New Telescope May Allow Us to View Alien Planets

James Webb Telescope Alien Planet

As a long-awaited space telescope heads toward liftoff, a new survey of U.S. astronomers and astrophysicists puts the search for habitable planets on the top of their list for the next 10 years. This survey by the national academies of sciences, engineering, and medicine, also spelled out how to ramp up resources including ground and space telescopes.

Astronomer and Gaia News contributor Marc D’Antonio weighed in on the report. “There’s a number of aspects to this report which are very important to take away from the news and that is, number one, professional astronomers, tenured professors, astrophysics schools all are saying ‘We know there’s life out there.’ Number two, they’re saying ‘We want to find it.’”

“This is very important because what we’re seeing is part of the continued shift toward that end of the spectrum. So astronomy and astronomers are being dragged kicking and screaming in some cases, not all, down the path to say ‘We know life exists, and we think we can detect it now, and we’d like to,’ that’s a huge shift, I mean a huge shift,” D’Antonio said.

It seems like people in the general public are open to the idea of off-planet life. Why is this report so significant?

“It is news when you consider that academia has never really bought into that. So when you have a Harvard astrophysicist saying this you see the writing on the wall, academia is going down this path and they’re going to keep going down this path. And they’re going to pursue finding life in the universe.” 

Meanwhile, the much-anticipated James Webb space telescope is scheduled to finally launch this month after a history of postponements and delays.

Why are astronomers so excited about this telescope?

“If you look at the James Webb’s Space Telescope’s capabilities I think you’ll find that the James Webb is probably the most significant mission in our history to this point on Earth. The reason is because of what it stands to be able to show to us. It might be able to answer the question, the real true question: ‘Is there life out there?’ 

Because it’s going to be able to see the atmospheres of exoplanets around distant stars. We’ll see things that might indicate that there is life there, and that is a very important revelation that we can’t do right now because we don’t have a telescope that’s really got the resolution to do that. James Webb is right there, so we have that strength on our side. That’s a very important thing, it could answer that ultimate question.”

The National Academies of Sciences weighed in on their hopes for the future. What does D’Antonio look forward to?

“I hope that we identify planets out there that are suitable way stations for travelers from Earth that might want to go there. Sure, we can’t fly the gulf between the stars now, but we know ways to, and we know ways to do it fast and quickly. That’s something I’d love to see. In 10 years I’d love to see an established program to study — I won’t say faster-than-light travel — but warped space travel. I’d love to see progress there. 

“I’d love to see the James Webb give us candidates for planets that we think might actually have signs of industrial pollutants, signs of oxygen in the atmosphere inferred from other chemicals in the atmosphere like carbon dioxide and methane, and other possibilities. Those other possibilities, what are those? That’s the mystery. Well, those are signatures of life. The next 10 years promises to show us some incredible things, and hopefully, we’ll understand some of these other phenomena in the universe that are occurring, that right now we don’t understand too well.”

Whether or not the recommendations in the survey will be followed remains to be seen… but the James Webb Space Telescope’s planned launch date is Dec. 22

A New Phase of Matter Appears to Defy Laws of Thermodynamics

Quantum Time Crystals Defy Thermodynamics

Scientists have created a new phase of matter known as time crystals, a quantum phenomenon appearing to defy the laws of thermodynamics. Could this discovery upend our understanding of classical physics?

A team of researchers developing Google’s Sycamore quantum computer announced the successful creation of a time crystal that lasted for 100 seconds. This novel phase of matter appears to defy the second law of thermodynamics, which states that entropy, or chaos and disorder, always increases in an isolated system. In other words, energy must be put into a system in order to maintain structure or motion. But time crystals have been observed to maintain a constant state of flux, without losing any energy.

Dr. Simeon Hein, director of the Institute for Resonance, explains the science behind this strange phenomenon.

“Crystals are in everything we do—they’re in watches—they’re in so many things because they’re regular, they create evenness, they create this consistency. And just like their pattern is very consistent, the energy that crystals transmit turns into a very regular pattern which is why you can use a quartz crystal in a watch,’ Dr. Hein said.

“You can put a noisy electrical signal in but it will come out as a very consistent beat, and that created the idea for some people, in this case, Frank Wilczek from M.I.T. in 2012, to propose the idea that you not only had crystals in space, you could have crystals in time. You could create an oscillating circuit, using specific quantum principles, you could create a very constant quantum beat.”

Time crystals have been described as the first “out-of-equilibrium” phase of matter, meaning they maintain order while in an excited state. But how do time crystals accomplish this, without expending energy?

“At a quantum level, they’re getting energy from something called the Zero-point energy field. The Zero-point energy field is the lowest ground state of quantum matter, but the lowest state doesn’t mean absolute zero like nothing’s happening. The quantum ground state is actually the base state of the universe, where even though there’s nothing happening, the field itself generates energy, causing random fluctuations and particles to pop out of nowhere, and all sorts of really interesting effects that normally, I should say most of the time, we don’t see in our regular, physical reality,” Dr. Hein said.

“So these coherently entangled particles would be deriving their energy from the quantum vacuum field. But if they’re getting their energy from the quantum vacuum, instead of our classical world, you can’t see any reason why they would eventually have to wind down like our regular clocks would, and energy would dissipate.”

With this new discovery of time crystals appearing to defy the second law of thermodynamics, how has mainstream science reacted, or tried to reconcile this paradox?

“A lot of these quantum phenomena seem to defy classical physics, the whole idea of quantum entanglement suggests faster than light interaction or communication, Einstein called it ‘spooky action at a distance,’ and experiments later confirmed that you could take pairs of particles and separate them, and you could do something to one of them, and the other particle would immediately react at farther and farther distances away,” Dr. Hein said.

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