Thursday, December 21, 2017
Wednesday, December 20, 2017
"An international team of astronomers has concluded that when it comes to theories about colliding neutron stars, Einstein got it right. Everybody else, not so much.
A neutron star is what's left when a star burns out and collapses in on itself, leaving a small, incredibly dense ball.
Einstein's theory of general relativity predicted that when two neutron stars collide, they would generate a gravitational wave, a ripple in space time.
That's exactly what physicists saw for the first time last summer with LIGO, the new gravitational wave observatory.
There were also plenty of theories about what else they'd see. For example, there were predictions about energetic emissions known as gamma rays.
'The old picture suggested that when the two nutron stars merged you launch this very narrow, very, very bright, very fast jet of gamma rays, says Mansil Kasliwal, Assistant Professor of Astronomy at Caltech in Pasadena and principal investigator for GROWTH, the Global Relay of Observatories Watching Transients Happen.
She says that old picture was wrong. It's true astronomers did see a burst of gamma rays, 'But the brightness of this burst was rather wimpy.'
Indeed, the gamma ray burst was 10,000 times weaker than what they were expecting.
Other measurements proved the theorists wrong as well. The ultraviolet light from the merger was bluer than theories said it should be, and the radio waves generated by the collision were predicted to fade over time. Instead they kept getting stronger.
Kasliwal and her colleagues now think they know where the theorists went wrong. The explanation appears in the journal, Nature.
Before the neutron stars collide, they rotate around each other. 'So you have these neutron stars doing this dance around each other, coming closer and closer and closer together before they merge, says Kasliwal.
During the dance, the stars start to break apart, forming a cloud of stuff.
When they finally do merge, a jet of gamma rays does in fact form, but it doesn't get very far.
'The jet sort-of gets stuck,' says Kasliwal. 'Because there's so much stuff around, that this poor jet cannot just barrel through that and escape out into the interstellar medium.'
Kasliwal says the jet transfers some of its energy into the cloud of stuff surrounding the merged neutron stars. This pushes the cloud outward, forming a kind of glowing cocoon.
It's the glowing cocoon that causes the blue ultraviolet light, and the persistent radio waves.
'We are now a hundred days after the merger ad most beautifully it keeps getting brighter and brighter and brighter, exactly as we predicted the cocoon model would do,' says Kasliwal.
It's probably not surprising that modern theorists got things wrong. Predicting what kind of gamma rays, radio waves and X-rays colliding neutron stars would produce is 'a complicated and messy problem,' wrote Daniel Kasen, Associate Professor of Physics, Astronomy at the University of California, Berkeley, in an email to The Two Way. 'You have to consider the structure of the neutron stars, the hydrodynamics of how material gets spit out in a merger, the nuclear physics of how heavy elements are synthesized, [and] the atomic physics and electromagnetism of how the ejected material radiates light.' Understanding all this relies on lots of different kinds of physics.
Predicting the gravitational wave signal is 'a much cleaner problem,' wrote Kasen."
"Apple might start to converge iOS and macOS in a big way next year by letting developers create a single app that runs across both platforms. Bloomberg reports that Apple is planning to let developers create apps that will adjust to whichever platform they’re running on, so that they’ll support touch input on an iPhone or an iPad and mouse and trackpad input on a Mac.
The report notes that plans could always change, but it sounds like the combined apps could become available next year. If so, they’d likely be announced in June at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference and then introduced in the fall, when new versions of iOS and macOS typically ship."
Apple might combine iOS and Mac apps next year - The Verge
Tuesday, December 19, 2017
"(CNN) The mysterious flying object that one man saw looked like a "40-foot-long Tic Tac" and was maneuvering and shifting directions rapidly.
That claim doesn't come from a random townsperson, though. It comes from retired Cmdr. David Fravor and bears the Pentagon's stamp of approval. And it was one of many confounding examples of unidentified flying objects the Pentagon investigated in the Advanced Aviation Threat Identification Program.
"My personal belief is that there is very compelling evidence that we may not be alone," Luis Elizondo, a former Pentagon official, told CNN.
The belief in alien encounters has long been a prominent feature of American life. A 1997 poll from CNN/Time on the 50th anniversary of the Roswell incident found that 80% of Americans think the government is hiding knowledge of the existence of extraterrestrial life forms.
But instead of funding a $22 million project to get to the bottom of the issue, the US military could have spent its time reading some of the many tales of UFO sightings, abductions and alien encounters with humans over the decades.
There are thousands and thousands of reported UFO sightings, but in light of the Pentagon's extensive research into the possible existence of UFOs, here's a look back at some of America's closest encounters of the third kind."
A short history of UFOs in America: Aliens, flying discs and sightings