Triple Star System Paves Road to Understanding Gravity

 

triple star system pulsar

Triple star systems could play a more important role than we first thought. http://www.bbc.co.uk/

A new study published in the scientific journal Nature documents the discovery of a very peculiar triple star system. Astronomers believe that observation and analyzation of this triple star system could potentially resolve lingering discrepancies in some of Einstein’s theories concerning gravity. In fact, this particular triple star system could eventually lead to unraveling the secrets of gravity.

Related Article: Our Special Time in the Universe

This triple star system is roughly 4200 light years from Earth and is composed of a pulsar and two white dwarfs orbiting each other within a space smaller than Earth’s orbit of the sun.  The pulsar closely orbits a white dwarf star while a second white dwarf star orbits the pair from a distance. While a triple star system like this one has been found before, this is the first time such a strong interaction between the orbiting objects has been observed.

According to Scott Ransom of the US National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) in Charlottesville, VA:

This triple star system gives us a natural cosmic laboratory far better than anything found before for learning exactly how such three-body systems work and potentially for detecting problems with general relativity that physicists expect to see under extreme conditions. This is a fascinating system in many ways, including what must have been a completely crazy formation history, and we have much work to do to fully understand it.

triple star system binary

An easy way to imagine a stellar trio. http://www.miqel.com

Pulsars are created in the presence of a supernova. Under the intensity of a supernova, burnt out stars can collapse and turn into a dense, highly magnetized ball of neutrons. A pulsar emits radio-waves in the same way a lighthouse emits light. Pulsars can only be seen when the beam of radio waves is pointing at the Earth. While pulsars all spin at different rates, the pulsar in the study spins at an extremely rapid rate of 366 times per second. Due to its incredible rotation speed, this type of pulsar is called a millisecond pulsar. Finding this millisecond pulsar triple star system is important because

This is the first millisecond pulsar found in such a system, and we immediately recognized that it provides us with a tremendous opportunity to study both the effects and nature of gravity. The gravitational perturbations imposed on each member of this system by the others are incredibly pure and strong.

Binary and triple star systems appear all over the galaxy. Even our sun is likely part of a larger binary solar system. While the systems can vary in formation, most are formed in a very similar fashion to the triple stellar system described in the study.  Two of the stars form a binary system and the third star orbits the pair at a far greater orbit. If the system isn’t constructed this way it becomes unstable, leading to a star being ejected at high velocities away from the pair.

Related Article: New Type of Hypervelocity Star Found: Just Passing Through

So as is usual with cosmological physics, the hardest aspect of reading any study is figuring out why we should care about the discovery of a special triple star system. The thing is, gravity is a rascal when it comes to theories of the universe. It simply doesn’t fit into any modern quantum theories. The Einstein Equivalence Principle states:  

The outcome of any local non-gravitational experiment in a freely falling laboratory is independent of the velocity of the laboratory and its location in spacetime.

This eventually led to the Strong Equivalence Principle, which states:

The gravitational motion of a small test body depends only on its initial position in spacetime and velocity, and not on its constitution. The outcome of any local experiment (gravitational or not) in a freely falling laboratory is independent of the velocity of the laboratory and its location in spacetime.
triple star system earth gravity

Gravity is stranger than you think. http://podaac.jpl.nasa.gov/

The equivalence principle holds true in most experiments, but in the quantum world it completely falls apart. Einstein’s theory of general relativity holds true for massive celestial bodies, but the miniscule world of quantum physics is a different realm entirely.

Related Article: Long Distance Quantum Teleportation is Reality

Countless attempts have been made to create a Grand Unified Theory of physics involving a single equation that would involve all forces currently known to man. The problem is that gravity constantly throws a wrench in the spokes of every unified theory physicists come up with. Simply put, the reason this study of a unique triple star system is so important is that by observing the activity of a triple system with such pure and strong gravitational interactions, it may shine light on how gravity functions at the quantum level. This could one day lead to a single unified theory of everything. Physics would no longer be a class, just a single equation you could plug and chug information into and get answers.

 

 

Sources:

http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nature12917.html

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-25598051#FBM325422

http://phys.org/news6428.html

http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/1994MNRAS.267..161K

http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/1968QJRAS…9..388E

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Equivalence_principle#The_Einstein_equivalence_principle

http://hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu/hbase/forces/unigrav.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grand_Unified_Theory

 

Computer Chips Modeled After the Human Brain

brain-chip

I dare you to look at contemporary computer chips and not admire their abilities.  The most impressive example may be the realized dream of hand-sized smart-phones, pieces of technology we already tend to take for granted. And yet – with all their condensed might packed into a few square centimetres, those chips are nearing their developmental boundaries.

Try to open your computer case and have a look. Ignore the dust! See all those messy cables inside? Modern computer architecture is crippled by the fact that data has to flow between the different parts of the computer: The CPU (central processing unit), hard-drive, the RAM, the video card, etc. (namely – those green cards that you see inside the computer case). Although tremendous efforts have been made to accelerate those transitions, the data flow between those parts still poses a serious bottleneck on the performance of computers since software commands have to be executed sequentially.

Related Article: Electronic Brain Implants Increase Intelligence

A new study from Boise State University suggests a better solution to the problem: computer chip architecture modeled after the human brain. Instead of a central processing unit overwhelmed by data flow frComputer_Chipom different computer parts, the new architecture will be based on the way the human brain functions. Multiple areas – each one processing it’s own part, contribute together to create the bigger picture. This kind of architecture eliminates the need for the major processing and memory units. Instead of a hard-drive, the RAM, the video-card and most probably the CPU itself, a new kind of universal electronic chip will process and store the data on its own.

According to the principal investigator of the research grant, Elisa Barney Smith,

By mimicking the brain’s billions of interconnections and pattern recognition capabilities, we may ultimately introduce a new paradigm in speed and power, and potentially enable systems that include the ability to learn, adapt and respond to their environment.

Related Article: Newcortex: How Human Memory Works and How We Learn

090713-memristors-01The neural approach is now becoming practical thanks to the on-going development of a new type of resistor: the memristor. Memristors can be tweaked to new resistance levels by applying and removing electric currents. Memristors “remember” the last resistance applied to them even after the power is removed. In simple words – a storage effect appears. An idea first conceived in 1971, for many years memristors puzzled physicist and engineers as a theoretical missing link component until recent developments finally made them practical. Although not yet commercially used, memristors are already taking active parts in research.

Dexter Johnson from The Nanoclast goes into greater detail regarding memristors:

The memristor has been on a rapid development track ever since and has been promised to be commercially available as early as 2014, enabling 10 times greater embedded memory for mobile devices than currently available.

The obsolescence of flash memory at the hands of the latest nanotechnology has been predicted for longer than the commercial introduction of the memristor. But just at the moment it appears it’s going to reach its limits in storage capacity along comes a new way to push its capabilities to new heights, sometimes thanks to a nanomaterial like graphene.

Using memristors, the team hopes to apply algorithms inspired by the interaction between the neural synapses of the human brain. The effect should follow the intricate patterns our brain implements to process and store data.

Related Article: Of Cyborg Monkeys and New Hope for Amputees

Apart from sounding super-cool (in a geek-ish way), this new approach harbors multiple advantages. First – a tremendously increased processing power. Thanks to mother nature (or depending on what you believe), our brain proves to be quite efficient in processing data. The new generation of computers will benefit from that very same system. Second – the new chips will be considerably more power efficient, suggesting they may be used in places where power support is an issue. We may expect an additional decrease in electronic-chip sizes as well.

And lastly… did I already mention that this new architecture sounds super cool?

 

Sources:

http://news.boisestate.edu/update/2013/08/14/research-team-building-a-computer-chip-based-on-the-human-brain/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Memristor

https://twitter.com/thenanoclast

http://www.frogheart.ca/?tag=cif-small-realizing-chip-scale-bio-inspired-spiking-neural-networks-with-monolithically-integrated-nano-scale-memristors

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/08/130814144705.htm

http://www.cbronline.com/news/tech/hardware/microelectronics/researchers-working-on-chip-that-mimics-human-brain-190813

https://wondergressive.com/2013/06/16/of-cyborg-monkeys-and-new-hope-for-amputees/

https://wondergressive.com/2013/06/12/neocortex-how-human-memory-works/

https://wondergressive.com/2012/10/13/electronic-brain-implants-increase-intelligence/

New Plausible Theory of Black Holes: Gateways to Other Universes

 

According to traditional physics, once you go far enough into a black hole, traditional physics simply ceases to be.  Any meaningful equation breaks down into nonsense. Insanity. Cosmic nincompoopery! Well, not anymore…

Einstein’s theory of general relativity states that if a person were to fall into a black hole they’d be shredded to the atomic level by a process called spaghettification, described as being stretched into an infinitely long strand of matter and energy by infinitely strong gravity.  This infinitely strong gravity is due to a singularity at the ‘end’ of the black hole, an infinitely dense area with zero volume.  A singularity is also used to describe the Big Bang.

There is a problem though; conventional physics cannot describe what occurs at a singularity point, so talking about the beginning of time or the core of a black hole has always been one-pointed, but pointless. Then quantum mechanics appeared.

Related Article: Life, It’s All Over the Place

By using the theory of loop quantum gravity, a merger of quantum mechanics and general relativity which describes space-time as a web of indivisible chunks about 10-35 meters in size, physicists have come up with a practical way to describe what occurs at the singularity point; the singularity isn’t there. 

There is no singularity. Gravity still increases as you get pulled into the black hole, but eventually it decreases, and you come out the other end. Although theories have postulated this idea before, the problem was that the singularity could never be bypassed. This is incredibly revolutionary because modern day physics has always taken the idea of a singularity for granted.  The universe had forever been filled with them; all of time and space began as a singularity.

Related Article: Ancient Galaxy That Shouldn’t Exist is Found Perfectly Formed

You are probably wondering what this means for you and me, what relevance this all has.  This opens the doors for even more science fiction to become science reality (consider: just about every piece of technology that exists today was written about as science fiction at one point).

According to the new theory, black holes are more likely doors to other universes, or incredibly distant areas of our own universe, or both.  Even more amazingly, using loop quantum gravity theory, if you were to rewind the big bang you wouldn’t be left with an infinitely dense point of mass and energy, you would cross a quantum bridge into another, older universe.

Related Article: Voyager 1: The Final Frontier?

This also helps explain what happens to information that approaches a black hole.  In a black hole with a singularity, the information would be lost forever as the black hole eventually evaporates after hundreds of trillions of years (give or take several hundred trillion years). As Jorge Pullin, lead researcher on the study at Louisiana State University, points out:

Information doesn’t disappear, it leaks out.

The infinite universe just became infinitely more infinite.

 

Sources:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/General_relativity

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spaghettification\

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gravitational_singularity

http://www.hawking.org.uk/the-beginning-of-time.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loop_quantum_gravity

http://mashable.com/2010/09/25/11-astounding-predictions/

http://prl.aps.org/abstract/PRL/v96/i14/e141301

http://prl.aps.org/abstract/PRL/v110/i21/e211301

http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn23611-quantum-gravity-takes-singularity-out-of-black-holes.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Multiverse

https://wondergressive.com/2012/08/17/life-its-all-over-the-place/

https://wondergressive.com/2012/09/21/ancient-galaxy-that-shouldnt-exist-is-perfectly-formed/

https://wondergressive.com/2013/01/12/galaxy-geysers/

https://wondergressive.com/2013/03/21/voyager-1-final-frontier/

Absolute Zero No Longer Absolute

Absolute zero, measured using the Kelvin scale, occurs when matter has reached the lowest possible level of entropy, when its atoms are utterly and totally ‘frozen.’ It is the coldest temperature anything in the universe can possibly reach, or so we thought.

Physicists at the Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich, Germany have done the impossible; they have created a quantum gas made up of potassium atoms that is colder than absolute zero.

Using lasers and magnetic fields, the infantile toys of researchers studying the quantum realm, the physicists were able to stabilize the atoms in a lattice arrangement. While the atoms normally repel each other at positive temperatures, the researchers decided to have some fun and abruptly alter the magnetic fields, causing all of the atoms to instantly attract. Ulrich Schneider, part of the team of physicists, explains that

This suddenly shifts the atoms from their most stable, lowest-energy state to the highest possible energy state, before they can react. It’s like walking through a valley, then instantly finding yourself on the mountain peak.

Whoa.  In the quantum world, anything goes.

Now, at a positive temperature, attraction between all of the atoms would cause the gas to become unstable and collapse in on itself, ultimately producing contempt and self loathing in already sensitive quantum physicists   Luckily, as usual for physicists, they protected the delicate balance of their emotions with trapping lasers, which were used to hold the atoms in place.  Boom! The result is:

The gas’s transition from just above absolute zero to a few billionths of a Kelvin below absolute zero.

Working with negative temperatures opens up all new realms of possibilities in the laboratory. Wolfgang Ketterle, a man with a better name than you, as well as a physicist and Nobel laureate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, reveals to us the profundity of this feat. He says that doing quantum experimentation while working with negative temperatures is like experimenting in an environment where:

you can stand a pyramid on its head and not worry about it toppling over. This may be a way to create new forms of matter in the laboratory.

By far, the weirdest part about the negative temperature gas is that it behaves identically to dark energy, the force that pushes the Universe to expand at an exponential rate despite the ever persistent pull of gravity.  The atoms in the gas also seem to want to collapse inward, but the negative temperature holds them in place.  Schneider remarks that:

It’s interesting that this weird feature pops up in the Universe and also in the lab.  This may be something that cosmologists should look at more closely.

Researchers believe negative temperatures will give rise to the creation of matter with anti-gravitational properties, rising, despite gravity throwing a temper tantrum over wanting it to fall. For all you Egyptian pyramid conspiracy theorists out there, here’s some extra fodder for the anti-gravity theories.  The Egyptians must have created negative kelvin temperatures first!

 

Sources:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Absolute_zero

http://www.sciencemag.org/content/339/6115/52

 

The Big Bang Wasn’t the Beginning

A team of physicists are now hypothesizing that the big bang may not have been the beginning of the universe.  They believe that the big bang is instead the start of a phase change, like liquid water suddenly cooling to form solid ice.

The theory gets really interesting as the physicists discuss potential cracks in the universe like the cracks that form in actual ice.  One of the researchers, Quach, explained that the universe can be thought of “as being like a liquid, then as the universe cools, it ‘crystallises’ into the three spatial and one time dimension that we see today. Theorized this way, as the universe cools, we would expect that cracks should form, similar to the way cracks are formed when water freezes into ice.” 

The theory postulates that space and time are emerging properties of the universe that did not always exist.  The theory’s  math holds up, but even if the physicists do find the ‘cracks’ only time will tell whether the theory is even partially correct.  A whole lot of time.  And by that time a wholly other set of properties may emerge making the notion of time moot.

As for now, it’s certainly fun to consider.

Isn’t mystery just awesome?