Russia takes first samples from sub-glacial lake in Antarctica
A Russian research team investigating a sub-glacial lake in Antarctica have recovered the first sample of transparent ice from the area.
According to the Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute the drilling team obtained the sample from Lake Vostok on 10 January.
“The first core of transparent lake ice, two metres long, was obtained on January 10 at a depth of 3,406 metres,” announced the Institute in a statement. “Inside it was a vertical channel filled with white bubble-rich ice.”
Part of the interest in Lake Vostok, which has been sealed under several kilometres of ice for the last 14 million years, comes because conditions within the lake are thought to be similar to those in bodies of water on Jupiter’s moon Europa and Saturn’s tiny moon Enceladus.
Any life forms found within Vostok and able to withstand conditions including enormous pressure, extreme low temperature and a total lack of sunlight would have implications for the possibility of life elsewhere in the solar system.
The data from the current mission will replace that of a 2012 drilling project. The earlier expedition saw researchers for the Institute analysing ice samples originally thought to be from the sealed lake but possibly from the glacier above the lake.
- - - -
The documentary below will fill you in on everything you need to know about this frozen tundra of historical significance and how this research aids in our search for life on and outside of our planet.
The Lost World of Lake Vostok
It sometimes seems as if our planet has no secrets left – but deep beneath the great Antarctic ice sheet scientists have made an astonishing discovery. They’ve found one of the largest lakes in the world. It’s very existence defies belief. Scientists are desperate to get into the lake because its extreme environment may be home to unique flora and fauna, never seen before, and NASA are excited by what it could teach us about extraterrestrial life. But 4 kilometers of ice stand between the lake and the surface, and breaking this seal without contaminating the most pristine body of water on the planet is possibly one of the greatest challenges science faces in the 21st century.
In 1957 the Russians established a remote base in Antarctica – the Vostok station. It soon became a byword for hardship – dependent on an epic annual 1000km tractor journey from the coast for its supplies. The coldest temperature ever found on Earth (-89°C) was recorded here on the 21st July 1983. It’s an unlikely setting for a lake of liquid water. But in the 1970’s a British team used airborne radar to see beneath the ice, mapping the mountainous land buried by the Antarctic ice sheet. Flying near the Vostok base their radar trace suddenly went flat. They guessed that the flat trace could only be from water. It was the first evidence that the ice could be hiding a great secret.
But 20 years passed before their suspicions were confirmed, when satellites finally revealed that there was an enormous lake under the Vostok base. It is one of the largest lakes in the world – at 10,000 square km it’s about the extent of Lake Ontario, but about twice as deep (500m in places). The theory was that it could only exist because the ice acts like a giant insulating blanket, trapping enough of the earth’s heat to melt the very bottom of the ice sheet.
How Computers Push On the Molecules They Simulate |
Because modern computers have to depict the real world with digital representations of numbers instead of physical analogues, to simulate the continuous passage of time they have to digitize time into small slices. This kind of simulation is essential in disciplines from medical and biological research, to new materials, to fundamental considerations of quantum mechanics, and the fact that it inevitably introduces errors is an ongoing problem for scientists.
Scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) have now identified and characterized the source of tenacious errors and come up with a way to separate the realistic aspects of a simulation from the artifacts of the computer method. The research was done by David Sivak and his advisor Gavin Crooks in Berkeley Lab’s Physical Biosciences Division and John Chodera, a colleague at the California Institute of Quantitative Biosciences (QB3) at the University of California at Berkeley. The three report their results in Physical Review X.
“Our group uses a theoretical method called nonequilibrium statistical mechanics to study molecular machines, the protein complexes essential to processes like photosynthesis and DNA repair,” says Sivak. “But when we applied common algorithms to model the behavior in biological molecules, we found persistent, significant errors in the simulation results.”
Systems in equilibrium are relatively easy to simulate, but natural systems are often driven far from equilibrium by absorbing light, burning energy-dense chemical fuel, or other driving forces. Sivak, who recently joined the University of California at San Francisco as a Systems Biology Fellow, describes nonequilibrium statistical mechanics as “a way of understanding situations where conditions change abruptly and the system has to play catch-up,” a kind of problem in which there are few exact analytical results. continue reading
Phase Space Flow and Its Quantum Analog |
UK-based physicist Ole Steuernagel from the University of Hertfordshire, alongside Dimitris Kakofengitis and Georg Ritter, have found that a new powerful tool they call ‘Wigner flow’ is the quantum analogue of phase space flow.
Wigner flow provides information for quantum dynamics similar to that gleaned from phase space trajectories in classical physics. Wigner flow can be used for the visualisation of quantum dynamics. Additionally, and perhaps even more importantly, Wigner flow helps with the abstract analysis of quantum dynamics using topological methods.
Ole Steuernagel, from the University’s Science and Technology Research Institute, said: “Because trajectories are missing in quantum phase space, physicists did not pay much attention to the associated flow-fields, although these do exist. Now, our research shows that quantum phase space flow is well worth studying.”
In classical physics, phase space trajectories give rise to flow-fields representing the dynamics of the system along its trajectories; they yield additional insight into a system’s behaviour.
Quantum theory phase space trajectories do not exist because Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle does not allow for the formation of sharply defined trajectories. But quantum physicists have not given up entirely on phase space. The study of the next best thing, the movement of quantum physics’ phase space-based probability distributions has actually boomed in recent years.
Sophisticated schemes for the reconstruction of the most prominent of these distributions, ‘Wigner’s function’, from experimental data, have set quantum phase space analysis on a firm footing. Yet, since quantum trajectory studies cannot be carried out, some of the power of established classical methods is missing. continue reading
A star polygon is a non-convex polygon which looks in some way like a star. Only the regular ones have been studied in any depth; star polygons in general appear not to have been formally defined. They should not be confused with star domains.
Editing Genome With High Precision: New Method to Insert Multiple Genes in Specific Locations, Delete Defective Genes
Jan. 3, 2013 — Researchers at MIT, the Broad Institute and Rockefeller University have developed a new technique for precisely altering the genomes of living cells by adding or deleting genes. The researchers say the technology could offer an easy-to-use, less-expensive way to engineer organisms that produce biofuels; to design animal models to study human disease; and to develop new therapies, among other potential applications.
Never-Before-Seen Stage of Planet Birth Revealed
Astronomers studying a newborn star have caught a detailed glimpse of planets forming around it, revealing a never-before seen stage of planetary evolution.
Large gas giant planets appear to be clearing a gap in the disk of material surrounding the star, and using gravity to channel material across the gap to the interior, helping the star to grow. Theoretical simulations have predicted such bridges between outer and inner portions of disks surrounding stars, but none have been directly observed until now.
Imagining the Fourth Dimension
Data set contributions | 6 |
- Thanks again to everyone who is following or reading this blog -
This top post will be deleted and re-posted over time to show any current updates in the live data set count and also to post a new link for a talk/lecture.
- Entertainment for your brain! -
TedTALK | John Maeda: Designing for simplicity
As a reminder I would like to point out that this blog is posted in reverse order and reads with a top-down logic.
I encourage everyone to please take the time to contribute in this collection of data.
This post will also act as a table of contents.
- Thank you