade of effort. The project’s name refers to a black hole’s most defining characteristic, an “event horizon” set by the object’s mass and spin beyond which no infalling material, including light, can ever return.

“We have taken the first picture of a black hole,” the EHT project’s director, Sheperd Doeleman, said in a news release. “This is an extraordinary scientific feat accomplished by a team of more than 200 researchers.”

The image unveils the shadowy face of a 6.5-billion-solar-mass supermassive black hole at the core of Messier 87 (M87), a large galaxy some 55 million light-years from Earth in the Virgo galaxy cluster. Such objects are a reflection of Einstein’s theory of general relativity, which predicts that only so much material can be squeezed into any given volume before the overwhelming force of its accumulated gravity causes a collapse—a warp in the fabric of spacetime that swallows itself. Left behind is an almost featureless nothingness that, for lack of better terms, scientists simply call a black hole.

"Gargantua," special effects from the movie, Interstellar, 2014 (Kip Thorne et al guessed right):
Image Source: HDQ Walls dot com

 

At Last, a Black Hole’s Image Revealed, Lee Billings, Scientific American

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Lumpy Neutron Stars...

An artist’s rendition of a neutron star. Credit: Kevin Gill Flickr (CC by 2.0)

 

Topics: Astronomy, Astrophysics, Einstein, Gravitational Waves, Neutron Stars


Gravitational waves—the ghostly ripples in spacetime first predicted by Einstein and finally detected a century later by advanced observatories—have sparked a revolution in astrophysics, revealing the otherwise-hidden details of merging black holes and neutron stars. Now, scientists have used these waves to open another new window on the universe, providing new constraints on neutron stars' exact shapes. The result will aid researchers in their ongoing quest to understand the inner workings of these exotic objects.

So far, 11 gravitational-wave events have been detected by the LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory) interferometers in Washington and Louisiana and the Virgo gravitational-wave observatory in Italy. Of these events, 10 came from mergers of binary black holes, and one from the merger of two neutron stars. In all cases, the form of the waves matched the predictions of Einstein's theory of general relativity.

For the binary black hole events, the passing waves lasted less than a second; for the merging neutron stars, the emissions occurred for about 100 seconds. But such rapid pulses aren't the only types of gravitational waves that could be streaming through the universe. In particular, solitary neutron stars might be emitting detectable gravitational waves as they spin—signals that could reveal important new details of the stars' topography and internal composition.

 

Gravitational Observatories Hunt for Lumpy Neutron Stars
David Appell, Scientific American

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