Thursday Throughput: Xenon Edition
[ThTh1] What we see and touch is only a tiny fraction of the universe. Over the last half century, we’ve found that most of the matter in the universe is not the visible normal matter we are used to. It’s something called dark matter. It does not emit light, but we can detect its presence through its gravitational effects on nearby objects. We have been trying for some time to find dark matter particles, using tubs filled with ultra-pure Xenon that look for the energy flashes of dark matter interacting with Xenon atoms. This last week, the first results came out, indicating a potential detection.
So have we finally detected dark matter? It’s not clear. As the group themselves note, even a tiny amount of contamination could produce the signal they are seeing. There’s a lot of work to be done. But this is one of the first times we’ve gotten a hint of what dark matter could be. So future experiments will be interesting to watch.
[ThTh2] I’ve mentioned before the so-called “mass gap between stellar remnants. Neutrons stars — the crushed husks of massive stars — should only be stable up to about 2.5 times the mass of the Sun. Beyond that, they should collapse to form a black hole. However, most of the black holes we’ve found are over five solar masses. The most likely explanation for this is that smaller black holes are harder to detect because they’re small and … well, dark. But LIGO was able to pin one down as it fell into a black hole 23 times the mass of the Sun. We don’t know whether it was a black hole or a neutron stars, since it’s right on the border. But it’s another piece of evidence that these things are out there.
[ThTh3] Speaking of LIGO: it is now doing that science thing of “Oh, you made a discovery! Now do it a million times.” We have some many gravity-wave detections we’re now able to start using them to probe the early history of the universe.
[ThTh4] The more we look, the more we discover how clever ancient peoples were.
[ThTh5] What’s interesting about this look at the difference between the Coronavirus response in Europe and the United States: the more successful response has been modeled on ideas that came from US scientists.
[ThTh6] We’ve gotten a little better in how we talk to each other.
Astronomers in ancient Assyria also called each other out on their BS, in case you were wondering.
Balasî accuses another scholar who allegedly spotted Venus of being “in complete ignorance”.
“I repeat: he does not understand the difference between Mercury and Venus” pic.twitter.com/YJte9qOihG
— Dr. Moudhy Al-Rashid (@Moudhy) May 26, 2020
[ThTh7] The evolution of the blackberry.
Blackberries have cool stages of life, no? pic.twitter.com/RL5xREoJCv
— Re: Alfie (@AlfieDaye) June 16, 2020
[ThTh8] 250 million years ago, there was a mass extinction event. Now we may know why it happened.
[ThTh8] This is pretty accurate, to be honest:
how i imagine the lab exiting during an actual fire pic.twitter.com/dliIekJ7JF
— Darrion Nguyen (@lab_shenanigans) June 16, 2020
[ThTh9] You may have heard that a cheap steroid is having success with treating coronavirus. This is true, but only for the very sickest patients, probably by tamping down the cytokine storm.
[ThTh10] In a previous throughput, I mentioned the Drake equation and how it indicates there may be some alien civilizations in our galaxy. A new paper does the same calculation and gets somewhere between zero and a hundred or so. What’s making this exercise less silly is the increasingly good information we have on the number of potentially habitable planets out there.
[ThTh11] Astronomy from another planet.
— Bobak Ferdowsi (@tweetsoutloud) June 15, 2020