In October last year, the discovery of strange fluctuations in the light of the star KIC 8462852 (also referred to as "Tabby's Star") led to suggestions that it could be an observation of something that an alien civilization might build (ie. an 'alien megastructure').
Since that time, there's been plenty of debate as to the validity of the observation - but what would be the most help in resolving the mystery is to actually gather more data from observations of the star. And that's exactly what the scientists involved want to do - but that requires telescope time, and that comes at a price.
Enter a new Kickstarter, devoted to the most mysterious star in the galaxy:
The star was discovered with data from the Kepler space telescope, but Kepler has moved on to a different mission and cannot observe it anymore. But for us to understand what is happening -- we need more data and we need your help!
We are using the Kickstarter platform to build community of people interested in working on this mystery with us. What are astronomers doing next? We need more data! Are you wanting to help? To learn? Join us!
This Kickstarter project will secure observing time on a global network of ground-based telescopes so we can catch the star when its brightness dips again. When will the dips occur? What will the dips look like? How long will they last? And last but not least, what is it passing in front of the star to make these dips?
Only with these new data, and the answers to these questions, will we be able to test theories out on what is happening around this star!
Interested? Head on over to the Kickstarter page to find out how you can help out.
A summary of all the stories and news briefs posted on The Daily Grail over the past week. Feel free to share anything interesting!
- News Briefs 16-05-2016 (Monday)
- Archaeoastronomy Finds Sappho's Poetry Written In The Stars
- Our Augmented Future: Expanding Our Reality By Connecting 'Peripherals' to Our Brain
- News Briefs 17-05-2016 (Tuesday)
- On the Origins of Magick
- News Briefs 18-05-2016 (Wednesday)
- What is Information?
- News Briefs 19-05-2016 (Thursday)
- News Briefs 21-05-2016 (Friday)
Have a good weekend!
“At every word a reputation dies.”
- Upsetting the Standard Model.
- A mission orbiting Mars 12 years from now? Just keep an eye out for tsunamis.
- One ring around the earth to rule them all.
- Pluto is ready for its close-up.
- LHC looks smashing.
- Something is coming.
- The great paper chase of civilization.
- Electricity from water.
- A glimpse at augmented reality.
- Is quantum key distribution the key to unbreakable quantum computing?
- Seeing the light on metabolism.
- Ancient Egyptian book of spells unveiled.
- A glacial tipping point.
- Darth by Darthwest.
- This week’s evidence of the looming robot uprising… Pepper.
Quote of the Day:
“Some people will never learn anything, for this reason, because they understand everything too soon.”
- A secret tunnel found in Mexico may finally solve the mysteries of Teotihuacan.
- Archaeology of the Undead.
- 7000-year-old forest and footprints uncovered in the Atlantis of Britain.
- Sleep paralysis: A brief history of fear, treatment and artistic creativity.
- On the origins of 'magick'.
- Here's your chance to help astronomers discover an alien megastructure.
- Europa's ocean may have the right components for life.
- Is that a space invader? Incredible footage shows UFO hovering over Britain's south coast before disappearing into thin air.
- CIA mistakenly destroys their only copy of a 6700-page report into its use of torture techniques.
- Fear the future: Google patent would have glue stick pedestrians to self-driving cars after a collision.
- Superbugs will kill someone every 3 seconds by 2050, if we don't act now.
- To save Earth, go to Mars.
- Mystery of Martian methane deepens.
- Traces of ancient mega-tsunamis discovered on the Red Planet.
- NASA chief says first Mars crews will steer robots from orbit.
- Photonics advances allow us to be seen across the universe, with big implications for SETI.
- Journalist responds to skeptics skeptical of his 'skeptical about skeptics' talk.
- Video of the Day: Rose petals fall from the oculus of the Pantheon.
Thanks Ray and Kat.
Quote of the Day:
I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.
Science is a method ready-made for measuring the 'hardware' of the universe. But what about the 'software'?This is a topic that interests me more every day- what is 'information'? The short video above asks that exact question:
Information is on our phones and in our DNA sequence, but what is it exactly? Is it something subjective or a real quantity?
One can see that if we regard our universe/reality as being a computer simulation - like a super-enhanced game of Doom or Skyrim - then the world is constructed completely by information in a computer program.
The well-known American theoretical physicist John Archibald Wheeler proposed that information is fundamental to creating the reality of the Universe, coining the short phrase 'It from Bit' to describe that function.
It from bit symbolizes the idea that every item of the physical world has at bottom — a very deep bottom, in most instances — an immaterial source and explanation; that which we call reality arises in the last analysis from the posing of yes-no questions and the registering of equipment-evoked responses; in short, that all things physical are information-theoretic in origin and that this is a participatory universe.
I know a couple of my favourite authors, Jacques Vallee and Paul Davies, have also covered this fascinating topic. Any recommendations for further reading?
- Life in our solar system could survive Earth's destruction.
- Pensioner claims to have found hidden Nazi nukes.
- What we write about when we write about aliens.
- We now have evidence of a mega-asteroid strike from 3.5 billion years ago.
- Spectacular cargo of ancient shipwreck found in Caesarea.
- What did you do for the psychedelic renaissance?
- Why would scientists want to build human genomes from scratch?
- Rare whale found on Australian beach believed to be evolutionary throwback.
- Mice get liver damage in space.
- Your legacy on Earth may be a plant.
- Last stand for Europe's remaining ancient forest as loggers prepare to move in.
- 'Sentient' plants control giant rolling cyber garden.
- Have you stumbled upon the Merrylin Cryptid Museum? I'm still looking for it.
- Ayahuasca shaman dreading another week of guiding tech CEOs to spiritual oneness.
- Real-life 'Babel Fish' translates in real time.
Quote of the Day:
I like nonsense; it wakes up the brain cells
The next time you use the term 'magick' to describe occult practices, in order to separate it from the other more common term of 'magic' of the Penn and Teller kind, and some wise soul feels the need to pop their head up and ask why you're using the terminology of Aleister Crowley (1875-1947) - feel free to point out this Google Ngram of usage of the term 'magick' in books since 1700:
Yes, 'magic' was still used more often, and Uncle Al is likely the reason for its resurgence - but it did predate him by quite some time. And let's face it - old English or not, it does serve a useful purpose in distinguishing between two very different practices.
- Researcher tells how her 30 years of parapsychology research made her a skeptic. Though, as long as we're being skeptical...
- Dear 'Skeptics': Bash homeopathy and bigfoot less, mammograms and war more.
- Our augmented future: expanding our reality by connecting sensing 'peripherals' to our brain.
- Everyone's on board for another season of The X-Files.
- Why we keep dreaming of little green men.
- Developing a 'first contact' protocol for the day we find an extraterrestrial species.
- We can begin an interstellar mission today - and we should.
- Though perhaps not on a balloon - even though they could take us to the edge of space.
- NASA catches crazy space weather in action.
- The super-secret X-37B space plane has been in orbit for a year.
- Scientists find a potential way to erase memories.
- Antarctica's secret underworld.
- Maybe we'll be living in Antarctica soon enough: April was the seventh month in a row that broke global temperature records.
- Dung beetles found to navigate using a 'snapshot' of the sky.
- Spanish students to undertake compulsory course on exorcisms.
- LSD-like drugs are out of the haze and back in the labs.
- Consciousness isn't a mystery...it's matter.
- Magic mushrooms found to lift severe depression in clinical trial.
Quote of the Day:
Constantly talking isn't necessarily communicating.
Joel ('Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind')
“Our experience of reality,” says neuroscientist David Eagleman, “is constrained by our biology.” As humans, we only 'see' electromagnetic waves in the range from around 430 to 790 THz,, we only hear audio waves between roughly 20Hz and 20kHz, and so on. Eagleman uses the German word umwelt (meaning 'environment', or 'surroundings') to describe that tiny slice of reality that we are aware of, but which we often take for the entirety of existence:
Each organism presumably assumes its umwelt to be the entirety of objective reality. Until a child learns that honeybees enjoy ultraviolet signals and rattlesnakes see infrared, it is not obvious that plenty of information is riding on channels to which we have no natural access. In fact, the part of the electromagnetic spectrum visible to us is less than a ten-trillionth of it. Our sensorium is enough to get by in our ecosystem, but no better.
However, in the TED Talk above, Eagleman points out that the beauty of brains is that they are effectively a 'universal translator' of signals from the outside world, and will adapt (over time) to new types of input. "Your brain doesn't know, and it doesn't care, where it gets the data from", he notes. "Whatever information comes in, it just figures out what to do with it."
This "frees up Mother Nature", Eagleman suggests, "to tinker out with different types of input channels". So our eyes, ears and fingertips, the heat pits on a snake, the electroreceptors of the ghost knife fish, and the magnetites birds use to navigate, are basically "peripheral plug and play devices".
The lesson that surfaces is that there's nothing really special or fundamental about the biology that we come to the table with, it's just what we have inherited from a complex road road of evolution. But it's not what we have to stick with.
From these principles, Eagleman points out that we are in a position to create interfaces that enable both sensory substitution (for those who may be deprived of a sense, of say sight or hearing), and also sensory augmentation: allowing us to expand our umwelt to include more of both the natural world (e.g 'seeing' the infrared part of the spectrum), and even perhaps to include other aspects of human thought or action, such as by using sentiment analysis on social media or data from the stock market to allow us to sense changes to these things in real time.
Art is timeless, its beauty as immutable as the North Star. Timelessness can also come from people not having a clue when something was created. Knowing the year of its inception is one thing, as historians can guess at the fashions and trends of the artist's era, but creative types, like poets, are also moved by the seasons.
Sappho of Eresos would be no different than our contemporaries. Rivalling Homer in her stature, and celebrated for her lyrical and lucid style, only fragments of her writing survive in the 21st century. Among Sappho's oeuvre is her Midnight Poem:
The moon has set
And the Pleiades;
It is midnight,
The time is going by,
And I sleep alone.
Bringing us to an astronomical analysis of her poem by Manfred Cuntz (ahem) and his associate Levent Gurdemir. Using a program called Starry Night, they were able to estimate the date Sappho wrote her wistful words. Playing around with their programs, the team deduced Sappho put stylus to tablet sometime between January 25th and March 31st in 570 B.C.E.. 
Had she meant to convey the time and date by noting the moon and the Pleiades set together, then the moon would've been at its first quarter.  Poking around with Stellarium, a free, multi-platform planetarium program, I'd gather the date was Tuesday the 1st of February 570 B.C.E..
While a hopeless romantic, Sappho's poem may have been a wish for extra warmth rather than some nudge-nudge wink-wink say-no-more.
- Scientists use planetarium's advanced astronomical software to accurately date 2,500 year-old lyric poem - http://phys.org/news/2016-05-scientists-...
- The Phases of the Moon - http://www.astro.cornell.edu/academics/c...
- Moon Phases - Rising & Setting Times - http://www.wsanford.com/~wsanford/exo/moonrise-set.html
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