The most distant galaxy found yet… …and it’s FAR.

English: The , atop Mauna Kea, Hawai'i

The Keck Observatory, at Mauna Kea, Hawaii 

Almost by accident, we’ve discovered the most distant intergalactic body yet; and it’s by no means close to us.

Designated z8_GND_5296, it was discovered by a combination of infrared and and deep optical telescopes by astronomers from from University of California, Riverside, in conjunction with the at the National Optical Astronomy Observatories University of Texas at Austin and Texas A&M University.  This was confirmed by imagery from the telescope at the Keck Observatory in Hawaii.

By examining the redshift of the galaxy, that is, the shift in light color produced by a moving object, similar to the doppler shift heard in a racecar as it passes by you, this shift allows astronomers and physicists to determine how fast and how far away an object is, as the shift distorts the image more and more to the infrared end of the spectrum.  With a redshift of 7.51, and knowing the distance of the intergalactic objects between us and and that galaxy, we’ve been able to extract that the galaxy is over thirty BILLION light years away; and we are seeing it today as it appeared 13.1 Billion Light Years away.

What an incredible find!  When they say our universe is a big place, they mean it!

Could “Giant” Coronal Hole signal new Solar Cycle?

Every 12-15 years, the Sun has a “temper tantrum” and throws out MASSIVE amounts of solar wind, solar material and lots of energy out into space, a lot of it hitting us.  This has been going on for millions (and likely billions) of years.  While this normally doesn’t do anything to us, it does create a heck of a light show with the aurora borealis, as it slams into earth’s northern magnetic fields.   However, this could spell disaster for us today.

What’s different about our lives now than 12-15 years ago?  Technology.  Flash forward from 15 years ago.  Now, everyone has a GPS in their car.  Everyone has a cell phone.  Everyone has a laptop.

So what?  Well, when solar wind slams into the Earth’s magnetic fields, called the Van Allen Belts, they create what’s called a magnetic storm.  The Earth’s magnetic system wobbles around, and indeed, could even be affected if the storm is strong enough (Such as a Magnetic pole reversal, in the most severe of cases…).  Even slight “wobbles” of our magnetic pole can cause massive problems for our technology fueled society.

All of a sudden, computer networks go down.  The computers that run the NYSE-Euronext stock market find themselves functioning improperly, losing all sorts of trades, or worse, messing made-trades up.  GPS satellites go offline, causing navigation and timing problems.

Why is this a big deal now?  Well, we’re on the verge of another solar cycle.  Sometime between now, and the beginning of 2014, the solar cycle is expected to peak.  This is usually marked with increasing amounts of solar wind and even coronal mass emissions from the sun, where massive amounts of solar material is ejected into space.  In the last few days, NASA has released a picture of the surface of the sun, where it (color-adjusted for temperature) seems to be a dead-zone.  This normally happens when mass ejections take place.   In this instance, a MASSIVE emission took place that has sent the material hurtling toward Earth at roughly 2 million miles per hour.  The diameter of the “hole” is roughly 400,000 miles across — or 50 earths wide.

Could this be the start of the solar cycle that tests how hardened and resilient (or not?) our electronics and networks are, that geeks and computer engineers have been dreading for years?

“Are you out there?” Maybe — but not so fast…


An Asgard, from Stargate SG-1

We’ve transmitted friendship messages, we’ve sent satellites, we’ve scanned the heavens… but we’ve found no clues as to ET or Supreme Commander Thor’s wearabouts yet.  Or have we?

Think of the Internet.  When we send an email, we click “Send” and the email is broken apart into bits and bytes, going through several [if not dozens of] separate servers and paths all over the internet, until it finally arrives at the server address you designated, where it’s reassembled, and readable to the receiver.

Now, to you and me, that’s no news.  No news at all whatsoever.  But imagine intercepting just one piece of this email.  It’s broken apart from the other parts of it; and because it is, it makes no sense to anyone.  You know something is here — but what?

That could be how an advanced alien culture is communicating — but instead of using different wires and communications steams, they could be using different frequencies and technologies all at one time; just as we use several different data pipes to move our information around the world at the same time, even just in email.  We haven’t quite figured out how to map frequency spread communication past hydrogen-based frequencies, which is what we scan for the most often (programs like SETI, etc.)

Michio Kaku, my favorite theoretical physicist, likens this to an Ant, versus a superhighway.  “Imagine you’re an ant,” he says.  “You’re going about your business, doing what ants do…” and meanwhile, you have NO idea that other more complex creatures are building an eight-lane superhighway a few feet away from you.  Now, a few feet in ant-size is the equivalent of several MILES away from you.  However, one of these creatures, a human, approaches you.  He looks down at you and says “I bring you this superhighway.  I bring you the internet.  I bring you nuclear medicine.  Take me to your leader.”

Unfortunately, we have a problem here.  One, not only are you able to understand this human, but two, you have no CONCEPT of what any of this is.  Let’s assume this language barrier doesn’t exist — and that you are now the human, looking down at the ant, saying “I bring you all of this.”  How do you explain to an ANT the basics of a superhighway?  Much less, how do you explain the benefits of nuclear medicine, or the internet?  It’s mind isn’t able to understand these things.

Dr. Kaku states, which I believe, that at this point, we haven’t evolved to an understanding of how things at that level work yet.  Sure, the ants can see us, and may be aware of us… but if you were to walk up to an Ant, and say “Hello…” how could you two break that barrier — not only the language barrier, but communicate so that you both understand each other.

Higgs Boson: Mission Accomplished!

An example of simulated data modelled for the ...

An example of simulated data modelled for the CMS particle detector on the Large Hadron Collider.

It looks like the verdict is in: we’ve finally found the Higgs Boson — one of the most elusive particles; with the exception of Dark Matter, in nature.  Science has theorized of it’s existence for years, but it was always just beyond our grasp.

Today, we’ve finally confirmed the existence of what we believe is the Higgs Boson.  Last July, physicists and scientists from the European Organization for Nuclear Research, or known more properly by it’s French acronym CERN, announced that it’s Large Hadron Collider (or LHC) had conducted a particle acceleration test that revealed the presence of a subatomic particle that had the distinctiveness of what physicists postulated as the characteristics of the elusive particle.

Why is the Higgs so important?  So what?  In essence, the Higgs is, according to Gauge theory published in 1964, gives all conventional matter “mass.”  The average particle of matter contains mass, no matter how minuscule.  However, items of other types of matter, such as neutrinos which are able to pass right through solid matter without being interrupted, and the ever-elusive dark matter, seem not to have this subatomic particle in it’s makeup, according to the math.  Dr. Michio Kaku explains more here why the Higgs is so important.

With the numbers all working out, Science has finally [mathematically and now, via observation] proven the existence of the Higgs Boson.  How was such a feat accomplished, nearly 50 years after it’s postulation?

With the Large Hadron Collider, of course!  The largest particle accelerator on Earth, and in human history, the LHC is so large, it stretches through the border of France and Switzerland;

Large Hadron Collider

Large Hadron Collider (Photo credit: Randall Niles)

and remains one of the largest and most complex structures ever to be built by humankind.  Indeed, it’s literal atom-smashing power is in excess of 7 Tetra-electron volts (7 TeV) — or, to put it in some sort of perspective, a single visible photon of light is approximately 3.4 electron volts.  One Tetra-electron volt is 10E12, or ten to the twelfth electron volts.  Indeed, the atom-smashing power of this collider exceeded the previous most-powerful smasher by over seven times.  Some theorists postulated the idea that the LHC, at full power, had enough power to create a black hole if atoms were smashed at full intensity.  Luckily, this seems to have been proven wrong.

What has been proven right on the other hand, has effectively proven that we’re on the right track, and further, have taken another step toward understanding our universe.

What else is out there?  What more do we have to learn?  Plenty, I feel.

NASAs FY ’14 Budget: Catch an Asteroid…


Artist conception of a satellite on an Asteroid

In NASA’s next year’s fiscal budget, to be formally announced by the Obama Administration soon, it includes an appropriation of $100 Million for a satellite to capture an Asteroid and deliver it into the orbit of the Moon for study and possible mining.

Back in February, two large asteroids came closer to Earth than most of it’s communication satellites — one exploding in the skies over Russia, causing a fair amount of damage.  Could this be the Obama Administration’s response to the startling realization that Earth is indeed susceptible to strikes by the rocky and metallic objects?


Meteor explosion over Russia

Aside from testing our ability to launch a satellite or other object to intercept and deflect an incoming stellar body — this could be an incredible chance for study… finding out more about what makes our universe works; as well as a possible source of rare minerals, or even possibly minerals not native to Earth.

Is this worth the hefty pricetag in today’s economy?  Could an investment today save us in the future — or is this something we should put off for another day?

Samuel’s hidden love: Physics

One of my favorite passions that I don’t get a chance to get into often with others, is physics — particularly quantum physics.  I’ve had a love of what makes the universe tick since I was a kid watching Star Trek: The Next Generation, and trying to wrap my head around the idea of Warp Drive.

One of my favorite theories of what makes the universe tick is “Where did we come from?  Is this all there is — is there anymore than what we see?”  We now know there is matter beyond the subatomic, particularly if you, like me subscribe to String Theory.

ImageThe Multiverse theory is the the ideology that says our universe isn’t the only one out there.  Our universe exists like a bubble in an ocean filled with other bubbles.  Each bubble has it’s own laws of physics, some are compatible with our own, others are not.  For instance, one may be a universe filled with a liquid.  Others, like ours, contain a vacuum of dark matter.  Others may be a solid mass.  Another ideology of the multiverse is the idea of parallel universes; in which all possible outcomes that can happen DO happen — in another universe.  For instance, there is the possibility YOU are the President of the United States.  Another could be where you weren’t born at all.  This is only one possible theory of the multiverse.

ImageOne of the physicists that helped bring the idea of the multiverse to the mainstream in theoretical physics is one of my favorite scientists, Dr. Michio Kaku.  Dr. Kaku is often referred to as “the man who made theoretical physics understandable for everyone.”   Indeed, as a young man, he asked his mother for permission to build a nuclear accelerator in his garage as a science fair project.  His other agreed — and he built a reactor so massive, that, once he plugged in and flipped the switch, to which the device drew so much power, that it blew EVERY fuse in the service box in their home.  A short time later, the son who blew the the service box in the house out of commission wound up getting a scholarship to Harvard; from which he graduated summa cum laude.  Today, he is the Professor of Theoretical Physics at City College of City University of New York.  In his teaching capacity, he’s delivered countless lectures on the matter, including his futurist philosophies of time travel, travel between universes, the multiverse theory itself, and the physics and technology of the future.

I love learning about what makes things work… even the [multi?]universe we all live in.