Galactic Glow, Thought to Be Dark Matter, Now Hints at Hidden Pulsars

In 2009, Dan Hooper and his colleagues found a glow coming from the center of our galaxy that no one had ever noticed before. After analyzing publicly available data from the Fermi Gamma Ray Space Telescope, a satellite launched a year earlier, the team concluded that the center of the Milky Way was radiating more gamma rays than astrophysicists could account for.

The finding was so unexpected that, at the time, few believed that it was real. It didn’t help that Hooper wasn’t a member of the Fermi collaboration, but rather an outsider picking over the data that the Fermi team made public. One of the scientists working on Fermi called his work “amateurish,” arguing that Hooper simply didn’t know how to properly interpret the data.… Read the rest

To Solve the Biggest Mystery in Physics, Join Two Kinds of Law

Suppose aliens land on our planet and want to learn our current scientific knowledge. I would start with the 40-year-old documentary Powers of Ten. Granted, it’s a bit out of date, but this short film, written and directed by the famous designer couple Charles and Ray Eames, captures in less than 10 minutes a comprehensive view of the cosmos.

The script is simple and elegant. When the film begins, we see a couple picnicking in a Chicago park. Then the camera zooms out. Every 10 seconds the field of vision gains a power of 10 — from 10 meters across, to 100, to 1,000 and onward. Slowly the big picture reveals itself to us. We see the city, the continent, Earth, the solar system, neighboring … Read the rest

Quantum Theory Rebuilt From Simple Physical Principles

Scientists have been using quantum theory for almost a century now, but embarrassingly they still don’t know what it means. An informal poll taken at a 2011 conference on Quantum Physics and the Nature of Reality showed that there’s still no consensus on what quantum theory says about reality — the participants remained deeply divided about how the theory should be interpreted.

Some physicists just shrug and say we have to live with the fact that quantum mechanics is weird. So particles can be in two places at once, or communicate instantaneously over vast distances? Get over it. After all, the theory works fine. If you want to calculate what experiments will reveal about subatomic particles, atoms, molecules and light, then quantum mechanics succeeds brilliantly.… Read the rest