## From Edgy Labs: “Grasshopper Theory Might Map the Multiverse”

Edgy Labs

January 10, 2018
William McKinney

Genty | Pixabay.com

New research suggests quantum theory doesn’t follow the rules of “reality”. Let’s see how hypothetical grasshoppers might lead us to the multiverse.

Who knew that grasshoppers could help us understand quantum theory?

Apparently, they can. At least, theoretically speaking they can. Recently, two physicists, Olga Goulko and Adrian Kent, have released a paper [Proceedings of The Royal Society A] that wrestles with something called the grasshopper problem.

The grasshopper problem is a relatively new puzzle for the field of geometry. The problem is simple to state, but very hard to solve. However, solving it may help us understand the Bell inequalities and so mathematicians and physicists worldwide have attempted to posit an answer.

It works like this:

Let’s say that a grasshopper lands on a random point in a lawn, then jumps at a fixed distance in a random direction. What shape does the lawn have to be so that the grasshopper stays on the lawn after it jumps?

Seems simple, right? In truth, it’s anything but. It sounds like something that Euclid (the Greek father of modern geometry) would have dreamed up. It’s not, though; the grasshopper problem is, surprisingly, pretty new.

Because the problem is rather new, researchers have been looking at it through a modern lens. Instead of merely trying to solve the problem, they are getting deep into the variables. Those variables are pretty important, too, because they may help us resolve Bell’s inequalities.

Today Grasshoppers, Tomorrow the Multiverse

Conventional theories state that a disc-shaped lawn is optimal to solve the grasshopper problem, but Goulko and Kent know better.

According to them, the optimal lawn shape changes depending on the distance of the jump. For distances smaller than 1/π1/2 (the radius of a circle of area 1, or approximately 0.56), for example, a cogwheel shape is best. For larger distances, other shapes such as a ‘three bladed fan’ or a row of stripes is best.

Oh, and it makes a difference if the surface of the lawn is flat or spherical, but I’ll get back to that.

Sometimes the pieces of the lawn are connected, sometimes they are not. It all depends on variables, which is where Bell’s inequalities come in.

One of the open problems regarding the Bell inequalities is determining what the optimal bounds are. These bounds are violated by quantum theory when quantum correlations get measured on a sphere at any angle between 0 and 90 degrees.

As it turns out, that problem is pretty much equal to the problem of determining the shape of the lawn when it is spherical rather than flat. Goulko and Kent only analyzed the flat version in their paper, though they don’t think it’s a stretch to apply their method to the spherical case.

The interesting part is that, when accounting for additional constraints, it might be possible to finally resolve the problem of optimal bounds for the Bell inequalities.

Why is that so interesting? Well, if we can understand the optimal bounds for the Bell inequalities, we may be able to map out universes that we can’t see. How’s that for a final frontier?

Exploring the Possibilities of the Multiverse

Adding to that, we have theories about pocket universes, alternate dimensions, and the Upside Down. Okay, that last one was from Stranger Things, but just try and prove to me that the Upside Down isn’t there.

One thing you always run into with multiverse theory, though, is quantum entanglement. See, many would believe that other universes and other dimensions are the same thing, but they aren’t. They are entirely different realities, but they could be linked through the quantum fabric of reality-at-large.

For now, though, we can only speculate. Studying one universe is like an ant studying a deity. Studying the multiverse is going to be a much harder nut to crack. That said, we currently don’t have any better leads on it than quantum theory.

And the latest leap in quantum theory is coming from a hypothetical grasshopper. Don’t you just love quantum physics?

Stem Education Coalition

## From Edgy: “Mystery About Earth’s Van Allen Belts Solved by Researchers”

Edgy Labs

December 28, 2017
Chelle Ann Fuertes

Researchers from Colorado have finally solved a decades-long mystery surrounding the Van Allen Belts.

With the help of a tiny orbiting satellite, researchers from the University of Colorado Boulder were able to shed light on the 60-year-old mystery shrouding Earth’s Van Allen belts. In a study published in the journal Nature, the team investigated the source of the energetic and potentially damaging electrons found in our planet’s inner radiation belt, near its inner edge.

If you’re not familiar with it, the Van Allen Belts are two large belts of radiation surrounding Earth, a so-called area of energetic particles, and they are supposedly held in place by our planet’s magnetic field. Apparently, these belts protect us from some of space’s most dangerous radiation by trapping charged particles within its region.

Through the years, space scientists studied these belts in an effort to answer some more complex questions about its existence such as what happens when particles from our sun hit the belts during a geomagnetic storm. Researchers admit that more work needs to be carried out as many previous observations of the belts were done only with electrons at a small range of energy levels.

Uncovering the Van Allen Belts’ Source of Energetic Particles

The study, led by Professor Xinlin Li of CU Boulder’s Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP), was able to solve one of the many mysteries of the Van Allen belts: the source of its energetic and potentially harmful particles.

The study indicates that the energetic electrons found in our planet’s inner radiation belt, particularly near the inner edge, originate from supernovae. It appears that during a process known as “cosmic ray albedo neutron decay” (CRAND), the cosmic rays from exploding stars entering Earth’s atmosphere collide with neutral atoms. These collisions form a so-called splash which in turn produces charged particles, including electrons, that are being kept in place by Earth’s magnetic fields.

Evidence found for gamma rays by the Fermi Gamma Ray Space Telescope

NASA/Fermi LAT

NASA/Fermi Gamma Ray Space Telescope

“We are reporting the first direct detection of these energetic electrons near the inner edge of Earth’s radiation belt,” Li, a professor in CU-Boulder’s Aerospace Engineering Sciences department, said.

It was said that soon after the discovery of the Van Allen belts in the late 1950s, both Russian and American scientists concluded that CRAND was most likely the reason behind the high-energy protons trapped in Earth’s magnetic field. However, no one was able to successfully detect the electron counterparts that should have been produced during the neutron decay process.

Thanks to a CubeSat known as the Colorado Student Space Weather Experiment (CSSWE), the source of the once-undetectable energetic electrons were finally discovered. CubeSats are usually small satellites about the size of a loaf of bread.

The CubeSat CSSWE before going into space orbit to observe the Van Allen belts | UC Boulder

CSSWE in particular housed a small, energetic particle telescope, the Relativistic, Electron and Proton Telescope, used to measure the flux of solar energetic protons and Earth’s radiation belt electrons. It was launched in 2012 on an Atlas V rocket.

“This is really a beautiful result and a big insight derived from a remarkably inexpensive student satellite, illustrating that good things can come in small packages,” Daniel Baker, co-author of the study, said. “It’s a major discovery that has been there all along, a demonstration that Yogi Berra was correct when he remarked ‘You can observe a lot just by looking.’”

The discovery of the source of energetic electrons in the Van Allen belts is beneficial in creating better space suits and ships for future space missions.

Stem Education Coalition

## From Edgy: “New Cosmic Acceleration Explanation Excludes Dark Energy”

Edgy Labs

December 26, 2017
Chelle Ann Fuertes

Researchers just removed the dark energy theory in their new explanation of cosmic acceleration.

Since the discovery of our universe’s rapid expansion in the 1990s, space scientists theorized that dark energy affects cosmic acceleration. They even predicted that this mysterious force would soon engulf roughly 68 percent or more of our universe.

However, three mathematicians from the University of California at Davis and the University of Michigan offered a new explanation about the cosmos’ fast expansion without involving dark energy in the picture.

As you may know, the idea of dark energy was linked to Albert Einstein‘s famous Theory of General Relativity. In 1917, Einstein thought that the universe was static. So, to address the issue regarding the so-called vacuum energy, he added a cosmological constant to represent an anti-gravitational force.

However, when it was proven that the universe was indeed expanding, Einstein removed the constant from the equation and claimed that it was his greatest mistake. As you can see, even the world’s most celebrated genius committed blunders.

The question now is: how did the dark energy theory get into the picture?

Cosmic Acceleration and Dark Energy

Even though Einstein scrapped the cosmological constant from the Theory of General Relativity, it came back into the picture when modern astronomers started using it interchangeably with dark energy to explain cosmic acceleration. This didn’t sit well with mathematicians Blake Temple, Zake Vogler, and Joel Smoller.

In their paper published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society, the trio argued that dark energy holds no relevance now since the equations in Einstein’s original Theory of General Relativity were correct and were able to give the right predictions in every other context. Add to that the absence of evidence regarding the existence of dark energy, Temple questioned why a “fudge factor“ (dark energy or cosmological constant) must be added to an already correct equation.

Temple and his colleagues further said that what requires adjustment is the idea that the cosmos is expanding uniformly. Apparently, cosmological models that originate from the “Friedmann universe” assumed that all matter is evenly distributed in space at any time.

The three mathematicians denounced this belief and further argued that Einstein’s equations have already shown that the Friedmann space-time is unstable. For instance, even the slightest deviation in the course of a celestial body or difference in density could push it over into cosmic acceleration.

As an example, Temple compared the scenario to an upside-down pendulum. “When a pendulum is hanging down, it is stable at its lowest point. Turn a rigid pendulum the other way, and it can balance if it is exactly centered—but any small gust will blow it off.

The researchers said that since Friedmann universe is unstable, what scientists should be measuring are the local space-times that accelerate faster. Interestingly enough, Temple noted that the instability creates local space-times that are in the same range as the cosmic accelerations from dark energy theories.

According to Temple, this only means that cosmic acceleration has been predicted by the original theory of General Relativity without the dark energy in the picture.

The math isn’t controversial, the instability isn’t controversial,” Temple said. “What we don’t know is, does our Milky Way galaxy lie near the center of a large under-density of matter in the universe.

Stem Education Coalition

## From Edgy Labs: “8 More Physics Questions Science Hasn’t Answered”

Edgy Labs

December 9, 2017
Zayan Guedim

This is the second part of our two-part series on physics mysteries that scientists have yet to solve.

While our knowledge of the Universe has progressed considerably in recent years, there are still many outstanding questions that need answers.

And, no, it’s not 42!

If you haven’t read the first 10 Unanswered Questions, you can check them out here. Then come back for part 2–or you can do it backward, it’ll still be mysterious.

Black holes are the last stage in the life cycle of massive stars that are much bigger than the Sun. Our home star, which has already used up about half of its fuel, will eventually collapse into a white dwarf.

The Milky Way alone is riddled with ten million to a billion black holes, including a recently discovered monstrous one.

As cold relics of giant stars, black hole existence isn’t what puzzles scientists. It’s what’s called the Information Paradox that really gets the gears turning.

According to the theory of relativity, information (objects) that fall into a black hole are annihilated forever. However, quantum physics says that quantum information can’t be destroyed. Thus, anything that passes a black hole’s event horizon could still be retrieved.

However, a new type of wormhole could help solve the Information Paradox. Two researchers at Harvard and Stanford University published a study about “Traversable Wormholes” that would allow information to escape black holes.

12. Naked Singularities

At the center of a black hole lies what’s called a “singularity”, an infinitesimal point where all the matter of the black hole is concentrated. Around the singularity is a spherical region, known as the event horizon, beyond which no object (information!) can escape, not even light.

An object that crosses the event horizon is believed to never come out (unless it falls into a traversable wormhole?)

A “naked singularity” is a gravitational singularity that’s not hidden behind the event horizon, and thus could be observed.

According to mathematical simulations, naked singularities were thought to exist only in a five-dimensional universe, but it may be that these strange objects do exist in a three-dimensional universe [Physical Review Letters] like ours, as theoretically proved recently by Cambridge researchers.

13. CP Symmetry Violation

In particle physics, CP symmetry (charge conjugation parity symmetry) refers to the consistency of physics laws when a particle is inverted to its antiparticle.

In 1964, James Cronin and Val Fitch found CP violation in some radioactivity reactions, a discovery that earned them the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1980.

Scientists, however, still don’t understand why and how certain particles violate the CP symmetry.

14. Sonoluminescence: How Does Sound Create Light?

Sound and light are two phenomena that involve waves, and which are fundamentally different physically speaking, yet there is another amazing phenomenon that links them in a strange way.

Sonoluminescence can be demonstrated using simple setup. If you direct sound wave into a container filled with water, bubbles will form then collapse, emitting short bursts of light in the process.

Where does this light come from? How does the energy of sound waves get converted into light? Tiny nuclear reaction? Gas heating?

15. What is Gravity Anyway?

Unlike the other three fundamental forces, gravity can’t be quantized and has been measured until today only at higher scales.

While the theory of general relativity has succeeded in describing the force of gravity over cosmological distances, it has not been tested in the microscopic realm.

This is the subject of quantum gravity theory, which suggests the existence of gravitons, massless particles that remain theoretical at the moment, as no one has managed to detect this quantum messenger of gravity.

Yet, there’s hope. The Higgs-Boson Particle had also only existed theoretically since the 1960s, within the Standard Model, until it was finally detected in 2012 by CERN’s Large Hadron Collider.

CERN CMS Higgs Event

CERN ATLAS Higgs Event

The Standard Model of elementary particles (more schematic depiction), with the three generations of matter, gauge bosons in the fourth column, and the Higgs boson in the fifth.

LHC

CERN/LHC Map

CERN LHC Tunnel

CERN LHC particles

16. Are we in Trouble Inside the “False Vacuum”?

The universe is about 14 billion years old, so that might indicate that it’s relatively stable.

We know that there empty zones in space, but it is not an absolute void because it is unstable. It is constantly stirred by virtual particles that are created and annihilated permanently.

The Higgs-Boson mentioned above is a particle that gives matter its mass via what’s called the Higgs field–an invisible force that however has a very observable effect.

So, the vacuum might not be the lowest possible energy state, and some kind of vacuum energy should be at play. Here comes the “false vacuum” theory, which suggests that the universe might not be stable after all.

Could that mean that a high-energy event could knock this false vacuum into a lower energy state and trigger a “false vacuum bubble” that would annihilate all matter in its way?

But then again, the universe, as we already said, has been around for a long time, witnessing violent cosmic events, and we’re still here. So, with luck, we might be safe from such a demise.

17. “Dimensionless” Fundamental Physical Constants

The mathematical formulas used in physics define relations between physical quantities, which have dimensions, thus can be measured using certain units.

A physical constant is a physical quantity whose numerical value is fixed, like the speed of light.

However, dimensionless constants don’t depend on a units system, and so their value is important to describe the nature of the physical world.

The most known is the fine-structure constant but there are at least 26 dimensionless fundamental physical constants in the Standard Model.

And that leads us to our last problem.

18. The Standard Model Limits

The universe and everything therein seems to be made of fundamental particles obeying is the four fundamental forces: electromagnetism, the weak interaction, the strong interaction, and gravity.

The Standard Model of particle physics is the current theory that explains all observable phenomena, encompassing all known particles.

A theory that is both quantum and relativistic, the standard model has helped, since the early 1970s, make precise predictions time and time again. However, this model can’t explain everything.

For starters, it incorporates only three out of four interactions (fundamental forces) having a particle-scale effect, because gravity is still resisting theoreticians.

The Standard Model can’t provide definitive answers to the 17 questions we’ve covered in our two-part series and remains in itself an unsolved problem.

Stem Education Coalition

## From Edgy Labs: “10 Physics Questions Science Still Hasn’t Answered”

Edgy Labs

September 24, 2017
Zayan Guedim

EdgyLabs has made an inventory of some of the most important unanswered questions in physics.

As physicist Brian Cox said:

“I’m comfortable with the unknown – that’s the point of science… I don’t need answers to everything. I want to have answers to find.”

With all of the discoveries and all the progress that has been made and advanced scientific tools at their disposal, physicists have yet to find answers to many of the most prominent questions that pertain to our physical universe.

We looked at 18 of the most compelling enigmas to see more precisely what we know and do not know about our universe. Far from being exhaustive, this list is a representative sample of the major issues facing physics today–and we’d love your input to help round out this list.

1. Why There’s Less Antimatter Than Matter?

To each type of particle there’s a twin antiparticle with identical properties, but opposite charge. If a particle meets its antiparticle, the two immediately annihilate one another.

If antimatter and matter have the same properties, why doesn’t the universe contain equal amounts of the two?

Of course, if that was the case, it’s possible that we wouldn’t be here to ask about it!

2. What is Dark Matter?

Cosmologists think that only about 5% of the universe is visible, made up of ordinary matter that forms billions of galaxies, stars, and planets, including us and everything else.

So what exactly is this “dark matter” that emits no light and makes up roughly 25% of the universe?

3. What is Dark Energy?

The largest majority of the universe’s content (70%) is in the form of an unknown energy that has earned the name of “dark energy”.

What is this mysterious, gravity-repellent, dark energy that may suggest new physical laws beyond the standard model?

4. Is There a Multiverse?

Some astrophysicists think that the visible universe is but one among an infinite number of universes.

And, according to quantum physics, there’s only a finite number of possible particle arrangements, which are forced to repeat themselves in the multiverse over and over again.

That means that there are parallel universes that are exact copies of our realm (including you!), another that differs with only one particle configuration, or two… infinitely!

But we have yet to detect the presence of our parallel selves.

5. What Will be the Universe’s Grand Finale?

If the widely-accepted theory of the beginning of the universe (Big Bang) is yet to be proven, the ultimate fate of the universe may be a tougher nut to crack.

There are scenarios aplenty: try the Big Crunch, Big Freeze, Big Rip–many theories with the word “big” in them try to predict what destiny awaits our universe, with no definitive answer.

But hey, as far as us mortals are concerned, the human civilization (and any intelligent alien life!) will probably be long gone before the end of time.

But time doesn’t end, does it?

6. Why Time Appears to be Linear?

Time, as defined by Newton, remains a constant in physics. Newtonian mechanics organizes sequences of moments or events in chronological order.

But mounting scientific evidence suggests that time is cyclic and non-linear; in theory, it can be slowed down, stopped or reversed.

Why does time give the illusion of flowing as a linear and irreversible arrow?

7. How Consciousness Affects Reality?

If you want to put a quantum physicist or a philosopher of science on the spot, just bring up “The Measurement Problem”.

Simply put, a particle only takes a particular position if there’s an observer measuring it; that’s the ‘Measurement’ or ‘Observation’ Problem.

That means that a particle is all over the place until one decides to observe it in their own space-time. In other words, the very act of observation affects or creates, reality.

But how could a particle decide its position and momentum? Does this mean that objects, time, and locality are mere tools of our consciousness, projected out as “reality”?

8. Does the String Theory Hold up?

An active area of research, String Theory is touted as “the theory of everything”, one that can reconcile Relativity with Quantum physics and describe the universe as a whole.

Michio Kaku explains it in this video.

For the equations of String Theory to work, they require 10 to 11 dimensions, and the vibrating “strings” it describes are so small (a billionth of a trillionth the size of an atomic nucleus).

That makes this theory very difficult to verify or debunk.

9. Is it an Orderly Chaos or a Chaotic Order?

What is the nature of chaos in the universe? For example, with all the math knowledge, data, and processing power we have, we still can’t accurately predict the weather.

Perhaps under the apparent disorder hides a very strict order, a chaotic system that obeys the physical principles but nonetheless unpredictable over the long term.

Perhaps we just don’t have the right math.

10. Is There a Super-Force Behind the 4 Fundamental Forces?

There are four fundamental forces that govern the universe: gravity, electromagnetism, strong nuclear, and weak nuclear.

Maybe these universal forces operate in a similar way to Marvel’s Infinity Stones: each stone has its own purpose but their six powers can be harvested collectively using the Infinity Gauntlet.

Physicist think that the 4 forces would’ve resulted from a single and even more fundamental force and, because of that, may unite into one super-force.

They also postulate that they could unify at least three of them (except gravity) using a particle accelerator, but all the available energy in the world wouldn’t be enough.

Stem Education Coalition

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