Whenever a conversation flairs up with my friends about space, planets other than our own and the possibility intelligent life elsewhere in the galaxy, I am always afraid that someone will over hear our conversation and think we are inner city equivalents of a stressed dairy farmer from Iowa who claims to have been abducted and experimented on by aliens. Just to be safe I tend to keep my voice down during such conversations.
Dreams of colonizing Mars (and beyond) came into the spotlight this week when the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) announced their 100-year Starship Study. The study, a joint effort between DARPA and NASA Ames Research Center, will evaluate the feasibility of colonizing Mars and possibly (eventually) even other solar systems. This announcement has come with concrete proposals including plans to introduce synthetic life for terraforming, build robots that can be launched from Mars’s moons, develop one-way missions to send a few humans to settle permanently on Mars, and of course, Continue reading “Let’s Go to Mars!”
It has long been thought that the universe is spatially symmetric with respect to its fundamental physical properties. Cosmologists relying on data from different regions of the sky (collected from different hemispheres or during different seasons) have always arrived at similar conclusions about the general features of the universe. But new research indicates the universe might not be so symmetric after all.
When the universe was newborn (just a couple of microseconds old) it displayed a handedness, or chirality, that, according to a recent article in Science, physicists are finally able to reproduce in the laboratory. Dmitri Kharzeev and his team at the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider at the Brookhaven National Laboratory noticed that the strong force behaves differently when things get hot enough. At temperatures of four trillion degrees Celsius—the hottest temperature ever measured in a lab—protons and neutrons, smashed out of gold nuclei, turn into a flowing plasma of quarks and gluons. The plasma, which behaves like a liquid, seems not to be mirror symmetric. Continue reading “A Chiral Universe”
The seventh day of the conference has continued with the key themes of ‘breaking down boundaries’ and interdisciplinarity. Roy Baumeister (Florida State University) began the day with his keynote lecture entitled ‘Human Nature and Culture: What is the Human Mind Designed for?’ By utilising the concepts of evolutionary and cultural psychology, Buameister is able to explore the intrinsic significance culture holds for humanity.