Archive for April 2013

Physicists believe it’s possible to build a perpetual motion machine

In February 2012, the Nobel Prize-winning physicist Frank Wilczek decided to go public with a strange and, he worried, somewhat embarrassing idea. Impossible as it seemed, Wilczek had developed an apparent proof of “time crystals” — physical structures that move in a repeating pattern, like minute hands rounding clocks, without expending energy or ever winding down. Unlike clocks or any other known objects, time crystals derive their movement not from stored energy but from a break in the symmetry of time, enabling a special form of perpetual motion.

“Most research in physics is continuations of things that have gone before,” said Wilczek, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. This, he said, was “kind of outside the box.”

Wilczek’s idea met with a muted response from physicists. Here was a brilliant professor known for developing exotic theories that later entered the mainstream, including the existence of particles called axions and anyons, and discovering a property of nuclear forces known as asymptotic freedom (for which he shared the Nobel Prize in physics in 2004). But perpetual motion, deemed impossible by the fundamental laws of physics, was hard to swallow. Did the work constitute a major breakthrough or faulty logic? Jakub Zakrzewski, a professor of physics and head of atomic optics at Jagiellonian University in Poland who wrote a perspective on the research that accompanied Wilczek’s publication, says: “I simply don’t know.”

Now, a technological advance has made it possible for physicists to test the idea. They plan to build a time crystal, not in the hope that this perpetuum mobile will generate an endless supply of energy (as inventors have striven in vain to do for more than a thousand years) but that it will yield a better theory of time itself.

via Physicists believe it’s possible to build a perpetual motion machine.

Read the rest at the Simons Foundation website.

Mysterious Stone Structure Discovered Beneath Sea of Galilee

A Submerged Monumental Structure in the Sea of Galilee, Israel

A giant “monumental” stone structure discovered beneath the waters of the Sea of Galilee in Israel has archaeologists puzzled as to its purpose and even how long ago it was built.

The mysterious structure is cone shaped, made of “unhewn basalt cobbles and boulders,” and weighs an estimated 60,000 tons the researchers said. That makes it heavier than most modern-day warships.

Rising nearly 32 feet (10 meters) high, it has a diameter of about 230 feet (70 meters). To put that in perspective, the outer stone circle of Stonehenge has a diameter just half that with its tallest stones not reaching that height. [See Photos of the Mysterious Sea of Galilee Structure]

It appears to be a giant cairn, rocks piled on top of each other. Structures like this are known from elsewhere in the world and are sometimes used to mark burials. Researchers do not know if the newly discovered structure was used for this purpose.

The structure was first detected in the summer of 2003 during a sonar survey of the southwest portion of the sea. Divers have since been down to investigate, they write in the latest issue of the International Journal of Nautical Archaeology.

“Close inspection by scuba diving revealed that the structure is made of basalt boulders up to 1 m (3.2 feet) long with no apparent construction pattern,” the researchers write in their journal article. “The boulders have natural faces with no signs of cutting or chiselling. Similarly, we did not find any sign of arrangement or walls that delineate this structure.”

They say it is definitely human-made and probably was built on land, only later to be covered by the Sea of Galilee as the water level rose. “The shape and composition of the submerged structure does not resemble any natural feature. We therefore conclude that it is man-made and might be termed a cairn,” the researchers write.

More than 4,000 years old?

Underwater archaeological excavation is needed so scientists can find associated artifacts and determine the structure’s date and purpose, the researchers said.

Researcher Yitzhak Paz, of the Israel Antiquities Authority and Ben-Gurion University, believes it could date back more than 4,000 years. “The more logical possibility is that it belongs to the third millennium B.C., because there are other megalithic phenomena [from that time] that are found close by,” Paz told LiveScience in an interview, noting that those sites are associated with fortified settlements.

The researchers list several examples of megalithic structures found close to the Sea of Galilee that are more than 4,000 years-old. One example is the monumental site of Khirbet Beteiha, located some 19 miles (30 kilometers) north-east of the submerged stone structure, the researchers write. It “comprises three concentric stone circles, the largest of which is 56 m [184 feet] in diameter.” [Gallery: Aerial Photos Reveal Mysterious Stone Structures]

via Mysterious Stone Structure Discovered Beneath Sea of Galilee | LiveScience.

Ancient Builders Created Monumental Structures that Altered Sound and Mind, Say Researchers

Hal_Salflieni

The results of recent research suggests that ancient, or prehistoric, builders of the monumental structures found in such diverse places as Ireland, Malta, southern Turkey and Peru all have a peculiarly common characteristic — they may have been specially designed to conduct and manipulate sound to produce certain sensory effects.

Beginning in 2008, a recent and ongoing study of the massive 6,000-year-old stone structure complex known as the Hal Saflieni Hypogeum on the island of Malta, for example, is producing some revelatory results. Like its related prehistoric temple structures on Malta, this structure features central corridors and curved chambers. But this structure is unique in that it is subterranean, created through the removal of an estimated 2,000 tons of stone carved out with stone hammers and antler picks.

Low voices within its walls create eerie, reverberating echoes, and a sound made or words spoken in certain places can be clearly heard throughout all of its three levels. Now, scientists are suggesting that certain sound vibration frequencies created when sound is emitted within its walls are actually altering human brain functions of those within earshot.

“Regional brain activity in a number of healthy volunteers was monitored by EEG through exposure to different sound vibration frequencies,” reports Malta temple expert Linda Eneix of the Old Temples Study Foundation, “The findings indicated that at 110 Hz the patterns of activity over the prefrontal cortex abruptly shifted, resulting in a relative deactivation of the language center and a temporary shifting from left to right-sided dominance related to emotional processing and creativity. This shifting did not occur at 90 Hz or 130 Hz.

In addition to stimulating their more creative sides, it appears that an atmosphere of resonant sound in the frequency of 110 or 111 Hz would have been “switching on” an area of the brain that bio-behavioral scientists believe relates to mood, empathy and social behavior. Deliberately or not, the people who spent time in such an environment under conditions that may have included a low male voice — in ritual chanting or even simple communication — were exposing themselves to vibrations that may have actually impacted their thinking.” [1]

Researchers at the University of Malta are confirming the findings in an ongoing study.

But the Hypogeum is not alone in its peculiar sound effects. A study conducted in 1994 by a consortium from Princeton University found that acoustic behavior in ancient chambers at megalithic sites such as Newgrange in Ireland and Wayland’s Smithy in England was characterized by a strong sustained resonance, or “standing wave” in a frequency range between 90 Hz and 120 Hz.  “When this happens,” says Eneix, “what we hear becomes distorted, eerie. The exact pitch for this behavior varies with the dimensions of the room and the quality of the stone.”

Going further back in time, she points to the ancient 10,000 B.C. site of Göbekli Tepe in southern Turkey. Built by hunter-gatherers, the site is thought by many scientists to be located in the area transitional to the first development of agriculture and domesticated livestock. Located on a hilltop, it consists of 20 round stone-built structures which had been buried. Those structures that have been excavated feature massive, T-shaped, standing limestone pillars. “In the center of a circular shrine,” she says, “a limestone pillar “sings” when smacked with the flat of the hand. Obviously made to represent a human with a decorated belt and hands carved in relief at its waist, it bears unexplained symbols in the area of the throat.

And now, new findings of a recent archaeoacoustic study suggests that the ancients of the 3,000-year-old Andean ceremonial center at Chavín de Huántar, in the central highlands of Peru, practiced a fine art and science of manipulating sound with architecture to produce desired sensory effects. With the assistance of architectural form and placement, and sounds emitted from conch-shell trumpets, the “oracle” of Chavín de Huántar “spoke” to the ancient center’s listeners.

via Popular Archaeology.

Secrets of FBI Smartphone Surveillance Tool Revealed in Court Fight

A legal fight over the government’s use of a secret surveillance tool has provided new insight into how the controversial tool works and the extent to which Verizon Wireless aided federal agents in using it to track a suspect.

Court documents in a case involving accused identity thief Daniel David Rigmaiden describe how the wireless provider reached out remotely to reprogram an air card the suspect was using in order to make it communicate with the government’s surveillance tool so that he could be located.

Rigmaiden, who is accused of being the ringleader of a $4 million tax fraud operation, asserts in court documents that in July 2008 Verizon surreptitiously reprogrammed his air card to make it respond to incoming voice calls from the FBI and also reconfigured it so that it would connect to a fake cell site, or stingray, that the FBI was using to track his location.

Air cards are devices that plug into a computer and use the wireless cellular networks of phone providers to connect the computer to the internet. The devices are not phones and therefore don’t have the ability to receive incoming calls, but in this case Rigmaiden asserts that Verizon reconfigured his air card to respond to surreptitious voice calls from a landline controlled by the FBI.

The FBI calls, which contacted the air card silently in the background, operated as pings to force the air card into revealing its location.

In order to do this, Verizon reprogrammed the device so that when an incoming voice call arrived, the card would disconnect from any legitimate cell tower to which it was already connected, and send real-time cell-site location data to Verizon, which forwarded the data to the FBI. This allowed the FBI to position its stingray in the neighborhood where Rigmaiden resided. The stingray then “broadcast a very strong signal” to force the air card into connecting to it, instead of reconnecting to a legitimate cell tower, so that agents could then triangulate signals coming from the air card and zoom-in on Rigmaiden’s location.

To make sure the air card connected to the FBI’s simulator, Rigmaiden says that Verizon altered his air card’s Preferred Roaming List so that it would accept the FBI’s stingray as a legitimate cell site and not a rogue site, and also changed a data table on the air card designating the priority of cell sites so that the FBI’s fake site was at the top of the list.

Rigmaiden makes the assertions in a 369-page document he filed in support of a motion to suppress evidence gathered through the stingray. Rigmaiden collected information about how the stingray worked from documents obtained from the government, as well as from records obtained through FOIA requests filed by civil liberties groups and from open-source literature.

via Secrets of FBI Smartphone Surveillance Tool Revealed in Court Fight | Threat Level | Wired.com.

NASA Discovers Hidden Portals In Earth’s Magnetic Field

Our planet has come a long way in scientific breakthroughs and discoveries. Mainstream science is beginning to discover new concepts of reality that have the potential to change our perception about our planet and the extraterrestrial environment that surrounds it forever. Star gates, wormholes, and portals have been the subject of conspiracy theories and theoretical physics for decades, but that is all coming to an end as we continue to grow in our understanding about the true nature of our reality.

In physics, a wormhole was a hypothetical feature of space time that would be a shortcut through space-time. We often wonder how extraterrestrials could travel so far and this could be one of many explanations. Although scientists still don’t really understand what they have found, it does open the mind to many possibilities.

Turning science fiction into science fact seems to happen quite often these days and NASA did it by announcing the discovery of hidden portals in Earth’s magnetic field. NASA calls them X-points or electron diffusion regions. They are places where the magnetic field of Earth connects to the magnetic field of the Sun, which in turn creates an uninterrupted path leading from our own planet to the sun’s atmosphere which is 93 million miles away.

NASA used its THEMIS spacecraft, as well as a European Cluster probe, to examine this phenomenon. They found that these portals open and close dozens of times each day. It’s funny, because there is a lot of evidence that points toward the sun being a giant star gate for the ‘gods’ to pass back and forth from other dimensions and universes. The portals that NASA has discovered are usually located tens of thousands of kilometres from Earth and most of them are short-lived; others are giant, vast and sustained.

As far as scientists can determine, these portals aid in the transfer of tons of magnetically charged particles that flow from the Sun causing the northern and southerns lights and geomagnetic storms. They aid in the transfer of the magnetic field from the Sun to the Earth. In 2014, the U.S. space agency will launch a new mission called Magnetospheric Multi scale Mission (MMS) which will include four spacecraft that will circle the Earth to locate and then study these portals. They are located where the Earth and the Sun’s magnetic fields connect and where the unexplained portals are formed.

NASA funded the University of Iowa for this study, and they are still unclear as to what these portals are. All they have done is observed charged particles flowing through them that cause electro-magnetic phenomenon in Earth’s atmosphere.

via NASA Discovers Hidden Portals In Earth’s Magnetic Field | Collective-Evolution.

Scientists Create Star Trek’s Tractor Beam

Scientists from Scotland and the Czech Republic have created a real-life “tractor” beam, as featured in the Star Trek movies that, for the first time, allows a beam of light to attract objects.

Although light manipulation techniques have existed since the 1970s, this is the first time a light beam has been used to draw objects towards the light source, albeit at a microscopic level.

Researchers from the Univ. of St Andrews and the Institute of Scientific Instruments (ISI) in the Czech Republic have found a way to generate a special optical field that efficiently reverses radiation pressure of light.

The new technique could lead to more efficient medical testing, such as in the examination of blood samples.

In the U.S. science fiction show, a tractor beam was a method of using a beam of light which could pull space-ships and other large objects towards the source of the light.

The team, led by Tomas Cizmar, Research Fellow in the School of Medicine at the Univ. of St Andrews, with Oto Brzobohaty and Prof. Pavel Zemanek, both of ISI, discovered a technique which will allow them to provide “negative” force acting upon minuscule particles.

Normally when matter and light interact the solid object is pushed by the light and carried away in the stream of photons.

Such radiation force was first identified by Johanes Kepler when observing that tails of comets point away from the sun.

Over recent years researchers have realized that while this is the case for most of the optical fields, there is a space of parameters when this force reverses.

The scientists at St Andrews and ISI have now demonstrated the first experimental realization of this concept together with a number of exciting applications for bio-medical photonics and other disciplines.

The exciting aspect is that the occurrence of negative force is very specific to the properties of the object, such as size and composition.

This in turn allows optical sorting of micro-objects in a simple and inexpensive device. Over the last decade optical fractionation has been identified as one of the most promising bio-medical applications of optical manipulation allowing, for example, sorting of macromolecules, organelles or cells.

Interestingly, the scientists identified certain conditions, in which objects held by the “tractor” beam force-field, re-arranged themselves to form a structure which made the beam even stronger.

via Scientists Create Star Trek’s Tractor Beam.

‘Gate to Hell’ found in Turkey: Hierapolis temple doorway matches mythical ‘portal to the underworld’

Site in ancient city of Hierapolis, now Pamukkale in southwestern Turkey matches historical descriptions of what was thought be entrance to hell birds flying past are killed by noxious gasses emanating from the doorway inscriptions on temple columns are dedications to gods of the underworld.

It sounds like the plot for a new Indiana Jones film.

Archaeologists say they have discovered the ‘Gates of Hell’, the mythical portal to the underworld in Greek and Roman legend.

The site, in the ancient Phrygian city of Hierapolis, now Pamukkale in southwestern Turkey, is said to closely match historical descriptions of what was known as Ploutonion in Greek and Plutonium in Latin. 

Describing the site, the Greek geographer Strabo (64/63 BC — about 24 A.D.) said: ‘This space is full of a vapor so misty and dense that one can scarcely see the ground.

‘Any animal that passes inside meets instant death. I threw in sparrows and they immediately breathed their last and fell.’

But now a team led by Italian Archaeologist Francesco D’Andria, professor of classic archaeology at the University of Salento, has discovered what they believe to be the ruins of the site.

Announcing the discovery at a conference on Italian archaeology in Istanbul, Mr D’Andria said he and his team had managed to pinpoint the location by reconstructing the route of a thermal springs.

Archaeologists now believe that a large statue found at the site, previously believed to depict the god Apollo, is actually showing Hades

Archaeologists now believe that a large statue found at the site, previously believed to depict Apollo, is actually of Hades, Greek god of the underworld

Among the ruins the archaeologists found a cave with Ionic semi columns upon which were inscriptions with dedications to the gods of the underworld — Pluto and Kore.

via ‘Gate to Hell’ found in Turkey: Hierapolis temple doorway matches mythical ‘portal to the underworld’ | Mail Online.

Batteries Hold Energy Tech Back

21st century technology strains to become ever faster, cleaner and cheaper, an invention from more than 200 years ago keeps holding it back. It’s why electric cars aren’t clogging the roads and why Boeing’s new ultra-efficient 787 Dreamliners aren’t flying high.

And chances are you have this little invention next to you right now and probably have cursed it recently: the infernal battery.

Boeing is the first company to make extensive use in an airliner of technology’s most advanced battery — lithium ion. But a Jan. 7 battery fire aboard a Dreamliner in Boston, followed by a similar meltdown in Japan, led authorities around the world to ground the fleet this month, highlighting a longstanding safety problem that engineers have struggled with.

In 2006 and 2007, more than 46 million cell phone batteries and 10 million laptop batteries — all lithium ion — were recalled because of the risk of overheating, short-circuiting and exploding. Additional safety features have been installed since then on lithium ion batteries used in consumer electronics.

As for the electric car industry, lithium ion batteries have proved to have two major drawbacks: they are costly, and they do not allow automobiles to go far enough between rechargings. A123, a maker of lithium ion batteries for electric cars, went bankrupt last year because of poor demand and high costs after receiving a $249 million federal grant.

Lithium ion batteries, which store more energy at a higher voltage and a lighter weight than earlier types, represent the most recent big jump in battery technology. And that took place nearly a quarter of a century ago.

“We need to leapfrog the engineering of making of batteries,” says Lawrence Berkeley National Lab battery scientist Vince Battaglia. “We’ve got to find the next big thing.”

via Batteries Hold Energy Tech Back.

Physicists Find Evidence That The Universe Is A ‘Giant Brain’

The idea of the universe as a ‘giant brain’ has been proposed by scientists – and science fiction writers – for decades.

But now physicists say there may be some evidence that it’s actually true. In a sense.

According to a study published in Nature’s Scientific Reports, the universe may be growing in the same way as a giant brain – with the electrical firing between brain cells ‘mirrored’ by the shape of expanding galaxies.

The results of a computer simulation suggest that “natural growth dynamics” – the way that systems evolve – are the same for different kinds of networks – whether its the internet, the human brain or the universe as a whole.

A co-author of the study, Dmitri Krioukov from the University of California San Diego, said that while such systems appear very different, they have evolved in very similar ways.

The result, they argue, is that the universe really does grow like a brain.

The study raises profound questions about how the universe works, Krioukov said.

“For a physicist it’s an immediate signal that there is some missing understanding of how nature works,” he told Space.com.

The team’s simulation modelled the very early life of the universe, shortly after the big bang, by looking at how quantum units of space-time smaller than subatomic particles ‘networked’ with each other as the universe grew.

They found that the simulation mirrored that of other networks. Some links between similar nodes resulted in limited growth, while others acted as junctions for many different connections.

For instance, some connections are limited and similar – like a person who likes sports visiting many other sports websites – and some are major and connect to many other parts of the network, like Google and Yahoo.

No, it doesn’t quite mean that the universe is ‘thinking’ – but as has been previously pointed out online, it might just mean there’s more similarity between the very small and the very large than first appearances suggest.

via Physicists Find Evidence That The Universe Is A ‘Giant Brain’.

also; Nature.com | Network Cosmology

Dark Matter Signal Possibly Registered on International Space Station

A $2-billion particle detector mounted on the International Space Station has registered an excess of antimatter particles in space, the experiment’s lead scientist announced April 3. That excess could come from fast-spinning stellar remnants known as pulsars and other exotic, but visible sources within the Milky Way galaxy. Or the antiparticles might have originated from the long-sought dark matter, the hypothetical massive particles that constitute some 27 percent of the universe.

Dark matter makes its presence felt by its gravitational pull, but exactly what it is has remained a puzzle. Some popular explanations for dark matter’s identity suggest that when two dark-matter particles collide, they annihilate to produce antimatter electrons, or positrons. The Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS), delivered to the space station in 2011 during the penultimate space shuttle mission, was built to detect positrons and other high-energy particles streaming through space, in part to investigate the nature of dark matter. The detector has now collected some 25 billion cosmic-ray particles, including 6.8 million electrons and positrons. The fraction of positrons in the particle mix exceeds what would be naively expected in the absence of dark matter or other unaccounted sources, but the new data lack a distinctive feature predicted of dark matter annihilations.

Dark matter collisions would produce relatively more high- than moderate-energy positrons. But the rise in positrons with increasing energy would continue only up to a point. Beyond a certain energy level, the number of positrons would fall off steeply, AMS spokesperson and Nobel laureate Samuel Ting of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology explained in a seminar at CERN, the European laboratory for particle physics. “The positrons could also come from nearby pulsars, and in such a case the positrons will have a slow drop-off” at higher energies, Ting said. “So the way they drop off tells you everything.”

via Dark Matter Signal Possibly Registered on International Space Station: Scientific American.