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  • richardmitnick 2:13 pm on April 25, 2015 Permalink | Reply
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    From NOVA: “Invisible Universe Revealed”- The Story of the Hubble Space Telescope 



    Apr 25, 2015

    25 years ago, NASA launched one of the most ambitious experiments in the history of astronomy: the Hubble Space Telescope. In honor of Hubble’s landmark anniversary, this show tells the remarkable story of the telescope that forever changed our understanding of the cosmos and our place in it. But amazingly, when the telescope first sent images back to earth, it seemed that the entire project was a massive failure; a one-millimeter engineering blunder had turned the billion-dollar telescope into an object of ridicule. It fell to five heroic astronauts in a daring mission to return Hubble to the cutting edge of science. Hear from the scientists and engineers on the front line who tell the amazing Hubble story as never before. This single telescope has helped astronomers pinpoint the age of the universe, revealed the birthplace of stars and planets, advanced our understanding of dark energy and cosmic expansion, and uncovered black holes lurking at the heart of galaxies. For more than a generation, Hubble’s stunning images have brought the beauty of the heavens to millions, revealing a cosmos richer and more wondrous than we ever imagined. Enjoy the story of this magnificent machine and its astonishing discoveries.

    See the full article here.

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    NOVA is the highest rated science series on television and the most watched documentary series on public television. It is also one of television’s most acclaimed series, having won every major television award, most of them many times over.

  • richardmitnick 3:38 pm on April 24, 2015 Permalink | Reply
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    From Hubble: The 25th Anniversary Image – Hubblecast 82 

    NASA Hubble Telescope


    This Hubblecast explores the new image of star cluster Westerlund 2, taken by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space telescope and released to celebrate its 25th year in orbit.

    See the full article here.

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    The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between NASA and the European Space Agency. NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center manages the telescope. The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI), is a free-standing science center, located on the campus of The Johns Hopkins University and operated by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA) for NASA, conducts Hubble science operations.

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  • richardmitnick 3:24 pm on April 24, 2015 Permalink | Reply
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    From TRIUMF: “Baartman scores touchdown in magnet design” 


    Thursday, 23. April 2015
    Kyla Shauer and Jacqueline Wightman, Communications Assistants

    For years labs all over the world have been using a quadrupole magnet design that works perfectly on paper – that is, in two dimensional space – but less than perfectly in three dimensional reality. These quadrupoles were designed in the 1970s to be used in particle accelerators, and the design has not changed much since. Rick Baartman, head of the Beam Physics group at TRIUMF, re-evaluated the problem and came up with a new and improved quadrupole design.

    Quadrupoles are four-poled magnets with alternating north and south poles. They are used to focus a beam of charged particles and guide it down the beam line. To create a given force on the charged particle beam, quadrupoles can be long and weak or short and strong. It is well known in the particle accelerator community that the shorter your quadrupole magnet, the more efficiently and accurately it works. This is because quadrupoles are made of steel, so they are subject to a lagging effect called “hysteresis.” This effect is more pronounced with weaker magnets, so the quadrupoles should be as short as possible.

    Previous to Rick’s breakthrough, TRIUMF, like many labs all over the world, used a design that was basically derived from the 2-dimensional one, but truncated in the third dimension (See Fig. 2). Engineers knew the ends should be rounded to minimize the non-intended, non-linear field, but the exact optimal shape was unknown.

    Baartman found a key formula in a 1972 Russian paper by Derevjankin [1]. Using Mathematica™ software, he made calculations based on this formula, and found that for the shortest quadrupoles, the poles should ideally look like four American footballs connected end to end in a ring (see Figure 3). However, a “good enough” shape is spherical – just the middle part of the football (see Fig. 4). “I found the way to shape the ends so that you get minimal error from the non-intended field,” says Baartman. “It starts from a complicated idea, but the eventual product is very simple.”

    Baartman’s derivation works well for both long and short quadrupoles; in the long case, the poles are not spherical, but are curved in the beam direction rather than straight.

    Baartman sent his calculations to Buckley Systems Ltd, a manufacturer of precision electromagnets, who perfected his solution using more detailed magnetic field calculations. Buckley manufactured 70 magnets for TRIUMF using Baartman’s new design, and 40 have already been installed in the ARIEL e-linac.

    Triumf ARIEL LINAC

    Congratulations Rick Baartman on this breakthrough achievement!






    Photos, from top to bottom: 1. Rick Baartman; 2. Example of non-ideal (truncated) magnet shape; 3. Optimal magnet shape; 4. Magnets with new design, built by Buckley; 5. New quadrupoles installed in the e-linac tunnel

    Baartman’s paper
    [1] G. Derevjankin, Zh. Tkh. Fiz. (USSR) 42, 1178 (1972)

    See the full article here.

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    Triumf Campus
    Triumf Campus
    World Class Science at Triumf Lab, British Columbia, Canada
    Canada’s national laboratory for particle and nuclear physics
    Member Universities:
    University of Alberta, University of British Columbia, Carleton University, University of Guelph, University of Manitoba, Université de Montréal, Simon Fraser University,
    Queen’s University, University of Toronto, University of Victoria, York University. Not too shabby, eh?

    Associate Members:
    University of Calgary, McMaster University, University of Northern British Columbia, University of Regina, Saint Mary’s University, University of Winnipeg, How bad is that !!

  • richardmitnick 2:42 pm on April 24, 2015 Permalink | Reply
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    From “Giant cosmic tsunami wakes up comatose galaxies” 


    April 24, 2015
    Dr Robert Massey

    A radio image highlighting the shock wave (seen here as the bright arc running from bottom left to top right) in the ‘Sausage’ merging cluster, made using the Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope [GMRT]. The shock wave was generated 1 billion years ago, when the two original clusters collided, and is moving at a very high speed of 9 million kilometres per hour. Credit: Andra Stroe

    Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope

    Galaxies are often found in clusters, with many ‘red and dead’ neighbours that stopped forming stars in the distant past. Now an international team of astronomers, led by Andra Stroe of Leiden Observatory and David Sobral of Leiden and the University of Lisbon, have discovered that these comatose galaxies can sometimes come back to life. If clusters of galaxies merge, a huge shock wave can drive the birth of a new generation of stars – the sleeping galaxies get a new lease of life. The scientists publish their work in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

    Galaxy clusters are like cities, where thousands of galaxies can be packed together, at least in comparison to the empty space around them. Over billions of years, they build up structure in the universe – merging with adjacent clusters, like growing cities absorb nearby towns. When this happens, there is a huge release of energy as the clusters collide. The resulting shock wave is like a tsunami, but until now there was no evidence that the galaxies themselves were affected very much.

    Stroe and Sobral observed the merging galaxy cluster CIZA J2242.8+5301, nicknamed the ‘Sausage’, located 2.3 billion light years away in the direction of the constellation of Lacerta, in the northern hemisphere of the sky. They used the Isaac Newton and William Herschel Telescopes on La Palma, and the Subaru, CFHT and Keck Telescopes on Hawaii, and found that far from ‘watching from the back’ the cluster galaxies were transformed by the shock wave, triggering a new wave of star formation.

    Isaac Newton 2.5m telescope
    Isaac Newton 2.5m telescope interior
    Isaac Newton 2.5 meter telescope

    ING William Herschel Telescope
    ING William Herschel Telescope Interior
    William Herschel Telescope

    NAOJ Subaru Telescope
    NAOJ Subaru Telescope interior
    Subaru Telescope

    Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope
    CFHT Interior

    Keck Observatory
    Keck Observatory Interior

    Stroe comments: “We assumed that the galaxies would be on the sidelines for this act, but it turns out they have a leading role. The comatose galaxies in the Sausage are coming back to life, with stars forming at a tremendous rate. When we first saw this in the data, we simply couldn’t believe what it was telling us.”

    The new work implies that the merger of galaxy clusters has a major impact on the formation of stars. “Much like a teaspoon stirring a mug of coffee, the shocks lead to turbulence in the galactic gas. These trigger an avalanche-like collapse, which eventually leads to the formation of very dense, cold gas clouds that are vital for the formation of new stars”, says Stroe

    A composite image of the ‘Sausage’ merging cluster CIZA J2242.8+5310, made using data from the Subaru and Canada France Hawaii Telescopes (CFHT). The white circles indicate galaxies outside of the cluster, while yellow circles are cluster galaxies, where accelerated star formation is taking place. Green marks regions of radio emission, tracing out shock waves and purple marks the hot gas between the galaxies that emits X-rays. The cluster is one of the most massive in the Universe. Credit: Andra Stroe

    Sobral adds: “But star formation at this rate leads to a lot of massive, short-lived stars coming into being, which explode as supernovae a few million years later. The explosions drive huge amounts of gas out of the galaxies and with most of the rest consumed in star formation, the galaxies soon run out of fuel. If you wait long enough, the cluster mergers make the galaxies even more red and dead – they slip back into a coma and have little prospect of a second resurrection.”

    Every cluster of galaxies in the nearby Universe has experienced a series of mergers during its lifetime, so they should all have passed through a period of extremely vigorous production of stars. Given that the shocks will only however lead to a brief (in astronomical terms) increase in star formation, astronomers have to be very lucky to catch the cluster at a time in its evolution when the galaxies are still being `lit up’ by the shock.

    The next step is to see if the Sausage is unique and that these bursts of star formation need very particular conditions. By studying a much bigger sample of galaxies, the team hope to find out exactly how they happen.

    See the full article here.

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    About in 100 Words™ (formerly is a leading web-based science, research and technology news service which covers a full range of topics. These include physics, earth science, medicine, nanotechnology, electronics, space, biology, chemistry, computer sciences, engineering, mathematics and other sciences and technologies. Launched in 2004,’s readership has grown steadily to include 1.75 million scientists, researchers, and engineers every month. publishes approximately 100 quality articles every day, offering some of the most comprehensive coverage of sci-tech developments world-wide. Quancast 2009 includes in its list of the Global Top 2,000 Websites. community members enjoy access to many personalized features such as social networking, a personal home page set-up, RSS/XML feeds, article comments and ranking, the ability to save favorite articles, a daily newsletter, and other options.

  • richardmitnick 1:12 pm on April 24, 2015 Permalink | Reply
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    From New Scientist: “Falling meteor may have changed the course of Christianity” 


    New Scientist

    22 April 2015
    Jacob Aron

    The early evangelist Paul became a Christian because of a dazzling light on the road to Damascus, but one astronomer thinks it was an exploding meteor.

    NEARLY two thousand years ago, a man named Saul had an experience that changed his life, and possibly yours as well. According to Acts of the Apostles, the fifth book of the biblical New Testament, Saul was on the road to Damascus, Syria, when he saw a bright light in the sky, was blinded and heard the voice of Jesus. Changing his name to Paul, he became a major figure in the spread of Christianity.

    William Hartmann, co-founder of the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson, Arizona, has a different explanation for what happened to Paul. He says the biblical descriptions of Paul’s experience closely match accounts of the fireball meteor seen above Chelyabinsk, in 2013.

    Hartmann has detailed his argument in the journal Meteoritics & Planetary Science ( He analyses three accounts of Paul’s journey, thought to have taken place around AD 35. The first is a third-person description of the event, thought to be the work of one of Jesus’s disciples, Luke. The other two quote what Paul is said to have subsequently told others.

    “Everything they are describing in those three accounts in the book of Acts are exactly the sequence you see with a fireball,” Hartmann says. “If that first-century document had been anything other than part of the Bible, that would have been a straightforward story.”

    But the Bible is not just any ancient text. Paul’s Damascene conversion and subsequent missionary journeys around the Mediterranean helped build Christianity into the religion it is today. If his conversion was indeed as Hartmann explains it, then a random space rock has played a major role in determining the course of history (see “Christianity minus Paul” [below]).

    That’s not as strange as it sounds. A large asteroid impact helped kill off the dinosaurs, paving the way for mammals to dominate the Earth. So why couldn’t a meteor influence the evolution of our beliefs?

    “It’s well recorded that extraterrestrial impacts have helped to shape the evolution of life on this planet,” says Bill Cooke, head of NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office in Huntsville, Alabama. “If it was a Chelyabinsk fireball that was responsible for Paul’s conversion, then obviously that had a great impact on the growth of Christianity.”

    Hartmann’s argument is possible now because of the quality of observations of the Chelyabinsk incident. The 2013 meteor is the most well-documented example of larger impacts that occur perhaps only once in 100 years. Before 2013, the 1908 blast in TunguskaMovie Camera, also in Russia, was the best example, but it left just a scattering of seismic data, millions of flattened trees and some eyewitness accounts. With Chelyabinsk, there is a clear scientific argument to be made, says Hartmann. “We have observational data that match what we see in this first-century account.”

    Shaping history’s arc: the Chelyabinsk meteor (Image: RIA NovostiI/SPL)

    The most obvious similarity is the bright light in the sky, “brighter than the sun, shining round me”, according to Paul. That’s in line with video from Chelyabinsk showing a light, estimated to be around three times as bright as the sun, that created quickly moving shadows as it streaked across the sky.

    After witnessing the light, Paul and his companions fell to the ground. Hartmann says they may have been knocked over when the meteor exploded in the sky and generated a shock wave. At Chelyabinsk, the shock wave destroyed thousands of windows and knocked people off their feet.

    Paul then heard the voice of Jesus asking why Paul, an anti-Christian zealot to begin with, was persecuting him. The three biblical accounts differ over whether his companions also heard this voice, or a meaningless noise. Chelyabinsk produced a thunderous, explosive sound.

    Paul was also blinded, with one account blaming the brightness of the light. A few days later, “something like scales fell from his eye and he regained his sight”. Our common idiom for suddenly understanding something stems from this description, but Hartmann says the phrase can be read literally. He suggests that Paul was suffering from photokeratitis, a temporary blindness caused by intense ultraviolet radiation.

    “It’s basically a bit of sunburn on the cornea of the eye. Once that begins to heal, it flakes off,” says Hartmann. “This can be a perfectly literal statement for someone in the first century who doesn’t really understand what’s happening.” The UV radiation at Chelyabinsk was strong enough to cause sunburn, skin peeling and temporary blindness.

    Raj Das-Bhaumik of Moorfields Eye Hospital in London says the condition is common among welders whose eyes are exposed to bright sparks, but the symptoms aren’t exactly as Hartmann is suggesting. “You wouldn’t expect bits of the eye to fall off; I’ve not come across that at all,” he says. It’s possible that the thin skin of the eyelids could burn and peel off, he says, but that is unlikely to happen in isolation. “If this were a meteorite, I’m sure you’d have other damage as well.”

    Mark Bailey of Armagh Observatory in the UK, who previously identified a Tunguska-like event in Brazil in the 1930s, says it’s worth analysing old texts for clues to ancient impacts – bearing in mind that accounts are shaped by what people knew at the time. “Sometimes that doesn’t make sense to us, but it does make sense if you can reinterpret it.” What does he think of Hartmann’s argument? “He does a very detailed analysis,” says Bailey.

    “I would label it as informed speculation – Bill Hartmann is an excellent author,” says Cooke. “But like so many other things in the ancient past there is no real concrete evidence, no smoking gun.” And with no other accounts from the time to draw on, there is little additional evidence to confirm or disprove the idea.

    A search for meteorites in and around Syria could prove fruitful – Chelyabinsk left small chunks all over the region – but even that would be inconclusive. “If a meteorite is discovered in modern Syria in the future, the first thing to test would be how long it’s been on the Earth and whether it could potentially be associated with such a recent fall,” says Bailey. But even with our best techniques, dating such a rock to the nearest hundred years would be difficult.

    Even so, Hartmann believes we need to think seriously about the implications of his idea. “My goal is not to discredit anything that anybody wants to believe in,” he says. “But if the spread of a major religion was motivated by misunderstanding a fireball, that’s something we human beings ought to understand about ourselves.”


    Christianity minus Paul

    IF A falling meteor did inspire Paul’s conversion to Christianity (see main story), that makes a random event hugely important in the history of humanity. What if Paul hadn’t seen the fireball?

    “Some scholars call Paul the second founder of Christianity,” says Justin Meggitt, a religious historian at the University of Cambridge. At the time, Christianity was a small offshoot of Judaism, but Paul helped preach a version of it that broke with Jewish law.

    Paul wasn’t the only first-century missionary, and without him Christianity would probably still have separated from Judaism and spread around the world, says Meggitt. But Paul’s teachings have endured through the ages, and their absence would be felt.

    “People’s interpretation of Paul is absolutely fundamental to some of the central figures of Christianity,” says Meggitt. For example, Martin Luther, who started the Protestant Reformation in 1517, was heavily inspired by Paul’s letters.

    Specific predictions about how Christianity and world events would have unfolded without Paul’s influence are hard to make, says Meggitt, but “Christianity probably would be very different without him”.

    See the full article here.

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  • richardmitnick 12:50 pm on April 24, 2015 Permalink | Reply
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    From NYT: “Cameras on Calbuco: In Chile, Volcano’s Eruption Caught in Extraordinary Time-Lapse Videos” 

    New York Times

    The New York Times

    April 22, 2015
    Andrew C. Revkin

    The ash plume from the first eruption in 42 years of Chile’s Calbuco volcano, recorded by NASA’s Terra satellite on April 23. Credit NASA

    NASA Terra satellite

    The endless, but spasmodic, dynamism of Earth’s crust produced extraordinary scenes in Chile, and across the Web, this week as the Calbuco volcano, quiescent for 42 years, powerfully erupted.

    Calbuco viewed from the north alongside Road 225 on the shores of Llanquihue Lake.

    Alex Vidal Brecas/European Pressphoto Agency

    This time-lapse video is the most remarkable imagery of the volcano that I’ve seen so far:

    Here’s another [update, April 23, 2 p.m.]:

    On his Eruptions blog for Wired, Erik Klemetti has an excellent overview of the eruption and the geologic context.

    Klemetti also recently posted a fascinating volcano voyeur’s trove of webcam links, writing:

    Never in the history of volcanology have so many volcanoes been monitored. We have the ability to sit and watch hundreds of volcanoes as they sleep, rumble or erupt — all from the comfort of our homes or offices.

    Of course, some communities near active volcanoes don’t have the luxury of having a distant, virtual view, as was the case last year in Rabaul, Papua New Guinea.

    A family in Rabaul, Papua New Guinea, copes with the ash falling from the nearby volcano. This is one of many photographs taken in the threatened town by the French photographer Eric Lafforgue.

    At times like this, it’s worth re-reading William J. Broad’s 2005 feature, filed shortly after the great Indian Ocean tsunami, on how the recycling of Earth’s tectonic plates can produce devastating upheavals but is also one reason the planet is habitable in the first place.

    See the full article here.

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  • richardmitnick 12:22 pm on April 24, 2015 Permalink | Reply
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    From “Silicon Valley marks 50 years of Moore’s Law” 


    April 24, 2015
    Pete Carey, San Jose Mercury News

    Plot of CPU transistor counts against dates of introduction; note the logarithmic vertical scale; the line corresponds to exponential growth with transistor count doubling every two years. Credit: Wikipedia

    Computers were the size of refrigerators when an engineer named Gordon Moore laid the foundations of Silicon Valley with a vision that became known as “Moore’s Law.”

    Moore, then the 36-year-old head of research at Fairchild Semiconductor, predicted in a trade magazine article published 50 years ago Sunday that computer chips would double in complexity every year, at little or no added cost, for the next 10 years. In 1975, based on industry developments, he updated the prediction to doubling every two years.

    And for the past five decades, chipmakers have proved him right – spawning scores of new companies and shaping Silicon Valley to this day.

    “If Silicon Valley has a heartbeat, it’s Moore’s Law. It drove the valley at what has been a historic speed, unmatched in history, and allowed it to lead the rest of the world,” said technology consultant Rob Enderle.

    Moore’s prediction quickly became a business imperative for chip companies. Those that ignored the timetable went out of business. Companies that followed it became rich and powerful, led by Intel, the company Moore co-founded.

    Thanks to Moore’s Law, people carry smartphones in their pocket or purse that are more powerful than the biggest computers made in 1965 – or 1995, for that matter. Without it, there would be no slender laptops, no computers powerful enough to chart a genome or design modern medicine’s lifesaving drugs. Streaming video, social media, search, the cloud-none of that would be possible on today’s scale.

    “It fueled the information age,” said Craig Hampel, chief scientist at Rambus, a Sunnyvale semiconductor company. “As you drive around Silicon Valley, 99 percent of the companies you see wouldn’t be here” without cheap computer processors due to Moore’s Law.

    Moore was asked in 1964 by Electronics magazine to write about the future of integrated circuits for the magazine’s April 1965 edition.

    The basic building blocks of the digital age, integrated circuits are chips of silicon that hold tiny switches called transistors. More transistors meant better performance and capabilities.

    Taking stock of how semiconductor manufacturing was shrinking transistors and regularly doubling the number that would fit on an integrated circuit, Moore got some graph paper and drew a line for the predicted annual growth in the number of transistors on a chip. It shot up like a missile, with a doubling of transistors every year for at least a decade.

    It seemed clear to him what was coming, if not to others.

    “Integrated circuits will lead to such wonders as home computers – or at least terminals connected to a central computer – automatic controls for automobiles, and personal portable communications equipment,” he wrote.

    California Institute of Technology professor Carver Mead coined the name Moore’s Law, and as companies competed to produce the most powerful chips, it became a law of survival-double the transistors every year or die.

    “In the beginning, it was just a way of chronicling the progress,” Moore, now 86, said in an interview conducted by Intel. “But gradually, it became something that the various industry participants recognized. … You had to be at least that fast or you were falling behind.”

    Moore’s Law also held prices down because advancing technology made it inexpensive to pack chips with increasing numbers of transistors. If transistors hadn’t gotten cheaper as they grew in number on a chip, integrated circuits would still be a niche product for the military and others able to afford a very high price. Intel’s first microprocessor, or computer on a chip, with 2,300 transistors, cost more than $500 in current dollars. Today, an Intel Core i5 microprocessor has more than a billion transistors-and costs $276.

    “That was my real objective-to communicate that we have a technology that’s going to make electronics cheap,” Moore said.

    The reach of Moore’s Law extends beyond personal tech gadgets.

    “The really cool thing about it is it’s not just iPhones,” said G. Dan Hutcheson of VLSI Research, a technology market research company based in Santa Clara. “Every drug developed in the past 20 years or so had to have the computing power to get down and model molecules. They never would have been able to without that power. DNA analysis, genomes, wouldn’t exist-you couldn’t do the genetic testing. It all boils down to transistors.”

    Hutcheson says what Moore predicted was much more than a self-fulfilling prophecy. He had foreseen that optics, chemistry and physics would be combined to shrink transistors over time without substantial added cost.

    As transistors become vanishingly small, it’s harder to keep Moore’s Law going.

    About a decade ago, the shrinking of the physical dimensions led to overheating and stopped major performance boosts for every new generation of chips. Companies responded by introducing so-called multicore computers, with several processors on a PC.

    “What’s starting to happen is people are looking to other innovations on silicon to give them performance” as a way to extend Moore’s Law, said Spike Narayan, director of science and technology at IBM‘s Almaden Research Center.

    Then, about a year and a half ago, “something even more drastic started happening,” Narayan said. The wires connecting transistors became so small that they became more resistant to electrical current. “Big problem,” he said.

    “That’s why you see all the materials research and innovation,” he said of new efforts to find alternative materials and structures for chips.

    Another issue confronting Moore’s Law is that the energy consumed by chips has begun to rise as transistors shrink. “Our biggest challenge” is energy efficiency, said Alan Gara, chief architect of the Aurora supercomputer Intel is building for Argonne National Laboratory near Chicago.

    Intel says it sees a path to continue the growth predicted by Moore’s Law through the next decade. The next generation of processors is in “full development mode,” said Mark Bohr, an Intel senior fellow who leads a group that decides how each generation of Intel chips will be made. Bohr is spending his time on the generation after that, in which transistors will shrink to 7 nanometers. The average human hair is 25,000 nanometers wide.

    At some point the doubling will slow down, says Chenming Hu, an electrical engineering and computer science professor at the University of California, Berkeley. Hu is a key figure in the development of a new transistor structure that’s helping keep Moore’s Law going.

    “It’s totally understandable that a company, in order to gain more market share and beat out all competitors, needs to double and triple if you can,” Hu said. “That’s why this scaling been going on at such a fast pace. But no exponential growth can go on forever.”

    Hu says what’s likely is that at some point the doubling every two years will slow to every four or five years.

    “And that’s probably a better thing than flash and fizzle out. You really want have the same growth at lower pace.

    See the full article here.

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    About in 100 Words™ (formerly is a leading web-based science, research and technology news service which covers a full range of topics. These include physics, earth science, medicine, nanotechnology, electronics, space, biology, chemistry, computer sciences, engineering, mathematics and other sciences and technologies. Launched in 2004,’s readership has grown steadily to include 1.75 million scientists, researchers, and engineers every month. publishes approximately 100 quality articles every day, offering some of the most comprehensive coverage of sci-tech developments world-wide. Quancast 2009 includes in its list of the Global Top 2,000 Websites. community members enjoy access to many personalized features such as social networking, a personal home page set-up, RSS/XML feeds, article comments and ranking, the ability to save favorite articles, a daily newsletter, and other options.

  • richardmitnick 9:30 am on April 24, 2015 Permalink | Reply
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    From AAAS: “Stripped and cast out, the universe’s loneliest galaxies” 



    23 April 2015
    Daniel Clery

    ESA/Hubble. Artwork by Andrey Zolotov

    Compact elliptical galaxies have always been a conundrum.

    They look like a galaxy stripped bare: as if a normal elliptical galaxy—the sort that is a featureless mass of stars without a spiral structure—has had all its outer stars removed, leaving just the dense core of stars at its center.

    These rare systems—only a few tens were known until recently—were thought to have had their outer coats of stars ripped away by the gravity of other, larger galaxies as they passed nearby, a theory supported by the fact that they were usually found in the centers of large clusters of galaxies. But in 2013, an isolated compact elliptical galaxy was found, far from any predator galaxies able to rob it of its coat.

    So how was it created? To find out, astronomers scoured publicly available astronomy databases. They found 195 compact ellipticals; most were in galaxy clusters, but 11 were free fliers, the team reports online today in Science.

    What’s more, these galaxies had properties just like the others, so they should have had a common origin. The researchers conclude that these outliers were originally in clusters like the others, but after having their outer stars stripped away while orbiting a larger galaxy (orbit shown in this simulation), they had a close encounter with a third galaxy (approaching from bottom) whose gravity flung them out of the cluster like a slingshot. Such a process is known to occur in planetary systems when close encounters can cast a planet into deep space, and within galaxies when a star can get ejected, but these lonely compact galaxies are the result of slingshots on a supergalactic scale.

    See the full article here.

    The American Association for the Advancement of Science is an international non-profit organization dedicated to advancing science for the benefit of all people.

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  • richardmitnick 3:54 pm on April 23, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , NASA WFIRST   

    From “NASA Mulls Spy Agency’s Telescopes for Dark-Energy Mission” 

    space-dot-com logo

    April 23, 2015
    Elizabeth Howell

    Artist’s rendition of the proposed WFIRST-AFTA space telescope, which would study dark energy, extrasolar planets and objects in the near infrared.
    Credit: NASA

    NASA is considering requesting money in next year’s budget to eventually start using two space telescopes it received from the United States’ spy satellite agency, a senior official told

    NASA received the telescopes from the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) in 2012. They have the same resolution as the agency’s famous Hubble Space Telescope, but a field of view 200 times wider.

    NASA Hubble Telescope
    NASA/ESA Hubble

    The telescopes are being eyed for use in a potential space mission called WFIRST-AFTA (the Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope-Astrophysics Focused Telescope Assets), which could launch as early as 2024 if it gets the final go-ahead. WFIRST-AFTA’s science goals include learning more about the mysterious dark energy that is accelerating the expansion of the universe.

    “We have a goal of using these telescopes as is, and we do not have to make modifications, but we do have to resurface the mirror, as it’s been sitting in storage,” Paul Hertz, NASA’s astrophysics chief, told “But we are going to use them as is and design the spacecraft and the instruments to take advantage of their properties.”

    Science case

    In mid-March, Hertz received a report from WFIRST-AFTA’s science-definition team that presented an overview of the proposed design and activities for the mission.

    Should the program move forward, one of the telescopes would be used for space observations, while the other would remain on the ground as an engineering test bed. At some point, the engineering telescope could be freed for other uses — including, perhaps, a space mission, Hertz said.

    A wide-field infrared telescope was identified as a priority in the U.S. National Research Council’s 2010 decadal survey for astronomy. However, the telescope must pass several hurdles before getting into space.

    If NASA’s astrophysics division approves the mission, the agency will formulate a budgetary and programmatic request to send to the White House for the 2017 budget. That budget is subject to approval by Congress. Should the telescope be funded, the contractors for WFIRST-AFTA will be selected roughly four years before launch.

    Hertz said the cost of WFIRST-AFTA is not yet known, although he said it would be a large mission. He added that NASA wants to be sure of budgetary numbers before releasing figures; while he didn’t mention it, the space agency has come under fire for cost overruns on Hubble and the James Webb Space Telescope, among other programs.

    NASA Webb Telescope

    “We don’t want to be surprised, and we don’t want to underestimate that cost and give people a false impression,” Hertz said.

    Better than expected

    The NRO’s telescopes were originally intended for a multi-billion-dollar program called Future Imagery Architecture, but the program was cancelled in 2005 following delays and budget overruns. The telescopes are in storage in a contractor’s facility, where they will remain until NASA decides what to do with them.

    David Spergel, who is co-chair for WFIRST-AFTA’s science-definition team, told that the 2012 announcement that NASA had been given the telescopes came as a surprise. To scientists’ delight, the 8-foot-wide (2.4 meters) telescopes are even better than the 5.2-foot (1.6 m) instrument called for by WFIRST’s initial designs.

    “With a more powerful telescope, you do more science,” Spergel said. The mission would also search for exoplanets, among other goals.

    Instrument development is ongoing at NASA centers, including improving detector technologies and developing a coronagraph (a device to block out the light of stars so the telescopes can better see exoplanets).

    The science-definition team is now mulling whether it’s better to place the telescope relatively close to Earth, to a spot from which it could send data home quickly, or farther away, so that Earth would not block the instrument’s view. WFIRST-AFTA would either be placed in geosynchronous orbit a few thousand miles from Earth, or at a stable gravitational point called Earth-sun L2, which is about 930,000 miles (1.5 million km) from the planet.

    See the full article here.

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  • richardmitnick 2:59 pm on April 23, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Yellowstone Caldera   

    From phys,org: “Scientists see deeper Yellowstone magma” 


    April 23, 2015
    No Writer Credit

    A new University of Utah study in the journal Science provides the first complete view of the plumbing system that supplies hot and partly molten rock from the Yellowstone hotspot to the Yellowstone supervolcano. The study revealed a gigantic magma reservoir beneath the previously known magma chamber. This cross-section illustration cutting southwest-northeast under Yelowstone depicts the view revealed by seismic imaging. Seismologists say new techniques have provided a better view of Yellowstone’s plumbing system, and that it hasn’t grown larger or closer to erupting. They estimate the annual chance of a Yellowstone supervolcano eruption is 1 in 700,000. Credit: Hsin-Hua Huang, University of Utah

    University of Utah seismologists discovered and made images of a reservoir of hot, partly molten rock 12 to 28 miles beneath the Yellowstone supervolcano, and it is 4.4 times larger than the shallower, long-known magma chamber.

    The hot rock in the newly discovered, deeper magma reservoir would fill the 1,000-cubic-mile Grand Canyon 11.2 times, while the previously known magma chamber would fill the Grand Canyon 2.5 times, says postdoctoral researcher Jamie Farrell, a co-author of the study published online today in the journal Science.

    “For the first time, we have imaged the continuous volcanic plumbing system under Yellowstone,” says first author Hsin-Hua Huang, also a postdoctoral researcher in geology and geophysics. “That includes the upper crustal magma chamber we have seen previously plus a lower crustal magma reservoir that has never been imaged before and that connects the upper chamber to the Yellowstone hotspot plume below.”

    Contrary to popular perception, the magma chamber and magma reservoir are not full of molten rock. Instead, the rock is hot, mostly solid and spongelike, with pockets of molten rock within it. Huang says the new study indicates the upper magma chamber averages about 9 percent molten rock – consistent with earlier estimates of 5 percent to 15 percent melt – and the lower magma reservoir is about 2 percent melt.

    So there is about one-quarter of a Grand Canyon worth of molten rock within the much larger volumes of either the magma chamber or the magma reservoir, Farrell says.

    No increase in the danger

    The researchers emphasize that Yellowstone’s plumbing system is no larger – nor closer to erupting – than before, only that they now have used advanced techniques to make a complete image of the system that carries hot and partly molten rock upward from the top of the Yellowstone hotspot plume – about 40 miles beneath the surface – to the magma reservoir and the magma chamber above it.

    “The magma chamber and reservoir are not getting any bigger than they have been, it’s just that we can see them better now using new techniques,” Farrell says.

    Study co-author Fan-Chi Lin, an assistant professor of geology and geophysics, says: “It gives us a better understanding the Yellowstone magmatic system. We can now use these new models to better estimate the potential seismic and volcanic hazards.”

    The researchers point out that the previously known upper magma chamber was the immediate source of three cataclysmic eruptions of the Yellowstone caldera 2 million, 1.2 million and 640,000 years ago, and that isn’t changed by discovery of the underlying magma reservoir that supplies the magma chamber.

    “The actual hazard is the same, but now we have a much better understanding of the complete crustal magma system,” says study co-author Robert B. Smith, a research and emeritus professor of geology and geophysics at the University of Utah.

    The gorgeous colors of Yellowstone National Park’s Grand Prismatic hot spring are among the park’s myriad hydrothermal features created by the fact Yellowstone is a supervolcano – the largest type of volcano on Earth. A new University of Utah study reports discovery of a huge magma reservoir beneath Yellowstone’s previously known magma chamber. That doesn’t increase the risk of an eruption, but means scientists are getting a better view of Yellowstone’s volcanic plumbing system. Credit: “Windows into the Earth,” Robert B. Smith and Lee J. Siegel

    The three supervolcano eruptions at Yellowstone – on the Wyoming-Idaho-Montana border – covered much of North America in volcanic ash. A supervolcano eruption today would be cataclysmic, but Smith says the annual chance is 1 in 700,000.

    Before the new discovery, researchers had envisioned partly molten rock moving upward from the Yellowstone hotspot plume via a series of vertical and horizontal cracks, known as dikes and sills, or as blobs. They still believe such cracks move hot rock from the plume head to the magma reservoir and from there to the shallow magma chamber.

    Anatomy of a supervolcano

    The study in Science is titled, The Yellowstone magmatic system from the mantle plume to the upper crust. Huang, Lin, Farrell and Smith conducted the research with Brandon Schmandt at the University of New Mexico and Victor Tsai at the California Institute of Technology. Funding came from the University of Utah, National Science Foundation, Brinson Foundation and William Carrico.

    Yellowstone is among the world’s largest supervolcanoes, with frequent earthquakes and Earth’s most vigorous continental geothermal system.

    The three ancient Yellowstone supervolcano eruptions were only the latest in a series of more than 140 as the North American plate of Earth’s crust and upper mantle moved southwest over the Yellowstone hotspot, starting 17 million years ago at the Oregon-Idaho-Nevada border. The hotspot eruptions progressed northeast before reaching Yellowstone 2 million years ago.

    Here is how the new study depicts the Yellowstone system, from bottom to top:

    — Previous research has shown the Yellowstone hotspot plume rises from a depth of at least 440 miles in Earth’s mantle. Some researchers suspect it originates 1,800 miles deep at Earth’s core. The plume rises from the depths northwest of Yellowstone. The plume conduit is roughly 50 miles wide as it rises through Earth’s mantle and then spreads out like a pancake as it hits the uppermost mantle about 40 miles deep. Earlier Utah studies indicated the plume head was 300 miles wide. The new study suggests it may be smaller, but the data aren’t good enough to know for sure.

    — Hot and partly molten rock rises in dikes from the top of the plume at 40 miles depth up to the bottom of the 11,200-cubic mile magma reservoir, about 28 miles deep. The top of this newly discovered blob-shaped magma reservoir is about 12 miles deep, Huang says. The reservoir measures 30 miles northwest to southeast and 44 miles southwest to northeast. “Having this lower magma body resolved the missing link of how the plume connects to the magma chamber in the upper crust,” Lin says.

    — The 2,500-cubic mile upper magma chamber sits beneath Yellowstone’s 40-by-25-mile caldera, or giant crater. Farrell says it is shaped like a gigantic frying pan about 3 to 9 miles beneath the surface, with a “handle” rising to the northeast. The chamber is about 19 miles from northwest to southeast and 55 miles southwest to northeast. The handle is the shallowest, long part of the chamber that extends 10 miles northeast of the caldera.

    Scientists once thought the shallow magma chamber was 1,000 cubic miles. But at science meetings and in a published paper this past year, Farrell and Smith showed the chamber was 2.5 times bigger than once thought. That has not changed in the new study.

    Discovery of the magma reservoir below the magma chamber solves a longstanding mystery: Why Yellowstone’s soil and geothermal features emit more carbon dioxide than can be explained by gases from the magma chamber, Huang says. Farrell says a deeper magma reservoir had been hypothesized because of the excess carbon dioxide, which comes from molten and partly molten rock.

    A better, deeper look at Yellowstone

    As with past studies that made images of Yellowstone’s volcanic plumbing, the new study used seismic imaging, which is somewhat like a medical CT scan but uses earthquake waves instead of X-rays to distinguish rock of various densities. Quake waves go faster through cold rock, and slower through hot and molten rock.

    For the new study, Huang developed a technique to combine two kinds of seismic information: Data from local quakes detected in Utah, Idaho, the Teton Range and Yellowstone by the University of Utah Seismograph Stations and data from more distant quakes detected by the National Science Foundation-funded EarthScope array of seismometers, which was used to map the underground structure of the lower 48 states.

    The Utah seismic network has closely spaced seismometers that are better at making images of the shallower crust beneath Yellowstone, while EarthScope’s seismometers are better at making images of deeper structures.

    “It’s a technique combining local and distant earthquake data better to look at this lower crustal magma reservoir,” Huang says.

    See the full article here.

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    About in 100 Words™ (formerly is a leading web-based science, research and technology news service which covers a full range of topics. These include physics, earth science, medicine, nanotechnology, electronics, space, biology, chemistry, computer sciences, engineering, mathematics and other sciences and technologies. Launched in 2004,’s readership has grown steadily to include 1.75 million scientists, researchers, and engineers every month. publishes approximately 100 quality articles every day, offering some of the most comprehensive coverage of sci-tech developments world-wide. Quancast 2009 includes in its list of the Global Top 2,000 Websites. community members enjoy access to many personalized features such as social networking, a personal home page set-up, RSS/XML feeds, article comments and ranking, the ability to save favorite articles, a daily newsletter, and other options.

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