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NASA Just Confirmed There Are Water Plumes Above The Surface Of Jupiter’s Moon Europa

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NASA Just Confirmed There Are Water Plumes Above The Surface of Jupiter's Moon Europa
West Wind NASA

A team led by researchers out of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, has confirmed traces of water vapour above the surface of Jupiter’s icy moon Europa.

And that’s a big deal as the tiny space rock is one of the highest priority targets in NASA’s search for extraterrestrial life, according to the agency.

While scientists have not yet detected liquid water directly, we’ve found the next best thing: water in vapour form,” lead researcher and NASA planetary scientist Lucas Paganini said in a NASA statement.

According to a paper published in the journal Nature Astronomy on Monday, the NASA team discovered enough water vapour being released from Europa to fill an Olympic-size swimming pool within minutes.

But while that sounds like a lot, it was only just enough to be detected from Earth.

Out of 17 observations by the W. M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii, which uses a spectrograph to detect the chemical compositions of other planets’ atmospheres by scanning the infrared light they release or absorb, the scientists only spotted water vapour in one.

We suggest that the outgassing of water vapour on Europa occurs at lower levels than previously estimated, with only rare localized events of stronger activity,” Paganini and his team wrote in the paper.

For many years, scientists have suspected that there’s water on Europa’s surface, and several observations appear to back up that suspicion.

More than two decades ago, NASA’s Galileo spacecraft found evidence of an electrically conductive fluid on the moon’s surface. Then, a 2018 analysis of the data found evidence of massive plumes of liquid. Data previously collected by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope supported the existence of the plumes.

We performed diligent safety checks to remove possible contaminants in ground-based observations,” Goddard planetary scientist Avi Mandell said of the water vapour discovery in the statement. “But, eventually, we’ll have to get closer to Europa to see what’s really going on.”

A mission to do just that is already lined up.

NASA’s upcoming Europa Clipper mission will get a much closer look at the icy moon’s surface as soon as 2023.

The spacecraft will feature a suite of cameras, spectrometers, and a radar to investigate the thickness of Europa’s icy shell during 45 flybys — and perhaps yield further insights into the water vapour above the moon’s surface while it’s there.

This article was originally published by Futurism. Read the original article.

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Science & Technology

Geophysicists Discover Vast, Anomalous Structures Embedded In The Earth’s Lower Mantle

Whatever these structures are, they are located 3,000 kilometres below the surface of the Earth in the hellishly hot zone where the outer core meets the lower mantle.

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Photo Credit: PixaBay

(TMU) – A stunning announcement by geophysicists earlier this month suggests the inside of our planet still has many deep mysteries that remain hidden from us under the surface.

A team of researchers using decades of seismographs and an advanced algorithm say they have discovered a series of vast structures embedded in the boundary between the planet’s liquid outer core and the lower mantle.

Scientists arrived at this conclusion by studying the seismographic data from hundreds of earthquakes captured between 1990 and 2018. To analyse all this information, scientists also tapped a machine learning algorithm called Sequencer, which was originally designed to study distant galaxies.

The team prioritized the secondary shear (S) waves from deep in the Earth’s mantle border, as their signals are easier to read than primary (P) earthquake waves.

According to team leader Doyeon Kim, a seismologist and postdoctoral fellow at the University of Maryland,

“We normally like to use S waves because they are larger in amplitude and the data is more or less clean because there is less P wave traffic,” said Kim, noting that such a  wave is also ideal “because it diffracts along that surface, it’s a great phase to look for these tiny structures on top of the core-mantle boundary.”

While scientists already had a hunch that there were large structures yet to be identified, to confirm their existence and study their contours, they needed to chart the journey of the S waves and map the echoing signals created when they intersect with the large unknown masses, called ultra low-velocity zones (ULVZs).

This signal is called a “postcursor”and it is the tell-tale indicator of a ULVZ.

Kim’s team found evidence for two “mega-ULVZs” over 1,000 kilometres in diameter beneath Hawai’i and the Marquesas Islands.

Whatever these structures are, they are located 3,000 kilometres below the surface of the Earth in the hellishly hot zone where the outer core meets the lower mantle.

By looking at thousands of core-mantle boundary echoes at once, instead of focusing on a few at a time, as is usually done, we have gotten a totally new perspective,” said Kim, who was also the lead author of the published paper describing the team’s findings. “This is showing us that the core-mantle boundary region has lots of structures that can produce these echoes, and that was something we didn’t realize before because we only had a narrow view.”

Unsurprisingly, the announcement immediately triggered a flood of conspiratorial speculation online. However, while scientists don’t know the composition of the structures, it is widely believed to be an extremely dense and hot heterogeneous rock.

Scientists believe the further study of these structures will provide us with a better picture of the complex and powerful forces at work inside the Earth. Such information could assist an enhanced understanding of plate tectonics that shaped the geological evolution of our planet.

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Neuroscience

Neuroscience Reveals How You Can Help Make Your Brain Decades Younger

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Neuroscience Reveals How You Can Help Make Your Brain Decades Younger
Photo Credit: Collective Evolution

Science is revealing various mindfulness techniques that can literally change and restructure our brain. Neuroscientist Sara Lazar from Mass General and Harvard Medical School is one of the latest to illustrate this. After she sustained running injuries, she took up yoga. It had a tremendous effect on her, which inspired her to start researching the scientific literature that’s available on mindfulness meditation, which is one of the categories into which yoga falls into.

“The yoga teacher made all sorts of claims, that yoga would increase your compassion and open your heart,” said Lazar. “And I’d think, ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah, I’m here to stretch.’ But I started noticing that I was calmer. I was better able to handle more difficult situations. I was more compassionate and open hearted, and able to see things from others’ points of view.”

In her research, she found a plethora of evidence showing that meditation can decrease stress,  depression, anxiety, and pain as well as increase one’s quality of life, among other things.

Obviously she was very curious at this point, and being a neuroscientist, she started doing her own research to find out what effect meditation could have on the brain.

In her first study, titled “Meditation experience is associated with increased cortical thickness,” she found exactly that. Her research showed that meditation could spark structural changes “in areas of the brain that are important for sensory, cognitive and emotional processing. The data further suggest that meditation may impact age related declines in cortical structure.” (source)

That particular study used long-term meditators who had at least 7 years of experience with the practice compared to a control group with no experience. People with a strong meditation background had increased gray matter in several areas of the brain, including the auditory and sensory cortex as well as insula and sensory regions. An increase in gray matter was also found in the brain region linked to decision making and working memory, which would be the frontal cortex.

What’s interesting here is that the frontal cortex shrinks as we age, but in this particular study, the 50-year-old meditators had the same amount of gray matter as those half their age. How astonishing is that?

Lazar and her team of researchers went on to publish a second study titled “Mindfulness practice leads to increases in regional brain gray matter density.” (source)

This study demonstrates longitudinal changes in brain gray matter concentration following an eight-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction course compared to a control group. Hypothesized increases in gray matter concentration within the left hippocampus were confirmed. Exploratory whole brain analyses identified significant increases in gray matter concentration in the PCC, TPJ, and the cerebellum.

After just eight weeks of meditation, people’s brains changed in multiple ways. One was thickening in several regions of the brain, including the left hippocampus (involved in learning, memory, and emotional regulation); the TPJ (involved in empathy and the ability to take multiple perspectives); and a part of the brainstem called the pons (where regulatory neurotransmitters are generated).

What’s also interesting to note is that, in this study, new mediators experienced a shrinking of their amygdala, a region of the brain associated with fear, anxiety, and aggression. This reduction in size of the amygdala correlated to reduced stress levels in these particular participants.

This type of discovery is nothing new. Since Lazar’s study, and even before it, a lot of research has been published.

One of the most recent studies found that different types of meditation can actually effect different areas of the brain.

As Alice G. Walton, a writer for Forbes, points out:

“Meditation and mindfulness training have accumulated some impressive evidence, suggesting that the practices can change not only the structure and function of the brain, but also our behaviour and moment-to-moment experience.”

This recent study found the same thing, and the following describes what they discovered when they scanned the participants’ brains at the end of each module and then compared the groups against one another:

“Training in Presence was linked to enhanced thickness in the anterior prefrontal cortex (PFC) and the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), which are known to be strongly involved in attention. Affect training was linked to increased thickness in regions known to be involved in socially driven emotions like empathy: and Perspective training associated with changes in areas involved in understanding the mental states of others, and, interestingly, inhibiting the perspective of oneself.”

These results further elaborate on a wealth of previous studies showing what meditation can do to the brain.

Walton goes on to emphasize,

“Lots of research has found that experienced meditators have significantly altered brain structure and function, but a growing number of studies has also found that relatively brief meditation training in novices (for instance, the well-known eight-week MBSR program) can also shift brain function, improve well-being, and reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety.”

The Takeaway

Mediation clearly has health benefits for the brain, among other parts of the body. Not only can it be used to improve your brain, decrease anxiety, depression, fear, etc., but it’s a great way to increase empathy and feel love and compassion as well. These are qualities the world needs more of, so perhaps the world needs more meditators?

Meditation could be used for interventions in schools and in other places where children and people feel stressed. Furthermore, meditation can be used to reach different states of consciousness, and perhaps even altered states of consciousness.

There is still a lot we are learning about meditation, but one thing is for certain, and that’s the fact that it can help change an individual for the better in several different ways.

This article (Neuroscience Reveals How You Can Help Make Your Brain Decades Younger) was originally created for Collective Evolution and is published here under Creative Commons.

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Quantum Mechanics

Scientists In Orbit Observe The Quantum ‘5th State Of Matter’ For The First Time

Insights into this exotic matter could someday help solve the mysteries of quantum mechanics, dark energy, and even the elusive “theory of everything.”

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5th State Of Matter
Photo Credit: NASA

(TMU) – Most of what we see in the world belongs to one of four states of matter: gases, liquids, solids, and plasmas. But there is a 5th state of matter, an exotic “super-atom” that has been almost impossible for scientists to observe on Earth.

Researchers announced this week that while on board the International Space Station they were able to observe this 5th state under the unique conditions of near-absolute zero temperatures and “micro-gravity.” Insights into this exotic matter could someday help solve the mysteries of quantum mechanics, dark energy, and even the elusive “theory of everything.”

The 5th state of matter, called Bose-Einstein condensates (BECs), was first discovered in lab conditions 25 years ago. This unusual “super-atom” forms when atoms of particular kinds of elements (mostly rubidium) reach temperatures near absolute zero (0 Kelvin, minus 273.15 Celsius). The reason BECs are so important is that when they reach this temperature the atoms merge into one homogenous substance that behaves like a quantum object, meaning it exists as both a particle and a wave simultaneously.

BECs thus represent a mysterious and rare liminal region between the microscopic world governed by quantum physics and the macroscopic world governed by gravity. Such a state presents an ideal experimental playground for scientists to dig into the secrets and anomalies of the quantum universe.

However, it is virtually impossible for researchers to observe BECs on Earth because the force of gravity destabilizes the magnetic fields which act as a trellis holding the volatile “super-atom” together. Earth-bound scientists are left with only hundredths of a second before a BEC falls apart.

Researchers aboard the ISS discovered that in the microgravity of orbital space, they could observe BECs in the specially developed Cold Atom Lab for a full second or longer.

“Microgravity allows us to confine atoms with much weaker forces, since we don’t have to support them against gravity,” said Robert Thompson of from the California Institute for Technology, Pasadena.

Microgravity also allowed them to use weaker magnetic fields and colder temperatures, which facilitated the condensates demonstrating more exotic quantum effects.

The observation of the fifth form of matter is considered a ground-breaking achievement that has huge potential ramifications for the study of quantum mechanics and dark energy. Scientists believe that by finally understanding these two fields, they may be able to unite the classical physics of gravity with quantum physics into a “theory of everything.”

“In the past, our major insights into the inner workings of nature have come from particle accelerators and astronomical observatories; in the future, I believe precision measurements using cold atoms will play an increasingly important role,” Thompson said.

In future experiments, researchers hope to try potassium atoms so they can see the result of two BECs merging.

The scientists published their ISS research in the June 11 issue of the journal Nature.

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Science & Technology

New Data Says Universe Is Flat, Which Could Be Even Weirder Than It Sounds

New measurements collected by a team of astronomers constitute the most precise data yet in this intellectual quest.

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Space 2020
Photo Credit: NASA

(TMU) – The shape of the universe is hard to get one’s head around, not only as a theoretical concept but as a mathematical one, yet it remains as one of the most important unanswered questions in physics. Determining the geometry of the universe, many scientists believe, will be fundamental to solving the mysteries of the cosmos.

New measurements of dark energy and cosmic expansion collected by a team of astronomers at the University of Portsmouth constitute the most precise data yet in this intellectual quest. This recently published data suggests the universe is spatially flat – not shaped like a bubble.

The team used a new method combining the study of cosmic voids (immense bubbles of space containing only a few galaxies) and relics of sound from the very early Universe, which scientists refer to as baryon acoustic oscillations (BAO). Previously, scientists attempting to chart cosmic expansion and dark energy used distant supernovae as beacons of measurement in the unfathomable depths of space.

The new method, helmed by the Sloan Digital Sky Survey for over a decade, gathered data from over a million galaxies and quasars. The results seemingly accomplished two interrelated theoretical hurdles: 1) disconfirmed measurements of the cosmic microwave background (CMB) by the Planck satellite, which suggested a bubble-like spherical universe, and 2) confirmed the (Hubble) model of a cosmological constant dark energy, which suggests a flat universe.

Additionally, the fresh data will likely help write a new chapter in our understanding of the evolution of dark energy and its effect on the universe.

“This result shows the power of galaxy surveys to pin down the amount of dark energy and how it evolved over the last billion years,” wrote Portsmouth cosmologist Seshadri Nadathur in a press release“We’re making really precise measurements now and the data is going to get even better with new surveys coming online very soon.”

It should be noted that a “flat” universe doesn’t mean what your mind might visually conjure. Of the ten or more suggested shapes of the universe over the decades, they belong to three major geometric categories: flat, round, and hyperbolic. So “flat” is actually an umbrella term that could refer to a number of different topologies, including the “torus.”

In other words, even if our universe is flat, that doesn’t rule out it being bent into an involutional, hyperdynamic, donut-like shape known as the torus.

Torus Fun (Sacred Geometry by ieoie)

The question of whether the universe is spatially flat or round is one of the most contested questions in physics, right up there with whether the cosmos are “open” or “closed”. Eerily, some cosmologists say if recent measurements confirm that the universe is both flat AND “closed,” this would raise the prospect of physical reality wrapping around itself in an infinite loop.

But that’s for another day and another cup of coffee.

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