Posts Tagged ‘Paul Ratner’

by Paul Ratner

An international study claims to have found first observed evidence that our universe is a hologram.

What is the holographic universe idea? It’s not exactly that we are living in some kind of Star Trekky computer simulation. Rather the idea, first proposed in the 1990s by Leonard Susskind and Gerard ‘t Hooft, says that all the information in our 3-dimensional reality may actually be included in the 2-dimensional surface of its boundaries. It’s like watching a 3D show on a 2D television.

“Imagine that everything you see, feel and hear in three dimensions (and your perception of time) in fact emanates from a flat two-dimensional field. The idea is similar to that of ordinary holograms where a three-dimensional image is encoded in a two-dimensional surface, such as in the hologram on a credit card. However, this time, the entire universe is encoded,“ explained the study’s co-author Professor Kostas Skenderis of Mathematical Sciences at the University of Southampton.

The new study involved a team of theoretical physicists and astrophysicists from the U.K., Canada and Italy who studied the cosmic microwave background and discovered enough irregularities there that pointed to the holographic theory as a legitimate rival to the theory of cosmic inflation, the way these anomalies are usually explained.

The new analysis by the scientists was made possible by the advancement of telescope and sensing tech that can look for information in the “white noise” or microwaves that remain from the early universe right after the Big Bang.

By studying and mapping data from the Planck space telescope, the team found that the observational data they found was largely predictable by the math of holographic theory.

“Holography is a huge leap forward in the way we think about the structure and creation of the universe. Einstein’s theory of general relativity explains almost everything large scale in the universe very well, but starts to unravel when examining its origins and mechanisms at quantum level. Scientists have been working for decades to combine Einstein’s theory of gravity and quantum theory. Some believe the concept of a holographic universe has the potential to reconcile the two. I hope our research takes us another step towards this,” added Professor Skenderis.


A sketch of the timeline of the holographic Universe where time runs from left to right. The holographic phase (far left) is where the image is blurry because space and time haven’t been defined yet. After this phase comes to a close, the Universe goes into a geometric phase, which can be described by Einstein’s equations. Credit: Paul McFadden

The implications of this study could lead the scientists to improved understanding of how time and space were created.

“When we go into this concept of holography, it’s a new way of thinking about things. Even the scientists who worked on this for the past 20 years don’t have the right tools or the right language to describe what’s going on,” said Skenderis. “It’s a new paradigm for a physical reality.”

The study’s lead author, Niayesh Afshordi of the Perimeter Institute and the University of Waterlo, expressed a similarly positive sentiment about their finding:

“I would argue this is the simplest theory of the early universe. And so far, this is as simple as it gets. And it could help explain everything we see,” Afshordi said.

You can read the paper by the researchers, from the University of Southampton (UK), University of Waterloo (Canada), Perimeter Institute (Canada), INFN, Lecce (Italy) and the University of Salento (Italy) here in the journal Physical Review Letters: http://journals.aps.org/prl/abstract/10.1103/PhysRevLett.118.041301

http://bigthink.com/paul-ratner/scientists-find-first-observed-evidence-that-our-universe-may-be-a-hologram

by Paul Ratner

If you had enough of the often-depressing world events and the seemingly unresolvable conflicts they engender, you might want to head for space and join the first-ever “nation state in space” that’s been announced by a team of scientists and legal experts. It’s called Asgardia and anyone can become its citizen.

As the site for the project explains (http://asgardia.space/concept), Asgardia is a name that comes from Norse mythology, where Asgard was the name of a city in the sky. In the Marvel universe, Asgardia was built was Tony Stark and ruled by the All-Mother (since Odin was in exile).

Asgardia is the brain-child of the accomplished Russian scientist and businessman Igor Ashurbeyli, who describes the motivation behind this endeavor as an attempt to create a nation founded on “Peace in Space, and the prevention of Earth’s conflicts being transferred into space.” The idea is to create a “mirror of humanity in space” in low-Earth orbit that would be devoid of Earthly divisions based on borders and religions. As Ashurbeyli says: “In Asgardia we are all just Earthlings!”

Besides avoiding Earth-linked divisions, another key goal for the nation would be to protect Earth from space threats, like comets, asteroids, debris, cosmic radiation and infection by extraterrestrial microorganisms.

To make this space nation a reality, Ashurbeyli wants it to achieve recognition from the United Nations, aiming to have a million people sign up to become the new country’s citizens via their website. The initial citizens are likely to be those who work in the space industry already, but anyone can join. The initial goal for the founders was to get 100,000 citizens to sign up, but the number of interested people hit 300K in less than a week and is going up rapidly.

The next step for Asgardia – launching its first satellite in 2017. This will become its first outpost in space, while its citizens will still be Earth-bound. A space station would eventually follow.

As Igor Ashurbeyli explained to the Guardian:

“Physically the citizens of that nation state will be on Earth; they will be living in different countries on Earth, so they will be a citizen of their own country and at the same time they will be citizens of Asgardia.”

The new country will be democratic but not ruled by Earthly laws or the existing space laws. Its founders envision the need for a new “‘Universal space law’ and ‘astropolitics’.

“The existing state agencies represent interests of their own countries and there are not so many countries in the world that have those space agencies,” elaborated Ashurbeyli. “The ultimate aim is to create a legal platform to ensure protection of planet Earth and to provide access to space technologies for those who do not have that access at the moment.”

Whether this effort succeeds, especially in light of the existing space treaty, is of course open to debate, while legal minds are not dismissing it outright.

The Asgardia team’s legal expert Ram Jakhu, the director of McGill University’s Institute of Air and Space Law in Montreal, told Space.com their plan is for Asgardia to have the minimum number of citizens, a government, and an inhabited spacecraft that would be its territory. This would hit 3 of the 4 criteria by the U.N. to become a nation state. The last hurdle is recognition by other U.N. members.

To learn more about Asgardia, to sign up as one of its first citizens, or to come up with the new space nation’s flag and anthem, head here: http://asgardia.space/

http://bigthink.com/paul-ratner/scientists-create-asgardia-the-first-ever-nation-in-space-and-you-can-join?utm_source=Big+Think+Weekly+Newsletter+Subscribers&utm_campaign=4767e83d52-Newsletter_10192016&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_6d098f42ff-4767e83d52-41106061

by Paul Ratner

Time crystals are hypothetical structures proposed by Nobel-Prize winning theoretical physicist Frank Wilczek in 2012. What’s special about them is that they would move without using energy, breaking a fundamental physics law of time-translation symmetry. Such crystals would move while remaining in their ground states, when they are at their lowest energy.

They’ve been deemed “impossible” by most physicists and yet, at the end of August, experimental physicists from University of California, Santa Barbara and Microsoft’s research lab station Q published a notable paper on how time crystals may be feasible and their plan for creating them. What’s also remarkable, if time crystals were actually created, they would re-define the nature of time itself, potentially reconciling the rather weird field of quantum mechanics with the theory of relativity.

Now comes news that scientists from the University of Maryland tried an experiment suggested by Frank Wilczek and actually made a time crystal that works. They created a ring-shaped quantum system of a group of ytterbium ions, cooled off to their ground state. In theory, this system should not be moving at all. But if it was to periodically rotate, that would prove the existence of symmetry-breaking time crystals.

The research scientists used a laser to change the spin of the ions to put them into perpetual oscillation. As reported by MIT Tech Review, they discovered that over time the oscillations eventually happened at twice the original rate. Since no energy was added to the system, the only explanation was that they created a time crystal.

As their paper undergoes the peer-review process, the physicists look for others to repeat their experiment. If their discovery is confirmed, the repercussions of this groundbreaking development are only beginning to be understood. One potential application suggested by the scientists may be in quantum computing, where time crystals may be utilized for quantum memory.

You can read the new paper “Observation of a Discrete Time Crystal” here: https://arxiv.org/abs/1609.08684


A scan of the man missing 90% of his brain.

by Paul Ratner

What we think we know about our brains is nothing compared to what we don’t know. This fact is brought into focus by the medical mystery of a 44-year-old French father of two who found out one day that he had most of his brain missing. Instead his skull is mostly full of liquid, with almost no brain tissue left. He has a life-long condition known as hydrocephalus, commonly called “water on the brain” or “water head”. It happens when too much cerebrospinal fluid puts pressure on the brain and the brain’s cavities abnormally increase.

As Axel Cleeremans, a cognitive psychologist at the Université Libre in Brussels, who has lectured about this case, told CBC:

“He was living a normal life. He has a family. He works. His IQ was tested at the time of his complaint. This came out to be 84, which is slightly below the normal range … So, this person is not bright — but perfectly, socially apt”.

The complaint Cleeremans refers to is the original reason the man sought help – he had leg pain. Imagine that – you go to your doctor with a leg cramp and get told that you’re living without most of your brain.

The man continues to live a normal life, being a family man with a wife and kids, while working as a civil servant. All this while having 3 of his main brain cavities filled with only fluid and his brainstem and cerebellum stuck into a small space that they share with a cyst.

What can we learn from this rare case? As Cleeremans points out:

“One of the lessons is that plasticity is probably more pervasive than we thought it was… It is truly incredible that the brain can continue to function, more or less, within the normal range — with probably many fewer neurons than in a typical brain. Second lesson perhaps, if you’re interested in consciousness — that is the manner in which the biological activity of the brain produces awareness… One idea that I’m defending is the idea that awareness depends on the brain’s ability to learn.”

The French man’s story really challenges the idea that consciousness arises in one part of the brain only. Current theories hold that the part of the brain called the thalamus is responsible for our self-awareness. A man living with most of his brain missing does not fit neatly into such hypotheses.

http://bigthink.com/paul-ratner/the-medical-mystery-of-a-man-living-with-90-of-his-brain-missing?utm_source=Big+Think+Weekly+Newsletter+Subscribers&utm_campaign=709f2481ff-Newsletter_072016&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_6d098f42ff-709f2481ff-41106061