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GENEVA — One of the very pillars of physics and Einstein's theory of relativity – that nothing can go faster than the speed of light – was rocked Thursday by new findings from one of the world's foremost laboratories. European researchers said they clocked an oddball type of subatomic particle called a neutrino going faster than the 186,282 miles per second that has long been considered the cosmic speed limit.
“I think we have it,” said Rolf Heuer, the director general of CERN , in an interview with The New York Times from his office outside of Geneva. "We have reached a milestone in our understanding of nature,” Heuer said of a particle consistent with the Higgs boson that opens the way to more detailed studies, requiring larger statistics, which will pin down the new particle’s properties, and is likely to shed light on other mysteries of our universe. The Higgs boson is a potential key to understanding why elementary particles have mass and to the existence of diversity and life in the universe. Both the ATLAS and CMS experiments at CERN observed a new particle in the mass region around 125-126 GeV, physicists announced at a seminar held at CERN yesterday. The next step will be to determine the precise nature of the particle and its significance for our understanding of the universe.
Scientists hailed the announcement, speculating that it could one day make light speed travel possible by "un-massing" objects or allow huge items to be launched into space by "switching off" the Higgs.* CERN scientist Albert de Roeck likened it to the discovery of electricity, when he said humanity could never have imagined its future applications. "What's really important for the Higgs is that it explains how the world could be the way that it is in the first millionth of a second in the Big Bang ," de Roeck told AFP .* "Can we apply it to something? At this moment my imagination is too small to do that." Physicist Ray Volkas said "almost everybody" was hoping that, rather than fitting the so-called Standard Model of physics -- a theory explaining how particles fit together in the Universe -- the Higgs boson would prove to be "something a bit different".
Quantum entanglement, one of the odder aspects of quantum theory, links the properties of particles even when they are separated by large distances. When a property of one of a pair of entangled particles is measured, the other "immediately" settles down into a state compatible with that measurement. So how fast is "immediately"? According to research by Prof. Juan Yin and colleagues at the University of Science and Technology of China in Shanghai, the lower limit to the speed associated with entanglement dynamics – or "spooky action at a distance" – is at least 10,000 times faster than light. Despite playing a vital role in the development of quantum theory, Einstein felt philosophically at odds with its description of how the universe works.
Earlier this month, NASA announced the discovery of bacteria living in arsenic in a California lake.
The Milky Way galaxy may be filled with millions upon millions of Jupiter-sized planets that have escaped their solar systems and are wandering freely in space, researchers said Wednesday in a finding that seems certain to make astronomers rethink their ideas about planetary formation. Scientists had previously thought that about 20% of stars had massive planets attached to them, but the new results reported in the journal Nature suggest that there are at least twice as many planets as stars, and perhaps several times as many. The finding "is a revelation in the sense that it looks like a quintupling of the number of gas giants in the universe," said astronomer Alan Boss of the Carnegie Institution for Science, who was not involved in the research.
Scientists have unveiled a prototype solar device that mimics plant life, turning the Sun’s energy into fuel. The device uses the Sun’s rays and a metal oxide called ceria to break down carbon dioxide or water into fuels, which can be stored and transported.
The CoLBeRT system uses lasers (left) to control genetically altered roundworms (right). I love cutting edge science, but sometimes it can seem nefarious enough to make a James Bond villain squeal in delight. Researchers at Harvard University have designed a laser system that can control your mind…or at least the mind of a roundworm.
Seeking the ultimate high, people have ingested all kinds of bizarre chemicals and plants through history. Fortunately they have related (those who lived anyway) their experiences so we can now recount them to you. Prepare to be shocked by some of the contents on this list – you will almost certainly not know the drugging abilities of the majority of these.
Figure 1. Spider web, from photo gallery of Amit Bhawan. Most of us are familiar with beautiful, two-dimensional spider webs, such as the one in Figure 1. However, arachnologist Peter Jäger, who in the past decade alone discovered more than 250 new species of spiders (including one he named after rock star David Bowie!), tells me that more spider species actually create three-dimensional, rather than two-dimensional, webs (about 12,000 species as compared to about 7,000). The 3D webs can be quite complex, and much less symmetric than their 2D counterparts (Figures 2a and 2b show a couple of examples).
In 1948, German pharmocologist P. N. Witt started his research on the effect of drugs on spiders.
Physiology & Behavior - The effects of neurotoxins on web-geometry and web-building behaviour in Araneus diadematus Cl.1. Introduction 2. Materials and methods
“Spinning under the influence” is one way to describe recent activities in the Costa Rican laboratory of Smithsonian scientist William Eberhard. An entomologist at the Smithsonian’s Tropical Research Institute, Eberhard recently carried out a series of experiments in which he observed the web-building behavior of dozens of spiders under the influence of drugs—specifically, a chemical injected into their bodies by parasitic wasps. His work is an attempt to better understand a poorly studied area of animal behavior: just how parasites can influence certain activities of their host’s nervous system to trigger, suppress or modify specific behaviors that favor the survival of the parasite.
Spiders On Drugs Scientists at the United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) have turned their attention from the mysteries of the cosmos to a more esoteric area of research: what happens when you get a spider stoned. Their experiments have shown that common house spiders spin their webs in different ways according to the psychotropic drug they have been given.
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