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Earth Finally

We may finally know what life on Earth breathed before there was oxygen – Live Science

La Brava microbial mats.

La Brava microbial mats.

Billions of years ago, long before oxygen was readily available, the notorious poison arsenic could have been the compound that breathed new life into our planet.

In Chile’s Atacama Desert, in a place called Laguna La Brava, scientists have been studying a purple ribbon of photosynthetic microbes living in a hypersaline lake that’s permanently free of oxygen.

“I have been working with microbial mats for about 35 years or so,” says geoscientist Pieter Visscher from the University of Connecticut.

“This is the only system on Earth where I could find a microbial mat that worked absolutely in the absence of oxygen.”

Microbial mats, which fossilize into stromatolites, have been abundant on Earth for at least 3.5 billion years, and yet for the first billion years of their existence, there was no oxygen for photosynthesis.

How these life forms survived in such extreme conditions is still unknown, but examining stromatolites and extremophiles living today, researchers have figured out a handful of possibilities. 

While iron, sulphur, and hydrogen have long been proposed as possible replacements for oxygen, it wasn’t until the discovery of ‘arsenotrophy‘ in California’s hypersaline Searles Lake and Mono Lake that arsenic also became a contender.

Since then, stromatolites from the Tumbiana Formation in Western Australia have revealed that trapping light and arsenic was once a valid mode of photosynthesis in the Precambrian. The same couldn’t be said of iron or sulphur.

Just last year, researchers discovered an abundant life form in the Pacific Ocean that also breathes arsenic. 

Even the La Brava life forms closely resemble a purple sulphur bacterium called Ectothiorhodospira sp., which was recently found in an arsenic-rich lake in Nevada and which appears to photosynthesize by oxidising the compound arsenite into a different form -arsenate.

While more research needs to verify whether the La Brava microbes also metabolize arsenite, initial research found the rushing water surrounding these mats is heavily laden with hydrogen sulphide and arsenic.

If the authors are right and the La Brava microbes are indeed ‘breathing’ arsenic, these life forms would be the first to do so in a permanently and completely oxygen-free microbial mat, similar to what we would expect in Precambrian environments.

As such, its mats are a great model for understanding some of the possible earliest life forms on our planet. 

While genomic research suggests the La Brava mats have the tools to metabolize arsenic and sulphur, the authors say its arsenate reduction appears to be more effective than its sulfate reduction.

Regardless, they say there’s strong evidence that both pathways exist, and these would have been enough to support extensive microbial mats in the early days of life on Earth.

If the team is right, then we might need to expand our search for life forms elsewhere.

“In looking for evidence of life on Mars, [scientists] will be looking at iron and probably they should be looking at arsenic also,” says Visscher.

It really is so much more than just a poison.

The study was published in Communications Earth and Environment

This article was originally published by ScienceAlert. Read the original article here.

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Finally Radiation

We Finally Know How Much Radiation There Is on The Moon, And It’s Not Great News – ScienceAlert

As the US prepares to return humans to the Moon this decade, one of the biggest dangers future astronauts will face is space radiation that can cause lasting health effects, from cataracts to cancer and neurodegenerative diseases.​

Though the Apollo missions of the 1960s and 1970s proved it was safe for people to spend a few days on the lunar surface, NASA did not take daily radiation measurements that would help scientists quantify just how long crews could stay.

This question was resolved Friday after a Chinese-German team published in the journal Science Advances the results of an experiment carried out by China’s Chang’E 4 lander in 2019.

“The radiation of the Moon is between two and three times higher than what you have on the ISS (International Space Station),” co-author Robert Wimmer-Schweingruber, an astrophysicist at the University of Kiel told AFP.

“So that limits your stay to approximately two months on the surface of the Moon,” he added, once the radiation exposure from the roughly week-long journey there, and week back, is taken into account.​

There are several sources of radiation exposure: galactic cosmic rays, sporadic solar particle events (for example from solar flares), and neutrons and gamma rays from interactions between space radiation and the lunar soil.

Radiation is measured using the unit sievert, which quantifies the amount absorbed by human tissues.

The team found that the radiation exposure on the Moon is 1,369 microsieverts per day – about 2.6 times higher than the International Space Station crew’s daily dose.

The reason for this is that the ISS is still partly shielded by the Earth’s protective magnetic bubble, called the magnetosphere, which deflects most radiation from space.

Earth’s atmosphere provides additional protection for humans on the surface, but we are more exposed the higher up we go.​

“The radiation levels we measured on the Moon are about 200 times higher than on the surface of the Earth and five to 10 times higher than on a flight from New York to Frankfurt,” added Wimmer-Schweingruber.​

NASA is planning to bring humans to the Moon by 2024 under the Artemis mission and has said it has plans for a long term presence that would include astronauts working and living on the surface.

For Wimmer-Schweingruber there is one work-around if we want humans to spend more than two or three months: build habitats that are shielded from radiation by coating them with 80 centimeters (30 inches) of lunar soil.

© Agence France-Presse

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Finally Students

Finally, Some Students Return to New York City’s Classrooms – The New York Times

Up to 90,000 children in pre-K and students with advanced disabilities returned to in-person school on Monday.

Credit…Amr Alfiky/The New York Times

Eliza Shapiro

Early on Monday, Tiyanna Jackson, who had quit her job in the spring to care for her 4-year-old daughter, Zuri, was flooded with relief as she arrived at a pre-K center in the South Bronx. Finally, with Zuri starting school, she could get back to work.

In East New York, Brooklyn, Balayet Hossain’s day began with disappointment after he brought his two daughters to school, only to find that the children, a kindergartner and first grader, could not return to school buildings until next week.

And in Corona, a Queens neighborhood that was hit particularly hard by the coronavirus in the spring, Baryalay Khan said dropping off his daughter, Fathma, at pre-K made him feel that the city was finally recovering.

“Schools are reopening, it’s a good sign,” he said.

New York City, home to the largest school district in the country, took the biggest step of any major city toward restarting in-person classes by bringing up to 90,000 of the city’s youngest students and children with advanced disabilities back into about 700 school buildings on Monday.

While Mayor Bill de Blasio’s ambitious push to reopen has been fraught with risks and challenges, and has been met with major opposition from some educators and union leaders, no other major school system in America is even attempting such an undertaking during the pandemic.

But at 9 a.m. on Monday, just as the vast majority of the city’s 1.1 million students were attempting to sign in for their first day of classes, the Department of Education’s login page for remote learning crashed for about 10 minutes, a sign of how difficult it will be for the system to balance virtual and in-person classrooms.

The city’s roughly 1,400 school buildings have sat largely empty for six months, after the city abruptly closed classrooms in mid-March to help slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Though Monday’s reopening falls far short of what Mr. de Blasio originally promised — all students having the option to return to classrooms — it still marks a significant milestone in New York’s long path to fully reopening. New York is one of the few cities in the country where some children are now back in classrooms, with many more expected in the coming weeks.

Across New York City, Monday was a day of joy, confusion and hope; it was a first day of school unlike any other.

“Something great is happening today in New York City,” the mayor said during a news conference on Monday, shortly after he visited a pre-K program in Queens.

Still, the start of the school year here was freighted with anxiety and unknowns, many of which were on display on Monday morning.

At Public School 149 in Brooklyn, where Mr. Hossain’s daughters attend school, five students were turned away at the door since they were not in pre-K.

Mr. Hossain said he received an email on Sunday from a teacher at the school that said, “I can’t wait to see you all tomorrow!” But his children cannot return until Sept. 29. Shortly after arriving, he turned around and headed home with his children, who were wearing masks and backpacks.

Image

Credit…Kirsten Luce for The New York Times

For the children who were actually able to return to schools on Monday, it was an extremely unusual first day back. At Public School 513 in Washington Heights, only five pre-K students reported to school. Principals across the city still do not have final numbers for how many students are expected in classrooms this week and next, since parents can opt out of in-person classes at any time.

But some parents said they were relieved to finally have their young children in school.

“I need to get back to work,” said Ms. Jackson, who had left her job at Amazon to care for Zuri. “I trust that the schools can stay clean and stay safe.”

And Zuri was desperate to get back to school after her first year of pre-K was interrupted by the virus. “It’ll be good for her,” Ms. Jackson said. “She’s been crying about not being able to see her friends.”

Many other parents were left scrambling for child care options on Monday, after the city fell short of its promise of offering free programs for tens of thousands of vulnerable students and the children of essential workers — including teachers, many of whom were left stranded without child care.

Mr. de Blasio said on Monday that putting together the child care program, called Learning Bridges, had been even more complicated than the city imagined. About 30,000 seats would be available starting next week, he said.

Over the summer, New York City seemed poised to become the only big school district in America to offer in-person classes at the start of its school year. Despite recent stumbles, New York will eventually have more students back in classrooms this month than any of the nation’s 10 largest school systems — if all goes according to plan.

So far, it has not.

Last week, just three days before schools were scheduled to physically reopen, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that he would delay the return to classrooms for most students, citing a severe staffing shortage that was created by the city’s attempt to have separate teachers for remote and in-person learning.

The new plan is for a staggered reopening; elementary school students will start in-person classes on Sept. 29, and middle and high school children can return on Oct. 1, about three weeks after schools were originally slated to reopen. That initial scheduled opening had been delayed after the city’s powerful teachers’ union threatened an illegal strike because of safety concerns.

Image

Credit…Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

As a result of the two delays, city students have now lost about 10 days of remote learning, though schools held three days of virtual orientation sessions last week.

Mr. de Blasio has stressed that he is intent on reopening schools to ensure an adequate educational experience for city students, the majority of whom are Black or Latino and low-income.

“If what we wanted to do was the simple, easy thing, we all would have said, ‘Hey, let’s go all remote,’” the mayor said during a recent news conference. “And we know we’ll be cheating kids and cheating families. And we know we will be, once again, ignoring the facts that in-person learning is so much better for kids.”

But scores of city parents, including many working families, have said they preferred remote learning for now, citing safety concerns and the need for consistency when making child care arrangements that would allow them to return to work. As of Monday, 46 percent of families had already opted their children out of in-person classes entirely through at least November, with nonwhite parents opting out at higher rates than white parents, and that number is expected to rise.

Fanny Reyes, a mother of two who lives in the Bronx, said she had opted her children out even though her younger child is on the autism spectrum and struggled with remote learning. But Ms. Reyes said she has continued to receive conflicting information about what school reopening would look like and wanted to wait until later in the fall for the city to get more organized.

“It’s very unfortunate, it’s very sad,” she said.

Still, the reopening of some classrooms is an achievement for a city that was a global epicenter of the virus just six months ago. New York now has one of the lowest virus transmission rates of any city in the country, around or below 1 percent.

The children returning to classrooms Monday are in many cases the students for whom remote learning has been most disastrous.

Image

Credit…Todd Heisler/The New York Times

For the nearly 25,000 students in a special district for children with the most advanced disabilities, known as District 75, school is not just a place for academics. It is where students can get the extensive support they need from trained professionals.

In interviews throughout the spring and summer, parents of students in District 75 described watching their children regress in basic life skills and said it was clear how much their children needed to be around their peers and teachers whom they trusted. And educators said it was frustrating trying to deliver occupational and physical therapy through a laptop screen.

And having pre-K classes virtually has proved very difficult, in part because 3-and-4-year-olds cannot log themselves into Google Classroom, the computer program used in remote learning.

During his tenure, Mr. de Blasio has expanded pre-K for tens of thousands of children, and it remains his signature, and arguably most successful, initiative.

For Liza Rodriguez, the start of pre-K meant that she would no longer have to rely on her mother to care for her son, Mason, so that she could work. Ms. Rodriguez said she would miss the comfort of knowing Mason was safe at home with his grandmother every day, but said it was important that he was back at school with his friends.

“I’m nervous,” she said, “but I’m pretty confident things are going to be OK.”

Derek M. Norman and Juliana Kim contributed reporting.

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Finally Galaxy

Galaxy Z Fold 2 finally makes a good case for foldable phones – Tom’s Guide

Galaxy Z Fold 2 finally makes a good case for foldable phones



(Image credit: Future)

Phone makers have spent more than a year trying to convince people that there’s a reason to get a foldable phone, with little success to show for it. Yes, it’s undeniably cool to open up a phone to reveal a larger display. And yes, any extra screen real estate is always welcome. But no — paying anywhere from $500 to $1,000 more than a top flagship just so you can fold your phone into a slightly smaller device isn’t a premium most of us are ready to take on (at least judging by the sales).

Don’t look now, but with the Galaxy Z Fold 2, Samsung may have just made the most compelling case yet for why you need a foldable phone. And it boils down to the same argument for why you need a smartphone in the first place — to take care of business. Samsung’s argument is that the extended screen on the Galaxy Z Fold 2 lets you take care of that business in ways that simply aren’t possible on a conventional phone.

Is it a winning argument? Our initial Galaxy Z Fold 2 review is pretty positive, though the phone’s success will ultimately depend on how many people want to pay that astronomical $2,000 asking price. But it’s clear from the way that Samsung presented the Galaxy Z Fold 2 that it views this phone as a productivity booster.

“Samsung has learnt a lot from its first generation device and software is an area that has seen considerable refinement,” said Geoff Blaber, vice president for research in the Americas for CCS Insight. “Productivity should be among the lead advantages of a foldable form factor so it’s critical to encourage people to shift from the tried and tested form factor of a 5-inch-plus touch screen. To that end it’s inevitable that productivity is central to the device’s positioning.”

How the Galaxy Z Fold 2 makes you more productive

When Samsung first previewed the Galaxy Z Fold 2 back in August, it emphasized the design changes from the original Galaxy Fold. There was a good reason for that approach — if last year’s Fold made any sort of impression, it was for the design issues that delayed its launch while Samsung worked to improve the phone’s durability.

Galaxy Z Fold 2 finally makes a good case for foldable phones

(Image credit: Samsung)

By initially talking up the Galaxy Z Fold 2’s new-and-improved hinge and bigger screens, Samsung could then spend the phone’s launch event talking about how those features can help the users get more things done. “A new form factor only becomes meaningful when it unlocks new user experiences,” said Patrick Chomet, Samsung’s head of customer experience, during this week’s Galaxy Z Fold 2 live stream.

Apps optimized for the big screen(s)

To that end, Samsung has put a considerable effort into showing what that 7.6-inch internal display enables users to do. Running the Gmail app on the Galaxy Z Note 2’s screen, for example, you can read a message on one side of the screen while still keeping an eye on your inbox on the other side. It’s an experience that’s familiar to anyone with a tablet or laptop, but one that hasn’t really been possible on a smartphone display up until now. Microsoft Office is expected to have a similarly optimized look on the Galaxy Z Fold 2, as are YouTube and Spotify (though you wouldn’t really describe those apps as productivity boosters).

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 review Gmail app

(Image credit: Future)

The larger exterior screen on the Galaxy Z Fold 2 — it’s now 6.2 inches, up from 4.6 inches on the original Fold — also helps you get more tasks done, and not just because you’ve got more screen to work with. Like the original Fold, the new model sports an App Continuity feature where you can start using an app on the cover screen before opening up the Fold to pick up where you left off on the larger interior display. But now, when it’s time to move on, you can fold up the phone and go back to using that same app on the external screen without missing a beat.

Better multitasking (and drag and drop)

The original Fold let you run three apps at the same time, and that’s continuing with the Galaxy Z Fold 2. Now you can set up presets of paired up apps, launching those App Pairs with just a tap. The improved multitasking on the Galaxy Z Fold 2 also means you can drag and drop content from one app window into another — adding a photo to a message, say.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 review multi-active window

(Image credit: Future)

One of the more impressive things I saw during this week’s Galaxy Z Fold 2 launch involved a demo with a pair of Microsoft Office apps. During that demo, Powerpoint and Excel were running side-by-side on the Z Fold 2’s display, allowing a user to work in both apps at the same time, moving information from the spreadsheet into a presentation. It’s that kind of work with Microsoft on the Office interface that really helps push the Galaxy Z Fold 2 as a productivity tool, according to Mikako Kitigawa, a director analyst at Gartner.

Flex mode makes a big difference

Meanwhile, improvements to the Galaxy Z Fold 2’s hinge — it can now open at different angles — allow this larger foldable phone to adapt one of the best features of the Galaxy Z Flip. That foldable flip phone offers a Flex mode, where you can open the phone at a 90-degree angle and essentially split the screen in half: one side becomes the viewing area and the other becomes an area for controls and other actions.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 review flex model Google Duo

(Image credit: Future)

Flex mode was one of my favorite things about the Galaxy Z Flip when I reviewed that phone, and the capability figures to really come in handy on the Galaxy Z Fold 2. One of those apps — Google Duo — can use Flex mode to put the video chat on the top part of the 7.6-inch display, while controls for adding more people to the chat and muting the call are available on the bottom half of the screen. That leaves you to keep your hands free, just as if you were using a laptop.

Galaxy Z Fold 2’s cost remains a concern

Emphasizing the productivity boosting aspects of the Galaxy Z Fold 2 goes a long way toward addressing one of the foldable’s remaining sticking points — its $1,999 cost. That’s a lot of money to pay for a phone, considering that the Samsung’s productivity-minded Galaxy Note 20 Ultra costs $700 less at $1,299, and no one’s going to confuse that for a bargain-basement price. But Samsung can make the argument that for $1,999, you’re effectively getting a phone and a tablet, given all the things that the Fold 2’s screen allows you to do.

This is still a very exclusive device given the price point and form factor. Technology enthusiasts who are prepared to spend upwards of $1,999 are a niche, but they’re also critical to the process of development and refinement as foldables seek to move into the mass market.

— Geoff Blaber, CCS Insight

And that’s an argument Samsung’s going to have to be pretty convincing on, as the analysts I spoke to still struggle to identify a big audience for a device like this.

“I would imagine that the potential users would be gadget lovers and techies who like to try new things,” Kitigawa said. “[The folding] phone market is new. But with the price point, the buyer segment would be limited.” 

“This is still a very exclusive device given the price point and form factor,” said CCS Insight’s Blaber. “Technology enthusiasts who are prepared to spend upwards of $1,999 are a niche, but they’re also critical to the process of development and refinement as foldables seek to move into the mass market.”

Galaxy Z Fold 2 outlook

When the Galaxy Z Fold 2 ships on Sept. 18, it will bring more than a few questions with it. Durability will continue to be a concern, even after Samsung’s assurances that it got the design right this time. There’s no listed water resistance, for example, which seems like an oversight on a phone that runs two grand. And the vast majority of phone shoppers are likely to look at the Galaxy Z Fold 2’s extended screen and decide that a sub-$1,000 smartphone with a conventional display suits them well enough.

Still, since the first Galaxy Fold got its preview in early 2019, I’ve looked at each subsequent design and thought, “Well, that’s impressive and all, but why would anyone need that kind of device?” With the Galaxy Z Fold 2, Samsung is finally providing an answer.

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Finally Stranger

The Exo Stranger finally returns in Destiny 2 expansion Beyond Light – Eurogamer.net

Bungie has revealed the next big expansion for Destiny 2 – and it marks the return of a character players haven’t seen since the Destiny 1 campaign.

Destiny 2: Beyond Light, due out on 22nd September 2020, revolves around the arrival of the mysterious Darkness via a fleet of Pyramid ships that is heading towards Earth.

Destiny 2’s Season of Arrivals, which begins today, sees the arrival of the first Pyramid ship on the moon of Io. This sets off a chain of events that will unfold throughout the season and tie into Beyond Light.

Beyond Light adds a new destination, Jupiter’s frozen moon Europa, and above it an ancient Pyramid ship. You get to infiltrate the Golden Age Braytech facility there and uncover secrets under the ice.

Beyond Light also adds Destiny’s first new element ever, dubbed Stasis. Here’s the official blurb:

“Rooted in Darkness, Guardians will wield this new elemental power alongside Arc, Solar, and Void to summon epic supers and control the battlefield. Titans, Warlocks and Hunters will each use Stasis in a different way. More details on Stasis to come later this summer.”

There’s a new raid, as you’d expect, called the Deep Stone Crypt. This lies underneath the frozen tundra of Europa. Also on Europa is the Fallen, whose splintered houses have rallied and built a new empire under the banner of the Fallen Kell of Darkness, Eramis. “Abandoned by the Traveler and left by the Light, Eramis is on her own journey into the Darkness, and towards a collision course with Guardians,” Bungie says.

Of particular interest to fans will be the return of the Exo Stranger. This character was last seen making little sense in the Destiny 1 campaign, where the ghost-less Exo disappeared after aiding the player Guardian. The Exo Stranger is infamous within the Destiny community for the “I don’t even have time to explain why I don’t have time to explain” line of dialogue, which became a meme and a metaphor for the nonsensical, Frankenstein story Bungie pieced together last minute for Destiny 1’s September 2014 launch. Back in May 2018, Destiny fans reckoned they’d worked out the identity of the Exo Stranger, but this remains unconfirmed. Perhaps now, six years after Destiny came out, we’ll find out.

1
The Exo Stranger returns with an odd-looking creature in-tow. Some sort of organic Ghost?

As Bungie had already announced, Destiny 2 is coming to PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X. Purchases of Destiny 2: Beyond Light on Xbox One will transfer to Xbox Series X for free via Microsoft’s Smart Delivery program. Purchases on PlayStation 4 will upgrade to PlayStation 5 for free, Bungie said. Expect more on the next-gen versions of Destiny 2 in the coming months.

Back to Destiny 2’s Season of Arrivals, and Bungie noted throughout the season, Messages of Darkness will be found on Io. Players can go to the Cradle on Io and uncover these hidden communications. Also on Io is a new public event under the newly arrived Pyramid ship, “where an untapped power has summoned the enemies of humanity.”

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Finally Spotify

Spotify is finally kicking its 10000 song library cap to the curb – Android Authority

Spotify menu on a smartphone on a bed of rocks

Anyone who is addicted to Spotify knows the 10,000 song library limit is ridiculous and infuriating. Finally, the massive music streaming service is ditching that limit in favor of an uncapped library.

Users will be able to save as many songs and albums to their collection as they want. This will be a welcome change for anyone who found themselves having to meticulously manage which songs they store to their library.

related article

YouTube Music vs Spotify: Can Google even compete?

Services like Spotify and YouTube Music allow you to stream music, create playlists, discover new songs, and more. Although they all seem pretty much the same at first glance, there are a lot of differences …

This doesn’t remove the offline listening limit, so anyone who frequently finds themselves without service on their device will still have to work within the 10,000 download limit. Additionally, playlists are still limited to 10,000 songs.

Some users have reported still seeing the error message popping up, and Spotify notes that it’ll be a gradual rollout. It could take some time before the limitless Spotify library is enabled for everyone.

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Ethan Finally

Ask Ethan: Have We Finally Found Evidence For A Parallel Universe? – Forbes

Jaime Salcido/simulations by the EAGLE Collaboration

For some of us, the idea of parallel Universes spark our wildest dreams. If there are other Universes where certain events had different outcomes — where just one crucial decision went a different way — perhaps there could be some way to access them. Perhaps particles, fields, or even people could be transported from one to the other, enabling us to live in a Universe that’s better, in some ways, than our own. These ideas have a foothold in theoretical physics as well, from the myriad of possible outcomes from quantum mechanics as well as ideas of the multiverse. But do they have anything to do with observable, measurable reality? Recently, a claim has surfaced asserting that we’ve found evidence for parallel Universes, and Jordan Colby Cox wants to know what it means, asking:

There is an article floating around that claims that physicists in Antarctica have found evidence for a parallel universe. I find this highly unlikely, but I wanted to be sure by asking you to address the veracity of the story.

Let’s take a look and find out.

Ozytive / Public domain

From a physics point of view, parallel Universes are one of those intriguing ideas that’s imaginative, compelling, but very difficult to test. They first arose in the context of quantum physics, which is notorious for having unpredictable outcomes even if you know everything possible about how you set up your system. If you take a single electron and shoot it through a double slit, you can only know the probabilities of where it will land; you cannot predict exactly where it will show up.

One remarkable idea — known as the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics — postulates that all the outcomes that can possibly occur actually do happen, but only one outcome can happen in each Universe. It takes an infinite number of parallel Universes to account for all the possibilities, but this interpretation is just as valid as any other. There are no experiments or observations that rule it out.

Christian Schirm

A second place where parallel Universes arise in physics is from the idea of the multiverse. Our observable Universe began 13.8 billion years ago with the hot Big Bang, but the Big Bang itself wasn’t the very beginning. There was a very different phase of the Universe that occurred previously to set up and give rise to the Big Bang: cosmological inflation. When and where inflation ends, a Big Bang occurs.

But inflation doesn’t end everywhere at once, and the places where inflation doesn’t end continue to inflate, giving rise to more space and more potential Big Bangs. Once inflation begins, in fact, it’s virtually impossible to stop inflation from occurring in perpetuity at least somewhere. As time goes on, more Big Bangs — all disconnected from one another — occur, giving rise to an uncountably large number of independent Universes: a multiverse.

Karen46 / FreeImages

The big problem for both of these ideas is that there’s no way to test or constrain the prediction of these parallel Universes. After all, if we’re stuck in our own Universe, how can we ever hope to access another one? We have our own laws of physics, but they come along with a whole host of quantities that are always conserved.

Particles don’t simply appear, disappear, or transform; they can only interact with other quanta of matter and energy, and the outcomes of those interactions are similarly governed by the laws of physics.

In all the experiments we’ve ever performed, all the observations we’ve ever recorded, and all the measurements ever made, we’ve never yet discovered an interaction that demands the existence of something beyond our own, isolated Universe to explain.

Contemporary Physics Education Project / DOE / NSF / LBNL

Unless, of course, you’ve read the headlines that came out this week, reporting that scientists in Antarctica have discovered evidence for the existence of parallel Universes. If this were true, it would be absolutely revolutionary. It’s a grandiose claim that would show us that the Universe as we currently conceive of it is inadequate, and there’s much more out there to learn about and discover than we ever thought possible.

Not only would these other Universes be out there, but matter and energy from them would have the capability to cross over to and interact with matter and energy in our own Universe. Perhaps, if this claim were correct, some of our wildest science fiction dreams would be possible. Perhaps you could travel to a Universe:

  • Where you chose the job overseas instead of the one that kept you in your country?
  • Where you stood up to the bully instead of letting yourself be taken advantage of?
  • Where you kissed the one-who-got-away at the end of the night, instead of letting them go?
  • Or where the life-or-death event that you or your loved one faced at some point in the past had a different outcome?

Public domain

So what was the remarkable evidence that demonstrates the existence of a parallel Universe? What observation or measurement was made that brought us to this remarkable and unexpected conclusion?

The ANITA (ANtarctic Impulsive Transient Antenna) experiment — a balloon-borne experiment that’s sensitive to radio waves — detected radio waves of a particular set of energies and directions coming from beneath the Antarctic ice. This is good; it’s what the experiment was designed to do! In both theory and in practice, we have all sorts of cosmic particles traveling through space, including the ghostly neutrino. While many of the neutrinos that pass through us come from the Sun, stars, or the Big Bang, some of them come from colossally energetic astrophysical sources like pulsars, black holes, or even mysterious, unidentified objects.

NASA

These neutrinos also come in a variety of energies, with the most energetic ones (unsurprisingly) being the rarest and, to many physicists, the most interesting. Neutrinos are mostly invisible to normal matter — it would take about a light-year’s worth of lead to have a 50/50 shot of stopping one — so they can realistically come from any direction.

However, most of the high-energy neutrinos that we see aren’t produced from far away, but are produced when other cosmic particles (also of extremely high energies) strike the upper atmosphere, producing cascades of particles that also result in neutrinos. Some of these neutrinos will pass through the Earth almost completely, only interacting with the final layers of Earth’s crust (or ice), where they can produce a signal that our detectors are sensitive to.

Alberto Izquierdo; courtesy of Francisco Barradas Solas

The rare events that ANITA saw were consistent with a neutrino coming up through the Earth and producing radio waves, but at energies that should be so high that passing through the Earth uninhibited should not be possible.

How many events like this did they see? Three.

Did they have to come through the Earth? No. The first two could have been normal air-shower tau neutrinos (one of the three types of neutrino allowed), while the third was probably just part of the experimental background.

In fact, there’s an extraordinary piece of evidence that disfavors them coming through the Earth: the IceCube neutrino detector exists, and if high-energy tau neutrinos are regularly passing through the Earth (and the Antarctic ice), IceCube would have definitively seen a signal. And, quite unambiguously, they have not.

Nicolle R. Fuller/NSF/IceCube

Scientifically, this means that:

  • ANITA saw radio signals that it could not explain,
  • their leading hypothesis was that high-energy tau neutrinos are traveling upwards through the Earth,
  • and that hypothesis was refuted by IceCube observations,
  • teaching us there is no astrophysical point source out there that is creating the particles that ANITA is indirectly seeing.

So where, in all of this, do the parallel Universes come in?

Because there were only three explanations for what ANITA saw: either there was an astrophysical source for these particles, there’s a flaw in their detector or their interpretation of the detector data, or something very exotic, remarkable, and beyond the Standard Model (known as CPT violation) is happening. Some very good science ruled out the first option (back in January), which means it’s almost certainly the second option. The third? Well, if our Universe cannot violate CPT, maybe this comes from a parallel Universe where CPT is reversed: an explanation that’s as unlikely as it is poorly reasoned.

E. Siegel, derivative from Ævar Arnfjörð Bjarmason

Remember: in science, we must always rule out all the conventional explanations that don’t involve new physics before we resort to a game-breaking explanation. Over the past decade, a number of remarkable claims have been made that have disintegrated upon further investigation. Neutrinos don’t travel faster-than-light; we haven’t found dark matter or sterile neutrinos; cold fusion isn’t real; the impossible “reactionless engine” was a failure.

There’s a remarkable story here that’s all about good science. An experiment (ANITA) saw something unexpected, and published their results. A much better experiment (IceCube) followed it up, and ruled out their leading interpretation. It strongly suggested something is amiss with the first experiment, and more science will help us uncover what’s truly occurring. For now, based on the scientific evidence we have, parallel Universes will have to remain a science fiction dream.


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