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Radioactive swirls in the cosmos may rewrite the origin story of the universe
Respected Oxford mathematician Roger Penrose sees swirls of radioactivity in a sky map as evidence that the Big Bang isn’t true. These “Hawking rings” suggest to him that the universe expands and collapses over and over.
The idea is called “conformal cyclic cosmology" (CCC), and what it asserts is that, rather than starting from a big bang, the universe continually expands and contracts, each time leaving behind tiny bits of electromagnetic radiation that remain as the process occurs over and over. The late Stephen Hawking predicted tiny dots of radiation, which others call 'Hawking points', left over from this cycle. Now, the scientists behind CCC theory say they can see possible examples of 'Hawking radiation' in a map created by a radio telescope at the South Pole. They've dubbed them 'Hawking holes'. “I think," says team leader, Oxford's Roger Penrose, “he would have been delighted to see the actual effect he predicted in an observation."
In 2014, the BICEP2 South Pole telescope captured images in which there were swirls of polarized light in the cosmic microwave background (CMB). The BICEP2 team interpreted these swirls as artifacts of gravitational waves from the expansion occurring after the Big Bang, and say that subsequent data from the Planck observatory suggests that these 'B-modes' are interstellar dust.
(B-mode polarisation patterns. Credit: BICEP2)
Penrose and his colleagues see something else. They see signs of the radioactive rings that CCC predicts would be left behind after a previous universe shrank back to a Hawking point, as verified by thousands of CCC computer models they've run. According to Penrose, our measurements of the CMB go back no further than 380,000 years, and so we can't see the tiny points themselves, but just the radioactive rings they've left behind.
In particular, they're intrigued by certain areas in the BICEP2 map that show rings of polarized light—this indicates to them a vast temperature differential between the ring's inner and outer boundaries.
Some say the map on which Penrose is basing his conclusions isn't really accurate enough to take so seriously. The BICEP2 team hasn't yet released that data from which the map was generated, and there's a certain amount of rounding-off in the map Penrose is working from. Huge areas of space are represented by single pixels in the image, so there's insufficient detail present in any one pixel to make it that useful for serious analysis. The raw data, when released, will be more granular in the information it presents.
Even so, Penrose's faith in the image he has is based on his teams' models that predict what the map seems to show. His colleague Daniel An says, “That means they were probably caused not by chance, but by some physical phenomenon." The team's analysis of the corresponding Planck data verifies that the swirls aren't just visual artifacts, but that there is really at least something there. Something consistent with their 4,000 CCC simulations.
If conformal cyclic cosmology is correct, the Big Bang theory isn't. Of course, before such an extraordinary shift in perspective occurs, equally strong evidence for CCC will be necessary. Still, Penrose's idea—though preliminary, pending receipt of the BICEP2 data—is tantalizing. “What we claim we're seeing," he says, “is the final remnant after a black hole has evaporated away in the previous eon." Make that the previous universe.
What is human dignity? Here's a primer, told through 200 years of great essays, lectures, and novels.
- Human dignity means that each of our lives have an unimpeachable value simply because we are human, and therefore we are deserving of a baseline level of respect.
- That baseline requires more than the absence of violence, discrimination, and authoritarianism. It means giving individuals the freedom to pursue their own happiness and purpose.
- We look at incredible writings from the last 200 years that illustrate the push for human dignity in regards to slavery, equality, communism, free speech and education.
The inherent worth of all human beings<p>Human dignity is the inherent worth of each individual human being. Recognizing human dignity means respecting human beings' special value—value that sets us apart from other animals; value that is intrinsic and cannot be lost.</p> <p>Liberalism—the broad political philosophy that organizes society around liberty, justice, and equality—is rooted in the idea of human dignity. Liberalism assumes each of our lives, plans, and preferences have some unimpeachable value, not because of any objective evaluation or contribution to a greater good, but simply because they belong to a human being. We are human, and therefore deserving of a baseline level of respect. </p> <p>Because so many of us take human dignity for granted—just a fact of our humanness—it's usually only when someone's dignity is ignored or violated that we feel compelled to talk about it. </p> <p>But human dignity means more than the absence of violence, discrimination, and authoritarianism. It means giving individuals the freedom to pursue their own happiness and purpose—a freedom that can be hampered by restrictive social institutions or the tyranny of the majority. The liberal ideal of the good society is not just peaceful but also pluralistic: It is a society in which we respect others' right to think and live differently than we do.</p>
From the 19th century to today<p>With <a href="https://books.google.com/ngrams/graph?year_start=1800&year_end=2019&content=human+dignity&corpus=26&smoothing=3&direct_url=t1%3B%2Chuman%20dignity%3B%2Cc0" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Google Books Ngram Viewer</a>, we can chart mentions of human dignity from 1800-2019.</p><img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDg0ODU0My9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1MTUwMzE4MX0.bu0D_0uQuyNLyJjfRESNhu7twkJ5nxu8pQtfa1w3hZs/img.png?width=980" id="7ef38" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="9974c7bef3812fcb36858f325889e3c6" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
American novelist, writer, playwright, poet, essayist and civil rights activist James Baldwin at his home in Saint-Paul-de-Vence, southern France, on November 6, 1979.
Credit: Ralph Gatti/AFP via Getty Images
The future of dignity<p>Around the world, people are still working toward the full and equal recognition of human dignity. Every year, new speeches and writings help us understand what dignity is—not only what it looks like when dignity is violated but also what it looks like when dignity is honored. In his posthumous essay, Congressman Lewis wrote, "When historians pick up their pens to write the story of the 21st century, let them say that it was your generation who laid down the heavy burdens of hate at last and that peace finally triumphed over violence, aggression and war."</p> <p>The more we talk about human dignity, the better we understand it. And the sooner we can make progress toward a shared vision of peace, freedom, and mutual respect for all. </p>
Scientists find that bursts of gamma rays may exceed the speed of light and cause time-reversibility.
- Astrophysicists propose that gamma-ray bursts may exceed the speed of light.
- The superluminal jets may also be responsible for time-reversibility.
- The finding doesn't go against Einstein's theory because this effect happens in the jet medium not a vacuum.
Jet bursting out of a blazar. Black-hole-powered galaxies called blazars are the most common sources detected by NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope.
Cosmic death beams: Understanding gamma ray bursts<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="cu2knVEk" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="c6cfd20fdf31c82cb206ade8ce21ba3f"> <div id="botr_cu2knVEk_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/cu2knVEk-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/cu2knVEk-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/cu2knVEk-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div>
Researchers dramatically improve the accuracy of a number that connects fundamental forces.
- A team of physicists carried out experiments to determine the precise value of the fine-structure constant.
- This pure number describes the strength of the electromagnetic forces between elementary particles.
- The scientists improved the accuracy of this measurement by 2.5 times.
The process for measuring the fine-structure constant involved a beam of light from a laser that caused an atom to recoil. The red and blue colors indicate the light wave's peaks and troughs, respectively.
Scientists at Washington University are patenting a new electrolyzer designed for frigid Martian water.
- Mars explorers will need more oxygen and hydrogen than they can carry to the Red Planet.
- Martian water may be able to provide these elements, but it is extremely salty water.
- The new method can pull oxygen and hydrogen for breathing and fuel from Martian brine.