From Futurism: “Jeff Bezos Just Unveiled Blue Origin’s Moon Lander”

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From Futurism

5.9.19
Victor Tangermann

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The private space company wants to “enable a sustained human presence on the Moon.”

Alexa, Take Me to the Moon

Jeff Bezos’ private space company Blue Origin revealed its long-awaited plans to go to the Moon at a mysterious press event today.

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Blue Origin. Marfa Public Radio

Bezos showed off a brand new design of its “Blue Moon” lander, which is designed to carry 6.5 tons to the surface of the Moon. According to Bezos, the Blue Origin team has been working on the design for three years.

“A very fundamental long-range problem is that we will run out of energy on Earth,” Bezos said at the event. “This is just arithmetic. It will happen.”

Prime Delivery

The solution, according to Bezos: look elsewhere for energy sources in the solar system.

The lunar lander will fit into the fairing of Blue Origin’s New Glenn rocket and will feature a brand new BE-7 engine with 10,000 pounds of thrust. The new rocket will fire test for the first time as soon as this summer.

Bezos also confirmed that a modified version of the Blue Moon lander could be powerful enough to carry a pressurized ascent vehicle for astronauts to the lunar surface.

A new space on Blue Origin’s website describes the lander as being capable of “precise and soft landings” to enable “a sustained human presence on the Moon.”

Space Vision

Bezos also talked about his futuristic visions of humanity living in giant space colonies modeled after physicist Gerard O’Neill’s designs for massive cylinders that could house human settlers by spinning to provide gravity.

But launching into space is not only super expensive but very difficult. The news comes just a day after Congress grilled NASA officials over how it failed to come up with plans to get to the Moon by 2024.

Blue Origin is officially offering its new lander as an ascent vehicle for NASA’s 2024 human landing missions.

See the full article here .

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From Futurism via Futurity: “Special magnets make spin-based memory more efficient”

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From Futurism

via

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Futurity

December 28th, 2018
National University of Singapore

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(Credit: Getty Images)

A new magnetic device can manipulate digital information 20 times more efficiently and with 10 times more stability than commercial spintronic digital memories, say researchers.

The spintronic memory device, which employs ferrimagnets, has the potential to accelerate the commercial growth of spin-based memory.

“Our discovery could provide a new device platform to the spintronic industry, which at present struggles with issues around instability and scalability due to the thin magnetic elements that are used,” says Yang Hyunsoo, associate professor from the electrical and computer engineering department at the National University of Singapore, who spearheaded the project.

More data requires better memory

Digital information is being generated in unprecedented amounts all over the world, and as a result there’s an increasing demand for low-cost, low-power, highly-stable, and highly-scalable memory and computing products. One way to achieve this is with new spintronic materials, which use up or down magnetic states of tiny magnets to store digital data.

While existing spintronic memory products based on ferromagnets succeed in meeting some of these demands, they are still very costly due to scalability and stability issues.

“Ferromagnet-based memories cannot be grown beyond a few nanometers thick as their writing efficiency decays exponentially with increasing thickness. This thickness range is insufficient to ensure the stability of stored digital data against normal temperature variations,” says Yu Jiawei, who contributed to the project while pursuing her doctoral studies at NUS.

To address these challenges, the team fabricated a magnetic memory device using an interesting class of magnetic material—ferrimagnets. Crucially, they discovered that they could grow ferrimagnetic materials 10 times thicker without compromising on the overall data writing efficiency.

“The spin of the current carrying electrons, which basically represents the data you want to write, experiences minimal resistance in ferrimagnets. Imagine the difference in efficiency when you drive your car on an eight lane highway compared to a narrow city lane. While a ferromagnet is like a city street for an electron’s spin, a ferrimagnet is a welcoming freeway where its spin or the underlying information can survive for a very long distance,” says Rahul Mishra, a current doctoral candidate with the group who was part of the research team.

Using an electronic current, the researchers were able to write information in a ferrimagnet memory element which was 10 times more stable and 20 times more efficient than a ferromagnet.
Ferrimagnets make the difference

To make this discovery, the researchers took advantage of the unique atomic arrangement in ferrimagnets.

“In ferrimagnets, the neighboring atomic magnets are opposite to each other. The disturbance caused by one atom to an incoming spin is compensated by the next one, and as a result information travels faster and further with less power. We hope that the computing and storage industry can take advantage of our invention to improve the performance and data retention capabilities of emerging spin memories,” says Yang.

The researchers now plan to look into the data writing and reading speed of their device. They expect that the distinctive atomic properties of their device will also result in its ultrafast performance. In addition, they are also planning to collaborate with industry partners to accelerate the commercial translation of their discovery.

A paper on the device appears in the journal Nature Materials. Researchers from Toyota Technological Institute in Nagoya and Korea University in Seoul also contributed to the project.

See the full article here .

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From Futurism: “Astronomers Discover a New Source of Spectacular Radio Jets”

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From Futurism

September 26, 2018
Kristin House

JET SETTER

In a ranking of cool space phenomenon, radio jets have to take a spot near the top. They’re near-light-speed blasts of material from black holes or neutron stars, which are known as “stellar corpses” because they are the remnants of stars left after they’ve gone supernova, and they’re downright spectacular.

Scientists thought the only neutron stars that could expel radio jets were those with very weak magnetic fields. But a new discovery has punched a big hole in that understanding.

They just figured out that a jet-spewing neutron star called Swift J0243.6+6124 has got a really, really strong magnetic field, according to a paper published Wednesday in Nature.

THE FORCE IS STRONG

The University of Amsterdam-led research team discovered the phenomenon using the Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array radio telescope and NASA’s Swift space telescope.

NRAO/Karl V Jansky Expanded Very Large Array, on the Plains of San Agustin fifty miles west of Socorro, NM, USA, at an elevation of 6970 ft (2124 m)

NASA Neil Gehrels Swift Observatory

“The magnetic field of the neutron star we studied is about 10 trillion times stronger than that of our own Sun, so for the first time ever, we have observed a jet coming from a neutron star with a very strong magnetic field,” lead researchers Jakob van den Eijnden said in a press release. “The discovery reveals a whole new class of jet-producing sources for us to study.”

ENERGY IN, ENERGY OUT

As co-author James Miller-Jones added, radio jets play a major role in the transfer of gravitational energy from black holes and neutron stars back into the surrounding environment, so anything that expands our understanding of the phenomenon subsequently improves our understanding of the universe as a whole.

And now, thanks to this study, we can start hunting down radio jets in places we never thought to look.

See the full article here .

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From Brown University via Futurism: “Dark Matter May Be a Product of Gravitational Waves with a Twist”

Brown University
Brown University

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Futurism

February 12, 2018
Dom Galeon

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Give us a wave! Right-handed or left-handed? Henze/NASA.

It is said that the universe is made up of over 80 percent dark matter. What dark matter exactly is, however, has continued to elude experts. Theories abound, and a recent one suggests an entirely different approach involving gravitational waves.

Breaking Symmetry

For decades now, the exact composition of matter in the universe has baffled astronomers and physicists alike. It would seem that, given the basic assumptions about the origins of the universe, there is still no way to account for the “missing” dark matter that makes up for as much as a quarter of all matter in the universe. That’s why a trio of researchers has proposed a new dark matter theory, which could explain how dark matter came about.

We know dark matter exists because we can observe how its gravity interacts with visible matter and electromagnetic radiation. There is something there, although we can’t yet see it, or put a finger on what it is.

In the new study, Evan McDonough and Stephon Alexander from Brown University, with David Spergel from Princeton University, suggest that a mechanism involving gravitational waves — basically, ripples in the fabric of space and time, first theorized by Einstein and confirmed to exist only in 2016 — could explain how dark matter came to be.

McDonough’s team used a model of the primordial universe that assumed the presence of particles called dark matter quarks, which aren’t the same as today’s dark matter. These dark quarks could have a property called chirality, referring to the way the particles twist, similar to neutrinos. The chirality or “handedness” of these dark quarks could have then interacted with the chiral gravitational waves in the early universe, producing the kind of dark matter we have today.

Lighter and Wimpier

Supposedly, as the universe settled into a cooler state, the interactions between chiral dark quarks and chiral gravitational waves resulted in a small excess of the former. These condensed into a quirky state of matter called a superfluid, which could still exist as a background field today. What we know to be dark matter are proposed as excitations of this background field, in the same way photons are excitations of an electromagnetic field.

Interestingly, the dark matter particles resulting from such a model would be lighter than what’s known as weakly interacting massive particles (WIMPs), which many researchers believe could make up dark matter. There hasn’t been enough evidence to suggest, however, that this is the case. At any rate, being lighter than WIMPs would mean that dark matter wouldn’t interact with normal matter. “It’s much wimpier than WIMPs,” Spergel told New Scientist.

As such, this dark matter theory could change how we should “look” for dark matter, as it wouldn’t be possible to see such particles directly at all. Unlike WIMPs, these particles would also be distributed more evenly across the galaxy. At the same time, the ratio of dark matter and normal matter wouldn’t necessarily be constant throughout the universe.

Spergel explained, however, that this unique behavior could also provide us with a way to find dark matter. A more uniform, non-clustered distribution of dark matter could spill over into cosmic microwave background — the Big Bang’s residual radiation — and produce a unique signature. It could even affect the formation of larger-scale structures, like galaxy clusters. It could also, perhaps, have an effect on gravitational waves.

In any case, any new dark matter theory is certainly a welcome one, as experts continue exploring other possibilities to account for dark matter — or even dismiss it altogether.

“It’s a cool idea,” Stanford University’s Michael Peskin, who wasn’t part of the study, told New Scientist. “Right now, dark matter is completely open. Anything you can do that brings in a new idea into this area, it opens a door. And then you have to walk down that corridor and see whether there are interesting things there that suggest new experiments. This opens another door.”

See the full article here .

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Welcome to Brown

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Located in historic Providence, Rhode Island and founded in 1764, Brown University is the seventh-oldest college in the United States. Brown is an independent, coeducational Ivy League institution comprising undergraduate and graduate programs, plus the Alpert Medical School, School of Public Health, School of Engineering, and the School of Professional Studies.

With its talented and motivated student body and accomplished faculty, Brown is a leading research university that maintains a particular commitment to exceptional undergraduate instruction.

Brown’s vibrant, diverse community consists of 6,000 undergraduates, 2,000 graduate students, 400 medical school students, more than 5,000 summer, visiting and online students, and nearly 700 faculty members. Brown students come from all 50 states and more than 100 countries.

Undergraduates pursue bachelor’s degrees in more than 70 concentrations, ranging from Egyptology to cognitive neuroscience. Anything’s possible at Brown—the university’s commitment to undergraduate freedom means students must take responsibility as architects of their courses of study.

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From Futurism: “Phoning Home: Is Intelligent Alien Life Really Out There?”

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Futurism

January 31, 2018
Seth Shostak, SETI Institute

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Tag Hartman-Simkins/Stellan Johnson

Despite an observable universe sprinkled with several trillion galaxies, each stuffed with a trillion planets, we see no evidence of anyone. No signals, no megastructures, no interstellar rockets. While astronomers routinely uncover puzzling objects in the sky, these always turn out to be manifestations of natural phenomena.

Without mincing words, we can state that the cosmos has offered us no hint of the presence of beings as clever as, or cleverer than, Homo sapiens.

It’s tempting to jump from this observational fact to a disappointing conclusion: There’s no one out there. That’s not to say that the universe is sterile. Most astrobiologists seem comfortable with the premise that life might be widespread. But their optimism doesn’t always extend to complex, intelligent life.

It’s possible that we inhabit a universe whose occupants are mostly pond scum. After decades of seeing semi-humanoid aliens strut across the silver screen, it would be more than a little disappointing to think that the actual cosmic bestiary largely consists of plants and animals that are microscopic, or at best, no smarter than cane toads.

That situation would make humans very special, a circumstance that seems at odds with the enormous amount of real estate available for life, as well as the billions of years since the Big Bang during which intelligence could arise.

So, could there be a plausible explanation for why the universe seems so short on keen-witted company?

Filtering Out Intelligent Life

Economist Robin Hanson has suggested that life inevitably encounters a barrier on its evolutionary path to thinking critters – a Great Filter that keeps down the average IQ of the universe.

What could this barrier be? Perhaps life itself is rare because it’s difficult to cook up in the first place. Maybe the transition from single-celled to multi-celled organisms is a bridge too far for most ecosystems. Possibly the emergence of intelligence is a fluke, like winning the Powerball, or perhaps all thinking beings inevitably engineer their own destruction shortly after developing technology.

The idea that there are insurmountable hurdles in the path to intelligence leads to an interesting corollary. Consider the possibility that we’ll someday find microbes under the dry surface of Mars, or beneath the frozen ice of a moon like Enceladus or Europa. That would tell us that one hurdle – the origin of life – can be removed from the list. After all, if biology began on both Earth and another nearby world, then it’s a safe bet that it’s commonplace. No strong filter there.

If we were to discover more sophisticated life somewhere, perhaps equivalent to trilobites or dinosaurs, that would also eliminate some of the postulated filters. Indeed, Nick Bostrom, at Oxford University, has said that it would be horrifyingly bad news to find such complex organisms on another world. Doing so would tell us that the Great Filter is in our future, not our past, and we are doomed. Homo sapiens will come up against a wall that keeps us from extending our dominion beyond Earth. Our species, as lovely and promising as it is, would would have a destiny that is short and dismal.

The appeal of the Great Filter idea is that it takes a fairly limited observation – we don’t see any evidence of aliens in the night sky – and draws an astounding (if dystopian) conclusion about humanity’s destiny.

Could the Great Filter Theory be Full of Holes?

One could argue whether the various hurdles that have been suggested are really all that daunting. For example, the claim that the evolutionary step from insensate creatures to thinking beings could be incredibly unlikely.

A premise of the Rare Earth hypothesis, put forward in a book by Peter Ward and Don Brownlee, published nearly two decades ago, is that the physical conditions of our planet are both finely tuned for our existence and seldom encountered elsewhere. Yes, smart creatures arose on Earth, but that’s because our planet is really special. However, the recent detection of thousands of planets around other stars suggests that terrestrial worlds are hardly in short supply. If there is a Great Filter, it’s not likely to be lack of suitable habitats.

Other suggested barriers to intelligence are less easily dismissed because they depend as much on sociology as on astronomy. Many people seem almost proud to bray that humanity is going to Hades in a handbasket. If nuclear war doesn’t do us in, climate change will. But given that we have at least a chance of being smart about these threats and avoiding total self-destruction, it seems pretty clear that some reasonable fraction of alien societies will also be able to keep themselves alive and kicking for the long term.

Indeed, it’s my opinion that the Great Filter idea falters not on the merits or otherwise of the proposed filters, but on the initial premise: Namely that, because we don’t see any evidence for other intelligence, we require some general mechanism to keep the cosmos short on sentience. Sure, it’s amusing to enumerate some of the difficulties in going from murky chemical soup to space-faring beings, but it seems far more likely that the problem here is a too-hasty conclusion about the prevalence of cosmic confreres.

The efforts to find radio and light signals from other worlds, known as SETI (the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence), has so far failed to uncover any hailing signals from aliens. But these experiments are both underfunded and still in their early days. Even if the universe is chock-a-block with transmitting societies, SETI could easily miss them, simply because of inadequate instrument sensitivity or the fact that only a small number of star systems have yet to be searched.

A common, and regrettable, error is committed when people note that the SETI scientists have been toiling for more than 50 years without a discovery, as if that suggests that intelligence is rare. It doesn’t. Throughout most of that period, observations were restricted by the lack of telescope time or by receivers that could only examine small slices of the radio dial.

In addition, it’s worth remarking that humanity is in the process of developing artificial intelligence, a technological trajectory that other sophisticated societies could very well follow. Unlike biological intelligence, AI can self-improve at tremendous speed. Also, there aren’t obvious limitations to the spread of machines throughout the cosmos. The implication of this observation is that the majority of the intelligence in the universe is likely to be synthetic. And machine intelligence might be small, localized, and cryptic.

The absence of evidence would hardly qualify as evidence of absence. The Great Filter theory, in other words, could be no more than an appealing solution looking for a problem.

See the full article here .

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From Futurism: “This Year, We’ll See a Black Hole for the First Time in History”

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Futurism

1.10.18
Kristin Houser

Using data collected from their network of telescopes, the Event Horizons Telescope team hopes to produce the first ever image of a black hole in 2018.

Event Horizon Telescope Array

Arizona Radio Observatory
Arizona Radio Observatory/Submillimeter-wave Astronomy (ARO/SMT)

ESO/APEX
Atacama Pathfinder EXperiment

CARMA Array no longer in service
Combined Array for Research in Millimeter-wave Astronomy (CARMA)

Atacama Submillimeter Telescope Experiment (ASTE)
Atacama Submillimeter Telescope Experiment (ASTE)

Caltech Submillimeter Observatory
Caltech Submillimeter Observatory (CSO)

IRAM NOEMA interferometer
Institut de Radioastronomie Millimetrique (IRAM) 30m

James Clerk Maxwell Telescope interior, Mauna Kea, Hawaii, USA
James Clerk Maxwell Telescope interior, Mauna Kea, Hawaii, USA

Large Millimeter Telescope Alfonso Serrano
Large Millimeter Telescope Alfonso Serrano

CfA Submillimeter Array Hawaii SAO
Submillimeter Array Hawaii SAO

ESO/NRAO/NAOJ ALMA Array
ESO/NRAO/NAOJ ALMA Array, Chile

South Pole Telescope SPTPOL
South Pole Telescope SPTPOL

Future Array/Telescopes

Plateau de Bure interferometer
Plateau de Bure interferometer

NSF CfA Greenland telescope

Greenland Telescope

First Look At A Black Hole

Within the next 12 months, astrophysicists believe they’ll be able to do something that’s never been done before, and it could have far-reaching implications for our understanding of the universe. A black hole is a point in space with a gravitational pull so strong that not even light can escape from it. Albert Einstein predicted the existence of black holes in his theory of general relativity, but even he wasn’t convinced that they actually existed. And thus far, no one has been able to produce concrete evidence that they do. The Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) could change that.

The EHT isn’t so much one telescope as it is a network of telescopes around the globe. By working in harmony, these devices can provide all of the components necessary to capture an image of a black hole.

“First, you need ultra-high magnification — the equivalent of being able to count the dimples on a golf ball in Los Angeles when you are sitting in New York,” EHT Director Sheperd Doeleman told Futurism.

Next, said Doeleman, you need a way to see through the gas in the Milky Way and the hot gas surrounding the black hole itself. That requires a telescope as big as the Earth, which is where the EHT comes into play.

The EHT team created a “virtual Earth-sized telescope,” said Doeleman, using a network of individual radio dishes scattered across the planet. They synchronized the dishes so that they could be programmed to observe the same point in space at the exact same time and record the radio waves they detected onto hard disks.

The idea was that, by combining this data at a later date, the EHT team could produce an image comparable to one that could have been created using a single Earth-sized telescope.

In April 2017, the EHT team put their telescope to the test for the first time. Over the course of five nights, eight dishes across the globe set their sights on Sagittarius A* (Sgr A*), a point in the center of the Milky Way that researchers believe is the location of a supermassive black hole.

Data from the South Pole Telescope didn’t reach the MIT Haystack Observatory until mid-December due to a lack of cargo flights out of the region. Now that the team has the data from all eight radio dishes, they can begin their analysis in the hopes of producing the first image of a black hole.

Proving Einstein Right (or Wrong)

Not only would an image of a black hole prove that they do exist, it would also reveal brand new insights into our universe.

“The impact of black holes on the universe is huge,” said Doeleman. “It’s now believed that the supermassive black holes at the center of galaxies and the galaxies they live in evolve together over cosmic times, so observing what happens near the event horizon will help us understand the universe on larger scales.”

In the future, researchers could take images of a single black hole over time. This would allow the scientists to determine whether or not Einstein’s theory of general relativity holds true at the black hole boundary, as well as study how black holes grow and absorb matter, said Doeleman.

See also https://bhi.fas.harvard.edu/ and http://eventhorizontelescope.org/

See the full article here .

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From Futurism: “Hawking’s Institute Is Using a Supercomputer to Uncover the Nature of Space and Time”

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Futurism

11.30.17
Chelsea Gohd

The history of the universe still has many mysteries we have yet to fully understand. A new collaboration between HPE’s newest supercomputer and Stephen Hawking’s research group COSMOS hope to answer some of these questions.

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Stephen Hawking

Supercomputing

Hewlett-Packard Enterprise’s (HPE) supercomputer, the new Superdome Flex, is more than an impressive, technological marvel.

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Hewlett-Packard Enterprise’s (HPE) supercomputer, the new Superdome Flex

It’s a tool capable of unlocking some of the most complex mysteries of the universe, and Professor Stephen Hawking’s Centre for Theoretical Cosmology (COSMOS) will be using the computer to do exactly that.

The supercomputer’s high-speed memory can hold a staggering 48 terabytes of data. Because this data is stored in the newly-designed memory system instead of a more traditional storage system, the computer can process enormous amounts of data at lightning speed. This is great news for COSMOS, as they plan to sort through 14 billion years of data with the goal of filling in gaps in our knowledge of the physical history of the universe.

This computer might be just the beginning of this quest for knowledge, as it’s merely the precursor to “The Machine,” — HPE’s highly anticipated “ultimate vision” for computing. Their prototype will supposedly be able to store 160 terabytes of data in memory and can be built in a similar way to the Superdome Flex. Until this ambitious model becomes a more realistic option, Professor Hawking’s research group will use the immense capabilities of their existing supercomputer in their quest to discover more about the universe.

Mysterious Universe

COSMOS has already been making use of one HPE supercomputer and has been utilizing supercomputing power since 1997, their recent project is a natural progression for the researchers. Still, they hope that the latest advancement will allow them to achieve more than they ever have before.

With the Superdome Flex, COSMOS intends to create the most detailed 3-dimensional map of the early universe to date. They hope to show the location and position of cosmic bodies like supernovas, black holes, galaxies, and much more. The project is officially named “Beyond the Horizon – Tribute to Stephen Hawking. It was dubbed as such because “Hawking is a great theorist but he always wants to test his theories against observations. What will emerge is a 3D map of the universe with the positions of billions of galaxies,” said Professor Shellard in a Cambridge press release.

Data from the ESA’s Euclid probe, set to launch in 2020, will support these efforts, allowing the team to gain better insight into what researchers refer to as the “dark universe.”

ESA/Euclid spacecraft

The team hopes that this combination of data will also allow them to more deeply peer into, and understand dark matter and dark energy, and their influence on the geometry, structure, and inner workings of the universe.

In addition to advancing our knowledge, the 3D map could potentially confirm existing theories about the universe. From our current understanding of black holes to the age of the universe and the standard model, the insights the map provides could challenge much of what we believe to be true about our universe. It may not be what leads humankind to a universal “theory of everything,” but it will allow physicists to get closer than humanity has ever come before.

See the full article here .

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