Tag: new (page 77 of 189)

Chicxulub Dinosaur-Killer Asteroid Impact To Be Probed For Answers To Extinction Mysteries

Excerpt from techtimes.comScientists are seeking a core sample from the Chicxulub crater that marks the remains of an asteroid impact which ended the age of the dinosaurs nearly 66 million years ago.That geological feature will be probed by scientist...

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Is In-Flight Refueling Coming to Commercial Airlines?

Excerpt from space.com

This article was originally published on The Conversation. The publication contributed this article to Space.com's Expert Voices: Op-Ed & Insights.

There’s real pressure on the aviation industry to introduce faster, cheaper and greener aircraft, while maintaining the high safety standards demanded of airlines worldwide.

Airlines carry more than three billion passengers each year, which presents an enormous challenge not only for aircraft manufacturers but for the civil aviation infrastructure that makes this extraordinary annual mass-migration possible. Many international airports are close to or already at capacity. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has estimated that, without intervention, many global airports – including major hubs such as London Heathrow, Amsterdam Schiphol, Beijing and Dubai – will have run out of runway or terminal capacity by 2020. 

The obvious approach to tackling this problem is to extend and enlarge airport runways and terminals – such as the long-proposed third runway at London Heathrow. However there may be other less conventional alternatives, such as introducing in-flight refuelling for civil aircraft on key long-haul routes. Our project, Research on a Cruiser-Enabled Air Transport Environment (Recreate), began in 2011 to evaluate whether this was something that could prove a viable, and far cheaper, solution.

If in-flight refuelling seems implausible, it’s worth remembering that it was first trialed in the 1920s, and the military has continued to develop the technology ever since. The appeal is partly to reduce the aircraft’s weight on take-off, allowing it to carry additional payload, and partly to extend its flight range. Notably, during the Falklands War in 1982 RAF Vulcan bombers used in-flight refuelling to stage what was at the time the longest bombing mission ever, flying 8,000 miles non-stop from Ascension Island in the South Atlantic to the Falklands and back.

Reducing take-off weight could offer many benefits for civilian aircraft too. Without the need to carry so much fuel the aircraft can be smaller, which means less noise on take-off and landing and shorter runways. This opens up the network of smaller regional airports as new potential sites for long-haul routes, relieving pressure on the major hubs that are straining at the seams.

There are environmental benefits too, as a smaller, lighter aircraft requires less fuel to reach its destination. Our initial estimates from air traffic simulations demonstrate that it’s possible to reduce fuel burn by up to 11% over today’s technology by simply replacing existing global long-haul flight routes with specifically designed 250-seater aircraft with a range of 6,000nm after one refuelling – roughly the distance from London to Hong Kong. This saving could potentially grow to 23% with further efficiencies, all while carrying the same number of passengers the same distance as is possible with the current aircraft fleet, and despite the additional fuel burn of the tanker aircraft.

Tornado fighter jets in-flight refuel
Imagine if these Tornado fighter jets were 250-seater passenger aircraft and you’ve got the idea.

However, this is not the whole picture – in-flight refuelling will require the aerial equivalent of petrol stations in order to deliver keep passenger aircraft in the sky. With so much traffic it simply wouldn’t be possible to refuel any aircraft any time, anywhere it was needed. The location of these refuelling zones, coupled with the flight distance between the origin and destination airports can greatly affect the potential benefits achievable, possibly pulling flights away from their shortest route, and even making refuelling on some routes impossible – if for example the deviation to the nearest refuelling zone meant burning as much fuel as would have been saved.

Safety and automation

As with all new concepts – particularly those that involve bringing one aircraft packed with people and another full of fuel into close proximity during flight – it’s quite right to ask whether this is safe. To try and answer this question, the Dutch National Aerospace Laboratory and German Aerospace Centre used their flight simulators to test the automated in-flight refuelling flight control system developed as part of the Recreate project.

One simulator replicated the manoeuvre from the point of view of the tanker equipped with an in-flight refuelling boom, the other simulated the aircraft being refuelled mid-flight. Critical test situations such as engine failure, high air turbulence and gusts of wind were simulated with real flight crews to assess the potential danger to the operation. The results were encouraging, demonstrating that the manoeuvre doesn’t place an excessive workload on the pilots, and that the concept is viable from a human as well as a technical perspective.

So far we’ve demonstrated the potential aerial refuelling holds for civilian aviation, but putting it into practice would still pose challenges. Refuelling hubs would need to be established worldwide, shared between airlines. There would need to be fundamental changes to airline pilot training, alongside a wider public acceptance of this departure from traditional flight operations.

However, it does demonstrate that, in addition to all the high-tech work going into designing new aircraft, new materials, new engines and new fuels, the technology we already have offers solutions to the long-term problems of ferrying billions of passengers by air around the world.

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New Light on Our Accelerating Universe –"Not as Fast as We Thought"

 A Type Ia supernova, SN1994D, is shown exploding in lower left corner of the image at the top of the page of the galaxy NGC 4526 taken by the Hubble Space Telescope. (High-Z Supernova Search Team, HST, NASA)Excerpt from dailygalaxy.com Cer...

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Physicists: Black holes don’t erase information

Excerpt from earthsky.org
Since 1975, when Hawking showed that black holes evaporate from our universe, physicists have tried to explain what happens to a black hole’s information.

What happens to the information that goes into a black hole? Is it irretrievably lost? Does it gradually or suddenly leak out? Is it stored somehow? Physicists have puzzled for decades over what they call the information loss paradox in black holes. A new study by physicists at University at Buffalo – published in March, 2015 in the journal in Physical Review Letters – shows that information going into a black hole is not lost at all.

Instead, these researchers say, it’s possible for an observer standing outside of a black hole to recover information about what lies within.

Dejan Stojkovic, associate professor of physics at the University at Buffalo, did the research with his student Anshul Saini as co-author. Stojkovic said in a statement:
According to our work, information isn’t lost once it enters a black hole. It doesn’t just disappear.
What sort of information are we talking about? In principle, any information drawn into a black hole has an unknown future, according to modern physics. That information could include, for example, the characteristics of the object that formed the black hole to begin with, and characteristics of all matter and energy drawn inside.

Stojkovic says his research “marks a significant step” toward solving the information loss paradox, a problem that has plagued physics for almost 40 years, since Stephen Hawking first proposed that black holes could radiate energy and evaporate over time, disappearing from the universe and taking their information with them. 

Disappearing information is a problem for physicists because it’s a violation of quantum mechanics, which states that information must be conserved.
According to modern physics, any information about an astronaut entering a black hole - for example, height, weight, hair color - may be lost.  Likewise, information about he object that formed the hole, or any matter and energy entering the hole, may be lost.  This notion violates quantum mechanics, which is why it's known as the 'black hole information paradox.

According to modern physics, any information related to an astronaut entering a black hole – for example, height, weight, hair color – may be lost. This notion is known as the ‘information loss paradox’ of black holes because it violates quantum mechanics. Artist’s concept via Nature.

Stojkovic says that physicists – even those who believed information was not lost in black holes – have struggled to show mathematically how the information is preserved. He says his new paper presents explicit calculations demonstrating how it can be preserved. His statement from University at Buffalo explained:
In the 1970s, [Stephen] Hawking proposed that black holes were capable of radiating particles, and that the energy lost through this process would cause the black holes to shrink and eventually disappear. Hawking further concluded that the particles emitted by a black hole would provide no clues about what lay inside, meaning that any information held within a black hole would be completely lost once the entity evaporated.

Though Hawking later said he was wrong and that information could escape from black holes, the subject of whether and how it’s possible to recover information from a black hole has remained a topic of debate.

Stojkovic and Saini’s new paper helps to clarify the story.
Instead of looking only at the particles a black hole emits, the study also takes into account the subtle interactions between the particles. By doing so, the research finds that it is possible for an observer standing outside of a black hole to recover information about what lies within.
Interactions between particles can range from gravitational attraction to the exchange of mediators like photons between particles. Such “correlations” have long been known to exist, but many scientists discounted them as unimportant in the past.
Stojkovic added:
These correlations were often ignored in related calculations since they were thought to be small and not capable of making a significant difference.
Our explicit calculations show that though the correlations start off very small, they grow in time and become large enough to change the outcome.
Artist's impression of a black hole, via Icarus
Artist’s impression of a black hole, via Icarus

Bottom line: Since 1975, when Stephen Hawking and Jacob Bekenstein showed that black holes should slowly radiate away energy and ultimately disappear from the universe, physicists have tried to explain what happens to information inside a black hole. Dejan Stojkovic and Anshul Saini, both of University at Buffalo, just published a new study that contains specific calculations showing that information within a black hole is not lost.

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Aliens Might Weigh As Much As Polar Bears And Be Taller Than The Tallest Man Who Ever Lived

Excerpt from huffingtonpost.com

No one really knows whether we're alone or if the universe is brimming with brainy extraterrestrials. But that hasn't stopped scientists from trying to figure out what form intelligent aliens might take. 

And as University of Barcelona cosmologist Dr. Fergus Simpson argues in a new paper, most intelligent alien species would likely exceed 300 kilograms (661 pounds)--with the median body mass "similar to that of a polar bear."

If such a being had human proportions, Simpson told The Huffington Post in an email, it would be taller than Robert Wadlow, who at 8 feet, 11 inches is believed to have been the tallest human who ever lived.

robert wadlowRobert Wadlow (1918-1940), the tallest man who ever lived.

Simpson's paper, which is posted on the online research repository arXiv.org, is chockablock with formidable-looking mathematical equations. But as he explained in the email, his starting point was to consider the relationship between the number of individuals in a population on Earth and the body mass of those individuals:
"Ants easily outnumber us because they are small. Our larger bodies require a much greater energy supply from the local resources, so it would be impossible for us to match the ant population. Now apply this concept to intelligent life across the universe. On average, we should expect physically larger species to have fewer individuals than the smaller species. And, just like with countries, we should expect to be in one of the bigger populations. In other words, we are much more likely to find ourselves to be the ants among intelligent species."

Or, as Newsweek explained Simpson's argument, there are probably more planets with relatively small animals than planets with relatively large animals. It makes sense to assume that Earth is in the former category, so we can assume that humans are probably among the smaller intelligent beings.

What do other scientists make of Simpson's paper?

“I think the average size calculation is reasonable,” Dr. Duncan Forgan, an astrobiologist at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland who wasn't involved in the research, told Newsweek.
But to Dr. Seth Shostak, senior astronomer at the SETI Institute in Mountain View, Calif., the argument is suspect.

"There is an assumption here that intelligence can come in all (reasonable) sizes, and does so with more or less equal likelihood," Shostak told The Huffington Post in an email. "That may be true, but on Earth bigger has not always been better, at least in the brains department. Dolphins have higher IQs than whales, and crows are smarter than eagles. Octopuses are cleverer than giant squids, and obviously we’re smarter than polar bears."

Ultimately, Shostak said, we can’t know whether "little green men are actually big green men" before we actually make contact.
Until then!

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New research shows Universe expansion pace isn’t as fast as assumed earlier


Excerpt from thewestsidestory.net

The Universe is expanding and any student of astronomy will vouch to this fact. However according to a team of astronomers the acceleration of the universe may not be as quick as it was assumed earlier.

A team of astronomers have discovered that certain types of supernova are more varied than earlier thought of and in the process have led to the biggest mystery of the universe-how fast is the universe expanding after the big bang?

Peter A. Milne of the University of Arizona said, “We found that the differences are not random, but lead to separating Ia supernovae into two groups, where the group that is in the minority near us are in the majority at large distances — and thus when the universe was younger, there are different populations out there, and they have not been recognized. The big assumption has been that as you go from near to far, type Ia supernovae are the same. That doesn’t appear to be the case.”
The discovery throws new light on the currently accepted view of the universe expanding at a faster and faster rate pulled apart by an unknown force called dark energy this observation resulted in 2011 Nobel Prize for Physics.
Milne said, “The idea behind this reasoning, is that type Ia supernovae happen to be the same brightness — they all end up pretty similar when they explode. Once people knew why, they started using them as mileposts for the far side of the universe.The faraway supernovae should be like the ones nearby because they look like them, but because they’re fainter than expected, it led people to conclude they’re farther away than expected, and this in turn has led to the conclusion that the universe is expanding faster than it did in the past.”
The researchers felt that the accelerating universe can be explained on the basis of color difference in between two groups of supernova leaving less acceleration than earlier assumed and in the process will require lesser dark energy.

Milne said, “We’re proposing that our data suggest there might be less dark energy than textbook knowledge, but we can’t put a number on it, until our paper, the two populations of supernovae were treated as the same population. To get that final answer, you need to do all that work again, separately for the red and for the blue population.

Type la supernovae are considered as a benchmark for far away sources of light they do have a fraction of variability which has limited our knowledge of the size of the universe.
The distance of objects with the aid of our binocular vision and the best space-based telescopes and most sophisticated techniques works out in the range of ten or twenty thousand light years. 
However as compared to the vastness of space, this is just pea nuts.
For Distances greater than that it is imperative to compare the absolute and observed brightness of well understood objects and to use the difference to determine the object’s distance.

In astronomy it is difficult to find an object of known brightness since there are examples of both bright and dim stars and galaxies. However there is one event which can be used to work out its absolute brightness. Supernovas are the final stages of a dying star and it explodes with such violence, the flash can be seen across the vast universe.

Type la Supernovae occurs in a binary star system when a white dwarf scoops off mass from its fellow star. This reproducible mechanism gives a well determined brightness and therefore scientists term such Type la supernovae as ‘standard candles’.

Astronomers found that the Type la supernovae is so uniform that it has been designated as cosmic beacons and used to assess the depths of the universe. It is now revealed that they fall into different populations and are not very uniform as previously thought. .

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Mystery Methane Hotspot Over Four Corners — What Is It?

 Excerpt from eaglecurrent.com NASA is joining in an effort to have an understanding of the presence of a methane hotspot over the 4 corners area of the United States. How severe is the atmospheric feature?A methane hotspot hovering over t...

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Researchers Discover Fossils Of A New Species Of Terror Bird

Excerpt from huffingtonpost.com 

An army of huge carnivorous "terror birds" -- some as big as 10 feet tall -- ruled South America for tens of millions of years before going extinct some 2.5 million years ago.

Now, with the discovery of a new species of terror bird called Llallawavis scagliai, paleontologists are gaining fresh insight into this fearsome family of top predators.

More than 90 percent of the bird's fossilized skeleton was unearthed in northeastern Argentina in 2010, making it the most complete terror bird specimen ever found. 

“It’s rare to find such a complete fossil of anything, let alone a bird,” Dr. Lawrence Witmer, an Ohio University paleontologist who wasn’t involved in the new research, told Science magazine. “This is a very exciting find.”

Skeleton of Llallawavis scagliai on display at the Lorenzo Scaglia Municipal Museum of Natural Sciences in Mar del Plata, Argentina.
terror bird drawingPreserved skeleton of Llallawavis scagliai. Bones colored in gray were missing in the specimen. Scale bar equals 0.1 m.

Llallawavis likely lived around 3.5 million years ago, near the end of terror birds' reign, according to the researchers. It stood about four feet tall and weighed about 40 pounds.

“The discovery of this species reveals that terror birds were more diverse in the Pliocene than previously thought," Dr. Federico Degrange, a researcher at the Center for Research in Earth Sciences in Argentina and the leader of the team that identified the new species, said in a written statement. "It will allow us to review the hypothesis about the decline and extinction of this fascinating group of birds.” 

CT scans of the bird's inner ear structures indicated that its hearing was tuned for low-pitched sounds, and that it likely produced these kinds of ostrich-like sounds too.

"Low-frequency sounds are great for long-[distance] communication, or if you're a predator, for sensing the movements of prey animals," Witmer told Live Science.

The researchers hope further analyses will yield insights into the bird's vision and other senses.

An article describing the findings was published online March 20 in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.

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