Let's pause in our civil war ructions to glance yet again at so many reasons for confidence. On to revelations pouring daily from the labs of apprentice Creators!
== How cool is this? ==
Kip Thorne and his colleagues already achieved wonders with LIGO, detecting gravitational waves, so well that it’s now a valuable astronomical telescope studying black holes and neutron stars. But during down time (for upgrades) scientists took advantage of the laser+mirrors combo to ‘chill’. “They cooled the collective motion of all four mirrors down to 77 nanokelvins, or 77-billionths of a kelvin, just above absolute zero.” Making it “ a fantastic system to study decoherence effects on super-massive objects in the quantum regime.”
“…the next step for the team would be to test gravity’s effect on the system. Gravity has not been observed directly in the quantum realm; it could be that gravity is a force that only acts on the classical world. But if it does exist in quantum scales, a cooled system in LIGO—already an extremely sensitive instrument—is a fantastic place to look,” reports Isaac Schultz in Gizmodo.
And while we're talking quantum, a recent experiment in Korea made very interesting discoveries re: wave/particle duality in double slit experiments that quantifies the “degree” of duality, depending on the source.
All right, that's bit intense, but something for you quantum geeks.
== And… cooler? ==
700 million years ago, Australia was located close to the equator. Samples, newly studied, show evidence that ice sheets extended that far into the tropics at this time, providing compelling evidence that Earth was completely covered in an icy shell, during the biggest Iceball Earth phase, also called (by some) the “Kirschvink Epoch.” So how did life survive?
The origins of complex life: Certain non-oxidized, iron rich layers appear to retain evidence for the Earth’s orbital fluctuations from that time. Changes in Earth's orbit allowed the waxing and waning of ice sheets, enabling periodic ice-free regions to develop on snowball Earth. Complex multicellular life is now known to have originated during this period of climate crisis."Our study points to the existence of ice-free 'oases' in the snowball ocean that provided a sanctuary for animal life to survive arguably the most extreme climate event in Earth history", according to Dr. Gernon of the University of Southampton, co-author of the study.
== Okay it doesn’t get cooler… Jet suits! ==
Those Ironman style jet suits are getting better and better! Watch some fun videos showcasing the possibilities - from Gravity Industries. The story behind these innovative jet suits is told in a new book, Taking On Gravity: A Guide to Inventing the Impossible, by Richard Browning, a real-life Tony Stark.
== Exploring the Earth ==
A fascinating paper dives into the SFnal question of “what-if” – specifically if we had been as stupid about the Ozone Layer as we are re climate change. The paper paints a dramatic vision of a scorched planet Earth without the Montreal Protocol, what they call the "World Avoided". This study draws a new stark link between two major environmental concerns - the hole in the ozone layer and global warming – and how the Montreal Accords seem very likely to have saved us from a ruined Earth.
Going way, way back, the Mother of Modern Gaia Thought – after whom I modeled a major character in Earth – the late Lynn Margulis, has a reprinted riff in The Edge – “Gaia is a Tough Bitch" - offering insights into the kinds of rough negotiations between individuals and between species that must have led to us. Did eukaryotes arise when a large cell tried and failed to eat a bacterium? Or when a bacterium entering a large cell to be a parasite settled down instead to tend our ancestor like a milk cow? The latter seems slightly more likely!
Not long after that, (in galactic years) some eukaryotes joined to form the first animals – sponges – and now there are signs this may have happened 250M years earlier that previously thought, about 890 Mya, before the Earth’s atmosphere was oxygenated and surviving through the Great Glaciation “Snowball Earth” events of the Kirschvink Epoch.
Even earlier! Day length on Earth has not always been 24 hours. “When the Earth-Moon system formed, days were much shorter, possibly even as short as six hours. Then the rotation of our planet slowed due to the tug of the moon’s gravity and tidal friction, and days grew longer. Some researchers also suggest that Earth’s rotational deceleration was interrupted for about one billion years, coinciding with a long period of low global oxygen levels. After that interruption, when Earth’s rotation started to slow down again about 600 million years ago, another major transition in global oxygen concentrations occurred.”
This article ties it in to oxygenization of the atmosphere, because cyanobacteria need several hours of daylight before they can really get to work, making oxygen, which puts them at a disadvantage when days are short. Hence, when days got longer, they were able to really dig in and pour out the stuff. Hence our big moon may have helped oxygenate the atmosphere.
I have never been as big fan of the Rare Earth hypotheses for the Fermi Paradox and especially the Big Moon versions, which speculate some kinda lame mechanisms. But this one sorta begins to persuade. It suggests the galaxy may be rife with planets filled with microbes, teetering on the edge of the rich oxygen breakout we had a billion years ago.
A Brief Welcome to the Universe: A Pocket Sized Tour: a new book from Neil deGrasse Tyson and astrophysicists J. Richard Gott and Michael Strauss - an enthusiastic exploration of the marvels of the cosmos, from our solar system to the outer frontiers of the universe and beyond.
== On to Physics ==
A gushy and not always accurate article nevertheless is worth skimming, about Google Research finding “time crystals,” which can flip states without using energy or generating entropy, and hence possible useful in quantum computing.