Michio Kaku: Space Bubble Baths and the Free Universe
Every week, Dr. Michio Kaku will be answering reader questions about physics and futuristic science. If you have a question for Dr. Kaku, just post it in the comments section below and check back on Wednesdays to see if he answers it.
This week Dr. Kaku addresses the question of how you can create a universe from nothing. “If you calculate the total matter of the universe it is positive,” Dr. Kaku says. “If you calculate the total energy of the universe it is negative, because of gravity.” So what happens when you add the two together? Zero. “So it takes no energy to create a universe,” Dr. Kaku points out. “Universes are for free. A universe is a free lunch.”
Take a look at the portion of North Dakota highlighted in this image. That isn’t a city, and those lights weren’t there 6 years ago…
That’s the burning of natural gas from oil fracking rigs.
“From your orbital perspective, you can see that something has unmistakably gone wrong. The dominant organisms, whoever they are—who have gone to so much trouble to rework the surface—are simultaneously destroying their ozone layer and their forests, eroding their topsoil, and performing massive, uncontrolled experiments on their planet’s climate. Haven’t they noticed what’s happening? Are they oblivious to their fate? Are they unable to work together on behalf of the environment that sustains them all?
Perhaps, you think, it’s time to reassess the conjecture that there’s intelligent life on Earth.” - Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot
Tell Congress You Want To Preserve & Cherish The Pale Blue Dot:
Piano notes made visible for the first time
Music is beautiful isn’t it? The team at CymaScope visualized the dynamic sounds of the piano’s first strike and the eventual plateau and decay phase of different notes. You can listen to the sounds here and watch as the geometric shapes come to life.
Here is a list of the geometric glyphs for each note
Cymascope - Sound Made Visible
The word gene was first used in English in 1911, derived from the German word Gen, created in 1905 by Danish scientist Wilhelm Ludvig Johannsen (1857-1927) from the Ancient Greek word γενεα (genea) meaning generation or race (of people). The word genome was first used in 1920 by professor of botany Hans Winkler of the University of Hamburg. He patterned the word on the word chromosome, a combination of the Ancient Greek words χρομος (chromos meaning color) and σομος (somos meaning body). Unfortunately he followed the example set by the recently coined words rhizome and biome, both of which took only part of the root suffix for -somos and rendered it -omos. The genome is defined as the entirety or collection of genetic material needed to form an individual. In addition to the word genome, the word gene now forms a part of many more English words: genetic, etc.
Scientists working at the European Bioinformatics Institute recently used the structure of DNA to store data-DNA after all is nothing more than the storage device for all that genetic material. Using the building blocks of DNA, Ewan Birney and Nick Goldman (read about their story by clicking here) converted Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18 and sent the result to a gene sequencing lab. A few weeks later they received a test tube with the newly created DNA which when they sequenced gave back their encoded Sonnet. The sonnet they chose was particularly appropriate:
Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date:
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimm’d;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance or nature’s changing course untrimm’d;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade
Nor lose possession of that fair thou owest;
Nor shall Death brag thou wander’st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou growest:
So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this and this gives life to thee.
While Shakespeare had three children, they were not terribly prolific, and the gene pool that issued from Shakespeare ended in 1670 with the death of his last grandchild.
Image of the human chromosome (and therefore genome) courtesy National Human Genome Research Institute, released to the public domain.
Image of William Shakespeare also in the public domain.
Newborns’ brains bear signs of adult illnesses
At birth, some infants are already saddled with brains that carry features of Alzheimer’s disease and schizophrenia. Newborns who carry certain versions of genes already show brain shrinkage reminiscent of that in adults with brain illnesses, a study of 272 newborn babies reveals.
The new results, published online January 2 inCerebral Cortex, illuminate what happens to the brain in the earliest stages of life, says neuroscientist Jay Giedd of the National Institute of Mental Health in Bethesda, Md., who was not involved in the study. “As we go through life, there are so many uncontrollable factors,” he says. “This is a way to see gene influences before the world steps in.”
Until this study, scientists didn’t have a good idea of whether certain brain signatures — such as reduced volume in parts of the brain — were present from birth or whether they accumulated over a lifetime, says study coauthor Rebecca Knickmeyer of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
To test this, Knickmeyer and her colleagues looked for the influence of 10 versions of seven genes on newborns’ brains. The researchers chose genes that affect how the brain grows and develops. These gene variants have also been linked to adult brain diseases, such as the ε4 version of theApoE gene, which triples the risk of getting Alzheimer’s, and a version of the COMT gene, which has been implicated in schizophrenia.
Brains of newborns with some versions of these genes had features similar to those seen in the brains of adults with diseases, the team found. Newborns with the ε4 version of the ApoE gene had less brain tissue volume in the temporal cortex, a part of the brain that thins in elderly people and adults who have ε4. Newborns with a variant in COMT also had reduced volume in the temporal cortex, a brain characteristic that turns up in people with schizophrenia.
The implications are that these brain features are a consequence of genetic influences, Giedd says. “I’m trying not to be doom and gloom, but it’s not lifestyle. It’s not parenting.” Things like that won’t change the lower brain volume in a newborn baby, he says.
But Giedd points out that genes aren’t destiny, and that having a high-risk gene variant doesn’t mean a person will definitely get an illness. Many other things influence how the brain grows and develops, and these factors undoubtedly influence the risk of a disease, he says.
The researchers plan on following the infants in the study until age 8, and perhaps even longer, to see the consequences of these brain features. Such a long-term study could reveal why some people with a higher genetic risk succumb to a disease, and how others avoid it.