Recent science news from around our weird universe.
In their search for a planet that looks like Earth — comfortably bathed in sunshine in a pleasant solar system where life would be easy come easy go — astronomers keep turning up the strangest things.
They’ve found a planet with the density of Styrofoam.
They’ve found two planets with surfaces hotter than molten lava.
They’ve found two inexplicable planet-sized objects that for some reason are hotter than the stars they orbit. Scientists have never seen anything like this before.
Eight Percent of Human DNA Comes from a 40 Million Year-Old Virus
Humans carry in their genome the relics of an animal virus that infected their forerunners at least 40 million years ago, according to research published Wednesday by the British science journal Nature . . . .
Until now, the only viruses known to have been handed on in vertebrates were retroviruses, which work by hijacking cellular machinery in order to reproduce. Retroviruses are effective in infiltrating the germline — the DNA of reproductive cells, which means their sequence, or part of it, is handed on to ensuing generations.
By some estimates, retroviruses account for as much as eight percent of the human code for life.
A complex form of mathematical symmetry linked to string theory has been glimpsed in the real world for the first time, in laboratory experiments on exotic crystals.
Mathematicians discovered a complex 248-dimensional symmetry called E8 in the late 1800s. The dimensions in the structure are not necessarily spatial, like the three dimensions we live in, but they correspond to mathematical degrees of freedom, where each dimension represents a different variable.
In the 1970s, the symmetrical form turned up in calculations related to string theory, a candidate for the “theory of everything” that might explain all the forces in the universe. But string theory still awaits experimental proof.
The End of Gravity as a Fundamental Force:
“At a symposium at the Dutch Spinoza-instituut on 8 December, 2009, string theorist Erik Verlinde introduced a theory that derives Newton’s classical mechanics. In his theory, gravity exists because of a difference in concentration of information in the empty space between two masses and its surroundings. He does not consider gravity as fundamental, but as an emergent phenomenon that arises from a deeper microscopic reality. A relativistic extension of his argument leads directly to Einstein’s equations.”
Are We Entering a Mini Ice Age?
The bitter winter afflicting much of the Northern Hemisphere is only the start of a global trend towards cooler weather that is likely to last for 20 or 30 years, say some of the worlds most eminent climate scientists.
Their predictions based on an analysis of natural cycles in water temperatures in the Pacific and Atlantic oceans challenge some of the global warming orthodoxys most deeply cherished beliefs, such as the claim that the North Pole will be free of ice in summer by 2013.
According to the US National Snow and Ice Data Centre in Colorado, Arctic summer sea ice has increased by 409,000 square miles, or 26 per cent, since 2007 and even the most committed global warming activists do not dispute this.
Quantum darwinism is an extraordinary idea that was unleashed last year by the physicist by Wojciech Zurek at Los Alamos National Labs in New Mexico.
It’s main claim is that it explains the quantum-classical transition: why macroscopic physics obeys classical rules while the quantum world obeys the seemingly weird laws of quantum mechanics.