The Whirlpool Galaxy Like You’ve Never Seen it Before | astrobites

The Whirlpool Galaxy Like You’ve Never Seen it Before | astrobites:

"This paper presents a detailed study of the gas in M51, the Whirlpool galaxy. This system is actually two galaxies, but this paper focuses on the larger, main spiral (NGC 5194) in this interacting pair. This galaxy is relatively close by (20 million light years away),  massive (~150 billion solar masses), and quite well-studied: astronomers have looked at it in wavelengths from radio to near-infrared, optical and ultraviolet.  The combined resolution and sensitivity of these new millimeter observations (the J=1-0 rotational transition of the carbon monoxide molecule) allow the authors to detect for the first time individual molecular clouds in this galaxy, the objects from which stars and star clusters are born. Below is an image of M51 from this study showing the gas surface density (the amount of gas along our line of sight) from small amounts (dark blue) to large amounts (bright pink), all representing the fuel required to make the next generation of stars in this galaxy."

'via Blog this'


Announcing the Blogger app for iOS

Posted to Reader from Google:

Announcing the Blogger app for iOS: Today we’re excited to announce the new Blogger app for iOS. With the Blogger app, you can write a new blog post and publish it immediately or save it as a draft right from your iOS device. You can also open a blog post you've been working on from your computer and continue editing it while you're on-the-go. Your blog posts are automatically synced across devices, so you’ll always have access to the latest version.

Pictures are worth a thousand words, and the Blogger app makes it easy to add photos either by choosing from the gallery or taking a new photo right within the app. You can also add labels and location to provide more details about the post.

Download the Blogger app today for iOS versions 3.2 and above in the App Store. Although the user interface is only available in English at this time, the app supports blog posts written in all languages. If you’re using an Android-powered device, you can download the Blogger app for Android from the Android Market.

Posted by Chang Kim, Product Manager

The Sailing Stones of Racetrack Playa located in Bakersfield, California, USThe stones of Racetrack Playa leave trails of movement, yet no one has ever seen them move

The Sailing Stones of Racetrack Playa located in Bakersfield, California, US

The stones of Racetrack Playa leave trails of movement, yet no one has ever seen them move


Baby Planet

For the first time ever, scientists believe they've detected the birth of a new world around a distant sun-like star.

If confirmed, the discovery, using the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope, would provide scientists with the earliest view yet of how short-lived discs of material around young stars clump together in the early stages of planetary formation.

Astronomers studying T Chamaeleontis (T Cha), a faint star 350 light-years from Earth in the southern constellation of Chamaeleon, detected a large gap in a disc of material around the star. They then found a small object in the disc which may be the cause of the gap.

The finding is detailed in two papers in the current edition of the Journal of Astronomy and Astrophysics.

Johan Olofsson from Germany's Max Planck Institute for Astronomy and lead author of one of the papers says the star was targeted because it's comparable to the sun, but aat just seven million years old it's still near the beginning of its life.

"Earlier studies had shown that T Cha was an excellent target for studying how planetary systems form, but this star is quite distant and the full power of the Very Large Telescope was needed to resolve very fine details and see what is going on in the dust disc," Olofsson says.

Scientists know planets form out of the discs of material around young stars, but theory says the transition from dust disc to planetary system is rapid and few objects are caught during this phase.

This is the first time a forming planet has been found in one of these transitional discs, although planets in more mature discs have been seen before.

Nuria Huelamo from the Centro de Astrobiologia, in Spain, and lead author of the second paper says the gap in the disc was the smoking gun: "We asked ourselves: could we be witnessing a companion digging a gap inside its protoplanetary disc?"

After careful analysis they found the clear signature of an object located within the gap in the dust disc, about one billion kilometers from the star. That's slightly further out than Jupiter lies from our sun.

This is the first detection of an object much smaller than a star within a gap in the planet-forming dust disc around a young star.

Baby Planet



dog sunsetAnimals (not just people) likely have spiritual experiences, according to a prominent neurologist who has analyzed the processes of spiritual sensation for over three decades.

Research suggests that spiritual experiences originate deep within primitive areas of the human brain -- areas shared by other animals with brain structures like our own.

The trick, of course, lies in proving animals' experiences.

"Since only humans are capable of language that can communicate the richness of spiritual experience, it is unlikely we will ever know with certainty what an animal subjectively experiences," Kevin Nelson, a professor of neurology at the University of Kentucky, told Discovery News.

"Despite this limitation, it is still reasonable to conclude that since the most primitive areas of our brain happen to be the spiritual, then we can expect that animals are also capable of spiritual experiences," added Nelson, author of the book "The Spiritual Doorway in the Brain," which will be published in January 2011.

The finding is an extension of his research on humans, which has been published in many peer-reviewed journals. A Neurology journal study, for example, determined that out-of-body experiences in humans are likely caused by the brain's arousal system, which regulates different states of consciousness.

"In humans, we know that if we disrupt the (brain) region where vision, sense of motion, orientation in the Earth's gravitational field, and knowing the position of our body all come together, then out-of-body experiences can be caused literally by the flip of a switch," he said. "There is absolutely no reason to believe it is any different for a dog, cat, or primate’s brain."

Other mammals also probably have near-death experiences comparable to those reported by certain humans, he believes. Such people often say they saw a light and felt as though they were moving down a tunnel.

The tunnel phenomenon "is caused by the eye's susceptibility to the low blood flow that occurs with fainting or cardiac arrest," he said. "As blood flow diminishes, vision fails peripherally first. There is no reason to believe that other animals are any different from us."

Nelson added, "What they make of the tunnel is another matter."

The light aspect of near-death experiences can be explained by how the visual system defines REM (rapid eye movement) consciousness, he believes.

"In fact," he said, "the link between REM and the physiological crises causing near-death experience are most strongly linked in animals, like cats and rats, which we can study in the laboratory."

Mystical experiences -- moments that inspire a sense of mystery and wonderment -- arise within the limbic system, he said. When specific parts of this system are removed from animal brains, mind-altering drugs like LSD have no effect.

Since other animals, such as non-human primates, horses, cats and dogs, also possess similar brain structures, it is possible that they too experience mystical moments, and may even have a sense of spiritual oneness, according to Nelson.

Marc Bekoff, a professor emeritus of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Colorado, Boulder, also believes animals have spiritual experiences, which he defines as experiences that are nonmaterial, intangible, introspective and comparable to what humans have.

Both he and primatologist Jane Goodall have observed chimpanzees dancing with total abandon at waterfalls that emerge after heavy rains. Some of the chimps even appear to dance themselves into a trance-like state, as some humans do during religious and cultural rituals.

Goodall wondered, "Is it not possible that these (chimpanzee) performances are stimulated by feelings akin to wonder and awe? After a waterfall display the performer may sit on a rock, his eyes following the falling water. What is it, this water?"

"Perhaps numerous animals engage in these rituals, but we haven't been lucky enough to see them," Bekoff wrote in a Psychology Today report.

"For now, let's keep the door open to the idea that animals can be spiritual beings and let's consider the evidence for such a claim," he added.

"Meager as it is, available evidence says, 'Yes, animals can have spiritual experiences,' and we need to conduct further research and engage in interdisciplinary discussions before we say that animals cannot and do not experience spirituality."



Review of "Bad Universe"

Bad Universe promotional postcardImage by thebadastronomer via Flickr
We recently watched "Bad Universe" on the Discovery Channel, hosted by Phil Plait.  The first show was about asteroids and how they might threaten Earth, and what could be done about them.  Phil Plait was quite interesting, even though he kept wanting to press the "fire" button on the gadgets.  :)

Although the show did dramatize asteroid collisions, it did not focus on that aspect too much, like many other science shows do.  Instead, it analyzed different types of asteroids, and how their makeup affects efforts to redirect their path.  It also analysed the effects of impact at different distance, using a scale model explosion.  I was not aware of the Hiroshima measuring scale!

I will watch this show again.  I'd even watch this particular episode again. It was quite entertaining, brilliant, and informative.


Antivaxxers take note: vaccines stop polio outbreak in Tajikistan | Bad Astronomy | Discover Magazine

From the Discover: Bad Astronomy blog
See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herd_immunity


This is wildly good news! Through Vaccine Central I learned that a major polio outbreak in Tajikistan has been stopped!

How? Through vaccination.

Yup. The first reports of polio were confirmed in April — 413 of them. However, that ended in late June, when no new cases were reported. That is credited to the thousands of doctors and nurses who not only vaccinated at least 97% of the children in each region of the mountainous country, but also flooded the area with multi-lingual informational leaflets, posters, and banners.

And they succeeded! With no new reports, it appears this outbreak was stopped cold.

And with the AVN in Australia getting hammered repeatedly in the press, I can now have some hope that the movement here in the United States, spearheaded by Jenny McCarthy, will die off as well. Vaccinations work, and they save a lot of lives.

Antivaxxers take note: vaccines stop polio outbreak in Tajikistan | Bad Astronomy | Discover Magazine


New Legal Decisions Will Impact Net Neutrality and Startups

New Legal Decisions Will Impact Net Neutrality and Startups:

Two important legal decisions were made this week that could have significant impact on technology startups.

On Tuesday, a U.S. Federal Appeals Court determined that the FCC had overstepped its regulatory authority in demanding that Comcast cease its 'throttling' of peer-to-peer service users. And on Wednesday, the U.K. House of Commons approved the 'Digital Economy Bill', which grants sweeping regulatory power to the British government, including the ability to block websites and punish consumers and companies who are found to violate copyright law.

The Federal Appeals Court decision calls into question the reach of the FCC, and raises questions about the future of a number of policy plans for the Obama Administration, including the National Broadband Plan. Austin Schlick writes on the broadband plan's official blog that several recommendations from the plan may be impacted, including 'supporting robust use of broadband by small businesses to drive productivity, growth and ongoing innovation; lowering barriers that hinder broadband deployment; strengthening public safety communications; cybersecurity; consumer protection, including transparency and disclosure; and consumer privacy.'

The British bill has seen widespread opposition from numerous sectors, including Facebook, Google, and Yahoo, and some are contending that it will have a chilling effect on startups in the UK.

Both of these decisions point to the high stakes involved with securing 'net neutrality' - both for consumers and businesses alike. Although there is by no means unanimity on what, if any, role governments should have in regulating technology ideas and infrastructure, few would disagree that startups benefit from a climate that fosters technological and business innovation. Furthermore, all businesses, not merely ones in the technology sector, are becoming dependent on quick access to the Internet for their ability to develop, deliver and distribute their services to customers.

Fred Wilson argues in a post on his blog today that perhaps it is time to reframe the terms of the debate, moving away from the phrase 'net neutrality' and instead to argue on behalf of 'internet freedom.' He writes 'Internet Freedom is about sustaining the era of permissionless innovation that has characterized the first fifteen years of the commercial Internet in this country and brought us thousands of new big profitable companies, millions of jobs, and a vast array of new services and devices that have changed our lives and made them better.'

As courts, legislatures, and agencies try to create policies around digital technologies, how will new startups be effected?