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Archives for astrophysics

The Strongest Bear

Tardigrades are virtually microscopic critters that are extremophiles in the most, well, extreme sense. They often go by the name “water bears” (or sometimes “moss piglets”) because, while they are segmented and have eight legs, when magnified, they look like adorable, chubby little gummy bears — scientifically speaking.

So You Want To Kill A Tardigrade? [Comic]
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But the extreme nature of these organisms isn’t in their cuteness, it’s in their virtual indestructibility. That’s right, what you may have heard before is true. Tardigrades can survive just about anything — even the vacuum of space (for a limited period of time, of course).

Water bears prefer to live in moist environments like within the sediment at the bottom of lakes. But these hearty animals can survive unbelievable temperatures, radiation, extreme pressure, and so much more. This is why, according to a recent study published in Nature by researchers from the Oxford and Harvard, tardigrades might be the last species (of anything on Earth) still alive when the Sun dies.

The Last Species

David Sloan was part of the team that explored whether or not tardigrades could survive asteroid impact, gamma ray bursts, and supernovae (the explosion marking the death of a star). “To our surprise we found that although nearby supernovae or large asteroid impacts would be catastrophic for people, tardigrades could be unaffected,” Sloan said in an interview for a Harvard press release. “Therefore it seems that life, once it gets going, is hard to wipe out entirely.”

So, if these researchers are right, why does it matter? Well, this research helps to advance more than just the understanding of tardigrade biology. With the discovery of Trappist-1, recent obstacles found in the search for life on Mars, and the potential to find life on Titan, the study of extremophiles is essential to the quest to find life outside of Earth.

The better that we understand the limits and boundaries of life as we know it to exist on Earth, the better equipped we will be to search for life in the cosmos.

The post Water Bears Could One Day Outlive Everything Except the Sun Itself appeared first on Futurism.

The foundations of organic chemistry are too abundant, which Neil deGrasse Tyson believes could mean we aren’t the only forms of life in the universe.

The post Neil deGrasse Tyson: “We’re Not Likely Alone in the Universe” appeared first on Futurism.

Noted_Scientists_Who_Passed_Away_in_2016_Rev4

The post Noted Scientists Who Passed Away in 2016 appeared first on Futurism.

Multiversal

It’s a frequent staple of science fiction—the notion that there’s another universe out there, coextensive with yet sejunct from our own; a distinct, alternate reality populated by our doppelgängers, who made all the right choices and are happily living the life we always dreamed for ourselves.

Or perhaps there’s a “multiverse”—a multitude of divergent spacetime continua, offspring of that same primordial Big Bang that gave rise to our own, each exhibiting some uniquely different physical, mathematical, or chemical property that might preclude the evolution of life as we know it.

These are familiar concepts—but what is a parallel universe, really? There are nearly as many definitions as there are potential universes in a multiverse, but let’s take a look at just a few of the myriad possibilities of cosmological plurality.

Many Worlds

Imagine an infinite universe. That’s not exactly in keeping with the best theoretical models propounded by cosmologists, which indicate we exist within an expanding but definitely finite universe that arose some 14 billion years ago.

But if the universe were infinite, then it’s mathematically conceivable that somewhere out there amidst all that immeasurable vastness is a lonely pocket of spacetime where matter and energy have assumed identical, or nearly identical, configurations to our own little corner of cosmic creation.

This form of “parallel universe” would be safely cushioned from us by the universal speed limit set by the velocity of light; but if you really wanted to get there, it’s been calculated that an identical cosmological volume would only be 1010^115 meters away, and your identical copy just 1010^29 meters away.

And that’s hardly the strangest form of parallel universe. Some cosmologists envision the early inflationary epoch spawning a multitude of “bubble universes”—in other words, the universe expanded at such a breakneck speed that pocket spacetimes pinched off and became contiguous but separate universes.

“Every experiment that brings better credence to inflationary theory brings us much closer to hints that the multiverse is real,” says Andrei Linde, a theoretical physicist at Standford University.

And there are, of course, many other scenarios that admit of cosmological parallelism. If certain superstring cosmologies are correct, our universe is a 3-dimensional “brane,” one of many, floating like drifting plankton within a hyperdimensional “bulk.” Or, according to the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics, in which alternate universes are continually generated by every particle in the universe exploring every possible timeline, we’re living in a sea of infinite potential subject to our every whim.

The cyclic, oscillating ekpyrotic model of the universe.
The cyclic, oscillating ekpyrotic model of the universe.

Voyage to Another Universe

So even if there are multiple universes floating around out there somewhere, what are the odds of us ever being able to reach and explore one? Probably less than zero. We’ve already discussed above the physical impossibility of traveling fast enough to reach the disparate pockets of statistical repetition in an infinite universe; the odds hardly improve when it comes to universes even further removed from us.

And if the brane-theories are remotely correct, it would require liberating oneself completely from the tridimensional constraints of our local brane and “casting off” into the hyperdimensional spaces beyond, hoping somehow to locate and enter another brane. Or, if the “ekpyrotic” scenario is correct, you could conceivably wait until two branes collide, and make the transition at that catastrophic and highly uncertain point in time. This all assuming one is in possession of near-godlike powers of control over matter and energy, and is invulnerable to cosmos-creating energies.

Bottom line: parallel universes or no, we’ve got plenty to keep us occupied within the humble ambit of our own restricted and provincial little spacetime configuration, so perhaps it’s time we adjust our expansive imaginations to just accept the Lilliputian dimensions of our local spacetime.

The post Worlds Without End: The Many Kinds of Parallel Universes appeared first on Futurism.

How Mankind Viewed the Universe from Ancient to Modern Times

The post The Evolution of Human Understanding of the Universe [INFOGRAPHIC] appeared first on Futurism.