Tuesday, March 30, 2010

NYT: "Large Hadron Collider Finally Smashing Properly"

Best headline of the week (so far) and best nerd news all around! From the Grey Lady:
Following two false starts due to electrical failures, protons whipped to more than 99 percent of the speed of light and to energy levels of 3.5 trillion electron volts apiece around a 17-mile underground magnetic racetrack outside of Geneva a little after 1 p.m. local time. They crashed together inside apartment-building sized detectors designed to capture every evanescent flash and fragment from microscopic fireballs thought to hold insights into the beginning of the world.

The soundless blooming of proton explosions was accompanied by the hoots and applause of scientists crowded into control rooms at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, which built the collider. The relief spread to bleary gatherings of particle physicists all around the world, who have collectively staked the future of their profession on the idea that the new collider will eventually reveal new secrets of the universe, like the identity of the dark matter that shapes the visible cosmos and the strange particle known as the “Higgs,” which is thought to imbue other particles with mass. Until now, these have been tantalizingly out of reach.
Congrats to the scientists at CERN. Send them a thank you that we may now all enter our own personal pocketverses.

Full New York Times article

Monday, March 29, 2010

Newly discovered species of humans in Siberia

Archeologists publishing in the journal Nature, have discovered the 40,000 year-old pinky bone of what appears to be a new species of human--in Siberia. (Actually, it's southern Siberia, but it's still SIBERIA). A DNA analysis revels that the, uh, owner--was neither directly related to humans or neanderthals of the era, but more likely a distinct offshoot of humans. From USAToday:
Analysis of the pinky bone discovered in a dirt layer about 40,000 years old yielded enough DNA for the gene study. It shows the creature's ancestry diverged from humans and Neanderthals roughly 1 million years ago. Dubbed "x-woman" by the researchers, despite its undetermined gender, the pinky owner may have belonged to an archaic human species such as Homo erectus or Homo heidelbergensis, known only from fossils, or an unknown pre-human species. From the size of the pinky tip, the team estimates its owner was a 5- or 6-year-old child.
Check out the full article or the article at Nature.com. Sharp readers will note that the image found at USAToday is a bit misleading as the pinky belonged to a child and the image is of an already known hominid.

Previously: Hobbits Discovered!