Voyager 1 May Soon Cross into Inter-stellar Space

Voyager 1 May Soon Cross into Inter-stellar Space

by Jacqueline Dennison

Voyager 1 Space Probe

     Once a pioneer of our solar

system’s giant planets, NASA’s

Voyager 1 may soon be the first

man-made space probe to

venture beyond our Solar System

and into inter-stellar space.

     Recent data suggests that

Voyager has entered the outer

edge of the solar system, an area

teeming with charged particles

believed to have originated from

our neighboring stars. Readings of

particles from our own star have

slowed, another indication that Voyager is close to breaking the solar boundary.

Ed Stone, Voyager project scientist at California Institute of Technology, has

given an optimistic view of Voyager’s journey. “The laws of physics say that

someday Voyager will become the first human-made object to enter interstellar

space, but we still do not know exactly when that someday will be,” said Stone.

“The latest data indicate that we are clearly in a new region where things are

changing more quickly. It is very exciting. We are approaching the solar system’s


Voyager 1 is travelling through the heliosheath, the turbulent outer edge of the

solar system where charged particles from the Sun are very active.

“From January 2009 to January 2012, there had been a gradual increase of

about 25 percent in the amount of galactic cosmic rays Voyager was encountering,”

said Stone. “More recently, we have seen very rapid escalation in that part of the

energy spectrum. Beginning on May 7, the cosmic ray hits have increased five percent

in a week and nine percent in a month.”

Since its launch in 1977, Voyager 1 has traveled to over 18 billion kilometers

from the Sun. Its sister probe, Voyager 2, is about 15 kilometers from the sun.

Between them, the two probes have visited the giant planets Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus

and Neptune, as well as 48 moons. Both Voyagers each carry a gold-plated copper

record that plays various sounds from Earth, including greetings in 55 languages.

The golden records, put together by a committee headed by astronomer Carl Sagan,

were included for any extra-terrestrials who may come into contact with the Voyager


“When the Voyagers launched in 1977, the space age was all of 20 years old,”

said Stone. “Many of us on the team dreamed of reaching interstellar space, but we

really had no way of knowing how long a journey it would be — or if these two vehicles

that we invested so much time and energy in would operate long enough to reach it.”

When Voyager ventures into inter-stellar space, it will mark a milestone in

human space exploration.



Fabled particle Higgs boson may exist

A graphic of the collision of particles

The Higgs boson is the missing link in the Standard Model of Physics

Written by Elaine Zuo

Known as the “God particle“, the Higgs boson is a subatomic particle that is theorized to be the reason why everything in the universe has mass. Researchers at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in Geneva have recently found significant hints of the particle, the last missing part of the Standard Model of Physics. 

Finding the Higgs itself would be revolutionary in the science world and allow for a greater understanding of how the universe works. This search is currently the top priority of the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), and two separate experiments have been established in pursuit of the particle. There has not been an exact mass predicted for the Higgs, and so physicists must use particle accelerators such as the LHC to look for it. The LHC, a 27 kilometer ring-shaped tunnel 100 meters below the French-Swiss border, is the world’s largest atom smasher.

CERN reported on December 13 that the midpoint results from the two independent experiments had reached roughly the same conclusion for the mass of the particle: a range of 116 to 130 gigaelectronvolts (GeV), with significant activity around 124-125 GeV. One GeV has about the same mass as a proton.

The results currently have a 99 percent degree of certainty, but this is not close to the threshold that must be reached for there to be a true “discovery”. An accepted “discovery” must carry a five-sigma level of certainty, which would represent the likelihood of tossing a coin and getting more than 20 heads in a row. Each sigma represents a standard deviation, which is a measure of how unlikely that the experimental result was attributed to chance rather than actual cause.

If the Higgs does exist, it is short-lived and is decaying quickly into more stable particles. These decay patterns give more flexibility to scientists to search for the boson through different decay routes. Each path has its advantages and disadvantages, with more background noise clouding some results and others with less noise but less statistical certainty.

The range in which the Higgs exists gets smaller and smaller each year, and physicists hope that they will actually discover the particle sometime next year. Much excitement has abounded in the scientific community and many hope that the Higgs will only be the first in a chain of discovery. The Standard Model, the guide to how particles and forces interact, would be complete upon verification of the boson, and science would be one step further into understanding the entirety of the universe.

Polar-Grizzly Bear Hybrids Now Found in the Wild

Polar-Grizzly Bear Hybrids Now Found in the Wild

A polar-grizzly bear hybrid walking on the shore.

Written by Erin Marty

Polar-grizzly bear hybrids – also known as grolar bears – were once thought to be found only in zoos. Now they are being discovered in the wild.

On Banks Island in 2006, a strange creature was shot: a grolar bear. The DNA of the animal was tested by scientists, who discovered that the shot bear was the offspring of a polar bear and grizzly bear. In 2010, a second-generation hybrid was also found and shot in the wild of Canada’s Northwest Territories by David Kuptana.

Both of these events prove that polar-grizzly hybrids are not only surviving, but thriving in the wild. They are successfully passing on their genes to newer generations. Once believe to be reproducing solely in captivity, researchers are finding out that polar-grizzly hybrid bears are now being discovered beyond the containing walls of zoos.

So what does this mean? Why are these bears – usually so far from each other in their natural environments – interbreeding? According to National Geographic, researchers have concluded that each species is being forced into closer proximity with one another. Unfortunately, much of their natural habitat is lost is due to human intervention and impacts. On top of that, there are even some scientists who believe that global warming is to blame.

Marine biology of the International Arctic Research Center at the University of Alaska, Brendan Kelly, suggests that these polar-grizzly hybrids are, if anything, going to become a rather popular addition to the animal kingdom. This is primarily because of the melting sea ice, and without sea ice for them to hunt and live on, the polar bears will be forced further inland near grizzly bears, thus resulting in an increase of polar-grizzly hybrids.

In the end, there may be even more mixed creatures than just polar-grizzly hybrids. Kelly states: “We’re taking this continent-sized barrier to animal movement, and in a few generations, it’s going to disappear, at least in summer months. That’s going to give a lot of organisms-a lot of marine mammals in particular-who’ve been separated for at least 10,000 years the opportunity to interbreed again, and we’re predicting we’re going to see a lot of that.”

Along with other animals that may possibly interbreed, if Kelly is correct, then the near future is sure to find more polar-grizzly bear hybrids. That being said, if you ever find yourself in one of those rare and heart-pounding situations in which you spy a bear in the wild, you may be looking at a grolar bear if it has the following attributes: lengthy necks, broad shoulders and humps, oh and of course the combination of coarse polar and grizzly hairs. But, to be on the safe side, you may want to keep your hybrid tacking skills solely at the zoo.

Carsten Holler Exhibit at New York’s New Museum Turns Art into Interactive Fun

Written By: Catherine Wolinski

Last October, the New Museum in New York City presented Carsten Holler: Experience, the first New York survey of works by Carsten Holler, a German scientist-turned-artist who resides in Stockholm, Sweden. The exhibition, which will be open until Jan. 15, transforms multiple galleries into a world of research experimentation crossed with childhood fun. A firm believer in utilizing the architecture of the building where his art, its space, and its viewers will interact, the collection even includes a 102-foot slide that patrons can ride from the fourth to the second floors of the building.

Born in Brussels in 1961, Holler left his career as a scientist in 1993 to instead apply his knowledge and lab experience to

Carsten Holler: Experience slide installation at the New Museum

artistic concepts. Exploring themes such as safety, love, and doubt, Holler presents scenarios that force museum and museum goer into a conversation, connecting visitors to the environments he creates. By engaging the building as well as its inhabitants, Holler sends each person into multiple roles as they pass through each section of the exhibit, where they are faced with innovative structures, scenes, and tasks. Visitors are both the watchers and the watched as they make their way through the Experience Corridor, a stretch of space scattered with thought provoking activities that bring into question the conventional understandings of space, time and self.

By way of his participatory installations, Holler challenges human perception and logic by igniting, and perhaps overwhelming, the senses with interactive experiences.  Using the architecture of the building to map out these sensory events, Holler engages viewers with

The Mirror Carousel by Carsten Holler

the works of the past eighteen years of his career, chronicling numerous ventures that push the limits of human sensory perception. Such works include the untitled slide installation, which he describes as an “alternative transportation system,” Double Light Corner, a disorienting light installation that gives the impression the room is flipping back and forth, Mirror Carousel, a full-size swing merry-go-round that reflects and illuminates the space around it as it turns almost imperceptively, and finally, Psycho Tank, a “sensory deprivation pool” which literally puts the viewer into a pool—stripped naked—for a mind-altering out-of-body experience.

Carston Holler: Experience employs multiple disciplines to destabilize and reinvent viewers’ knowledge of the world around them, and how they fit into it. By using the scientific method in conjunction with his futurist design, Holler’s art forces viewers to see, feel, and understand art and space in a new way.

Super-Hard Diamond Found in Meteorite

It’s hard to imagine something harder than diamonds, but researchers have found it. A meteorite was recently discovered to have carbon material with a consistency harder than diamonds. The rock was found in Finland in 1971 after falling to earth.  As researchers polished it recently, they were surprised to see raised surfaces in its face. These surfaces remained after a diamond-filled paste was used to sand it down. The resilience of the raised surfaces against the diamonds proved to be something more than mere carbon.

Meteorite Diamond

Diamonds encased in meteorite.

The meteorite’s diamonds may not be suitable for a ring or necklace, but they are a telling find for geologists. “The discovery was accidental but we were sure that looking in these meteorites would lead to new findings on the carbon system,” said Tristan Ferroir of the Universite de Lyon in France.

Scientists speculate that these meteorite-bound diamonds were created in a similar fashion to man-made diamonds. The diamonds were created in a process similar to that of synthetic diamonds including intense head and exponential pressure. Scientists predicted the existence of these ultra-hard diamonds many years ago but they had never found the evidence in nature.

These “space diamonds” give geologists and gemologists invaluable information that will help in the manufacturing of diamonds for use in the consumer gem market.