Science This Week | Euclid telescope blasts off to study the ‘dark’ universe and more

This photo provided by the European Space Agency on June 29, 2023 shows the Euclid space telescope being prepared for launch from Cape Canaveral, Fla.

This photo provided by the European Space Agency on June 29, 2023 shows the Euclid space telescope being prepared for launch from Cape Canaveral, Fla.
| Photo Credit: AP

This week has been significant for the scientific world with scientists discovering the background hum of the universe caused by gravitational waves, imaging the Milky Way with neutrinos and even capture Saturn’s ring glowing in infrared wavelength. Read more to find top findings and studies from the field of science.

ESA’s Euclid blasts off to unravel mysteries of the ‘dark’ universe

The European Space Agency plans to survey billions of galaxies using the Euclid Space Telescope which launched on July 1 at 11:12 am ET from Cape Canaveral in Florida. The Euclid mission hopes to understand the evolution of the Universe by looking at the light emitted from galaxies 10 billion years ago. The telescope will also focus on gleaning more information on dark energy and dark matter — areas in astrophysics that is still shrouded in near-complete mystery. Floating 1.5 million kilometres above the Earth, the telescope hopes to deliver images that are at least four times sharper than ground-based ones. 

What does the universe sound like? Scientists describe cosmic ‘background hum’

Scientists unveiled evidence that gravitational waves, the ripples in the fabric of space-time predicted by Albert Einstein more than a century ago, are permeating the universe at low frequencies – creating a cosmic background hum. The new findings show that space is awash with these gravitational waves, which oscillate over years or longer and appear to originate primarily from pairs of supermassive black holes spiralling together before merging. Objects called pulsars – the extremely dense cores of exploded stars that spin at the speed of kitchen blenders – were crucial in the new research. Sixty-eight pulsars were used in gathering the evidence.

With neutrinos, scientists observe our galaxy in a whole new way

Scientists said on Thursday they have produced an image of the Milky Way not based on electromagnetic radiation – light – but on ghostly subatomic particles called neutrinos. They detected high-energy neutrinos in pristine ice deep below Antarctica’s surface, then traced their source back to locations in the Milky Way – the first time these particles have been observed arising from our galaxy. The neutrinos were detected over a span of a decade at the IceCube Neutrino Observatory at a U.S. scientific research station at the South Pole, using more than 5,000 sensors covering an area the size of a small mountain.

Saturn’s rings are glowing in Webb Space Telescope’s latest cosmic shot

Saturn has a fresh new look thanks to NASA’s Webb Space Telescope. The telescope snapped the picture in the infrared last weekend. At this wavelength, the planet appears dark because sunlight is absorbed by methane in the atmosphere. But the icy rings remain bright. Scientists hope to uncover new ring structures as well as any new, faint moons that might be lurking there.

IISc project to use smartphones for early detection, diagnosis of neuro-degenerative diseases

Researchers at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) are currently undertaking a project which aims to collect data for commonly observed neuro-degenerative disorders and develop models for diagnosis using state-of-the-art machine learning approaches. Scientists from IISc have embarked this project along with Aster CMI hospitals to collect data for neurodegenerative diseases. It envisages using the massive outreach of smartphone technologies among the population as part of the project.

The 400 million-year-old fossil changing our understanding of mathematical patterns in nature

A new study examined the spirals in the leaves and reproductive structures of a fossilised plant dating back 407 million years. Surprisingly, they discovered that all of the spirals observed in this particular species did not follow the rule of Fibonacci sequence. Today, only a very few plants don’t follow a Fibonacci pattern. Spirals occur frequently in nature and can be seen in plant leaves, animal shells and even in the double helix of our DNA. In most cases, these spirals relate to the Fibonacci sequence – a set of numbers where each is the sum of the two numbers that precede it (1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21 and so on). The discovery of non-Fibonacci spirals in such an early fossil is surprising as they are very rare in living plant species today.

Using physics to understand hate groups on the internet

In an interesting study, scientists have modelled the dynamics of how online hate communities form and develop, with mathematical equations used to describe the behaviour of shock waves in fluids. Online hate communities – or what Dr. Johnson & co. call “anti-X” communities (where ‘X’ is something to which the communities are opposed) – are distinct from other online communities because, among other things, they grow quickly.

The research team modelled how people aggregate and disaggregate. They found that a novel form of equations for turbulent fluids – one that takes into account shock waves – could account for the dynamics of online hate communities. Shock waves are disturbances in a medium that travel faster than the speed of sound in that medium. They are defined by drastic changes in pressure, temperature, and density of the medium.

Anonymous email accuses scientist of running a big research-publishing scam

An email by a whistleblower has accused a scientist named Gunasekaran Manogaran of being an instrumental part of a research paper publication scam and tarnishing the reputation of eminent scientific publishers like Elsevier, Springer Nature, Taylor and Francis and Wiley, Undark has reported. Research published in these journals was often of low quality, with questionable data produced by researchers whose scientific credentials were in question, the article noted. These kinds of scams erode people’s trust in science and hinder research into matters of public health such as cancer treatment, COVID-19 vaccine and drug development

Crowdsourced data from Twitter help identify flooded areas in real time

Like many other cities in India, Mumbai has experienced frequent extreme rainfall events leading to severe floods and waterlogging in the last decade. However, researchers are unable to monitor the flood situation in real time due to lack of any system that captures such data. Now, a team of researchers led by IIT Bombay has found a way to achieve this — they turned to Twitter to crowdsource data to identify in real time areas that are water logged after heavy rainfall.

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