• Science

    NASA, ULA Launch Parker Solar Probe on Historic Journey to Touch Sun

    Hours before the rise of the very star it will study, NASA’s Parker Solar Probe launched from Florida Sunday to begin its journey to the Sun, where it will undertake a landmark mission. The spacecraft will transmit its first science observations in December, beginning a revolution in our understanding of the star that makes life on Earth possible.   Roughly the size of a small car, the spacecraft lifted off at 3:31 a.m. EDT on a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket from Space Launch Complex-37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. At 5:33 a.m., the mission operations manager reported that the spacecraft was healthy and operating normally.  …

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    Around the world, people have surprisingly modest notions of the ‘ideal’ life

    It seems reasonable that people would want to maximize various aspects of life if they were given the opportunity to do so, whether it’s the pleasure they feel, how intelligent they are, or how much personal freedom they have. In actuality, people around the world seem to aspire for more moderate levels of these and other traits, according to findings published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.   “Our research shows that people’s sense of perfection is surprisingly modest,” says psychological scientist Matthew J. Hornsey of the University of Queensland, first author on the research. “People wanted to have positive qualities, such as health and happiness,…

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    The quasar that just disappeared

    Astronomers can’t find any sign of the supermassive black hole at the center of the quasar named SDSS J1011+5442, and they couldn’t be happier. “This is the first time we’ve seen a quasar shut off this dramatically, this quickly,” said Penn State Postdoctoral Scholar Jessie Runnoe, who led the international team of astronomers from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) that is reporting this discovery today. The black hole is still there, but the super-bright quasar it powered by swallowing the gas in its vicinity has disappeared over the past ten years, as it appears to have swallowed all the gas nearby. Runnoe’s team reports today that it was unable…

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    Nanomaterial to drive new generation of solar cells

    Physicists have discovered radical new properties in a nanomaterial which opens new possibilities for highly efficient thermophotovoltaic cells, which could one day harvest heat in the dark and turn it into electricity.   The research team from the Australian National University (ARC Centre of Excellence CUDOS) and the University of California Berkeley demonstrated a new artificial material, or metamaterial, that glows in an unusual way when heated.   The findings could drive a revolution in the development of cells which convert radiated heat into electricity, known as thermophotovoltaic cells.   “Thermophotovoltaic cells have the potential to be much more efficient than solar cells,” said Dr Sergey Kruk from the ANU…

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    Saturn’s bulging core implies moons younger than thought

    Freshly harvested data from NASA’s Cassini mission reveals that the ringed planet’s moons may be younger than previously thought.   “All of these Cassini mission measurements are changing our view of the Saturnian system, as it turns our old theories upside down,” said Radwan Tajeddine, Cornell University research associate in astronomy and a member of the European-based Encelade scientific team that pored over the Cassini data and published a paper in the astronomy journal Icarus (January 2017).   The Encelade team – lead by Valéry Lainey of the Paris Observatory – provided two key measurements in the research: the rigidity of the tidal bulge, or the Love number – named…

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    Mapping the exotic matter inside neutron stars

    Do neutron stars contain exotic matter in the form of dense deconfined quark matter? Scientists performed the first accurate determination of the thermodynamic properties of dense quark matter under violent conditions that occur during neutron star mergers, and suggest a step towards distinguishing between neutron and quark matter cores in neutron stars.     The recent detection of gravitational waves emitted by two merging black holes by the LIGO and Virgo collaborations has opened up a new observational window into the cosmos.   Future observations of similar mergers between two neutron stars or a neutron star and a black hole may revolutionize what we know today about the properties of…

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    Breaking the symmetry in the quantum realm

    For the first time, researchers have observed a break in a single quantum system. The observation–and how they made the observation–has potential implications for physics beyond the standard understanding of how quantum particles interact to produce matter and allow the world to function as we know it.   The researchers published their results on May 31st, in the journal Science.   Called Parity-Time (PT) Symmetry, the mathematical term describes the properties of a quantum system–the evolution of time for a quantum particle, as well as if the particle is even or odd. Whether the particle moves forward or backward in time, the state of oddness or evenness remains the same…