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  • richardmitnick 2:25 pm on November 30, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: (HPE) supercomputer the new Superdome Flex, , , , , , Stephen Hawking, The Stephen Hawking Center for Theoretical Cosmology   

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



    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.


    Stephen Hawking


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

    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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    Futurism covers the breakthrough technologies and scientific discoveries that will shape humanity’s future. Our mission is to empower our readers and drive the development of these transformative technologies towards maximizing human potential.

  • richardmitnick 3:21 pm on November 26, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Einstein, ER - for Einstein-Rosen bridges, ER = EPR - (the EPR paradox named for its authors - Einstein Boris Podolsky and Nathan Rosen), Eventually Susskind — in a discovery that shocked even him — realized (with Gerard ’t Hooft) that all the information that fell down the hole was actually trapped on the black hole’s two-dimen, , , , , Stephen Hawking, The particles still inside the hole would be directly connected to particles that left long ago,   

    From Quanta: “Wormholes Untangle a Black Hole Paradox” 2015 but Worth It. 

    Quanta Magazine
    Quanta Magazine

    April 24, 2015
    K.C. Cole

    Hannes Hummel for Quanta Magazine

    One hundred years after Albert Einstein developed his general theory of relativity, physicists are still stuck with perhaps the biggest incompatibility problem in the universe. The smoothly warped space-time landscape that Einstein described is like a painting by Salvador Dalí — seamless, unbroken, geometric. But the quantum particles that occupy this space are more like something from Georges Seurat: pointillist, discrete, described by probabilities. At their core, the two descriptions contradict each other. Yet a bold new strain of thinking suggests that quantum correlations between specks of impressionist paint actually create not just Dalí’s landscape, but the canvases that both sit on, as well as the three-dimensional space around them. And Einstein, as he so often does, sits right in the center of it all, still turning things upside-down from beyond the grave.

    Like initials carved in a tree, ER = EPR, as the new idea is known, is a shorthand that joins two ideas proposed by Einstein in 1935. One involved the paradox implied by what he called “spooky action at a distance” between quantum particles (the EPR paradox, named for its authors, Einstein, Boris Podolsky and Nathan Rosen). The other showed how two black holes could be connected through far reaches of space through “wormholes” (ER, for Einstein-Rosen bridges). At the time that Einstein put forth these ideas — and for most of the eight decades since — they were thought to be entirely unrelated.

    When Einstein, Podolsky and Rosen published their seminal paper pointing out puzzling features of what we now call entanglement, The New York Times treated it as front-page news. The New York Times

    But if ER = EPR is correct, the ideas aren’t disconnected — they’re two manifestations of the same thing. And this underlying connectedness would form the foundation of all space-time. Quantum entanglement — the action at a distance that so troubled Einstein — could be creating the “spatial connectivity” that “sews space together,” according to Leonard Susskind, a physicist at Stanford University and one of the idea’s main architects. Without these connections, all of space would “atomize,” according to Juan Maldacena, a physicist at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N.J., who developed the idea together with Susskind. “In other words, the solid and reliable structure of space-time is due to the ghostly features of entanglement,” he said. What’s more, ER = EPR has the potential to address how gravity fits together with quantum mechanics.

    Not everyone’s buying it, of course (nor should they; the idea is in “its infancy,” said Susskind). Joe Polchinski, a researcher at the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics at the University of California, Santa Barbara, whose own stunning paradox about firewalls in the throats of black holes triggered the latest advances, is cautious, but intrigued. “I don’t know where it’s going,” he said, “but it’s a fun time right now.”

    The Black Hole Wars

    Juan Maldacena at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N.J. Andrea Kane/Institute for Advanced Study

    The road that led to ER = EPR is a Möbius strip of tangled twists and turns that folds back on itself, like a drawing by M.C. Escher.

    A fair place to start might be quantum entanglement. If two quantum particles are entangled, they become, in effect, two parts of a single unit. What happens to one entangled particle happens to the other, no matter how far apart they are.

    Maldacena sometimes uses a pair of gloves as an analogy: If you come upon the right-handed glove, you instantaneously know the other is left-handed. There’s nothing spooky about that. But in the quantum version, both gloves are actually left- and right-handed (and everything in between) up until the moment you observe them. Spookier still, the left-handed glove doesn’t become left until you observe the right-handed one — at which moment both instantly gain a definite handedness.

    Entanglement played a key role in Stephen Hawking’s 1974 discovery that black holes could evaporate. This, too, involved entangled pairs of particles. Throughout space, short-lived “virtual” particles of matter and anti-matter continually pop into and out of existence. Hawking realized that if one particle fell into a black hole and the other escaped, the hole would emit radiation, glowing like a dying ember. Given enough time, the hole would evaporate into nothing, raising the question of what happened to the information content of the stuff that fell into it.

    But the rules of quantum mechanics forbid the complete destruction of information. (Hopelessly scrambling information is another story, which is why documents can be burned and hard drives smashed. There’s nothing in the laws of physics that prevents the information lost in a book’s smoke and ashes from being reconstructed, at least in principle.) So the question became: Would the information that originally went into the black hole just get scrambled? Or would it be truly lost? The arguments set off what Susskind called the “black hole wars,” which have generated enough stories to fill many books. (Susskind’s was subtitled My Battle with Stephen Hawking to Make the World Safe for Quantum Mechanics.)

    Leonard Susskind at home in Palo Alto, Calif. Jeff Singer

    Stephen Hawking. No image credit

    Eventually Susskind — in a discovery that shocked even him — realized (with Gerard ’t Hooft) that all the information that fell down the hole was actually trapped on the black hole’s two-dimensional event horizon, the surface that marks the point of no return. The horizon encoded everything inside, like a hologram. It was as if the bits needed to re-create your house and everything in it could fit on the walls. The information wasn’t lost — it was scrambled and stored out of reach.

    Susskind continued to work on the idea with Maldacena, whom Susskind calls “the master,” and others. Holography began to be used not just to understand black holes, but any region of space that can be described by its boundary. Over the past decade or so, the seemingly crazy idea that space is a kind of hologram has become rather humdrum, a tool of modern physics used in everything from cosmology to condensed matter. “One of the things that happen to scientific ideas is they often go from wild conjecture to reasonable conjecture to working tools,” Susskind said. “It’s gotten routine.”

    Holography was concerned with what happens on boundaries, including black hole horizons. That left open the question of what goes on in the interiors, said Susskind, and answers to that “were all over the map.” After all, since no information could ever escape from inside a black hole’s horizon, the laws of physics prevented scientists from ever directly testing what was going on inside.

    Then in 2012 Polchinski, along with Ahmed Almheiri, Donald Marolf and James Sully, all of them at the time at Santa Barbara, came up with an insight so startling it basically said to physicists: Hold everything. We know nothing.

    The so-called AMPS paper (after its authors’ initials) presented a doozy of an entanglement paradox — one so stark it implied that black holes might not, in effect, even have insides, for a “firewall” just inside the horizon would fry anyone or anything attempting to find out its secrets.

    Scaling the Firewall

    Here’s the heart of their argument: If a black hole’s event horizon is a smooth, seemingly ordinary place, as relativity predicts (the authors call this the “no drama” condition), the particles coming out of the black hole must be entangled with particles falling into the black hole. Yet for information not to be lost, the particles coming out of the black hole must also be entangled with particles that left long ago and are now scattered about in a fog of Hawking radiation. That’s one too many kinds of entanglements, the AMPS authors realized. One of them would have to go.

    The reason is that maximum entanglements have to be monogamous, existing between just two particles. Two maximum entanglements at once — quantum polygamy — simply cannot happen, which suggests that the smooth, continuous space-time inside the throats of black holes can’t exist. A break in the entanglement at the horizon would imply a discontinuity in space, a pileup of energy: the “firewall.”

    Video: David Kaplan explores one of the biggest mysteries in physics: the apparent contradiction between general relativity and quantum mechanics. Filming by Petr Stepanek. Editing and motion graphics by MK12. Music by Steven Gutheinz.

    The AMPS paper became a “real trigger,” said Stephen Shenker, a physicist at Stanford, and “cast in sharp relief” just how much was not understood. Of course, physicists love such paradoxes, because they’re fertile ground for discovery.

    Both Susskind and Maldacena got on it immediately. They’d been thinking about entanglement and wormholes, and both were inspired by the work of Mark Van Raamsdonk, a physicist at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, who had conducted a pivotal thought experiment suggesting that entanglement and space-time are intimately related.

    “Then one day,” said Susskind, “Juan sent me a very cryptic message that contained the equation ER = EPR. I instantly saw what he was getting at, and from there we went back and forth expanding the idea.”

    Their investigations, which they presented in a 2013 paper, “Cool Horizons for Entangled Black Holes,” argued for a kind of entanglement they said the AMPS authors had overlooked — the one that “hooks space together,” according to Susskind. AMPS assumed that the parts of space inside and outside of the event horizon were independent. But Susskind and Maldacena suggest that, in fact, particles on either side of the border could be connected by a wormhole. The ER = EPR entanglement could “kind of get around the apparent paradox,” said Van Raamsdonk. The paper contained a graphic that some refer to half-jokingly as the “octopus picture” — with multiple wormholes leading from the inside of a black hole to Hawking radiation on the outside.

    The ER = EPR idea posits that entangled particles inside and outside of a black hole’s event horizon are connected via wormholes. Olena Shmahalo/Quanta Magazine.

    In other words, there was no need for an entanglement that would create a kink in the smooth surface of the black hole’s throat. The particles still inside the hole would be directly connected to particles that left long ago. No need to pass through the horizon, no need to pass Go. The particles on the inside and the far-out ones could be considered one and the same, Maldacena explained — like me, myself and I. The complex “octopus” wormhole would link the interior of the black hole directly to particles in the long-departed cloud of Hawking radiation.

    Holes in the Wormhole

    No one is sure yet whether ER = EPR will solve the firewall problem. John Preskill, a physicist at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, reminded readers of Quantum Frontiers, the blog for Caltech’s Institute for Quantum Information and Matter, that sometimes physicists rely on their “sense of smell” to sniff out which theories have promise. “At first whiff,” he wrote, “ER = EPR may smell fresh and sweet, but it will have to ripen on the shelf for a while.”

    Whatever happens, the correspondence between entangled quantum particles and the geometry of smoothly warped space-time is a “big new insight,” said Shenker. It’s allowed him and his collaborator Douglas Stanford, a researcher at the Institute for Advanced Study, to tackle complex problems in quantum chaos through what Shenker calls “simple geometry that even I can understand.”

    To be sure, ER = EPR does not yet apply to just any kind of space, or any kind of entanglement. It takes a special type of entanglement and a special type of wormhole. “Lenny and Juan are completely aware of this,” said Marolf, who recently co-authored a paper describing wormholes with more than two ends. ER = EPR works in very specific situations, he said, but AMPS argues that the firewall presents a much broader challenge.

    Like Polchinski and others, Marolf worries that ER = EPR modifies standard quantum mechanics. “A lot of people are really interested in the ER = EPR conjecture,” said Marolf. “But there’s a sense that no one but Lenny and Juan really understand what it is.” Still, “it’s an interesting time to be in the field.”

    See the full article here .

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    Formerly known as Simons Science News, Quanta Magazine is an editorially independent online publication launched by the Simons Foundation to enhance public understanding of science. Why Quanta? Albert Einstein called photons “quanta of light.” Our goal is to “illuminate science.” At Quanta Magazine, scientific accuracy is every bit as important as telling a good story. All of our articles are meticulously researched, reported, edited, copy-edited and fact-checked.

  • richardmitnick 1:19 pm on September 24, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , Stephen Hawking   

    From Futurism: “Stephen Hawking Has Flawed Ideas About Alien Life, According to Former SETI Scientist” 



    September 24, 2017
    Christianna Reedy

    Calling All Aliens

    As autumn brings with it cooler temperatures and clearer night skies, Douglas Vakoch, president of Messaging Extraterrestrial Intelligence (METI), wants you to take the opportunity to survey the glory of our galaxy — and to contemplate the existence of alien life.

    METI (Messaging Extraterrestrial Intelligence) International has announced plans to start sending signals into space

    “You look at the night sky — virtually all of those stars have planets,” Rosenberg said in an exclusive interview with Futurism. “Maybe one out of five has it at just the right zone where there’s liquid water. And so we know there are a lot of places that there could be life. Now the big question is, are they actually trying to make contact, or do they want us to try?”

    METI’s stance is that we should assume the latter, and the collection of scientists have taken it upon themselves to reach out to any potential alien civilizations. In fact, the next transmission planned for next year. However, there have long been voices opposed to this strategy — perhaps the most prominent of which being Stephen Hawking.

    Hawking, a noted physicist and author, supports the search for aliens, but regularly cautions against attempting contact. Hawking argued in “Stephen Hawking’s Favorite Places,” a video on the platform CuriosityStream, that aliens could be “vastly more powerful and may not see us as any more valuable than we see bacteria.”

    Paying Our Dues?

    These are not warnings that Vakoch takes lightly. “Well, when Stephen Hawking, a brilliant cosmologist, has said, ‘whatever you do, don’t transmit, we don’t want the aliens to come to Earth,’ You’ve got to take it seriously,” Vakoch told Futurism.

    But there’s one key point that Hawking really doesn’t seem to take into consideration in this assessment, Vakoch said.

    “It’s the fact that every civilization that does have the ability to travel to Earth could already pick up I Love Lucy. So we have been sending our existence into space with radio signals for 78 years. Even before that, two and a half billion years, we have been telling the Universe that there is life on here because of the oxygen in our atmosphere. So if there’s any alien out there paranoid about competition, it could have already come and wipe us out. If they’re on their way, it’s a lot better strategy to say we’re interested in being conversational partners. Let’s strike up a new conversation.”

    It’s Vakoch’s belief that humanity’s first contact with alien life will occur within our lifetimes. But even if it does not, he believes the METI project will be foundational to any relationship our world builds with others.

    “Sometimes people talk about this interstellar communication as an effort to join the galactic club. What I find so strange is no one ever talks about paying our dues or even submitting an application. And that’s what METI does,” Vakoch said. “It’s actually contributing something to the galaxy instead of saying gimme gimme gimme me. What can we do for someone else.”

    See the full article here .

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    Futurism covers the breakthrough technologies and scientific discoveries that will shape humanity’s future. Our mission is to empower our readers and drive the development of these transformative technologies towards maximizing human potential.

  • richardmitnick 11:25 am on May 31, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Patients’ stem cells point to potential treatments for motor neuron disease, Stephen Hawking   

    From COSMOS: “Patients’ stem cells point to potential treatments for motor neuron disease” 

    Cosmos Magazine bloc


    31 May 2017
    Andrew Masterson

    Researchers have ‘replayed’ the growth of motor neurons to see where it goes wrong for people with the crippling degenerative disease.

    Physicist Stephen Hawking is perhaps the most famous sufferer of motor neuron disease, a crippling degenerative condition that affects an estimated 150,00 people around the world.
    Karwai Tang / Getty

    In news that may bring hope to Stephen Hawking and hundreds of thousands of others around the world, British scientists have used reprogrammed skin cells to study the development of motor neuron disease.

    “It’s like changing the postcode of a house without actually moving it,” explains neuroscientist Rickie Patani, referring to research offering startling new insights into the progress and treatment of the crippling degenerative condition, also known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).

    Patani, together with colleague Sonia Gandhi, both from the Francis Crick Institute and University College London, in the UK, led a team of researchers investigating how the disease destroys the nerve cells that govern muscle movement.

    The results, published in the journal Cell Reports, comprise the most fine-grained work to date on how ALS operates on a molecular level – and suggest powerful new treatment methods based on stem cells.

    Indeed, so exciting are the implications of the research that Ghandi and Patani are already working with pharmaceutical companies to develop their discoveries.

    The neurologists uncovered two key interlinked interactions in the development of motor neuron disease, the first concerning a particular protein, and the second concerning an auxiliary nerve cell type called astrocytes.

    To make their findings, the team developed stem cells from the skin of healthy volunteers and a cohort carrying a genetic mutation that leads to ALS. The stem cells were then guided into becoming motor neurons and astrocytes.

    “We manipulated the cells using insights from developmental biology, so that they closely resembled a specific part of the spinal cord from which motor neurons arise,” says Patani.

    “We were able to create pure, high-quality samples of motor neurons and astrocytes which accurately represent the cells affected in patients with ALS.”

    The scientists then closely monitored the two sets of cells – healthy and mutated – to see how their functioning differed over time.

    The first thing they noted was that a particular protein – TDP-43 – behaved differently. In the patient-derived samples TDP-43 leaked out of the cell nucleus, catalysing a damaging chain of events inside the cell and causing it to die.

    The observation provided a powerful insight into the molecular mechanics of motor neuron disease.

    “Knowing when things go wrong inside a cell, and in what sequence, is a useful approach to define the ‘critical’ molecular event in disease,” says Ghandi.

    “One therapeutic approach to stop sick motor neurons from dying could be to prevent proteins like TDP-43 from leaving the nucleus, or try to move them back.”

    The second critical insight was derived from the behaviour of astrocytes, which turned out to function as a kind of nursemaid, supporting motor neuron cells when they began to lose function because of protein leakage.

    During the progression of motor neuron disease, however, the astrocytes – like nurses during an Ebola outbreak – eventually fell ill themselves and died, hastening the death of the neurons.

    To test this, the team did a type of “mix and match” exercise, concocting various combinations of neurons and astrocytes from healthy and diseased tissue.

    They discovered that healthy astrocytes could prolong the functional life of ALS-affected motor neurons, but damaged astrocytes struggled to keep even healthy motor neurons functioning.

    The research reveals both TDP-43 and astrocytes as key therapeutic targets, raising the possibility that the progress of ALS might be significantly slowed, or perhaps even halted.

    “Our work, along with other studies of ageing and neurodegeneration, would suggest that the cross-talk between neurons and their supporting cells is crucial in the development and progression of ALS,” says Patani.

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 10:01 am on January 26, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Accelerating mirror, , Black hole paradox, , , Plasma wakefield accelerator, , Shooting electron waves through plasma could reveal if black holes permanently destroy information, Stephen Hawking   

    From Science Alert: “Shooting electron waves through plasma could reveal if black holes permanently destroy information” 


    Science Alert

    25 JAN 2017

    Interstellar/Paramount Pictures

    Without having to enter a black hole ourselves…

    One of the greatest dilemmas in astrophysics is the black hole paradox – if black holes really do destroy every scrap of information that enters them.

    Now, physicists might have finally come up with a way to test the paradox once and for all, by accelerating a wave of negatively charged electrons through a cloud of plasma.

    As far as objects in space go, black holes need little introduction. Get too close, and their concentrated mass will swallow you, never to return.

    But in the 1970s, physicists including Stephen Hawking proposed that black holes weren’t necessarily forever.

    Thanks to the peculiarities of quantum mechanics, particles did indeed radiate away from black holes, Hawking hypothesised, which means, theoretically, black holes could slowly evaporate away over time.

    This poses the paradox. Information – the fundamental coding of stuff in the Universe – can’t just disappear. That’s a big rule. But when a black hole evaporates away, where does its bellyful of information go?

    A clue might be found in the nature of the radiation Hawking described. This form of radiation arises when a pair of virtual particles pops into existence right up against a black hole’s line of no return – the ‘event horizon’.

    Usually, such paired particles cancel each other out, and the Universe is none the wiser. But in the case of Hawking radiation, one of these particles falls across the horizon into the gravitational grip of the black hole. The other barely escapes off into the Universe as a bona fide particle.

    Physicists have theorised that this escaped particle preserves the information of its twin thanks to the quirks of quantum dynamics. In this case, the phenomenon of entanglement would allow the particles to continue share a connection, even separated by time and space, leaving a lasting legacy of whatever was devoured by the black hole.

    To demonstrate this, physicists could catch a particle that has escaped a black hole’s event horizon, and then wait for the black hole to spill its guts in many, many years, to test if there’s indeed a correlation between one of the photons and its entangled twin. Which, let’s face it, isn’t exactly practical.

    Now, Pisin Chen from the National Taiwan University and Gerard Mourou from École Polytechnique in France have described a slightly easier method.

    They suggest that a high-tech ‘accelerating mirror’ should provide the same opportunity of separating entangled particles.

    That sounds strange, but as a pair of particles zips into existence in this hypothetical experiment, one would reflect from the accelerating mirror as the other became trapped at the boundary. Just as it might happen in a black hole.

    Once the mirror stopped moving, the ‘trapped’ photon would be freed, just as the energy would be released from a dying black hole.

    Chen’s and Mourou’s mirror would be made by pulsing an X-ray laser through a cloud of ionised gas in a plasma wakefield accelerator. The pulse would leave a trail of negatively charged electrons, which would serve nicely as a mirror.

    By altering the density of the plasma on a small enough scale, the ‘mirror’ would accelerate away from the laser pulse.

    As clever as the concept is, the experiment is still in its ‘thought bubble ‘stage. Even with established methods and trusted equipment, entanglement is tricky business to measure.

    And Hawking radiation itself has yet to be observed as an actual thing.

    Yet Chen’s and Mourou’s model could feasibly be built using existing technology, and as the researchers point out in their paper, could also serve to test other hypotheses on the physics of black holes.

    It sounds far more appealing than waiting until the end of time in front of a black hole, at least.

    This research was published in Physical Review Letters.

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 1:35 pm on June 27, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: 3D map of the known uviverse planned, , , Stephen Hawking,   

    From U Cambridge via Cambridge News: “Professor Stephen Hawking set to reveal plans to map known universe” 

    U Cambridge bloc

    Cambridge University

    Cambridge News

    June 27, 2016
    Hannah Mirsky

    Professor Hawking in 2013

    Physicist Professor Stephen Hawking is set to reveal plans to map the entire known universe at a conference held in his honour.

    Prof Hawking, a cosmology professor at Cambridge University, will detail how a supercomputing centre he founded in the city will use images of radiation to create the map.

    He is set to discuss the plans at the Starmus science conference – this year themed as a “tribute to Stephen Hawking” – which begins today in Tenerife.

    The COSMOS supercomputing centre was founded in Cambridge in 1997 by a group of scientists brought together by Prof Hawking.

    SGI COSMOS supercomputing centre. The COSMOS facility, which is located in the Stephen Hawking Centre for Theoretical Cosmology (CTC) at the University, is dedicated to research in cosmology, astrophysics and particle physics. It was switched on in 2012.

    Cosmologists at the centre are now working to create a 3D map of the universe by plotting the position of billions of cosmic structures, including supernovas, black holes, and galaxies.

    Professor Paul Shellard, director of the COSMOS computing centre, said that the computer would create a map of the early universe using images of radiation from the Big Bang, which have been captured by the European Space Agency’s Planck satellite.

    Cosmic Background Radiation per Planck
    Cosmic Background Radiation per Planck


    Prof Shellard told The Sunday Times: “Planck gives us an amazing picture of the early distribution of matter and how that led to the structure of the modern universe.”

    The map of the universe will also be created using data from the Dark Energy Survey, which has a telescope with a 13ft diameter in Chile.

    Dark Energy Icon
    Dark Energy Camera,  built at FNAL
    NOAO/CTIO Victor M Blanco 4m Telescope which houses the DECam at Cerro Tololo, Chile
    Dark Energy Survey; DECam, built at FNAL, USA, and the NOAO/CTIO Victor M Blanco 4m Telescope which houses the DECam at Cerro Tololo, Chile

    It is hoped the cosmologists’ work will reveal the nature of the dark energy which is causing the universe to expand more rapidly.

    The European Space Agency is set to launch a probe called Euclid in 2020, and Prof Shellard said that this would also help the Cambridge scientists create a picture of the universe.

    ESA/Euclid spacecraft

    The probe is set to map 10 billion galaxies.

    Prof Shellard said: “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.”

    At the Starmus festival, Prof Hawking will also present the first ever Stephen Hawking Medal for Science Communication.

    He is set to give the gong to composer Hans Zimmer for his work creating the soundtrack to the film Interstellar.

    When the new medal was unveiled, Prof Hawking said: “When I wrote A Brief Theory Of Everything, I was told nobody would want to read a hardback book about physics.

    “Luckily for me that turned out not to be true. The people wanted to know, they wanted to understand.

    “Science communicators put science right at the heart of daily life. Bringing science to the people brings the people to science.”

    See the full article here .

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    U Cambridge Campus

    The University of Cambridge[note 1] (abbreviated as Cantab in post-nominal letters[note 2]) is a collegiate public research university in Cambridge, England. Founded in 1209, Cambridge is the second-oldest university in the English-speaking world and the world’s fourth-oldest surviving university.[6] It grew out of an association of scholars who left the University of Oxford after a dispute with townsfolk.[7] The two ancient universities share many common features and are often jointly referred to as “Oxbridge”.

    Cambridge is formed from a variety of institutions which include 31 constituent colleges and over 100 academic departments organised into six schools.[8] The university occupies buildings throughout the town, many of which are of historical importance. The colleges are self-governing institutions founded as integral parts of the university. In the year ended 31 July 2014, the university had a total income of £1.51 billion, of which £371 million was from research grants and contracts. The central university and colleges have a combined endowment of around £4.9 billion, the largest of any university outside the United States.[9] Cambridge is a member of many associations and forms part of the “golden triangle” of leading English universities and Cambridge University Health Partners, an academic health science centre. The university is closely linked with the development of the high-tech business cluster known as “Silicon Fen”.

  • richardmitnick 6:53 am on June 7, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Stephen Hawking   

    From Science Alert: “Stephen Hawking’s finally published a solution to the black hole information paradox” 


    Science Alert

    7 JUN 2016

    ESA/V. Beckmann (NASA-GSFC)


    Stephen Hawking made headlines back in January when he told the world he’d found a possible solution to his black hole information paradox – or in other words, he’d come up with a potential explanation for how black holes can simultaneously erase information and retain it.

    Back then, he put his paper up on pre-print site arXiv.org, so the rest of the physics community could poke holes in it, and now, almost six months later, the research has finally been published in a peer-reviewed journal – and it suggests that we might actually be getting closer to figuring out this problem once and for all.

    To understand why this is such a big deal, and what the black hole information paradox really is, we need to go back to where it all started.

    Our original understanding of black holes, according to Einstein’s generally theory of relativity, is that everything that crosses the event horizon – the boundary of a black hole – is lost forever. Even light can’t escape its clutches, which is why black holes are called black holes (and also why it’s impossible for us to actually see one).

    But then in the 1970s, Hawking proposed that radiation actually can escape from a black hole, because of the laws of quantum mechanics. Put very simply, he suggested that when a black hole swallows one half of a particle-antiparticle pair, the other particle radiates away into space, stealing a little energy from the black hole as it leaves.

    Because of this, eventually, black holes can disappear, and the only remaining trace would be the electromagnetic radiation they emitted – which is known as ‘Hawking radiation’.

    The problem is that, according to Hawking’s best calculations, that radiation would contain no useful information about what the black hole ate – the information swallowed up would have been lost forever. And that doesn’t gel with our understanding of modern physics, which states that it’s always possible to reverse time. In theory, at least, processes in the Universe will look the same if they’re running forwards or backwards.

    As Dennis Overbye explains over at The New York Times:

    “The Universe, like a kind of supercomputer, is supposed to be able to keep track of whether one car was a green pickup truck and the other was a red Porsche, or whether one was made of matter and the other antimatter. These things may be destroyed, but their ‘information’ – their essential physical attributes – should live forever.”

    Hence the paradox. And it’s actually a big deal not just for astrophysicists, because if the rules of quantum mechanics don’t hold up for black holes, then what’s to say they apply to the rest of us?

    But Hawking thinks he finally has a solution to the problem – black holes might actually have a halo of ‘soft hair’ surrounding them, which are capable of storing information.

    That ‘hair’ isn’t actually hair – as you might have already assumed – but is actually low-energy quantum excitations that carry with them a signature pattern of everything that’s been swallowed up by the black hole, long after it evaporates.

    “That pattern, like the pixels on your iPhone or the wavy grooves in a vinyl record, contains information about what has passed through the horizon and disappeared,” writes Overbye.

    To come to this conclusion, Hawking identified two underlying problems with his original assumptions, which is why he says his original calculations – which suggested that the information inside a black hole would be lost forever – were wrong.

    Those two assumptions were that the vacuum in quantum gravity is unique, and that black holes have no quantum ‘hair’. That’s getting a little complex, but what you need to know is that Hawking has since revised his calculations, and is fairly sure that black holes have ‘soft hair’ haloed around them.

    This hypothesis has now been peer-reviewed and published in Physical Review Letters, and researchers are claiming that, while there’s more work to be done, it’s a promising step towards solving the information paradox.

    “It is important to note that this paper does not solve the black hole information problem,” writes physicist Gary Horowitz from the University of California, Santa Barbara, in an accompanying commentary.

    “First, the analysis must be repeated for gravity, rather than just electromagnetic fields. The authors are currently pursuing this task, and their preliminary calculations indicate that the purely gravitational case will be similar,” he adds. “More importantly, the soft hair they introduce is probably not enough to capture all the information about what falls into a black hole.”

    His criticism is that it’s still unclear whether all the information swallowed up by a black hole really can be transferred to the soft hair – rather than just an energy signature of everything that’s been lost.

    But he admits: “It is certainly possible that, following the path indicated by this work, further investigation will uncover more hair of this type, and perhaps eventually lead to a resolution of the black hole information problem.”

    And that would certainly be a red-letter day in physics. Because we’d be one step closer to understanding some of the biggest enigmas in the known Universe – the weirdness that are black holes.

    What does that mean for the rest of us? As Hawking explained in a talk last year: “[Black holes] are not the eternal prisons they were once thought. If you feel you are trapped in a black hole, don’t give up. There is a way out.”

    And there might just be a little trace of you lingering on the outside, too.

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 12:28 pm on May 30, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Stephen Hawking   

    From Science Vibe: “Black holes are a passage to another universe, says Stephen Hawking” 

    Science Vibe bloc


    August 26, 2015
    No writer credit

    Illustration of Cygnus X-1, another stellar-mass black hole located 6070 ly (chandra.harvard.edu)

    According to a new radical theory proposed by Stephen Hawking, humans could escape from black holes, rather than getting stuck in them, or crushed to smithereens. Unfortunate those lucky space travelers won’t bragging about their close call on return to Earth, as they will end up in a different universe.

    “The existence of alternative histories with black holes suggests this might be possible,” Hawking said, while speaking at Stockholm University. “The hole would need to be large and if it was rotating it might have a passage to another universe. But you couldn’t come back to our universe. So although I’m keen on space flight, I’m not going to try that. If you feel you are in a black hole, don’t give up,” he told the audience, with his classic sense of humor. “There’s a way out.”

    A paradox has puzzled physicists for years is what happens to things when they go beyond the event horizon of a black hole, (in layman’s terms, “the point of no return”) where even light can’t get back. Scientists believe that the information about an object has to be preserved, even if the thing itself is swallowed up. Hawking suggests that the information is stored right on the boundary, exactly at the event horizon, which would mean that since it never makes its way into the black hole, it does not need to find its way out again either.

    With this line of thinking humans might not disappear if they fall into a black hole. They’d either become a “hologram” on the edge, or fall out into another universe.

    Well, even so, I think I’ll pass on that black hole trip.

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 9:29 pm on January 27, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Stephen Hawking   

    From SA: “Hawking’s Latest Black Hole Paper Splits Physicists” 

    Scientific American

    Scientific American

    January 27, 2016
    Davide Castelvecchi, Nature magazine

    Black hole in color
    Black hole in color.

    Almost a month after Stephen Hawking and his colleagues posted a paper about black holes online, physicists still cannot agree on what it means.

    Some support the preprint’s claim—that it provides a promising way to tackle a conundrum known as the black hole information paradox, which Hawking identified more than 40 years ago. “I think there is a general sense of excitement that we have a new way of looking at things that may get us out of the logjam,” says Andrew Strominger, a physicist at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and a co-author of the latest paper.

    Strominger presented the results on January 18 at a crowded talk at the University of Cambridge, UK, where Hawking is based.

    Others are not so sure that the approach can solve the paradox, although some say that the work illuminates various problems in physics. In the mid-1970s, Hawking discovered that black holes are not truly black, and in fact emit some radiation. According to quantum physics, pairs of particles must appear out of quantum fluctuations just outside the event horizon—the black hole’s point of no return. Some of these particles escape the pull of the black hole but take a portion of its mass with them, causing the black hole to slowly shrink and eventually disappear.

    In a paper published in 1976, Hawking pointed out that the outflowing particles—now known as Hawking radiation—would have completely random properties. As a result, once the black hole was gone, the information carried by anything that had previously fallen into the hole would be lost to the Universe. But this result clashes with laws of physics that say that information, like energy, is conserved, creating the paradox. “That paper was responsible for more sleepless nights among theoretical physicists than any paper in history,” Strominger said during his talk.

    The mistake, Strominger explained, was to ignore the potential for the empty space to carry information. In their paper, he and Hawking, along with their third co-author Malcolm Perry, also at the University of Cambridge, turn to soft particles. These are low-energy versions of photons, hypothetical particles known as gravitons and other particles. Until recently, these were mainly used to make calculations in particle physics. But the authors note that the vacuum in which a black hole sits need not be devoid of particles—only energy—and therefore that soft particles are present there in a zero-energy state.

    It follows, they write, that anything falling into a black hole would leave an imprint on these particles. “If you’re in one vacuum and you breathe on it—or do anything to it—you stir up a lot of soft gravitons,” said Strominger. After this disturbance, the vacuum around the black hole has changed, and the information has been preserved after all.

    The paper goes on to suggest a mechanism for transferring that information to the black hole—which would have to happen for the paradox to be solved. The authors do this by calculating how to encode the data in a quantum description of the event horizon, known whimsically as black hole hair.

    Tricky transfer

    Still, the work is incomplete. Abhay Ashtekar, who studies gravitation at Pennsylvania State University in University Park, says that he finds the way that the authors transfer the information to the black hole—which they call ‘soft hair’—unconvincing. And the authors acknowledge that they do not yet know how the information would subsequently transfer to the Hawking radiation, a further necessary step.

    Steven Avery, a theoretical physicist at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, is sceptical that the approach will solve the paradox, but is excited by the way it broadens the significance of soft particles. He notes that Strominger has found that soft particles reveal subtle symmetries of the known forces of nature, “some of which we knew and some of which are new”.

    Other physicists are more optimistic about the method’s prospects for solving the information paradox, including Sabine Hossenfelder of the Frankfurt Institute for Advanced Studies in Germany. She says that the results on soft hair, together with some of her own work, seem to settle a more-recent controversy over black holes, known as the firewall problem. This is the question of whether the formation of Hawking radiation makes the event horizon a very hot place. That would contradict Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity, in which an observer falling through the horizon would see no sudden changes in the environment.

    “If the vacuum has different states,” Hossenfelder says, “then you can transfer information into the radiation without having to put any kind of energy at the horizon. Consequently, there’s no firewall.”

    See the full article here .

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    Scientific American, the oldest continuously published magazine in the U.S., has been bringing its readers unique insights about developments in science and technology for more than 160 years.

  • richardmitnick 11:02 am on January 17, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , Stephen Hawking   

    From livescience: “Stephen Hawking: Black Holes Have ‘Hair'” 


    January 14, 2016
    Tia Ghose

    Temp 1
    This artist’s concept shows a black hole’s surroundings, including its accretion disk, jet and magnetic field. Credit: ESO/L. Calçada

    Black holes may sport a luxurious head of “hair” made up of ghostly, zero-energy particles, says a new hypothesis proposed by Stephen Hawking and other physicists.

    Temp 5
    Dr. Stephen Hawking

    The new paper, which was published online Jan. 5 in the preprint journal arXiv, proposes that at least some of the information devoured by a black hole is stored in these electric hairs.

    Still, the new proposal doesn’t prove that all the information that enters a black hole is preserved.

    “The million dollar question is whether all the information is stored in this way, and we have made no claims about that,” said study author Andrew Strominger, a physicist at Harvard University in Massachusetts. “It seems unlikely that the kind of hair that we described is rich enough to store all the information.”

    Black holes

    According to [Albert] Einstein’s theory of general relativity, black holes are extremely dense celestial objects that warp space-time so strongly that no light or matter can escape their clutches. Some primordial black holes formed soon after the Big Bang and may be the size of a single atom yet as massive as a mountain, according to NASA. Others form as gigantic stars collapse in on themselves, while supermassive black holes lie at the hearts of almost all galaxies.

    In the 1960s, physicist John Wheeler and colleagues proposed that black holes “have no hair,” a metaphor meaning that black holes were shorn of all complicated particularities. In Wheeler’s formulation, all black holes were identical except for their spin, angular momentum and mass.

    Then, in the 1970s, Stephen Hawking proposed the notion now called Hawking radiation. In this formulation, all black holes “leak” mass in the form of ghostly quantum particles that escape over time. Eventually, Hawking radiation causes black holes to evaporate altogether, leaving a single, unique vacuum. The vacuums left by these black holes, according to the original theory, would be identical, and thus incapable of storing information about the objects from which they were formed, Strominger said.

    Since the Hawking radiation leaking from a black hole is completely random, that would mean black holes lose information over time, and there would be no way of knowing much about the celestial objects that formed the black holes. Yet that notion creates a paradox, because on the smallest scale, the laws of physics are completely reversible, meaning information that existed in the past should be theoretically recoverable. In recent years, Hawking has walked back the notion of information loss and conceded that black holes do store information after all.

    Black hole “snowflakes”

    In the past several years, Strominger has been dismantling some of these notions. First, he asked the question: What happens if you add a “soft” photon, or a particle of light with no energy, to the vacuum left behind after a black hole evaporates?

    Though most people have never heard of soft photons, the particles are ubiquitous, Strominger said. (Other particles, called soft gravitons, are hypothetical quantum particles that transmit gravity. Though they have never been detected, most physicists believe these particles exist and are also incredibly abundant, Strominger said).

    “Every collision at the Large Hadron Collider produces an infinite number of soft photons and soft gravitons,” Strominger said. “We’re swimming in them all the time.”

    CERN LHC Map
    CERN LHC Grand Tunnel
    CERN LHC particles
    LHC at CERN

    After working through the equations, he — together with Hawking and Malcolm Perry, who are both physicists at the University of Cambridge in England — found that the black hole vacuum would have the same energy but different angular momentum after the addition of a soft photon. That meant the vacuum state of an evaporated black hole is a kind of celestial snowflake, with its individual properties dependent on its origin and history.

    “Far from being a simple, vanilla object, it’s like a large hard drive which can store essentially an infinite amount of information in the form of these zero-energy photons and gravitons,” Strominger told Live Science.

    The new work is an extension of a short paper Hawking put out in 2014, which argued that the event horizon, or the point of no return before an object would get swallowed into a black hole forever, may not be a fixed boundary. The new paper posits that hairs of soft photons and gravitons fringe a black holes’ event horizon.

    Information paradox stands

    The problem is that this information is “incredibly scrambled up,” so retrieving it from a black hole is akin to determining what someone tossed into a bonfire after it has burned up, Strominger said. Essentially, the new work is the black hole equivalent of using smoke and fire to figure out the identity of the original object that was burnt, he added.

    “It’s not a final answer to the information problem, but it does seem like a step in the right direction,” said Aidan Chatwin-Davies, a physicist at the California Institute of Technology, who was not involved in the study.

    While some of the information in a black hole may be contained in its hairy halo of soft photons and gravitons, not all of it necessarily resides there, he said.

    “If anything, it puts forward some new ideas for us to think about which could prove very helpful in understanding black holes and how they encode information,” Chatwin-Davies told Live Science.

    See the full article here .

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