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Are Some Things About the Universe Fundamentally Unknowable? ( 225

StartsWithABang writes: As we peel back the layers of information deeper and deeper into the Universe's history, we uncover progressively more knowledge about how everything we know today came to be. The discovery of distant galaxies and their redshifts led to expanding Universe, which led to the Big Bang and the discovery of very early phases like the cosmic microwave background and big bang nucleosynthesis. But before that, there was a period of cosmic inflation that left its mark on the Universe. What came before inflation, then? Did it always exist? Did it have a beginning? Or did it mark the rebirth of a cosmic cycle? Maddeningly, this information may forever be inaccessible to us, as the nature of inflation wipes all this information clean from our visible Universe.

Quantum Theory Experiment Said to Prove "Spooky" Interactions ( 257

universe520 writes: Albert Einstein was troubled by how two particles can communicate with each other even if they are on opposite sides of the galaxy. Today researchers in the Netherlands have closed the final two loopholes in how quantum entanglement works. The Times reports: "The new experiment, conducted by a group led by Ronald Hanson, a physicist at the Dutch university’s Kavli Institute of Nanoscience, and joined by scientists from Spain and England, is the strongest evidence yet to support the most fundamental claims of the theory of quantum mechanics about the existence of an odd world formed by a fabric of subatomic particles, where matter does not take form until it is observed and time runs backward as well as forward."

Why the Black Hole Information Paradox Is Such a Problem 172

New submitter TheAlexKnapp writes: Here's a really nice explanation of the Black Hole Information Paradox for those who are unfamiliar with it. The article lays out the basic gist — that right now if you take two black holes, one made from the collapse of one type of star, and the second from the collapse of a different type, you can't tell which is which. Ethan Siegel points out that Hawking's big announcement was really just a small step heading towards a possible solution, and highlights that the paradox highlights the incompleteness of our understanding of some types of physics.

Researchers Working On Crystallizing Light 129

An anonymous reader writes Researchers at Princeton University have begun crystallizing light as part of an effort to answer fundamental questions about the physics of matter. The researchers are not shining light through crystal – they are transforming light into crystal. As part of an effort to develop exotic materials such as room-temperature superconductors, the researchers have locked together photons, the basic element of light, so that they become fixed in place. "It's something that we have never seen before," said Andrew Houck, one of the researchers. "This is a new behavior for light."

Quantum Gas Goes Below Absolute Zero 264

First time accepted submitter mromanuk writes in with a story about scientists at Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich who have created an atomic gas that goes below absolute zero. "It may sound less likely than hell freezing over, but physicists have created an atomic gas with a sub-absolute-zero temperature for the first time. Their technique opens the door to generating negative-Kelvin materials and new quantum devices, and it could even help to solve a cosmological mystery."

EU Working On Most Powerful Laser Ever Built 83

kkleiner writes "On the coattails of CERN's success with the Large Hadron Collider, Europeans and the world at large have another grand science project to be excited about: the Extreme Light Infrastructure project to build the most powerful laser ever constructed. These lasers will be intense enough to perform electron dynamics experiments at very short time scales or venture into relativistic optics, opening up an entirely new field of physics for study. Additionally, the lasers could be combined to generate a super laser that would shoot into space, similar to the combined laser effect of the Death Star in the Star Wars trilogy, though the goal is to study particles in space, not annihilate planets."

Camera Technique Captures New View of Space & Time 75

kkleiner writes "What if you could compress a video clip into a single image? That's what Jay Mark Johnson, an artist and visual effects director, has accomplished through the use of a special camera technique. He calls the images 'photographic timelines,' and his collected works offer quite a shift to conventional perception. Slices of photos are strung together in progression to make a single composite image of a sliver of space spread over an extended period of time."

The CIA and Jeff Bezos Bet $30 Million On Quantum Computing Company 73

An anonymous reader writes "The CIA's investment fund, In-Q-Tel, and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos have invested $30 million in a Canadian company that claims to build quantum computers, reports Technology Review in a detailed story on why that startup, D-Wave, appears to be attracting serious interest after years of skepticism from experts. A spokesman for In-Q-Tel says that intelligence agencies 'have many complex problems that tax classical computing architecture,' a feeling apparently strong enough to justify a bet on a radically different, and largely unproven, approach to computing."

New Study Shows Universe Still Expanding On Schedule 173

The Bad Astronomer writes "A century ago, astronomers (including Edwin Hubble) discovered the Universe was expanding. Using the same methods — but this time with observations from an orbiting infrared space telescope — a new study confirms this expansion, and nails the rate with higher precision than done before. If you're curious, the expansion rate found was 74.3 +/- 2.1 kilometers per second per megaparsec — almost precisely in line with previous measurements."

Quantum Measurements Leave Schrödinger's Cat Alive 210

First time accepted submitter Walking The Walk writes "Your co-workers who keep using Schrödinger's cat metaphor may need to find a new one. New Scientist reports that 'by making constant but weak measurements of a quantum system, physicists have managed to probe a delicate quantum state without destroying it – the equivalent of taking a peek at Schrodinger's metaphorical cat without killing it. The result should make it easier to handle systems such as quantum computers that exploit the exotic properties of the quantum world.'"

Australian Study Backs Major Assumption of Cosmology 94

cylonlover writes "In mankind's attempts to gain some understanding of this marvelous place in which we live, we have slowly come to accept some principles to help guide our search. One such principle is that the Universe, on a large enough scale, is homogeneous, meaning that one part looks pretty much like another. Recent studies by a group of Australian researchers have established that, on sizes greater than about 250 million light years (Mly), the Universe is indeed statistically homogeneous, thereby reinforcing this cosmological principle."

Book Review: Why Does the World Exist? 304

eldavojohn writes "For quite some time humans have struggled to answer the question why there is anything rather than nothing. Jim Holt's Why Does the World Exist? tackles such questions in the form of a journey. After laying a brief groundwork, Holt travels from leading prominent philosopher to curmudgeonly physicist to reserved theologian, visiting each and relaying the juiciest parts of his transcripts to the reader. In doing so, this book takes on an interesting form with a meaty dense center to each chapter (the actual dialogues) surrounded by the light and fluffy bread of Holt's expert writing about the settings, weather and food of his travels. While this consequently lacks the characteristics of a heady hard hitting original philosophical work, these sandwiches should prove quite palatable for most readers. Why Does the World Exist? criss-crosses the etymological, epistemological, theological and philosophical aspects of its title while remaining a fairly easy read." Keep reading for the rest of eldavojohn's review.
The Almighty Buck

US Particle Colliders In Need of Funding 133

DevotedSkeptic writes "When the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in Switzerland seized the world record for the highest-energy collisions in 2010, it also sealed the fate of the leading US particle collider. The Tevatron, at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia, Illinois, was closed the following year to save money. Now, physicists at another US physics facility, the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC) at Brookhaven National Laboratory in Upton, New York, are trying to avoid a similar end. On 13 August, researchers at the ALICE heavy-ion experiment at the LHC at CERN, Europe's particle-physics lab near Geneva, announced that they had created the hottest-ever man-made plasma of quarks and gluons. This eclipsed the record temperature achieved at RHIC two years earlier by 38%, and raised uncomfortable questions about RHIC's future. Tribble still hopes to avoid having to close any of the three facilities. In 2005, he notes, a similar crisis was averted after an advisory committee laid out the dire consequences of flat funding for the future of US nuclear science. In the end, Congress came through with the budgetary increases required. 'What we want to do here is to spell out what will be lost under different budgets,' he says. His committee is planning to hold a final meeting in November, in time to influence the budget requests from US funding agencies for the next fiscal year."

New Nanodevice Creates a Near Perfect Electron Stream 98

SchrodingerZ writes "Scientists from the National Physics Laboratory of the United Kingdom have teamed up with the University of Cambridge to create a new electron pump that creates a single electron stream. "The device drives electrical current by manipulating individual electrons, one-by-one at very high speed." The pump takes single electrons, and pushes it over a barrier with an indent for the electron to fall into, and is then sent to the opposite side of the barrier with astounding precision. "By employing this technique, the team were able to pump almost a billion electrons per second, 300 times faster than the previous record for an accurate electron pump set at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in the USA in 1996." Although the current was very small (150 picoamperes), this event could cause a shift from the ampere measure of current to a smaller, more precise unit of measurement for electrical current."

Texas Scientists Regret Loss of Higgs Boson Quest 652

MarkWhittington writes "The probable discovery of the Higgs Boson particle is greeted as bittersweet news in Texas. Had the Superconducting Super Collider, at one time under construction in Waxahachie, Texas, not been cancelled by Congress in 1993 the Higgs Boson might have been confirmed a decade ago, some believe, and in America."

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