Supernova evidence found in terrestrial bacteria


Not long ago, a rare form of iron was found in oceanic crust worldwide dating to about 3.5 million years ago. Astronomers at the time noted that would be consistent with a relatively nearby supernova explosion. Now, another groups of scientists have the same substances incorporated into bacteria dating to the same time:

Columbus Dispatch — Dust from supernovae contains a radioactive isotope of iron called Fe-60, which could settle on Earth and be taken up by certain types of bacteria called magnetotactic. These single-cell organisms take up small bits of iron, producing nanometer-size grains of an iron-oxygen compound called magnetite, which they presumably use for navigation.The recent news from the American Physical Society meeting is that Fe-60 was detected in these bacterial fossils using clever technology developed for particle accelerators. Fe-60 does not occur naturally on Earth and is produced almost exclusively in supernova explosions.

These measured amounts of Fe-60 are small, but they are well within the detection limits of modern technology. In fact, two previous measurements by a different group using the same accelerator technology found Fe-60 in other ocean-floor sediments of about the same age — about 2.5 million years ago. The newly reported results are different in that the Fe-60 is now linked to fossils of magnetotactic bacteria.

And what is the most likely candidate for that supernova? The Scorpius–Centaurus Association, which our system drifted by beginning about three millions years ago and which includes, among other massive stars, the mighty Antares. Better known as the ruby red heart of Scorpio.

They seem to have found some kind of godd*mn particle!

10:40 am Sean Carroll: Personal editorializing by me: we’ve found the Higgs, or at least a Higgs. Still can’t be sure that it’s just the vanilla Standard Model Higgs. The discrepancies aren’t quite strong enough to be sure that they really represent beyond-Standard-Model physics… but it’s a strong possibility. … Peter Higgs is visibly moved.

Up before sunrise watching physics fireworks streaming across the net. What a fun and crazy world. Right now the Higgs announcement makes the SCOTUS decision look like a one word verdict. It’s complicated. But so far the gists is … they seem to have found something and it looks like a Higgses! But it’s not exactly what many physcists expected in subtle ways and first impressions are it could be measuring and analytical idiosyncracies … or it could signal the dawn of a new physics after all. Cosmic Variance is streaming superb coverage: [Read more…]

The godd*mn particle

Prof. Sean Carroll will be live blogging the “Higgses announcement,” expected early July 4th, US time.  But the news is likely to be … a little more certainty that the elusive mass lending weirdo particle exists and lives at 125 GeV. Whether the findings will go beyond that is unclear. But it’s still a BFD, because the Higgs Boson is almost as elusive as God (As Embertime notes in comments, it’s probably down the back of the soda) and it’s the most important goddamn particle in physics. What is the Higgs you ask? In layman’s terms: [Read more…]