26 January, 2012 – This Week in Science


Jumping Neutrons, Trojan Tactics, Avian Illusions, Splitting Bonobos, Atomic X-ray Lasers, Lingering Lineages, Money For Values, Group Think, And Much More…

Disclaimer, Disclaimer, Disclaimer!!!
A hundred years ago we thought the universe was a really big place.
But we were wrong.
As it turns out, what we thought was the universe was but a single galaxy called the Milky Way.
Since then we’ve discovered billions upon billions of galaxies
And now we know with certainty that the universe is really, really, really, a whole lot bigger than anything we could have previously conceived of and even now that we know the scope of the scale of the thing… it still boggles our ability to comprehend.
Seventy sextillion stars in the known universe at present, and by some estimates even this number falls far short of the full accounting…
The basis of human comprehension in earth bound terms, is hard wired to conceive of scale in terms of comparisons… a dolphin is big when compared to a mouse, a planet is big when compared to a computer, our solar system is quite massive when compared to a grain of sand…
And 70 sextillion solar systems in the known universe makes our solar system but one grain of sand compared to all the grains of sand from all the beaches on planet earth…
Or ten trillion stars for every human being alive today. 700 billion stars for every human that has ever lived in the history of the planet.
And while the day to day push and pull of our earthly days plays out under but one sun, we can see far beyond our own terms of existence now… and in doing so have unlocked a point of perspective in our thinking is truly beyond compare…
The star stuff that we are made of is everywhere, and everywhere is big, even when it’s all in your head here on…This week in science… coming up next…

Do neutrons trip the light fantastic?
Neutrons might jump between universes. There are ways that we could actually test whether these neutrons take alternate universe vacations, which would potentially indicate existence of other universes. Far out, dude…

Trojan viruses
Trojan horse tactics have been discovered in viruses against bacteria. Viruses trick bacteria with what looks like a gift, but is actually a copy of their own genes to duplicate. They are then destroyed after the job is done. Harsh, but effective – not unusual for a virus.

Dating trickery
Great bower birds from Australia have a very specific way of organizing their trinkets within the avenue of their bower. It appears that they orient the stones from smallest to largest, to create an optical illusion. There is an almost perfect correlation between mating success and the smoothness of the gradient of the orientation of the stones. Are the girls getting confused, impressed, or hypnotized by this parlor trick?

Bonobo tame thyself
What led to the split between bonobos and their close cousin (and ours), chimpanzees? The differences between the two species are paralleled by the differences between domestic and wild animals. A new theory states that an environmental divide could have caused a large variance in environmental pressures which in turn resulted in different social behaviors that affected mating choices.

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Are you reading along with the TWIS Bookclub? This month, check out ‘Fool Me Twice’ by Shawn Lawrence Otto.

I’ve got… an atomic x-ray gun
In 1967, a prediction was made that an atomic x-ray gun could be fabricated. After a long wait, we have one. Each powerful x-ray pulse is one billion times brighter than any before.

Through analysing mitochondrial DNA, we can look closer at who exactly is related to whom. Native Americans appear to share ancestry from Siberia, Mongolia, and Southern Asia.

Sacred values
How much do you think your sense of right and wrong is worth? There is a distinct cognitive process for problem solving within the brain that helps us to decide when to violate our own personal morals. In fact, we use cost-benefit analysis. However, we all have our own “high value” or “sacred” beliefs that cost more to betray.

Also, small group dynamics can reduce your IQ!
When we work together, do we get less intelligent?

Can Black holes boost super-civilizations

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