Tuesday, January 18, 2011
Monday, January 17, 2011
Image Source: NASA via BBC.
Caption for the above image: Electrons racing up electric field lines give rise to light, then particles, then light.
BBC is reporting on research findings presented at the meeting of the American Astronomical Society, which state that thunderstorms emit Antimatter. From the report:
[The Fermi] space telescope has accidentally spotted thunderstorms on Earth producing beams of antimatter. Such storms have long been known to give rise to fleeting sparks of light called terrestrial gamma-ray flashes. But results from the Fermi telescope show they also give out streams of electrons and their antimatter counterparts, positrons. The surprise result was presented by researchers at the American Astronomical Society meeting in the US. It deepens a mystery about terrestrial gamma-ray flashes, or TGFs - sparks of light that are estimated to occur 500 times a day in thunderstorms on Earth. They are a complex interplay of light and matter whose origin is poorly understood.
Thunderstorms are known to create tremendously high electric fields - evidenced by lightning strikes. Electrons in storm regions are accelerated by the fields, reaching speeds near that of light and emitting high-energy light rays - gamma rays - as they are deflected by atoms and molecules they encounter. These flashes are intense - for a thousandth of a second, they can produce as many charged particles from one flash as are passing through the entire Earth's atmosphere from all other processes.
Read the rest of the report here.
Sunday, January 16, 2011
Man brought back after more than three hours of being dead. Image Source: Daily Mirror via Yahoo News.
Okay, that does it. Things around here are getting way too damned depressing and weird. For me, the breaking point came earlier this morning when I saw the headline on Yahoo News: "Quick-thinking doctors helped Arun Bhasin breathe after more than three hours with no heartbeat." After hearing about this NHS triumph, I needed something lighter. Check out these videos that made me laugh out loud, not LOL, but truly the real thing. (Hat tip: Glowpinkstah)
2011 began with high hopes. Given the early January headlines, I find myself speculating on what we can already gather from the tone of a new year. Deaths of birds and fish across the globe fueled the apocalyptic eschatology which has become an ever-present subtext in popular discourse. An American Congresswoman was targeted in a brutal and horrifying assassination attempt, while other people were tragically killed and injured by her side. And Facebook has received a shot in the arm of half a billion dollars. It is not cheerful fare. Wikipedia and NASA have marked some crucial anniversaries in the past two weeks, but those testify to the mind-boggling changes we have endured in terms of information-based and technological innovations in the past three decades. The fact that Wiki is only ten years old, yet is already a monolithic institution shows how rapid the changes are.
The anticipated Technological Singularity is narrowly defined on Wiki as an exponential acceleration of technological change past a point which we can currently comprehend. From Wiki: "Many of the most recognized writers on the singularity, such as Vernor Vinge and Ray Kurzweil, define the concept in terms of the technological creation of superintelligence, and allege that a post-singularity world would be unpredictable to humans due to an inability of human beings to imagine the intentions or capabilities of superintelligent entities."