Apple pours millions into ad buy featuring band best known for tweaking Spotify

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Variety reports today that Apple selected Vulfpeck, a band “best-known in industry circles for gaming Spotify to raise money for a tour,” to provide the music for a recent Apple Pay commercial — a feat that gave its song $ 22.5 million in paid TV exposure. The selection is said to be part of an Apple shift back towards licensing mu…Read More
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Hacker Adrian Lamo, known for hacking The New York Times and turning in Chelsea Manning, is dead

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Hacker Adrian Lamo has died at age 37, according to ZDNet and a Facebook post from his father. The circumstances of Lamo’s death are unknown, but a coroner in Sedgwick County, Kansas, reportedly confirmed the news.

Lamo was known in the early 2000s for hacking a number of company networks, including that of The New York Times Company. Sometimes dubbed the “homeless hacker” for his nomadic life, he pled guilty in 2004 to breaching the Times’ internal network and running up tens of thousands of dollars in search fees on its Lexis-Nexis account. Before that, he warned several other companies of security flaws, including WorldCom and Microsoft.

More recently, however, Lamo was known for alerting the Army after whistleblower Chelsea Manning…

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LG will rename the G-series starting with the phone formerly known as LG G7

LG is reportedly planning to rejigger its flagship naming scheme – there will be no “LG G7”. Instead, the company will choose a new name for its early 2018 flagship, claims an LG official quoted by Digital Daily. The G-series traces its roots back to 2012’s Optimus G, a name that was simplified to LG G2 for the sequel. Four generations later, this is coming to an end. The final name has not been decided yet. “Numbering the phone with a two-digit number and rebranding the phone with a new name are some of the options on the table”. What does that mean for the LG V30 successor?…

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A New Technique Just Helped Astronomers Uncover the Oldest Galaxy in the Known Universe

Since the deployment of the Hubble Space Telescope, astronomers have been able to look deeper into the cosmic web than ever before. The farther they’ve looked, the deeper back in time they are able to see, and thus learn what the Universe looked like billions of years ago. With the deployment of other cutting-edge telescopes and observatories, scientists have been able to learn a great deal more about the history and evolution of the cosmos.

Most recently, an international team of astronomers using the Gemini North Telescope in Hawaii were able to spot a spiral galaxy located 11 billion light years away. Thanks to a new technique that combined gravitational lensing and spectrography, they were able to see an object that existed just 2.6 billion years after the Big Bang. This makes this spiral galaxy, known as A1689B11, the oldest and most distant spiral galaxy spotted to date.

The study which details the team’s findings, titled “The most ancient spiral galaxy: a 2.6-Gyr-old disk with a tranquil velocity field“, recently appeared in The Astrophysical Journal. The team consisted of members from the Swinburne University of Technology, the Australian Research Council Center of Excellence in All Sky Astrophysics in 3D (ASTRO 3D), the University of Lyon, Princeton University, and the Racah Institute of Physics at The Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

Spiral galaxy A1689B11 sits behind a massive cluster of galaxies that acts as a lens, producing two magnified images of the spiral galaxy in different positions in the sky. Credit: James Josephides

Together, the team relied on the gravitational lensing technique to spot A1689B11. This technique has become a mainstay for astronomers, and involves using a large object (like a galaxy cluster) to bend and magnify the light of a galaxy located behind it. As Dr. Tiantian Yuan, a Swinburne astronomer and the lead author on the research study, explained in a Swinburne press statement:

“This technique allows us to study ancient galaxies in high resolution with unprecedented detail. We are able to look 11 billion years back in time and directly witness the formation of the first, primitive spiral arms of a galaxy.”

They then used the Near-infrared Integral Field Spectrograph (NIFS) on the Gemini North telescope to verify the structure and nature of this spiral galaxy. This instrument was built Peter McGregor of The Australian National University (ANU), which now is responsible for maintaining it. Thanks to this latest discovery, astronomers now have some additional clues as to how galaxies took on the forms that we are familiar with today.

Based on the classification scheme developed by famed astronomer Edwin Hubble (the “Hubble Sequence“), galaxies are divides into 3 broad classes based on their shapes – ellipticals, lenticulars and spirals – with a fourth category reserved for “irregularly-shaped” galaxies. In accordance with this scheme, galaxies start out as elliptical structures before branching off to become spiraled, lenticular, or irregular.

A figure illustrating the Hubble sequence, showing elliptical galaxies (left) and evolving to fit the three broad categories (right) of ellipticals, lenticulars and spirals. Credit: Ville Koistinen

As such, the discovery of such an ancient spiral galaxy is crucial to determining when and how the earliest galaxies began changing from being elliptical to taking on their modern forms. As Dr Renyue Cen, an astronomer from Princeton University and a co-author on the study, says:

“Studying ancient spirals like A1689B11 is a key to unlocking the mystery of how and when the Hubble sequence emerges. Spiral galaxies are exceptionally rare in the early Universe, and this discovery opens the door to investigating how galaxies transition from highly chaotic, turbulent discs to tranquil, thin discs like those of our own Milky Way galaxy.”

On top of that, this study showed that the A1689B11 spiral galaxy has some surprising features which could also help inform (and challenge) our understanding of this period in cosmic history. As Dr. Yuan explained, these features are in stark contrast to galaxies as they exist today. But equally interesting is the fact that it also differentiates this spiral galaxy from other galaxies that are similar in age.

“This galaxy is forming stars 20 times faster than galaxies today – as fast as other young galaxies of similar masses in the early Universe,” said Dr. Yuan. “However, unlike other galaxies of the same epoch, A1689B11 has a very cool and thin disc, rotating calmly with surprisingly little turbulence. This type of spiral galaxy has never been seen before at this early epoch of the Universe!”

Illustration of the depth by which Hubble imaged galaxies in prior Deep Field initiatives, in units of the Age of the Universe. Credit: NASA and A. Feild (STScI)

Illustration of the depth by which Hubble imaged galaxies in prior Deep Field initiatives, in units of the Age of the Universe. Credit: NASA and A. Feild (STScI)

In the future, the team hopes to conduct further studies of this galaxy to further resolve its structure and nature, and to compare it to other spiral galaxies from this epoch. Of particular interest to them is when the onset of spiral arms takes place, which should serve as a sort of boundary marker between ancient elliptical galaxies and modern spiral, lenticular and irregular shapes.

They will continue to rely on the NIFS to conduct these studies, but the team also hopes to rely on data collected by the James Webb Space Telescope (which will be launched in 2019). These and other surveys in the coming years are expected to reveal vital information about the earliest galaxies in the Universe, and reveal further clues as to how it changed over time.

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The Secrets of Neutrinos, One of the Strangest Particles in the Known Universe

Brian Koberlein is bringing the story of science to the world. His Kickstarter project — a television series called Big Science — recently garnered support from astrophysicist and Nobel Prize co-winner Arthur B. McDonald. Find out more about the project here

How Do You Solve a Problem Like Neutrinos?

Neutrinos are perhaps the most enigmatic particles in the universe. They were first discovered in the 1950s as a product of radioactive decay, but they are also produced in nuclear fusion reactions. As a result, copious amounts of neutrinos are produced in the Sun through the pp-chain and CNO nuclear fusion processesin the core of our star. This makes the Sun a perfect candidate for doing neutrino astronomy. But when we first starting observing solar neutrinos in the 1960s, revealed mystery known as the solar neutrino problem. The solution to this problem wasn’t proven until the late 1990s, and it demonstrated that neutrinos are far more strange than we had imagined.

The solar neutrino problem arose from the fact that the amount of neutrinos we observed from the Sun was about a third the expected amount. That meant either our understanding of nuclear fusion in Sun was very wrong, or something strange was going on with neutrinos. Around the same time we started measuring solar neutrinos, it was found the the electron had two sister particles known as the muon and tauon, (together known as leptons) and that each of these had a corresponding neutrino. This meant that there were three types (or flavors) of neutrinos. With three times the expected neutrinos, and one third the measured neutrinos, it looked suspiciously like the two were connected.

A few things were known right off the bat. The early solar neutrino detectors could only detect electron neutrinos, so if the Sun was producing the predicted amount of neutrinos but in equal amounts of the three flavors, that would solve the mystery. But the Sun couldn’t be producing all three neutrino types, because the nuclear reactions in the Sun’s core only produce electron neutrinos. The obvious solution is to look for a way for some neutrinos to be converted from the electron type to the other types, but according to the well established standard model of particle physics, neutrinos should be massless. As a result, they would move at the speed of light, and there would be no way for them to change flavors.

Of course if neutrinos have mass, then they could change flavors. But it turns out that neutrino mass isn’t the simple kind of mass we’re used to dealing with. In the standard model, neutrinos are governed by the electroweak force, which is a unification of the electromagnetic force of charges and magnets, and the weak nuclear force which governs radioactive decay. The electroweak model is a quantum theory, and so things like the uncertainty principle come into play. As a result, you can either measure a neutrino’s mass, or its flavor, but not both. This means we can say that neutrinos have mass, but we can never say that the electron flavor has a particular mass.

Quantum Fuzziness

Because of this quantum fuzziness between mass and flavor, we’re always limited to knowing one or the other. According to the model there are three mass types (mass eigenstates) and three flavors (flavor eigenstates) of neutrinos. If we know the flavor of a neutrino (electron, muon, tauon), then that flavor is a superposition (quantum mixture) of the three mass types. If we know the mass of a neutrino, then it is a superposition of the three flavors. What distinguishes an electron neutrino from, say, a muon neutrino is their mixture of the different mass types. Each flavor of neutrino is a specific superposition of the different mass eigenstates.

So how do neutrinos with “fuzzy” quantum mass solve the solar neutrino problem? It turns out that each mass eigenstate has a slightly different speed. So if an electron neutrino is produced in a nuclear reaction, its superposition of mass states will gradually shift because of the different speeds. In quantum theory, each mass state has a different wavelength, so their waves start to interfere as they shift. This effect is known as neutrino oscillation. So as an electron neutrino travels across the universe, it oscillates between the other flavors, and the chance of it being observed as a muon or tauon neutrino rises and falls.

On a cosmic scale, the distance between the Sun and Earth is fairly small, so there isn’t much time for electron neutrinos to mix with the other types. But when neutrinos travel through matter, another oscillation effect comes into play known as the MSW effect. When neutrinos travel through matter, their speeds shift, similar to the way light shifts through glass due to its index of refraction. The shift is different for each flavor, and this accelerates the mixing of the neutrinos (similar to the way a prism can spread out the colors of light). By the time neutrinos reach the surface of the Sun, they are mixed to equal amounts of the three flavors. As a result, only about a third of the neutrinos that reach Earth are electron neutrinos, which explains why early neutrino detectors saw a third the expected amount.

And thus, the solar neutrino problem is solved.

Of course you might argue that this is a pretty convoluted model just to explain solar neutrinos. Bold claims require bold evidence, so what makes us so confident that flavor-changing neutrinos with fuzzy masses really is the solution? We’ll look at the answer to that question next time.

The Big Science Kickstarter needs to be funded by September 8th, 2017. Find out more and back the project here

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Researchers Have Just Discovered The Tiniest Star Known to Science

Scientists have discovered the smallest star known to science; in fact, it is so tiny that it barely qualifies as a star. Called EBLM J0555–57Ab, it is only slightly larger than Saturn. The star is part of a binary system, orbiting a much bigger star approximately 600 light-years from Earth.

“Our discovery reveals how small stars can be,” astronomer Alexander Boetticher from the University of Cambridge said in a press release. “Had this star formed with only a slightly lower mass, the fusion reaction of hydrogen in its core could not be sustained, and the star would instead have transformed into a brown dwarf.”

Image Credit: Alexander von Boetticher et al
Image Credit: Alexander von Boetticher et al. / Astronomy & Astrophysics

The issues that make this star a bit of a “borderline” case are the same that cause brown dwarves to be called “failed stars.” EBLM J0555–57Ab is just massive enough to enable hydrogen fusion to occur in its core, forming helium, as the researcher describe in their study published in Astronomy & Astrophysics. However, it remains very faint and difficult to see; it is approximately 2,000 to 3,000 times fainter than our Sun.

This, along with its proximity to parent star EBLM J0555–57A, made finding the tiny star a real challenge. Initially, EBLM J0555–57Ab was suspected of being an exoplanet as it orbited in front of its parent star. Only closer examination of the measurements revealed its true nature.

Dim, smaller stars like this one are prime candidates for hosting worlds that could support life because they provide the milder environments in which liquid water on planetary surfaces is more likely to survive. However, these minuscule stars are mysterious to us, not leastly because we rarely spot them. Hopefully, scientists will have more clues for finding them moving forward, having learning from this first discovery.

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