Our Milky Way is connected to a vast network of galaxies

Milky Way connected to a vast network of galaxies

Milky Way connected to a vast network of galaxies

The Milky Way is part of a much vaster galactic network than previously thought. The galaxy drifts along in a stream of galaxies on the outskirts of a newly identified collection of galaxy clusters, a supercluster named Laniakea. This supercluster — whose name means “heaven immeasurable” in Hawaiian — holds the mass of 100 million billion suns within a region that spans about 520 million light-years.

Astrophysicist R. Brent Tully of the University of Hawaii in Honolulu and colleagues sifted through data describing the positions and velocities of over 8,000 galaxies to get a fresh look at the Milky Way’s place in space. After accounting for the motion caused by the expansion of the universe, the team created a three-dimensional view of how gravity molds the galaxy’s cosmic neighborhood.

The new map, published in the Sept. 4 Nature, reveals Laniakea’s boundaries and weblike framework. The Milky Way lies along one of the lines of that web, in a tributary feeding one of many galactic rivers. Those streams converge in a gravitational valley roughly 200 million light-years away near two massive galaxy clusters: Norma and Centaurus. Their combined gravity appears to be drawing in other galaxies and clusters within Laniakea, including the Milky Way.

Watch Laniakea Supercluster to see how the Milky Way fits into this complex network of galaxies.


Source:  w.sciencenews.org

Galaxy holds 100M complex-life-supporting planets

Our galaxy may hold 100M complex-life-supporting planets:

Our galaxy may hold 100M complex-life-supporting planets

Our galaxy may hold 100M complex-life-supporting planets

The number of planets in the Milky Way galaxy which could harbor complex life may be as high as 100 million, Washington State University astrobiologist Dirk Schulze-Makuch writes in a column posted this week on the Air & Space/Smithsonian magazine website.

The estimate, which assumes an average of one planet per star in the Milky Way, is drawn from a study believed to be the first quantitative assessment of the number of worlds in our galaxy that could harbor life above the microbial level.

Schulze-Makuch said the study is significant because it is the first to rely on observable data from actual planetary bodies beyond the solar system, rather than making educated guesses about the frequency of life on other worlds based on hypothetical assumptions.

The research was published recently in the journal Challenges by a group of scientists that includes Louis Irwin, of the University of Texas at El Paso; Alberto Fairen of Cornell University; Abel Mendez of the Planetary Habitability Laboratory at the University of Puerto Rico at Arecibo; and Schulze-Makuch.

The researchers surveyed the growing list of more than 1,000 known planets outside the solar system. Using a formula that considers planetary density, temperature, substrate (liquid, solid or gas), chemistry, distance from its central star and age, they computed a “Biological Complexity Index (BCI),” which rates planets on a scale of 0 to 1.0 according to the number and degree of characteristics assumed to be important for supporting various forms of multicellular life.

“The BCI calculation revealed that 1 to 2 percent of exoplanets showed a BCI rating higher than Europa, a moon of Jupiter thought to have a subsurface global ocean which could harbor different forms of life,” writes Schulze-Makuch. “Based on an estimate of 10 billion stars in the Milky Way Galaxy, and assuming an average of one planet per star, this yields the figure of 100 million. Some scientists believe the number could be 10 times higher.”

He emphasizes that the study should not be taken as an indication that complex life actually exists on as many as 100 million planets, but rather that the figure is the best estimate to date of the number of planets in our galaxy likely to exhibit conditions supportive to such life.

“Also, it should be understood that complex life doesn’t mean intelligent life or even animal life, although it doesn’t rule either out,” Schulze-Makuch said. “It means simply that organisms larger and more complex than microbes could exist in a number of different forms, quite likely forming stable food webs like those found in ecosystems on Earth.

“Despite the large absolute number of planets that could harbor complex life, the Milky Way is so vast that, statistically, planets with high BCI values are very far apart,” Schulze-Makuch writes. “One of the closest and most promising extrasolar systems, known as Gliese 581, has possibly two planets with the apparent capacity to host complex biospheres, yet the distance from the Sun to Gliese 581 is about 20 light years.”

And most planets with a high BCI are much farther away, he said.

If the 100 million planets that the team says have the theoretical capacity for hosting complex life were randomly distributed across the galaxy, Schulze-Makuch said they would lie about 24 light years apart, assuming equal stellar density. And he estimates the distance between planets with intelligent life would likely be significantly farther.

“On the one hand it seems highly unlikely that we are alone,” he writes in the article. “On the other hand, we are likely so far away from life at our level of complexity, that a meeting with such alien forms might be improbable for the foreseeable future.”


Source:  scienceblog.com

Boycott Apple

You should Boycott Apple:

Iphone 5 Sucks

Iphone 5 Sucks

The Internet is alight with outrage against Apple for winning a preliminary injunction against Samsung’s Galaxy Nexus, claiming that Samsung infringes on US patent 8,086,604. This patent basically covers the unified search feature promoted not only in Apple’s Siri, but Android as well. It was this patent, the presiding Judge Koh concluded, that enabled Apple to justify that continued sales of the Galaxy Nexus would cause “irreparable harm” to Apple, which issued a statement regarding the lawsuit:

It’s no coincidence that Samsung’s latest products look a lot like the iPhone and iPad, from the shape of the hardware to the user interface and even the packaging. This kind of blatant copying is wrong and, as we’ve said many times before, we need to protect Apple’s intellectual property when companies steal our ideas.

Samsung’s products in the past quite obviously were made to look similar to Apple’s iPhone, the Galaxy Nexus is a phone designed by Google and loaded with software directly from Google, only left to Samsung to manufacture. The Galaxy Nexus looks in no way similar to the iPhone apart from the fact that both devices share a touchscreen. Second, Apple fights very hard when companies steal its ideas, when Steve Jobs went on record saying that Apple has “always been shameless about stealing great ideas.” Quite hypocritical. So most of Apple’s lawsuits are hypocritical, but are they wrong? Should we be punishing Apple for suing other companies for infringing on its patents? No. In fact, some would argue that Apple is simply playing the system and playing to win. Most people would agree that the state of the patent system in the US is horrendous and is the root cause of these petty lawsuits. That’s why, when the Boycott Apple outbreak started, a few suggested something different. The patent system in the United States as we know it today has been derailed significantly from the founding fathers’ intentions. In Article I, Section 8, Clause 8 of the US Constitution, it states this:

To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.

To put things simply, patents are not in place to protect the inventor. They are in place to promote invention and innovation. Providing the incentive of exclusivity to the inventor is simply a means to provide the end (rather than vice versa). This means that the focus of patents should be on innovation, not protection. Outright concentration on protection leads to a sheltered environment where innovation is stifled and progress is lost. But when did the patent system lose its way? Some suggest that when “processes” were finally allowed to be patented was the defining moment. You no longer had to have a machine to present to the patent office to show that you’d created something novel. All you needed was to write down a method of doing something (e.g., sliding your finger across a touchscreen to unlock a device) and all of a sudden you were a patent owner. This also allowed an influx of software patents to introduce themselves into the system. Eventually, the situation got to the point where it was considered that “a novel algorithm combined with a trivial physical step constitutes a novel physical device.” Basically, this means that new software loaded onto existing devices creates a completely new device, in the law’s eye. This is obviously a problem. Now you see companies patenting left and right methods rather than machines. Our society has been reduced from sparking great inventions and innovations to squabbling over how we move our finger around to wake our devices up.