The OmegaCAM camera on ESO’s VLT Survey Telescope has captured this glittering view of the stellar nursery called Sharpless 29. Many astronomical phenomena can be seen in this giant image, including cosmic dust and gas clouds that reflect, absorb, and re-emit the light of hot young stars within the nebula.
There was much excitement when scientists witnessed the violent collision of two ultra-dense, massive stars more than 100m light years from the Earth earlier this year. Not only did they catch the resulting gravitational waves – ripples in the fabric of spacetime – they also saw a practically instantaneous flash of light. This is exciting in itself and was the first direct evidence for a merger of neutron stars.
Encountering a black hole would be a frightening prospect for our planet. We know that these cosmic monsters ferociously devour any object that strays too close to their “event horizon” – the last chance of escape. But even though black holes drive some of the most energetic phenomena in the universe, the physics of their behaviour, including how they feed, remains hotly debated.
Forget about today’s modest incremental advances in artificial intelligence, such as the increasing abilities of cars to drive themselves. Waiting in the wings might be a groundbreaking development: a machine that is aware of itself and its surroundings, and that could take in and process massive amounts of data in real time. It could be sent on dangerous missions, into space or combat. In addition to driving people around, it might be able to cook, clean, do laundry – and even keep humans company when other people aren’t nearby
Quantum physicists have toiled to no avail for decades in their attempts to subsume gravity (the first cosmological force ever discovered) into quantum physics. A group of researchers recently proposed a new experiment that could redefine nature of gravity, and transform our understanding of the fundamental forces of the universe.
People rarely enjoy meeting a jellyfish. On the beach they appear limp, amorphous, and blistered in the sun. In the water it’s often a brush of a tentacle on exposed skin followed by a sting. They hardly evoke the serene elegance of a turtle or the majesty of a breaching humpback whale. But despite making a poor first impression, jellyfish are among the most unusual animals on Earth and deserve a second chance to introduce themselves.