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The World of Tomorrow!

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Hey everyone.

From my browsing around the General Chat section of this forum, I've noticed every so often an article on the latest Science or Tech news pops up and there is normally a fair bit of interest - both humorous or serious. As a self declared nerd (both in football and science terms), I find all of this stuff really interesting. It's always interesting to see what scientific discoveries people are making and what creations are being developed in our labs - even if quite a bit of the time things go tits-up and they have to go back and ask for another £X million. But hey - it's all for the betterment of mankind, right?

With that in mind, I'd like to start a rolling topic where I offer up links to some of the latest Sci-Tech news, and my take on them - that is, if there's any interest in it. Please go ahead and add your own comments, and news article suggestions - if you suggest a SciTech story, I'd be happy to give my take on it!

To start with:

"Ouch. A neutrino walks into a bar."


FTL neutrino experiment runs again

"Scientists who announced that sub-atomic particles might be able to travel faster than light are to rerun their experiment in a different way.

This will address criticisms and allow the physicists to shore up their analysis as much as possible before submitting it for publication.

Dr Sergio Bertolucci said it was vital not to "fool around" given the staggering implications of the result.

So they are doing all they can to rule out more pedestrian explanations."

First rule of good science: when you get a result that is as fvcking ludicrous as this one, you run it again. And again. And again.

And make no mistake: this has the potential to be the most groundbreaking discovery in physics since General Relativity itself, which is why the scientists involved are making damn sure they cover their own arses by repeating their experiment in various different ways.

In the original experiment, a beam of protons was fired by one of the special accelerators at CERN in Switzerland (the 'world-ending' LHC isn't the only thing there, you know). Through hitting each other, these protons generate neutrinos which travel through the Earth's crust and are then 'received' at a special facility in Italy, 732km away. Of course, we can't track an individual neutrino (far far too small); instead, the boffins at both facilities measured the time from the beam being emitted at CERN, to the mass of generated neutrinos arriving at the facility in Italy. They did this over and over, and took an average of the time, and from that obtained an average speed.

For an analogy, imagine a group of a hundred runners all running the 100m a hundred times over, all at the same time and at the same speed (let's assume they're all Steven Seagal-clones who can do the 100m over and over and still be able to aikido-chop the bad guys at the end). You get them to run the race a hundred times, and you take an average of those hundred times. The obvious problem - you don't know the time for an individual runner, so you can't say exactly how fast any one of the runners is.

And the problem with this experiment is the same - the average time the neutrinos took was a tiny bit faster than light would have been, but that only applies to the group: not to individual neutrinos. And that leaves the measurement open to error - especially with a result like this.

So...the scientists involved are now changing to sending far smaller groups of neutrinos, with (more importantly) a gap between each group. This should give them a clear distinction between each group and give a clearer (though not totally definitive) idea if many individual neutrinos are breaking the speed of light. Also, similar experiments are being carried out in the US and Japan, and we should see a collaborative result in a few months.

Obviously the implications for this are massive. If it is proven that particles that have mass - even fvcking little tiny ones like neutrinos - can break the speed of light - even go a little bit above as they may have done - pretty much every assumption we have made about they way shit acts at the subatomic level is wrong. Relativity (to a certain degree) will have been proven wrong as well, and another question will be asked: if these little particles can go faster than light...why can't larger objects? Why can't (in the future) humans in spaceships? Why can't particles carrying digital information be sent truly instantaneously?

And why the fvck (in the future) will my FTL train still arrive at least 10 minutes late?

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Although if you travelled fast enough, you may arrive at your destination before you had left. whistle.gif

This is a great topic, if this test proves the ability to travel faster than the speed of light, it could eventually lead to humans visiting strange alien worlds, lol we'd be the E.T/UFOs.

Very interesting times, I hope they manage it.

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Ok, here's one for the scientific amongst you. :D

My hairdresser has suggested I have a conditioning treatment that would involve coating my hair in a solution that can contain up to 20% formaldehyde! :huh: Now I don't have a scientific bone in my body but this, to me, sounds like a particularly dodgy thing to be doing...? :unsure::dunno:

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Well given back in June it was labelled a human carcinogen by the American Government - link - I'd say it's a little bit dodgy.

I was hoping you might reply. :) Must admit, I didn't know it was carcinogenic, but it didn't strike me as a very healthy thing to be doing. Cheers. :thumbup:

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Thanks for the input everyone.

And yes, the title of this thread is a take on that Futurama line. I'm a big fan, and sounds like others on here are too.

Speaking of which, possibly the best explanation of Quantum Mechanics I've ever heard, and this is from a man who spent most of his final year of uni up to his elbows in Schrodinger...


AOWW - LargeAl is pretty right on this one, check out the formaldehyde Wiki entry and you get the idea you don't want it anywhere near your body, even in a 20% solution, unless you really know what you're doing. When it comes to preserving corpses, however, there's nothing better...and it does have other uses.

Another entry to follow soon!

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I hate Schroedinger and his ****ing cat. It's been over half a century - of course the cat is ****ing dead. They don't last that long when cared for perfectly, let alone when starved in a box with poison & radioactive material for company.

The idea of quantum suicide is very interesting though.

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I hate Schroedinger and his ****ing cat. It's been over half a century - of course the cat is ****ing dead. They don't last that long when cared for perfectly, let alone when starved in a box with poison & radioactive material for company.


As I believe I said before - at the start why didn't he just take the fvcking cat out of the box and shoot it - then he'd know if it was dead or not.

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Time for a new article...


"Hey Yuri...maybe putting that Spartak Moscow fan in there with the CSKA guy wasn't the best idea..."

"Six men locked away in steel tubes for a year-and-a-half to simulate a mission to Mars are set to end the experiment.

The Mars500 project, undertaken at a Moscow institute, was intended to find out how the human mind and body would cope on a long-duration spaceflight.

It is a venture that has fascinated all who have followed it around the globe."

Long-term human spaceflight. There's too much we don't know about its effect on the human body and mind.

Even without the usual dangers that spaceflight naturally presents (accidents leading to explosive decompression, solar radiation, alien abduction and the anal probe), what would it be like to be stuck in what is essentially a 500 sq-m set of aluminium and plastic boxes with only five other people for company for over 17 months?

That is what a manned mission to Mars would be like. And that is what six people, 520 days ago, were selected to do.

In the suburbs of Moscow, three Russians, two Europeans and a Chinese guy have, for the last year and a half, been living in conditions that would simulate (as close as is possible on Earth) a mission to Mars.

During the 'mission', they've been given a variety of psych tests to see how well a man can really hold up when there's no windows to the outside, communications are lagged and limited to text conversations (as transmissions would take 25 minutes to get from Earth to Mars), food resources are strictly rationed, there's only delayed transmissions of The X-Factor on the TV (okay, maybe I made that one up) and everyone knowing when you're having a wank. So - serious psychological stress there.

At the middle of the mission, there was even a simulated 'Mars Walk' where a landing and walk on a Martian surface was carried out.

All that considered, the scientists in charge of the experiment have been delighted with both the crew, and with the data thay have managed to collect. From what can be gleaned so far, the 'cosmonauts' seem to have maintained excellent physical condition, and mentally - well, they've not killed each other, and after 520 days seeing the same five people that's what matters, surely?

The capsule will be opened at some point today, and the six will then undergo a few days of medical exams before their debrief. Hopefully, the conclusion will be that humans can survive in isolated, spaceflight-like conditions for a long period of time with few physical or psychological side-effects. This would mean that - again hopefully - the real thing (a manned mission to Mars) would be something humans would be capable of.

Of course, more tests in a zero-gravity environment would be needed to give a more accurate idea, but this is a good first step to proving that humans - physically and mentally, if not technologically - are ready to take the next step in space exploration.

Just watch out for those anal probes.

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Not sure it quite fits the Science / Technology label but it is 'tomorrow' - maybe we need and environment topic?


Scientists are monitoring the birth of a monster iceberg in West Antarctica.

A rift has formed in the shelf of floating ice in front of the Pine Island Glacier (PIG).

The surface crack in the PIG runs for almost 30km (20 miles), is 60m (200ft) deep and is growing every day.

US space agency (Nasa) researchers expect the eventual berg to cover about 880 sq km - an area the size of Berlin. It should break away towards the end of the year or early in 2012.

Full report. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-15580679

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Thanks for those articles everyone - made for very interesting reading.

And now I resurrect this article with the following:


Europa - like Europe, but without all the debt

"Scientists have found the best evidence yet for water just beneath the surface of Jupiter's icy moon, Europa.

Analysis of the moon's surface suggests plumes of warmer water well up beneath its icy shell, melting and fracturing the outer layers.

The results, published in the journal Nature, predict that small lakes exist only 3km below the crust.

Any liquid water could represent a potential habitat for life."

For the longest time scientists have thought that water is the basic sustainer of life. Find water, and you find life - regardless of other conditions...or so runs the theory.

Well, it's been tested once with Nottingham - though I'm not sure Forest fans qualify as life per se, but I'll give them the benefit of the doubt - now, it could well be tested again on one of Jupiters four largest moons. The ice moon, Europa.

On the surface Europa appears pretty hostile - minus 160 degrees Celsius temperature, and radiation levels (donated from Jupiters magnetic field) that would kill a human being pretty damn fast. Sort of a blend of Antarctica and Chernobyl, then. However, a distance under the icy surface, it's a different story entirely.

We've had a pretty good idea that there is a massive ocean of liquid water below the icy crust of Europa for some time now, through surface imaging (Europa is very smooth, impact craters disappear quickly) and the fact that Europa interacts with the magnetic field of Jupiter in the same way a massive body of salty water would. However, it was believed that this liquid water was buried underneath a layer of as much as 30km of solid ice - and ice at -160 degrees C is as hard as granite. Even Bruce Willis and his team of drillers would have trouble with that one, so it seemed getting a sample of liquid water to test would be next to impossible.

However, a recent study by a group of American science bods has taken data from similar conditions on Earth (observing volcanic, tectonic and hydrological activity underneath the main body of Antarctica, for instance) and applied it to Europa, with the result that liquid water can sometimes form in 'lakes' as close as 3km to the surface. Additionally, they have found the water on Europa is very dynamic, mixing at a variety of depths. This means any nutrients would be scattered throughout the ocean, allowing many more places for life to potentially begin.

Now, even drilling to just 3km with a probe that had just crashed landed on the surface and which won't respond to your instructions until 40 minutes after they are sent is still a big ask, but this latest discovery makes the chance of getting a sample of liquid water from Europa much more feasible. And if we get the water, can we get the life?

Of course, life on Europa (if it was found) would be very primitive by comparison to Earth - no little green men here, we'll be lucky to find anything evolved beyond a single-cellular level, or (if we're unlucky) Cov fans. But it would be the first evidence of present life outside of our own planet, and it would mean that the human perception of conditions for life in the Universe would have to be drastically revised. If life can exist in conditions as harsh as on Europa, then why can't it exist in a billion other moons like it dotted across the Universe?

Hopefully, as long as this discovery is verified, a probe will be sent later this decade to answer these questions.

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Thread revival time -


HOUSTON — A warp drive to achieve faster-than-light travel — a concept popularized in television's Star Trek — may not be as unrealistic as once thought, scientists say.

A warp drive would manipulate space-time itself to move a starship, taking advantage of a loophole in the laws of physics that prevent anything from moving faster than light. A concept for a real-life warp drive was suggested in 1994 by Mexican physicist Miguel Alcubierre; however, subsequent calculations found that such a device would require prohibitive amounts of energy.

Now physicists say that adjustments can be made to the proposed warp drive that would enable it to run on significantly less energy, potentially bringing the idea back from the realm of science fiction into science.

"There is hope," Harold "Sonny" White of NASA's Johnson Space Center said here Friday (Sept. 14) at the 100 Year Starship Symposium, a meeting to discuss the challenges of interstellar spaceflight.

An Alcubierre warp drive would involve a football-shape spacecraft attached to a large ring encircling it. This ring, potentially made of exotic matter, would cause space-time to warp around the starship, creating a region of contracted space in front of it and expanded space behind.

Meanwhile, the starship itself would stay inside a bubble of flat space-time that wasn't being warped at all.

"Everything within space is restricted by the speed of light," explained Richard Obousy, president of Icarus Interstellar, a non-profit group of scientists and engineers devoted to pursuing interstellar spaceflight. "But the really cool thing is space-time, the fabric of space, is not limited by the speed of light."

With this concept, the spacecraft would be able to achieve an effective speed of about 10 times the speed of light, all without breaking the cosmic speed limit.

The only problem is, previous studies estimated the warp drive would require a minimum amount of energy about equal to the mass-energy of the planet Jupiter.

But recently White calculated what would happen if the shape of the ring encircling the spacecraft was adjusted into more of a rounded donut, as opposed to a flat ring. He found in that case, the warp drive could be powered by a mass about the size of a spacecraft like the Voyager 1 probe NASA launched in 1977.

Furthermore, if the intensity of the space warps can be oscillated over time, the energy required is reduced even more, White found.

"The findings I presented today change it from impractical to plausible and worth further investigation," White told SPACE.com. "The additional energy reduction realized by oscillating the bubble intensity is an interesting conjecture that we will enjoy looking at in the lab."

Pretty cool, although that is a fairly big problem.

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Nice to see this thread back with us.

I'm going to write an article on asteroid mining soon - it's been in the news a bit lately. Watch this space (no pun intended)!

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Astronomers have conclusively measured the spin of a black hole for the first time by detecting the mind-bending relativistic effects that warp space-time at the very edge of its event horizon -- the point of no return, beyond which even light cannot escape.

By monitoring X-ray emissions from iron ions (iron atoms with some electrons missing) trapped in the black hole’s accretion disk, the rapidly-rotating inner edge of the disk of hot material has provided direct information about how fast the black hole is spinning.

And by doing this, a long-standing controversy surrounding black hole studies has been laid to rest.

Chalk another one up for Einstein (the smug bastard), his theory of general relativity has come good again. I'm not sure of the applications of working out how fast that incredibly dense object is spinning, nor why we needed to go to all that work rather than just putting a Forest fan on a merry-go-round, but nevertheless it's pretty cool.

Meanwhile in Leicester: http://www.livescience.com/27430-spiderman-silk-could-stop-a-train.html

It is often quoted that spiderwebs are stronger than steel, so we thought it would be interesting to see whether this held true for Spider-Man’s scaled-up version,†Alex Stone, a 21-year-old physics student at the United Kingdom’s University of Leicester, said in a statement. “Considering the subject matter we were surprised to find out that the webbing was portrayed accurately.â€

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