Speed ​​of expansion of the universe, make new measurements: it is increasingly a mystery

A new study once again shows that the universe is expanding faster than calculated in previous years. This research, this time conducted by astronomers from the University of California at Davis, only further increases the debate about the fact that we cannot measure the acceleration of the universe’s expansion with a good degree of precision: the measurements made in recent years are in fact in disagreement.

This time the researchers used the Hubble Space Telescope together with an instrument from the WM Keck observatory called Adaptive Optics (AO). With this tool, researchers have been able to exploit the so-called “gravitational lenses,” a phenomenon also predicted by Einstein in which even light is gravitationally attracted and when this happens it can, among other things, also enlarge objects too far away for be viewed with normal telescopes. In the new study, which appeared in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, the researchers performed measurements of three known quasars with the gravitational lens method: PG1115 + 080, HE0435-1223 and RXJ1131-1231.

In particular, they measured the flicker of their brightness. These flickers, since each image corresponds to a slightly different length of the quasar distance from the telescope, do not all arrive on Earth at the same time. The researchers accurately measured these delays because they are inversely proportional to the value of the Hubble constant indicating the rate of expansion of the universe. In this way, they were able to measure how much the universe expanded during the time when the light of these quasars headed for Earth. The results they obtained are consistent with some measurements of the same Hubble constant made by observing objects near Earth, such as supernovae or other systems with gravitational lenses.

These further measurements highlight that there is a problem with the standard model of cosmology. This model predicts that the universe has expanded very rapidly during the big bang, or in any case immediately thereafter, and that this expansion has then slowed down, perhaps due to the gravitational attraction of dark matter. At some point, the same rate of expansion began to accelerate again this time due to a new force called dark energy. This model is mainly based on the analysis of the cosmic microwave background (CMB), that is, on the residual radiation of the big bang that occurred about 13.8 billion years ago.

Recently several attempts to measure the Hubble constant have led to inconsistent results, especially as regards measurements made by observing objects close to those made by observing distant objects.

“This is where the crisis in cosmology lies,” says physics professor Chris Fassnacht and one of the authors of the study. “While the Hubble constant is constant everywhere in space at any given moment, it is not constant over time. So when we compare by comparing the Hubble constants that result from various techniques, we are comparing the primordial universe (using distant observations) vs the later and more modern part of the universe (using local and close observations).”

There are two possibilities: either there is a problem with the CMB measurements, the cosmic background radiation in the microwaves, which the researchers behind this study consider unlikely, or the standard model must be modified in order for this discrepancy to be corrected.

Now the researchers intend to further develop this new method, based on gravitational lenses and quasar observation, to further improve the accuracy of the Hubble constant measurements to perhaps reach a more “universal” cosmological model.


Jade Rollers – Maybe Kinda Worth It, But Not Really

We’re always interested in checking out new products and verifying the scientific claims behind them. Today, we’re going to take a look at jade rollers, which are devices with a jade stone that you roll across your face. Apparently, this is supposed to help you look younger, reduce wrinkles and feel better.

And if you head to Amazon today, you can find a ton of jade rollers for sale.

In investigating these products, and reading a lot of reviews on them, we can’t really say much in favor of them. There’s been many sites that have rambled on about them like this CNN article. However, the best article on them is this one here from our website at It gets straight to the point and just says, well, jade rollers can work, but there’s nothing “magical” about them.

Buy a jade roller if you want. But don’t expect it to do much of anything.


Researchers discover the best method for determining the sex of skeletons by measuring the elbow

Examining the distal bone of the humerus (elbow) can be a better technique than the existing ones to identify sex in skeletal remains in non-Asian populations: this is the result achieved by a group of researchers from the School of Medicine of the University of Boston (BUSM).

Currently, forensic anthropologists determine the sex of a person’s remains, when these remains are represented only by the skeleton, the morphology of the pelvis or the skull or by the measurements of the longest bones. However, as Sean Tallman, professor of anatomy and neurobiology at BUSM explains, very often these areas are missing or damaged due to trauma, poor conservation or other causes. In many cases, therefore, it is substantially impossible to examine these areas of the skeleton with a good degree of precision.

The researchers examined more than 600 skeletons, 198 of female and 418 of male, from a collection located in Khon Kaen, Thailand. In the course of the analysis, as Tallman himself explains, the researchers found that when “classic” methods usually developed on non-Asian populations were applied to these skeletons, these same methods malfunctioned. In fact, most of the methods currently in use to determine sex through the remains of a skeleton were created and adapted by studying the skeletons of North American populations in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

The researchers found that in modern Thai individuals the measurement of the distal humerus differs between females and males and that this can be used as the best method for determining sex. The study was published in the Journal of Forensic Sciences.


Big bang and cosmic inflation: here’s what it could have done as a “bridge” between these two phases

According to the most accepted theory regarding the origin of the universe, the latter would have been born with an initial big bang. However, shortly before or at the same time or shortly thereafter (it depends on the various versions of theories) a phenomenon, called cosmic inflation, would have taken place which lasted less than a trillionth of a second, which would have produced a much larger inflationary expansion than is taking place with the big bang itself.

During cosmic inflation, according to the theory, a cold and homogeneous “soup” swelled exponentially before the processes themselves of the big bang and its expansion took over.

The two processes, that of cosmic inflation and that of the big bang, are very different from each other so much that scientists have always struggled to connect them and to understand what could have acted as a “bridge” between these two phases.

According to a new study conducted by physicists from MIT, Kenyon College and other institutes, a third phase known as “warm-up” would have acted as a “bridge” between these two phases. This brief phase would have occurred at the end of cosmic inflation and in a sense would have triggered the “bang” of the big bang, as stated by David Kaiser, professor of History of Science of Germeshausen and professor of physics at MIT. According to the scientist during this brief period of the history of the universe, hell would have unleashed and matter would have behaved in very strange ways that go beyond our understanding.

According to Kaiser, during the early stages of “warming” a form of high energy matter dominated. This matter stirred back and forth synchronously across large expanses of space and this led to the explosive production of new particles. Once this energy moved to a second form of matter, these oscillations became more unstable and irregular in space. It would have been a “crazy period,” as Kaiser himself calls it, a period during which matter interacted so strongly that it could also suddenly relax to lay the foundations for the big bang.

The researcher, together with his colleagues, tried to simulate the final stage of inflation on the computer to understand how it could have developed. They realized that the extreme energy that triggered inflation could have been redistributed very quickly, we are talking about very small fractions of a second, and in such a way as to produce those conditions necessary for the start of the big bang. This change would have been even more efficient, and therefore more acceptable at a theoretical level, if we take into account the quantum effects: the latter would have changed the ways in which the “soup” of matter responded to gravity at very high energies. In this way, the physics of the universe itself could deviate significantly from Einstein’s theory of general relativity.

“This allows us to tell an uninterrupted story, from inflation to the post-inflation period, to the Big Bang and beyond,” says Kaiser. “We can trace a continuous series of processes, all with known physics, to say that this is a plausible way in which the universe has come to be as we see it today.”


Water vapor discovered in the atmosphere of the planet K2-18b 110 light years away

A planet that orbits its star inside the habitable belt and that presents water vapor in the atmosphere has been analyzed by two teams of astronomers, a team from the Center for Space Exochemistry Data of University College London who used the telescope data space Hubble collected from 2016 to 2017, and another team led by Björn Benneke of the Institute for Research on Exoplanets at the Université de Montréal.

It is a super-earth: its dimensions, mass and consequently gravity are larger than terrestrial ones (the mass of at least eight times). However, there is the probability, as astronomers themselves point out, that the radiation it receives from its star may prove hostile to life.

K2-18b, orbiting a red dwarf located about 110 light-years away from us, has captured the interest of scientists and astronomers since its discovery. The reason is easy to say: it is a planet located in the habitable belt of its star. Now that researchers have discovered chemical signatures of water vapor in the atmosphere of this planet, interest is growing exponentially.

The water vapor in the atmosphere can in fact mean that the planet could potentially present expanses of liquid water on its surface, also formed by rain, which, combined with the fact that it is located in the habitable zone, makes it a prominent candidate for the first analyzes that will be carried out with the next James Webb space telescope.

This information suggests that on this planet there could be a water cycle similar to that of Earth, a cycle that allows water itself to condense, to form clouds and to make rain of liquid water fall.

K2-18b is the only planet, naturally among those discovered so far, to present water in the atmosphere and temperatures that can allow water to exist in liquid form on the surface. It was discovered thanks to data from NASA’s Kepler space telescope in 2015. The same data suggests that helium and hydrogen may also be present in the atmosphere.

The planet should receive roughly the same total amount of energy from its star as that which Earth receives from the Sun (the star is a small red dwarf but the planet is closer).

To date, there are hundreds of “Super-Earths” identified thanks to NASA’s two space telescopes, Kepler and TESS, and hundreds more will probably be discovered in the coming years also with the help of the James Webb space telescope which could be used in particular to analyze atmospheres of exoplanets.

The atmosphere of this planet has been the subject of two separate studies, one by a team from the University College of London published in Nature Astronomy, another by a team from the Institute for Research on Exoplanets of the University of Montreal published in the Astronomical Journal.


Children who drink more water are more efficient in multitasking and cognitive functions

Drinking water is fundamental for human beings and it is even more important for children especially when they move and “forget” to drink. Now a new study, published in the Journal of Nutrition, underlines this aspect and shows that drinking more water, or in any case drinking the quantity that can be considered sufficient, allows children to be more efficient in multitasking, that is, in the ability to manage or do more things simultaneously, and in general in cognitive abilities.

Researchers from the University of Illinois have indeed studied the effects of drinking water on 75 children from central Illinois. By analyzing children’s urinary hydration and cognitive performance through specific task-switching tests, the researchers realized that children aged 9 to 11 who drank more water not only were more hydrated but showed more reaction times fast in tests and better results in activities designed to measure cognitive flexibility.

Specifically, the researchers made the children drink only half a liter of water a day for four days or 2.5 liters of water a day for four days.

Naiman Khan, professor of kinesiology and community health and lead author of the study, underlines how children are characterized by a higher risk of involuntary dehydration; they often depend on adults to recognize their need for hydration and their daily water supply.

According to Khan himself, this was the first study to measure changes in children’s cognitive performance related to taking different amounts of water over several days.


African swine fever could kill a quarter of all pigs in the world

A quarter of all pigs raised in the world could die of African swine fever according to a press release issued by the Associated Press which incorporates a statement by the president of the world animal health organization, Mark Schipp. The statement makes it clear how seriously this viral disease that is affecting pig populations on farms around the world is taken seriously by institutions.

In addition to possible food shortages that would raise the prices of all food deriving from pigs, a greater spread of this disease could also lead to shortages of other products, first of all heparin, an anticoagulant drug that is obtained from the mucous membrane of the intestine or from the lung of pigs. This drug is on the list of essential drugs for the World Health Organization and is considered to be a key drug.

What is most worrying is the spread of this disease that is occurring among pig populations in China, a nation that has the largest pig farms in the world in which the price of pork has already been over the past year has doubled.

This is the biggest threat among any cattle ever raised by man, says Schipp bluntly. Schipp himself reminds us that this disease will not lead to direct consequences for humans, in the sense that the virus itself is not transmissible from pig to human.

As for any vaccines, Schipp himself admits that several steps forward have been made but a complete product has not yet been reached, also because the virus is very complex.