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Quantumaniac is where it’s at - and by ‘it’ I mean awesome.

Hi! My name is Tyler Simko. Over here, I post a ton of astronomy / math / general science in an attempt to make your brain feel good. My aim is to be as informative as possible, while posting fascinating things that hopefully enlighten us both a little to the mysteries of our truly wondrous universe(s?). Plus, how would you know if the blog exists or not unless you observe it?

Boom, just pulled the Schrödinger’s cat card. Now you have to check it out - trust me, it said so in an equation somewhere.

Please check out my web design company, O8 Labs, we build awesome websites and mobile apps.

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Formerly Unknown Mathematics Professor Receives “Genius Grant”

The MacArthur Fellows Program, commonly known as the “Genius Grant” just announced their recipients for 2014. As always, they are extremely impressive experts at the top of their respective fields - but for me, one in particular stuck out.

The Simons Foundations starts telling the story like this: 

On April 17, a paper arrived in the inbox of Annals of Mathematics, one of the discipline’s preeminent journals. Written by a mathematician virtually unknown to the experts in his field — a 50-something lecturer at the University of New Hampshire named Yitang Zhang — the paper claimed to have taken a huge step forward in understanding one of mathematics’ oldest problems, the twin primes conjecture.

Unknown ‘experts’ are always making similarly large claims to prestigious institutions, but this paper was different. The reception Zhang received was incredible: “The main results are of the first rank,” the author had proved “a landmark theorem in the distribution of prime numbers.”

Zhang was a researcher that no one seemed to know, his talents had been overlooked his entire career: “after he earned his doctorate in 1991 that he had found it difficult to get an academic job, working for several years as an accountant and even in a Subway sandwich shop.”

“Basically, no one knows him,” said Andrew Granville, a number theorist at the Université de Montréal. “Now, suddenly, he has proved one of the great results in the history of number theory.”

Read more about Zhang’s incredible discovery here and here.  

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O8 Labs

Hey guys - a few of you have wondered why I’ve been posting less often lately, and I can finally answer!

For the past few months, I’ve been working on building a new web development company, O8 Labs. We build websites, design logos, launch marketing / rebranding campaigns, and much more importantly, we even have a science pun in our name: the slogan is “Breathing life into web development,” and our name comes from Oxygen’s atomic numberWhoa, this guy must really love science, you must be thinking - and you’d be right. 

If you or anyone you know needs a:

  • personal website
  • portfolio
  • business website
  • logo design
  • marketing campaign
  • social media design
  • or really anything else web-related!

Feel free to reach out to me at tyler@o8labs.com for a quote!

Please reblog this to spread the word, and remember us anytime you or someone you know may be in need of our services. Thanks so much guys, and in the meantime, check out our website and follow us on Twitter

TONIGHT (2/4/14): Bill Nye Debates Creationist Ken Ham

Be sure to watch Bill Nye debate Ken Ham tonight (7PM EST). Here’s the livestream

Hawking’s Revolutionary New Proposal on Black Holes

In a calculation-free, very short new paper posted on the arXiv preprint server last week, Stephen Hawking made some big claims. Hawking effectively dismisses the notion of an event horizon, the invisible boundary beyond which nothing, even light, can escape. This event horizon is what most people really think of as a black hole - a funnel-like boundary that once you’re in, you’re in. 

Event horizons have been a practical staple of black-hole ideology for decades, and a dismissal of their existence would elicit groans and labels of “crank” if coming from nearly any other physicist, but Hawking’s status as perhaps the most respected scientist in the world ensures respect for his proposal. In their stead, Hawking has proposed a much friendlier “apparent horizon,” which could release matter and energy moving at around the speed of light after holding them inside for a brief period - although in a more “garbled form,” as Nature writes. 

Hawking’s new work is an attempt to solve a paradox that has been confounding physicists for nearly two years, known as the black-hole firewall paradox. A team from the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics in Santa Barbara, California, believed that when adding quantum theory to black holes, the event horizon must be transformed into a highly energetic “firewall” that would consume anything falling in. Unfortunately for the team, this firewall would break pace with general relativity, which says that crossing the event horizon should be generally uneventful. 

Since the introduction of the firewall paradox, physicists have been wondering if relativity or quantum theory would be correct. However, Hawking says that both theories can remain perfectly intact, and black holes simply do not have an event horizon to produce a firewall. As Nature writes, “The key to his claim is that quantum effects around the black hole cause space-time to fluctuate too wildly for a sharp boundary surface to exist.”

Although the paper has yet to be peer reviewed, it is being examined critically and will spark a flurry of new research. Surely more exciting work will be published in the near future - stay tuned! 

More: Nature, New Scientist

Image Sources: Huff Post, Wiki

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Today marks the 30th anniversary of the introduction of the Macintosh computer.

On January 24th, 1984 - “Steve Jobs,” the LATimes writes, “sporting a goofy bow tie — stepped onto a stage in Cupertino, Calif., and unveiled the Macintosh. However deeply cynical we have grown about product launches, there is no doubt about how genuine the enthusiasm was in the auditorium that day.”

Read the rest of the LATimes article here

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Bill Nye Slated to Debate Creationist Ken Ham

This is going to be good. The upcoming debate has already garnered a good deal of media attention, with some secularists criticizing Nye for debating Ham at all, speculating that the debate will give Ham’s ideas a sense of legitimacy that he doesn’t deserve. 

What do you guys think? Let me know! 

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Just in case any of y’all missed this (sorry for posting at 1 a.m. - I was too excited to wait)!

Bill Nye Slated to Debate Creationist Ken Ham

This is going to be good. The upcoming debate has already garnered a good deal of media attention, with some secularists criticizing Nye for debating Ham at all, speculating that the debate will give Ham’s ideas a sense of legitimacy that he doesn’t deserve. 

What do you guys think? Let me know! 

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Scientists Discover Origin of Icicle Ripples

ScienceNews, in the November 30th issue, is running a story that comes from physicists reporting in the October New Journal of Physics. Called “On the origin and evolution of icicle ripples,” Antony Chen and Stephen Morris of the University of Toronto seem to have discovered the secret to icicle ripples - just add salt.

As ScienceNews reports, the pair:

built a tabletop machine that allowed nearly ice-cold water to drip through a nozzle onto a slowly rotating support, where the water froze.

Distilled water produced an unrippled, carrot-shaped icicle. When the scientists added a pinch of sodium chloride, or table salt, regularly spaced ripples formed. When they added more, the ripples became wildly irregular.

The researchers have not been able to find a theory to explain why salt is crucial to ripple formation. Fortunately, nature doesn’t need a theory; the team found that water running off Toronto roofs had enough dissolved ions to make ripples on its own.

Check out the full story and video here

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Oldest Large Body of Ancient Seawater Found Under Chesapeake Bay

About 35 million years ago, a meteorite collided into the area around what we now call the Chesapeake Bay.  The entire circular crater is about 85 km (53 mi) in diameter and 1.3 km (0.81 mi) deep, an area twice the size of Rhode Island, and nearly as deep as the Grand Canyon

Not only did this form a sizable impact crater, but also preserved preserved a huge body of seawater more than 1,000 meters (0.6 mi) under the bay, the oldest large body of seawater in the world. 

The ancient seawater is remnant water from the Early Cretaceous North Atlantic Sea and is probably 100-145 million years old. As Science Daily writes

Twice as salty as modern seawater, the ancient seawater was preserved like a prehistoric fly in amber, partly by the aid of the impact of a massive comet or meteorite that struck the area about 35 million years ago, creating Chesapeake Bay.

This ancient water is nearly twice as salty as normal seawater because of various plate movements, and has been called “fizzy,” because of the trapped carbon dioxide and methane.

The largest crater discovered in the United States, the Chesapeake Bay impact crater is one of only a few oceanic impact craters that have been documented worldwide.

Read the full story from Science Daily here

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How The U.S. Government Is Shutting Down Antarctica

PopSci just published a fascinating article on one issue particularly important here at Quantumaniac; how the government shutdown is affecting scientific research. As Jennifer Bogo writes, the shutdown could be particularly catastrophic for research in the Antarctic, where continuous weather patterns and trends are the focus. 

PopSci writes:  Last Tuesday, the U.S. Antarctic Program, funded by the National Science Foundation, announced it would be sending the three U.S. Antarctic stations into “caretaker” mode, suspending all research activities not essential to human safety and the preservation of property. By Thursday, all of the scientists at Palmer will be sent home, leaving the station with a skeleton crew of about a dozen contractors; if the shutdown continues, the disruption to the Antarctic summer research season could be catastrophic.

“We have 22 years of data showing the summer snapshot in this area that’s changing really rapidly,” says Oscar Schofield, an oceanographer at Rutgers University. “If we go to disaster scenario, where the whole season is lost, we’ll have a gap. The whole point of a time series is to have continuous data so that you can talk about the trends in the system. So that would be tragic.” Hugh Ducklow directs the long-term ecological research project at Palmer: “Once it’s gone, it’s never coming back—we lose this data forever,” he says. “Because of the nature of our work, where we’re analyzing long time series of data, as soon as you start getting breaks, some of the analyses become impossible. A lot of the scientific value of the past 22 years can be damaged by a single missed year.”

The researchers at Palmer have been pursuing this research since 1990, and have documented important trends for the study of climate change every year (including making their way through the last government shutdown of 1995). 

Bogo continues:

Doing scientific research in Antarctica is incredibly important, and expensive. According to a March 2012 article in the NSF-funded Antarctic Sun (whose staff also appears to be furloughed), it costs about $85 million to operate the three U.S. Antarctic research stations. McMurdo and South Pole stations are accessible via air. Palmer sits on an island along the outstretched finger of the West Antarctica Peninsula and is supplied only by ship from Punta Arenas, Chile. When I visited the station, for a journalism fellowship in 2010, I was told a box of pencils for arrival on May 6th would have to be ordered by the 23rd of December because supplies, including scientific equipment, take a long, involved route from a port in Long Beach, California, south to the port in Punta Arenas, where they’re loaded onto the Gould. Expediting shipments to Punta Arenas by air was slightly faster, but at the time cost nearly $5 per pound.

Check out the full article here

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