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Astrophysicists Can Now Make Weather Forecasts For Distant Planets


Exoplanet day/night cycle
Cloudy mornings and scorching hot afternoons: the Kepler space telescope has provided weather forecasts for some distant exoplanets.


Excerpt from techtimes.com

A telescope observing distant planets has found evidence of weather patterns, allowing astrophysicists to "forecast" their conditions.

Analyzing data from NASA's Kepler space telescope, a team of astrophysicists at universities in Canada and Great Britain has identified signs of daily weather variations on six exoplanets.
They observed phase variations as different parts of the planets reflected light from their host stars, in much the same way that our moon cycles though different phases.

"We determined the weather on these alien worlds by measuring changes as the planets circle their host stars, and identifying the day-night cycle," said Lisa Esteves from the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics at the University of Toronto.

"We traced each of them going through a cycle of phases in which different portions of the planet are illuminated by its star, from fully lit to completely dark," added Esteves, who the led the team on the study.

The scientists have offered up "forecasts" of cloudy mornings for four of the planets, and clear but scorching hot afternoons on two others.

They based their predictions on the planets' rotations, which produce an eastward motion of their atmospheric winds. That would blow clouds that formed over the cooler side of one of the planets around to its morning side — thus producing the "cloudy" morning forecast.

"As the winds continue to transport the clouds to the day side, they heat up and dissipate, leaving the afternoon sky cloud-free," said Esteves. "These winds also push the hot air eastward from the meridian, where it is the middle of the day, resulting in higher temperatures in the afternoon."

The Kepler telescope has proven to be the ideal instrument for studying phase variations on distant exoplanets, according to the researchers.

The massive amounts of data and the extremely precise measurements that the telescope is capable of permits them to detect even tiny, subtle signals coming from the distant world, and to separate them from the almost overwhelming light coming from their host stars.

"The detection of light from these planets hundreds to thousands of light years away is on its own remarkable," said co-author Ernst de Mooij from the Astrophysics Research Centre from the School of Mathematics and Physics at Queen's University, Belfast.
"But when we consider that phase cycle variations can be up to 100,000 times fainter than the host star, these detections become truly astonishing."

There may come a day when a weather report for a distant planet is a common and unremarkable event, the researchers added.
"Someday soon we hope to be talking about weather reports for alien worlds not much bigger than Earth, and to be making comparisons with our home planet," said Ray Jayawardhana of York University in England.

This study was published in The Astrophysical Journal.

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17 Surprising Reasons You’re Stressed Out





Excerpt from huffingtonpost.com
By Amanda MacMillan


You're probably all too aware of the major sources of stress in your life -- money, your terrible commute, the construction workers who start jackhammering at 5 a.m. But stress and anxiety don't have to just come from obvious or even negative sources. "There are plenty of chronic strains and low-grade challenges that don't necessarily overwhelm you in the moment, but almost take more of a toll in the long run," says Scott Schieman, Ph.D., professor of sociology at the University of Toronto. These are some of unexpected reasons why you might feel anxious or agitated. By recognizing them for what they are, says Schieman, you can better prepare to cope.

1. Your Significant Other
Even if you have a blissfully happy relationship with your live-in partner or spouse, you're both bound to do things that get on each other's nerves. "Early in the relationship, it's usually about space and habits -- like whether you squeeze the toothpaste from the middle or the bottom of the tube," says Ken Yeager, Ph.D., associate professor of psychiatry at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. "Later on, you might clash over parenting style or financial issues, and finding a unified front to face these issues together." So what's the key to surviving and thriving in your life together? Finding balance, says Yeager: spending the right amount of time together (not too much and not too little), making compromises, keeping communication open and honest, and remembering to acknowledge what you love about each other on a daily basis.


2. Everyday Annoyances
We're told not to sweat the small stuff, but sometimes it's the little things that have the biggest impact on our mood: the never-ending phone calls with your insurance company, the rude cashier at the grocery store, the 20 minutes you lose looking for a parking space. "We let these things bother us because they trigger unconscious fears," says Yeager -- fears of being seen as irresponsible, of being bullied or embarrassed, or of being late all the time, for example. "Sometimes you need to take a step back and realize that you're doing the best you can given the circumstances." 


3. Other People's Stress
Stress is contagious, according to a 2014 German study: In a series of experiments, most participants who simply observed others completing a stressful task experienced an increase themselves in production of the stress hormone cortisol -- a phenomenon known as empathic stress. You can also experience stress when someone you know is affected by a traumatic event, like a car crash or a chronic illness. "You start to worry, 'Oh my gosh, could that happen to me?'," says Yeager. "We tend not to think about these things until they hit close to home."


4. Social Media social media
It may seem like Facebook is the only way you keep up with the friends you don't see regularly -- which, during particularly busy times, can be just about all of them. The social network also has a downside, according to a 2015 study from the Pew Research Center: It can make you aware of stressful situations in your friends' lives, which in turn can add more stress to your life. The Pew report didn't find that social media users, overall, had higher levels of stress, but previous studies have suggested that frequent social-media use can be associated with negative body image and prolonged breakup pain.


5. Distraction
A distraction can be a good thing then when it takes your mind off of a stressful situation or difficult decision, like when you take a break from work to meet a friend for lunch. But it works the other way, as well: When you're so busy thinking about something else that you can't enjoy what's going on around you, that kind of distraction can be a recipe for stress. Practicing mindfulness gives you brain the refresh it needs, says Richard Lenox, director of the Student Counseling Center at Texas Tech University. Paying full attention to your surroundings when you're walking and driving can help, he adds. "Stress and anxiety tend to melt away when our mind is focused on the present." 


6. Your Childhood
Traumatic events that happened when you were a kid can continue to affect your stress levels and overall health into adulthood. A 2014 University of Wisconsin-Madison study found that these childhood experiences may actually change parts of the brain responsible for processing stress and emotion. The way you were raised can also have a lasting impact on your everyday angst, suggests a 2014 Johns Hopkins University study. Researchers found that children of parents with social anxiety disorders are more likely to develop "trickle-down anxiety" -- not simply because of their genes, but because of their parents' behaviors toward them such as a lack of warmth and emotion, or high levels of criticism and doubt.


7. Tea And Chocolate
You probably know to take it easy on the coffee when you're already feeling on edge. "Caffeine is always going to make stress worse," says Yeager. But you may not think as much about drinking several cups of tea at once, or chowing down on a bar of dark chocolate -- both of which can contain nearly as much caffeine as a cup of joe. "Chocolate is a huge caffeine source," says Yeager. "I know people who don't drink coffee but they'll eat six little candy bars in a two-hour period because they want the same kind of jolt." Too much caffeine, in any form, can cause problems with sleep, digestion, and irritability. 


8. Your Expectations woman trail running
When things don't go the way you've planned, do you tend to get upset and act defensively, or do you roll with the punches and set off on a new plan? If it's the former, you could be contributing to a mindset of pessimism and victimization that will slowly wear you down, even when things may not be as bad as they seem. "Your level of serenity is inversely proportionate to your expectations," says Yeager. That doesn't mean you shouldn't set ambitious goals for yourself or settle for less than what you want, of course, but being realistic about what's truly possible is important, as well.


9. Your Reaction To Stress
If you tend to deal with stressful situations by working long hours, skipping your workouts, and bingeing on junk food, we've got some bad news: You're only making it worse. "We know that physical activity and healthy foods will help your body better deal with stress, and yet we often avoid them when we need them the most," says Yeager. "People really need to think about this downward spiral we get into and work harder to counteract it."


10. Multitasking
Think you're being super efficient by tackling four tasks at once? Chances are you're not -- and it's only decreasing your productivity while increasing your stress. A 2012 University of Irvine study, for example, found that people who responded to emails all day long while also trying to get their work done experienced more heart-rate variability (an indicator of mental stress) than those who waited to respond to all of their emails at one time. Focusing on one task at a time can ensure that you're doing that job to the best of your abilities and getting the most out of it, so you won't have to worry about or go back and fix it later, says Schieman. And don't worry: You'll have enough time to do it all. In fact, you may discover you have more time than you thought.


11. Your Favorite Sport
Watching a tight game of college hoops can stress you out -- even if your alma mater wins. "The body doesn't distinguish between 'bad' stress from life or work and 'good' stress caused by game-day excitement," says Jody Gilchrist, a nurse practitioner at the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Heart and Vascular Clinic. Watching sports can even trigger the body's sympathetic nervous system, releasing adrenaline and reducing blood flow to the heart. Those temporary consequences aren't usually anything to be concerned about, but over time, chronic stress can lead to high blood pressure and increased disease risk. And, of course, it doesn't help if you're adding alcohol and binge-eating to a situation that's already stressful on your body. You may not be able to control the outcome of the game, says Gilchrist, but you can limit its effects on your own body. 


12. Digital Devices laptop in bed
Whether you're using it for work or play, technology may play a large role in your mental health, says Yeager. Using computers or e-readers too close to bedtime could lead to sleep problems, he says, and spending too much time virtually socializing can make real-life interactions seem extra stressful. (Plus, texting doesn't trigger the same feel-good hormones as face-to-face talk does.) Then there's the dreaded "work creep," says Schieman, when smartphones allow employees to be tethered to their jobs, even during off-hours. "People say they're only going to check email for an hour while they're on vacation, but the problem with email is that they're filled with responsibilities, new tasks, and dilemmas that are going to be hard to compartmentalize and put out of your head once that hour is up."


13. Your (Good) Health
While it may not be as stressful as having a chronic illness or getting bad news at the doctor's office, even people in the best shape of their lives worry about their bodies, their diets, and their fitness levels. In fact, people who take healthy living to an extreme may experience some rather unhealthy side effects. People who follow low-carb diets, for example, are more likely to report being sad or stressed out, while those on any kind of restrictive meal plan may feel more tired than usual. And it's not unheard of for someone to become obsessed with healthy eating (known as orthorexia) or working out (gymorexia). Like any form of perfectionism, these problems can be stressful at best, and extremely dangerous at worst.


14. Housework
Does folding laundry help you feel calm, or does it make your blood boil? If you're in a living situation where you feel you're responsible for an unfair share of work, even chores you once enjoyed may start to feel like torture. "Dividing up housework and parenting responsibilities can be tricky, especially if both partners work outside the home," says Schieman. "And whether you define that division of labor as equal or unequal can really change your attitude toward it."


15. Uncertainty
Stress can be defined as any perceived or actual threat, says Yeager, so any type of doubt that's looming over you can contribute to your anxiety levels on a daily basis. "When you know something could change at any minute, you always have your guard up and it's hard to just relax and enjoy anything." Financial uncertainty may be the most obvious stressor -- not being sure if you'll keep your job during a round of layoffs, or not knowing how you'll pay your credit card bill. Insecurities in other areas of life, like your relationship or your housing status, can eat away at you too.


16. Your Pet bulldog puppy
No matter how much you love your furry friends, there's no question that they add extra responsibility to your already full plate. Even healthy animals need to be fed, exercised, cleaned up after, and given plenty of attention on a regular basis -- and unhealthy ones can be a whole other story. "Pets can be the most positive source of unconditional love, but at the same time they require an extreme amount of energy," says Yeager. People also tend to underestimate the stress they'll experience when they lose a pet. "I've had people in my office tell me they cried more when their dog died than when their parent died. It's a very emotional connection."


17. Your Education
Having a college degree boosts your odds of landing a well-paying job, so although you're less likely to suffer from money-related anxiety, your education can bring on other types of stress, according to a 2014 study by Schieman and his University of Toronto colleagues. His research found that highly educated people were more likely to be stressed out thanks to job pressures, being overworked, and conflicts between work and family. "Higher levels of authority come with a lot more interpersonal baggage, such as supervising people or deciding whether they get promotions," says Schieman. "With that type of responsibility, you start to take things like incompetency and people not doing their jobs more personally, and it bothers you more."

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Tombs Filled with Dozens of Mummies Discovered in Peru

A burial of a young woman found in the middle of a tomb. Analysis of her skeletal remains reveal that she suffered dental problems, including tooth loss. At one point in her life she suffered an internal hemorrhage in the meninges of her cranium. ...

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How Quantum Physics will change your life and amaze the world!

 Excerpt from educatinghumanity.com "Anyone not shocked by quantum mechanics has not yet understood it."Niels Bohr10 Ways Quantum Physics Will Change the WorldEver want to have a "life do over", teleport, time travel, have your computer wor...

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Criticism of Study Detecting Ripples From Big Bang Continues to Expand

The lab housing the Bicep2 telescope near the South Pole. Credit Steffen Richter, Harvard University
nytimes.com

Stardust got in their eyes.
In the spring a group of astronomers who go by the name of Bicep announced that they had detected ripples in the sky, gravitational waves that were the opening notes of the Big Bang. The finding was heralded as potentially the greatest discovery of the admittedly young century, but some outside astronomers said the group had underestimated the extent to which interstellar dust could have contaminated the results — a possibility that the group conceded in its official report in June.

Now a long-awaited report by astronomers using data from the European Space Agency’s Planck satellite has confirmed that criticism, concluding that there was enough dust in Bicep’s view of the sky to produce the swirly patterns without recourse to primordial gravitational waves.
“We show that even in the faintest dust-emitting regions there are no ‘clean’ windows in the sky,” the Planck collaboration, led by Jean-Loup Puget of the Astrophysical Institute in Paris, wrote in a paper submitted to the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics and posted online Monday.
As a result, cosmologists like the Bicep crew cannot ignore dust in their calculations. “However,” said Jonathan Aumont, another of the Planck authors, also from the Paris institute, “our work does not imply that they did not measure at all a cosmological signal.

Moreover, due to the very different observation techniques and signal processing in the Bicep2 and Planck experiments, we cannot say how much of the signal they measured is due to dust” and how much to gravitational waves.

So this is not the end of the story, both the Planck scientists and the Bicep group agree. But the original euphoria that the secrets of inflation and quantum gravity might be at hand has evaporated. Planck and Bicep are now collaborating on a detailed comparison of their results.

John M. Kovac of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, lead author of the Bicep paper, said the new report confirmed in greater detail the trend suggested by the first Planck papers in the spring, which indicated there is more dust even in the cleanest parts of the galaxy than anyone had thought.

Raphael Flauger of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N. J., who first raised the issue of dust in the Bicep report, said it confirmed what he had thought. “It doesn’t leave a lot of wiggle room,” he wrote in an email, “and it seems clear that at least the majority of the signal is caused by dust.”

The gravitational waves may exist, although they would be weaker than the Bicep analysis indicated, causing theorists to reshuffle their ideas. As Richard Bond, an early universe expert at the University of Toronto and a Planck team member, put it: “Planck showed that dust could possibly be the entire Bicep2 signal, but Planck alone cannot decide. We have to do this in combination with Bicep2.”

The joint comparison and Planck’s own polarization maps are due at the end of the year.

If true, Bicep’s detection of gravitational waves would confirm a theory that the universe began with a violent outward antigravitational swoosh known as inflation, the mainspring of Big Bang theorizing for the last three decades.

The disagreement over the Bicep finding will not mean the end of inflation theory; it just means it will be harder for cosmologists to find out how it worked. The Bicep group and an alphabet soup of competitors are soldiering on with new telescopes and experiments aimed at peeling away the secrets of the sky.

Michael S. Turner, a cosmologist at the University of Chicago, said: “This is going to be a long march, but the goal of probing the earliest moments of the universe makes it well worth the effort. Dust is the bane of the existence of astrophysicists — and cosmologists. It is everywhere, and yet our understanding of it is very poor.”

Others are less optimistic. Paul J. Steinhardt of Princeton University, a critic of the Bicep paper — and of inflation theory — said in an email that the Bicep paper should be retracted, “and we should return to good scientific practice.”

The Bicep observations are the deepest look yet into a thin haze of microwaves, known as cosmic background radiation, left over from end of the Big Bang, when the cosmos was about 380,000 years old.

According to theory, the onset of inflation, less than a trillionth of a second after time began, should have left ripples in space-time known as gravitational waves. They would manifest as corkscrew patterns in the direction of polarization of the cosmic microwaves.
The Bicep group — its name is an acronym for Background Imaging of Cosmic Extragalactic Polarization — is led by Dr. Kovac; Jamie Bock of Caltech; Clement Pryke of the University of Minnesota; and Chao-Lin Kuo of Stanford. They have deployed a series of radio telescopes at the South Pole in search of the swirl pattern. Their most recent, Bicep2, detected a signal in the sweet spot for some of the most popular models of inflation, leading to a splashy news conference and a summer of controversy and gossip.
As the critics pointed out, things besides quantum ripples from the beginning of time could produce those swirls, including light from interstellar dust polarized by magnetic fields in space.
Planck, launched in 2008 to survey the cosmic microwave sky, can distinguish the characteristic signature of dust by comparing the sky brightness in several radio frequencies, as well as measuring its direction of polarization. Bicep2, in contrast, looked at only one frequency, 150 gigahertz.

The Bicep astronomers asked for Planck data on their patch of sky, but it was not available until now because of suspected instrument problems, Dr. Aumont said. So they extrapolated from existing data to conclude that there was little dust interfering with their observations.

The new Planck report has knocked the pins out from under that. But there are still large uncertainties that leave room for primordial gravitational waves at some level. For example, the Planck team had to extrapolate some of its own measurements.

As the Planck report says, “This result emphasizes the need for a dedicated joint Planck-Bicep2 analysis.”

The group hopes this analysis will include data from the latest Bicep telescope, called the Keck Array, which has been gathering data for several months. In an interview this summer, Dr. Kovac said, “It’s been a funny year to be in the spotlight like this.” He said the group stood behind its work, even if the ultimate interpretation of the measurements is up for grabs.

Acknowledging that dust would not be as sexy a discovery as ripples from inflation, Dr. Kovac said, “It’s really important as an experimentalist that you can divorce yourself from an investment in what the answer is.”

He went on: “One thing that would distress me bitterly is if a major mistake in the measurement or of the analysis would come to light. The most pressing question is, what are the dust contributions to the signal?”

Stay tuned.

Lyman Page, an astrophysicist at Princeton, said the episode illustrated the messy progress of science.

“Taking a step back,” he said by email, “it is amazing that a precise measurement of the cosmos can be made, discussed in fullness, and refuted by another measurement in such a short amount of time. It is testament to a healthy field.”

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