For your weekend… as I traditionallly do, here’s a round-up of recent science news…
First, here’s the latest CARTA conference – the Center for Anthropogeny (human origins) at UCSD. This one with talks having to do with the theme of “The Planet Altering Apes.”
== Physical Science ==
The observation of the Higgs boson at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) has validated the last missing piece of the standard model (SM) of elementary particle physics. The mass of the W boson, a mediator of the weak force between elementary particles, should be tightly constrained by the symmetries of the standard model of particle physics. So… do recent results mean we have a problem here?
“Wireless Sensors: Tiny Battery-Free Devices Float In The Wind Like Dandelion Seeds…” or a lot like the ‘localizer nanochips in Vernor Vinge’s great novel A Deepness in the Sky.
A new form of ice discovered, which forms at high-pressures: Shades of Kurt Vonnegut! Here’s ‘ice-ten’ or Ice-X! Scientists speculate that it could be common on distant, water-rich exoplanets.
== The biologic world ==
States and cities have also begun to decriminalize psilocybin – the core of magic mushrooms – in general or for medicinal purposes, especially treatment of depression.
Apparently fish can calculate….stingrays can perform simple addition and subtraction in the low digit range.
Forty to fifty percent of all animal species are actually parasites, including 300,000 different types of worms that parasitize vertebrates.
Interesting question: Why didn’t our primitive ancestors get cavities?
== Insights into our planet ==
In Earth’s past, two gargantuan ‘super-mountain’ ranges may have fueled two of the biggest evolutionary boom times in our planet’s history — the first appearance of complex cells roughly 2 billion years ago, and the Cambrian explosion of marine life 541 million years ago.
Is Earth’s ‘solid’ inner core something like my fictional-hypothetical descriptions in Earth? If the material is ‘superionic,’ then the majority iron atoms might be ‘solid’ in the crystalline lattice structure, whereas the carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen molecules would diffuse through the medium, creating the liquid-like element.
And in related matters, the top mineral form of the mantle is perovskites… which are still (since I wrote Earth) among the best high pressure/high temperature superconductors. So… is she alive? Way too soon to tell. But the traits (or potentialities) keep piling up!
Moving a bit outward toward Earth’s mantle… “Earth is layered like an onion, with a thin outer crust, a thick viscous mantle, a fluid outer core, and a solid inner core. Within the mantle, there are two massive blob-like structures, roughly on opposite sides of the planet. The blobs, more formally referred to as Large Low-Shear-Velocity Provinces (LLSVPs), are each the size of a continent and 100 times taller than Mt. Everest. One is under the African continent, while the other is under the Pacific Ocean.” Might this explain the unusual solidity of the African continent?
Meanwhile, fast melting Alpine permafrost may contribute to rising global temperatures.
There have been wonderful paleontologic finds at the Tanis site, in the Dakotas, which show many creatures exceptionally well-preserved who seem to have died suddenly the very day that asteroid ended the era of the dinosaurs. I look forward to the show – Dinosaurs: The Final Day with Sir David Attenborough, which was broadcast on BBC One. A version for the U.S. science series Nova on the PBS network will be broadcast later in the year.
And…an allegory of uncertainty
Four quantum physicists are in a car. Heisenberg is driving like he is in The Matrix. Schrödinger is in the front seat waving at the other cars. Einstein and Bohr are in the back arguing when they get pulled over. The officer asks Heisenberg, “do you know how fast you were going?”
“No, but we know exactly where we are,” Heisenberg replies.
The officer looks confused and says, “you were going 120 km/h!”
Heisenberg throws his arms up and cries, “Great! Now we’re lost!”
The officer looks over the car and asks Schrödinger if they have anything in the trunk.
“A cat,” Schrödinger replies.
The officer opens the trunk and yells, “This cat is dead!”
Schrödinger angrily replies, “Well it is now.”
Bohr says, “on the bright side, a moment ago we didn’t have a position, speed, or a cat. Now we have all three!”
Fed up, the officer says, “I just want to know how many of you I need to bring back to the station!”
“Roll dice for it?” Einstein asks.
Now back to your regularly scheduled 21st Century crises…