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Universe Today

Quantum data gets sent through a simulated wormhole

For the first time, scientists have created a quantum computing experiment for studying the dynamics of wormholes — that is, shortcuts through spacetime that could get around relativity’s cosmic speed limits.

Wormholes are traditionally the stuff of science fiction, ranging from Jodie Foster’s wild ride in “Contact” to the time-bending plot twists in “Interstellar.” But the researchers behind the experiment, reported in the Dec. 1 issue of the journal Nature, hope that their work will help physicists study the phenomenon for real.

“We found a quantum system that exhibits key properties of a gravitational wormhole, yet is sufficiently small to implement on today’s quantum hardware,” Caltech physicist Maria Spiropulu said in a news release. Spiropulu, the Nature paper’s senior author, is the principal investigator for a federally funded research program known as Quantum Communication Channels for Fundamental Physics.

Don’t pack your bags for Alpha Centauri just yet: This wormhole simulation is nothing more than a simulation, analogous to a computer-generated black hole or supernova. And physicists still don’t see any conditions under which a traversable wormhole could actually be created. Someone would have to create negative energy first.

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GeekWire

Explorers solve a 26-year-old mystery near the Titanic

During an expedition to the Titanic back in 1996, submersible pilot PH Nargeolet noticed a curious sonar blip that was coming from a site near the wreck. Was it a previously undetected piece of wreckage? An unexplored geological feature?

Twenty-six years ago, the pilot wasn’t in a position to investigate further. But now a totally different Titanic expedition has solved the mystery, with Nargeolet serving as part of the team.

Data collected during this summer’s dives by Everett, Wash.-based OceanGate and Bahamas-based OceanGate Expeditions — plus the scientific analysis supported by the nonprofit OceanGate Foundation — reveal that the blip came from a volcanic ridge that serves as a home for corals, sponges and other deep-sea denizens.

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GeekWire

OceanGate’s founder looks beyond the Titanic

When it comes to undersea adventures, can anything match seeing the 110-year-old wreck of the Titanic with your own eyes? Stockton Rush, OceanGate Expeditions’ president and chief submersible pilot, intends to find out.

Over the past couple of years, OceanGate Expeditions — and its sister company, Everett-based OceanGate Inc. — have repeatedly pulled off the difficult feat of sending a crewed submersible down to the Titanic, a luxury liner that tragically sank during its first voyage in 1912.

With Rush in the pilot’s seat, OceanGate’s Titan submersible carried scientific experts and paying customers down to a depth of 12,500 feet to survey the Titanic wreck and its surroundings. The voyages in 2021 and 2022 have attracted plenty of attention from media outlets — including the BBC, which is airing a documentary about the dives this weekend.

During a talk delivered at the GeekWire Summit on Oct. 7, Rush recapped OceanGate’s business plan and looked ahead to the company’s future frontiers.

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GeekWire

High-def Titanic video reveals previously unseen details

Everett, Wash.-based OceanGate Expeditions set a new standard this year for documenting the condition of the 110-year-old wreck of the Titanic, thanks to a high-definition 8K video system that was installed aboard its submersible.

A sampling of the first-ever 8K video footage from the Titanic, captured during this summer’s dives in the North Atlantic, was released today. OceanGate plans to return to the wreck on an annual basis to track changes in the Titanic’s condition over time, in video resolution that’s roughly 8,000 pixels wide.

“The amazing detail in the 8K footage will help our team of scientists and maritime archaeologists characterize the decay of the Titanic more precisely as we capture new footage in 2023 and beyond,” Stockton Rush, president of OceanGate Expeditions, said in an emailed statement. “Capturing this 8K footage will allow us to zoom in and still have 4K quality, which is key for large screen and immersive video projects. Even more remarkable are the phenomenal colors in this footage.”

Rory Golden, a veteran Titanic diver who’s part of the OceanGate team, said the video revealed details he hadn’t seen before.

“For example, I had never seen the name of the anchor maker, Noah Hingley & Sons Ltd., on the portside anchor,” Golden said via email. “I’ve been studying the wreck for decades and have completed multiple dives, and I can’t recall seeing any other image showing this level of detail. It is exciting that, after so many years, we may have discovered a new detail that wasn’t as obvious with previous generations of camera technologies.”

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GeekWire

Synthetic peptide molecules open the way for new drugs

Researchers at the University of Washington have discovered how to create peptide molecules that can slip through membranes to enter cells — and they’ve also created a company to take advantage of the discovery for drug development.

The findings, which were published today in the journal Cell, could eventually lead to new types of oral medications for health disorders ranging from COVID-19 to cancer.

“This new ability to design membrane-permeable peptides with high structural accuracy opens the door to a new class of medicines that combine the advantages of traditional small-molecule drugs and larger protein therapeutics,” senior study author David Baker, a biochemist at the University of Washington School of Medicine, said in a news release.

Small-molecule drugs — for example, aspirin — are small enough to slip through cell membranes to do their work. Protein therapeutics — for example, monoclonal antibodies — can target more complex ailments, but the protein molecules are typically too big to wedge their way through lipid-based cell walls.

Peptide drugs are made from the same building blocks as protein, and offer many of the advantages of protein-based drugs. They can bind protein targets in the body more precisely than small-molecule drugs, promising fewer side effects.

“We know that peptides can be excellent medicines, but a big problem is that they don’t get into cells,” said study lead author Gaurav Bhardwaj, an assistant professor of medicinal chemistry at the UW School of Pharmacy. “There are a lot of great drug targets inside our cells, and if we can get in there, that space opens up.”

The newly reported experiments used a couple of molecular design techniques to create types of peptide molecules that can get into cells more easily.

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Universe Today

LHC spots exotic particles — and starts hunting for more

Physicists say they’ve found evidence in data from Europe’s Large Hadron Collider for three never-before-seen combinations of quarks, just as the world’s largest particle-smasher is beginning a new round of high-energy experiments.

The three exotic types of particles — which include two four-quark combinations, known as tetraquarks, plus a five-quark unit called a pentaquark — are totally consistent with the Standard Model, the decades-old theory that describes the structure of atoms.

In contrast, scientists hope that the LHC’s current run will turn up evidence of physics that goes beyond the Standard Model to explain the nature of mysterious phenomena such as dark matter. Such evidence could point to new arrays of subatomic particles, or even extra dimensions in our universe.

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GeekWire

Another record for calculating pi: 100 trillion digits!

Three years after Seattle software developer Emma Haruka Iwao and her teammates at Google set the world record for calculating pi precisely, they’ve done it again. Thanks to Iwao and Google Cloud, we now know what pi equals to an incredible precision of 100 trillion digits.

Why pi?

Mathematicians have been working out the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter for millennia, going back at least as far as the Babylonians (who figured it at 3.125). It’s important for scientists and engineers to know the irrational number’s value with a high degree of precision, but beyond a certain point, it’s really all about showing how well an algorithm or a computer network can handle more practical problems.

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GeekWire

Science takes center stage in Titanic sequel

One year after OceanGate’s first expedition to the Titanic shipwreck, the Everett, Wash.-based company is gearing up for its second annual set of dives starting next week — and this time, science will be at center stage.

Last summer’s expedition kicked off what’s intended to be a yearly series of visits to the 110-year-old ruin, nearly 13,000 feet beneath the surface of the North Atlantic. As any movie fan knows, the Titanic hit an iceberg and sank during its first voyage from England to New York in 1912, causing more than 1,500 deaths.

The shipwreck was rediscovered in 1985, and there’s been a string of crewed and robotic surveys since then. But OceanGate’s plan is different. The 13-year-old company and its research partners aim to document how the rapidly deteriorating Titanic and its surroundings are changing on a year-to-year basis — supported by customers who are paying $250,000 each to be part of the adventure.

The inaugural Titanic Survey Expedition documented the wreck site in unprecedented detail, producing a baseline for tracking future changes. OceanGate CEO Stockton Rush said that expedition was “a bit of a shakedown cruise.”

“We did have a lot of technical challenges that we think we won’t have this year,” Rush said today during an online preview of the 2022 Titanic Survey Expedition. “We had weather challenges, we had COVID challenges. So there’s a lot of that stuff, but we still got the best imagery ever taken.”

This year, OceanGate’s science team will be focusing on the biology as well as the archaeology of the Titanic’s resting place.

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Fiction Science Club

Why believing in the multiverse isn’t madness

What is the multiverse? The idea that the universe we inhabit is just one of many parallel universes gets a superhero shout-out in “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” the latest movie based on Marvel comic-book characters.

And in the opinion of Brian Greene, a theoretical physicist at Columbia University, giving some screen time to the multiverse isn’t such a bad thing — even if the plot has some horror-movie twists.

“I think it’s really good if some of these ideas are brought out in a variety of different ways,” Greene says in the latest episode of the Fiction Science podcast, which focuses on the realm where science and technology intersect with fiction and popular culture.

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Universe Today

Large Hadron Collider restarts at record energy levels

Europe’s Large Hadron Collider has started up its proton beams again at unprecedented energy levels after going through a three-year shutdown for maintenance and upgrades.

It only took a couple of days of tweaking for the pilot streams of protons to reach a record energy level of 6.8 tera electronvolts, or TeV. That exceeds the previous record of 6.5 TeV, which was set by the LHC in 2015 at the start of the particle collider’s second run.

The new level comes “very close to the design energy of the LHC, which is 7 TeV,” Jörg Wenninger, head of the LHC beam operation section and LHC machine coordinator at CERN, said today in a video announcing the milestone.

When the collider at the French-Swiss border resumes honest-to-goodness science operations, probably within a few months, the international LHC team plans to address mysteries that could send theories of physics in new directions.