(TMU) — Physicists, astronomers, and cosmologists alike have remained confounded by the mystery of dark matter for decades. A stunning new hypothesis proposes that this nebulous missing component of the universe doesn’t even exist and that the elusive fifth form of matter is actually information.
The conundrum of dark matter has plagued scientists for over half a century. Formulated in an effort to explain early scientific discrepancies in the speed of galaxy rotation, which ultimately revealed galaxies contain a significant amount of unexplained mass that can’t be detected, dark matter has since been estimated to comprise 27% of the known universe.
Not only have scientists believe dark matter constitutes a significant amount of the mass of galaxies, but it has also been thought to be utterly critical to the creation and stability of galaxies. Without dark matter, galaxies would fly apart. The gravity caused by dark matter, in other words, holds the stars together in their characteristic galactic shape.
Life in the universe, scientists believed, is predicated on the structural stability of dark matter.
Theories for what dark matter actually is have ranged from theoretical particles such as the neutral axion and the uncharged photino to MACHOs (Massive Compact Halo Objects) like black holes, supermassive black holes, brown dwarfs, and neutron stars and a difficult-to-detect non-baryonic matter known as WIMPS (Weakly Interacting Massive Particles).
In a new paper published in the journal AIP Advances, Dr. Melvin Vopson of the University of Portsmouth in the UK has advanced perhaps the most radical explanation yet. He posits that dark matter is a red herring—it doesn’t exist. Instead, his hypothesis called the “mass-energy-information equivalence,” suggests information is a “fundamental building block of the universe” and, furthermore, contains actual mass, energy, and gravitational influence.
In describing the mathematics of his hypothesis Vopson writes:
“I am the first to propose the mechanism and the physics by which information acquires mass, as well as to formulate this powerful principle and to propose a possible experiment to test it.”
As to the connection with dark matter, he writes, “M.P. Gough published an article in 2008 in which he worked out … the number of bits of information that the visible universe would contain to make up all the missing dark matter. It appears that my estimates of information bit content of the universe are very close to his estimates.“
The mechanism he invokes is a hybridization of special relativity and the Landauer Principle.
While this may sound outlandish, the core of his idea originates with Classical Information Theory. The concept of information being the core unit of universal reality is not new and in fact legendary scientist-philosopher John Archibald Wheeler, who worked alongside Einstein and is widely regarded as one of the most influential physicists in history, coined the phrase “it from bit,” by which he suggested that everything in the universe results directly from information.
In his later years, Wheeler focused on the bigger questions raised by quantum theory and ended up going down a rabbit hole of an idea he called “the participatory universe,” or “Participatory Anthropic Principle” (PAP). Wheeler suggested that reality is created by conscious observers.
Whether there is a unifying scientific principle—a Theory of Everything—that can connect quantum physics, relativity, and something like the participatory universe is one of the big haunting mysteries in modern science. Vopson’s idea that information is the missing fifth form of matter that holds galaxies together is a tantalizing new chapter in this quest.
Vopson is currently applying for grants to build an “international consortium” to test his hypothesis with laboratory experiments.
Chinese Military Satellite Smashed by Russian Rocket in “Major Confirmed Orbital Collision”
In an incident that is likely illustrative of things to come, Chinese military satellite 1-02 was smashed after it appears to have collided into the debris from a disintegrating Russian rocket.
The collision, which occurred earlier this year, shows the increasing danger of space junk such as satellite parts and other miscellaneous jetsam littering the Earth’s orbit. An estimated 8,000 metric tons of space debris pose the risk of destroying functional equipment such as weather forecasting systems, telecoms and GPS systems – and even manned space travel missions – if the problem isn’t reined in.
The fate of the Chinese satellite was uncovered by Harvard astrophysicist and satellite tracker Jonathan McDowell.
The breakup of Yunhai 1-02 was initially reported by the U.S. Space Force’s 18th Space Control Squadron (18SPCS). However, it wasn’t until recently that McDowell found out what caused the breakup.
The astrophysicist soon found that it was destroyed by space junk that originated from a Russian Zenit-2 rocket that had launched a spy satellite in 1996. On Aug. 14, McDowell found a strange entry in a database on Space-Track.org: “Collided with satellite.”
“This is a new kind of comment entry — haven’t seen such a comment for any other satellites before,” McDowell tweeted.
“A quick analysis of the TLEs show that Yunhai 1-02 (44547) and [the debris object] passed within 1 km of each other (so within the uncertainty of the TLEs) at 0741 UTC Mar 18, exactly when 18SPCS reports Yunhai broke up,” he added, noting that this “looks to be the first major confirmed orbital collision in a decade.”
However, the Yunhai satellite still remains functional and is transmitting radio signals, notes Space.com.
The incident shows the growing likelihood of such collisions in the high-traffic, littered near-Earth orbital zone.
“Collisions are proportional to the square of the number of things in orbit,” McDowell explained. “That is to say, if you have 10 times as many satellites, you’re going to get 100 times as many collisions.”
He added: “So, as the traffic density goes up, collisions are going to go from being a minor constituent of the space junk problem to being the major constituent. That’s just math.”
A worst-case scenario of such collisions is known as the “Kessler Syndrome,” and describes the possibility of one collision setting in motion a chain of collisions. Such a disaster was the premise of the 2013 film “Gravity.”
One hopes that things don’t reach that point.
In the meantime, however, there have been a number of initiatives meant to tackle the growing problem of space debris, such as the ELSA-d spacecraft launched in a demonstration mission earlier this year.
Boston Dynamics Drops New Video Of 5-Foot Atlas Humanoid Robot Effortlessly Doing Parkour
Robot maker Boston Dynamics has released new video of its two-legged Atlas robot effortlessly completing a parkour obstacle course, offering a new display of its humanoid machines’ unsettling repertoire.
In the video, a pair of Atlas robots can be seen leaping over large gaps, vaulting beams, and even performing backflips. The robot can even be seen jumping over a board while using its arm to remain steady.
While the display seems like anything but “free” running – as the original developers of parkour had envisioned – the routine does seem like an impressive, if terrifying, display of effective coding that took months to perfect, according to the Hyundai-owned robotics firm.
“It’s not the robot just magically deciding to do parkour, it’s kind of a choreographed routine, much like a skateboard video or a parkour video,” said Atlas control lead Benjamin Stephens.
See for yourself:
Unlike its robotic dog Spot, which controversially hit New York City streets last year before being pulled, Atlas isn’t a production robot. Instead, it’s a research model meant to see how far the limits of robotics can be pushed.
In the past, Boston Dynamics has displayed the robot’s feats with videos of Atlas jogging and even busting out some cool dance moves.
Team lead Scott Kuindersma said in a statement that in about two decades, we can expect to coexist with robots that move “with grace, reliability, and work alongside humans to enrich our lives.”
Until then, some of us will continue to reserve our right to feel a bit queasy about the prospect of people being chased down by these skilled free-running (and dancing) machines.
South Korean Toilet Turns Poo Into Green Energy and Pays Its Users Digital Cash
What if your morning #2 not only powered your stove to cook your eggs, but also allowed you to pay for your coffee and pastry on the way to class?
It seems like an absurd question, but one university in South Korea has invented a toilet that allows human excrement to not only be used for clean power, but also dumps a bit of digital currency into your wallet that can be exchanged for some fruit or cup noodles at the campus canteen, reports Reuters.
The BeeVi toilet – short for Bee-Vision – was designed by urban and environmental engineering professor Cho Jae-weon of the Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST), and is meant to not only save resources but also reward students for their feces.
The toilet is designed to first deliver your excrement into a special underground tank, reducing water use, before microorganisms break the waste down into methane, a clean source of energy that can power the numerous appliances that dorm life requires.
“If we think out of the box, feces has precious value to make energy and manure,” Cho explained. “I have put this value into ecological circulation.”
The toilet can transform approximately a pound of solid human waste – roughly the average amount people poop per day – into some 50 liters of methane gas, said Cho. That’s about enough to generate half a kilowatt hour of electricity, enough to transport a student throughout campus for some of their school day.
Cho has even devised a special virtual currency for the BeeVi toilet called Ggool, or honey in Korean. Users of the toilet can expect to earn 10 Ggool per day, covering some of the many expenses students rack up on campus every day.
Students have given the new system glowing reviews, and don’t even mind discussing their bodily functions at lunchtime – even expressing their hopes to use their fecal credits to purchase books.