All eyes on CERN

The mystery may get a little less mysterious in this afternoon:

(BBC) — Prof Stefan Soldner-Rembold, from the University of Manchester, called the quality of the LHC’s results “exceptional”, adding: “Within one year we will probably know whether the Higgs particle exists, but it is likely not going to be a Christmas present.”
He told me: “The Higgs particle would, of course, be a great discovery, but it would be an even greater discovery if it didn’t exist where theory predicts it to be.”
The Higgs boson is a “fundamental” particle; one of the basic building blocks of the Universe. It is also the last missing piece in the leading theory of particle physics – known as the Standard Model – which describes how particles and forces interact.

Antarctica beckons

The blue ice covering the lake comes from glacial meltwater from the Canada Glacier and other smaller glaciers. The fresh water stays on top of the lake and freezes, sealing in briny water below.

It seems a shame, an entire continent rugged and rich in its own way, wasted, at least for exploitation by modern day humans. But that unique environment has enormous potential for science, and it could be an ideal place for astronomy and space exploration research that might reach far beyond the icy plains and frozen mountains: [Read more…]

We the Tweeple, in order to form a functioning interface, beseech you …

I beg you, I beseech you, oh Mighty Gods of Twitter, please fix the myriad, aggravating flaws with your user interface. I like Twitter, my friends like Twitter, it’s become a primary Internet tool. almost on par with Google. The underlying concept is brilliant, like an adult version of Facebook, without the bullshit fluffy-feely we-wanna-harvest-every-last thing about you and exploit it for our gain angle. Just a few years ago we didn’t even know we needed Twitter and now we can’t imagine online life without it. Bravo! But goddamit, right now I’d love to see you half as engaged in user concerns as Facebook. [Read more…]

Republicans deserve Newt Gingrich

Really, let’s just recognize the performance artists making up what was formerly known as the Republican Party are getting their just rewards. It’s been going this way for a long time and, like an abusive spouse with a love of the bottle hitting middle age, it’s been getting noticeably worse over the last few years. Conservative propaganda, funded by corporations and rich whackos, empowered with everything mass media and Madison Avenue can deliver, have hit the trifecta. [Read more…]

This week in science!

This week rumors swirled that … something … was found in the LHC data. There’s plenty of inside baseball players saying it’s likely to be tentative evidence that the search for the Higgs Boson is nearing a phase transition. So, what is the Higgs Boson you ask? The LHC rap above with intro by MC Hawking does a decent job of reviewing the basics; I wish could explain the Higgs in one graf. Because it’s only the most important particle in science right now, and — depending on its properties or its very existence — could even help illuminate the elusive bridge between two great fields of physics that explain our universe from quark to quasar, but don’t play well together at all: General Relativity and Quantum Mechanics. But that’s a post for another day. For now, Cosmic Variance does an admirable job of summing up the science of detection, and this link explains the Higgs by gentle analogy for the non atom-smashing pro.

  • Anti-science marches on! This week Jon Huntsman ran with the banner, making a play for the critical for the know-nothing vote by backpeddling away on human induced climate change with a subtle dog-whistle shout-out to the climate conspiracy clowns. Meanwhile, climate talks are at a virtual standstill without strong US leadership and cooperation from India and China.
  • If somehow you missed it, Kepler bags a low mass, possibly earth-like planet circling in the habitable zone of a twin sun-like star. The Bad Astronomer has some great science insights on Kepler’s first big find, and this planet could the first of many with terrestrial potential we discover over the next several years.
  • The Mars Science Lab is on its way to Mars, where the Opportunity rover has found lead-pipe cinch evidence for flowing water. There’s a sense the decade of the naughts could see the universe give up some long-held secrets, near and far, at every level.
  • The lunar eclipse has begun: beautiful images abound, and for those of you in Eastern and Central Standard Time, where the moon is being drowned out by a rising sun, Cosmic Log and Wired Mag both offer great online viewing.

Lunar eclipse offers rare treat for some in the wee morning hours

The image above courtesy of Anthony Ayiomamitis gives an idea of the treat in store for star-gazer tonight. In the wee morning hours a beautiful full moon will offer up a rare show in crystal winter skies as it sets gently wrapped in red and gold in the west: the 2011 lunar eclipse. Cosmic Log has a great rundown of times and the best geographic locations in the US: [Read more…]

Cambrian predator was a real horror show

The already rather fearsome anomalocaris just got even more ferocious. Paleontologists found a well preserved specimen with detail on the eye arrangement, and this top predator of the Cambrian Explosion had eye stalks:

(MSNBC) — When you look at the animal it has these really gnarly looking grasping claws at the top of its head, for grasping onto its prey,” Paterson said. “It used these grasping claws at the front to shove its prey into its circular mouth, which is also fairly fearsome looking.”

Economy recovery really under way?

An analyst in the investment racket once told me “Things don’t usually move as fast as you think they will, but when they start moving they often keep going longer and further than you think they will.” The year was 1994, at the end of a long recession, and boy was he right. Hopefully, last week’s unemployment stats together with this one bode well too: [Read more…]