SciCombinator

Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Concept: General relativity

356

The ‘standard’ model of cosmology is founded on the basis that the expansion rate of the universe is accelerating at present - as was inferred originally from the Hubble diagram of Type Ia supernovae. There exists now a much bigger database of supernovae so we can perform rigorous statistical tests to check whether these ‘standardisable candles’ indeed indicate cosmic acceleration. Taking account of the empirical procedure by which corrections are made to their absolute magnitudes to allow for the varying shape of the light curve and extinction by dust, we find, rather surprisingly, that the data are still quite consistent with a constant rate of expansion.

Concepts: Galaxy, Supernova, Redshift, General relativity, Universe, Physical cosmology, Dark energy, Accelerating universe

225

The human face is a complex trait under strong genetic control, as evidenced by the striking visual similarity between twins. Nevertheless, heritability estimates of facial traits have often been surprisingly low or difficult to replicate. Furthermore, the construction of facial phenotypes that correspond to naturally perceived facial features remains largely a mystery. We present here a large-scale heritability study of face geometry that aims to address these issues. High-resolution, three-dimensional facial models have been acquired on a cohort of 952 twins recruited from the TwinsUK registry, and processed through a novel landmarking workflow, GESSA (Geodesic Ensemble Surface Sampling Algorithm). The algorithm places thousands of landmarks throughout the facial surface and automatically establishes point-wise correspondence across faces. These landmarks enabled us to intuitively characterize facial geometry at a fine level of detail through curvature measurements, yielding accurate heritability maps of the human face (www.heritabilitymaps.info).

Concepts: Genetics, Evolution, General relativity, Face perception, Heredity, Differential geometry, Analytic geometry, Morphology

204

Although most organisms thermoregulate behaviorally, biologists still cannot easily predict whether mobile animals will thermoregulate in natural environments. Current models fail because they ignore how the spatial distribution of thermal resources constrains thermoregulatory performance over space and time. To overcome this limitation, we modeled the spatially explicit movements of animals constrained by access to thermal resources. Our models predict that ectotherms thermoregulate more accurately when thermal resources are dispersed throughout space than when these resources are clumped. This prediction was supported by thermoregulatory behaviors of lizards in outdoor arenas with known distributions of environmental temperatures. Further, simulations showed how the spatial structure of the landscape qualitatively affects responses of animals to climate. Biologists will need spatially explicit models to predict impacts of climate change on local scales.

Concepts: Time, Physics, General relativity, Natural environment, Space, Spacetime, Universe, Philosophy of space and time

194

Prediction and control of the dynamics of complex networks is a central problem in network science. Structural and dynamical similarities of different real networks suggest that some universal laws might accurately describe the dynamics of these networks, albeit the nature and common origin of such laws remain elusive. Here we show that the causal network representing the large-scale structure of spacetime in our accelerating universe is a power-law graph with strong clustering, similar to many complex networks such as the Internet, social, or biological networks. We prove that this structural similarity is a consequence of the asymptotic equivalence between the large-scale growth dynamics of complex networks and causal networks. This equivalence suggests that unexpectedly similar laws govern the dynamics of complex networks and spacetime in the universe, with implications to network science and cosmology.

Concepts: Mathematics, Physics, Redshift, General relativity, Universe, Dark energy, Network theory, Accelerating universe

182

That the speed of light in free space c is constant has been a pillar of modern physics since the derivation of Maxwell and in Einstein’s postulate in special relativity. This has been a basic assumption in light’s various applications. However, a physical beam of light has a finite extent such that even in free space it is by nature dispersive. The field confinement changes its wavevector, hence, altering the light’s group velocity vg. Here, we report the subluminal vg and consequently the dispersion in free space of Laguerre-Gauss (LG) beam, a beam known to carry orbital angular momentum. The vg of LG beam, calculated in the paraxial regime, is observed to be inversely proportional to the beam’s divergence θ0, the orbital order ℓ and the radial order p. LG beams of higher orders travel relatively slower than that of lower orders. As a consequence, LG beams of different orders separate in the temporal domain along propagation. This is an added effect to the dispersion due to field confinement. Our results are useful for treating information embedded in LG beams from astronomical sources and/or data transmission in free space.

Concepts: Quantum mechanics, Fundamental physics concepts, Physics, Maxwell's equations, General relativity, Spacetime, Special relativity, Speed of light

179

While humans are capable of mentally transcending the here and now, this faculty for mental time travel (MTT) is dependent upon an underlying cognitive representation of time. To this end, linguistic, cognitive and behavioral evidence has revealed that people understand abstract temporal constructs by mapping them to concrete spatial domains (e.g. past = backward, future = forward). However, very little research has investigated factors that may determine the topographical characteristics of these spatiotemporal maps. Guided by the imperative role of episodic content for retrospective and prospective thought (i.e., MTT), here we explored the possibility that the spatialization of time is influenced by the amount of episodic detail a temporal unit contains. In two experiments, participants mapped temporal events along mediolateral (Experiment 1) and anterioposterior (Experiment 2) spatial planes. Importantly, the temporal units varied in self-relevance as they pertained to temporally proximal or distal events in the participant’s own life, the life of a best friend or the life of an unfamiliar other. Converging evidence from both experiments revealed that the amount of space used to represent time varied as a function of target (self, best friend or unfamiliar other) and temporal distance. Specifically, self-time was represented as occupying more space than time pertaining to other targets, but only for temporally proximal events. These results demonstrate the malleability of space-time mapping and suggest that there is a self-specific conceptualization of time that may influence MTT as well as other temporally relevant cognitive phenomena.

Concepts: Time, Physics, General relativity, Space, Spacetime, Map, Universe, Gottfried Leibniz

173

An object in outer space is weightless due to the absence of gravity, but astronauts can still judge whether one object is heavier than another one by accelerating the object. How heavy an object feels depends on the exploration mode: an object is perceived as heavier when holding it against the pull of gravity than when accelerating it. At the same time, perceiving an object’s size influences the percept: small objects feel heavier than large objects with the same mass (size-weight illusion). Does this effect depend on perception of the pull of gravity? To answer this question, objects were suspended from a long wire and participants were asked to push an object and rate its heaviness. This way the contribution of gravitational forces on the percept was minimised. Our results show that weight is not at all necessary for the illusion because the size-weight illusion occurred without perception of weight. The magnitude of the illusion was independent of whether inertial or gravitational forces were perceived. We conclude that the size-weight illusion does not depend on prior knowledge about weights of object, but instead on a more general knowledge about the mass of objects, independent of the contribution of gravity. Consequently, the size-weight illusion will have the same magnitude on Earth as it should have on the Moon or even under conditions of weightlessness.

Concepts: General relativity, Cognition, Force, Space, Gravitation, Classical mechanics, Weightlessness, Weight

171

The de-Sitter metric is a special form of the non-static Friedmann metric, and appears to be genuinely non-static since it describes the initial exponential expansion of the Big Bang universe. However, the de Sitter metric appears to be perfectly static in the Schwarzschild frame where the vacuum fluid is supposed to be in motion. Here we highlight the conflicts between the static and non-static versions of the de-Sitter metric from a physical perspective. In particular, while the “Principle of Energy Conservation” is honored in one case, the same is badly violated for the other. However, we offer a partial resolution of such conflicts by deriving the static de Sitter metric by solving the relevant field equations. It is seen that, it is the very special vacuum equation of state pressure = -density which results in the static form even when the vacuum fluid is supposed to be in motion.

Concepts: Big Bang, Redshift, General relativity, Cosmic microwave background radiation, Universe, Cosmological constant, Physical cosmology, Dark energy

137

The deposition of particles on a surface by an evaporating sessile droplet is important for phenomena as diverse as printing, thin-film deposition, and self-assembly. The shape of the final deposit depends on the flows within the droplet during evaporation. These flows are typically determined at the onset of the process by the intrinsic physical, chemical, and geometrical properties of the droplet and its environment. Here, we demonstrate deterministic emergence and real-time control of Marangoni flows within the evaporating droplet by an external point source of vapor. By varying the source location, we can modulate these flows in space and time to pattern colloids on surfaces in a controllable manner.

Concepts: Water, General relativity, Systems theory, Liquid, Control theory, Differential geometry, Vapor, Evaporation

92

The NASA MESSENGER mission explored the innermost planet of the solar system and obtained a rich data set of range measurements for the determination of Mercury’s ephemeris. Here we use these precise data collected over 7 years to estimate parameters related to general relativity and the evolution of the Sun. These results confirm the validity of the strong equivalence principle with a significantly refined uncertainty of the Nordtvedt parameter η = (-6.6 ± 7.2) × 10-5. By assuming a metric theory of gravitation, we retrieved the post-Newtonian parameter β = 1 + (-1.6 ± 1.8) × 10-5 and the Sun’s gravitational oblateness, [Formula: see text] = (2.246 ± 0.022) × 10-7. Finally, we obtain an estimate of the time variation of the Sun gravitational parameter, [Formula: see text] = (-6.13 ± 1.47) × 10-14, which is consistent with the expected solar mass loss due to the solar wind and interior processes. This measurement allows us to constrain [Formula: see text] to be <4 × 10-14 per year.

Concepts: Sun, General relativity, Mass, Solar System, Mars, Gravitation, Mercury, Equivalence principle