Another Win for Quantum Theory Over Einstein

In a landmark study, scientists at the Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands reported that they had conducted an experiment they say proved one of the most fundamental claims of quantum theory – that objects separated by great distance can instantaneously affect each other’s behaviour.

The finding is another blow to one of the bedrock principles of standard physics known as “locality,” which states that an object is directly influenced only by its immediate surroundings.

The Delft study, published Wednesday in the journal Nature, lends further credence to an idea that Albert Einstein famously rejected. He said quantum theory necessitated “spooky action at a distance,” and he refused to accept the notion that the universe could behave in such a strange and apparently random fashion.

In particular, Einstein derided the idea that separate particles could be “entangled” so completely that measuring one particle would instantaneously influence the other, regardless of the distance separating them.

Einstein was deeply unhappy with the uncertainty introduced by quantum theory and described its implications as akin to God playing dice.

But since the 1970s, a series of precise experiments by physicists are increasingly erasing doubt – alternative explanations that are referred to as loopholes – that two previously entangled particles, even if separated by the width of the universe, could instantly communicate.

The new experiment, conducted by a group led by Ronald Hanson, a physicist at the Dutch university’s Kavli Institute of Nanoscience, and joined by scientists from Spain and England, is the strongest evidence yet to support the most fundamental claims of the theory of quantum mechanics about the existence of an odd world formed by a fabric of subatomic particles, where matter does not take form until it is observed and time runs backward as well as forward.

The researchers describe their experiment as a “loophole-free Bell test” in a reference to an experiment proposed in 1964 by the physicist John Stewart Bell as a way of proving that “spooky action at a distance” is real.

“These tests have been done since the late ’70s but always in the way that additional assumptions were needed,” Hanson said. “Now we have confirmed that there is spooky action at distance.”

The scientists say they have now ruled out all possible so-called hidden variables that would offer explanations of long-distance entanglement based on the laws of classical physics.

The Delft researchers were able to entangle two electrons separated by a distance of 1.3 kilometers (eight-tenths of a mile) and then share information between them. Physicists use the term “entanglement” to refer to pairs of particles that are generated in such a way that they cannot be described independently. The scientists placed two diamonds on opposite sides of the Delft University campus, 1.3 km apart.

Each diamond contained a tiny trap for single electrons, which have a magnetic property called a “spin.” Pulses of microwave and laser energy are then used to entangle and measure the “spin” of the electrons.

The distance – with detectors set on opposite sides of the campus – ensured that information could not be exchanged by conventional means within the time it takes to do the measurement.

“I think this is a beautiful and ingenuous experiment and it will help to push the entire field forward,” said David Kaiser, a physicist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who was not involved in the study. However, Kaiser, who is with another group of physicists who are preparing to perform an even more ambitious experiment next year that will soon measure light captured at the far edges of the universe, also said he did not think every scintilla of doubt had been erased by the Dutch experiment.

The tests take place in a mind-bending and peculiar world. According to quantum mechanics, particles do not take on formal properties until they are measured or observed in some way. Until then, they can exist simultaneously in two or more places. Once measured, however, they snap into a more classical reality, existing in only one place.

Beyond the immediate result, physicists noted that the experiment represented an advance in the understanding of a Lilliputian world that was once largely the province of theory. Quantum mechanics has already had a huge effect on modern technology and industry: It is the foundation for modern computers and lasers.

“What I do find interesting is that the experimenters are learning how to manipulate quantum systems, and do experiments that are far beyond what was possible when I was starting in physics,” said Leonard Susskind, a theoretical physicist at Stanford. “Things which were at best ‘thought experiments’ become possible, then routine. That is incredibly impressive.”

Indeed, the experiment is not merely a vindication for the exotic theory of quantum mechanics, it is a step toward a practical application known as a “quantum Internet.” Currently the security of the Internet and the electronic commerce infrastructure is fraying in the face of powerful computers that pose a challenge to encryption technologies based on the ability to factor large numbers and other related strategies.

Researchers like Hanson envision a quantum communications network formed from a chain of entangled particles girdling the entire globe. Such a network would make it possible to securely share encryption keys, and know of eavesdropping attempts with absolute certainty.

For some physicists, even though the new experiment claims to be “loophole free,” the matter is not yet completely closed.

“The experiment has closed two of the three major loopholes beautifully, but two out of three isn’t three,” Kaiser said. “I believe in my bones that quantum mechanics is the correct description of nature. But to make the strongest statement, frankly we’re not there.”

A potential weakness of the experiment, he suggested, is that an electronic system the researchers used to add randomness to their measurement may in fact be predetermined in some subtle way that is not easily detectable, meaning that the outcome might still be predetermined as Einstein believed.

To attempt to overcome this weakness and close what they believe is a final loophole, the National Science Foundation has financed a group of physicists led by Kaiser and Alan H. Guth, also at MIT, to attempt an experiment that will have a better chance of ensuring the complete independence of the measurement detectors by gathering light from distant objects on different sides of the galaxy next year, and then going a step further by capturing the light from objects known as quasars near the edge of the universe in 2017 and 2018.

Nasa’s K2 Discovers Dead Star Vaporising a Mini ‘Planet’

Scientists using Nasa’s Kepler space telescope – known as the K2 mission – have spotted strong evidence of a tiny, rocky object being torn apart as it spirals around a white dwarf star.

This discovery validates a long-held theory that white dwarfs are capable of cannibalising possible remnant planets that have survived within its solar system.

“We are for the first time witnessing a miniature ‘planet’ ripped apart by intense gravity, being vaporised by starlight and raining rocky material onto its star,” said Andrew Vanderburg from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts in a Nasa statement.

As stars like our Sun age, they puff up into red giants and then gradually lose about half their mass, shrinking down to 1/100th of their original size to roughly the size of Earth.

This dead, dense star remnant is called a white dwarf.

The discovered devastated object formed from dust, rock, and other materials is estimated to be the size of a large asteroid and is the first planetary object to be confirmed transiting a white dwarf.

It orbits its white dwarf, “WD 1145+017”, once every 4.5 hours.

This orbital period places it extremely close to the white dwarf and its searing heat and shearing gravitational force.

A research team led by Vanderburg found an unusual, but vaguely familiar pattern in the Kepler data.

The analysis indicated a ring of dusty debris circling the white dwarf what could be the signature of a small planet being vaporised, the authors noted.

“The eureka moment of discovery came on the last night of observation with a sudden realization of what was going around the white dwarf. The shape and changing depth of the transit were undeniable signatures,” explained Vanderburg.

“This discovery highlights the power and serendipitous nature of K2.

“The science community has full access to K2 observations and is using these data to make a wide range of unique discoveries across the full range of astrophysics phenomena,” said Steve Howell, K2 project scientist in a paper published in the journal Nature.

Halloween Asteroid to Shave Past Earth, Astronomers Say

A big asteroid is hurtling toward Earth and will shave past our planet on Halloween, but astronomers say there’s no need to be spooked it’s definitely not on a collision course.

Early estimates put its size of the asteroid called 2015 TB145 at about 1,542 feet (470 meters) in diameter, according to the astronomy website Earth and Sky.

It is expected to be the largest known cosmic body to get near our planet until 2027, said the US space agency Nasa.

“If the size is correct, the new found asteroid is 28 times bigger than the Chelyabinsk meteor that penetrated the atmosphere over Russia in February 2013,” Earth and Sky said.

The good news is this asteroid will pass at a very safe distance of about 310,000 miles (nearly 500,000 kilometres), or 1.3 times the span between the Earth and the Moon.

The asteroid will actually pass closer to the Moon than the Earth, skimming by at a distance of 180,000 miles.

Astronomers may be able to spot it with telescopes, though amateur skywatchers will likely not be able to see it with the naked eye.

The time of the closest pass is 11:14am US Eastern time (15:14 GMT) on October 31.

YouTube Videos Give Insight Into Sleepy Driving

YouTube videos of drowsy drivers give useful insights into how people perceive sleepy driving as a common yet controllable behaviour, according to a new study.

“In-vehicle footage relating to driver fatigue is present on YouTube and is actively engaged with by viewers,” said author Ashleigh Filtness from Australia’s Queensland University of Technology’s (QUT) Centre for Accident Research and Road Safety.

“My study found a mix of both criticism and sympathy for fatigued drivers and a willingness to share advice on staying awake, which highlights the perception that people view sleepy driving as a common yet controllable behaviour,” said Filtness.

The study observed 442 uploaded YouTube videos relating to fatigue between 2009 and 2014, and found in most cases driver fatigue was portrayed as dangerous. A total of 107 of these videos were in-vehicle filming.

However, Filtness said those that trivialised the issue of sleepy driving were more popular and received more views and evoked more comments.

“Of the in-vehicle filming, dashcam footage was the most prevalent type of video and had the most potential to create impact with the highest views per video per day.”

“What is concerning is that 15 percent of these in-vehicle videos were drivers recording themselves while driving.”

“Video blogging or vlogging distracts the driver in the same way as texting and mobile phone use, and adds to the danger already being experienced by fatigued driving,” she said.

Filtness presented her findings at the 2015 Australasian Road Safety Conference held from October 14 to 16 at the Australasian College of Road Safety and Austroads, Gold Coast.

Asteroid Showers Caused Mass Extinctions on Earth

Mass extinctions which occurred over the past 260 million years were likely caused by comet and asteroid showers, scientists report.

For over 30 years, scientists have argued about a controversial hypothesis relating to periodic mass extinctions and impact craters caused by comet and asteroid showers on Earth.

In a new paper, New York University geologist Michael Rampino and Ken Caldeira, scientist in the Carnegie Institution’s department of global ecology, offer new support linking the age of these craters with recurring mass extinctions of life, including the dinosaurs.

“The correlation between formation of these impacts and extinction over the past 260 million years is striking and suggests a cause-and-effect relationship,” Rampino said.

Specifically, they show a cyclical pattern over the studied period, with both impact craters and extinction events taking place every 26 million years.

This cycle has been linked to periodic motion of the Sun and the planets through the dense mid-plane of our galaxy.

Scientists have theorised that gravitational perturbations of the distant Oort comet cloud that surrounds the Sun lead to periodic comet showers in the inner solar system, where some comets strike the Earth.

To test their hypothesis, Rampino and Caldeira performed time-series analyses of impacts and extinctions using newly available data offering more accurate age estimates.

Moreover, they add, five out of the six largest impact craters of the last 260 million years on earth correlate with mass extinction events.

“This cosmic cycle of death and destruction has affected the history of life on our planet,” Rampino noted.

The paper appeared in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

Nasa Unveils Stunning ‘Pluto Time’ Mosaic

Nasa has unveiled stunning mosaics of Pluto and its largest moon Charon, representing the global response to its popular “#PlutoTime” social media campaign.

The Pluto Time concept and widget was developed by Nasa’s New Horizons science team so that people could experience the approximate sunlight level on Pluto at noon — generally around dawn or dusk on the Earth, the American space agency said on Tuesday.

Since the Pluto Time campaign was announced in June this year, Nasa received more than 339,000 visits to the Pluto Time widget and almost 7,000 image submissions from across the globe.

Thousands of those submissions have now been assembled into three stunning mosaics of Pluto, Charon, and a combined image of the two.

The mosaics include not only dim skies on the Earth, but famous landmarks, selfies, and even family pets.

plutotime_nasa.jpgThe Pluto Time idea stemmed from a frequently-asked question of New Horizons scientists: How are you going to take pictures of Pluto, given that it is so far from the sun?

“We realised that we could make a web tool that would estimate approximately when the light levels dropped to Pluto levels,” said Alex Parker, research scientist at the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) in Boulder, Colorado.

“We looked up tables of illumination levels during various stages of twilight — used to determine when streetlights come on and such — and determined how low the sun would need to be on a clear day to match Pluto. After that is was a matter of doing the math.”

The Solar System Exploration Public Engagement team at Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California assembled the mosaics, using approximately 1,500 to 2,100 images for each.

“It’s gratifying to see the global response to Pluto Time, which allowed us to imagine what it’s like on Pluto, some three billion miles away,” said Jim Green, Nasa’s director of planetary science.

Scientists Publish Case Study About Farming on Mars

Inspired by astronaut Mark Watney, a character played by Hollywood actor Matt Damon in the critically acclaimed movie “The Martian”, scientists have published the first case study on how future astronauts can learn to farm on the Red Planet.

The task is similar to that of Watney, who has to grow food in an artificial habitat after he is separated from his mission crew in a Martian windstorm.

Scientists at Washington State University and the University of Idaho are helping students figure outhow to farm on Mars.

Physicist Michael Allen and food scientist Helen Joyner have teamed up for the challenge.

“Congratulations! You are leaving Earth forever,” the case study begins.

“You are selected to be part of a mining colony of 100 people located on the planet Mars. Before you head to Mars, however, you need to figure out how to feed yourself and your colleagues once you are there,” it adds.

Allen and Joyner have students identify potential challenges producing crops indefinitely and develop criteria for selecting crops.

Students then use a scoring system to select three optimal foods.

In some 30 trial runs with students and teachers, “no two people have ever gotten the same answer”, said Allen.

One particular challenge is scientists have little idea of what Martian soil is actually like.

Probes have detected little carbon, the central element to life as we know it, and nitrogen, which is needed to make protein.

Water is also likely to react with peroxides in the soil, bubbling off as gas.

Like real astronauts, the tabletop astronauts are limited in what they can bring, so they won’t have a lot of tools to farm with. “You are starting with nothing,” said Joyner.

Would-be Martians must also wrestle with the mental challenge of some very limited fare. “If I had to eat a single food for the rest of my life, could I do it?” Joyner asked.

But in a sense, farming and dining on the Red Planet is beside the point.

“I’m not teaching about growing food on Mars. I am teaching about living with choices. I am teaching about problem solving,” Allen noted.

Allen and Joyner’s case study is one of more than 500 at the National Science Foundation-funded centre which is operated by University of Buffalo.

All cases undergo a rigorous process of peer review by outside reviewers and author revision.

The five-page study guide was published online on the National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science website.

Most Earth-Like Planets Have Yet to Be Born

There should at least be one billion Earth-sized worlds in the Milky Way galaxy at present, scientists have theorised, adding that in the entire universe, bulk of life-supporting planets — 92 percent – are yet to be born.

Based on the data collected by Nasa’s Hubble Space Telescope and the prolific planet-hunting Kepler space observatory, researchers report that when our solar system was born 4.6 billion years ago, only eight percent of the potentially habitable planets that will ever form in the universe existed.

The party will not be over when the sun burns out in another six billion years.

“Our main motivation was understanding the Earth’s place in the context of the rest of the universe. Compared to all the planets that will ever form in the universe, the Earth is actually quite early,”explained study author Peter Behroozi of the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, Maryland.

A good portion of these Earth-like worlds is presumed to be rocky.

The Hubble data shows that the universe was making stars at a fast rate 10 billion years ago, but the fraction of the universe’s hydrogen and helium gas that was involved was very low.

Today, star birth is happening at a much slower rate than long ago, but there is so much leftover gas available that the universe will keep cooking up stars and planets for a very long time to come.

“There is enough remaining material (after the big bang) to produce even more planets in the future, in the Milky Way and beyond,” added co-investigator Molly Peeples of STScI.

Based on Kepler’s planet survey, scientists predict that there should be one billion Earth-sized worlds in the Milky Way galaxy at present.

This leaves plenty of opportunity for untold more Earth-sized planets in the habitable zone to arise in the future.

The last star is not expected to burn out until 100 trillion years from now.

That is plenty of time for literally anything to happen on the planet landscape.

Future Earths are more likely to appear inside giant galaxy clusters and also in dwarf galaxies, which have yet to use up all their gas for building stars and accompanying planetary systems.

A big advantage to our civilization arising early in the evolution of the universe is our being able to use powerful telescopes like Hubble to trace our lineage from the big bang through the early evolution of galaxies.

Any far-future civilisations that might arise will be largely clueless as to how or if the universe began and evolved.

The results appeared in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

Life Began Earlier Than Previously Thought

Upturning a long-held belief that early Earth was dry and desolate, researchers have now found evidence that life likely existed on our home plant at least 4.1 billion years ago 300 million years earlier than previous research suggested.

The discovery indicates that life may have begun shortly after the planet formed 4.54 billion years ago.

“Life on Earth may have started almost instantaneously,” said co-author of the research Mark Harrison, professor of geochemistry at the University of California – Los Angeles (UCLA).

“With the right ingredients, life seems to form very quickly,” Harrison noted.

The research suggests life in the universe could be abundant, he said.

The researchers, led by Elizabeth Bell, postdoctoral scholar in Harrison’s Laboratory, studied immensely old zircons – minerals that can serve as time capsules – originally formed from molten rocks, or magmas, from Jack Hills in Western Australia.

Zircons are heavy, durable minerals related to the synthetic cubic zirconium used for imitation diamonds. They capture and preserve their immediate environment, meaning they can serve as time capsules.

In the ancient zircons, the researchers were searching for carbon, the key component for life.

They found that one of the zircons contained graphite pure carbon in two locations.

The graphite is older than the zircon containing it, the researchers said.

Based on its ratio of uranium to lead, the researchers determined the zircon to be 4.1 billion years old; they do not know how much older the graphite is.

The researchers also found that the carbon contained in the zircon has a characteristic signature a specific ratio of Carbon-12 to Carbon-13 that indicates the presence of photosynthetic life.

On the Earth, simple life appears to have formed quickly, but it likely took many millions of years for very simple life to evolve the ability to photosynthesise, said the study published in the online early edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

PiPlay DeskCade Raspberry Pi Desktop Arcade Console

PiPlay DeskCade Raspberry Pi Desktop Arcade

Shea Silverman has created a new do-it-yourself kit that allows you to transform your Raspberry Pi into a desktop arcade console.

The PiPlay DeskCade has been designed to support both PiPlay and RetroPie game emulation software, allowing users to enjoy thousands of retro, classic and modern video games all from one small console.
The Raspberry Pi desktop arcade console kit has been designed to use the new and official 7 inchRaspberry Pi display that was launched last month and is now available to purchase priced at around £50. Watch the video below to learn more. Silverman explains more :

You may remember me from my previous successful KickStarter: PiPlay!  The gaming distribution for the Raspberry Pi. My team and I are here to present the PiPlay DeskCade!  The DeskCade is a desktop arcade console that you get to build yourself.

The case is designed for the brand new official Raspberry Pi Display to be mounted to it, along with the Raspberry Pi board and connections on the back. We currently have a working prototype and the manufacturing know-how, but we need your help to bring the final version to life.

The PiPlay DeskCade project is currently over on the Kickstarter crowd funding website looking to raise $3,000 in pledges to make the jump from concept to production.

So if you think PiPlay DeskCade is something you could benefit from, visit the Kickstarter website now to make a pledge and help PiPlay DeskCade become a reality.