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This page is dedicated to My Grandson Brandon.




by Chuck Missler


PRICE R 159.00





This DVD includes notes in PDF format and M4A files.

This briefing pack contains 2 hours of teachings

Available in the following formats

Session 1

• Epistemology 101: How do we “know”?

– Scientific Myths of the Past

– Scientific Myths of the Present

• The Macrocosm: The Plasma Universe: Gravitational Presumption?

• The Microcosm: The Planck Wall

• The Metacosm: Fracture of Hyperspace?

Session 2

• The Holographic Model: David Bohm

• GEO 600 “Noise”

• The Black Hole Paradox

– String Theorists examine the elephant

• A Holographic Universe:

– Distances are synthetic (virtual) images

– A Geocentric Cosmology?

– Some Scriptural Perspective(s)



“One can’t believe impossible things,”

Alice laughed.

“I daresay you haven’t had much practice,”

said the Queen.

“When I was your age, I always did it for

half-an-hour a day.

Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many

as six impossible things before breakfast.”

Through the Looking Glass

Lewis Carroll (Charles Lutwidge Dodgson)


1 Disc
2 M4A Files
Color, Fullscreen 16:9, Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo, Region  This DVD will be viewable in other countries WITH the proper DVD player and television set.)

M4A File Video

Can be burned to disc and played on MP4 compatible DVD players.
Playable on iPod, iPhone, iPod Touch
Playable on any MP4 player
1 PDF Notes File
2 MP3 Files








Featured Briefing

A Holographic Universe?

by Dr. Chuck Missler

Are we actually living in a holographic universe? Are the distant galaxies only a virtual illusion? In a hologram, distances are synthetic! How does this impact our concepts of time and space?

There seems to be growing evidence to suggest that our world and everything in it may be only ghostly images, projections from a level of reality so beyond our own that the real reality is literally beyond both space and time.1

The Cosmos As a Super-Hologram?

An initiating architect of this astonishing idea was one of the world’s most eminent thinkers: University of London physicist David Bohm, a protégé of Einstein’s and one of the world’s most respected quantum physicists. Bohm’s work in plasma physics in the 1950s is considered a landmark. Earlier, at the Lawrence Radiation Laboratory, he noticed that in plasmas (ionized gases) the particles stopped behaving as individuals and started behaving as if they were part of a larger and interconnected whole. Moving to Princeton University in 1947, there, too, he continued his work in the behavior of oceans of ionized particles, noting their highly organized overall effects and their behavior, as if they knew what each of the untold trillions of individual particles was doing.

One of the implications of Bohm’s view has to do with the nature of location. Bohm’s interpretation of quantum physics indicated that at the subquantum level location ceased to exist. All points in space become equal to all other points in space, and it was meaningless to speak of anything as being separate from anything else. Physicists call this property “nonlocality”. The web of subatomic particles that compose our physical universe—the very fabric of “reality” itself—possesses what appears to be an undeniable “holographic” property. Paul Davis of the University of Newcastle upon Tyne, England, observed that since all particles are continually interacting and separating, “the nonlocal aspects of quantum systems is therefore a general property of nature.”2

The Nature of Reality

One of Bohm’s most startling suggestions was that the tangible reality of our everyday lives is really a kind of illusion, like a holographic image. Underlying it is a deeper order of existence, a vast and more primary level of reality that gives birth to all the objects and appearances of our physical world in much the same way that a piece of holographic film gives birth to a hologram. Bohm calls this deeper level of reality the implicate (“enfolded”) order and he refers to our level of existence the explicate (unfolded) order.3 This view is not inconsistent with the Biblical presentation of the physical (“explicate”) world as being subordinate to the spiritual (“implicate”) world as the superior reality.4

The Search for Gravity Waves

Gravitational waves are extremely small ripples in the structure of spacetime caused by astrophysical events like supernovae or coalescing massive binaries (neutron stars, black holes). They had been predicted by Albert Einstein in 1916, but not yet directly observed.

GEO 600 is a gravitational wave detector located near Sarstedt, Germany, which seeks to detect gravitational waves by means of a laser interferometer of 600 meter arms’ length. This instrument, and its sister interferometric detectors, are some of the most sensitive gravitational wave detectors ever designed. They are designed to detect relative changes in distance of the order of 10-21, about the size of a single atom compared to the distance from the Earth to the Sun! Construction on the project began in 1995.

Mystery Noise

On January 15, 2009, it was reported in New Scientist that some yet unidentified noise that was present in the GEO 600 detector measurements might be because the instrument is sensitive to extremely small quantum fluctuations of space-time affecting the positions of parts of the detector. This claim was made by Craig Hogan, a scientist from Fermilab, on the basis of his theory of how such fluctuations should occur motivated by the holographic principle.5 Apparently, the gravitational wave detector in Hannover may have detected evidence for a holographic Universe!

Gravitational Wave Observatories Join Forces

A number of major projects will now pool their data to analyze it, jointly boosting their chances of spotting a faint signal that might otherwise be hidden by detector noise. Using lasers, they measure the length between mirrored test masses hung inside tunnels at right angles to each other. Gravitational waves decrease the distance between the masses in one tunnel and increase it in the other by a tiny, but detectable amount. Combining the data will also make it possible to triangulate to find the source of any gravitational waves detected. These include: Laser Interferometer Gravitational Observatory based in Hanford, Washington and Livingston, Louisiana; Virgo Observatory, Pisa Italy; and, of course, the GEO 600 Observatory near Hanover, Germany.

The most ambitious of them is the Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA), a joint mission between NASA and the European Space Agency to develop and operate a space-based gravitational wave detector sensitive at frequencies between 0.03 mHz and 0.1 Hz. LISA seeks to detect gravitational-wave induced strains in space-time by measuring changes of the separation between fiducial masses in three spacecraft 5 million kilometers apart.

Cosmic Implications

Are we actually living in a holographic universe? Are the distant galaxies only a virtual illusion? In a hologram, distances are synthetic! How does this impact our concepts of time and space?

It gets even worse: Could our universe be geocentric? The implications are too staggering to embrace. The holographic paradigm is still a developing concept and riddled with controversies. For decades, science has chosen to ignore evidences that do not fit their standard theories. However, the volume of evidence has now reached the point that denial is no longer a viable option.

Clearly, 20th-century science has discovered that our “macrocosm”—studies of largeness—is finite, not infinite. Our universe is finite and had a beginning, and that’s what has led to the “big bang” speculations. We also realize that gravity is dramatically eclipsed by electromagnetic considerations when dealing with galaxies, etc. The plasma physicists have been trying to tell astronomers that for decades but no one was listening.

What is even more shocking has been the discoveries in the “microcosm”—studies of smallness—that run up against the “Planck Wall” of the non-location of subatomic particles, and the many strange paradoxes of quantum physics. We now discover that we are in a virtual reality that is a digital, simulated environment. The bizarre realization that the “constants” of physics are changing indicates that our “reality” is “but a shadow of a larger reality,”6 and that’s what the Bible has maintained all along!7

The Bible is, of course, unique in that it has always presented a universe of more than three dimensions,8 and revealed a Creator that is transcendent over His creation. It is the only “holy book” that demonstrates these contemporary insights. It’s time for us to spend more time with the handbook that the Creator has handed to us. It is the ultimate adventure, indeed!

For background information on the Holographic Universe, see our briefing series, The Beyond Collection, available on DVD and other formats, in the Christmas catalog insert in this issue.


  1. We explore the limitations of the Macrocosm, the Microcosm, and the super-embracing “Metacosm” in our Beyond Series.
  2. Paul Davis, Superforce, Simon & Schuster, New York, 1948, p.48.
  3. This is reminiscent of the Red King’s dream in Through the Looking Glass, in which Alice finds herself in deep metaphysical waters when the Tweedle brothers defend the view that all material objects, including ourselves, are only “sorts of things” in the mind of God.
  4. 2 Corinthians 4:18.
  5. Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab), located just outside Batavia, Illinois, near Chicago, is a US Department of Energy national laboratory specializing in high-energy particle physics. (Craig Hogan was then put in charge…)
  6. Scientific American, June 2005, “The Inconstancy of Constants”.
  7. Hebrews 11:3; John 1:1-3; et al.
  8. Ephesians 3:18. Nachmonides, writing in the 13th century, concluded, from his studies of the Genesis texts, that our universe has ten dimensions, of which only four are directly “knowable”.

The Physics of Immortality


by Dr. Chuck Missler

Price R 249.00



The Physics of Immortality

 This is an intensive review of what the Apostle Paul calls the most important chapter in the Bible: 1 Corinthians 15. Without it, “we are of all men most miserable.”
Did Jesus really rise from the dead? How do we know? Do we really believe it?
What kind of body did He have? Why did they have trouble recognizing Him?
How do we now know that we live within a digital virtual environment which is but “a shadow of a larger reality”? What are the implications of that “larger reality”? What is the relationship between “the twinkling of an eye” and Planck’s Constant for time (1043 seconds)?
Do you have your passport for the transit that’s coming? Are you really ready?
Join Dr. Chuck Missler in the Executive Briefing Room of the River Lodge, New Zealand, as he examines the physics of immortality.
This briefing pack contains 2 hours of teachings
Available in the following formats:
•1 Disc
•2 MP3 Files
•1 PDF Notes File

Chuck Missler had the opportunity to sit discuss Zero Point Energy (ZPE) with Barry Setterfield 

Space News from SpaceDaily.com



Space News From SpaceDaily.Com



NASA selects ASU's ShadowCam for moon mission

‎Today, ‎May ‎2, ‎2017, ‏‎4 hours agoGo to full article
Tempe AZ (SPX) May 02, 2017
NASA has selected an instrument developed by Mark Robinson of ASU's School of Earth and Space Exploration (SESE) and Malin Space Science Systems (MSSS) to map the terrain and search for evidence of frost or ice deposits in the moon's permanently shadowed regions (PSRs). The instrument, named ShadowCam, will be a U.S. contribution to the Korea Aerospace Research Institute's (KARI) first lun

Several drives put opportunity closer to 'Perseverance Valley'

‎Today, ‎May ‎2, ‎2017, ‏‎4 hours agoGo to full article
Pasadena CA (JPL) May 02, 2017
Opportunity is continuing the drive south to "Perseverance Valley" on the rim of Endeavour Crater, and is now only about 262 feet (80 meters) away. On Sol 4706 (April 19, 2017), she drove about 66 feet (20 meters). On 4708 (April 22, 2017), she drove another 207 feet (63 meters), and on Sol 4710 (April 24, 2017), a further 118 feet (36 meters) ending just to the east of a small crater name

The PI's Perspective: No Sleeping Back on Earth!

‎Today, ‎May ‎2, ‎2017, ‏‎4 hours agoGo to full article
Boulder CO (SPX) May 02, 2017
Three weeks ago we put our New Horizons spacecraft into hibernation mode, the first time we'd done that since late 2014, before the Pluto flyby. By coincidence, that same day - April 7-was also the exact halfway mark on the calendar between our Pluto and Kuiper Belt object (KBO) flybys! The hibernation period we're in will last through mid-September. Every Monday between now and then, the

Mapping the edge of reality

‎Today, ‎May ‎2, ‎2017, ‏‎4 hours agoGo to full article
Melbourne, Australia (SPX) May 02, 2017
Australian and German researchers have collaborated to develop a genetic algorithm to confirm the rejection of classical notions of causality. Dr Alberto Peruzzo from RMIT University in Melbourne said: "Bell's theorem excludes classical concepts of causality and is now a cornerstone of modern physics. "But despite the fundamental importance of this theorem, only recently was the firs

Monitoring the airways of space travelers

‎Today, ‎May ‎2, ‎2017, ‏‎4 hours agoGo to full article
Paris (ESA) May 02, 2017
Astronauts in space are valuable sources of scientific data. Researchers collect blood and urine samples to understand what effects living in weightlessness has on their bodies. For one experiment, investigators are interested in their breath. The Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden, is analysing astronauts' exhaled air to probe lung health. The results so far have been breathtaking

Reach for the Stars: China Plans to Ramp Up Space Flight Activity

‎Today, ‎May ‎2, ‎2017, ‏‎4 hours agoGo to full article
Beijing (Sputnik) May 01, 2017
Following a successful space mission by its Tianzhou-1 cargo spacecraft, China is gearing up for multiple manned missions into space in three years time, according to the head of the country's manned space program. Between 2019 and 2022, China seeks to build a massive, 60-ton space station reminiscent of the International Space Station, China Daily reported. Tianzhou-1's recent flight "was

Astrophysicists discovered a star polluted by calcium

‎Today, ‎May ‎2, ‎2017, ‏‎4 hours agoGo to full article
Moscow (SPX) May 02, 2017
An international team of astrophysicists led by a scientist from the Sternberg Astronomical Institute of the Lomonosov Moscow State University reported the discovery of a binary solar-type star inside the supernova remnant RCW 86. Spectroscopic observation of this star revealed that its atmosphere is polluted by heavy elements ejected during the supernova explosion that produced RCW 86. In

Next Breakthroughs in Exoplanet Discovery

‎Today, ‎May ‎2, ‎2017, ‏‎4 hours agoGo to full article
Moffett Field CA (SPX) May 02, 2017
It was a good week for astrobiology. Within days of NASA's announcement that the necessary ingredients for life exist in the plumes erupting from the southern pole of Saturn's moon Enceladus, scientists gathered at Stanford University to discuss discovering life outside the Solar System. Noting how, "The search for life in the Universe has been transformed from speculation to a data-driven

NASA's Webb Telescope Completes Goddard Testing, Heading to Texas for More

‎Today, ‎May ‎2, ‎2017, ‏‎4 hours agoGo to full article
Greenbelt MD (SPX) May 02, 2017
NASA's James Webb Space Telescope has successfully passed the center of curvature test, an important optical measurement of Webb's fully assembled primary mirror prior to cryogenic testing, and the last test held at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, before the spacecraft is shipped to NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston for more testing. After undergoing rigorou

India's Space Agency Saves Over US$ 2 Billion per Year for the Country

‎Today, ‎May ‎2, ‎2017, ‏‎4 hours agoGo to full article
New Delhi (Sputnik) May 01, 2017
The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is not just building satellites or driving innovation by sharing its Lithium-ion batteries for powering vehicles, the space agency is helping fishermen locate better catchment areas. By doing this, ISRO is helping India save over $ 2 billion per year. Speaking at the Osmania University, Hyderabad on 'India in Space', ISRO chairman A.S. Kiran Ku

SpaceX makes first US military launch, then lands rocket again

‎Today, ‎May ‎2, ‎2017, ‏‎4 hours agoGo to full article
Miami (AFP) May 1, 2017
SpaceX on Monday blasted off a secretive US government satellite, known only as NROL-76, marking the first military launch for the California-based aerospace company headed by billionaire tycoon Elon Musk. The payload for the National Reconnaissance Office, which makes and operates spy satellites for the United States, soared into the sky atop a Falcon 9 rocket at 7:15 am (1115 GMT). Abo

China launches first domestically built aircraft carrier: media

‎Today, ‎May ‎2, ‎2017, ‏‎4 hours agoGo to full article
Beijing (AFP) April 26, 2017
China has launched its first domestically designed and built aircraft carrier, state media said Wednesday, as the country seeks to transform its navy into a force capable of projecting power onto the high seas. Adorned with colourful ribbons, the Type 001A ship "transferred from dry dock into the water at a launch ceremony" in the northeastern port city of Dalian, according to official broa

Discovery in northern lakes may be key to understanding early life on Earth

‎Today, ‎May ‎2, ‎2017, ‏‎4 hours agoGo to full article
Waterloo, Canada (SPX) May 01, 2017
A team of researchers has discovered that many Canadian lakes can provide new insights into ancient oceans, and their findings could advance research about greenhouse gas emissions, harmful algal blooms, and early life forms. Scientists from the University of Waterloo led the team of microbiologists, geochemists, and freshwater specialists in a surprising finding that lakes of the Boreal S

Beautiful Bering Strait image captured by Copernicus Sentinel-3A satellite

‎Today, ‎May ‎2, ‎2017, ‏‎4 hours agoGo to full article
Washington (UPI) Apr 28, 2017
NASA's Copernicus Sentinel-3A satellite snapped a stunning photo of the Bering Strait during a recent trip across the narrow strip of water separating Alaska and Siberia. The image was captured on March 26 and shared online on April 28. The Sentinel-3A is an Earth observation satellite launched as part of the Copernicus mission by the European Space Agency. The satellite was carr

Uber sets 'flying car' launch for 2020

‎Today, ‎May ‎2, ‎2017, ‏‎4 hours agoGo to full article
San Francisco (AFP) April 25, 2017
Uber said Tuesday it wants to launch a system of flying cars to move people around cities, with a goal of putting demonstration projects in place by 2020. The ridesharing giant announced a series of partnerships to manufacture "vertical takeoff and landing" (VTOL) vehicles and put networks in place, a system dubbed Uber Elevate. The partner cities working with Uber are Dubai and the Dall

Russian, American two-man crew blasts off to ISS

‎Thursday, ‎April ‎20, ‎2017, ‏‎10:54:55 AMGo to full article
Baikonur, Kazakhstan (AFP) April 20, 2017
A Russian and an American blasted off from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Thursday, the first two-person launch to the International Space Station in over a decade. The Soyuz MS-04 spacecraft carrying veteran Russian cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin and NASA rookie Jack Fischer shot into the sky in bright conditions at 0713 GMT. Manned launches to the ISS usually involve three crew

Investigation on Space Station to test minimizing pressure of space travel

‎Thursday, ‎April ‎20, ‎2017, ‏‎10:54:55 AMGo to full article
Cleveland OH (SPX) Apr 20, 2017
Spacecraft rely on liquids for everything from fuel to life support systems for astronauts. Storing these liquids at the correct temperature and pressure is essential to prevent loss of fluids or failure of a storage tank. Human life in space is a balancing act of reliable systems and meticulous planning. Rocket fuel and other liquids used in space are stored at cryogenic temperatures of -

NASA Engages the Next Generation with HUNCH

‎Thursday, ‎April ‎20, ‎2017, ‏‎10:54:55 AMGo to full article
Huntsville AL (SPX) Apr 20, 2017
NASA is making sure the next generation of high school graduates understand the variety of career paths that can lead to missions exploring space. In fact, hundreds of students are already helping NASA's astronauts live and work aboard the International Space Station - the orbiting research platform making discoveries that benefit Earth while developing the technology that will allow humans to l

45th SW supports Atlas V OA-7 launch

‎Thursday, ‎April ‎20, ‎2017, ‏‎10:54:55 AMGo to full article
Cape Canaveral AFS, FL (SPX) Apr 20, 2017
The U.S. Air Force's 45th Space Wing supported NASA's successful launch of Orbital ATK's Cygnus spacecraft aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 here April 18 at 11:11 a.m. ET. The Atlas V rocket is carrying Cygnus cargo vessel OA-7, the S.S. John Glenn, on the seventh operational cargo delivery flight to the International Space Station in support of N

New study ranks hazardous asteroid effects from least to most destructive

‎Thursday, ‎April ‎20, ‎2017, ‏‎10:54:55 AMGo to full article
Washington DC (SPX) Apr 20, 2017
If an asteroid struck Earth, which of its effects - scorching heat, flying debris, towering tsunamis - would claim the most lives? A new study has the answer: violent winds and shock waves are the most dangerous effects produced by Earth-impacting asteroids. The study explored seven effects associated with asteroid impacts - heat, pressure shock waves, flying debris, tsunamis, wind blasts,

Mars Rover Opportunity Leaves 'Tribulation'

‎Thursday, ‎April ‎20, ‎2017, ‏‎10:54:55 AMGo to full article
Pasadena CA (JPL) Apr 20, 2017
NASA's senior Mars rover, Opportunity, is departing "Cape Tribulation," a crater-rim segment it has explored since late 2014, southbound for its next destination, "Perseverance Valley." The rover team plans observations in the valley to determine what type of fluid activity carved it billions of years ago: water, wind, or flowing debris lubricated by water. A color panorama of a ridge call

Landslides on Ceres Reflect Ice Content

‎Thursday, ‎April ‎20, ‎2017, ‏‎10:54:55 AMGo to full article
Pasadena CA (JPL) Apr 20, 2017
As NASA's Dawn spacecraft continues exploring Ceres, evidence mounts that the enigmatic dwarf planet retains a significant amount of water ice. A new study in the journal Nature Geoscience adds to this picture, showing how ice may have shaped the variety of landslides seen on Ceres today. "Images from Dawn show that landslides, many of which are similar to those seen on Earth, are very com

Close call: When asteroids whisk past Earth

‎Thursday, ‎April ‎20, ‎2017, ‏‎10:54:55 AMGo to full article
Paris (AFP) April 19, 2017
A peanut-shaped asteroid 1.3 kilometres (3,280 feet) across streaked past Earth on Wednesday, giving astronomers a rare chance to check out a big space rock up close. But not too close. Dubbed 2014-JO25, the asteroid came nearest at 12:20 GMT and is now hurtling away from the centre of our solar system, said Ian Carnelli, an astronomer from the European Space Agency (ESA). "It does

NASA images Asteroid 2014 JO25 using radar prior to flyby

‎Thursday, ‎April ‎20, ‎2017, ‏‎10:54:55 AMGo to full article
Pasadena CA (JPL) Apr 20, 2017
Radar images of asteroid 2014 JO25 were obtained in the early morning hours on Tuesday, with NASA's 70-meter (230-foot) antenna at the Goldstone Deep Space Communications Complex in California. The images reveal a peanut-shaped asteroid that rotates about once every five hours. The images have resolutions as fine as 25 feet (7.5 meters) per pixel. Asteroid 2014 JO25 was discovered in May 2

Potentially Habitable Super-Earth is a Prime Target for Atmospheric Study

‎Thursday, ‎April ‎20, ‎2017, ‏‎10:54:55 AMGo to full article
Boston MA (SPX) Apr 20, 2017
The study of alien worlds is entering its next phase as astronomers amass the best planets outside our Solar System to look for signs of life. A newly discovered "super-Earth" orbiting in the habitable zone of a nearby small star, has catapulted itself to the top of that list. "This is the most exciting exoplanet I've seen in the past decade," said lead author Jason Dittmann of the Harvard

South Korean missile interceptor in final development

‎Thursday, ‎April ‎20, ‎2017, ‏‎10:54:55 AMGo to full article
Washington (UPI) Apr 18, 2017
A low-tier missile defense system is reportedly in the final phase of development by South Korea, a military official said earlier this week. According to the Yonhap news service the hit-to-kill missile system will undergo final evaluation next month to determine it's suitability for production and deployment. The evaluation process follows completion of earlier testing of the

Human prejudices sneak into artificial intelligence systems

‎Thursday, ‎April ‎20, ‎2017, ‏‎10:54:55 AMGo to full article
Princeton NJ (SPX) Apr 19, 2017
In debates over the future of artificial intelligence, many experts think of the new systems as coldly logical and objectively rational. But in a new study, researchers have demonstrated how machines can be reflections of us, their creators, in potentially problematic ways. Common machine learning programs, when trained with ordinary human language available online, can acquire cultural bi

Columbia engineers invent method to control light propagation in waveguides

‎Thursday, ‎April ‎20, ‎2017, ‏‎10:54:55 AMGo to full article
New York NY (SPX) Apr 19, 2017
A team of Columbia Engineering researchers, led by Applied Physics Assistant Professor Nanfang Yu, has invented a method to control light propagating in confined pathways, or waveguides, with high efficiency by using nano-antennas. To demonstrate this technique, they built photonic integrated devices that not only had record-small footprints but were also able to maintain optimal performance ove

SAVI camera ditches long lens for distant images

‎Thursday, ‎April ‎20, ‎2017, ‏‎10:54:55 AMGo to full article
Houston TX (SPX) Apr 20, 2017
A unique camera that can capture a detailed micron-resolution image from a distance uses a laser and techniques that borrow from holography, microscopy and "Matrix"-style bullet time. A prototype built and tested by engineers at Rice and Northwestern universities reads a spot illuminated by a laser and captures the "speckle" pattern with a camera sensor. Raw data from dozens of camera posi

The critical importance of Predictive Power when building NPPs

‎Thursday, ‎April ‎20, ‎2017, ‏‎10:54:55 AMGo to full article
Oak Ridge TN (SPX) Apr 19, 2017
Few jobs are more massive than that of building a nuclear power plant, a project that takes years and billions of dollars to complete. But once a new plant is finished, how do engineers know it will operate as designed? In October 2016, the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) began full commercial operation of its Watts Bar Unit 2 (WB2) nuclear power plant, the United States' first new nuclea

US confident it can thwart N.Korean missiles: US general

‎Saturday, ‎April ‎8, ‎2017, ‏‎10:32:24 AMGo to full article
Washington (AFP) April 6, 2017
The Pentagon can defend against any North Korean missile threat, but Pyongyang's rapidly evolving weapons program is shrinking the warning time ahead of a launch, a top US general said Thursday. General Lori Robinson told lawmakers she was "extremely confident" of US capability to intercept an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) bound for America, should North Korean leader Kim Jong-un

AF announces major changes to space enterprise

‎Saturday, ‎April ‎8, ‎2017, ‏‎10:32:24 AMGo to full article
Washington DC (AFNS) Apr 06, 2017
The Air Force announced five major organization and management changes to its space enterprise April 4, 2017. "For decades, the men and women of our Air Force delivered effects from space to give our joint warfighting forces in the field a distinct advantage over their adversaries," said acting Secretary of the Air Force Lisa S. Disbrow. "The Air Force has been researching, experimenting,

Deep sleep may act as fountain of youth in old age

‎Saturday, ‎April ‎8, ‎2017, ‏‎10:32:24 AMGo to full article
Berkeley CA (SPX) Apr 06, 2017
As we grow old, our nights are frequently plagued by bouts of wakefulness, bathroom trips and other nuisances as we lose our ability to generate the deep, restorative slumber we enjoyed in youth. But does that mean older people just need less sleep? Not according to UC Berkeley researchers, who argue in an article published April 5 in the journal Neuron that the unmet sleep needs of the el

Breakthrough Telescope to Map Origins of Stars, Galaxies and the 'Cosmic Dawn'

‎Saturday, ‎April ‎8, ‎2017, ‏‎10:32:24 AMGo to full article
Ithaca NY (SPX) Apr 06, 2017
A unique and powerful telescope capable of mapping the sky at submillimeter and millimeter wavelengths is headed to South America. With a slated completion date of 2021, the 6-meter aperture telescope, Cerro Chajnantor Atacama Telescope-prime (CCAT-p), will be located near the summit of Cerro Chajnantor in the Atacama Desert in Chile. It will give unprecedented insights into how stars and galaxi

ZERO-G Research aims to advance deep-space mission technology

‎Saturday, ‎April ‎8, ‎2017, ‏‎10:32:24 AMGo to full article
Orlando FL (SPX) Apr 07, 2017
As part of NASA's Flight Opportunities Program, Zero Gravity Corporation (ZERO-G) recently worked with research groups from University of Florida, Carthage College and University of Maryland to validate technology designed to further humanity's reach into space. A collection of flights on G-FORCE ONE, ZERO-G's specially modified Boeing 727, gave researchers the chance to run experiments an

Spaceflight Industries Reveals BlackSky Spectra

‎Saturday, ‎April ‎8, ‎2017, ‏‎10:32:24 AMGo to full article
Seattle WA (SPX) Apr 06, 2017
Spaceflight Industries has launched BlackSky Spectra, its on-demand satellite imagery service which enables customers to discover archive images and task new images from 13 high-resolution imaging spacecraft, all from one convenient web platform. BlackSky Spectra enables customers to easily look at the planet across every spectrum, from visual imagery to multi-spectral data including synth

US, Russian Astronauts Prepare for April Crew Swap on Space Station

‎Saturday, ‎April ‎8, ‎2017, ‏‎10:32:24 AMGo to full article
Moscow (Sputnik) Apr 06, 2017
NASA announced that Astronaut Jack Fischer and Cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin are heading to the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan for final preparations to join the International Space Station with an April 20 flight atop a Soyuz rocket. US Astronaut Jack Fischer and Russian Cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin are heading to the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan for final preparations to join the In

Seeing Black Holes and Beyond

‎Saturday, ‎April ‎8, ‎2017, ‏‎10:32:24 AMGo to full article
Boston MA (SPX) Apr 06, 2017
Through an international effort led by MIT Haystack Observatory, the ALMA array in Chile has joined a global network of radio telescopes. A powerful new array of radio telescopes is being deployed for the first time this week, as the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) in Chile joins a global network of antennas poised to make some of the highest resolution images that astronomer

US Military Satellite Production Rates Boosted by 3-D Printed Parts

‎Saturday, ‎April ‎8, ‎2017, ‏‎10:32:24 AMGo to full article
Washington DC (Sputnik) Apr 06, 2017
Lockheed Martin said that using parts made from 3-D printers has cut four months from the production schedule for components used in the US Air Force's Advanced Extremely High Frequency military satellites. Using parts made from 3-D printers has cut four months from the production schedule for components used in the US Air Force's Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF-6) military satelli

Lego figures don't stand a chance against time reversal

‎Saturday, ‎April ‎8, ‎2017, ‏‎10:32:24 AMGo to full article
Salt Lake City UT (SPX) Apr 06, 2017
A crowd of 29 stands still, positioned as lookouts in various directions. A chirp punctuates the silence before being replaced by a distinct buzz. The buzzing grows louder, then abruptly drops back into silence. Twenty-eight Lego figurines shift slightly - they survive. But one unlucky companion lies on his back, toppled by an invisible force. The culprit of this miniature disaster? Target





News About Time And Space


Detector delivery marks another Euclid milestone

‎Yesterday, ‎May ‎1, ‎2017, ‏‎3:33:19 PMGo to full article
Paris (ESA) Apr 27, 2017 - ESA's Euclid mission has passed another important milestone with the delivery of the first three state-of-the art detectors for the Near-Infrared Spectrometer and Photometer instrument.

Euclid is a pioneering mission to observe billions of faint galaxies and investigate the origin of the Universe's accelerating expansion, as well as the mysterious nature of dark energy, dark matter and gravity. The space telescope will reveal the signatures of dark energy on the 3D distribution of cosmic structures.

In order to carry out this challenging mission, Euclid must survey the sky with very high precision at visible and near-infrared wavelengths. These measurements cannot be made from the ground, due to atmospheric absorption and turbulence.

To achieve its objectives, Euclid will carry two wide-field instruments: a Visible imager (VIS) and a Near-Infrared Spectrometer and Photometer (NISP). A dichroic plate on the Euclid telescope enables incoming light to be shared by both instruments, so that the observations can be carried out in parallel through both channels.

The combined measurements by NISP and VIS will provide data on galaxy clustering and weak gravitational lensing in order to determine the distribution of dark matter and dark energy across the Universe.

"These detectors form the near-infrared 'retina' in Euclid's 'eye', the 1.2 metre diameter telescope and accompanying scientific instruments," says Rene Laureijs, ESA's project scientist for the Euclid mission.

One set of CCD detectors in the VIS instrument will map the Universe in visible light, but NISP's near-infrared detectors are sensitive to wavelengths invisible to the human eye, where very distant galaxies, 6-10 billion light years away, show their peak brightness.

"Euclid will unlock an unknown, near-infrared view of the sky by taking images of these galaxies over more than 36% of the celestial sphere with unprecedented sharpness," says Giuseppe Racca, ESA's Project Manager for Euclid.

With a structure made of silicon carbide, NISP is a very complex instrument designed to enable scientists to determine the photometric and spectroscopic redshifts of galaxies. The near-infrared photometric measurements will provide colour information for the galaxies imaged by VIS, while the spectroscopic redshift data will measure the velocities at which galaxies are moving away from us.

NISP is being developed under the responsibility of the Euclid Consortium, with CNES (the French space agency) and LAM / CPPM (Laboratoire d'Astrophysique de Marseille and the Centre de Physique de Particules de Marseille) as the main contributors. Other institutes and industries across Europe - in France, Italy, Germany, Spain, Norway, and Denmark - are also involved.

The NISP detectors were procured in the USA because such advanced devices were not available in Europe at the time. ESA started a Euclid-dedicated development programme with Teledyne Imaging Sensors of Camarillo, California, the leader in the manufacture of near-infrared detectors used in astronomy.

Following the successful qualification of a new type of detector, in a partnership with NASA, the flight models were designed, procured, and tested by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. They were then tested and characterised in the detector lab at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center before being delivered to Europe. On 24 March, the first three HgCdTe (mercury cadmium telluride) near-infrared detectors for the NISP instrument, fitted with proximity electronics which are designed to operate at extremely cold, cryogenic temperatures, were delivered to LAM / CPPM in France.

When completed, the NISP instrument will include 16 of these detectors. Each of them is composed of 2040 + 2040 pixels, 18 microns in size.

The detectors will cover a field of view of 0.53 square degrees - slightly larger than twice the area covered by a full Moon. The photometric channel is equipped with 3 broad band filters (Y, J and H) covering the wavelength ranges 900-1192 nm, 1192-1544 nm and 1544-2000 nm. The spectroscopic channel is equipped with four different, low-resolution grisms - grating prisms that split incoming, near-infrared light into different wavelengths.

"Technically, NISP is a challenge," says Racca. "Onboard data processing is required to reduce the data stream generated by the 4 Megapixel detectors by a factor over 100, since it is impossible to deliver to the ground all the raw detector data. The spectrograph will provide redshifts for about 30 million galaxies during the 6-year prime mission.

"NISP passed its Critical Design Review in November 2016. This meant that the go-ahead for the construction of the NISP flight model was given. Delivery of the completed instrument is expected in the second half of 2018."

Meanwhile, following the delivery of the VIS detectors in January 2017, the arrival of the first NISP detectors is an important step in the development of the spacecraft's instrumentation.

In Euclid, as in other astronomy missions, the scientific instruments are the first flight hardware to be delivered because the spacecraft is assembled around them. Similarly the detectors are the first instrument hardware to be readied, as they are the first part of the "chain" to be characterised and assembled.

Every pixel of the NISP near-infrared detectors will now be thoroughly characterised at CPPM. They will then be assembled to form the NISP focal plane and finally integrated with the rest of the instrument for the instrument tests at LAM.

The NISP instrument will be delivered for integration into the Euclid payload module in the second half of next year.



Study offers new theoretical approach to describing non-equilibrium phase transitions

‎Yesterday, ‎May ‎1, ‎2017, ‏‎3:33:19 PMGo to full article
Lemont IL (SPX) Apr 27, 2017 - Imaginary numbers are a solution to a very real problem in a study published this week in Scientific Reports. Two physicists at the U.S. Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory offered a way to mathematically describe a particular physics phenomenon called a phase transition in a system out of equilibrium. Such phenomena are central in physics, and understanding how they occur has been a long-held and vexing goal; their behavior and related effects are key to unlocking possibilities for new electronics and other next-generation technologies.

In physics, "equilibrium" refers to a state when an object is not in motion and has no energy flowing through it. As you might expect, most of our lives take place outside this state: we are constantly moving and causing other things to move.

"A rainstorm, this rotating fan, these systems are all out of equilibrium," said study co-author of the Valerii Vinokur, an Argonne Distinguished Fellow and member of the joint Argonne-University of Chicago Computation Institute. "When a system is in equilibrium, we know that it is always at its lowest possible energy configuration, but for non-equilibrium this fundamental principle does not work; and our ability to describe the physics of such systems is very limited."

He and co-author Alexey Galda, a scientist with Argonne and the University of Chicago's James Franck Institute, had been working on ways to describe these systems, particularly those undergoing a phase transition - such as the moment during a thunderstorm when the charge difference between cloud and ground tips too high, and a lightning strike occurs.

They found their new approach to non-equilibrium physics in a new branch of quantum mechanics. In the language of quantum mechanics, the energy of a system is represented by what is called a Hamiltonian operator. Traditionally, quantum mechanics had held that the operator to represent the system cannot contain imaginary numbers if it would mean the energy does not come out as a "real" and positive value - because the system actually does exist in reality. This condition is called Hermiticity.

But physicists have been taking a harder look at operators that violate Hermiticity by using imaginary components, Vinokur said; several such operators discovered a few years ago are now widely used in quantum optics.

"We noticed that such operators are a beautiful mathematical tool to describe out-of-equilibrium processes," he said.

To describe the phase transition, Galda and Vinokur wrote out the Hamiltonian operator, introduced an applied force to take it out of equilibrium, and then they made the force imaginary.

"This is a trick which is illegal from any common-sense point of view; but we saw that this combination, energy plus imaginary force, perfectly mathematically describes the dynamics of the system with friction," Vinokur said.

They applied the trick to describe other out-of-equilibrium phase transitions, such as a dynamic Mott transition and a spin system, and saw the results agreed with either observed experiments or simulations.

In their latest work, they connected their description with an operation called a Mobius transformation, which appears in a branch of mathematics called topology. "We can understand non-equilibrium transitions now as topological transitions in the space of energy," Galda said.

This bit of quantum mischief needs to be understood more deeply, they said, but is valuable all the same; the theory describes basic areas of physics that are of great interest for next-generation electronics technology.

"For the moment the connection with topology looks like mathematical candy, a beautiful thing we can't yet use, but we know from history that if the math is elegant enough, very soon its practical implications follow," Vinokur said.

The study, "Linear dynamics of classical spin as Mobius transformation," was funded by the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science, Office of Basic Energy Sciences (Materials Science and Engineering Division).



Ripples in the cosmic web

‎Yesterday, ‎May ‎1, ‎2017, ‏‎3:33:19 PMGo to full article
Santa Barbara CA (SPX) Apr 28, 2017 - The most barren regions known are the far-flung corners of intergalactic space. In these vast expanses between the galaxies there is just one solitary atom per cubic meter - a diffuse haze of hydrogen gas left over from the Big Bang. On the largest scales, this material is arranged in a vast network of filamentary structures known as the "cosmic web," its tangled strands spanning billions of light years and accounting for the majority of atoms in the universe.

Now, a team of astronomers, including UC Santa Barbara physicist Joseph Hennawi, have made the first measurements of small-scale ripples in this primeval hydrogen gas using rare double quasars. Although the regions of cosmic web they studied lie nearly 11 billion light years away, they were able to measure variations in its structure on scales 100,000 times smaller, comparable to the size of a single galaxy. The results appear in the journal Science.

Intergalactic gas is so tenuous that it emits no light of its own. Instead astronomers study it indirectly by observing how it selectively absorbs the light coming from faraway sources known as quasars. Quasars constitute a brief hyperluminous phase of the galactic life cycle powered by matter falling into a galaxy's central supermassive black hole.

Acting like cosmic lighthouses, they are bright, distant beacons that allow astronomers to study intergalactic atoms residing between the location of the quasar and the Earth. But because these hyperluminous episodes last only a tiny fraction of a galaxy's lifetime, quasars are correspondingly rare and are typically separated from each other by hundreds of millions of light years.

In order to probe the cosmic web on much smaller length scales, the astronomers exploited a fortuitous cosmic coincidence: They identified exceedingly rare pairs of quasars and measured subtle differences in the absorption of intergalactic atoms along the two sightlines.

"Pairs of quasars are like needles in a haystack," explained Hennawi, associate professor in UCSB's Department of Physics. Hennawi pioneered the application of algorithms from "machine learning" - a brand of artificial intelligence - to efficiently locate quasar pairs in the massive amounts of data produced by digital imaging surveys of the night sky.

"In order to find them, we combed through images of billions of celestial objects millions of times fainter than what the naked eye can see."

Once identified, the quasar pairs were observed with the largest telescopes in the world, including the 10-meter Keck telescopes at the W.M. Keck Observatory on Mauna Kea, Hawaii, of which the University of California is a founding partner.

"One of the biggest challenges was developing the mathematical and statistical tools to quantify the tiny differences we measured in this new kind of data," said lead author Alberto Rorai, Hennawi's former Ph.D. student who is now a postdoctoral researcher at Cambridge University. Rorai developed these tools as part of the research for his doctoral degree and applied them to spectra of quasars with Hennawi and other colleagues.

The astronomers compared their measurements to supercomputer models that simulate the formation of cosmic structures from the Big Bang to the present. On a single laptop, these complex calculations would require almost 1,000 years to complete, but modern supercomputers enabled the researchers to carry them out in just a few weeks.

"The input to our simulations are the laws of physics and the output is an artificial universe, which can be directly compared to astronomical data," said co-author Jose Onorbe, a postdoctoral researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Heidelberg, Germany, who led the supercomputer simulation effort. "I was delighted to see that these new measurements agree with the well-established paradigm for how cosmic structures form."

"One reason why these small-scale fluctuations are so interesting is that they encode information about the temperature of gas in the cosmic web just a few billion years after the Big Bang," explained Hennawi.

Astronomers believe that the matter in the universe went through phase transitions billions of years ago, which dramatically changed its temperature. Known as cosmic re-ionization, these transitions occurred when the collective ultraviolet glow of all stars and quasars in the universe became intense enough to strip electrons off atoms in intergalactic space.

How and when re-ionization occurred is one of the biggest open questions in the field of cosmology, and these new measurements provide important clues that will help narrate this chapter of cosmic history.



Looking for the quantum frontier

‎Yesterday, ‎May ‎1, ‎2017, ‏‎3:33:19 PMGo to full article
Bristol UK (SPX) May 01, 2017 - A team of researchers from Australia and the UK have developed a new theoretical framework to identify computations that occupy the 'quantum frontier' - the boundary at which problems become impossible for today's computers and can only be solved by a quantum computer. Importantly, they demonstrate that these computations can be performed with near-term, intermediate, quantum computers.

"Until recently it has been difficult to say definitively when quantum computers can outperform classical computers," said Professor Michael Bremner, Chief Investigator at the Centre for Quantum Computation and Communication Technology and founding member of the UTS Centre for Quantum Software and Information (UTS:QSI).

"The big challenge for quantum complexity theorists over the last decade has been to find stronger evidence for the existence of the quantum frontier, and then to identify where it lives. We're now getting a sense of this, and beginning to understand the resources required to cross the frontier to solve problems that today's computers can't."

The team has identified quantum computations that require the least known physical resources required to go beyond the capabilities of classical computers, significant because of the technological challenges associated with scaling up quantum computers.

Prof Bremner said that the result also indicates that full fault-tolerance may not be required to outperform classical computers. "To date, it has been widely accepted that error correction would be a necessary component of future quantum computers, but no one has yet been able to achieve this at a meaningful scale," said Bremner.

"Our work shows that while some level of error mitigation is needed to cross the quantum frontier, we may be able to outperform classical computers without the added design complexity of full fault tolerance," he said.

Dr Ashley Montanaro of the University of Bristol collaborated with Bremner to develop the framework.

"We started out with the goal of defining the minimum resources required to build a post-classical quantum computer, but then found that our model could be classically simulated with a small amount of noise, or physical imperfection," said Montanaro.

"The hope among scientists had always been that if the amount of noise in a quantum system was small enough then it would still be superior to a classical computer, however we have now shown that this probably isn't the case, at least for this particular class of computations," he said.

"We then realised that it is possible to use a classical encoding on a quantum circuit to overcome 'noise' in a much simpler way to mitigate these errors. The effectiveness of this approach was surprising. What it suggests is that we could use such structures to develop new quantum algorithms in a way that can directly avoid certain types of errors."

"This is a result that could lead to useful 'intermediate' quantum computers in the medium term, while we continue to pursue the goal of a full-scale universal quantum computer."

The paper detailing this research was selected for an editorial in the inaugural issue of Quantum journal, a new initiative in open-source, community-run academic publishing. UTS:QSI authors have been featured prominently in the journal's first edition. The work is supported with funding from the Australian Research Council through the Centre of Excellence and Future Fellowship programs.



Mathematical model of a TARDIS takes the 'fiction' out of science fiction

‎Yesterday, ‎May ‎1, ‎2017, ‏‎3:33:19 PMGo to full article
Vancouver, Canada (SPX) Apr 28, 2017 - After some serious number crunching, a UBC researcher has come up with a mathematical model for a viable time machine.

Ben Tippett, a mathematics and physics instructor at UBC's Okanagan campus, recently published a study about the feasibility of time travel. Tippett, whose field of expertise is Einstein's theory of general relativity, studies black holes and science fiction when he's not teaching. Using math and physics, he has created a formula that describes a method for time travel.

"People think of time travel as something as fiction," says Tippett. "And we tend to think it's not possible because we don't actually do it. But, mathematically, it is possible."

Ever since HG Wells published his book Time Machine in 1885, people have been curious about time travel - and scientists have worked to solve or disprove the theory, he says. In 1915 Albert Einstein announced his theory of general relativity, stating that gravitational fields are caused by distortions in the fabric of space and time.

More than 100 years later, the LIGO Scientific Collaboration - an international team of physics institutes and research groups - announced the detection of gravitational waves generated by colliding black holes billions of lightyears away, confirming Einstein's theory.

The division of space into three dimensions, with time in a separate dimension by itself, is incorrect, says Tippett. The four dimensions should be imagined simultaneously, where different directions are connected, as a space-time continuum. Using Einstein's theory, Tippett says that the curvature of space-time accounts for the curved orbits of the planets.

In "flat" - or uncurved - space-time, planets and stars would move in straight lines. In the vicinity of a massive star, space-time geometry becomes curved and the straight trajectories of nearby planets will follow the curvature and bend around star.

"The time direction of the space-time surface also shows curvature. There is evidence showing the closer to a black hole we get, time moves slower," says Tippett. "My model of a time machine uses the curved space-time - to bend time into a circle for the passengers, not in a straight line. That circle takes us back in time."

While it is possible to describe this type of time travel using a mathematical equation, Tippett doubts that anyone will ever build a machine to make it work.

"HG Wells popularized the term 'time machine' and he left people with the thought that an explorer would need a 'machine or special box' to actually accomplish time travel," Tippett says. "While is it mathematically feasible, it is not yet possible to build a space-time machine because we need materials - which we call exotic matter - to bend space-time in these impossible ways, but they have yet to be discovered."

For his research, Tippett created a mathematical model of a Traversable Acausal Retrograde Domain in Space-time (TARDIS). He describes it as a bubble of space-time geometry which carries its contents backward and forwards through space and time as it tours a large circular path. The bubble moves through space-time at speeds greater than the speed of light at times, allowing it to move backward in time.

"Studying space-time is both fascinating and problematic. And it's also a fun way to use math and physics," says Tippett. "Experts in my field have been exploring the possibility of mathematical time machines since 1949. And my research presents a new method for doing it."

Tippett's research was recently published in the IOPscience Journal "Classical and Quantum Gravity".



First-ever direct observation of chiral currents in quantum Hall atomic simulation

‎Yesterday, ‎May ‎1, ‎2017, ‏‎3:33:19 PMGo to full article
Chicago IL (SPX) Apr 27, 2017 - Using an atomic quantum simulator, scientists at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have achieved the first-ever direct observation of chiral currents in the model topological insulator, the 2-D integer quantum Hall system.

Topological Insulators (TIs) are arguably the most promising class of materials discovered in recent years, with many potential applications theorized. That's because TIs exhibit a special quality: the surface of the material conducts electricity, while the bulk acts as an insulator. Over the last decade, scientists have extensively probed the microscopic properties of TIs, to better understand the fundamental physics that govern their peculiar behavior.

Atomic quantum simulation has proven an important tool for probing the characteristics of TIs, because it allows researchers greater control and greater possibilities for exploring regimes not currently accessible in real materials. Finely tuned laser beams are used to trap ultracold rubidium atoms (about a billion times colder than room temperature) in a lattice structure that precisely simulates the structure of ideal materials.

Alex An, a physics graduate student working under Assistant Professor Bryce Gadway at Illinois, is lead author of the study, "Direct observation of chiral currents and magnetic reflection in atomic flux lattices," recently published in Science Advances.

The 2-D integer quantum Hall system in real materials is characterized by a magnetic field that causes electrons to make closed trajectories - such as a simple closed square orbit around four sites of a two-dimensional square lattice - in order to acquire a phase shift known as an Aharonov-Bohm phase. The magnitude of this phase shift depends on the strength of the magnetic field enclosed by the trajectory.

An explains, "Both in the electronic system and in our simulated system, magnetic fields give rise to nontrivial topology: while particles in the bulk of the system undergo orbits around four-site cells, the edge particles cannot undergo full orbits and instead flow cyclically around the edge of the entire system, generating chiral currents. These microscopic phenomena lead to a macroscopic quantized conductance, which has been measured in materials like graphene and in 2D electron gases based on semiconductor heterostructures."

For this study, the team developed a new atomic-quantum-simulation technique that allowed the scientists to directly observe the chiral currents for the first time ever. The scientists employed about a dozen lasers to trap and cool rubidium atoms to nano-Kelvin temperatures. Next they configured the ultracold atoms in a periodic lattice, in precise analogy to electrons in the periodic crystal structure of a real material. Then, using their new technique, the scientists manipulated the synthetic magnetic field to observe the emergent behavior of the electrons.

"While other researchers working in atomic-molecular-optical physics create this lattice in real space, we instead link atomic momentum states to create a lattice not in a real, physical dimension, but in a 'synthetic' dimension, or momentum space," An differentiates. "We link these states using a pair of laser beams that can impart photon momentum to the atoms in discrete bunches."

An goes on to explain how this new approach offers greater control over the lattice parameters at the individual site level, allowing the scientists to engineer phases onto the atoms as they travel between the lattice sites.

"With the addition of a second pair of laser beams, we create a fully synthetic, 2-D lattice of momentum states," he continues, "Because of our site-resolved control over the lattice, we can apply different synthetic magnetic fluxes to each four-site cell. So where previous studies have constructed two-dimensional systems with one real-space dimension and one synthetic dimension, our fully synthetic approach allows us to do a few unique things.

"First, we have the ability to create homogenous as well as inhomogenous flux patterns - the latter is not currently attainable in real-space systems. Secondly, we demonstrate the ability to rapidly and easily tune the flux of a homogeneous field across the full range of flux values - this has now been achieved in a real-space setup, at about the same time as our work. And finally, our new technique enables direct site-resolved observation of chiral currents. Direct observation of the underlying chiral currents has not been possible in real materials."

In the homogenous flux study, the team observed the chiral currents of a homogeneous artificial magnetic field for the entire range of applied flux values (-p to p). A positive flux caused the surface atoms to flow clockwise around the system, and a negative flux induced an opposite, counter-clockwise flow.

The engineered system enabled the team to tune quickly and easily the applied flux across the full range of flux values, beyond the range of conventional materials and with more versatility than real-space atomic systems.

Then, in the inhomogeneous flux study, the team engineered a sharp dislocation in the artificial magnetic field by combining this topologically nontrivial system with a topologically trivial region of zero flux.

They observed that atomic population reflected off of the boundary between these two regions, with maximum reflection at the largest difference in flux. A more traditional sense of reflection, like a ball bouncing off of a wall, requires a shift in the potential energy landscape.

However, this magnetic reflection occurs solely due to the difference in topology. This phenomenon would be very difficult to study with other atomic systems, and would be essentially impossible to study in real electronic materials.

"For a real electronic material, engineering such a step-like increase of magnetic flux would require a jump of magnetic field strengths by 104 Tesla over just a few angstroms - a crazy situation that we're however able to simulate using a controlled atomic system," says Gadway.

An stresses that, while TIs hold tremendous implications for future applications in technology, this is fundamental research, and these findings won't immediately go into a pocket-sized device like a smartphone.

"We hope to shed more light on similar phenomena in real materials by studying them in our atomic system," shares An.

"The integer quantum Hall effect that we study in this work is marked by macroscopic phenomena like quantized conductance which have been studied in real materials, but the underlying, microscopic chiral edge states that give rise to these phenomena have been out of reach of real materials - but not out of reach of our system! Similarly, we hope to gain more insight into the underlying workings of more complex systems, fueled by a fundamental desire to understand and as a way to eventually construct real materials that display the same properties."

In future studies, the team plans to engineer systems having similar two-dimensional geometries, with more complex topological features.

"One of these systems consists of two coupled topological wires like those featured in our previous work on the Su-Schrieffer-Heeger model. The group of Smitha Vishveshwara has predicted that by adding specific disorder to this system, we may be able to probe the elusive Hofstadter butterfly spectrum. We also hope to study a new type of 'multipole insulator' system recently proposed by Wladimir Benalcazar, Taylor Hughes, and collaborators. This system would be characterized by topological corner modes carrying fractional quantized charge."

Research paper



Quantum mechanics are complex enough, for now...

‎Yesterday, ‎May ‎1, ‎2017, ‏‎3:33:19 PMGo to full article
Vienna, Austria (SPX) Apr 24, 2017 - Quantum mechanics is based on a set of mathematical rules, describing how the quantum world works. These rules predict, for example, how electrons orbit a nucleus in an atom, and how an atom can absorb photons, particles of light.

The standard rules of quantum mechanics work extremely well, but, given that there are still open questions regarding the interpretation of quantum mechanics, scientists are not sure whether the current rules are the final story.

This has motivated some scientists to develop alternative versions of the mathematical rules, which are able to properly explain the results of past experiments, but provide new insight into the underlying structure of quantum mechanics. Some of these alternative mathematical rules even predict new effects, which require new experimental tests.

Everyday experience of mathematical rules
In everyday life, if we walk all the way around a park we end up back at the same place regardless of whether we choose to walk clockwise or counter-clockwise. Physicists would say that these two actions commute. Not every action needs to commute, though. If, on our walk around the park, we walk clockwise, and first find money lying on the ground and then encounter an ice cream man, we will exit the park feeling refreshed.

However, if we instead travel counter-clockwise, we will see the ice cream man before finding the money needed to buy the ice cream. In that case, we may exit park feeling disappointed. In order to determine which actions commute or do not commute physicists provide a mathematical description of the physical world.

In standard quantum mechanics, these mathematical rules use complex numbers. However, recently an alternative version of quantum mechanics was proposed which uses more complex, so-called "hyper-complex" numbers.

These are a generalization of complex numbers. With the new rules, physicists can replicate most of the predictions of standard quantum mechanics. However, hyper-complex rules predict that some operations that commute in standard quantum mechanics do not actually commute in the real world.

Searching for hyper-complex numbers
A research team led by Philip Walther has now tested for deviations from standard quantum mechanics predicted by the alternative hyper-complex quantum theory. In their experiment the scientists replaced the park with an interferometer, a device which allows a single photon to travel two paths at the same time.

They replaced the money and ice cream with a normal optical material and a specially designed metamaterial. The normal optical material slightly slowed down light as it passed through, whereas the metamaterial slightly sped the light up.

The rules of standard quantum mechanics dictate that light behaves the same no matter whether it first passes through a normal material and then through a metamaterial or vice versa. In other words, the action of the two materials on the light commutes.

In hyper-complex quantum mechanics, however, that might not be the case. From the behavior of the measured photons the physicists verified that hyper-complex rules were not needed to describe the experiment. "We were able to place very precise bounds on the need for hyper-complex numbers to describe our experiment," says Lorenzo Procopio, a lead author of the study.

However, the authors say that it is always very difficult to unambiguously rule something out. Lee Rozema, another author of the paper, says "we still are very interested in performing experiments under different conditions and with even higher precision, to gather more evidence supporting standard quantum mechanics."

This work has placed tight limits on the need for a hyper-complex quantum theory, but there are many other alternatives which need to be tested, and the newly-developed tools provide the perfect avenue for this.

Research paper: "Single-Photon Test of Hyper-Complex Quantum Theories Using a Metamaterial" Lorenzo M. Procopio, Lee A. Rozema, Zi Jing Wong, Deny R. Hamel, Kevin O'Brien, Xiang Zhang, Borivoje Dakic, and Philip Walther - Nature Communications - DOI: 10.1038/ncomms15044



New survey hints at exotic origin for the Cold Spot

‎Yesterday, ‎May ‎1, ‎2017, ‏‎3:33:19 PMGo to full article
London, UK (SPX) Apr 26, 2017 - A supervoid is unlikely to explain a 'Cold Spot' in the cosmic microwave background, according to the results of a new survey, leaving room for exotic explanations like a collision between universes. The researchers, led by postgraduate student Ruari Mackenzie and Professor Tom Shanks in Durham University's Centre for Extragalactic Astronomy, publish their results in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

The cosmic microwave background (CMB), a relic of the Big Bang, covers the whole sky. At a temperature of 2.73 degrees above absolute zero (or -270.43 degrees Celsius), the CMB has some anomalies, including the Cold Spot. This feature, about 0.00015 degrees colder than its surroundings, was previously claimed to be caused by a huge void, billions of light years across, containing relatively few galaxies.

The accelerating expansion of the universe causes voids to leave subtle redshifts on light as it passes through via the integrated Sachs-Wolfe effect. In the case of the CMB this is observed as cold imprints. It was proposed that a very large foreground void could, in part, imprint the CMB Cold Spot which has been a source of tension in models of standard cosmology.

Previously, most searches for a supervoid connected with the Cold Spot have estimated distances to galaxies using their colours. With the expansion of the universe more distant galaxies have their light shifted to longer wavelengths, an effect known as a cosmological redshift.

The more distant the galaxy is, the higher its observed redshift. By measuring the colours of galaxies, their redshifts, and thus their distances, can be estimated. These measurements though have a high degree of uncertainty.

In their new work, the Durham team presented the results of a comprehensive survey of the redshifts of 7,000 galaxies, harvested 300 at a time using a spectrograph deployed on the Anglo-Australian Telescope. From this higher fidelity dataset, Mackenzie and Shanks see no evidence of a supervoid capable of explaining the Cold Spot within the standard theory.

The researchers instead found that the Cold Spot region, before now thought to be underpopulated with galaxies, is split into smaller voids, surrounded by clusters of galaxies. This 'soap bubble' structure is much like the rest of the universe, illustrated in Figure 2 by the visual similarity between the galaxy distributions in the Cold Spot area and a control field elsewhere.

Mackenzie commented: "The voids we have detected cannot explain the Cold Spot under standard cosmology. There is the possibility that some non-standard model could be proposed to link the two in the future but our data place powerful constraints on any attempt to do that."

If there really is no supervoid that can explain the Cold Spot, simulations of the standard model of the universe give odds of 1 in 50 that the Cold Spot arose by chance.

Shanks added: "This means we can't entirely rule out that the Spot is caused by an unlikely fluctuation explained by the standard model. But if that isn't the answer, then there are more exotic explanations.

'Perhaps the most exciting of these is that the Cold Spot was caused by a collision between our universe and another bubble universe. If further, more detailed, analysis of CMB data proves this to be the case then the Cold Spot might be taken as the first evidence for the multiverse - and billions of other universes may exist like our own."

For the moment, all that can be said is that the lack of a supervoid to explain the Cold Spot has tilted the balance towards these more unusual explanations, ideas that will need to be further tested by more detailed observations of the CMB.



Can we see a singularity, the most extreme object in the universe?

‎Yesterday, ‎May ‎1, ‎2017, ‏‎3:33:19 PMGo to full article
Mumbai, India (SPX) Apr 21, 2017 - A team of scientists at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR), Mumbai, India, have found new ways to detect a bare or naked singularity, the most extreme object in the universe.

When the fuel of a very massive star is spent, it collapses due to its own gravitational pull and eventually becomes a very small region of arbitrarily high matter density, that is a`Singularity', where the usual laws of physics may breakdown.

If this singularity is hidden within an event horizon, which is an invisible closed surface from which nothing, not even light, can escape, then we call this object a black hole. In such a case, we cannot see the singularity and we do not need to bother about its effects. But what if the event horizon does not form? In fact, Einstein's theory of general relativity does predict such a possibility when massive stars collapse at the end of their life-cycles. In this case, we are left with the tantalizing option of observing a naked singularity.

An important question then is, how to observationally distinguish a naked singularity from a black hole. Einstein's theory predicts an interesting effect: the fabric of spacetime in the vicinity of any rotating object gets `twisted' due to this rotation. This effect causes a gyroscope spin and makes orbits of particles around these astrophysical objects precess.

The TIFR team has recently argued that the rate at which a gyroscope precesses (the precession frequency), when placed around a rotating black hole or a naked singularity, could be used to identify this rotating object. Here is a simple way to describe their results.

If an astronaut records a gyroscope's precession frequency at two fixed points close to the rotating object, then two possibilities can be seen: (1) the precession frequency of the gyroscope changes by an arbitrarily large amount, that is, there is a wild change in the behaviour of the gyroscope; and (2) the precession frequency changes by a small amount, in a regular well-behaved manner. For the case (1), the rotating object is a black hole, while for the case (2), it is a naked singularity.

The TIFR team, namely, Dr. Chandrachur Chakraborty, Mr. Prashant Kocherlakota, Prof. Sudip Bhattacharyya and Prof. Pankaj Joshi, in collaboration with a Polish team comprising Dr. Mandar Patil and Prof. Andrzej Krolak, has infact shown that the precession frequency of a gyroscope orbiting a black hole or a naked singularity is sensitive to the presence of an event horizon.

A gyroscope circling and approaching the event horizon of a black hole from any direction behaves increasingly 'wildly,' that is, it precesses increasingly faster, without a bound. But, in the case of a naked singularity, the precession frequency becomes arbitrarily large only in the equatorial plane, but being regular in all other planes.

The TIFR team has also found that the precession of orbits of matter falling into a rotating black hole or a naked singularity can be used to distinguish these exotic objects. This is because the orbital plane precession frequency increases as the matter approaches a rotating black hole, but this frequency can decrease and even become zero for a rotating naked singularity.

This finding could be used to distinguish a naked singularity from a black hole in reality, because the precession frequencies could be measured in X-ray wavelengths, as the infalling matter radiates X-rays.

1. "Spin precession in a black hole and naked singularity spacetimes,''C. Chakraborty, P. Kocherlakota, and P. S. Joshi, Phys. Rev. D 95, 044006 (2017)

2. "Distinguishing Kerr naked singularities and black holes using the spin precession of a test gyro in strong gravitational fields,''C. Chakraborty, P. Kocherlakota, M. Patil, S. Bhattacharyya, P. S. Joshi, and A. Kr\'olak, Phys. Rev. D 95, 084024 (2017)

Research paper



Supermassive black holes found in 2 tiny galaxies

‎Yesterday, ‎May ‎1, ‎2017, ‏‎3:33:19 PMGo to full article
Salt Lake City UT (SPX) Apr 19, 2017 - Three years ago, a University of Utah-led team discovered that an ultra-compact dwarf galaxy contained a supermassive black hole, then the smallest known galaxy to harbor such a giant black hole. The findings suggested that the dwarfs were likely tiny leftovers of larger galaxies that were stripped of their outer layers after colliding into other, larger galaxies.

Now, the same group of U astronomers and colleagues have found two more ultra-compact dwarf galaxies with supermassive black holes. Together, the three examples suggest that black holes lurk at the center of most of these objects, potentially doubling the number of supermassive black holes known in the universe.

The black holes make up a high percentage of the compact galaxies' total mass, supporting the theory that the dwarfs are remnants of massive galaxies that were ripped apart by larger galaxies.

"We still don't fully understand how galaxies form and evolve over time. These objects can tell us how galaxies merge and collide," says Chris Ahn, doctoral candidate in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, and lead author of the international study that published Monday in The Astrophysical Journal. "Maybe a fraction of the centers of all galaxies are actually these compact galaxies stripped of their outer parts."

Measuring galaxies
The authors measured two ultra-compact dwarf galaxies, named VUCD3 and M59cO, that lie far beyond the spiral arms of our Milky Way, orbiting massive galaxies in the Virgo galaxy cluster. They detected a supermassive black hole in both galaxies; VUCD3's black hole has a mass equivalent to 4.4 million suns, making up about 13 percent of the galaxy's total mass, and M59cO's black hole has a mass of 5.8 million suns, making up about 18 percent of its total mass.

By comparison, the monstrous black hole at the center of the Milky Way has a mass of 4 million suns, but makes up less than .01 percent of the galaxy's total mass.

"It's pretty amazing when you really think about it. These ultra-compact dwarfs are around 0.1 percent the size of the Milky Way, yet they host supermassive black holes that are bigger than the black hole at the center of our own galaxy," marvels Ahn.

To calculate the ultra-compact dwarf galaxies' mass, the astronomers measured the movement of the stars using the Gemini North telescope located on Mauna Kea volcano in Hawaii. The astronomers have to correct for the distortions caused by Earth's atmosphere.

They shot a laser into the sky to make a fake little star, and moved a mirror around hundreds of times a second to undo the distortion. They then applied the technique to the ultra-compact dwarf galaxies, which are so small that the corrections are necessary to measure the motions inside the object. The technique, known as adaptive optics, brings the once blurry galaxy into focus.

They also analyzed images from the Hubble Space Telescope to measure the distribution of the stars in each galaxy, and created a computer simulation that best fit their observations.

They found that the motion of the stars at the center of the galaxies moved much faster than those on the outside, a classic signature of a black hole. VUCD3 and M59cO are the second and third ultra-compact dwarf galaxies found to contain a supermassive black hole, suggesting that all such dwarfs may harbor similarly massive light-sucking objects.

Ultra-compact dwarf galaxy mysteries
Astronomers discovered ultra-compact dwarf galaxies in the late 1990s. The objects are made up of hundreds of millions of stars densely packed together on an average of 100 light years across.

Scientists took measurements to see what was happening inside the galaxies, and something didn't add up; the ultra-compact dwarf galaxies had more mass than their stars alone could account for.

Senior author Anil Seth, assistant professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the U, led the 2014 study that found the first ultra-compact dwarf galaxy with a supermassive black hole. The two U-led studies make a strong case that supermassive black holes at the center of the galaxies are responsible for the extra mass.

An alternate theory of the dwarfs is that they are just really massive star clusters - groups of a hundred thousand stars born at the same time. The largest star cluster in the Milky Way is three million stars, and ultra-compact dwarf galaxies are 10 to 100 times bigger than that. "The question was, 'Is that because they form bigger star clusters with the same process? Or are they different in some way?' This work shows that they are different," Seth continues.

"It's obvious in retrospect, because the center of a regular galaxy looks almost exactly like these objects, but that wasn't what most people thought they were. I wasn't convinced that we were going to find a black hole when I took the observations," says Seth. "This is a cool example of scientific discovery and how quickly you can reorient our understanding of the universe."

Black holes and the formation of galaxies
Black holes are areas with such strong gravity that not even light can escape. They form when stars collapse, leaving behind a black hole with dense mass that exerts gravitational force on the objects around it. Supermassive black holes have a mass of more than 1 million suns, and are thought to be at the center of all big galaxies.

One explanation for the supermassive black hole inside the ultra-compact dwarf galaxies is that the galaxies were once made up of billions of stars. The authors believe that the dwarfs were "swallowed up" and ripped apart by the gravity of much larger galaxies. The ultra-compact dwarf black hole is the remnant of its formerly massive size. The findings change the way that astronomers can piece together how galaxies form and evolve over time.

"We know that galaxies merge and combine all the time - that's how galaxies evolve. Our Milky Way is eating up galaxies as we speak," says Seth. "Our general picture of how galaxies form is that little galaxies merge to form big galaxies. But we have a really incomplete picture of that. The ultra-compact dwarf galaxies provide us a longer timeline to be able to look at what's happened in the past."

Research paper



Proton-nuclei smashups yield clues about 'quark gluon plasma'

‎Saturday, ‎April ‎15, ‎2017, ‏‎7:27:51 AMGo to full article
Houston TX (SPX) Apr 12, 2017 - Findings from Rice University physicists working at Europe's Large Hadron Collider (LHC) are providing new insight about an exotic state of matter called the "quark-gluon plasma" that occurs when protons and neutrons melt.

As the most powerful particle accelerator on Earth, the LHC is able to smash together the nuclei of atoms at nearly the speed of the light. The energy released in these collisions is vast and allows physicists to recreate the hot, dense conditions that existed in the early universe. Quark-gluon plasma, or QGP, is a high-energy soup of particles that's formed when protons and neutrons melt at temperatures approaching several trillion kelvins.

In a recent paper in Physical Review Letters written on behalf of more than 2,000 scientists working on the LHC's Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) experiment, Rice physicists Wei Li and Zhoudunming (Kong) Tu proposed a new approach for studying a characteristic magnetic property of QGP called the "chiral magnetic effect" (CME).

Their approach uses collisions between protons and lead nuclei. CME is an electromagnetic phenomenon that arises as a consequence of quantum mechanics and is also related to so-called topological phases of matter, an area of condensed matter physics that has drawn increased worldwide attention since capturing the Nobel Prize in physics in 2016.

"To find evidence for the chiral magnetic effect and thus topological phases in hot QGP matter has been a major goal in the field of high-energy nuclear physics for some time," Li said. "Early findings, although indicative of the CME, still remain inconclusive, mainly because of other background processes that are difficult to control and quantify."

QGP was first produced around 2000 at the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider in New York and later at the LHC in 2010. In those experiments, physicists smashed together two fast-moving lead nuclei, each of containing 82 protons and 126 neutrons, the two building blocks of all atomic nuclei.

Because the melting protons in these collisions each carries a positive electric charge, the QGPs from these experiments contained enormously strong magnetic fields, which are estimated to be about a trillion times stronger than the strongest magnetic field ever created in a laboratory.

The chiral magnetic effect is an exotic asymmetric electromagnetic effect that only arises due to the combination of quantum mechanics and the extreme physical conditions in a QGP. The laws of classical electrodynamics would forbid the existence of such a state, and indeed, Li's inspiration for the new experiments arose from thinking about the problem in classical terms.

"I was inspired by a problem in an undergraduate course I was teaching on classical electrodynamics," Li said.

Two years ago Li discovered that head-on collisions at LHC between a lead nucleus and a single proton created small amounts of particles that appeared to behave as a liquid. On closer analysis, he and colleagues at CMS found the collisions were creating small amounts of QGP.

In a 2015 Rice News report about the discovery, Rice alumnus Don Lincoln, a particle physicist and physics communicator at Fermilab, wrote, "This result was surprising because when the proton hits the lead nucleus, it punches a hole through much of the nucleus, like shooting a rifle at a watermelon (as opposed to colliding two lead nuclei, which is like slamming two watermelons together)."

Li said, "One unusual thing about the droplets of QGP created in proton-lead collisions is the configuration of their magnetic fields. The QGP is formed near the center of the initial lead nucleus, which makes it easy to tell that the strength of the magnetic field is rather negligible in comparison with the QGP created in lead-lead collisions. As a result, proton-lead collisions provide us a means to switch off the magnetic field - and the CME signal - in a QGP in a well-controlled way."

In the new paper, Li, Tu and their CMS colleagues showed evidence from proton-lead collision data that helps shed light on the electromagnetic behaviors that arise from the chiral magnetic effect in lead-lead QGPs.

Li said more details still need to be worked out before a definitive conclusion can be drawn, but he said the results bode well for future QGP discoveries at the LHC.

"This is just a first step in a new avenue opened up by proton-nucleus collisions for the search of exotic topological phases in QGP," Li said. "We are working hard on accumulating more data and performing a series of new studies. Hopefully, in coming years, we will see the first direct evidence for the chiral magnetic effect."

Research paper



The inner lives of molecules

‎Saturday, ‎April ‎15, ‎2017, ‏‎7:27:51 AMGo to full article
Washington DC (SPX) Apr 06, 2017 - Quantum mechanics rules. It dictates how particles and forces interact, and thus how atoms and molecules work - for example, what happens when a molecule goes from a higher-energy state to a lower-energy one. But beyond the simplest molecules, the details become very complex.

"Quantum mechanics describes how all this stuff works," said Paul Hockett of the National Research Council of Canada. "But as soon as you go beyond the two-body problem, you can't solve the equations." So, physicists must rely on computer simulations and experiments.

Now, he and an international team of researchers from Canada, the U.K. and Germany have developed a new experimental technique to take 3-D images of molecules in action. This tool, he said, can help scientists better understand the quantum mechanics underlying bigger and more complex molecules.

The new method, described in The Journal of Chemical Physics, from AIP Publishing, combines two technologies. The first is a camera developed at Oxford University, called the Pixel-Imaging Mass Spectrometry (PImMS) camera. The second is a femtosecond vacuum ultraviolet light source built at the NRC femtolabs in Ottawa.

Mass spectrometry is a method used to identify unknown compounds and to probe the structure of molecules. In most types of mass spectrometry, a molecule is fragmented into atoms and smaller molecules that are then separated by molecular weight. In time-of-flight mass spectrometry, for example, an electric field accelerates the fragmented molecule. The speed of those fragments depends on their mass and charge, so to weigh them, you measure how long it takes for them to hit the detector.

Most conventional imaging detectors, however, can't discern exactly when one particular particle hits. To measure timing, researchers must use methods that effectively act as shutters, which let particles through over a short time period. Knowing when the shutter is open gives the time-of-flight information. But this method can only measure particles of the same mass, corresponding to the short time the shutter is open.

The PImMS camera, on the other hand, can measure particles of multiple masses all at once. Each pixel of the camera's detector can time when a particle strikes it. That timing information produces a three-dimensional map of the particles' velocities, providing a detailed 3-D image of the fragmentation pattern of the molecule.

To probe molecules, the researchers used this camera with a femtosecond vacuum ultraviolet laser. A laser pulse excites the molecule into a higher-energy state, and just as the molecule starts its quantum mechanical evolution - after a few dozen femtoseconds --another pulse is fired. The molecule absorbs a single photon, a process that causes it to fall apart. The PImMS camera then snaps a 3-D picture of the molecular debris.

By firing a laser pulse at later and later times at excited molecules, the researchers can use the PImMS camera to take snapshots of molecules at various stages while they fall into lower energy states. The result is a series of 3-D blow-by-blow images of a molecule changing states.

The researchers tested their approach on a molecule called C2F3I. Although a relatively small molecule, it fragmented into five different products in their experiments. The data and analysis software is available online as part of an open science initiative, and although the results are preliminary, Hockett said, the experiments demonstrate the power of this technique.

"It's effectively an enabling technology to actually do these types of experiments at all," Hockett said. It only takes a few hours to collect the kind of data that would take a few days using conventional methods, allowing for experiments with larger molecules that were previously impossible.

Then researchers can better answer questions like: How does quantum mechanics work in larger, more complex systems? How do excited molecules behave and how do they evolve?

"People have been trying to understand these things since the 1920s," Hockett said. "It's still a very open field of investigation, research, and debate because molecules are really complicated. We have to keep trying to understand them."

The article, "Time-resolved multi-mass ion imaging: femtosecond UV-VUV pump-probe spectroscopy with the PImMS camera," is authored by Ruaridh Forbes, Varun Suresh Makhija, Kevin Veyrinas, Albert Stolow, Jason Lee, Michael B. Burt, Mark Brouard, Claire Vallance, Iain Wilkinson, Rune Lausten and Paul Hockett. The article will appear in The Journal of Chemical Physics April 4, 2017 (DOI: 10.1063/1.4978923).



Potential new applications stem from controlling particles' spin configurations

‎Saturday, ‎April ‎15, ‎2017, ‏‎7:27:51 AMGo to full article
Washington DC (SPX) Apr 13, 2017 - Fermions are ubiquitous elementary particles. They span from electrons in metals, to protons and neutrons in nuclei and to quarks at the sub-nuclear level. Further, they possess an intrinsic degree of freedom called spin with only two possible configurations, either up or down.

In a new study published in EPJ B, theoretical physicists explore the possibility of separately controlling the up and down spin populations of a group of interacting fermions. Their detailed theory describing the spin population imbalance could be relevant, for instance, to the field of spintronics, which exploits polarised spin populations.

Imbalanced Fermi particle mixtures occur in matter like, for example, semiconductors placed in a magnetic field, in nuclear matter, and in the plasma of neutron stars, which combines the elementary sub-particles quarks and gluons.

Pierbiagio Pieri and Giancarlo Calvanese Strinati from the University of Camerino, Italy, focused on an interacting fermion system where the up and down spin populations are imbalanced.

They extended the proof of a theorem that was originally conceived for the exact theory of a Fermi liquid with equal populations of up and down spin, called the Luttinger theorem, to these imbalanced systems.

Previous experimental observations involved separately controlling the number of fermions with a given spin, leading to free movement with no viscosity in the gas particles, reaching a superfluid state.

The work by Wolfgang Ketterle and his group at MIT, USA, in 2008, also demonstrated that the difference between two spin populations can be made so large that superfluidity is destroyed and the system remains normal even at zero temperature.

In turn, this latest theoretical work introduces a constraint that is key to numerical calculations for such large quantum many-body systems, namely that the radii of the two Fermi spheres, which characterise the non-interacting systems of spin-up and spin-down fermions, are separately preserved when the interaction between the spin-up and spin-down fermions is initiated.

P. Pieri and G. C. Strinati (2017), Luttinger theorem and imbalanced Fermi systems, Eur. Phys. J. B 90:68, DOI 10.1140/epjb/e2017-80071-2



Brightness of the universe with NASA's New Horizons spacecraft

‎Saturday, ‎April ‎15, ‎2017, ‏‎7:27:51 AMGo to full article
Rochester NY (SPX) Apr 12, 2017 - Images taken by NASA's New Horizons mission on its way to Pluto, and now the Kuiper Belt, have given scientists an unexpected tool for measuring the brightness of all the galaxies in the universe, said a Rochester Institute of Technology researcher in a paper published this week in Nature Communications.

In the study, "Measurement of the Cosmic Optical Background using the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager on New Horizons," lead author Michael Zemcov used archival data from the instrument onboard New Horizons - the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager, or LORRI - to measure visible light from other galaxies. The light shining beyond the Milky Way is known as the cosmic optical background. Zemcov's findings give an upper limit to the amount of light in the cosmic optical background.

"Determining how much light comes from all the galaxies beyond our own Milky Way galaxy has been a stubborn challenge in observational astrophysics," said Zemcov, assistant professor in RIT's School of Physics and Astronomy and member of RIT's Center for Detectors and Future Photon Initiative.

Light from the cosmic optical background can reveal the number and location of stars, how galaxies work and give insights into the peculiar nature of exotic physical processes, such as light that may be produced when dark matter decays. Dark matter is the invisible substance thought to comprise 85 percent of matter in the universe.

"This result shows some of the promise of doing astronomy from the outer solar system," Zemcov said. "What we're seeing is that the optical background is completely consistent with the light from galaxies and we don't see a need for a lot of extra brightness; whereas previous measurements from near the Earth need a lot of extra brightness. The study is proof that this kind of measurement is possible from the outer solar system, and that LORRI is capable of doing it."

Spacecraft in the outer solar system give scientists virtual front-row seats for observing the cosmic optical background. The faint light from distant galaxies is hard to see from the inner solar system because it is polluted by the brightness of sunlight reflected off interplanetary dust in the inner solar system.

Cosmic dust is sooty bits of rock and small debris that moved, over time, from the outer solar system toward the sun. Scientists launching experiments on sounding rockets and satellites must account for the dust that makes the Earth's atmosphere many times brighter than the cosmic optical background.

NASA's New Horizons mission has been funded through 2021, and Zemcov is hopeful for the chance to use Long Range Reconnaissance Imager to re-measure the brightness of the cosmic optical background.

"NASA sends missions to the outer solar system once a decade or so," Zemcov said. "What they send is typically going to planets and the instruments onboard are designed to look at them, not to do astrophysics. Measurements could be designed to optimize this technique while LORRI is still functioning."

Zemcov's method harkens back to NASA's first long distance missions Pioneer 10 and 11 in 1972 and 1974. Light detectors on the instruments measured the brightness of objects outside the Milky Way and made the first direct benchmark of the cosmic optical background.

"With a carefully designed survey, we should be able to produce a definitive measurement of the diffuse light in the local universe and a tight constraint on the light from galaxies in the optical wavebands," Zemcov said.

Archived data from New Horizon's Long Range Reconnaissance Imager show "the power of LORRI for precise low-foreground measurements of the cosmic optical background," Zemcov wrote in the paper.

Chi Nguyen, a Ph.D. student in RIT's astrophysical sciences and technology program, mined data sets from New Horizons' 2006 launch, Jupiter fly-by and cruise phase. She isolated four different spots on the sky between Jupiter and Uranus, captured in 2007, 2008 and 2010, that met their criteria: looking away from the solar system and looking out the galaxy.

Poppy Immel, an undergraduate majoring in math and computer science, generated the data cuts and determined the photometric calibration of the instrument. Other co-authors include Asantha Cooray from University of California Irvine; Carey Lisee from Johns Hopkins University; and Andrew Poppe from UC Berkeley. Zemcov is affiliated with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Research paper



Super sensitive devices work on recycling atoms

‎Saturday, ‎April ‎15, ‎2017, ‏‎7:27:51 AMGo to full article
Brisbane, Australia (SPX) Apr 13, 2017 - Next-generation sensors to be used in fields as diverse as mineral exploration and climate change will be turbo boosted thanks to University of Queensland and University of Sussex research.

Theoretical physicist Dr Stuart Szigeti, of UQ's School of Mathematics and Physics, said future precision sensing technology would exploit unusual effects of quantum mechanics.

"Our research showed a way to recycle atoms and reuse them in a device called an atom interferometer," Dr Szigeti said.

"This technique will vastly improve the performance of these devices, leading to improved sensing technology.

"An atom interferometer uses the quantum 'wave-like' nature of atoms in order to make very precise measurements of accelerations, rotations, and gravitational fields"

Dr Szigeti, who works within one of five nodes of the Australian Research Council Centre for Engineered Quantum Systems, said the devices would have applications on land and sea.

"They can be used in mineral exploration, allowing us to more easily locate mineral reserves underground, and in hydrology, allowing us to track the movement of water across the planet as we monitor the effects of climate change," he said.

"They'll also be important in navigation."

Dr Simon Haine, from the University of Sussex, said the development of precise atom interferometers had been hampered by an effect known as quantum noise, which was uncertainty in a quantum system signal.

"Quantum noise can be combatted with a property of quantum mechanics known as 'entanglement'," he said.

"Proof-of-principle experiments have recently shown how to generate entanglement within atom interferometers, and have used this to alleviate the effects of quantum noise.

"However, this comes at a cost, as in the process of creating entanglement, most of the atoms are wasted, which hinders the performance of these devices.

"Our project has found a way to harvest and recycle these atoms to improve the sensitivity of ultra-precise measurement devices."

The research, involving Dr Szigeti, Dr Haine and colleague Dr Robert Lewis-Swan from UQ, has been published in Physical Review Letters.



Physicists discover hidden aspects of electrodynamics

‎Saturday, ‎April ‎15, ‎2017, ‏‎7:27:51 AMGo to full article
Baton Rouge LA (SPX) Apr 12, 2017 - Radio waves, microwaves and even light itself are all made of electric and magnetic fields. The classical theory of electromagnetism was completed in the 1860s by James Clerk Maxwell. At the time, Maxwell's theory was revolutionary, and provided a unified framework to understand electricity, magnetism and optics.

Now, new research led by LSU Department of Physics and Astronomy Assistant Professor Ivan Agullo, with colleagues from the Universidad de Valencia, Spain, advances knowledge of this theory. Their recent discoveries have been published in Physical Review Letters.

Maxwell's theory displays a remarkable feature: it remains unaltered under the interchange of the electric and magnetic fields, when charges and currents are not present. This symmetry is called the electric-magnetic duality.

However, while electric charges exist, magnetic charges have never been observed in nature. If magnetic charges do not exist, the symmetry also cannot exist. This mystery has motivated physicists to search for magnetic charges, or magnetic monopoles. However, no one has been successful. Agullo and his colleagues may have discovered why.

"Gravity spoils the symmetry regardless of whether magnetic monopoles exist or not. This is shocking. The bottom line is that the symmetry cannot exist in our universe at the fundamental level because gravity is everywhere," Agullo said.

Gravity, together with quantum effects, disrupts the electric-magnetic duality or symmetry of the electromagnetic field.

Agullo and his colleagues discovered this by looking at previous theories that illustrate this phenomenon among other types of particles in the universe, called fermions, and applied it to photons in electromagnetic fields.

"We have been able to write the theory of the electromagnetic field in a way that very much resembles the theory of fermions, and prove this absence of symmetry by using powerful techniques that were developed for fermions," he said.

This new discovery challenges assumptions that could impact other research including the study of the birth of the universe.

The Big Bang
Satellites collect data from the radiation emitted from the Big Bang, which is called the Cosmic Microwave Background, or CMB. This radiation contains valuable information about the history of the universe.

"By measuring the CMB, we get precise information on how the Big Bang happened," Agullo said.

Scientists analyzing this data have assumed that the polarization of photons in the CMB is not affected by the gravitational field in the universe, which is true only if electromagnetic symmetry exists.

However, since this new finding suggests that the symmetry does not exist at the fundamental level, the polarization of the CMB can change throughout cosmic evolution. Scientists may need to take this into consideration when analyzing the data. The focus of Agullo's current research is on how much this new effect is.

Research paper



The most accurate measurement of rare meson decay confirms modern physics

‎Saturday, ‎April ‎15, ‎2017, ‏‎7:27:51 AMGo to full article
Cracow, Poland (SPX) Apr 13, 2017 - All physical theories are to a greater or lesser extent, but always only simplified representations of reality and, as a consequence, have a specified range of applicability. Many scientists working on the LHCb experiment at CERN had hoped that the just achieved, exceptional accuracy in the measurement of the rare decay of the Bs0 meson would at last delineate the limits of the Standard Model, the current theory of the structure of matter, and reveal the first phenomena unknown to modern physics.

Meanwhile, the spectacular result of the latest analysis has only served to extend the range of applicability of the Model.

Mesons are unstable particles coming into being, among others, as a result of proton collisions in the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN near Geneva. Physicists are convinced that in some very rare decays of these particles processes can potentially occur that may lead science onto the trail of new physics, with the participation of previously unknown elementary particles. It should, then, be no surprise that scientists participating in the LHCb experiment at the LHC have for a long time been looking into one of these decays: the decay of the Bs0 meson into a muon and an anti-muon.

The most recent analysis, carried out for a much greater number of events than ever before, has achieved an accuracy that is exceptional for this kind of observation. The results show excellent agreement with the predictions of the Standard Model, the current theory of the constitution of matter.

"This result is a spectacular victory, only that it's slightly... pyrrhic. It is in fact one of the few cases where such great compliance of experimentation with theory, instead of being an occasion for rejoicing, slowly starts to lead to worry. Together with the improvement in the accuracy of measurement of the decays of Bs0 mesons we expected to see new phenomena, beyond the Standard Model, which we know with all certainly is not the ultimate theory.

But instead of enjoying the discovery of the harbinger of a scientific revolution, we have only shown that the model is more accurate than we originally thought," says Prof. Mariusz Witek from the Institute of Nuclear Physics of the Polish Academy of Sciences (IFJ PAN) in Cracow.

The Standard Model is a theoretical framework constructed in the 1970s to describe phenomena occurring in the world of elementary particles. In it, matter is formed of elementary particles from a group called fermions, including quarks (down, up, strange, charm, true and beauty) and leptons (electrons, muons, tauons and their associated neutrinos). In the Model, there are also particles of antimatter, associated with their respective particles of matter.

Intermediate bosons are responsible for carrying forces between fermions: photons are the carriers of electromagnetic forces, eight kinds of gluons are carriers of strong forces, and bosons W+, W- and Z0 are responsible for carrying weak forces. The Higgs boson recently discovered at the LHC gives particles mass (all of them except for gluons and photons).

Muons are elementary particles with characteristics similar to those of electrons, only around 200 times more massive. In turn, B mesons are unstable particles made up of two quarks: a beauty anti-quark and a down, up, strange or charm quark. The decay of the Bs0 meson into a muon and an anti-muon (endowed with positive electric charge) occurs extremely rarely.

In the analyzed period of operation of the LHCb detector there were hundreds of trillions of proton collisions, and during each of them whole cascades of further disintegrating secondary particles were recorded. With such a large number of events in a multi-stage selection process it was only possible to pick out a few cases of this decay. One of them can be viewed in 3D here

In its most recent analysis the LHCb experiment team took into account not only the first but also the second phase of operation of the LHC. The larger statistics helped achieve exceptional accuracy of the measurement of the decay of the beauty meson into a muon and anti-muon, of up to 7.8 standard deviations (commonly denoted by the Greek letter sigma). In practice, this means that the probability of registering a similar result by random fluctuation is less than one to over 323 trillion.

"The spectacular measurement of the decay of the beauty meson into a muon-anti-muon pair agrees with the predictions of the Standard Model with an accuracy of up to up to nine decimal places!" emphasizes Prof. Witek.

The Standard Model has emerged victorious from another confrontation with reality. Nevertheless, physicists are confident that this is not a perfect theory. This belief stems from a number of facts.

The Model does not take into account the existence of gravity, it does not explain the dominance of matter over antimatter in the contemporary universe, it offers no explanation of the nature of dark matter, it gives no answers as to the question of why fermions are composed of three groups called families. In addition, for the Standard Model to work, over 20 empirically chosen constants have to be entered into it, including the mass of each particle.

"The latest analysis significantly narrows down the values of the parameters that should be assumed by certain currently proposed extensions of the Standard Model, for example supersymmetric theories. They assume that each existing type of elementary particle has its own more massive counterpart - its superpartner. Now, as a result of the measurements, theorists dealing with supersymmetry have less and less possibility of adapting their theory to reality. Instead of coming closer, the new physics is again receding," concludes Prof. Witek.

Physicists do not intend, however, to give up their studies of the decay of the Bs0 meson into the muon and anti-muon pair. There is still a possibility that new physics actually works here, only that its effects are smaller than expected and continue to get lost in measurement errors.

Research paper: Measurement of the branching fraction and effective lifetime and search for decays



Peering into Black Holes Using an Earth-sized Telescope

‎Saturday, ‎April ‎15, ‎2017, ‏‎7:27:51 AMGo to full article
Amherst MA (SPX) Apr 10, 2017 - Turning the Earth into one giant telescope by coordinating observations from instruments arrayed around the world, teams of radio astronomers are aiming their telescopes for the next 10 days at the thin edge - also known as the event horizon - of the super massive black hole at the center of our galaxy, the closest such object to Earth.

One goal is to make the first images of the event horizon and to try to determine its mass, because this object "is the best lab we have to study the extreme physics out there," says astronomy research professor Gopal Narayanan at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

"These are the observations that will help us to sort through all the wild theories about black holes. And there are many wild theories," he adds. "With data from this project, we will understand things about black holes that we have never understood before." He and co-principal investigator, astronomer Neal Erickson, say creating the huge "Event Horizon Telescope" (EHT) has been a technological and logistical challenge.

The Large Millimeter Telescope (LMT), a joint project of UMass Amherst and Mexico's Instituto Nacional de Astrofisica, Optica y Electronica (INAOE), is the largest, most sensitive single-aperture millimeter-wavelength telescope in the world. It will coordinate with telescopes in Hawaii, Arizona, at the South Pole, in Chile and in Spain in a concerted observational campaign from April 5-14 to study the event horizon at the center of our galaxy.

Though the Milky Way galaxy's central black hole has a mass 4 million times that of our sun, it is 26,000 light years away, Narayanan points out. At that distance, the event horizon is so small it would require an Earth-sized telescope dish to image it. "That's like trying to image a grapefruit on the surface of the moon," he says.

For this challenge, hundreds of scientists in the EHT project created their tool with eight telescopes. Using Earth's rotation and aiming each telescope at the same object, over the course of many hours their sampled curves, combined, resemble the observational effect of one large instrument.

The strategy of combining several telescopes to create a simulated larger dish area, known as Very Long Baseline Interferometry (VLBI), is not new, Narayanan says. It has been in use for decades, but this is the first time millimeter-wave VLBI to be undertaken on such a massive scale.

He explains, "At the very heart of Einstein's general theory of relativity there is a notion that quantum mechanics and general relativity can be melded, that there is a grand, unified theory of fundamental concepts. The place to study that is at the event horizon of a black hole."

Narayanan adds that this research "illustrates that in all of physics, extreme limits are the most interesting. At these limits, you really figure out where things are breaking down, and it's where new discoveries are made."

Einstein's theory of general relativity predicts that there will be a shadowy circle around a black hole, and its shape will put "very important constraints" on its mass and its spin, the astronomer says. "These ideas have not been tested. The EHT aims to image the shadow to test predictions and to determine the mass and spin of black holes."

Another of the EHT's goals is to study the physics of accretion, the process by which a black hole's gravity pulls in nearby matter. The fallen material forms a flattened band of spinning matter around the event horizon called the accretion disk. EHT scientists also want to understand the genesis and behavior of large plasma jets launched from the central black hole of most galaxies.

Another intriguing idea that may be explored in this experiment is the so-called "information paradox." This phenomenon is Stephen Hawking's prediction that matter falling into a black hole cannot be lost beyond the known universe, that it must somehow leak back in.

UMass Amherst astronomy professor Peter Schloerb, director of Five College Radio Astronomy observatories and one of the LMT's principal investigators, says that since the LMT joined the EHT group it has become "one of the most valuable telescopes" in the array and a vital part of the mission. With its central geographical location at 15,000 feet on Volcan Sierra Negra in Mexico, and its large aperture, the LMT is pivotal to EHT success. EHT is funded by the participating telescopes and the U.S. National Science Foundation and led by professor Shep Doeleman at Harvard University.

During the campaign that began this week, the EHT will also image the super-massive black hole in the center of Messier 87, a giant elliptical galaxy much farther away than the center of the Milky Way. But the black hole at the center of M87 is 6 billion times the mass of our sun, so the event horizon around it is larger, Narayanan explains.

David Hughes, LMT director, says, "The EHT presents an exciting opportunity for the LMT to play an important role in this international network of millimeter-wavelength telescopes. In the following days, the LMT will contribute to this experiment which can make a fundamental test of a prediction of Einstein's theory of general relativity under the most extreme physical conditions.

"All we can do now is point our telescope towards these super-massive black holes and wait to see if the EHT has detected for the first time the most convincing physical manifestation of a singularity in space, the black-hole shadow and its event-horizon."

Narayanan says the EHT project is especially valuable to students because it offers "precious, hands-on opportunities" at the LMT. UMass Amherst graduate student Aleks Popstefanija has been active in EHT campaigns there.

Narayanan says, "The LMT offers UMass Amherst students, grads and undergrads valuable training. Such facilities are few and far between and there is no better chance for learning. Our students will become the next generation of radio astronomers who will build the next generation of instruments, and use them to do new science. To be part of that mission is very exciting and very gratifying."



Scientists make progress on unravelling the puzzle of merging black holes

‎Saturday, ‎April ‎15, ‎2017, ‏‎7:27:51 AMGo to full article
Birmingham, UK (SPX) Apr 10, 2017 - Astrophysicists at the University of Birmingham have made progress in understanding a key mystery of gravitational-wave astrophysics: how two black holes can come together and merge.

During its first four months of taking data, Advanced LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory) detected gravitational waves from two mergers of pairs of black holes, GW150914 and GW151226, along with the statistically less significant black hole merger candidate LVT151012.

The first confirmed detection of gravitational waves occurred on September 14 2015 at 5.51am Eastern Daylight Time by both of the twin LIGO detectors, located in Livingston, Louisiana, and Hanford, Washington, USA. It confirmed a major prediction of Albert Einstein's 1915 general theory of relativity and opened an unprecedented new window onto the cosmos. However, we still do not know how such pairs of merging black holes form.

A new paper, published in Nature Communications, describes the results of an investigation into the formation of gravitational-wave sources with a newly developed toolkit named COMPAS (Compact Object Mergers: Population Astrophysics and Statistics).

In order for the black holes to merge within the age of the Universe by emitting gravitational waves, they must start out very close together by astronomical standards, no more than about a fifth of the distance between the Earth and the Sun. However, massive stars, which are the progenitors of the black holes that LIGO has observed, expand to be much larger than this in the course of their evolution. The key challenge, then, is how to fit such large stars within a very small orbit. Several possible scenarios have been proposed to address this.

The Birmingham astrophysicists, joined by collaborator Professor Selma de Mink from the University of Amsterdam, have shown that all three observed events can be formed via the same formation channel: isolated binary evolution via a common-envelope phase. In this channel, two massive progenitor stars start out at quite wide separations.

The stars interact as they expand, engaging in several episodes of mass transfer. The latest of these is typically a common envelope - a very rapid, dynamically unstable mass transfer that envelops both stellar cores in a dense cloud of hydrogen gas. Ejecting this gas from the system takes energy away from the orbit.

This brings the two stars sufficiently close together for gravitational-wave emission to be efficient, right at the time when they are small enough that such closeness will no longer put them into contact. The whole process takes a few million years to form two black holes, with a possible subsequent delay of billions of years before the black holes merge and form a single black hole.

The simulations have also helped the team to understand the typical properties of the stars that can go on to form such pairs of merging black holes and the environments where this can happen. For example, the team concluded that a merger of two black holes with significantly unequal masses would be a strong indication that the stars formed almost entirely from hydrogen and helium, with other elements contributing fewer than 0.1% of stellar matter (for comparison, this fraction is about 2% in the Sun).

First author Simon Stevenson, a PhD student at the University of Birmingham, explained: "The beauty of COMPAS is that it allows us to combine all of our observations and start piecing together the puzzle of how these black holes merge, sending these ripples in spacetime that we were able to observe at LIGO."

Senior author Professor Ilya Mandel added: "This work makes it possible to pursue a kind of 'palaeontology' for gravitational waves. A palaeontologist, who has never seen a living dinosaur, can figure out how the dinosaur looked and lived from its skeletal remains. In a similar way, we can analyse the mergers of black holes, and use these observations to figure out how those stars interacted during their brief but intense lives."

Senior author Professor Ilya Mandel added: "This work makes it possible to pursue a kind of 'palaeontology' for gravitational waves. A palaeontologist, who has never seen a living dinosaur, can figure out how the dinosaur looked and lived from its skeletal remains. In a similar way, we can analyse the mergers of black holes, and use these observations to figure out how those stars interacted during their brief but intense lives."

Research paper



Seeing Black Holes and Beyond

‎Saturday, ‎April ‎15, ‎2017, ‏‎7:27:51 AMGo to full article
Boston MA (SPX) Apr 06, 2017 - Through an international effort led by MIT Haystack Observatory, the ALMA array in Chile has joined a global network of radio telescopes. A powerful new array of radio telescopes is being deployed for the first time this week, as the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) in Chile joins a global network of antennas poised to make some of the highest resolution images that astronomers have ever obtained. The improved level of detail is equivalent to being able to count the stitches on a baseball from 8,000 miles away.

Scientists at MIT and other institutions are using a method called VLBI (Very Long Baseline Interferometry) to link a group of radio telescopes spread across the globe into what is, in effect, a telescope the size of our planet. Although the technique of VLBI is not new, scientists have just recently begun extending it to millimeter wavelengths to achieve a further boost in resolving power. And now, the addition of ALMA to global VLBI arrays is providing an unprecedented leap in VLBI capabilities.

The inclusion of ALMA was recently made possible through the ALMA Phasing Project (APP), an international effort led by the MIT Haystack Observatory in Westford, Massachusetts, and principal investigator Sheperd Doeleman, now at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

Before this project, the ALMA dishes worked with each other to make observations as a single array; now, the APP has achieved the synchronizing, or "phasing," of up to 61 ALMA antennas to function as a single, highly sensitive radio antenna - the most antennas ever phased together.

To achieve this, the APP team developed custom software and installed several new hardware components at ALMA, including a hydrogen maser (a type of ultraprecise atomic clock), a set of very-high-speed data reformatters, and a fiber optic system for transporting an 8 gigabyte-per-second data stream to four ultrafast data recorders (the Haystack-designed Mark6).

The culmination of these efforts is an order-of-magnitude increase in the sensitivity of the world's millimeter VLBI networks, and a dramatic boost in their ability to create detailed images of sources that previously appeared as mere points of light.

"A great many people have worked very hard over the past several years to make this dream a reality," says Geoff Crew, software lead for the APP. "ALMA VLBI is truly going to be transformative for our science."

One of the goals of these new technological innovations is to image a black hole. This month, two international organizations are making observations that will allow scientists to construct such an image for the very first time. And the portrait they're attempting to capture is close to home: Sagittarius A* (Sgr A*), the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way.

So much data will be collected during the two observation periods that it's faster to fly them to Haystack than it would be to transmit them electronically. Petabytes of data will be flown from telescopes around the world to Haystack for correlation and processing before images of the black hole can be created.

Correlation, which registers the data from all participating telescopes to account for the different arrival times of the radio waves at each site, is done using a specialized bank of powerful computers. MIT Haystack is one of the few radio science facilities worldwide with the necessary technology and expertise to correlate this amount of data. Additional correlation for these sessions is being done at the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany.

Two observing sessions are taking place. The GMVA (Global mm-VLBI Array) session will observe a variety of sources at a wavelength of 3 millimeters, including Sgr A* and other active galactic nuclei, and the EHT (Event Horizon Telescope) session will observe Sgr A* as well as the supermassive black hole at the center of a nearby galaxy, M87, at a wavelength of 1.3 millimeters. The EHT team includes researchers from MIT's Haystack Observatory and MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL), working with the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and many other organizations.

"Several factors make 1.3 mm the ideal observing wavelength for Sgr A*," according to APP project scientist Vincent Fish. "At longer observing wavelengths, the source would be blurred by free electrons between us and the galactic center, and we wouldn't have enough resolution to see the predicted black hole shadow. At shorter wavelengths, the Earth's atmosphere absorbs most of the signal."

The current observations are the first in a series of groundbreaking studies in VLBI and radio interferometry that will enable dramatic new scientific discoveries. Data from the newly phased ALMA array will also allow better imaging of other distant radio sources via improved data sampling, increased angular resolution, and eventually spectral-line VLBI - observations of emissions from specific elements and molecules.

"Phasing ALMA has opened whole new possibilities for ultra high-resolution science that will go far beyond the study of black holes," says Lynn Matthews, commissioning scientist for the APP. "For example, we expect to be able to make movies of the gas motions around stars that are still in the process of forming and map the outflows that occur from dying stars, both at a level of detail that has never been possible before."

The black hole images from the data gathered this month will take months to prepare; researchers expect to publish the first results in 2018.

The MIT Haystack Observatory team of scientists includes Geoff Crew, Vincent Fish, Michael Hecht, Lynn Matthews, Colin Lonsdale, and Sheperd Doeleman (now at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics).

The organizations of the APP are: MIT Haystack Observatory (lead organization), Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Joint ALMA Observatory (Chile), National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO), Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy (Germany), University of Concepcion (Chile), Academia Sinica Institute of Astronomy and Astrophysics (ASIAA; Taiwan), National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ), and Onsala Observatory (Sweden).

ALMA, an international astronomy facility, is a partnership of ESO, the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF), and the National Institutes of Natural Sciences (NINS) of Japan in cooperation with the Republic of Chile. ALMA is funded by ESO on behalf of its member states, by NSF in cooperation with the National Research Council (NRC) of Canada and the National Science Council (NSC) of Taiwan, and by NINS in cooperation with the Academia Sinica (AS) in Taiwan and the Korea Astronomy and Space Science Institute (KASI).

ALMA construction and operations are led by ESO on behalf of its member states; by the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO), managed by Associated Universities, Inc. (AUI), on behalf of North America; and by the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ) on behalf of East Asia. The Joint ALMA Observatory (JAO) provides the unified leadership and management of the construction, commissioning, and operation of ALMA.



Astrocytes keep time for brain, behavior

‎Wednesday, ‎March ‎29, ‎2017, ‏‎2:40:37 PMGo to full article
St. Louis MO (SPX) Mar 27, 2017 - Until recently, work on biological clocks that dictate daily fluctuations in most body functions, including core body temperature and alertness, focused on neurons, those electrically excitable cells that are the divas of the central nervous system.

Asked to define the body's master clock, biologists would say it is two small spheres - the suprachiasmatic nuclei, or SCN - in the brain that consist of 20,000 neurons. They likely wouldn't even mention the 6,000 astroglia mixed in with the neurons, said Erik Herzog, a neuroscientist in Arts and Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis. In a March 23 advance online publication from Current Biology, Herzog and his collaborators show that the astroglia help to set the pace of the SCN to schedule a mouse's day.

The astroglia, or astrocytes, were passed over in silence partly because they weren't considered to be important. Often called "support cells," they were supposed to be gap fillers or place holders. Their Latin name, after all, means "starry glue."

Then two things happened. Scientists discovered that almost all the cells in the body keep time, with a few exceptions such as stem cells. And they also began to realize that the astrocytes do a lot more than they had thought. Among other things, they secrete and slurp neurotransmitters and help neurons form strengthened synapses to consolidate what we've learned. In fact, scientists began to speak of the tripartite synapse, emphasizing the role of an astrocyte in the communication between two neurons.

So for a neuroscientist like Herzog, the obvious question was: What were the astrocytes doing in the SCN? Were they keeping time? And if they were keeping time, how did the astrocyte clocks interact with the neuron clocks?

Herzog answered the first question in 2005 - yes, astrocytes have daily clocks - but then the research got stuck. To figure out what the astrocytes were doing in living networks of cells and in living animals, the scientists had to be able to manipulate them independently of the neurons with which they are entwined. The tools to do this simply didn't exist.

Now, Herzog's graduate student Matt Tso, the first author on the paper, has solved the problem. The tools he devised allow astrocytes in the SCN to be independently controlled. Using his toolkit, the lab ran two experiments, altering the astrocyte clocks and monitoring the highly ritualized, daily behavior of wheel-running in mice.

The scientists were surprised by the results, to be published in the April 7 print issue of Current Biology. In both experiments, tweaks to the astrocyte clocks reliably slowed the mouse's sense of time. "We had no idea they would be that influential," Tso said.

The scientists are already planning follow-up experiments.

Figuring out how and where these clocks function in the brain and body is important because their influence is ubiquitous. For his part, Herzog is already looking at the connections between circadian rhythm and brain cancer, pre-term birth, manic depression and other diseases.

Astrocytes clock in
A biological clock is a series of interlocking reactions that act somewhat like a biochemical hourglass. An accumulating protein eventually shuts down its own production, much as the sand eventually drains from the top half of the hourglass. But then - through the magic of feedback loops - the biochemical hourglass, in effect, turns itself over and starts again.

At first, scientists were aware only of the clock in the SCN. If it is destroyed in an animal such as a rat, the rat will sleep for the same amount of time but in fits and starts instead of for long periods.

But then the genes that make up the biological clock began to be found in many different kinds of cells: lung, heart, liver, and sperm. Hair cells, by the way, prefer to grow in the evening.

So Herzog began to wonder about astrocytes in the SCN. Were they, too, keeping time?

To find out, he coupled a bioluminescent protein to a clock gene and then isolated astrocytes in a glass dish. He found that the astrocytes brightened and dimmed rhythmically, proof that they were keeping time.

The obvious next step was to look at the astrocytes not only in a glass dish but also in SCN slices and in living animals. But that turned out to be easier said than done. "We burned through two postdocs trying to get these experiments to work," Herzog said.

So it is a technical triumph that Tso was able to make the astrocytes light up when they were expressing clock genes and to add or delete clock genes in the astrocytes while leaving the neurons intact, Herzog said.

As a first step, collaborator Michihiro Mieda from Kanazawa University created a "conditional reporter" that switched on a firefly luciferase whenever a clock gene was being expressed in a cell of interest. Tso delivered the tiny switch to the astrocytes inside a virus.

In slices of a mouse SCN with this reporter in place, the scientists could see that the star-shaped cells were expressing the clock gene in a rhythmic pattern. This proved that astrocytes keep time in living tissue where they are interacting with one another and with neurons, as well as when they are isolated in a dish.

Next, the scientists used the new gene-editing tool CRISPR-Cas9 to delete a clock gene in only the astrocytes of the SCN of living mice. They then monitored the mice for changes in the time they started running on a wheel each day.

Running is an easily measured behavior that provides a reliable indication of the state of the underlying body clock. A mouse in constant darkness will start running on a wheel approximately every 23.7 hours, typically deviating by less than 10 minutes from this schedule.

"When we deleted the gene in the astrocytes, we had good reason to predict the rhythm would remain unchanged," Tso said. "When people deleted this clock gene in neurons, the animals completely lost rhythm, which suggests that the neurons are necessary to sustain a daily rhythm."

Instead, when astrocyte clock was deleted, the SCN clock ran slower. The mice climbed into their wheels one hour later than usual every day.

"This was quite a surprise," Tso said.

The results of the next experiment were even more exciting for them. The scientists began with a mouse that has a mutation making its clocks run fast and then "rescued" this mutation in astrocytes but not in neurons. This meant that the astrocyte clocks were running at the normal pace but the neuron clocks were still fast.

"We expected the SCN to follow the neurons' pace. There are 10 times more neurons in the SCN than astrocytes. Why would the behavior follow the astrocytes'? " Tso said.

But that is exactly what they did. The mice with the restored astrocyte clocks climbed into their wheels two hours later than mice whose astrocytes and neurons were both fast-paced.

The scientists don't know why the astrocytes are so important or how they are communicating with neurons. But their research adds to a body of work suggesting that astrocytes, far from being place holders or gap fillers, may actually be running the show. It wouldn't be the first time the power was behind rather than on the throne.

Research Report



Gravitational wave kicks monster black hole out of galactic core

‎Wednesday, ‎March ‎29, ‎2017, ‏‎2:40:37 PMGo to full article
Greenbelt MD (SPX) Mar 28, 2017 - Astronomers have uncovered a supermassive black hole that has been propelled out of the center of a distant galaxy by what could be the awesome power of gravitational waves. Though there have been several other suspected, similarly booted black holes elsewhere, none has been confirmed so far. Astronomers think this object, detected by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, is a very strong case. Weighing more than 1 billion suns, the rogue black hole is the most massive black hole ever detected to have been kicked out of its central home.

Researchers estimate that it took the equivalent energy of 100 million supernovas exploding simultaneously to jettison the black hole. The most plausible explanation for this propulsive energy is that the monster object was given a kick by gravitational waves unleashed by the merger of two hefty black holes at the center of the host galaxy.

First predicted by Albert Einstein, gravitational waves are ripples in space that are created when two massive objects collide. The ripples are similar to the concentric circles produced when a hefty rock is thrown into a pond. Last year, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) helped astronomers prove that gravitational waves exist by detecting them emanating from the union of two stellar-mass black holes, which are several times more massive than the sun.

Hubble's observations of the wayward black hole surprised the research team. "When I first saw this, I thought we were seeing something very peculiar," said team leader Marco Chiaberge of the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) and Johns Hopkins University, in Baltimore, Maryland.

"When we combined observations from Hubble, the Chandra X-ray Observatory, and the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, it all pointed towards the same scenario. The amount of data we collected, from X-rays to ultraviolet to near-infrared light, is definitely larger than for any of the other candidate rogue black holes."

Chiaberge's paper will appear in the March 30 issue of Astronomy and Astrophysics.

Hubble images taken in visible and near-infrared light provided the first clue that the galaxy was unusual. The images revealed a bright quasar, the energetic signature of a black hole, residing far from the galactic core. Black holes cannot be observed directly, but they are the energy source at the heart of quasars - intense, compact gushers of radiation that can outshine an entire galaxy.

The quasar, named 3C 186, and its host galaxy reside 8 billion light-years away in a galaxy cluster. The team discovered the galaxy's peculiar features while conducting a Hubble survey of distant galaxies unleashing powerful blasts of radiation in the throes of galaxy mergers.

"I was anticipating seeing a lot of merging galaxies, and I was expecting to see messy host galaxies around the quasars, but I wasn't really expecting to see a quasar that was clearly offset from the core of a regularly shaped galaxy," Chiaberge recalled. "Black holes reside in the center of galaxies, so it's unusual to see a quasar not in the center."

The team calculated the black hole's distance from the core by comparing the distribution of starlight in the host galaxy with that of a normal elliptical galaxy from a computer model. The black hole had traveled more than 35,000 light-years from the center, which is more than the distance between the sun and the center of the Milky Way.

Based on spectroscopic observations taken by Hubble and the Sloan survey, the researchers estimated the black hole's mass and measured the speed of gas trapped near the behemoth object. Spectroscopy divides light into its component colors, which can be used to measure velocities in space. "To our surprise, we discovered that the gas around the black hole was flying away from the galaxy's center at 4.7 million miles an hour," said team member Justin Ely of STScI. This measurement is also a gauge of the black hole's velocity, because the gas is gravitationally locked to the monster object.

The astronomers calculated that the black hole is moving so fast it would travel from Earth to the moon in three minutes. That's fast enough for the black hole to escape the galaxy in 20 million years and roam through the universe forever.

The Hubble image revealed an interesting clue that helped explain the black hole's wayward location. The host galaxy has faint arc-shaped features called tidal tails, produced by a gravitational tug between two colliding galaxies. This evidence suggests a possible union between the 3C 186 system and another galaxy, each with central, massive black holes that may have eventually merged.

Based on this visible evidence, along with theoretical work, the researchers developed a scenario to describe how the behemoth black hole could be expelled from its central home. According to their theory, two galaxies merge, and their black holes settle into the center of the newly formed elliptical galaxy. As the black holes whirl around each other, gravity waves are flung out like water from a lawn sprinkler.

The hefty objects move closer to each other over time as they radiate away gravitational energy. If the two black holes do not have the same mass and rotation rate, they emit gravitational waves more strongly along one direction. When the two black holes collide, they stop producing gravitational waves. The newly merged black hole then recoils in the opposite direction of the strongest gravitational waves and shoots off like a rocket.

The researchers are lucky to have caught this unique event because not every black-hole merger produces imbalanced gravitational waves that propel a black hole in the opposite direction. "This asymmetry depends on properties such as the mass and the relative orientation of the back holes' rotation axes before the merger," said team member Colin Norman of STScI and Johns Hopkins University. "That's why these objects are so rare."

An alternative explanation for the offset quasar, although unlikely, proposes that the bright object does not reside within the galaxy. Instead, the quasar is located behind the galaxy, but the Hubble image gives the illusion that it is at the same distance as the galaxy. If this were the case, the researchers should have detected a galaxy in the background hosting the quasar.

If the researchers' interpretation is correct, the observations may provide strong evidence that supermassive black holes can actually merge. Astronomers have evidence of black-hole collisions for stellar-mass black holes, but the process regulating supermassive black holes is more complex and not completely understood.

The team hopes to use Hubble again, in combination with the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) and other facilities, to more accurately measure the speed of the black hole and its gas disk, which may yield more insight into the nature of this bizarre object.



NIST physicists show ion pairs perform enhanced 'spooky action'

‎Wednesday, ‎March ‎29, ‎2017, ‏‎2:40:37 PMGo to full article
Washington DC (SPX) Mar 29, 2017 - Adding to strong recent demonstrations that particles of light perform what Einstein called "spooky action at a distance," in which two separated objects can have a connection that exceeds everyday experience, physicists at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have confirmed that particles of matter can act really spooky too.

The NIST team entangled a pair of beryllium ions (charged atoms) in a trap, thus linking their properties, and then separated the pair and performed one of a set of possible manipulations on each ion's properties before measuring them. Across thousands of runs, the pair's measurement outcomes in certain cases matched, or in other cases differed, more often than everyday experience would predict. These strong correlations are hallmarks of quantum entanglement.

What's more, statistical calculations found the ion pairs displayed a rare high level of spookiness.

"We are confident that the ions are 67 percent spooky," said Ting Rei Tan, lead author of a new Physical Review Letters paper about the experiments.

The experiments were "chained" Bell tests, meaning that they were constructed from a series of possible sets of manipulations on two ions. Unlike earlier experiments, these were enhanced Bell tests in which the number of possible manipulations for each ion was chosen randomly from sets of at least two and as many as 15 choices.

This method produces stronger statistical results than conventional Bell tests. That's because as the number of options grows for manipulating each ion, the chance automatically decreases that the ions are behaving by classical, or non-quantum, rules. According to classical rules, all objects must have definite "local" properties and can only influence each other at the speed of light or slower. Bell tests have been long used to show that through quantum physics, objects can break one or both of these rules, demonstrating spooky action.

Conventional Bell tests produce data that are a mixture of local and spooky action. Perfect chained Bell tests can, in theory, prove there is zero chance of local influence. The NIST results got down to a 33 percent chance of local influence - lower than conventional Bell tests can achieve, although not the lowest ever reported for a chained test, Tan said.

However, the NIST experiment broke new ground by closing two of three "loopholes" that could undermine the results, the only chained Bell test to do this using three or more options for manipulating material particles. The results are good enough to infer the high quality of the entangled states using minimal assumptions about the experiment - a rare achievement, Tan said.

Last year, a different group of NIST researchers and collaborators closed all three loopholes in conventional Bell tests with particles of light. The new ion experiments confirm again that spooky action is real.

"Actually, I believed in quantum mechanics before this experiment," Tan said with a chuckle. "Our motivation was we were trying to use this experiment to showcase how good our trapped ion quantum computing technology is, and what we can do with it."

The researchers used the same ion trap setup as in previous quantum computing experiments. With this apparatus, researchers use electrodes and lasers to perform all the basic steps needed for quantum computing, including preparing and measuring ions' quantum states; transporting ions between multiple trap zones; and creating stable quantum bits (qubits), qubit rotations, and reliable two-qubit logic operations. All these features were needed to conduct the chained Bell tests. Quantum computers are expected to one day solve problems that are currently intractable such as simulating superconductivity (the flow of electricity without resistance) and breaking today's most popular data encryption codes.

In NIST's chained Bell tests, the number of settings (options for different manipulations before measurement) ranged from two to 15. The manipulations acted on the ions' internal energy states called "spin up" or "spin down." The researchers used lasers to rotate the spins of the ions by specific angles before the final measurements.

Researchers performed several thousand runs for each setting and collected two data sets 6 months apart. The measurements determined the ions' spin states. There were four possible final results: (1) both ions spin up, (2) first ion spin up and second ion spin down, (3) first ion spin down and second ion spin up, or (4) both ions spin down. Researchers measured the states based on how much the ions fluoresced or scattered light - bright was spin up and dark was spin down.

The NIST experiment closed the detection and memory loopholes, which might otherwise allow ordinary classical systems to appear spooky.

The detection loophole is opened if detectors are inefficient and a subset of the data are used to represent the entire data set. The NIST tests closed this loophole because the fluorescence detection was near 100 percent efficient, and the measurement outcomes of every trial in each experiment were recorded and used to calculate results.

The memory loophole is opened if one assumes that the outcomes of the trials are identically distributed or there are no experimental drifts. Previous chained Bell tests have relied on this assumption, but the NIST test was able to drop it. The NIST team closed the memory loophole by performing thousands of extra trials over many hours with the set of six possible settings, using a randomly chosen setting for each trial and developing a more robust statistical analysis technique.

The NIST experiments did not close the locality loophole, which is open if it is possible for the choice of settings to be communicated between the ions. To close this loophole, one would need to separate the ions by such a large distance that communication between them would be impossible, even at light speed. In the NIST experiment, the ions had to be positioned close together (at most, 340 micrometers apart) to be entangled and subsequently measured, Tan explained.

Paper: T.R. Tan, Y. Wan, S. Erickson, P. Bierhorst, D. Kienzler, S. Glancy, E. Knill, D. Leibfried and D.J. Wineland. 2017. Chained Bell Inequality Experiment With High-Efficiency Measurements. Physical Review Letters. DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.118.130403



Finding the 'ghost particles' might be more challenging than what we thought

‎Wednesday, ‎March ‎29, ‎2017, ‏‎2:40:37 PMGo to full article
Seoul, South Korea (SPX) Mar 23, 2017 - Dubbed as "ghost particles," neutrinos have no electric charge and their masses are so tiny that they are difficult to observe. The sun, nuclear reactors, supernovae explosions create them, when their nuclei are going through a radioactive decay, known as beta decay. The Center for Underground Physics, within the Institute for Basic Science (IBS) led the Neutrino Experiment for Oscillation at Short Baseline (NEOS) to study the most elusive neutrinos, the so-called 'sterile neutrinos'. Their results are now available in the journal Physical Review Letters.

Neutrinos detected up to now come in three types, or flavors: electron neutrino, muon neutrino, and tau neutrino. Neutrinos can change from one type to another, through a phenomenon called neutrino oscillation. Interestingly, previous experiments measured these oscillations and found an anomaly in the data: the number of measured neutrinos is around 7% lower than the predicted value. Researchers have proposed that these disappearing neutrinos, transform into a fourth type of neutrinos, that is the sterile neutrinos.

The experiment took place inside the Hanbit Nuclear Power Plant in Yeonggwang (South Korea), a standard nuclear reactor that is expected to produces 5.1020 neutrinos per second, as by-products of the reaction that generates nuclear energy.

Firstly, the scientists had to overcome the problem of background signals present in the atmosphere, that could hinder the neutrino detection. One solution was to install the detector underground, as close as possible to the core of the reactor, where the beta decay reaction is taking place.

In this case, the neutrino detector was installed 24 meters from the core, in a structure called tendon gallery. The detector was protected by several layers of lead blocks, which shield the detector from gamma rays, and of borated polyethylene to block neutrons.

Scientists measured the number of electron neutrinos using a detector, which contains a called liquid scintillator, that produces a light signal when a neutrino interacts with it. They then compared their results with data obtained from other experiments and theoretical calculations.

In some cases NEOS results agreed with the previous data, but in other cases they differed. For example, the data show that there is an unexplained abundance of neutrinos with energy of 5 MeV (Mega-electron Volts), dubbed "the 5 MeV bump", much higher than the one predicted from theoretical models.

The experiment succeeded in measuring electron neutrinos with great precision and low background signals. However, sterile neutrinos were not detected and remain some of the most mysterious particles of our Universe. The results also show that it is necessary to set up new limits for the detection of sterile neutrinos, since the oscillations that convert electron neutrinos into sterile neutrinos are probably less than previously shown.

"These results do not mean that sterile neutrinos do not exist, but that they are more challenging to find than what was previously thought," explains OH Yoomin, one of the authors of this study.

Research paper



Giant magnetic fields in the universe

‎Wednesday, ‎March ‎29, ‎2017, ‏‎2:40:37 PMGo to full article
Bonn, Germany (SPX) Mar 23, 2017 - Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light-years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.

The results will be published on March 22 in the journal "Astronomy and Astrophysics."

Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light-years, i.e., 100 times the diameter of the Milky Way, they host a large number of such stellar systems, along with hot gas, magnetic fields, charged particles, embedded in large haloes of dark matter, the composition of which is unknown.

Collision of galaxy clusters leads to a shock compression of the hot cluster gas and of the magnetic fields. The resulting arc-like features are called "relics" and stand out by their radio and X-ray emission. Since their discovery in 1970 with a radio telescope near Cambridge, UK, relics were found in about 70 galaxy clusters so far, but many more are likely to exist. They are messengers of huge gas flows that continuously shape the structure of the universe.

Radio waves are excellent tracers of relics. The compression of magnetic fields orders the field lines, which also affects the emitted radio waves. More precisely, the emission becomes linearly polarized. This effect was detected in four galaxy clusters by a team of researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn (MPIfR), the Argelander Institute for Radio Astronomy at the University of Bonn (AIfA), the Thuringia State Observatory at Tautenburg (TLS), and colleagues in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.

They used the MPIfR's 100-m radio telescope near Bad Munstereifel-Effelsberg in the Eifel hills at wavelengths of 3 cm and 6 cm. Such short wavelengths are advantageous because the polarized emission is not diminished when passing through the galaxy cluster and our Milky Way. Fig.1 shows the most spectacular case.

Linearly polarized relics were found in the four galaxy clusters observed, in one case for the first time. The magnetic fields are of similar strength as in our Milky Way, while the measured degrees of polarization of up to 50% are exceptionally high, indicating that the emission originates in an extremely ordered magnetic field.

"We discovered the so far largest ordered magnetic fields in the universe, extending over 5-6 million light-years," says Maja Kierdorf from MPIfR Bonn, the project leader and first author of the publication. She also wrote her master thesis at Bonn University on this subject.

For this project, co-author Matthias Hoeft from TLS Tautenburg developed a method that permits to determine the "Mach number," i.e., the ratio of the relative velocity between the colliding gas clouds and the local sound speed, using the observed degree of polarization.

The resulting Mach numbers of about 2 tell us that the galaxy clusters collide with velocities of about 2,000 km/s, which is faster than previously derived from measurements of the X-ray emission.

The new Effelsberg telescope observations show that the polarization plane of the radio emission from the relics turns with wavelength.

This "Faraday rotation effect," named after the English physicist Michael Faraday, indicates that ordered magnetic fields also exist between the clusters and, together with hot gas, cause the rotation of the polarization plane. Such magnetic fields may be even larger than the clusters themselves.

"The Effelsberg radio telescope proved again to be an ideal instrument to detect magnetic fields in the universe," emphasizes co-author Rainer Beck from MPIfR who works on this topic for more than 40 years. "Now we can systematically search for ordered magnetic fields in galaxy clusters using polarized radio waves."

Research paper: "Relics in Galaxy Clusters at High Radio Frequencies," M. Kierdorf, R. Beck, M. Hoeft, U. Klein, R. J. van Weeren, W. R. Forman and C. Jones, 2017 Mar. 22, Astronomy and Astrophysics



Scientists evade the Heisenberg uncertainty principle

‎Wednesday, ‎March ‎29, ‎2017, ‏‎2:40:37 PMGo to full article
Madrid, Spain (SPX) Mar 23, 2017 - State-of-the-art sensors, such as MRIs and atomic clocks, are capable of making measurements with exquisite precision. MRI is used to image tissues deep within the human body and tells us whether we might suffer from an illness, while atomic clocks are extremely precise timekeepers used for GPS, internet synchronization, and long baseline interferometry in radio-astronomy. One might think these two instruments have nothing in common, but they do: both technologies are based on precise measurement the spin of the atom, the gyroscope-like motion of the electrons and the nucleus.

In MRI, for example, the pointing angle of the spin gives information about where in the body the atom is located, while the amount of spin (the amplitude) is used to distinguish different kinds of tissue. Combining these two pieces of information, the MRI can make a 3D map of the tissues in the body.

The sensitivity of this kind of measurement was long thought to be limited by Heisenberg's uncertainty principle, which states that accurately measuring one property of an atom puts a limit to the precision of measurement you can obtain on another property. For example, if we measure an electron's position with high precision, Heisenberg's principle limits the accuracy in the measurement of its momentum.

Since most atomic instruments measure two properties (spin amplitude and angle), the principle seems to say that the readings will always contain some quantum uncertainty. This long-standing expectation has now been disproven, however, by ICFO researchers Dr. Giorgio Colangelo, Ferran Martin Ciurana, Lorena C. Bianchet and Dr. Robert J. Sewell, led by ICREA Prof. at ICFO Morgan W. Mitchell.

In their article "Simultaneous tracking of spin angle and amplitude beyond classical limits", published this week in Nature, they describe how a properly designed instrument can almost completely avoid quantum uncertainty.

The trick is to realize that the spin has not one but two pointing angles, one for the north-east-south-west direction, and the other for the elevation above the horizon. The ICFO team showed how to put nearly all of the uncertainty into the angle that is not measured by the instrument.

In this way they still obeyed Heisenberg's requirement for uncertainty, but hid the uncertainty where it can do no harm. As a result, they were able to obtain an angle-amplitude measurement of unprecedented precision, unbothered by quantum uncertainty.

Prof. Mitchell uses a solid analogy to state that "To scientists, the uncertainty principle is very frustrating - we'd like to know everything, but Heisenberg says we can't. In this case, though, we found a way to know everything that matters to us. It's like the Rolling Stones song: you can't always get what you want / but if you try sometimes you just might find / you get what you need."

In their study, the ICFO team cooled down a cloud of atoms to a few micro-degrees Kelvin, applied a magnetic field to produce spin motion as in MRI, and illuminated the cloud with a
laser to measure the orientation of the atomic spins.

They observed that both the spin angle and uncertainty can be continuously monitored with a sensitivity beyond the previously expected limits, although still obeying the Heisenberg principle.

As for the challenges faced during the experiment, Colangelo comments that "in the first place, we had to develop a theoretical model to see if what we wanted to do was really possible.

Then, not all the technologies we used for the experiment existed when we started: among them, we had to design and develop a particular detector that was fast enough and with very low noise. We also had to improve a lot the way we were "preparing" the atoms and find a way to efficiently use all the dynamic range we had in the detector. It was a battle against the Dark Side of Quantum, but we won it!"

The results of the study are of paramount importance since this new technique shows that it is possible to obtain even more accurate measurements of atomic spins, opening a new path to the development of far more sensitive instruments and enabling the detection of signals, such as gravitational waves or brain activity, with unprecedented accuracy.



Futuristic clock prepared for space

‎Wednesday, ‎March ‎29, ‎2017, ‏‎2:40:37 PMGo to full article
Pasadena CA (JPL) Mar 23, 2017 - No one keeps time quite like NASA. Last month, the space agency's next-generation atomic clock was joined to the spacecraft that will take it into orbit in late 2017.

That instrument, the Deep Space Atomic Clock was developed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. On Feb. 17, JPL engineers monitored integration of the clock on to the Surrey Orbital Test Bed spacecraft at Surrey Satellite Technology in Englewood, Colorado.

Timekeeping plays a critical role in spacecraft navigation and will be especially important for future deep space missions. This clock will be smaller, lighter and magnitudes more precise than any atomic clock flown in space before.

Most spacecraft are tracked using "two-way" methods: the ground-based antenna 'pings' the spacecraft and waits for the signal to return. By measuring how long the signal takes to travel, the distance to the spacecraft can be calculated. A navigation team then processes this information to determine the spacecraft's flight path and determine if any course corrections are required.

The clock enables "one-way" tracking, where the spacecraft doesn't need to send the signal back to Earth. The tracking measurements could be taken onboard and processed with a spacecraft-based navigation system to determine the path and whether any maneuvers are needed to stay on course.

This will be a key advance for safely navigating future human exploration of the solar system by providing astronauts with their position and velocity when they need it. It will lighten the load on the antennas in NASA's Deep Space Network, allowing more spacecraft to be tracked with a single antenna.

The Deep Space Atomic Clock would also improve the precision and quantity of the radio data used by scientists for determining a planet's gravity field and probing its atmosphere.

The Deep Space Atomic Clock project is managed by JPL and funded by the Technology Demonstration Mission in NASA's Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD). STMD is responsible for developing the cross-cutting, pioneering, new technologies and capabilities needed by the agency to achieve its current and future missions.



Breaking the supermassive black hole speed limit

‎Wednesday, ‎March ‎29, ‎2017, ‏‎2:40:37 PMGo to full article
Los Alamos NM (SPX) Mar 23, 2017 - A new computer simulation helps explain the existence of puzzling supermassive black holes observed in the early universe. The simulation is based on a computer code used to understand the coupling of radiation and certain materials.

"Supermassive black holes have a speed limit that governs how fast and how large they can grow," said Joseph Smidt of the Theoretical Design Division at Los Alamos National Laboratory, "The relatively recent discovery of supermassive black holes in the early development of the universe raised a fundamental question, how did they get so big so fast?"

Using computer codes developed at Los Alamos for modeling the interaction of matter and radiation related to the Lab's stockpile stewardship mission, Smidt and colleagues created a simulation of collapsing stars that resulted in supermassive black holes forming in less time than expected, cosmologically speaking, in the first billion years of the universe.

"It turns out that while supermassive black holes have a growth speed limit, certain types of massive stars do not," said Smidt. "We asked, what if we could find a place where stars could grow much faster, perhaps to the size of many thousands of suns; could they form supermassive black holes in less time?"

It turns out the Los Alamos computer model not only confirms the possibility of speedy supermassive black hole formation, but also fits many other phenomena of black holes that are routinely observed by astrophysicists.

The research shows that the simulated supermassive black holes are also interacting with galaxies in the same way that is observed in nature, including star formation rates, galaxy density profiles, and thermal and ionization rates in gasses.

"This was largely unexpected," said Smidt. "I thought this idea of growing a massive star in a special configuration and forming a black hole with the right kind of masses was something we could approximate, but to see the black hole inducing star formation and driving the dynamics in ways that we've observed in nature was really icing on the cake."

A key mission area at Los Alamos National Laboratory is understanding how radiation interacts with certain materials. Because supermassive black holes produce huge quantities of hot radiation, their behavior helps test computer codes designed to model the coupling of radiation and matter. The codes are used, along with large- and small-scale experiments, to assure the safety, security, and effectiveness of the U.S. nuclear deterrent.

"We've gotten to a point at Los Alamos," said Smidt, "with the computer codes we're using, the physics understanding, and the supercomputing facilities, that we can do detailed calculations that replicate some of the forces driving the evolution of the Universe."

Research paper



Does the universe have a rest frame?

‎Wednesday, ‎March ‎29, ‎2017, ‏‎2:40:37 PMGo to full article
Washington DC (SPX) Mar 23, 2017 - Physics is sometimes closer to philosophy when it comes to understanding the universe. Donald Chang from Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, China, attempts to elucidate whether the universe has a resting frame. The results have recently been published in EPJ Plus.

To answer this tricky question, he has developed an experiment to precisely evaluate particle mass. This is designed to test the special theory of relativity that assumes the absence of a rest frame, otherwise it would be possible to determine which inertial frame is stationary and which frame is moving.

This assumption, however, appears to diverge from the standard model of cosmology, which assumes that what we see as a vacuum is not an empty space. The assumption is that the energy of our universe comes from the quantum fluctuation in the vacuum.

In a famous experiment conducted by Michelson and Morley in the late 19th century, the propagation of light was proved to be independent of the movement of the laboratory system.

Einstein, his Special Theory of Relativity, inferred that the physical laws governing the propagation of light are equivalent in all inertial frames--this was later extended to all physics laws not just optics.

In this study, the author set out to precisely measure the masses of two charged particles moving in opposite directions.

The conventional thinking assumes that the inertial frame applies equally to both particles. If that's the case, no detectable mass difference between these two particles is likely to arise.

However, if the contrary is true, and there is a rest frame in the universe, the author expects to see mass difference that is dependent on the orientation of the laboratory frame.

This proposed experiment partially inspired by the Michelson and Morley experiments can be conducted using existing experimental techniques. For simplicity, an electron can be used as the charged particle in the experiment.

D. C. Chang (2017), Is there a rest frame in the universe? A proposed experimental test based on a precise measurement of particle mass, Eur. Phys. J. Plus 132:140, DOI 10.1140/epjp/i2017-11402-4



NASA's swift mission maps a star's 'death spiral' into a Black Hole

‎Wednesday, ‎March ‎29, ‎2017, ‏‎2:40:37 PMGo to full article
Greenbelt MD (SPX) Mar 21, 2017 - Some 290 million years ago, a star much like the sun wandered too close to the central black hole of its galaxy. Intense tides tore the star apart, which produced an eruption of optical, ultraviolet and X-ray light that first reached Earth in 2014. Now, a team of scientists using observations from NASA's Swift satellite have mapped out how and where these different wavelengths were produced in the event, named ASASSN-14li, as the shattered star's debris circled the black hole.

"We discovered brightness changes in X-rays that occurred about a month after similar changes were observed in visible and UV light," said Dheeraj Pasham, an astrophysicist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and the lead researcher of the study. "We think this means the optical and UV emission arose far from the black hole, where elliptical streams of orbiting matter crashed into each other."

Astronomers think ASASSN-14li was produced when a sun-like star wandered too close to a 3-million-solar-mass black hole similar to the one at the center of our own galaxy. For comparison, the event horizon of a black hole like this is about 13 times bigger than the sun, and the accretion disk formed by the disrupted star could extend to more than twice Earth's distance from the sun.

When a star passes too close to a black hole with 10,000 or more times the sun's mass, tidal forces outstrip the star's own gravity, converting the star into a stream of debris.

Astronomers call this a tidal disruption event. Matter falling toward a black hole collects into a spinning accretion disk, where it becomes compressed and heated before eventually spilling over the black hole's event horizon, the point beyond which nothing can escape and astronomers cannot observe. Tidal disruption flares carry important information about how this debris initially settles into an accretion disk.

Astronomers know the X-ray emission in these flares arises very close to the black hole. But the location of optical and UV light was unclear, even puzzling. In some of the best-studied events, this emission seems to be located much farther than where the black hole's tides could shatter the star. Additionally, the gas emitting the light seemed to remain at steady temperatures for much longer than expected.

ASASSN-14li was discovered Nov. 22, 2014, in images obtained by the All Sky Automated Survey for SuperNovae (ASASSN), which includes robotic telescopes in Hawaii and Chile. Follow-up observations with Swift's X-ray and Ultraviolet/Optical telescopes began eight days later and continued every few days for the next nine months. The researchers supplemented later Swift observations with optical data from the Las Cumbres Observatory headquartered in Goleta, California.

In a paper describing the results published March 15 in The Astrophysical Journal Letters, Pasham, Cenko and their colleagues show how interactions among the infalling debris could create the observed optical and UV emission.

Tidal debris initially falls toward the black hole but overshoots, arcing back out along elliptical orbits and eventually colliding with the incoming stream.

"Returning clumps of debris strike the incoming stream, which results in shock waves that emit visible and ultraviolet light," said Goddard's Bradley Cenko, the acting Swift principal investigator and a member of the science team. "As these clumps fall down to the black hole, they also modulate the X-ray emission there."

Future observations of other tidal disruption events will be needed to further clarify the origin of optical and ultraviolet light.



Scientists identify a black hole choking on stardust

‎Friday, ‎March ‎24, ‎2017, ‏‎12:14:42 PMGo to full article
Boston MA (SPX) Mar 16, 2017 - Data suggest black holes swallow stellar debris in bursts. In the center of a distant galaxy, almost 300 million light years from Earth, scientists have discovered a supermassive black hole that is "choking" on a sudden influx of stellar debris.

In a paper published in Astrophysical Journal Letters, researchers from MIT, NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, and elsewhere report on a "tidal disruption flare" - a dramatic burst of electromagnetic activity that occurs when a black hole obliterates a nearby star. The flare was first discovered on Nov. 11, 2014, and scientists have since trained a variety of telescopes on the event to learn more about how black holes grow and evolve.

The MIT-led team looked through data collected by two different telescopes and identified a curious pattern in the energy emitted by the flare: As the obliterated star's dust fell into the black hole, the researchers observed small fluctuations in the optical and ultraviolet (UV) bands of the electromagnetic spectrum. This very same pattern repeated itself 32 days later, this time in the X-ray band.

The researchers used simulations of the event performed by others to infer that such energy "echoes" were produced from the following scenario: As a star migrated close to the black hole, it was quickly ripped apart by the black hole's gravitational energy.

The resulting stellar debris, swirling ever closer to the black hole, collided with itself, giving off bursts of optical and UV light at the collision sites. As it was pulled further in, the colliding debris heated up, producing X-ray flares, in the same pattern as the optical bursts, just before the debris fell into the black hole.

"In essence, this black hole has not had much to feed on for a while, and suddenly along comes an unlucky star full of matter," says Dheeraj Pasham, the paper's first author and a postdoc in MIT's Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research.

"What we're seeing is, this stellar material is not just continuously being fed onto the black hole, but it's interacting with itself - stopping and going, stopping and going. This is telling us that the black hole is 'choking' on this sudden supply of stellar debris."

Pasham's co-authors include MIT Kavli postdoc Aleksander Sadowski and researchers from NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, the University of Maryland, the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Columbia University, and Johns Hopkins University.

A "lucky" sighting
Pasham says tidal disruption flares are a potential window into the universe's many "hidden" black holes, which are not actively accreting, or feeding on material.

"Almost every massive galaxy contains a supermassive black hole," Pasham says. "But we won't know about them if they're sitting around doing nothing, unless there's an event like a tidal disruption flare."

Such flares occur when a star, migrating close to a black hole, gets pulled apart from the black hole's immense gravitational energy. This stellar obliteration can give off incredible bursts of energy all along the electromagnetic spectrum, from the radio band, through the optical and UV wavelengths, and on through the X-ray and high-energy gamma ray bands. As extreme as they are, tidal disruption flares are difficult to observe, as they happen infrequently.

"You'd have to stare at one galaxy for roughly 10,000 to 100,000 years to see a star getting disrupted by the black hole at the center," Pasham says.

Nevertheless, on Nov. 11, 2014, a global network of robotic telescopes named ASASSN (All Sky Automated Survey for SuperNovae) picked up signals of a possible tidal disruption flare from a galaxy 300 million light years away. Scientists quickly focused other telescopes on the event, including the X-ray telescope aboard NASA's Swift satellite, an orbiting spacecraft that scans the sky for bursts of extremely high energy.

"Only recently have telescopes started 'talking' to each other, and for this particular event we were lucky because a lot of people were ready for it," Pasham says. "It just resulted in a lot of data."

A light-on collision
With access to these data, Pasham and his colleagues wanted to solve a longstanding mystery: Where did a flare's bursts of light first arise? Using models of black hole dynamics, scientists have been able to estimate that as a black hole rips a star apart, the resulting tidal disruption flare can produce X-ray emissions very close to the black hole. But it's been difficult to pinpoint the origin of optical and UV emissions. Doing so would be an added step toward understanding what happens when a star gets disrupted.

"Supermassive black holes and their host galaxies grow in-situ," Pasham says. "Knowing exactly what happens in tidal disruption flares could help us understand this black hole and galaxy coevolution process."

The researchers studied the first 270 days following the detection of the tidal disruption flare, named ASASSN-14li. In particular, they analyzed X-ray and optical/UV data taken by the Swift satellite and the Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope. They identified fluctuations, or bursts, in the X-ray band - two broad peaks (one around day 50, and the other around day 110) followed by a short dip around day 80. They identified this very same pattern in the optical/UV data some 32 days earlier.

To explain these emission "echoes," the team ran simulations of a tidal disruption flare produced from a black hole obliterating a star. The researchers modeled the resulting accretion disc - an elliptical disc of stellar debris swirling around the black hole - along with its probable speed, radius, and rate of infall, or speed at which material falls onto the black hole.

From simulations run by others, the researchers conclude that the optical and UV bursts likely originated from the collision of stellar debris on the outer perimeter of the black hole.

As this colliding material circles closer into the black hole, it heats up, eventually giving off X-ray emissions, which can lag behind the optical emissions, similar to what the scientists observed in the data.

"For supermassive black holes steadily accreting, you wouldn't expect this choking to happen," Pasham says.

"The material around the black hole would be slowly rotating and losing some energy with each circular orbit. But that's not what's happening here. Because you have a lot of material falling onto the black hole, it's interacting with itself, falling in again, and interacting again. If there are more events in the future, maybe we can see if this is what happens for other tidal disruption flares."

This research was supported, in part, by NASA.



Radiation from nearby galaxies helped fuel first monster black holes

‎Friday, ‎March ‎24, ‎2017, ‏‎12:14:42 PMGo to full article
New York NY (SPX) Mar 15, 2017 - The appearance of supermassive black holes at the dawn of the universe has puzzled astronomers since their discovery more than a decade ago. A supermassive black hole is thought to form over billions of years, but more than two dozen of these behemoths have been sighted within 800 million years of the Big Bang 13.8 billion years ago.

In a new study in the journal Nature Astronomy, a team of researchers from Dublin City University, Columbia University, Georgia Tech, and the University of Helsinki, add evidence to one theory of how these ancient black holes, about a billion times heavier than our sun, may have formed and quickly put on weight.

In computer simulations, the researchers show that a black hole can rapidly grow at the center of its host galaxy if a nearby galaxy emits enough radiation to switch off its capacity to form stars. Thus disabled, the host galaxy grows until its eventual collapse, forming a black hole that feeds on the remaining gas, and later, dust, dying stars, and possibly other black holes, to become super gigantic.

"The collapse of the galaxy and the formation of a million-solar-mass black hole takes 100,000 years - a blip in cosmic time," says study co-author Zoltan Haiman, an astronomy professor at Columbia University. "A few hundred-million years later, it has grown into a billion-solar-mass supermassive black hole. This is much faster than we expected."

In the early universe, stars and galaxies formed as molecular hydrogen cooled and deflated a primordial plasma of hydrogen and helium. This environment would have limited black holes from growing very big as molecular hydrogen turned gas into stars far enough away to escape the black holes' gravitational pull. Astronomers have come up with several ways that supermassive black holes might have overcome this barrier.

In a 2008 study, Haiman and his colleagues hypothesized that radiation from a massive neighboring galaxy could split molecular hydrogen into atomic hydrogen and cause the nascent black hole and its host galaxy to collapse rather than spawn new clusters of stars.

A later study led by Eli Visbal, then a postdoctoral researcher at Columbia, calculated that the nearby galaxy would have to be at least 100 million times more massive than our sun to emit enough radiation to stop star-formation. Though relatively rare, enough galaxies of this size exist in the early universe to explain the supermassive black holes observed so far.

The current study, led by John Regan, a postdoctoral researcher at Ireland's Dublin City University, modeled the process using software developed by Columbia's Greg Bryan, and includes the effects of gravity, fluid dynamics, chemistry and radiation.

After several days of crunching the numbers on a supercomputer, the researchers found that the neighboring galaxy could be smaller and closer than previously estimated. "The nearby galaxy can't be too close, or too far away, and like the Goldilocks principle, too hot or too cold," said study coauthor John Wise, an associate astrophysics professor at Georgia Tech.

The current study, led by John Regan, a postdoctoral researcher at Ireland's Dublin City University, attempted to model the process. Using simulations to measure how radiation from one galaxy influenced black hole formation in the other, the researchers found that the neighboring galaxy could be smaller and closer than previously estimated.

"The nearby galaxy can't be too close, or too far away, and like the Goldilocks principle, too hot or too cold," said study coauthor John Wise, an associate astrophysics professor at Georgia Tech.

Though massive black holes are found at the center of most galaxies in the mature universe, including our own Milky Way, they are far less common in the infant universe. The earliest supermassive black holes were first sighted in 2001 through a telescope at New Mexico's Apache Point Observatory as part of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey.

The researchers hope to test their theory when NASA's James Webb Space Telescope, the successor to Hubble, goes online next year and beams back images from the early universe.

Other models of how these ancient behemoths evolved, including one in which black holes grow by merging with millions of smaller black holes and stars, await further testing. "Understanding how supermassive black holes form tells us how galaxies, including our own, form and evolve, and ultimately, tells us more about the universe in which we live," said Regan, at Dublin City University.

The study is titled, "Rapid formation of massive black holes in close proximity to embryonic protogalaxies." The other authors are Eli Visbal, now a postdoctoral researcher at the Simons Foundation Flatiron Institute, Peter Johansson, an astrophysics professor at the University of Helsinki, and Greg Bryan, an astronomy professor at Columbia and the Flatiron Institute.



The formation of supermassive black holes in the very early universe

‎Friday, ‎March ‎24, ‎2017, ‏‎12:14:42 PMGo to full article
Helsinki, Finland (SPX) Mar 15, 2017 - Observations in the past decade have demonstrated that extremely massive supermassive black holes were already in place when the Universe was less than 800 million years old. Supermassive black holes found at the centres of galaxies typically have masses of millions up to even billions of solar masses, whereas the black holes formed in the collapse of massive stars have masses around 5-20 solar masses.

"The observations of extremely massive black holes in the very early Universe are somewhat surprising, since it is not straightforward to grow the mass of black hole from tens up to billions of solar masses in the limited time available," says Associate Professor Peter Johansson from University of Helsinki, who has developed a new simulation model to describe in more detail the formation of supermassive black holes in the early Universe.

A black hole grows most effectively through the accretion of gas, but when the gas hurls towards the black hole it heats up strongly due to friction forces and the strong gravitational field. The resulting hot gas radiates strongly and some fraction of the radiation couples with the infalling gas exerting strong radiation pressure, preventing further gas infall.

Thus black holes cannot be force-fed, as too much accretion results in a strong burst of radiation that pushes back the infalling gas.

When very large gas clouds collapse directly to seed supermassive black holes

During the last years an alternative model for the formation of supermassive black holes in the early Universe has been developed. In this so called "Direct collapse black hole model" very large gas clouds with masses of 10 000 -100 000 solar masses collapse directly to seed supermassive black holes.

A prerequisite for this direct collapse is that the gas cooling is very inefficient, as otherwise the collapsing gas cloud would fragment and result in star formation. In the very early Universe the only way of cooling gas at low temperatures was by emission from molecular hydrogen.

An article titled "Rapid formation of massive black holes in close proximity to embryonic protogalaxies" published in the prestigious Nature Astronomy journal on March 13th, 2017, shows for the first time that the near simultaneous formation of two galaxies can lead to a situation in which the radiation from the first galaxy can destroy the molecular hydrogen in the second galaxy just at the right time.

"In this way a massive direct collapse black hole seed can form in the second galaxy, which can evolve rather quickly to a billion solar mass black hole by the time they are observed in the Universe," says Johansson.

The new simulation model describing the formation of supermassive black holes in the early Universe in more detail was developed at the University of Helsinki by Peter Johansson in close collaboration with Irish and American researchers.

Research paper



Streamlining the measurement of phonon dispersion

‎Friday, ‎March ‎24, ‎2017, ‏‎12:14:42 PMGo to full article
Washington DC (SPX) Mar 15, 2017 - As the interest in renewable energy and energy-efficient devices continues to grow, so has the scientific community's interest in discovering and designing new materials with desirable physical properties that could be used in solar cells or energy storage devices.

A key tool in this work is High Resolution Electron Energy Loss Spectroscopy (HREELS), which involves exposing a material to a beam of electrons of known kinetic energy. While the electrons lose energy when they bounce off atoms in the surface of the material, that energy loss can be measured and used to make important determinations about the material.

"Phonons, collective excitations that rule the movement of atoms within the crystal lattice of a solid, are a subject of particular interest for scientists because they affect physical properties such as a given material's capacity to conduct electricity or heat," explained Francois C. Bocquet, a physicist at the Forschungszentrum Julich, a scientific research center in Julich, Germany.

"These properties are important because they affect the suitability of a material for use in different applications."

"The challenge has been that it can be very time consuming for surface scientists using HREELS to measure phonons' dispersion or net loss of energy at all angles. Until now, it was only possible to measure one angle and one loss of energy at a time, so it could take more than a day to measure the dispersion.

"In fact, it could take as much as a week if you didn't happen to choose an appropriate kinetic energy for the electrons in the incoming beam because this impacts the intensity of the phonons and thus the ease with which they can be measured," Bocquet said.

To address these problems, Bocquet and his colleagues have adapted an instrument used for HREELS with new components so that the phonon dispersion of a given material can be measured in a matter of minutes. They describe their device this week in the journal Review of Scientific Instruments, from AIP Publishing.

"Our apparatus has two major components that allow us to improve the measurement of phonon dispersion," Bocquet said, whose research is also funded by the Initiative and Networking Fund of the Helmholtz Association.

"The first is a hemispherical electron analyzer, which has been used successfully for more than a decade in Angular-Resolved Photoelectron Spectroscopy. The second is a high energy-resolution electron source that was developed in house.

"It can be optimized with software that we created so that electrons of the incoming beam have the desired kinetic energy and are focused on a very small area on the sample that fits the field of view of the hemispherical electron analyzer."

The improved time frame for determining phonon dispersion has the added benefit of allowing surface scientists to address samples whose measurement was too cumbersome until now.

"Surface scientists typically work in vacuum conditions because the surfaces they study must be extremely clean and have no contaminants. Since no vacuum is ever perfect, however, they usually have to stop measuring a given sample after a few hours and prepare it again. Cutting down the time to measure dispersion means that it is now possible to measure samples that are difficult to prepare and short-lived," Bocquet said.

Bocquet and his colleagues intend to use their device to investigate materials related to graphene, a well-known substance that has attracted a lot of interest among scientists in the last decade. They are also eager to see what materials other surface scientists use it to study.

"There are so many interesting new materials being developed whose physical properties could be understood more deeply if we could measure their phonon dispersion," Bocquet said. "This information would help scientists and engineers to determine these materials' suitability for use in new devices that address pressing global challenges."

The article, "Electron energy loss spectroscopy with parallel readout of energy and momentum," is authored by Harald Ibach, Francois C. Bocquet, Jessica Sforzini, Serguei Soubatch and F. Stefan Tautz. The article appeared in Review of Scientific Instruments Tuesday, March 14, 2017 (DOI: 10.1063/1.49775290).



Hubble dates black hole's last big meal

‎Thursday, ‎March ‎16, ‎2017, ‏‎4:58:06 AMGo to full article
Greenbelt MD (SPX) Mar 13, 2017 - For the supermassive black hole at the center of our Milky Way galaxy, it's been a long time between dinners. NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has found that the black hole ate its last big meal about 6 million years ago, when it consumed a large clump of infalling gas. After the meal, the engorged black hole burped out a colossal bubble of gas weighing the equivalent of millions of suns, which now billows above and below our galaxy's center.

The immense structures, dubbed the Fermi Bubbles, were first discovered in 2010 by NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope. But recent Hubble observations of the northern bubble have helped astronomers determine a more accurate age for the bubbles and how they came to be.

"For the first time, we have traced the motion of cool gas throughout one of the bubbles, which allowed us to map the velocity of the gas and calculate when the bubbles formed," said lead researcher Rongmon Bordoloi of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge.

"What we find is that a very strong, energetic event happened 6 million to 9 million years ago. It may have been a cloud of gas flowing into the black hole, which fired off jets of matter, forming the twin lobes of hot gas seen in X-ray and gamma-ray observations. Ever since then, the black hole has just been eating snacks."

The new study is a follow-on to previous Hubble observations that placed the age of the bubbles at 2 million years old.

A black hole is a dense, compact region of space with a gravitational field so intense that neither matter nor light can escape. The supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy has compressed the mass of 4.5 million sun-like stars into a very small region of space.

Material that gets too close to a black hole is caught in its powerful gravity and swirls around the compact powerhouse until it eventually falls in. Some of the matter, however, gets so hot it escapes along the black hole's spin axis, creating an outflow that extends far above and below the plane of a galaxy.

The team's conclusions are based on observations by Hubble's Cosmic Origins Spectrograph (COS), which analyzed ultraviolet light from 47 distant quasars. Quasars are bright cores of distant active galaxies.

Imprinted on the quasars' light as it passes through the Milky Way bubble is information about the speed, composition, and temperature of the gas inside the expanding bubble.

The COS observations measured the temperature of the gas in the bubble at approximately 17,700 degrees Fahrenheit. Even at those sizzling temperatures, this gas is much cooler than most of the super-hot gas in the outflow, which is 18 million degrees Fahrenheit, seen in gamma rays.

The cooler gas seen by COS could be interstellar gas from our galaxy's disk that is being swept up and entrained into the super-hot outflow. COS also identified silicon and carbon as two of the elements being swept up in the gaseous cloud. These common elements are found in most galaxies and represent the fossil remnants of stellar evolution.

The cool gas is racing through the bubble at 2 million miles per hour. By mapping the motion of the gas throughout the structure, the astronomers estimated that the minimum mass of the entrained cool gas in both bubbles is equivalent to 2 million suns. The edge of the northern bubble extends 23,000 light-years above the galaxy.

"We have traced the outflows of other galaxies, but we have never been able to actually map the motion of the gas,"

Bordoloi said. "The only reason we could do it here is because we are inside the Milky Way. This vantage point gives us a front-row seat to map out the kinematic structure of the Milky Way outflow."

The new COS observations build and expand on the findings of a 2015 Hubble study by the same team, in which astronomers analyzed the light from one quasar that pierced the base of the bubble.

"The Hubble data open a whole new window on the Fermi Bubbles," said study co-author Andrew Fox of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Maryland. "Before, we knew how big they were and how much radiation they emitted; now we know how fast they are moving and which chemical elements they contain. That's an important step forward." The Hubble study also provides an independent verification of the bubbles and their origin, as detected by X-ray and gamma-ray observations.

"This observation would be almost impossible to do from the ground because you need ultraviolet spectroscopy to detect the fingerprints of these elements, which can only be done from space," Bordoloi said. "Only with COS do you have the wavelength coverage, the sensitivity, and the spectral resolution coverage to make this observation."

The Hubble results appeared in the January 10, 2017, edition of The Astrophysical Journal.



Magnetic fields at the crossroads

‎Thursday, ‎March ‎16, ‎2017, ‏‎4:58:06 AMGo to full article
Washington DC (SPX) Mar 09, 2017 - From compasses used in ancient overseas navigation to electrical motors, sensors, and actuators in cars, magnetic materials have been a mainstay throughout human history. In addition, almost all information that exists in contemporary society is recorded in magnetic media, like hard drive disks.

A team of researchers at the Brazilian Center for Physics Research is studying the motion of vortex domain walls - local regions of charge that collectively store information via their configuration - driven by magnetic fields in ferromagnetic nanowires, which are configured in a straight line with an asymmetric Y-like branch. They discuss their work in this week's Journal of Applied Physics.

The question posed by the group was: What happens to the vortex wall when it meets the branch? Does it changes it direction or not, or could it be split in two walls?

"To make a simplistic parallel, if we imagine that the vortex wall is a tornado and the tornado is running on a straight road and encounters a cross-road, what happens next; can it split into two tornados?" said Luiz Sampaio, a researcher at the Brazilian Center for Physics Research in Rio De Janeiro.

Generally speaking, magnetic fields can be used to change the magnetization of a magnetic material, much like a bar magnet can magnetize an otherwise nonmagnetic sewing needle, and can even reverse its magnetization completely in some cases.

The process involved in magnetization reversal sometimes exhibits the nucleation and movement of these domain walls, which constitute the transition between two regions of charge magnetized in different directions.

Domain wall motion has been widely explored in ferromagnetic nanowires due to their high potential for applications in spintronic devices, those that use the quantum spin properties of electrons.

The control and manipulation of these domain walls is crucial for successful realizing magnetic memory, logic and sensors devices. By modifying the nanowire geometry, scientists hope to acquire a higher control of the domain wall motion and set a route towards achieving reliability in switching magnetization in ferromagnetic nanowires. The team devised a study using two steps.

"First, we fabricated samples using electron-beam lithography, magnetron sputtering and lift-off techniques," said Sampaio. After the nanometer-scale fabrication, they then measured the switching magnetization behavior mediated by the domain wall propagation.

The second step was to carry out micromagnetic simulations to guide and interpret the experimental results. "These two tools allowed us to study in detail the processes of vortex domain walls at the branch entrance," he said.

Moving forward, the team wants to understand whether the angle between the nanowire and branch can increase the asymmetric behavior at the branch entrance. This would increase the likelihood of observing only one type of vortex domain wall, clockwise or counterclockwise. This will require varying the nanowire angles with the branch to select the vortex chirality.

Understanding the dynamical aspects of vortex domain walls opens a route to better control of their motion and trajectory. This may be important for producing logic gates, which can be based on the domain wall motion in line with such branches.

The magnetization in the branches can be oriented in two different directions along the nanowire axis, where each direction would serve as the "0" and "1" necessary for data storage and processing.

"To provide the reliability needed for these applications, a higher degree of control in the magnetization switching is required, but to enhance the efficiency of the processes involved in the magnetization switching, the vortex domain wall seems to be a promising candidate," said Sampaio.

"Trajectory and chirality of vortex domain walls in ferromagnetic nanowires with an asymmetric Y-branch," is authored by Jeovani Brandao, Alexandre M. Silva, F. Garcia and Luiz C. Sampaio. The article will appear in Journal of Applied Physics March 7, 2017 (DOI: 10.1063/1.4976967).



Researchers propose technique for measuring weak or nonexistent magnetic fields

‎Thursday, ‎March ‎16, ‎2017, ‏‎4:58:06 AMGo to full article
Ames IA (SPX) Mar 09, 2017 - Physicists at the University of Iowa have proposed a new technique to detect and measure materials that give off weak magnetic signals or have no magnetic field at all. Their solution would use a noninvasive probe to induce a magnetic response in the material being studied and then detect how that response changes the probe's own magnetic field.

The technique has many potential real-world applications, including yielding more sensitive magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machines, developing high-speed-storage memory in the semiconducting industry, and producing more efficient computer processing units (CPUs).

"This approach is designed to measure the situation where if you didn't have the probe nearby, you'd see nothing. There wouldn't be any magnetic fields at all," says Michael Flatte, physics and astronomy professor and senior author of the paper published in the journal Physical Review Letters. "It's only the probe itself that's causing the presence of the magnetic fields."

The probe does this by creating "magnetic moments" in materials that otherwise would emit a weak magnetic field or have no magnetic field at all. Magnetic moments occur when a group of electrons orient themselves in the same direction, much like tiny compass needles all pointing, say, north. That uniform orientation creates a tiny magnetic field. Iron, for example, produces a strong response because most of its electrons get oriented in the same direction when it encounters a magnetic force.

All it takes for the probe, which is just a few nanomaters in diameter, to create a magnetic moment is for two of its six electrons to snap to the same directional orientation. When that happens, the probe stimulates enough electrons in materials with weak or nonexistent magnetic fields to re-orient themselves, creating a magnetic moment in the material--or just enough of one--that the probe can detect. How the material's magnetic moment influences the probe's own magnetic field is measurable, which gives researchers the means to calculate the material's physical dimensions, such as its thickness.

"These electrons (in materials with weak or nonexistent magnetic fields) have their own field that acts back on the probe and distorts the probe (in a way) that you can then measure," says Flatte, director of the UI's Optical Science Technology Center.

This becomes important when trying to capture the dimensions of magnetic layers that are buried or sandwiched between nonmagnetic layers. Such situations arise when working with semiconductors and will increase as computer processing advances.

"We calculate the magnetic response, and from that we would know where the magnetic fields end and thus know the layer thickness," Flatte says.

The concept builds upon an emerging sampling approach called nitrogen-vacancy center magnetometry. This technique, which relies upon an introduced defect in a diamond's crystal structure (subbing in a nitrogen atom for two carbon atoms), is effective in part because the probe it uses (like the proposed UI probe) is made of diamond, which creates small magnetic moments key to detecting magnetic fields in the studied materials.

But there is a drawback: Nitrogen-vacancy center magnetometry only works with magnetized materials. That rules out superconductors, where the magnetic field ceases to exist at certain temperatures, and many other materials. Flatte and co-author Joost van Bree's proposed solution gets around that by using the probe to create a magnetic field that forces materials with weak or nonexistent magnetic fields to react to it.

"If you apply a magnetic field to a superconductor, it will attempt to cancel that magnetic field applied to it," Flatte says. "Even though it's doing that, it creates a magnetic field outside of itself that then affects the spin centers. That's what then can be detected."

Research paper



NASA Wants to Create the Coolest Spot in the Universe

‎Thursday, ‎March ‎16, ‎2017, ‏‎4:58:06 AMGo to full article
Pasadena CA (JPL) Mar 07, 2017 - This summer, an ice chest-sized box will fly to the International Space Station, where it will create the coolest spot in the universe. Inside that box, lasers, a vacuum chamber and an electromagnetic "knife" will be used to cancel out the energy of gas particles, slowing them until they're almost motionless. This suite of instruments is called the Cold Atom Laboratory (CAL), and was developed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. CAL is in the final stages of assembly at JPL, ahead of a ride to space this August on SpaceX CRS-12.

Its instruments are designed to freeze gas atoms to a mere billionth of a degree above absolute zero. That's more than 100 million times colder than the depths of space.

"Studying these hyper-cold atoms could reshape our understanding of matter and the fundamental nature of gravity," said CAL Project Scientist Robert Thompson of JPL. "The experiments we'll do with the Cold Atom Lab will give us insight into gravity and dark energy - some of the most pervasive forces in the universe."

When atoms are cooled to extreme temperatures, as they will be inside of CAL, they can form a distinct state of matter known as a Bose-Einstein condensate. In this state, familiar rules of physics recede and quantum physics begins to take over. Matter can be observed behaving less like particles and more like waves. Rows of atoms move in concert with one another as if they were riding a moving fabric. These mysterious waveforms have never been seen at temperatures as low as what CAL will achieve.

NASA has never before created or observed Bose-Einstein condensates in space. On Earth, the pull of gravity causes atoms to continually settle towards the ground, meaning they're typically only observable for fractions of a second.

But on the International Space Station, ultra-cold atoms can hold their wave-like forms longer while in freefall. That offers scientists a longer window to understand physics at its most basic level. Thompson estimated that CAL will allow Bose-Einstein condensates to be observable for up to five to 10 seconds; future development of the technologies used on CAL could allow them to last for hundreds of seconds.

Bose-Einstein condensates are a "superfluid" - a kind of fluid with zero viscosity, where atoms move without friction as if they were all one, solid substance.

"If you had superfluid water and spun it around in a glass, it would spin forever," said Anita Sengupta of JPL, Cold Atom Lab project manager. "There's no viscosity to slow it down and dissipate the kinetic energy. If we can better understand the physics of superfluids, we can possibly learn to use those for more efficient transfer of energy."

Five scientific teams plan to conduct experiments using the Cold Atom Lab. Among them is Eric Cornell of the University of Colorado, Boulder and the National Institute for Standards and Technology. Cornell is one of the Nobel Prize winners who first created Bose-Einstein condensates in a lab setting in 1995.

The results of these experiments could potentially lead to a number of improved technologies, including sensors, quantum computers and atomic clocks used in spacecraft navigation.

Especially exciting are applications related to dark energy detection, said Kamal Oudrhiri of JPL, the CAL deputy project manager. He noted that current models of cosmology divide the universe into roughly 27 percent dark matter, 68 percent dark energy and about 5 percent ordinary matter.

"This means that even with all of our current technologies, we are still blind to 95 percent of the universe," Oudrhiri said. "Like a new lens in Galileo's first telescope, the ultra-sensitive cold atoms in the Cold Atom Lab have the potential to unlock many mysteries beyond the frontiers of known physics."

The Cold Atom Lab is currently undergoing a testing phase that will prepare it prior to delivery to Cape Canaveral, Florida.

"The tests we do over the next months on the ground are critical to ensure we can operate and tune it remotely while it's in space, and ultimately learn from this rich atomic physics system for years to come," said Dave Aveline, the test-bed lead at JPL.

JPL is developing the Cold Atom Laboratory, sponsored by the International Space Station Program at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston.



OLYMPUS experiment sheds light on structure of protons

‎Thursday, ‎March ‎16, ‎2017, ‏‎4:58:06 AMGo to full article
Boston MA (SPX) Mar 07, 2017 - A mystery concerning the structure of protons is a step closer to being solved, thanks to a seven-year experiment led by researchers at MIT. For many years researchers have probed the structure of protons - subatomic particles with a positive charge - by bombarding them with electrons and examining the intensity of the scattered electrons at different angles.

In this way they have attempted to determine how the proton's electric charge and magnetization are distributed. These experiments had previously led researchers to assume that the electric and magnetic charge distributions are the same, and that one photon - an elementary particle of light - is exchanged when the protons interact with the bombarding electrons.

However, in the early 2000s, researchers began to carry out experiments using polarized electron beams, which measure electron-proton elastic scattering using the spin of the protons and electrons. These experiments revealed that the ratio of electric to magnetic charge distributions decreased dramatically with higher-energy interactions between the electrons and protons.

This led to the theory that not one but two photons were sometimes being exchanged during the interaction, causing the uneven charge distribution. What's more, the theory predicted that both of these particles would be so-called "hard," or high-energy photons.

In a bid to identify this "two-photon exchange," an international team led by researchers in the Laboratory for Nuclear Science at MIT carried out a seven-year experiment, known as OLYMPUS, at the German Electron Synchrotron (DESY) in Hamburg.

In a paper published this week in the journal Physical Review Letters, the researchers reveal the results of this experiment, which indicate that two photons are indeed exchanged during electron-proton interactions.

However, unlike the theoretical predictions, analysis of the OLYMPUS measurements suggests that, most of the time, only one of the photons has high energy, while the other must carry very little energy indeed, according to Richard Milner, a professor of physics and member of the Laboratory for Nuclear Science's Hadronic Physics Group, who led the experiment.

"We saw little if no evidence for a hard two-photon exchange," Milner says.

Having proposed the idea for the experiment in the late 2000s, the group was awarded funding in 2010.

The researchers had to disassemble the former BLAST spectrometer - a complex 125-cubic-meter-sized detector based at MIT - and transport it to Germany, where it was reassembled with some improvements. They then carried out the experiment over three months in 2012, before the particle accelerator at the laboratory was itself decommissioned and shut down at the end of that year.

The experiment, which was carried out at the same time as two others in the U.S. and Russia, involved bombarding the protons with both negatively charged electrons and positively charged positrons, and comparing the difference between the two interactions, according to Douglas Hasell, a principal research scientist in the Laboratory for Nuclear Science and the Hadronic Physics Group at MIT, and another of the paper's authors.

The process will produce a subtly different measurement depending on whether the protons are scattered by electrons or positrons, Hasell says. "If you see a difference (in the measurements), it would indicate that there is a two-photon effect that is significant."

The collisions were run for three months, and the resulting data took a further three years to analyze, Hasell says.

The difference between the theoretical and experimental results means further experiments may need to be carried out in the future, at even higher energies where the two-photon exchange effect is expected to be larger, Hasell says.

It may prove difficult to achieve the same level of precision reached in the OLYMPUS experiment, however.

"We ran the experiment for three months and produced very precise measurements," he says. "You would have to run for years to get the same level of precision, unless the performance (of the experiment) could be improved."

In the immediate future, the researchers plan to see how the theoretical physics community responds to the data, before deciding on their next step, Hasell says.

"It may be that they can make a small adjustment to a detail within their theoretical models to bring it all into agreement, and explain the data at both higher and lower energies," he says.

"Then it will be up to the experimentalists to check if that holds to be the case."

Hard Two-Photon Contribution to Elastic Lepton-Proton Scattering Determined by the OLYMPUS Experiment



Synchrotron sheds light on carbon chemistry at ocean surfaces

‎Thursday, ‎March ‎16, ‎2017, ‏‎4:58:06 AMGo to full article
Washington DC (SPX) Mar 09, 2017 - Nature's carbonate system, the dynamic chemistry involving carbon dioxide (CO2), carbonate (CO32-), bicarbonate (HCO3-), and carbonic acid (H2CO3), is a vital component of the biosphere. Carbonate, bicarbonate, and carbonic acid emerge when atmospheric carbon dioxide dissolves in the oceans, which is the largest sink for this greenhouse gas.

Researchers are interested in better understanding the carbonate system to potentially help facilitate carbon sequestration schemes, especially with carbon-bonding minerals, to help mitigate climate change. The carbonate system is also central to biological respiration systems, another reason why researchers are interested in this chemistry.

Recently, a group of chemists from the University of California, Berkeley teamed up with scientists at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) and made breakthrough discoveries about the carbonate species' behavior at saltwater surfaces, like that of the ocean. They report their findings this week in The Journal of Chemical Physics, from AIP Publishing.

According to one of the paper's authors, UC Berkeley chemistry professor Richard Saykally, a strong motivation for this research was understanding the chemical processes involved in carbon sequestration. They found that while neutral carbonic acid was most heavily present at the surface, as was expected, the more highly charged carbonate ion was more abundant than the weaker bicarbonate.

"We want to generally advance our understanding of the global carbon cycle," Saykally said. "The aspects of this cycle that we have been focusing on begin with carbon dioxide in the atmosphere dissolving into salt water, followed by some very interesting chemistry."

Carbon dioxide is captured by the water surface and hydrated to form carbonic acid or bicarbonate, which can then ionize into either bicarbonate or carbonate where carbonate may react with dissolved magnesium or calcium ions to form limestone.

"We want to know all those steps going from gaseous carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to limestone," Saykally said. "Our goal is to understand all the details in all the steps in that process."

UC Berkeley chemistry doctoral candidate Royce Lam, a co-author of the paper who led much of the research, wanted to build on earlier examinations of the hydration structure of carbonic system species, focusing on the relative abundances of carbonate species at the liquid surface.

Collaborating with LBNL's Dr. Hendrik Bluhm, Lam and co-authors made use of the ambient pressure photoemission spectroscopy (APPES) beamline (11.0.2) at the Advanced Light Source synchrotron at LBNL, to conduct X-ray photoemission spectroscopy (XPS) measurements - a way to probe the molecular makeup of materials using an intense beam of high-energy X-rays. The XPS system enabled them to probe different aspects of the carbonate system they could not access before.

"What is special about XPS is that it allows us to probe at different depths into the water surface," Lam said. "This is one of the few beamlines in the world that can do this class of experiments on liquids."

For samples, Lam combined solutions of the carbonate species and hydrochloric acid, which fortuitously resembled the ocean system. With a liquid microjet device, the researchers injected these samples into a vacuum chamber and probed them at multiple X-ray energies to deduce the relative abundances of the carbonate species from the photoemitted electrons.

At the liquid surface, both carbonate and carbonic acid were more abundant than biocarbonate. The most significant surprise was that the more highly charged carbonate was more abundant at the surface than the less charged bicarbonate, which conflicts with expectations from existing theoretical models.

This raises important question about where the bicarbonate could be moving in the system, with a possibility that the carbonate could be "ion pairing" with sodium, changing the chemistry, and causing bicarbonate to move to lower depths.

"We are still working on the theory and we hope that this paper will stimulate further theoretical discussion that may actually yield definitive insights about what is going on here," Lam said.

Lam hopes that this research will also lead to more direct research on carbon sequestration possibilities.

"So, the next step would be to look further into ion pairing, and essentially limestone or mineral formation, specifically, looking at the interaction of calcium and magnesium ions with carbonate," Lam said of one carbon sequestration possibility he discussed.

Saykally feels this research connects with the whole system of aqueous carbonate chemistry, with applications ranging from carbon sequestration to biomedical research.

"In order to achieve these kinds of advances, I believe you have to know every detail of the chemistry involved in all those steps of the water-carbonate system." Saykally said. "It is a very intricate chemistry with profound practical implications."

The article, "Reversed interfacial fractionation of carbonate and bicarbonate evidenced by X-ray photoemission spectroscopy," is authored by Royce K. Lam, Jacob Smith, Anthony Rizzuto, Osman Karsiliolu, Hendrik Bluhm and Richard J. Saykally. The article will appear in The Journal of Chemical Physics March 7,2017 (DOI: 10.1063/1.4977046).








Beyond Perception - DVD

by Chuck Missler  




PRICE R 159.00


Media Type: DVD
Published 20-Sep-2010
Published by Koinonia House
Why do scientists now believe we live in a 10-dimensional universe?

Has physics finally reached the very boundaries of reality?

There seems to be evidence to suggest that our world and everything in it are only ghostly images; projections from a level of reality so beyond our own that the real reality is literally beyond both space and time. The main architect of this astonishing idea is one of the world's most eminent thinkers- physicist David Bohm, a protege of Einstein's. Earlier, he noticed that, in plasmas, particles stopped behaving like individuals and started behaving as if they were part of a larger and inter connected whole. He continued his work in the behavior of oceans of these particles, noting their behaving as if they know what each on the untold trillions of individual particles were doing.

This briefing pack DVD comes with:
-two mp3 audio files
-one notes file in pdf format

This DVD includes notes in PDF format and MP3 files.

Encoding: This DVD will be viewable in other countries WITH the proper DVD player and television set.
Format: Color, Fullscreen
Aspect Ratio: 4:3
Audio Encoding: Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo
Run Time: 2 hour(s)
Number of discs: 1

The Beyond Collection 







Price R399.00

 The Collection Includes the 4 DVD'S below




DVD - R159.00



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If you purchase the 4 discs individually the price will be R636.00


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Genetics Research Confirms Biblical Timeline

Exciting research from the summer of 2012 described DNA variation in the protein coding regions of the human genome linked to population growth. One of the investigation's conclusions was that the human genome began to rapidly diversify not more than 5,000 years ago.1,2 This observation closely agrees with a biblical timeline of post-flood human diversification. Yet another study, this one published in the journal Nature, accessed even more extensive data and unintentionally confirmed the recent human history described in Genesis.3

Differences in human DNA can be characterized across populations and ethnic groups using a variety of techniques. One of the most informative genetic technologies in this regard is the analysis of rare DNA variation in the protein coding regions of the genome. Variability in these regions is less frequent than the more numerous genetic differences that occur in the non-coding regulatory regions. Researchers can statistically combine this information with demographic data derived from population growth across the world to generate time scales related to human genetic diversification.4

What makes this type of research unique is that evolutionary scientists typically incorporate hypothetical deep time scales taken from the authority of paleontologists or other similar deep-time scenarios to calibrate models of genetic change over time. Demographics-based studies using observed world population dynamics do not rely on this bias and are therefore more accurate and realistic.

In a 2012 Science report, geneticists analyzed DNA sequences of 15,585 protein-coding gene regions in the human genome for 1,351 European Americans and 1,088 African Americans for rare DNA variation.1,2 This new study accessed rare coding variation in 15,336 genes from over 6,500 humans—almost three times the amount of data compared to the first study.3 A separate group of researchers performed the new study.

The Nature results convey a second spectacular confirmation of the amazingly biblical conclusions from the first study. These scientists confirmed that the human genome began to rapidly diversify not more than 5,000 years ago. In addition, they found significant levels of  variation to be associated with degradation of the human genome, not forward evolutionary progress. This fits closely with research performed by Cornell University geneticist John Sanford who demonstrated through biologically realistic population genetic modeling that genomes actually devolve over time in a process called genetic entropy.5

According to the Bible, the pre-flood world population was reduced to Noah's three sons and their wives, creating a genetic bottleneck from which all humans descended. Immediately following the global flood event, we would expect to see a rapid diversification continuing up to the present. According to Scripture, this began not more than 5,000 years ago. We would also expect the human genome to devolve or degrade as it accumulates irreversible genetic errors over time. Now, two secular research papers confirm these biblical predictions.


  1. Tomkins, J. 2012. Human DNA Variation Linked to Biblical Event Timeline. Creation Science Update. Posted on icr.org July 23, 2012, accessed December 31, 2012.
  2. Tennessen, J. et al. 2012. Evolution and Functional Impact of Rare Coding Variation from Deep Sequencing of Human Exomes. Science. 337 (6090): 64-69.
  3. Fu, W, et al. Analysis of 6,515 exomes reveals the recent origin of most human protein-coding variants. Nature. Published online before print, July 13, 2012.
  4. Keinan, A and A. Clark. 2012. Recent Explosive Human Population Growth Has Resulted in an Excess of Rare Genetic Variants. Science. 336 (6082): 740-743.
  5. Sanford, J. C. 2008. Genetic Entropy and the Mystery of the Genome, 3rd ed. Waterloo, NY: FMS Publications.

* Dr. Tomkins is a Research Associate and received his Ph.D. in Genetics from Clemson University.



Puppies Provide Protection

‎Yesterday, ‎May ‎1, ‎2017, ‏‎10:00:00 AMGo to full article

Many people react with revulsion when a dog licks their face—especially babies. Such a reaction is justifiable based on the unsanitary habits of Rover. However, recent research supports the idea that babies actually benefit from living with dogs.



ICR's Discovery Center: Reaching New Generations

‎Wednesday, ‎April ‎26, ‎2017, ‏‎10:00:00 AMGo to full article

Last week, ICR broke ground on its new Discovery Center for Science and Earth History. Special speakers included Henry Morris III, Jason Lisle, Beck Director Kip Daniel, and Pastor Robert Jeffress. With cutting-edge technology, this center will showcase the scientific evidence that affirms the biblical account of origins.



High Frequency Mosquito Flight Shows Design

‎Monday, ‎April ‎24, ‎2017, ‏‎10:00:00 AMGo to full article

The fossil record shows that the amazing variety of insects has remained similar with no compelling evidence of insect evolution. Evolutionists state, “Recent research is causing zoologists to rethink their perceptions of arthropod phylogeny.”



ICR Breaks Ground for New Discovery Center

‎Friday, ‎April ‎21, ‎2017, ‏‎10:00:00 AMGo to full article

After more than 45 years of ministry, the Institute for Creation Research just dug into its biggest project yet! On April 21, 2017, ICR held the groundbreaking ceremony for the long-awaited Discovery Center for Science and Earth History.



Lowly Plankton Packs High-Caliber Heat

‎Thursday, ‎April ‎20, ‎2017, ‏‎10:00:00 AMGo to full article

Plankton is the general name for the tiny creatures that drift with ocean tides and currents and form the basis of the ocean’s food chain. One particular group of plankton is called dinoflagellates. Recently, these were discovered to possess an amazing hunting mechanism that acts like a Gatling gun.



Amber-Encased Blood Cells Look Fresh

‎Monday, ‎April ‎17, ‎2017, ‏‎10:00:00 AMGo to full article

Looking for the clearest amber on Earth? A new study shows that Dominican Republic amber is clear enough to see what's inside. Apparently, ancient parasitic protozoans loved to live inside intact red blood cells.



Advanced Visualization Study Shows Fetuses Feel Pain

‎Thursday, ‎April ‎13, ‎2017, ‏‎10:00:00 AMGo to full article

A new study demonstrates that adult-like nervous system patterns exist throughout the early stages of human development, even in the hands and feet. These results add to the increasing evidence that aborted babies experience severe traumatic pain during all stages of pregnancy.



New Study Confirms Harmful Role of Mutations

‎Monday, ‎April ‎10, ‎2017, ‏‎10:00:00 AMGo to full article

The traditional evolutionary model states that organisms evolve by random mutations. These mutations somehow provide new genetic information leading to novel traits that can be selected upon by the environment. Now, a new study shows mutations that commonly arise during cell division are not only unhelpful, but instead are highly correlated with cancer.




Improved Steel Copies Bone Microstructure

‎Yesterday, ‎April ‎6, ‎2017, ‏‎10:00:00 AMGo to full article

How does one build a structural material that withstands stress and fracture? The answer is to copy optimal designs from living systems because they far exceed man's ingenuity. Recently, an improved steel was developed by copying human bones.



Mutation Underlies Fatal Heart Condition

‎Monday, ‎April ‎3, ‎2017, ‏‎10:00:00 AMGo to full article

A 15-year-long project finally bore fruit after researchers painstakingly identified a specific gene mutation that can lead to sudden heart failure in otherwise healthy-looking young people. These newly published results counter the long-standing view that mutations can somehow drive evolutionary innovation.



Stunning Protein Fossils Confirm the Flood

‎Yesterday, ‎March ‎31, ‎2017, ‏‎10:00:00 AMGo to full article

A lready in 2017, secular scientists have described some stunning original biochemicals in fossil bones. Two new finds reignite vigorous debate over the nature of the protein remnants—are they true organic remains, some form of contamination, the result of a strange preservation process, or what? As in the past, researchers totally leapfrog a neat, tidy, Bible-friendly conclusion.





Biblical Creation Confirmed [Podcast]

‎Yesterday, ‎March ‎29, ‎2017, ‏‎10:00:00 AMGo to full article

How can Christians confidently defend biblical creation in an increasingly skeptical culture? What creation evidence does our own solar system display? ICR astrophysicist Dr. Jason Lisle answers these questions and more, sharing several logical arguments that confirm biblical creation.




That's a Fact: Global Flood

‎Yesterday, ‎March ‎23, ‎2017, ‏‎10:00:00 AMGo to full article

The book of Genesis describes a catastrophic worldwide Flood. Is there any evidence that floodwaters covered the entire Earth?




Where Are the Royal Archives at Tel Hazor?

‎Yesterday, ‎March ‎23, ‎2017, ‏‎3:11:29 PM | Marek DospělGo to full article


“Joshua […] took Hazor and struck its king down with the sword. Before that time, Hazor was the head of all those kingdoms. […] Israel burned none of the towns that stood on mounds except Hazor, which Joshua did burn.”—Joshua 11:10–13

It was only natural that the expressive Biblical account of Joshua’s conquest of Canaan guided the earliest archaeological investigations in the Land of Israel. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, archaeologists turned their attention to Jericho, Lachish (then identified with Tell el-Hesi), ‘Ai and Bethel, all of which were reportedly conquered in the latter part of the 13th century B.C.E. by the invading Israelites. None of these cities, however, was as prominent as Hazor, whose king headed the northern coalition of Canaanite kings.

The Biblical Book of Joshua and historical documents from the second millennium B.C.E. picture the northern Canaanite city-state of Hazor as the most important urban center in the Southern Levant. The Late Bronze Age city of Hazor—located on a mound seven miles north of the Sea of Galilee—boasted an impressive acropolis with temple and palace buildings as well as a lower city spread out below the tell. One major discovery remains elusive, however: Where are Hazor’s cuneiform archives? Tel Hazor field co-director Shlomit Bechar describes the search for the archives in “How to Find the Hazor Archives (I Think)” in the March/April 2017 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review.


This bird’s-eye view of the so-called Administrative Palace in the Canaanite city of Hazor shows impressive stone walls, but also traces of violent devastation. Photo: Courtesy of Shlomit Bechar.

Sometime in the second half of the 13th century B.C.E., a sudden ruin fell upon the city, leaving behind massive destruction layers. Archaeology provides us with tangible evidence of a violent conflagration: the heat must have been excessive, as it cracked the basalt slabs lining the walls, melted clay vessels and turned mudbricks into glass. Most scholars now eliminate the Egyptians, the Sea Peoples and the rival Canaanite city-states as suspects, accepting the claim expressed in the opening quote from the Book of Joshua that it was the Israelites who destroyed Hazor in the course of their ultimate conquest of Canaan.

As the point where three of the world’s major religions converge, Israel’s history is one of the richest and most complex in the world. Sift through the archaeology and history of this ancient land in the free eBook Israel: An Archaeological Journey, and get a view of these significant Biblical sites through an archaeologist’s lens.

tel-hazor-mapA Canaanite city of such importance, argue archaeologists further, must have harbored an extensive archive of documents. The late Yigael Yadin, who excavated Tel Hazor in the 1950s and 1960s and was a great proponent of the conquest theory of the Israelite settlement of Canaan, was first to suggest the existence of an archive of cuneiform tablets at Tel Hazor. In fact, he expected two archives—one from the Middle Bronze Age (2000–1550 B.C.E.), the other from the Late Bronze Age (1550–1200 B.C.E.).


Upon joining the resumed excavations at Tel Hazor in the early 2000s, Sharon Zuckerman of the Institute of Archaeology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem refined Yadin’s argument, focusing on the Late Bronze Age archive. Zuckerman even suggested a specific location within the Canaanite city where she expected an archive of cuneiform tablets dating to the period just before the alleged conquest of Canaan by the Israelites.

During the past ten excavation seasons—even after Zuckerman’s untimely passing in 2014—archaeological works at Tel Hazor, headed now by Amnon Ben-Tor, have been focused on the suggested location. It lies just south of the so-called Podium Complex at the entrance to the acropolis of the late Canaanite city of Hazor and has been identified as the administrative palace of the king.

So far, no archive has been discovered, but archaeologists are confident that it is just a matter of time before their long-held hopes come true. To be sure, a royal archive of a prominent Canaanite city-state would greatly expand our knowledge of the Levantine societies in the final stages of the Bronze Age.

Hazor: Canaanite Metropolis, Israelite City, a popular summary of 30 excavation seasons by long-time Hazor dig director Amnon Ben-Tor, discover ancient Hazor’s remarkable history.

Two kinds of archaeological finds from Tel Hazor deserve mentioning here in support of the enthusiastic expectations: isolated discoveries of cuneiform clay tablets and numerous fragments of Egyptian statuary.


To this day, 18 cuneiform tablets have been recovered from within the Canaanite city. The latest two pieces come from secure archaeological contexts, meaning they were found in their original position during a controlled excavation. They represent a legal document concerning a slave rental and a text for divination (see images below).


Cuneiform tablets discovered so far at Tel Hazor include a legal document (left) that parallels in time and topic the famous Law Code of Hammurabi of Babylon. Inscribed in Akkadian and dating also before the conquest of Canaan, a cuneiform tablet (right) bears a religious text used in divination. Photo: Courtesy of Shlomit Bechar.

Similarly promising are 18 fragments of Egyptian statues found across the site—sharing the fate of the local, Canaanite cultic shrines and figurines deliberately smashed into pieces, which might signal iconoclastic motivations that would fit well with the assumed identity of the conquerors as the worshipers of Yahweh. Two of the latest finds from Tel Hazor are particularly intriguing in that they represent the only monumental Egyptian statues found so far in second millennium contexts in the whole of Levant. Strangely enough, one of them represents King Menkaure, who ruled Egypt in the late 26th century B.C.E.—well before anything is known about the settlement at Tel Hazor. It is also the only known representation of the king as a sphinx (human-headed, reclining lion). The other statue belongs to a priest of the Egyptian god Ptah (see image below).


Fragmented statue of Nebpu, an Egyptian priest of Ptah in Memphis, with its discoverers. Its base is inscribed with hieroglyphs and the statue originally stood about 5 feet tall. How and when did the statue come to Tel Hazor? Photo: Shlomit Bechar.

For a detailed discussion of the leads and clues in the search for a cuneiform tablets archive in the Canaanite city of Hazor, read Shlomit Bechar’s article “How to Find the Hazor Archives (I Think)” in the March/April 2017 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review.




BAS Library Members: Read the full article “How to Find the Hazor Archives (I Think)” in the March/April 2017 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review.

Not a BAS Library member yet? Join the BAS Library today.



More on Tel Hazor in Bible History Daily:

Hazor Excavations’ Amnon Ben-Tor Reveals Who Conquered Biblical Canaanites

Rare Egyptian Sphinx Fragment Discovered at Hazor

Scorched Wheat May Provide Answers on the Destruction of Canaanite Tel Hazor



More on Tel Hazor in the BAS Library:

Sharon Zuckerman, “Where Is the Hazor Archive Buried?” Biblical Archaeology Review, March/April 2006.

Amnon Ben-Tor, “Who Destroyed Canaanite Hazor?” Biblical Archaeology Review, July/August 2013.

Amnon Ben-Tor, “Excavating Hazor, Part One: Solomon’s City Rises from the Ashes,” Biblical Archaeology Review, March/April 1999.

Amnon Ben-Tor and Maria Teresa Rubiato, “Excavating Hazor, Part Two: Did the Israelites Destroy the Canaanite City?” Biblical Archaeology Review, May/June 1999.



The post Where Are the Royal Archives at Tel Hazor? appeared first on Biblical Archaeology Society.


Ancient Rock Art Shines Light on “Dark” Period

‎Wednesday, ‎March ‎22, ‎2017, ‏‎11:05:35 PM | Robin NgoGo to full article


For the first time in the Southern Levant, ancient rock art has been found in a megalithic tomb structure known as a dolmen. Composed of huge stones and resembling a table, this 4,000-year-old dolmen resides in a field of more than 400 dolmens in Israel’s Golan Heights. Archaeologists from Tel Hai College, the Institute of Archaeology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) recently published a study of this monumental dolmen—one of the largest found in the Levant—in the journal PLOS ONE.


The 4,000-year-old dolmen in which ancient rock art was discovered. Photo: Gonen Sharon, Tel Hai College.

The dolmen is surrounded by a huge circular stone heap (a tumulus) almost 66 feet in diameter. A massive stone slab covering the central chamber of the dolmen measures about 6.5 by 10 feet and weighs at least 50 tons. On the ceiling inside the chamber are a number of engravings.

“The engraved shapes depict a straight line going to the center of an arc,” said IAA archaeologist Uri Berger, one of the coauthors of the study, in an IAA press release. “About 15 such engravings were documented on the ceiling of the dolmen, spread out in a kind of arc along the ceiling. No parallels exist for these shapes in the engraved rock drawings of the Middle East, and their significance remains a mystery.”


The ancient rock art inside the dolmen. Photo: Gonen Sharon, Tel Hai College.

Excavation of the central chamber of the dolmen uncovered a few centimeters below the surface the burial of at least three people: an adult male, an adult female and a child. The poor preservation of the skeletal remains has hindered further study.

“It is currently not possible to conclude whether the burials were found as placed during the original use of the dolmen or as disturbed by later burials,” the researchers write in the PLOS ONE article.

The free eBook Life in the Ancient World guides you through craft centers in ancient Jerusalem, family structure across Israel and ancient practices—from dining to makeup—throughout the Mediterranean world.

While the meaning of the ancient rock art is uncertain, the researchers offer a suggestion in their study: “Given the burial context and the placement of the engravings above the human remains, a possible interpretation is that they are schematic human forms or symbolic representations of the soul of the deceased. From this depiction, one may postulate the meaning of the panel as representing, or relating to, the journey that awaits the deceased.”

According to the archaeologists, the dolmen field—known as the Shamir Dolmen Field—has provided evidence that the time period in which the dolmens were constructed witnessed more socio-economic complexity than previously thought. In the PLOS ONE study, the scholars elaborate:

Until recently, the Intermediate Bronze Age (IB) of the Levant was understood by researchers as the “Dark Ages” between two urban periods. The collapse of the Early Bronze cities, the near absence of settlements in the archaeological record, together with no reported monumental buildings or any other indicators of a central regime, led to the definition of the socio-economic structure of the IB as “small-scaled mixed agro-pastoralism.” The findings from the Shamir Dolmen Field challenge this view and suggest that, at least in the Hula Valley Basin and the Northern Golan Heights, a governmental body existed that had the ability to recruit the labor and organization needed for the stonemasonry of monumental architecture.

Read the IAA press release and the PLOS ONE study.



Related reading in Bible History Daily:

Viewing Petroglyphs as More than Scribbles

Searching for Biblical Mt. Sinai
Biblical motifs in rock art in the southern Negev?

The Autographed Rock Art of Southern Jordan



The post Ancient Rock Art Shines Light on “Dark” Period appeared first on Biblical Archaeology Society.


Has the Childhood Home of Jesus Been Found?

‎Friday, ‎March ‎17, ‎2017, ‏‎3:00:27 PM | Ellen WhiteGo to full article


This Bible History Daily feature was originally published in 2015. It has been updated.—Ed.


This very well could be the childhood home of Jesus. It doesn’t look inviting, but this rock-hewn courtyard house was quite likely Jesus’ home in Nazareth. The recent excavation by Ken Dark and the Nazareth Archaeological Project revealed evidence suggesting this is where Jesus was raised—or at the least the place venerated as such by the Byzantine period. Photo: Ken Dark.

The childhood home of Jesus may have been found underneath the Sisters of Nazareth Convent in Nazareth, Israel, according to archaeologist Ken Dark.


The excavation site located beneath the convent has been known since 1880, but it was never professionally excavated until the Nazareth Archaeological Project began its work in 2006. In “Has Jesus’ Nazareth House Been Found?” in the March/April 2015 issue of BAR, Ken Dark, the director of the Nazareth Archaeological Project, not only describes the remains of the home itself, but explores the evidence that suggests that this is the place where Jesus spent his formative years—or at least the place regarded in the Byzantine period as the childhood home of Jesus.

The excavation revealed a first-century “courtyard house” that was partially hewn from naturally occurring rock and partially constructed with rock-built walls. Many of the home’s original features are still intact, including doors and windows. Also found at the site were tombs, a cistern and, later, a Byzantine church.

The Galilee is one of the most evocative locales in the New Testament—the area where Jesus was raised and where many of the Apostles came from. Our free eBook The Galilee Jesus Knew focuses on several aspects of Galilee: how Jewish the area was in Jesus’ time, the ports and the fishing industry that were so central to the region, and several sites where Jesus likely stayed and preached.

The remains combined with the description found in the seventh-century pilgrim account De Locus Sanctis point to the courtyard house found beneath the convent as what may have been regarded as Jesus’ home in Nazareth. Archaeological and geographical evidence from the Church of the Annunciation, the International Marion Center and Mary’s Well come together to suggest that this location may be where Jesus transitioned from boy to man.


Ken Dark also discusses the relationship between the childhood home of Jesus, Nazareth and the important site of Sepphoris. It has been thought that Sepphoris would have provided Joseph with work and Jesus many important cultural experiences. However, Ken Dark believes that Nazareth was a larger town than traditionally understood and was particularly Jewish in its identity—as opposed to the Roman-influenced Sepphoris. This is partially based on the result of his survey of the Nahal Zippori region that separates Sepphoris and Nazareth geographically.

For more on the childhood home of Jesus, read the full article “Has Jesus’ Nazareth House Been Found?” by Ken Dark in the March/April 2015 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review.




BAS Library Members: Read the full article “Has Jesus’ Nazareth House Been Found?” by Ken Dark in the March/April 2015 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review.

Not a BAS Library member yet? Join the BAS Library today.

This Bible History Daily feature was originally published on March 2, 2015.

Is it possible to identify the first-century man named Jesus behind the many stories and traditions about him that developed over 2,000 years in the Gospels and church teachings? Visit the Jesus/Historical Jesus study page to read free articles on Jesus in Bible History Daily.



Related reading in the BAS Library:

Steve Mason, “Where Was Jesus Born?: O Little Town of…Nazareth?” Bible Review, February 2000.

Philip J. King, “Biblical Views: Jesus’ Birthplace and Jesus’ Home,” Biblical Archaeology Review, November/December 2014.

Eric M. Meyers, “The Pools of Sepphoris: Ritual Baths or Bathtubs? Yes, They Are,” Biblical Archaeology Review, July/August 2000.

Mark Chancey and Eric M. Meyers, “Spotlight on Sepphoris: How Jewish Was Sepphoris in Jesus’ Time?” Biblical Archaeology Review, July/August 2000.

Zeev Weiss, “The Sepphoris Synagogue Mosaic,” Biblical Archaeology Review, September/October 2000.

Not a BAS Library member yet? Join the BAS Library today.

Which finds made our top 10 Biblical archaeology discoveries of 2015? Find out >>



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Is the Earliest Image of the Virgin Mary in the Dura-Europos Church?

‎Thursday, ‎March ‎16, ‎2017, ‏‎3:27:43 PM | Biblical Archaeology Society StaffGo to full article




Is this wall painting of a woman at a well from the third-century Dura-Europos church the earliest image of the Virgin Mary? Photo: Yale University Art Gallery.

In the oldest known Christian church, located at the site of Dura-Europos in eastern Syria, a wall painting depicts a woman leaning over a well. Who is she? Some believe this is the Biblical scene of the Samaritan woman who speaks with Jesus beside Jacob’s well (John 4:1–42). In “Earliest Depictions of the Virgin Mary” in the March/April 2017 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review, Biblical scholar Mary Joan Winn Leith discusses another possibility.


The third-century C.E. Dura-Europos church was discovered in excavations conducted before World War II. Only recently, however, has a new light been shone on the portrait of the woman at the well, which is located in the small baptistery of the church. Leith reviews scholar Michael Peppard’s argument that the portrait depicts not the Samaritan woman but the Virgin Mary at the moment of the Annunciation, when the angel Gabriel announces to her that she will bear the Son of God, Jesus:

As Peppard explains, the third-century Dura Annunciation is based not on the Biblical Annunciation in Luke 1:26–38 but on the Gospel of James (a.k.a. the Protevangelium of James), a second-century apocryphal (i.e., not considered authoritative) gospel that narrates the life of Mary up to and including the birth of Jesus. According to the Gospel of James, Mary “took the pitcher and went forth to fill it with water and lo! a voice saying, ‘Hail thou that art highly favored, the Lord is with thee, blessed art thou among women.’ And she looked around on the right and on the left to see from where this voice could have come.”

If Peppard’s interpretation is correct, this would make the portrait at the Dura-Europos church the earliest image of the Virgin Mary.

Our free eBook Ten Top Biblical Archaeology Discoveries brings together the exciting worlds of archaeology and the Bible! Learn the fascinating insights gained from artifacts and ruins, like the Pool of Siloam in Jerusalem, where the Gospel of John says Jesus miraculously restored the sight of the blind man, and the Tel Dan inscription—the first historical evidence of King David outside the Bible.

According to Leith, other early images of the Virgin Mary can shed light on Christian beliefs in the first centuries of the Common Era.


“Among the puzzles is how Christians viewed Jesus’ mother Mary in the earliest centuries of Christianity,” writes Leith. “Mary’s status in Christianity only became official in 431 when the Council of Ephesus awarded her the title Theotokos, ‘the one who gives birth to God.’ Information about Mary’s significance before then, whether visual or textual, is surprisingly sparse, but archaeology has supplied some helpful clues.”

Get an in-depth look at the portrait of the woman at the well from the Dura-Europos church and explore other early images of the Virgin Mary by reading the full article “Earliest Depictions of the Virgin Mary” by Mary Joan Winn Leith in the March/April 2017 issue of BAR.




BAS Library Members: Read the full article “Earliest Depictions of the Virgin Mary” by Mary Joan Winn Leith in the March/April 2017 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review.

Not a BAS Library member yet? Join the BAS Library today.



Related reading in Bible History Daily:

The Origins of “The Cherry Tree Carol” by Mary Joan Winn Leith

The Virgin Mary and the Prophet Muhammad by Mary Joan Winn Leith

Were Mary and Joseph Married or Engaged at Jesus’ Birth? by Mark Wilson

The Archaeological Quest for the Earliest Christians: Part 1 and Part 2 by Douglas Boin

Mary’s Many Sides

Mary, Simeon or Anna: Who First Recognized Jesus as Messiah?



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Origins: 3.14159265…

‎Tuesday, ‎March ‎14, ‎2017, ‏‎3:00:55 PM | Biblical Archaeology Society StaffGo to full article


Read Kim Jonas’s article “Origins: 3.14159265…” as it originally appeared in Archaeology Odyssey, March/April 2000. The article was first republished in Bible History Daily in 2014.—Ed.


π, or pi, has a value of 3.14159265…

How do you find the holy grail of mathematics?


You start with a circle, which is the easiest geometric shape to draw (just fix one end of a string in place and swing the other end around it, inscribing a circle). Then measure the circle’s perimeter (also known as the circumference) and the distance across its widest point (the diameter). Divide the circumference by the diameter—and you have that well-known but eternally daunting number, π, or pi, which has a value of 3.14159265…

That is part of the mystique of pi: Whatever the size of the circle, the value remains the same (what mathematicians call a “constant”). Unfortunately, pi is also “irrational,” meaning that it is impossible to calculate its value completely; the decimals go on forever without regular repetition.

Calculating the value of pi has been a puzzle for millennia. One of the earliest implied values is given in a Biblical passage describing the construction of a huge basin for Solomon’s Temple: “Then [Hiram of Tyre] made the molten sea; it was round, ten cubits from brim to brim, and five cubits high. A line of thirty cubits would encircle it completely” (1 Kings 7:23). In other words, pi = 30÷10 or 3.

The Temple craftsmen obviously obtained these numbers through direct measurement—perhaps using a rope—and they came up with a simple approximation of pi. More than a thousand years earlier, the Sumerians had developed a mathematical method for measuring the dimensions of circles, that of inscribed equilateral polygons (a geometric shape with three or more straight sides). The ancient Sumerians realized that the perimeter of a polygon inscribed in a circle would always be slightly smaller than the circle’s circumference. This allowed them to make a fairly accurate measurement of a curved line, which is almost impossible to do with ordinary measuring devices.

The free eBook Life in the Ancient World guides you through craft centers in ancient Jerusalem, family structure across Israel and articles on ancient practices—from dining to makeup—across the Mediterranean world.

According to a 4,000-year-old cuneiform tablet discovered in 1936, the Sumerians found the ratio of the perimeter of an inscribed hexagon to that of the circle to be 3456/3600, which factors out to 216/225. The Sumerians could thus measure any circle (by measuring an inscribed polygon and making the adjustment). Then they could measure the circle’s diameter—a simple straight line—and divide it into the circumference, producing an approximation of pi. In this way, the Sumerians found pi to be 3 23/216 (3.1065), a much better calculation of pi than the Biblical value. Why wasn’t this known to the Israelites at the time of Solomon? We’ll never know.


In an ancient Egyptian mathematical treatise known as the Rhind Papyrus (c. 1650 B.C.E.), a scribe named Ahmes states that a certain circular field 9 units across (that is, with a diameter of 9) had an area of 64 units. Today, we know the relations between the diameter, circumference and area of a circle: Area equals pi multiplied by the square of the radius (half the diameter), or a = πr2. Changing this equation around, we find that pi equals the area divided by the square of the radius. The field’s radius is 4.5 (half of nine); the square of 4.5 is 20.25; and 64 divided by 20.25 equals 3.16. Therefore, π = 3.16. Thus some modern commentators have given Ahmes credit for a close approximation of pi. But was our ancient Egyptian scribe aware of this formula? Almost certainly not. He didn’t know he was approximating pi, and I should not like to give him credit for it.


Our next significant player is the Greek philosopher Antiphon. In the late fifth century B.C.E., he realized that if successive polygons were inscribed within a circle, doubling the number of sides each time, the difference between the polygon’s perimeter and the circle’s circumference would diminish toward zero (think of a circle as a polygon with an infinite number of sides). While Antiphon didn’t calculate pi using his method (as far as we know), his idea would be the basis of all improvements in the value of pi until the 17th century C.E.

Two centuries later, Archimedes (c. 287–212 B.C.E.) inscribed a hexagon in a circle; then he doubled the sides until he had a 96-sided polygon inscribed in the circle. At the same time, he superscribed a similar series of polygons outside the circle. By this method, he found that pi was greater than 3.14084 and less than 3.14286—an extremely close approximation of the actual value (3.14159265). Archimedes was the first mathematician to bound pi in this way, by calculating its upper and lower limits. Thus he should be credited with making the search for the value of pi a science.

Learn about the ancient origins of other inventions—from the calendar to medicinal pills—in
The Origins of Things (Or How the Hour Got Its Minutes).

For almost 2,000 years, no one improved on Archimedes’s method of inscribed and superscribed polygons, though refinements were made in the calculation. The second-century C.E. Alexandrian astronomer Ptolemy, for instance, used Archimedes’s method to reach a value of 3.14167. And the method was invented independently by Indian and Chinese mathematicians. In the fifth century C.E., the Chinese mathematician Tsu Chung-Chih and his son Tsu Keng-Chih, using the polygon method, found that pi falls between 3.1415926 and 3.1415927, which is precise enough for most purposes even today.


The calculation of accurate trigonometric tables in the 16th century made the Archimedian approach much easier to pursue than before. The French lawyer and amateur mathematician François Viète (1540–1603) used trigonometry to calculate the perimeter of a polygon with 393,216 sides, pinpointing p somewhere between 3.1415926535 and 3.1415926537.

But it was Isaac Newton’s development of calculus that reduced the calculation of pi to plain old arithmetic. In 1655, John Wallis published his proof of the infinite product π÷2 = 2 x 2/3 x 4/3 x 4/5 x 6/5 x 6/7… And James Gregory, in 1671, found the infinite sum of π÷4 = 1 – 1/3 + 1/5 – 1/7 + 1/9 – 1/11… These formulas take hundreds of steps to arrive at even the first few digits of pi, but they demonstrated the feasibility of the new method. Within a few years, Newton found a series of formulas that quickly gave him a 16-digit expansion of pi. From then on, further computation of pi was only a matter of desire and endurance.

When it comes to endurance, nothing can beat a computer. In 1949, the primitive ENIAC computer, the first of the “giant brains,” was fed an algorithm for calculating pi. Three days later, it arrived at an answer 2,037 digits long. Today programs are available that allow you to calculate a billion digits of pi on your Pentium computer over the weekend.

What’s the point of computing pi out that far? There is none. If we knew the diameter of the universe, the first 30 digits of pi would theoretically enable us to calculate its circumference to within a millimeter. That’s closer than we would ever need to come; the rest is just showing off.




“Origins: 3.14159265…” by Kim Jonas originally appeared in the March/April 2000 issue of Archaeology Odyssey. The article was first republished in Bible History Daily on March 14, 2014.

Kim Jonas, a former college math professor, is currently a statistician for the U.S. Census Bureau.



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Classical Corner: The Antonine Plague and the Spread of Christianity

‎Monday, ‎March ‎13, ‎2017, ‏‎3:09:52 PM | Biblical Archaeology Society StaffGo to full article




Marcus Aurelius. Photo: © DEA Picture Library/Art Resource, NY.

The year was 166 C.E., and the Roman Empire was at the zenith of its power. The triumphant Roman legions, under the command of Emperor Lucius Verrus, returned to Rome victorious after having defeated their Parthian enemies on the eastern border of the Roman Empire. As they marched west toward Rome, they carried with them more than the spoils of plundered Parthian temples; they also carried an epidemic that would ravage the Roman Empire over the course of the next two decades, an event that would inexorably alter the landscape of the Roman world. The Antonine Plague, as it came to be known, would reach every corner of the empire and is what most likely claimed the life of Lucius Verrus himself in 169—and possibly that of his co-emperor Marcus Aurelius in 180.1


The pestilential that swept through the Roman Empire following the return of Lucius Verrus’s army is attested to in the works of several contemporary observers.2 The famous physician Galen found himself in the middle of an outbreak not once, but twice. Present in Rome during the initial outbreak in 166, Galen’s sense of self-preservation evidently overcame his scientific curiosity, and he retreated to his home city of Pergamon. His respite didn’t last long; with the epidemic still raging, the emperors called him back to Rome in 168.

The free eBook Life in the Ancient World guides you through craft centers in ancient Jerusalem, family structure across Israel and ancient practices—from dining to makeup—throughout the Mediterranean world.

The effect on Rome’s armies was apparently devastating. Close proximity to sick fellow soldiers and less-than-optimal living conditions made it possible for the outbreak to spread rapidly throughout the legions, such as those stationed along the northern frontier at Aquileia. Both emperors and their attendant physician Galen were present with the legions in Aquileia when the plague swept through the winter barracks, prompting the emperors to flee to Rome and leave Galen behind to attend to the troops. Legions elsewhere in the empire were similarly stricken; military recruitment in Egypt drew upon the sons of soldiers to augment their shrinking ranks, and army discharge certificates from the Balkan region suggest that there was a significant decrease in the number of soldiers who were allowed to retire from military service during the period of the plague.3

The effect on the civilian population was evidently no less severe. In his letter to Athens in 174/175, Marcus Aurelius loosened the requirements for membership to the Areopagus (the ruling council of Athens), as there were now too few surviving upper-class Athenians who met the requirements he had introduced prior to the outbreak.4 Egyptian tax documents in the form of papyri from Oxyrhynchus and Fayum attest to significant population decreases in Egyptian cities; it did not escape the attention of the cities’ administrators that mortality and the subsequent flight of fearful survivors substantially impacted their tax revenues.5 In Rome itself a beleaguered Marcus Aurelius (who, after the death of Lucius Verrus, became the empire’s sole ruler) was simultaneously contending with a Marcomannic invasion on the empire’s northern frontier, a Sarmatian invasion on its eastern frontier and an empire-wide pandemic. Epigraphic and architectural evidence in Rome indicate that civic building projects—a significant feature of second-century Rome’s robust economy—came to an effective halt between 166 and 180.6 A similar pause in civic building projects shows up in London during the same period.7

Watch author Sarah Yeomans as she lectures on “Doctors, Diseases and Deities: Epidemic Crises and Medicine in Ancient Rome.”

Archaeological and textual evidence help us paint a picture of the impact of the Antonine Plague in various regions of the Roman Empire, but what was it?


Galen’s surviving case notes describe a virulent and dangerous disease, the symptoms and progression of which point to at least one—if not two—strains of the smallpox virus.8 Dio Cassius describes the deaths of up to 2,000 people per day in Rome alone during a particularly lethal outbreak in 189.9 It has been estimated that the mortality rate over the 23-year period of the Antonine Plague was 7–10 percent of the population; among the armies and the inhabitants of more densely populated cities, the rate could have been as high as 13–15 percent.10 Aside from the practical consequences of the outbreak, such as the destabilization of the Roman military and economy, the psychological impact on the populations must have been substantial. It is easy to imagine the sense of fear and helplessness ancient Romans must have felt in the face of such a ruthless, painful, disfiguring and frequently fatal disease.

It is not difficult to understand, then, the apparent shifts in religious practices that came about as a result of the Antonine Plague. While civic architectural projects were put on hold, the building of sacred sites and ceremonial ways intensified.11 Marcus Aurelius is said to have invested heavily in restoring the temples and shrines of Roman deities, and one wonders whether it was in part due to the plague that Christianity coalesced and spread so rapidly throughout the empire at the end of the second century. Human beings, both ancient and modern, tend to be more open to considerations of the divine in times of fear and in the face of imminent mortality. Even today in modern America, while a place of worship is rare inside an office building, there is one in almost every hospital. It seems that the ancient Romans, in the face of an inexplicable and incurable epidemic, turned to the divine. But the gods moved slowly—it would be another 1,800 years before the smallpox virus was finally eradicated.

“Classical Corner: The Antonine Plague and the Spread of Christianity” by Sarah K. Yeomans originally appeared in the March/April 2017 Biblical Archaeology Review.

Sarah K. Yeomans is the Director of Educational Programs at the Biblical Archaeology Society. She is currently pursuing her doctorate at the University of Southern California and specializes in the Imperial period of the Roman Empire with a particular emphasis on religions and ancient science. She is also a faculty member in the Department of Religious Studies at West Virginia University.




1. This modern term for the second-century plague in Rome comes from the dynastic name of the emperors at the time. Marcus Aurelius and his co-emperor Lucius Verrus were both members of the Antonine family. Because of Galen’s surviving case notes that documented the symptoms of the disease, the epidemic is sometimes referred to as the “Plague of Galen.”

2. Galen, Aelius Aristides, Lucian and Cassius Dio were all first-hand witnesses to the epidemic.

3. Richard P. Duncan-Jones, Structure and Scale in the Roman Economy (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1990), p. 72; Richard P. Duncan-Jones, “The Impact of the Antonine Plague,” Journal of Roman Archaeology 9 (1996), p. 124.

4. James H. Oliver, Greek Constitutions of Early Roman Emperors from Inscriptions to Papyri (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, 1989), pp. 366–388.

5. For further discussions of papyrological evidence, see R.J. Littman and M.L. Littman, “Galen and the Antonine Plague,” American Journal of Philology 94 (1973), pp. 243–255; Duncan-Jones, “Antonine Plague”; R.S Bagnall, “Oxy. 4527 and the Antonine Plague in Egypt: Death or Flight?” Journal of Roman Archaeology 13 (2000), pp. 288–292.

6. The same cessation of construction is not, however, evident in Spain or in the North African provinces outside of Egypt, possibly indicating that certain areas of the empire were more affected than others. See Duncan-Jones, “Antonine Plague.”

7. Dominic Perring, “Two Studies on Roman London. A: London’s Military Origins; B: Population Decline and Ritual Landscapes in Antonine London,” Journal of Roman Archaeology 24 (2011), pp. 249–268.

8. Until recently it was thought that the Antonine Plague could possibly have been a measles epidemic. However, recent scientific data have eliminated this possibility. See Y. Furuse, A. Suzuki and H. Oshitani, “Origin of the Measles Virus: Divergence from Rinderpest Virus Between the 11th and 12th Centuries,” Virology 7 (2010), pp. 52–55.

9. Dio Cassius 73.14.3–4; for a discussion of the smallpox pathologies, see Littman and Littman, “Galen.”

10. Littman and Littman, “Galen,” p. 255.

11. Perring, “Two Studies.”



Related reading in Bible History Daily:

Medicine in the Ancient World by Sarah K. Yeomans

Doctors, Diseases and Deities: Epidemic Crises and Medicine in Ancient Rome by Sarah K. Yeomans

Ancient Pergamon: City of science … and satan? by Sarah K. Yeomans

Ancient Cupping in Israel

Justinian Plague Linked to the Black Death

The Cyprian Plague



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2,000-Year-Old Road Unearthed in Bet Shemesh

‎Thursday, ‎March ‎9, ‎2017, ‏‎9:19:56 PM | Robin NgoGo to full article




A 2,000-year-old Roman road was discovered in Bet Shemesh, Israel. Photo: Assaf Peretz, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

Archaeologists working in Bet Shemesh, located 19 miles west of Jerusalem in Israel, discovered a Roman-period road near the modern Highway 375. The excavation was conducted by the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) ahead of the installation of a water pipeline to Jerusalem.


The 2,000-year-old road spanned a width of 20 feet and stretched about a mile. According to IAA excavation director Irina Zilberbod in an IAA press release, the road had been built to connect a Roman settlement near Bet Shemesh with a major Roman imperial road. The Roman imperial road is believed to have been built around the time that Emperor Hadrian visited the province of Judea, c. 130 C.E., before the outbreak of the Bar-Kokhba revolt.

The IAA press release describes the network of roads that cropped up in the Roman period:

Up until 2,000 years ago, most of the roads in the country were actually improvised trails. However during the Roman period, as a result of military and other campaigns, the national and international road network started to be developed in an unprecedented manner. The Roman government was well aware of the importance of the roads for the proper running of the empire. From the main roads … there were secondary routes that led to the settlements where all of the agricultural products were grown. The grain, oil and wine, which constituted the main [diet] at the time, were transported along the secondary routes from the surroundings villages and then by way of the main roads to the large markets in Israel and even abroad.

Discovered within the pavement stones of the Roman road at Bet Shemesh were a coin of the Roman prefect of Judea, Pontius Pilate (29 C.E.), a coin of Judean king Agrippa I (41 C.E.), a coin from Year 2 of the Great Revolt (67 C.E.) and a coin dated to the Umayyad period (c. 661–750 C.E.).


The ancient coins discovered in the excavation at Bet Shemesh. Photo: Clara Amit, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

Read the IAA press release.

As the point where three of the world’s major religions converge, Israel’s history is one of the richest and most complex in the world. Sift through the archaeology and history of this ancient land in the free eBook Israel: An Archaeological Journey, and get a view of these significant Biblical sites through an archaeologist’s lens.

Related reading in Bible History Daily:

Archaeologists Reveal a Desecrated Iron Age Temple at Beth-Shemesh

To Jerusalem: Pilgrimage Road Identified?

Inscription Reveals Governor of Judea Before the Bar-Kokhba Revolt



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First Person: Misogyny in the Bible

‎Tuesday, ‎March ‎7, ‎2017, ‏‎10:01:31 PM | Biblical Archaeology Society StaffGo to full article




Hershel Shanks

Christopher Rollston is one of the world’s leading paleographers of ancient Near Eastern inscriptions. I have been harshly critical of some of his views, principally regarding unprovenanced inscriptions—inscriptions that have surfaced only from the antiquities market, not from a professional archaeological excavation. They may be forgeries, he argues. Although my criticism of Chris’s position is intense,1 we remain good friends and regularly share a meal. Chris is also a master carpenter. Above my office door hangs a beautiful polished wooden plaque expertly carved with my name in paleo-Hebrew script—the kind of Hebrew letters used before the Babylonian destruction of the Solomonic (First) Temple in 586 B.C.E.


Several years ago, when Chris was teaching at Emmanuel Christian Seminary, a Tennessee seminary affiliated with the Restoration Movement, he wrote an article about the Bible’s sometimes “unfair” or unequal treatment of women.2 He recently published a revised and augmented version of this controversial article.3

Here are some examples from his article:

Noah and his wife had three sons (Shem, Ham and Japheth—Genesis 5:32) who were each married. All eight were on the ark. We know the names of all the men, but none of the women (Genesis 8:18), not even Noah’s wife.

Rollston finds the marginalization of women obvious and “clear” in the Ten Commandments: “The wife is classified as her husband’s property, and she’s listed with the slaves and work animals. There is also a striking omission in this commandment: Never does it say, ‘You shall not covet your neighbor’s husband.’”

In the free eBook Exploring Genesis: The Bible’s Ancient Traditions in Context, discover the cultural contexts for many of Israel’s earliest traditions. Explore Mesopotamian creation myths, Joseph’s relationship with Egyptian temple practices and three different takes on the location of Ur of the Chaldees, the birthplace of Abraham.

Rollston continues with other examples:


An unmarried woman could be compelled to marry her rapist, as long as the rapist could pay the standard bride price and the woman’s father was comfortable with the marriage (Deuteronomy 22:28–29). Polygyny (a man having multiple wives at the same time) was not condemned, but was an accepted and legal custom (Deuteronomy 21:15–17; Genesis 4:19–24; and 2 Samuel 3:2–5). A woman’s religious vow could be nullified by her father or her husband (Numbers 30:3–15). And the assumption of the text is that the priesthood is all male (Leviticus 21). In short, within the legal literature of the Bible, women were not accorded the same status as men.

Other examples come from the New Testament; here is one of Rollston’s examples:

[1 Timothy 2] begins by stating that “men should pray” (and the word used here for men is andras, a gendered word that refers only to males) and then says “women should dress themselves modestly and decently” (vv. 8–9). So men are to pray, and women are to dress modestly. That’s quite a contrast. But there’s more: “Let a woman learn in silence and full submission. I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she is to be silent” (vv. 11–12). The author’s rationale: “For Adam was formed first, then Eve, and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor” (vv. 13–14). According to this text, women were to be silent in worship gatherings (and men were certainly not told to be silent), and the rationale for this mandate is that woman (Eve) was created second and sinned first. And the final blow is this: A woman “will be saved” (the future tense of the standard word for “be saved,” “be given salvation”) “through childbirth if she remains in faith and love and sanctification with modesty” (1 Timothy 2:15).


Learn about Biblical women with slighted traditions in the Bible History Daily feature Scandalous Women in the Bible, which includes articles on Lilith, Mary Magdalene and Jezebel.

Rollston recently told us in writing what we already knew. This criticism of the Bible led to his “forced ouster” from Emmanuel Christian Seminary.


Not long after his “forced ouster,” I saw Chris and told him that this could be the best thing that ever happened to him. And so it turned out. Eventually he obtained a tenured position at the George Washington University (GWU) in Washington, D.C. Soon thereafter the prestigious position of editor of the Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research (BASOR) opened up, and Chris and his distinguished colleague Eric Cline at GWU were appointed as coeditors to fill the position. Seldom do we write stories with such happy endings.

“First Person: Misogyny in the Bible” by Hershel Shanks originally appeared in Biblical Archaeology Review, March/April 2017.




1. See Hershel Shanks, “Predilections—Is the ‘Brother of Jesus’ Inscription a Forgery?” Biblical Archaeology Review, September/October 2015.

2. Christopher Rollston, “The Marginalization of Women: A Biblical Value We Don’t Like to Talk About,” Huffington Post, August 31, 2012.

3. Christopher A. Rollston, “Women, the Bible, and the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution,” in Frances Flannery and Rodney Alan Werline, eds., The Bible in Political Debate (New York: Bloomsbury, 2016).



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The Church of Laodicea in the Bible and Archaeology

‎Monday, ‎March ‎6, ‎2017, ‏‎3:59:57 PM | Megan SauterGo to full article


“I know your works; you are neither cold nor hot. I wish that you were either cold or hot. So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I am about to spit you out of my mouth.”—Revelation 3:15–16

Why does the author of the Book of Revelation call the church of Laodicea “lukewarm”?

The church of Laodicea is the last of seven churches addressed in Revelation. This harsh pronouncement suggests that the Christians at Laodicea—located in modern Turkey—wavered in their commitments to the Christian faith. The historical and archaeological context of this situation is worth investigating.


Temple A at Laodicea, Turkey. Originally dedicated to Apollo, Artemis and Aphrodite, Temple A at Laodicea, Turkey, later was used for the imperial cult. It dates to the second century C.E. Photo: © Mark R. Fairchild, Huntington University.

Mark R. Fairchild of Huntington University explores the Laodicean church’s lukewarm reputation, while examining the recent archaeological excavations at Laodicea, Turkey, in his article “Laodicea’s ‘Lukewarm’ Legacy: Conflicts of Prosperity in an Ancient Christian City,” published in the March/April 2017 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review.

We are not told who founded the church of Laodicea in the Bible, yet from textual evidence in the New Testament, we can infer that Epaphras, one the apostle Paul’s disciples, likely planted it. We know that Epaphras founded the church at Colossae (Colossians 1:6–7), one of Laodicea’s close neighbors. Therefore, it seems plausible that he would also be responsible for planting the church at Laodicea.

In the free eBook Paul: Jewish Law and Early Christianity, learn about the cultural contexts for the theology of Paul and how Jewish traditions and law extended into early Christianity through Paul’s dual roles as a Christian missionary and a Pharisee.

Laodicea was a wealthy city during the Roman period. Not only was Laodicea located on major trade routes that connected it to important cities like Ephesus, Smyrna and Sardis, but also it was a center of textile production and banking. Perhaps not surprisingly, the church of Laodicea is noted as being wealthy in the Bible (see Revelation 3:17).


The Book of Revelation was penned during the Roman emperor Domitian’s reign (r. 81–96 C.E.). Domitian was notorious for being the first Roman emperor who declared himself a god while still alive. This affronted Christians, Jews and the Roman Senate alike. Other emperors were deified only after their death.



Etched into this broken column fragment are four religious symbols: a menorah, lulav (palm branch), shofar (ram’s horn) and cross. The first three symbols are Jewish, but the cross is distinctly Christian. The column originally belonged to a nymphaeum (a public fountain) in Laodicea. The Jewish symbols were likely added to the column in the late Roman or early Byzantine period, and the cross was added in the early Byzantine period. That the Christian cross extends from the Jewish menorah suggests that the Laodicean church grew out of the synagogue. Photo: © Mark R. Fairchild, Huntington University.

Domitian persecuted those who would not participate in the imperial cult (the worship of emperors and dynastic families). Although Jews were exempt from participating, Christians were not. Fairchild explains, “As part of the Pax Romana, the staunchly monotheistic Jews in the cities of the Mediterranean world were exempt from the requirements of emperor worship. As long as Christianity was considered a sect within Judaism, the Christians in these cities were likewise exempt from emperor worship.” At first, the Christian Church was composed almost entirely of Jews. However, as more Gentiles (non-Jews) converted to Christianity, the percentage of Jewish people in the Christian Church decreased, and, therefore, Christians’ special status as Jewish monotheists, which permitted them to refrain from emperor worship, was removed.


The Christians at Laodicea were affected by Domitian’s decrees. Their response to this persecution—which even involved their ability to buy and sell—is what causes the author of Revelation to call them “lukewarm.” Fairchild elaborates:

The difficulties that this placed upon the Christians of Asia were expressed in detail throughout the Book of Revelation. Those who refused to worship the image of the beast (the emperor) were killed. Christians could no longer buy or sell unless they had taken the mark of the beast (Revelation 13). The pressure upon rich Christians to maintain their wealth was intense. Since a great deal of Laodicea’s wealth depended upon trade, the Christian merchants were in a quandary. Would they cooperate with the imperial cult and maintain their trade associations, or would they forswear Domitian and reaffirm their faith in Christ? Many of the Laodicean Christians compromised their faith in such ways that the writer of the apocalypse could say, “I will spit you out of my mouth” (Revelation 3:16).

Other churches throughout the Roman Empire responded differently. For example, the Christians at Smyrna are applauded in the Book of Revelation for maintaining their faith in the midst of extreme difficulty by refusing to participate in the imperial cult—even though this meant affliction and poverty for them (see Revelation 2:9).

Yet the Laodicean church’s “lukewarm” legacy was not its final legacy.

The church at Laodicea survived Domitian’s reign. The city became a bishopric (seat of a Christian bishop), and a Christian council was even held there in the fourth century C.E. Archaeologists have discovered about 20 ancient Christian chapels and churches at the site. The largest church at Laodicea, called the Church of Laodicea took up an entire city block and dates to the beginning of the fourth century.


The Church of Laodicea. Dated to the beginning of the fourth century C.E., the Church of Laodicea spanned an entire city block. The church faced east and was decorated with marble floors. Photo: © Mark R. Fairchild, Huntington University.

Laodicea remained an important city until the seventh century C.E. when it was struck by a devastating earthquake and subsequently abandoned.

To learn more about the church of Laodicea in the Bible and the recent archaeological excavations at the site, read “Laodicea’s ‘Lukewarm’ Legacy: Conflicts of Prosperity in an Ancient Christian City” by Mark R. Fairchild in the March/April 2017 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review.




BAS Library Members: Read the full article “Laodicea’s ‘Lukewarm’ Legacy: Conflicts of Prosperity in an Ancient Christian City,” by Mark R. Fairchild in the March/April 2017 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review.

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Watch on CNN: Finding Jesus

‎Monday, ‎March ‎6, ‎2017, ‏‎3:30:08 PM | Biblical Archaeology Society StaffGo to full article


This Bible History Daily feature was originally published in 2015. It has been updated.—Ed.


Watch on CNN: Finding Jesus: Faith, Fact, Forgery

CNN is currently airing the second season of Finding Jesus: Faith, Fact, Forgery, which aims to investigate artifacts that shed light on the world in which Jesus lived. The first season tackled the Shroud of Turin, relics of John the Baptist, the “Gospel of Judas,” the ossuary (bone box) inscribed “James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus,” pieces of the “True Cross” and the “Gospel of Mary.”


The second season of CNN’s Finding Jesus will examine the stone that proves Pontius Pilate’s existence, the story of Lazarus and his sisters Mary and Martha, the childhood home of Jesus, the tomb of King Herod the Great, the bones of St. Peter and the story of doubting Thomas.

This second season features interviews with a number of Bible and archaeology experts, including Robert Cargill, Nicola Denzey Lewis, Mark Goodacre, Shimon Gibson and Candida Moss.

For more on CNN’s Finding Jesus, follow the conversation online on Twitter at ‪#‎FindingJesus‬.

Finding Jesus: Faith, Fact, Forgery airs on CNN on Sundays at 9 p.m. ET/PT.

This Bible History Daily feature was originally published on March 11, 2015.

In the free eBook Real or Fake? A Special Report, find out whether several famous objects are actually fakes, how can they be tested, and whether they should even be studied by scholars.



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Free Hebrew Bible Course with Shaye Cohen

‎Tuesday, ‎February ‎28, ‎2017, ‏‎6:09:48 PM | Biblical Archaeology Society StaffGo to full article


This Bible History Daily feature was originally published in 2015.—Ed.

Learn about the Hebrew Bible in
a free course of 25 video lectures by Shaye Cohen, Littauer Professor of Hebrew Literature and Philosophy at Harvard University. This course, which you can start and stop any time, surveys the major books and ideas of the Hebrew Bible (also called the Old Testament), examining the historical context in which the texts emerged and were redacted.


A major subtext of this free Hebrew Bible course is the distinction between how the Bible was read by ancient interpreters (whose interpretations became the basis for many iconic literary and artistic works of Western Civilization) and how it is approached by modern Bible scholarship. James Kugel, former Harvard professor and author of the course’s textbook, contends that these ways of reading the Bible are mutually exclusive. Professor Shaye Cohen respectfully disagrees.

The course syllabus is your primary road map; it contains general information about the course and lists the topics covered and assigned readings for each of the 25 lectures. Video recordings of each lecture can be viewed alongside Professor Cohen’s lecture notes. A series of timelines is available to illustrate aspects of the course which unfold over time.

Click here to start the free Hebrew Bible course!


Sample the course by watching Professor Shaye Cohen’s first lecture:



Click here to check out Professor Shaye Cohen’s free Hebrew Bible course!





This Bible History Daily feature was originally published on February 25, 2015.

In the free eBook Exploring Genesis: The Bible’s Ancient Traditions in Context, discover the cultural contexts for many of Israel’s earliest traditions. Explore Mesopotamian creation myths, Joseph’s relationship with Egyptian temple practices and three different takes on the location of Ur of the Chaldees, the birthplace of Abraham.

Related reading in Bible History Daily:

Defining Biblical Hermeneutics

Who Are the Nephilim?

The Man Moses by Peter Machinist

Searching for Biblical Mt. Sinai

Did I Find King David’s Palace? by Eilat Mazar



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Did Archaeologists Really Discover a New Dead Sea Scroll Cave?

‎Tuesday, ‎February ‎21, ‎2017, ‏‎8:50:18 PM | Biblical Archaeology Society StaffGo to full article




Archaeologists excavating a cave west of the Dead Sea settlement of Qumran found this piece of parchment that had been rolled up in a jug. Could this and other evidence found inside the cave indicate that a new Dead Sea Scroll cave has been discovered? Photo: Casey L. Olson and Oren Gutfeld.

I read with eager anticipation the first news stories out of Israel that a new Dead Sea Scroll cave had been discovered west of Qumran. As one who wrote a dissertation on Qumran and who teaches a Dead Sea Scrolls course at the University of Iowa, I was keen to see how the new discovery would fit into our present knowledge of the scrolls. What was found that made it a “Dead Sea Scroll Cave”? Was it a new copy of a Biblical book? Was it a copy of a known pseudepigraphical work? Or, was it a new, previously unknown sectarian manuscript that sheds light on the late Second Temple Jewish world?


As I read the Hebrew University of Jerusalem press release and various press reports, I quickly discovered the answer: none of the above. Let me explain:

Recently, a Hebrew University press release and multiple news reports announced a discovery made by archaeologists Dr. Oren Gutfeld, Teaching Fellow at the Hebrew University, and Dr. Randall Price, Founder and President of World of the Bible Ministries, Inc. and Distinguished Research Professor and Executive Director of the Center for Judaic Studies at Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University.1



A Dead Sea Scroll fragment from Qumran Cave 4. Photo: Courtesy Israel Antiquities Authority.

Among the hundreds of caves explored near the Dead Sea settlement of Qumran, only eleven caves have ever produced scrolls or scroll fragments. Gutfeld and Price claim that the cave they excavated should be considered the 12th Dead Sea Scroll cave, despite the fact that Gutfeld confirms, “[A]t the end of the day no scroll was found, and instead we ‘only’ found a piece of parchment rolled up in a jug that was being processed for writing…”


However, Gutfeld claims later in the press release, “[N]ow there is no doubt that this is the 12th cave.” Gutfeld makes this claim because of the discovery inside the cave of pickaxe heads that appear to have been made in the 1950s—which suggest that people had been inside the cave around that time. Gutfeld continues, “[T]he findings indicate beyond any doubt that the cave contained scrolls that were stolen. The findings include the jars in which the scrolls and their covering were hidden, a leather strap for binding the scroll, a cloth that wrapped the scrolls, tendons and pieces of skin connecting fragments, and more.”

But no Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered, only a blank piece of parchment.

Thus, Gutfeld speculates that this must be the “12th Dead Sea Scroll Cave,” arguing that Dead Sea Scrolls must have been looted from the cave. Once again, Gutfeld speculates regarding these proposed looters: “I imagine they came into the tunnel. They found the scroll jars. They took the scrolls … They even opened the scrolls and left everything around, the textiles, the pottery” (italics mine).

Interested in the history and meaning of the Dead Sea Scrolls? In the free eBook Dead Sea Scrolls, learn what the Dead Sea Scrolls are and why are they important. Find out what they tell us about the Bible, Christianity and Judaism.

I must, in all fairness, concede that Gutfeld’s speculation is entirely plausible. However, we must also acknowledge that it is still speculation—even if well-informed speculation on the part of Prof. Gutfeld—because no Dead Sea Scrolls were actually discovered in the cave! We could similarly speculate that scrolls were once present in several other caves excavated in the past, but that does not make them scroll caves. If there are no Dead Sea Scrolls in the cave, then it is not a scroll cave, even if we think there might have been in the past.



The caves of Qumran. Photo: “Caves@Dead Sea Scrolls (8246948498)” by Lux Moundi is licensed under CC-BY-SA-2.0.

Let me also state that it is possible that Gutfeld’s team did find scrolls or scroll fragments in the cave, but are not announcing this discovery in an effort to keep looters from surreptitiously stealing any scrolls that still may be in the cave. Withholding public disclosure of a major find is not uncommon on digs in Israel, as is withholding the exact location of the cave. If Gutfeld has discovered actual scrolls in the cave that the team has simply not announced, then this should obviously be considered Cave 12. However, absent the disclosure of the discovery of actual scrolls, we must evaluate the claim of a new Dead Sea Scroll cave on the evidence that has been disclosed, and the disclosed evidence does not warrant a designation of a scroll-producing cave. Gutfeld’s team did not find a new Dead Sea Scroll cave.


Allow me, however, to provide an alternative conclusion that better fits the evidence we have. It is possible to argue that the cave in question was part of a larger parchment production enterprise, and that the jars, leather, textiles and blank parchment discovered in the cave are simply the latest evidence that someone or some group near Qumran engaged in some form of scribal activity and had the means of producing its own parchment. Indeed, the discovery of a blank piece of parchment—placed there either to dry or for storage—fits with previously discovered pieces of archaeological evidence that have been piling up for years, all of which support the theory that scrolls were produced at Qumran.

Visit the Dead Sea Scrolls study page in Bible History Daily for more on this priceless collection of ancient manuscripts.


One of the inkwells discovered at Qumran.

In the excavations of the Qumran ruins in the 1950s, a stylus and multiple inkwells were discovered, suggesting that some sort of writing was taking place at Qumran. In addition, stables and the bony remains of numerous animals buried inside jars were also excavated within the ruins of Qumran. The presence of animals means that Qumran was capable of producing the animal skins needed to manufacture parchment. Large, shallow pools were also uncovered in the western building at Qumran that may have been used to soak the parchment. Lime, which is used in curing parchment, was also found in large quantities at Qumran.2 This initial evidence—along with the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in caves surrounding Qumran—led early archaeologists like Roland de Vaux, Gerald Lankester Harding and Eleazar Sukenik to conclude that some Jewish sect (the Essenes, they believed) wrote the scrolls at Qumran.


More recent scientific tests support the theory that Qumran could have been a site of scroll production. In July 2010, a team of Italian scientists from the National Laboratories of the South in Catania, Italy—which is part of Italy’s National Institute for Nuclear Physics—led by Professor Giuseppe Pappalardo, discovered that the ink used to write the Temple Scroll possesses the same unusually high bromine levels as the waters from the Dead Sea, suggesting that the ink used on the Temple Scroll came from water from the Dead Sea and not from some other water source. This evidence indicates that the ink was produced near Qumran and not Jerusalem.

Gutfeld and Price’s recent discovery of curing jars, leather, textiles and a blank piece of parchment is but the latest piece of evidence supporting the theory that Qumran was, in fact, a place of scribal activity, and perhaps even of scribal implement production.

But this cannot be called the discovery of a new Dead Sea Scroll cave. One can certainly understand why archaeologists would be tempted to issue a press release stating as much, especially before any peer-reviewed reports about the excavation are published. The press is far more likely to cover a story claiming “New Dead Sea Scrolls Discovered!”—which is inevitably what people think when they read of the discovery of a “new Dead Sea Scroll cave,” especially in the weeks leading up to Easter—than they are to write a story about the discovery of the most recent piece of evidence supporting the theory that scribal activity took place near Qumran.

But that does not mean this most recent discovery is unimportant. Despite the fact that Gutfeld and Price did not discover a new Dead Sea Scroll or a new Dead Sea Scroll cave, they have provided archaeologists studying Qumran and its relationship to the Dead Sea Scrolls with another piece of solid evidence that someone near Qumran was engaged in activities required for scribal endeavors. And this discovery offers one more piece of evidence that someone or some group living at Qumran was capable of producing the materials needed to produce the Dead Sea Scrolls discovered in the caves surrounding Qumran.

Robert R. Cargill is Assistant Professor of Classics and Religious Studies at the University of Iowa and Associate Editor at Biblical Archaeology Review. His research includes study in the Qumran and the Dead Sea Scrolls, literary criticism of the Bible and the Pseudepigrapha, and the Ancient Near East. Cargill’s recent book is The Cities that Built the Bible (HarperOne, 2016).




1. The archaeological project is a joint expedition carried out by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the Israel Antiquities Authority, the Israel Nature and Parks Authority and the Civil Administration of Judea and Samaria (“Judea and Samaria” is the Israel Defense Forces’ name for the West Bank), which is a part of the Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT). COGAT “is charged with administering the government’s civilian policy in the territories of Judea and Samaria and the corresponding the civilian policy to the Gaza Strip.”

2. The manufacture of parchment is shown in a beautiful video produced by the BBC.



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Call for Entries: Biblical Archaeology Society 2017 Publication Awards

‎Tuesday, ‎February ‎21, ‎2017, ‏‎4:30:54 PM | Biblical Archaeology Society StaffGo to full article


profile pic_lampNominations are invited for the 2017 Biblical Archaeology Society Publication Awards for books published in 2015 and 2016. The biennial BAS Publication Awards for books about archaeology and the Bible have been presented since 1985. These prestigious awards have been made possible by grants from Eugene and Emily Grant, the Rohr Family in Memory of Sami Rohr, Judy and Michael Steinhardt, and Samuel D. Turner and Elizabeth Goss.



Best Popular Book on Archaeology


W.F. Albright Institute of Archaeological Research
26 Salah ed-Din St.
P.O. Box 19096
91190 Jerusalem
*Suggest expedited delivery, such as Priority Mail International

Dept. of Archaeology and Art History
University of Evansville
1800 Lincoln Ave.
Evansville, IN 47722

Dept. of Biblical and Religious Studies
Azusa Pacific University
701 E. Foothill Blvd.
Azusa, CA 91702-7000




Best Scholarly Book on Archaeology


W.F. Albright Institute of Archaeological Research
26 Salah ed-Din St.
P.O. Box 19096
91190 Jerusalem
*Suggest expedited delivery, such as Priority Mail International

Dept. of Archaeology and Art History
University of Evansville
1800 Lincoln Ave.
Evansville, IN 47722

Dept. of Biblical and Religious Studies
Azusa Pacific University
701 E. Foothill Blvd.
Azusa, CA 91702-7000




Best Book Relating to the Hebrew Bible


Dept. of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations
Harvard University
6 Divinity Ave.
Cambridge, MA 02138

Institute for Research in the Humanities
Rm. 221
University of Wisconsin–Madison
432 East Campus Mall
Madison, WI 53706

Dept. of Theology
William Jessup University
Rocklin Campus
2121 University Ave.
Rocklin, CA 95765




Best Book Relating to the New Testament


Ashland Theological Seminary
910 Center St.
Ashland, OH 44805

Emerita Professor
4356 West Pine Blvd.
St. Louis, MO 63108-2206

Dept. of Religious Studies
University of North Carolina–Charlotte
9201 University City Blvd.
Charlotte, NC 28223-0001




Qualifications & Rules

(1) Nominations: Publishers or authors (or others) should send one copy of every nominated book to each of the judges in the relevant category. Please mark “BAS Publication Awards.” One copy should also be sent to BAS Publication Awards, 4710 41st Street NW, Washington DC 20016; please specify the category in which your book is nominated.

(2) Judges are entitled to nominate books not otherwise nominated.

(3) All nominated books must have been published in English in 2015 or 2016.

(4) Nominations must be received by April 23, 2017. At least three different books must be submitted in a category for a prize to be awarded for that category.

(5) The judges’ decisions are final.

(6) The winning authors will receive an honorary citation certificate and a prize of $500.

The post Call for Entries: Biblical Archaeology Society 2017 Publication Awards appeared first on Biblical Archaeology Society.


The Song of Songs: Love Is Strong as Death

‎Monday, ‎February ‎13, ‎2017, ‏‎4:25:48 PM | Biblical Archaeology Society StaffGo to full article


Read Philip Stern’s Biblical Views column “Love Is Strong as Death—but Don’t Spend the Family’s Wealth” from the Biblical Archaeology Review, January/February 2017.—Ed.



“Love Is Strong as Death—but Don’t Spend the Family’s Wealth”

By Philip Stern


The Song of Songs (or Song of Solomon) from the Hebrew Bible is a love song beyond compare—although it has been compared to everything. Some have deemed it ancient pornography. Others have sung its praise. In the second century C.E., Rabbi Akiva called it the “holy of holies.”1


Modern artist Marc Chagall’s interpretation of the Song of Songs. Photo: Courtesy Jacabook.

Saadia Gaon, a prodigious tenth-century scholar and rabbi, observed that Song of Songs resembles a locked door to which the key is missing. However, I believe that the key to understanding the Song is near at hand:

6 Set me as a seal upon your heart,
As a seal upon your arm.
For strong as death is love,
Harsh as the netherworld (Sheol) is passion.
Her flames are flames of fire,
a mighty blaze.


7 Torrents of water cannot extinguish love,
Rivers cannot sweep it away!
[Yet] if a man were to expend
all the wealth of his house for love,
[People] would surely heap scorn upon him.


(Song of Songs 8:6–7, author’s translation)


Although the translation “strong as death” in verse 6 is long established—going back to the earliest translation we have, the Greek Septuagint (c. 150 B.C.E.)—I would add the nuance, “fierce.”2 “Fierce” has the advantage of being a good parallel to “harsh,” and both “fierce” and “strong” are definitions available to the Hebrew reader. Both characterize the attitude toward love of the Song.

Scholars have long tangled with this passage. An example of a scholar armed with erudition and insight, yet who comes to a startling conclusion, is that of Aren Wilson-Wright of the University of Texas at Austin.3 To Wilson-Wright, “the Song identifies love with the most powerful force in the Israelite imagination—YHWH, the divine warrior.” Wilson-Wright uses the comparative method, using texts from within and outside of the Hebrew Bible. However, if you read the Song itself, you realize that Wilson-Wright is wrong. The Song has almost no mention of war, divine or otherwise, and it never uses that ubiquitous Hebrew name of God, YHWH. Wilson-Wright can come to his conclusion only by ignoring the end of the passage, “Yet if a man were to expend all the wealth of his household for love, people would surely heap scorn upon him,” which strongly militates against the idea that the poet is making a statement about love as the God of Israel.

The religion section of most bookstores includes an amazing array of Bibles. In our free eBook The Holy Bible: A Buyer’s Guide, prominent Biblical scholars Leonard Greenspoon and Harvey Minkoff expertly guide you through 21 different Bible translations (or versions) and address their content, text, style and religious orientation.

There is thus one thing that love does not overpower among the common people, and that is money—a startlingly modern sentiment. Yet the poet probably says this wryly, as something he or she (some scholars believe a woman wrote the book4) deplores, based on the attitude toward love manifested in the entirety of this little Biblical book.

The sentiment in the last line of the Song quoted above has the ring of a proverb, and we may compare it to Proverbs 6:30–31. (The words in italics are found in the Hebrew of both Proverbs and Song of Songs):

[People] should not despise the thief who steals
to fill his gullet because he is starving.
But if he is caught he shall pay sevenfold;
he shall expend all the wealth of his house.


(Proverbs 6:30–31, author’s translation)


[Yet] if a man were to expend all the wealth of his house for love,
[People] would surely despise him.


(Song of Songs 8:7b, author’s translation)


Although the topic in Proverbs is different from the verse in the Song, the overlap in language is striking. The Song has been considered wisdom literature. Yet if we compare it to books that are clearly in the wisdom genre—namely Proverbs, Job and Ecclesiastes—we see that while the Song here and elsewhere has a connection to wisdom, it is in a class by itself. Where else in the Bible can you find lines like, “My love is mine, and I am his”?

The Song (at least on the basic level) doesn’t treat God or the fate of the people Israel: The name Israel appears but once in passing in the book—in Song of Songs 3:7. No less a Bible scholar than James Kugel (and among others, Wilson-Wright) has translated the words I translated above, “mighty blaze” (Hebrew shalhebetyah) as “flame of Yah,” where Yah is a divine name, a sort of abbreviation for the four-lettered name of God, YHWH. However, many scholars disagree and argue that the “yah” of Hebrew shalhebetyah is not to be taken as a divine name or epithet, but as a superlative (hence my translation, “mighty blaze”; compare with Jeremiah 2:31, “deep gloom”). And shalhebetyah is a reference not to the God of Israel but to love, as the continuation, “Torrential waters cannot extinguish love,” shows. “Torrential waters” come as an antithesis to the “mighty blaze,” but the word that is in parallel with shalhebetyah is love. The word that I translate as “extinguish” always refers to something burning, usually a flame—sometimes the burning of God’s wrath. (A good example is Jeremiah 7:20: “Thus says the Lord God: My wrath and rage shall be poured out [singular verb in Hebrew] … It shall burn, with none to extinguish it” [author’s translation].) Here it is love that is burning. Just so it is love whose flames are flames of fire, approaching the text from the other side. The poet’s language is crystal clear; it sings in a fresh way of the power of love. We see this, too, in the image of the woman’s wishing to be a seal on the male lover’s heart and arm to express her love, in a way that Shakespeare imitated when he wrote of Romeo wishing to be a glove on Juliet’s hand.

The poet’s aim, I would posit, is to sing of love with all the power of the Hebrew tongue. The Song is not a polemic, as some think, but a song of victory celebrating romantic love. And Song of Songs 8:6–7 is the “key” that unlocks the poem. A brief example: Chapter 3 begins with the woman on her bed, apparently dreaming. Yet she awakes and rouses herself in search of her love, encounters the city watchmen, and then finds her man. There are scholars who claim the whole thing must be a dream, because no woman would go out at night in ancient Jerusalem. It seems to me that a young woman—presumably a teenager—who is madly in love would risk going out at night. Chapter 5 fleshes out this contention. The lover knocks, but the woman is slow to answer. He disappears into the night, and she heads after him, only to receive a hiding—perhaps actually a wound—from the watchmen.

The poet isn’t naïve: “Harsh as the netherworld is passion.” Thus we see that the passage with which we began is the key to these two episodes, for to the impetuous young woman, “love is strong as death.”

Biblical Views: “Love Is Strong as Death—but Don’t Spend the Family’s Wealth” by Philip Stern was originally published in Biblical Archaeology Review, January/February 2017.

Dr. Philip Stern is the author of The Biblical Herem: A Window on Israel’s Religion Experience (1991), and his current projects include aiding a colleague with a translation of Job and working on a commentary of the Song of Songs.




1. Richard S. Hess, “Song of Songs: Not Just a Dirty Book,” Bible Review, Winter 2005; Jack M. Sasson, “Unlocking the Poetry of Love in the Song of Songs,” Bible Review, Spring 1985.

2. The New Jewish Publication Society translation also reads “fierce.”

3. Aren M. Wilson-Wright, “Love Conquers All: Song of Songs 8:6b–7a as a Reflex of the Northwest Semitic Combat Myth,” Journal of Biblical Literature 134 (2015), pp. 333–345.

4. S.D. Goitein, “The Song of Songs: A Female Composition,” in Athalya Brenner, ed., A Feminist Companion to the Song of Songs (Sheffield, England: Sheffield Academic Press, 1993), pp. 58–66.



Related reading in Bible History Daily:

Defining Biblical Hermeneutics

What Is the Oldest Hebrew Bible?

How Was the Bible Written During and After the Exile?



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D.C.-Area Archaeology Event

‎Friday, ‎February ‎10, ‎2017, ‏‎9:19:22 PM | Biblical Archaeology Society StaffGo to full article


poxy1On Friday, February 17, 2017, Christopher Rollston, Associate Professor of Northwest Semitic Languages and Literatures at the George Washington University, will deliver the lecture “Women in the Coptic Gospel of Thomas: In Life and in the Afterlife” in the Washington, D.C. area. The lecture is hosted by the American Research Center in Egypt–DC Chapter (ARCE–DC).

The Gospel of Thomas has been a lightning rod for the subject of gender in antiquity. This lecture will focus on some of the assumptions about gender (in life and in the afterlife) that are present in the Gospel of Thomas, while also factoring in the broader cultural context of the Greco-Roman World, Second Temple Judaism and Early Christianity.

Click here for more information.

The religion section of most bookstores includes an amazing array of Bibles. In our free eBook The Holy Bible: A Buyer’s Guide, prominent Biblical scholars Leonard Greenspoon and Harvey Minkoff expertly guide you through 21 different Bible translations (or versions) and address their content, text, style and religious orientation.



Related reading in Bible History Daily:

The Sayings of Jesus in the Gospel of Thomas

The Gospel of Thomas’s 114 Sayings of Jesus

Christian Apocrypha: The “Lost Gospels”?

The Nag Hammadi Codices and Gnostic Christianity



The post D.C.-Area Archaeology Event appeared first on Biblical Archaeology Society.


Did Jesus’ Last Supper Take Place Above the Tomb of David?

‎Thursday, ‎February ‎9, ‎2017, ‏‎4:13:48 PM | Marek DospělGo to full article


Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and make preparations for us to eat the Passover. […] As you enter the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. […] He will show you a large room upstairs, all furnished. Make preparations there.” (Luke 22:7–12)



Masonry of the Cenacle’s eastern wall clearly demonstrates its “layered” history—from the Second Temple period through the Byzantine and Crusader periods to the Ottoman period. Visible on the right is the Dormition Abbey. Photo: Courtesy of David C. Clausen.

This two-story stone building atop Mount Zion (right) ranks among the most intriguing sites in Jerusalem. It is traditionally called the Cenacle (from the Latin coenaculum, “dining-room”) and you will find it just outside the present-day Old City walls to the south (see map). The building’s lower story has been associated since the Middle Ages with the Tomb of David, the purported burial place of the Biblical King David, while the upper story—often referred to in English as the “Upper Room”—is traditionally believed to be the place of Jesus’ Last Supper.1


Even though it suffered numerous natural and man-inflicted disasters and was claimed and successively held by the faithful of all three monotheistic religions, the Last Supper Cenacle remains standing as a testimony to a long-shared sacrality in the Eternal City. It has been a church, a mosque and a synagogue.

It was not until quite recently, however, that the location of Jesus’ Last Supper and the identity of this particular building were questioned and became an object of scholarly debate. David Christian Clausen, adjunct lecturer in Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, examines the evidence for various claims regarding the historical purpose of the Cenacle in his Archaeological Views column “Mount Zion’s Upper Room and Tomb of David” in the January/February 2017 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review.


Jesus’ Last Supper and the Tomb of David are traditionally associated with the Cenacle on Mount Zion.

Regrettably, no archaeological excavation has ever been attempted at or around the alleged site of Jesus’ Last Supper and the Tomb of David on Mount Zion to assess the development, relationship or even age of the built structures. Only limited probing and non-invasive soundings were performed at different times in history—typically in association with new construction or renovation at the site.

Jerusalem lies at the heart of Biblical archaeology. In the free eBook Jerusalem Archaeology: Exposing the Biblical City, learn about the latest finds in the Biblical world’s most vibrant city.

In his latest book,2 Clausen looks at all the extant historical evidence and tries to make sense of what the limited archaeological data tell us when interpreted together with contemporary artistic representations, literary sources, accounts by Western pilgrims and the various traditions passed on through the ages.


In unraveling the complex story, Clausen tackles two sets of issues: First, when was the building we now call the Cenacle established, and what were its functions over the centuries? Second, where are the actual sites of Jesus’ Last Supper and the Tomb of David?



The presumptive Tomb of David is commemorated in the Cenacle on Mount Zion by this cenotaph. The niche visible behind the cenotaph is seen by some as evidence for the space having been a synagogue in antiquity. Photo: Courtesy of David C. Clausen.

Biblical texts locate the Tomb of David in the City of David, the ancient settlement overlooking the Kidron Valley (1 Kings 2:10 and Nehemiah 3:14–16). It was apparently only in the Middle Ages that the burial place of King David began to be expressly associated with Mount Zion. Adding to the puzzle, however, is the uncertain location of the Biblical Zion vs. the modern-day Mount Zion. Can we safely identify the Biblical Zion with the western hill we now call Mount Zion?


Modern scholars generally argue that the Biblical Zion was located on the hill east of the present-day Mount Zion, on the site where the formerly Jebusite City of David stood; they also mostly agree that Mount Zion came to be identified with the western hill only around the turn of the era. It is thus highly unlikely that the Cenacle has anything to do with the actual tomb of David.3

Where Jesus’ Last Supper took place as narrated in the Gospels is even more intricate. Unlike with the tomb of David, the location of the Last Supper’s cenacle is not specified in the Bible.4 Nor is the location of a number of other events associated with the same building clear, including appearances by the risen Jesus (Luke 24:36; John 20:19–29), the selection of Matthias the twelfth apostle (Acts 1:26), the first Pentecost following Easter Sunday (Acts 2:1–14), and the interment of Jesus’ brother James. And literary sources, such as the anonymous pilgrim from Bordeaux and Egeria who associate the location of Jesus’ Last Supper with Mount Zion, go back only to the fourth century C.E.

As the alleged place of congregation and worship for early Christians in Jerusalem, the Cenacle on Mount Zion would be the first Christian church ever.5 So, did subsequent churches at the site of today’s Cenacle honor the location of the original Upper Room? Was the Byzantine basilica of Hagia Sion (“Holy Zion”)—built in 379–381 C.E. and demolished in 1009 C.E.—constructed to incorporate the house where Jesus’ Last Supper happened? Called “the mother of all churches,” the Hagia Sion might have been, but the sixth-century mosaics of Jerusalem from Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome and St. George Church in Madaba, Jordan, which are the two earliest artistic representations of the basilica, do not support this opinion, but rather show an autonomous structure standing to the south of the Holy Zion Church.


This sixth-century C.E. mosaic map of Jerusalem from the Church of St. George in Madaba, Jordan, shows the large Byzantine basilica on Mount Zion with a small building next to it (encircled), which might be the building traditionally identified as the “Upper Room” of Jesus’ Last Supper and the Tomb of David.

Next, what is the relationship of the earliest architectural stages of the Cenacle to the Crusader-period Church of Virgin Mary and to the modern Dormition Abbey and the Basilica of the Assumption (or Dormition), built in the early 1900s over the western end of the Byzantine-era Hagia Sion?


A mosaic in the Santa Maria Maggiore Church in Rome depicts a large basilica on Mount Zion flanked by a small building—the cenacle of Jesus’ Last Supper and the Tomb of David? Photo: Courtesy of David C. Clausen.

But, most fundamentally: Do the Cenacle’s origins actually date back to Jesus’ time? Without new hard evidence—such as from excavations—this is impossible to tell for sure. Did other Biblical events traditionally associated with this building really take place at the same spot? We might never know.


Re-used in this medieval, Islamic-period dome inside the Cenacle is a Crusader-era column capital with carved eagles and other Christian symbols. Photo: Courtesy of David C. Clausen.

Some scholars, including Amit Reem of the Israel Antiquities Authority, maintain that the structures detected under the Cenacle are nothing more than just remains of a late-fourth-century Byzantine church, the Holy Zion basilica. Clausen, however, asserts that the Cenacle’s oldest elements did originate before the Byzantine period.

To learn Clausen’s full argument, read his Archaeological Views column “Mount Zion’s Upper Room and Tomb of David” in the January/February 2017 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review.




BAS Library members: Read the full Archaeological Views column “Mount Zion’s Upper Room and Tomb of David” by David Christian Clausen in the January/February 2017 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review.

Not a BAS Library member yet? Join the BAS Library today.




1. “Room upstairs” in the opening quote from Luke’s gospel corresponds in the original Greek text to the word anagaion, which denotes any upper-floor room (or elevated part) of the house. In Luke’s gospel, it serves as a dining-room (hence the Latin coenaculum).

2. David Christian Clausen, The Upper Room and Tomb of David: The History, Art and Archaeology of the Cenacle on Mount Zion (Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2016).

3. See Jeffrey R. Zorn, “Is T1 David’s Tomb?” BAR, November/December 2012.

4. See Matthew 26:17–20; Mark 14:12–17; Luke 22:7–12.

5. See Bargil Pixner, “Church of the Apostles Found on Mt. Zion,” BAR, May/June 1990.



Related reading in Bible History Daily:

Was Jesus’ Last Supper a Seder? by Jonathan Klawans

Jesus’ Last Supper Still Wasn’t a Passover Seder Meal by Jonathan Klawans

The Last Days of Jesus: A Final “Messianic” Meal by James Tabor

Pilgrims’ Progress to Byzantine Jerusalem



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Sold! Earliest Surviving 10 Commandments Stone

‎Wednesday, ‎February ‎8, ‎2017, ‏‎6:04:32 PM | Megan SauterGo to full article




A 10 Commandments stone tablet—believed by some to be the oldest stone copy of the 10 Commandments—was sold at an auction in November 2016 for $850,000. Photo: Courtesy Heritage Auctions/HA.com.

An early copy of the 10 Commandments sold for $850,000 last November.


Dated by some to c. 300–500 C.E., this marble tablet may be the oldest stone copy of the 10 Commandments—even though it displays only nine of the traditional 10 Commandments from Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5.1 The 10 Commandments stone omits the command to not take the Lord’s name in vain (Exodus 20:7; Deuteronomy 5:11) and includes instead a charge to build a temple on Mt. Gerizim. Although this addition is likely unfamiliar to many Christians and Jews, it reflects the particular religious beliefs of the Samaritans. The tablet, which is written in the Samaritan script, likely adorned a Samaritan synagogue.

About 115 pounds and 2 feet tall, the 10 Commandments stone entered the collection of the Living Torah Museum in Brooklyn, New York, in 2005. According to the museum’s founder, Rabbi Shaul Deutsch, the tablet was first discovered in Yavneh (near Tel Aviv in modern Israel) during the construction of the Palestine-Egypt railway in 1913.

The Living Torah Museum auctioned the 10 Commandments stone last November with an opening bid of $250,000. It sold for more than three times that amount.

Although the purchaser of the 10 Commandments stone does not wish to be identified at this time, there is no fear that this piece will become lost in a private collection. A stipulation in the original export agreement with the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) mandates that the tablet be put on public display, which means that soon this piece will be accessible to the public once more.

Our free eBook Ten Top Biblical Archaeology Discoveries brings together the exciting worlds of archaeology and the Bible! Learn the fascinating insights gained from artifacts and ruins, like the Pool of Siloam in Jerusalem, where the Gospel of John says Jesus miraculously restored the sight of the blind man, and the Tel Dan inscription—the first historical evidence of King David outside the Bible.




1. See Hershel Shanks, “Yes, Virginia, There IS an American Biblical Archaeology Museum,” BAR, November/December 2004.



Related reading in Bible History Daily:

Ten Commandments Dead Sea Scroll to Be Displayed in Israel

Love Your Neighbor: Only Israelites or Everyone?

The Samaritan Schism by Lawrence H. Schiffman



The post Sold! Earliest Surviving 10 Commandments Stone appeared first on Biblical Archaeology Society.


Site-Seeing: Archaeological Remains in Holy Sepulchre’s Shadow

‎Monday, ‎January ‎30, ‎2017, ‏‎4:34:43 PM | Biblical Archaeology Society StaffGo to full article




The Lutheran Church of the Redeemer, Jerusalem, Israel. Photo: “Lutheran Church of the Redeemer, Jerusalem 307” by Gabrielw.tour is licensed under CC-by-SA-3.0.

Jerusalem is full of fabulous sites. If you are lucky enough to have been there, you know this is a very visceral place. This new BAR feature is meant to highlight slightly out-of-the-way sites, however. These are places you may have missed on your first (or even your second) visit, but that may be worth your time when you are lucky enough to make it back.


The Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in Jerusalem is one such site. If you’ve been to Jerusalem’s Old City, you’ve seen the building at least from a distance: Its bell tower dominates the Old City skyline. If you have ever walked the Via Dolorosa—the traditional 14 Stations of the Cross, starting from just inside St. Stephen’s Gate in the Muslim Quarter and ending with the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the Christian Quarter—you have walked right by the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer. It was on your left as you made your way toward the Holy Sepulchre between Station 9 (Jesus’ third fall) and Station 10 (the dividing of Jesus’ garments). But it is quite likely that you walked right by; after making nine stops on the way to the Holy Sepulchre, who has time for a tenth? (Stations 10 through 14 are located within the compound of the Holy Sepulchre.)

If you haven’t been there, the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer is indeed worth a stop.
First, the church is worth seeing for what it is: an impressive example of late 19th-century neo-Romanesque architecture. This church was completed for Kaiser Wilhelm’s famous 1898 pilgrimage to Jerusalem (the one for which the Ottoman ramparts were breached and opened near Jaffa Gate).

If you have little interest in 19th-century church architecture, you should visit the church for a second reason: the bell tower. If you are willing to pay a small fee and exert some serious effort climbing 178 spiral staircase steps, you can take in fabulous unobstructed views of Jerusalem. You can even look down on the domes of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. But don’t worry—if climbing those stairs is not for you, there are more riches in store.

Jerusalem lies at the heart of Biblical archaeology. In the free eBook Jerusalem Archaeology: Exposing the Biblical City, learn about the latest finds in the Biblical world’s most vibrant city.

Jonathan Klawans

Jonathan Klawans

Indeed, the primary reason BAR readers should not miss this site is for the archaeological remains visible throughout.


The modern structure was erected on the site of an earlier Crusader church, known as Santa Maria Latina. Various medieval elements have been worked into the newer building. Some ruins are visible from the outside on the north side of the building (along the traditional path of the Via Dolorosa), but the better part of these can be seen within the structure. In fact, the complex adjacent to the sanctuary of the church includes a full four-sided medieval cloister. Apparently, it’s the only complete cloister in the entire Old City (who knew?). And built into second-floor restored medieval rooms off the cloister is a small, but elegant, museum of archaeology, displaying a range of artifacts discovered during the construction of the church.

But the real highlight for BAR readers is down below. Before the church was constructed, excavations took place underneath.1 These are now accessible by walking down a staircase near the tower entrance. A short movie (available in German, English, Hebrew, Arabic and Russian—and soon in Spanish, French, etc.) provides a brief orientation to the site. There are remnants of walls from the Hadrianic period (117–138 C.E.), pavement from the fourth century, mosaics from the 12th century and more (but not too much more, because it’s a rather small space).

The complex is open to the public from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Saturday. (Worship services are held in English, German and Arabic on Sundays and other times, as well.) There is a modest fee (15 NIS) for admission to the tower, museum and excavations. Travel services within the complex are minimal. Booklets about the church, postcards of the church and a guidebook of the excavations are for sale, and there is a clean bathroom. Cold drinks and other refreshments can easily be found right outside along Muristan Road or inside the adjacent Muristan Market. But don’t be in a rush to leave: True to its nature, the cloistered courtyard provides a quiet, shady place to rest after walking up (and down) all those steps.

Jonathan Klawans is Professor of Religion at Boston University. His most recent book is Josephus and the Theologies of Ancient Judaism (Oxford, 2012).

Site-Seeing: “Archaeological Remains in Holy Sepulchre’s Shadow” by Jonathan Klawans was originally published in Biblical Archaeology Review, January/February 2017.




1. For more information, see Marcel Serr and Dieter Vieweger, Archaeological Views: “Golgotha: Is the Holy Sepulchre Church Authentic?” BAR, May/June 2016.



Related reading in Bible History Daily:

Where Is Golgotha, Where Jesus Was Crucified?

Tour Showcases Remains of Herod’s Jerusalem Palace—Possible Site of the Trial of Jesus

What Were the Crusades and How Did They Impact Jerusalem?

Journey to Jerusalem: A Tel Kabri Dig Weekend



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Myra, Turkey: St. Nicholas’s Christian Capital

‎Thursday, ‎January ‎26, ‎2017, ‏‎5:57:07 PM | Noah WienerGo to full article


This Bible History Daily feature was originally published in 2014.—Ed.


At Myra, a 13th-century chapel's interior includes a cross-shaped window positioned to illuminate the altar table with a cross of sunlight. Photo: Myra-Andriake Excavations.

For centuries the city of Myra, located in the heart of Lycia on the southern coast of Turkey, served as a pilgrimage destination for Byzantine Christians. The fourth-century bishop of Myra, later canonized as St. Nicholas (and commonly remembered as Santa Claus), shaped the development of the Christian city before his traditional burial at Myra. For over 1,500 years, the church of St. Nicholas has stood out as an icon of the Christian saint’s influence in an area marked by the monumental remains of the earlier Greco-Roman Lycian populace.


Recent archaeological activity at Myra has begun to expose a remarkably intact Christian city beneath modern Demre. While the church of St. Nicholas, the honeycomb tombs and the theater have endured as iconic symbols of the Lycian coast, the majority of the ancient city was buried under 18 feet of sediment deposited by the nearby Myros River.

Archaeologists have completed the excavation of a 13th-century chapel preserved with a Pompeiian clarity. Built just a century before the city was abandoned, the structure features a six-foot deesis fresco depicting Jesus, John and Mary holding scrolls with Greek Biblical texts, a style never before found in Turkey. Details of the architecture remain in pristine shape, including a cross-shaped window that shines directly onto the altar. Archaeologists working at the site hope that the preservation witnessed in the chapel excavation will extend down to the earliest Christian and Greco-Roman remains as well.


In “Destinations: Myra, Turkey” in the Summer 1998 issue of Archaeology Odyssey, Julie Skurdenis described Lycia and Myra:

I had come to Turkey to visit the sites of ancient Lycia, which dot a 160-mile stretch of Mediterranean coastline between the cities of Fethiye and Antalya. With its majestic rock-cut tombs, Lycia is a place of rugged beauty. It remains relatively remote, despite the recent intrusion of a modern highway.



The fourth-century church of St. Nicholas in Demre was built to commemorate the bishop of Myra. The church once contained the remains of St. Nicholas, but Italian merchants reportedly raided his tomb and carried off his bones to Italy. Photo: Sonia Halliday Photographs.

The fourth-century church of St. Nicholas in Demre was built to commemorate the bishop of Myra. The church once contained the remains of St. Nicholas, but Italian merchants reportedly raided his tomb and carried off his bones to Italy. Photo: Sonia Halliday Photographs.

But I had also come to Turkey because of Santa Claus, or Baba Noel, as jolly old St. Nick is known here. The Lycian city of Myra was home to St. Nicholas, the fourth-century A.D. Christian bishop who became associated with Christmas and gift giving.


Where the Lycians originally came from no one really knows. Herodotus reports that they were Minoans from Crete, arriving sometime around 1400 B.C. More likely they were an indigenous tribe related to the Hittites and referred to in Hittite documents as the Lukka. In Homer’s Iliad, the Lycians fight as allies of Troy in the Trojan War.

Throughout its history, Lycia was controlled by a succession of foreign rulers: the Persians in the sixth century B.C., the Athenians in the fifth century, Alexander the Great in the fourth century, and then Alexander’s successors, the Ptolemies, who also ruled Egypt. After a brief subjugation by the Syrians, Lycia came under Roman influence in the second century B.C. In late Roman times, Myra became the seat of a Christian bishopric. The Byzantine emperor Theodosius II made the city the capital of Lycia in the fifth century A.D. But the region’s demise came two centuries later, with invasions by the Arabs and the silting up of its formerly busy harbor.

In the
free eBook Paul: Jewish Law and Early Christianity, learn about the cultural contexts for the theology of Paul and how Jewish traditions and law extended into early Christianity through Paul’s dual roles as a Christian missionary and a Pharisee.


This recently excavated thirteen-century chapel was discovered in a remarkable state of preservation after it was covered by a quick buildup of sediments. Photo: Myra-Andriake Excavations.

The English traveler Sir Charles Fellows, who visited Lycia in 1838, noted that Myra’s “ruins appear to be little injured by age.” Indeed, Myra—whose name may derive from the Greek word for myrrh, a fragrant gum resin used to make incense—is one of the most beautiful places along Turkey’s southern coast. When I arrived at the ancient city, the bright blue Turkish skies turned black, unleashing continual rainstorms. (Fellows had a similar experience on his first day at Myra: “Yesterday the rain came down in torrents,” he wrote, “and we remained busily employed in sketching and writing in our little hut, which was scarcely proof against the heavy rain.”) For me, however, the rain only heightened the ancient city’s dramatic beauty.


What is left of Lycian Myra, in addition to remnants of its acropolis wall, is its necropolis—dozens of tombs carved out of a steep cliff, one atop the other, honeycombing the mountainside. Some of the tombs are elaborate temple-like structures, but most resemble Lycian houses of 2,400 years ago; even their roofs were carefully carved out of the rock to resemble the ends of logs. The Lycians apparently believed that the dead should feel at home in their final resting places.


The dramatic tombs of ancient Myra were expertly carved out of a sheer, rocky cliff. The tombs show a variety of architectural styles: Some resemble ornate temples, though most look like modest houses. Photo: Giovanni Lattanzi.

The dramatic tombs of ancient Myra were expertly carved out of a sheer, rocky cliff. The tombs show a variety of architectural styles: Some resemble ornate temples, though most look like modest houses. Photo: Giovanni Lattanzi.

The interiors of the tombs are lined with stone benches, sometimes carved to look like beds, on which the dead were placed. Carved reliefs adorn the exterior and interior walls as well as the pediments above the entrances to some of the tombs. One recurring subject of these carvings is the funeral banquet, attended by the deceased and his family and friends.


Myra’s Roman past is represented by the well-preserved Greco-Roman theater, located at the base of the cliff beside the necropolis. Constructed in the second century B.C., the theater was damaged during the massive earthquake of 141 A.D. and restored by Opramoas, a wealthy official who lived in Rhodiapolis, Myra’s neighbor to the east. The theater’s cavea, or auditorium, rests against the cliff. Myrans attending plays or, later in the city’s history, gladitorial spectacles, would have entered either at ground level or through the huge vaulted passageways on either side of the cavea. Along the sides of these passageways are small rooms where sellers once hawked their goods, crying out the Roman equivalent of “Get your cold beer.” Sheltered under the theater’s vaulted passageways, I could have used a cold beer during an hour-long deluge of Jovian proportions! Other remnants of Roman Myra—its agora, baths and temples—still lie buried near the theater.

St. Nicholas’s church in Demre (also called Kale) is about a mile from the theater’s ruins. St. Nicholas was born in Patara, another Lycian city just west of Myra, around 300 A.D. Little is known of his life other than that he was bishop of Myra and may have been imprisoned during the final years of Emperor Diocletian’s reign. The Demre church, now sunken into a hollow, probably dates to the fourth century. It was largely rebuilt in 1043 by the Byzantine emperor Constantine IX and again in 1862 by Czar Nicholas I. Except for a few 19th-century additions—such as a belltower—it looks the way it probably did in the 11th century, when Nicholas’s body was supposedly stolen by Italian merchants and carried off to Bari in southern Italy.


Myra’s Roman past is represented by the well-preserved Greco-Roman theater, located at the base of the cliff beside the necropolis. Constructed in the second century B.C., the theater was damaged during the massive earthquake of 141 A.D. and restored by the wealthy official Opramoas.

Myra’s Roman past is represented by the well-preserved Greco-Roman theater, located at the base of the cliff beside the necropolis. Constructed in the second century B.C., the theater was damaged during the massive earthquake of 141 A.D. and restored by the wealthy official Opramoas.

The four-aisled basilica has marble pavements, remnants of frescoes and an ornate broken tomb in the church’s southern aisle, which may have once held the saint’s bones. A huge modern statue of Nicholas looms over a small garden adjacent to the church: He carries a sack of gifts and is surrounded by a cluster of children.


Interestingly enough, the legend of Santa Claus was born, not in the frigid terrain of the North Pole, but in the warm climes of southern Turkey. As the story goes, St. Nicholas took pity on the poor girls of Demre who remained hopelessly unmarried, unable to afford a suitable dowry. So Nicholas began dropping bags filled with coins down the chimneys of the unsuspecting girls’ houses. In Europe, Nicholas became associated with the feast of Christmas; in America, his name was subsequently changed to Santa Claus.
Myra is not the only spectacular ancient Lycian city. On the road between Fethiye and Kalkan, one can find a cluster of sites with tombs cut from steep rock escarpments—a “string of Lycian pearls,” as one local caretaker called them with obvious pride. Xanthos boasts unique pillar tombs. Tlos contains a rock necropolis and numerous sarcophagi. Letoon, once the national shrine of Lycia, has three temples dedicated to the titaness Leto and her divine twins, Artemis and Apollo. And Patara, the birthplace of St. Nicholas, is renowned for its spectacular white sand beach as well as its monumental gateway and Lycian necropolis.



This Bible History Daily feature was originally published on May 1, 2014.—Ed.



More on Myra and the Lycian coast in Bible History Daily:

Delikkemer: Hydrating Democracy at Patara

Ancient Synagogue Discovered in Southern Turkey

Jews in Roman Turkey

Restoration Completed on the World’s Oldest Major Parliament

Newly Established Hiking Trail Guides Adventurous Travelers Through Turkey’s Archaeological Wonders



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Jews in Roman Turkey

‎Wednesday, ‎January ‎25, ‎2017, ‏‎6:57:33 PM | Megan SauterGo to full article


This Bible History Daily feature was originally published in 2015.—Ed.


Fragments of chancel screens with seven-branched menorahs and other Jewish symbols on them were uncovered in a Jewish building at Limyra—in Roman Turkey—by Martin Seyer and his excavation team. Photo: Courtesy Martin Seyer

Located on the coast of southwestern Turkey, Limyra has a long, rich history—although the site now lies in ruins. Occupied for more than a millennium, it served as the home for many different religious groups. A recent archaeological discovery at Limyra suggests that a Jewish community also lived there.


Martin Seyer of the Austrian Archaeological Institute explains the history of the site and shares an update about recent excavations at Limyra, Turkey, in his article “Mysterious Jewish Building in Roman Turkey” in the January/February 2016 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review.

Limyra, Turkey, was first settled in the sixth century B.C.E. During the fourth century B.C.E., it was the largest city in Lycia (a region on the southern coast of Anatolia). Limyra and its surrounding region have roughly 400 tombs divided among five necropoleis. This is the largest number of tombs of any Lycian city. The site also has temples from the Hellenistic and Roman periods.

Several centuries later, in the Byzantine period, Limyra served as the seat of a bishop. Three basilical churches, including the Episcopal (Bishop’s) Church from the late fifth or sixth century C.E., stood in the city at that time.

In the free eBook Paul: Jewish Law and Early Christianity, learn about the cultural contexts for the theology of Paul and how Jewish traditions and law extended into early Christianity through Paul’s dual roles as a Christian missionary and a Pharisee.


Necropolis I is the most famous necropolis surrounding Limyra, Turkey. It has nine impressive Lycian tombs. Photo: Courtesy Martin Seyer

In the midst of these pagan and Christian influences, it appears that there was also a Jewish presence at Limyra, Turkey. In a building recently excavated by Martin Seyer, chancel screens with Jewish symbolsmenorahs, a shofar and a lulav (palm branch)—have been uncovered. In a later period, these screens were broken and reused as paving stones.


In the same building, close to the discovery spot of the chancel screens, is a water basin. With plastered walls and a floor of marble slabs, this basin was fed by rainwater. A low stone bench rests against one of the walls. Could this basin have served as a mikveh, a Jewish ritual bath?

With its Jewish features, could this structure have been a synagogue? Martin Seyer clarifies that although it is not possible to create a precise stratigraphy for this building because of the high groundwater level, there are still some reasons to interpret this structure as a synagogue:

In short, it appears that this building had features of a synagogue in both an early and late phase. The chancel screens that were laid as paving in the vestibule indicate that the water basin can be viewed in connection with a Jewish structure. Even if these slabs were laid in secondary usage to raise the floor level against the gradually rising groundwater, they nevertheless indicate that a synagogue was once located in the immediate vicinity. These slabs are without doubt remnants of screens that separated the Torah shrine from the rest of the hall. Such chancel screens have been found in many synagogues near the Torah shrine. It is therefore not improbable that the building partially excavated in Limyra was itself a synagogue.

This building with its Jewish features is the only attestation of a Jewish community in Limyra, Turkey. Previous to its discovery, the only other indicator that there were Jewish inhabitants at Limyra was a solitary Greek inscription on a rock tomb that reads, “Tomb of Iudas.” The recently excavated building with Jewish features shows that there were enough Jewish inhabitants to justify a synagogue.

To learn more about Limyra, read the full article “Mysterious Jewish Building in Roman Turkey” by Martin Seyer in the January/February 2016 issue of BAR.




BAS Library Members: Read the full article “Mysterious Jewish Building in Roman Turkey,” by Martin Seyer in the January/February 2016 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review.

Not a BAS Library member yet? Join the BAS Library today.

This Bible History Daily feature was originally published on December 21, 2015.—Ed.



Learn more about the Jewish presence in Roman Turkey and synagogues in the BAS Library:

Paul’s Journeys Special Collection

Rachel Hachlili, “Synagogues: Before and After the Roman Destruction of the Temple,” Biblical Archaeology Review, May/June 2015.



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D.C.-Area Archaeology Event

‎Monday, ‎January ‎23, ‎2017, ‏‎11:44:41 PM | Biblical Archaeology Society StaffGo to full article


The Washington, D.C.-area Biblical Archaeology Society of Northern Virginia (BASONOVA) will host the lecture “Doctors, Diseases and Deities: Epidemic Crises and Medicine in Ancient Rome” by Sarah Yeomans on January 29, 2017. Not in the D.C. area? The Biblical Archaeology Society offers a wide range of travel/study programs in the United States and across the globe.

Sunday, January 29, 2017, Sarah Yeomans, Director of Educational Programs at the Biblical Archaeology Society, will deliver the lecture “Doctors, Diseases and Deities: Epidemic Crises and Medicine in Ancient Rome.”


Life in the ancient Roman world could be perilous. War, disease, famine and childbirth are a just a few examples of circumstances that contributed to a much lower average lifespan than that which we enjoy today.

People in antiquity were no less concerned about the prevention and cure of maladies than they are now, and entire cults, sanctuaries and professions dedicated to health dotted the spiritual, physical and professional landscapes of the ancient world.

In her presentation, Yeomans examines a recently excavated, as-yet unpublished archaeological site that has substantially contributed to our understanding of what ancient Romans did to combat disease and injury, as well as evidence for how they responded to one of the most horrifying epidemics the ancient world had ever seen: the Antonine Plague of the 2nd century C.E.

Click here for more information.




About the speaker:

sarah-yeomans-2Sarah Yeomans is Director of Educational Programs at the Biblical Archaeology Society in Washington, D.C. She is an archaeologist specializing in the Imperial period of the Roman Empire with a particular emphasis on religions and ancient science. Yeomans is a faculty member in the department of religious studies at West Virginia University. In addition, she is pursuing her doctorate at the University of Southern California, where she is a Provost Fellow, and is a Mayers Fellow at the Huntington Library and Museum in Los Angeles. Yeomans holds an M.A. in archaeology from the University of Sheffield, England, and an M.A. in art history from USC. She has conducted archaeological fieldwork in Israel, Italy, Turkey, France and England and has worked on several television and film productions, most recently as an interviewed expert on Fox’s The Nativity: Facts, Fiction and Faith. Her current research involves ancient Roman medical technology and cult, as well as the impact of epidemics on Roman society. She is generally happiest when covered in dirt, roaming archaeological sites somewhere in the Mediterranean region.

The free eBook Life in the Ancient World guides you through craft centers in ancient Jerusalem, family structure across Israel and ancient practices—from dining to makeup—throughout the Mediterranean world.



Related reading in Bible History Daily:

Doctors, Diseases and Deities: Epidemic Crises and Medicine in Ancient Rome
Video lecture featuring Sarah Yeomans

Medicine in the Ancient World by Sarah Yeomans

Ancient Pergamon: City of science … and satan? by Sarah Yeomans

Ancient Cupping in Israel

Justinian Plague Linked to the Black Death

The Cyprian Plague

Epilepsy, Tutankhamun and Monotheism

Heart Disease in Mummies

Prehistoric Parasite Bloomed with Mesopotamian Farming



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Where Is the Original Siloam Pool from the Bible?

‎Monday, ‎January ‎23, ‎2017, ‏‎4:13:26 PM | Biblical Archaeology Society StaffGo to full article




Is the original Siloam Pool—the water pool fed by Jerusalem’s Gihon Spring during the First Temple period—beneath the Second Temple-period Pool of Siloam (pictured here), perhaps underneath the orchard in the left of this photo? Photo: “Picture Time at the Pool of Siloam” by Ian Scott is licensed under CC-by-SA-2.0.

Where is the original Siloam Pool, the water pool that fed Jerusalem in the First Temple period and is mentioned in the Bible (2 Kings 20:20; 2 Chronicles 32:2–4)? Although the Second Temple-period Siloam Pool—which appears in John 9 where Jesus heals a blind man—was discovered in 2004, the earlier Siloam Pool remains unknown. BAR’s Editor Hershel Shanks investigates a possible location for the Biblical Pool of Siloam from King Hezekiah’s time in the article “The Pool of Siloam Has Been Found, but Where Is the Pool of Siloam?” published in the January/February 2017 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review.


What do we know about the original Siloam Pool? In the Bible, we see that this pool was constructed during King Hezekiah’s reign in the late eighth century B.C.E. It sat inside the city’s walls at the end of the Siloam Tunnel, which is also attributed to Hezekiah in the Bible (2 Kings 20:20). The tunnel connected the Siloam Pool with the Gihon Spring, Jerusalem’s main water source that was outside the city’s walls. Hezekiah built the tunnel and pool in response to the threat of an attack by the Assyrian monarch Sennacherib (2 Chronicles 32:2–4). The new water system brought water from the Gihon Spring safely inside the city, so that the inhabitants of Jerusalem would have ready access to water even during a siege.

Our free eBook Ten Top Biblical Archaeology Discoveries brings together the exciting worlds of archaeology and the Bible! Learn the fascinating insights gained from artifacts and ruins, like the Pool of Siloam in Jerusalem, where the Gospel of John says Jesus miraculously restored the sight of the blind man, and the Tel Dan inscription—the first historical evidence of King David outside the Bible.


Hezekiah’a Tunnel weaves its way underneath the City of David, connecting the Gihon Spring in the east to the Siloam Pool in the southwestern end of the city.

Archaeology has not yet uncovered this Siloam Pool—the Biblical Pool of Siloam from King Hezekiah’s time. However, the second Siloam Pool—the later Second Temple-period pool that also appears in the Bible—has been unearthed. This pool was discovered in 2004 southeast of where the Siloam Tunnel empties into yet another pool (the third Siloam Pool; see below). The second Siloam Pool is the location of the Biblical miracle from John 9, where Jesus heals a man who had been blind since birth. Jesus spits on the ground, makes mud and puts this mud on the man’s eyes. Then he tells him to wash in the Pool of Siloam. In the Bible it records that after washing in the Siloam Pool, the man receives his sight.


A third Siloam Pool dates to the Byzantine period. The construction of this pool as well as that of the Church of Siloam just north of the pool are generally attributed to the empress Eudocia in the fifth century C.E. Located at the end of the Siloam Tunnel, the third Siloam Pool was built to commemorate the miracle from John 9—since the earlier two pools were already covered up by this time.

Although no one definitively knows the location of the first Siloam Pool, several archaeologists have suggested possibilities. BAR’s Editor Hershel Shanks adds to the chorus, proposing that the original Siloam Pool is underneath the second Pool of Siloam or possibly in the orchard located south of the second pool. The only way to determine if this location is correct would be to dig some probes, and only time will tell if that is a possibility.

To read more about the hunt for the original Siloam Pool, read “The Pool of Siloam Has Been Found, but Where Is the Pool of Siloam?” by Hershel Shanks in the January/February 2017 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review.




BAS Library members: Read the full article “The Pool of Siloam Has Been Found, but Where Is the Pool of Siloam?” by Hershel Shanks in the January/February 2017 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review.

Not a BAS Library member yet? Join the BAS Library today.



Related reading in Bible History Daily:

The Siloam Pool: Where Jesus Healed the Blind Man

Hezekiah’s Tunnel Reexamined

The Bethesda Pool, Site of One of Jesus’ Miracles

Where Did Jesus Turn Water into Wine?



The post Where Is the Original Siloam Pool from the Bible? appeared first on Biblical Archaeology Society.


Medicine in the Ancient World

‎Sunday, ‎January ‎22, ‎2017, ‏‎4:00:13 PM | Sarah YeomansGo to full article


This Bible History Daily article was originally published in 2013.—Ed.


Many Emergency Medical Service departments use the Star of Life - an image which is derived from ancient images of Asklepios. Snakes were believed to be sacred to the god, and he was often depicted as a bearded man with a walking staff that was entwined with serpents.

Life in the ancient world was risky business. The perils of war, disease, famine and childbirth are a just a few examples of circumstances that contributed to a much lower average lifespan in the ancient world than we have in the modern era. People in antiquity were no less concerned about the prevention and cure of maladies than they are now, however, and entire cults, sanctuaries and professions dedicated to health dotted the spiritual, physical and professional landscapes of the ancient world. So what exactly did ancient cultures do to combat disease and injury, and did these methods have any real basis in science as we know it today? The answers may surprise you.


In many societies, the gods played an integral role in human health. In the Greek world, the god Asklepios was dedicated exclusively to healing.a Sanctuaries called Asklepions drew the ill and injured, who would often travel for days to seek the healing that they believed these ancient sanitariums could provide. Similar in some ways to the modern spa, Asklepions provided baths, healthy foods and sanctuary rooms intended specifically for sleep and meditation. Most Asklepions were located in remote and beautiful areas, such as the famous sanctuaries of Epidauros in Greece and Pergamon in northwest Turkey. Animal sacrifices and votive offerings were made at altars and temples to the god. Excavations at Asklepions have uncovered “anatomical votives,” so named because they represent the body part that was injured or affected by illness.

Learn the stories behind Biblical archaeology finds like the Pool of Siloam in Israel, where the Gospel of John says Jesus miraculously restored sight to a blind man, in the free eBook Ten Top Biblical Archaeology Discoveries.


This gilded bronze ear was presented to the Asklepion at ancient Pergamon by a woman named Fabia Secunda, who had in made “for the god Asklepios because the ear was healed in a dream.”

By the fifth century B.C., physicians and the god of healing had become intrinsically linked, with Asklepios as the divine patron of the medical profession. Hippocrates, the most famous physician of antiquity, lived during this time, and medical treatises that he authored would be used as medical textbooks for centuries to come. From such writings, as well as other inscriptions, we see that ancient physicians knew that lancing, draining and cleaning infected wounds promoted healing, and that they knew of certain herbs that had healing and disinfecting properties.b Wild ginger was known to be helpful for nausea, and a particular clay found on the Greek island of Lemnos was believed to be helpful for ailments such as dysentery. This clay, called terra sigillata for the stamped discs that were formed from it and sold as medicine, contains the counterpart to elements such as kaolin and bentonite, which are used in modern medicines to treat diarrhea.



This first-century A.D. relief of a leg was dedicated by a man named Tycheas as “a thank-offering to Asklepios and Hygeia” at the Asklepion on the island of Melos, Greece. Photo: Bridgeman Art Library.

Surgical techniques in the ancient world could be surprisingly advanced. The famous Roman physician Galen (c. 129–199 A.D.), who was born in ancient Pergamon near the Asklepion, is generally regarded as the most accomplished medical researcher of the Roman world, and some of his surgical procedures would not be seen again until modern times. He successfully conducted cataract surgeries by inserting a needle behind the lens of the eye in order to remove the cataract, and his described methods of preparing a clean operating theater reveal a keen awareness of contagion.1 While some of Galen’s practices and theories are still followed and praised by physicians today, others, such as his rejection of the stomach wall as having no role in digestion, have been proven by modern science to be erroneous.


By the seventh century A.D., medicine as a science that was relatively independent of religious restrictions had virtually disappeared in the west, as the use of cadavers for scientific dissection had been prohibited by the Church. However, Islamic scholars in the East were studying Greek medicine in depth.c Herbs such as henbane and Indian hemp (related to marijuana) were known for their anesthetic properties, and physicians stressed the effects of diet and environment on health. Perhaps one of the most famous eastern physicians was Abu ‘Ali al-Husayn ibn ‘Abd Allah ibn Sina (980–1037 A.D.), whose work The Canon of Medicine codified existing medical knowledge. The Canon includes descriptions, causes and diagnostic techniques for conditions such as rabies, stomach ulcers, different types of hepatitis, breast cancer, facial paralysis, diphtheria, leprosy, diabetes, cancer and gout. Later translations Latinized his name to Avicenna, and by the 13th century his work had become the standard medical reference text throughout Western Europe.

Watch author Sarah Yeomans as she lectures on “Doctors, Diseases and Deities: Epidemic Crises and Medicine in Ancient Rome.”



This first-century A.D. ceramic votive depicts an image of a uterus; it was probably dedicated by a woman in hopes of conceiving. Such a representation demonstrates a sophisticated understanding of both the anatomy and function of internal organs. Photo: British Museum.

A scarred skull demonstrates evidence of trephination, a surgical technique in which holes were drilled in the patient’s skull to relieve intracranial pressure caused by head trauma. Photo: Israel Antiquities Authority.

Archaeology has further illuminated medical practices in the ancient world. Certain skeletons discovered during excavations demonstrate evidence of rather astonishing surgical successes. Perhaps the most startling evidence of sophisticated ancient surgery can be found in skulls that show signs of trepanation, a procedure still used today that is performed by drilling a hole into the skull to relieve intracranial pressure. Trepanated skulls from ancient societies in Central and South America, Africa, Asia, Europe and the Near and Middle East have been found that perhaps date back as far as the Mesolithic period, about 12,000 years ago.2 By examining the bone regrowth around the surgical hole in the skull, scientists are able to determine how long the patient survived after undergoing the procedure. Some patients died immediately, some lived only a few weeks, but others seem to have healed completely.

The plague of Justinian was one of the worst epidemics in human history. Click here to read a Bible History Daily feature on the pestilence, including recent research on bacterial links between the Justinian plague and the Black Death.


A 2.5 millimeter bronze wire (indicated by an arrow) in this tooth’s canal is evidence of early dentistry. Discovered in a mass grave at Horvat En Ziq, a small Nabatean fortress in the northern Negev desert in Israel, the incisor contains one of the earliest known fillings, dating to about 200 B.C.E. Photo: Israel Antiquities Authority.

Excavations have also revealed evidence of sophisticated dental practices in antiquity. In a mass grave at Horvat en Ziq in the northern Negev desert of Israel, a skull dating to about 200 B.C. was found that contains one of the earliest known dental fillings. A 2.5-millimeter bronze wire had been inserted into the tooth’s canal.d Elsewhere, skulls recovered from the catacombs in Rome, which were in use during the first through the fifth centuries A.D., exhibit some rather pricey dental work: Several were recovered that have gold fillings.


Ironically, it is often the funerary monuments and graves of ancient doctors that attest to their care of the living. Tablets that decorated funerary altars of physicians often depicted the instruments of their profession—objects that look remarkably similar to instruments used by surgeons today. Scalpels, forceps, forked probes for examining wounds, needles for stitching wounds, small spoons for cleaning wounds and measuring medicines, catheters and even gynecological specula are all examples of instruments employed by the medical doctors of antiquity.

Learn about the medical treatment of cupping in Bible History Daily >>

Of course, calling on a higher power for assistance during a physical trial or illness was as common in the ancient world as it is today. Many modern hospitals have nondenominational worship spaces where people can pray and meditate; people in antiquity visited shrines and temples to do the same. Individuals preparing to undergo dangerous ordeals such as childbirth or battle would often invoke the protection of the divine. Even as medical science continues to evolve, the contemplation of mortality will likely continue to cause humans to look beyond the known for the explanations that even modern science cannot yet provide.



This array of bronze surgical instruments, from a private collection in Jerusalem, dates from 40 B.C.E. to 400 C.E. and includes spoons used to scrape out wounds (lower right), a forked probe (among the spoons), knife and scalpel handles (center, their iron blades have disintegrated), spatula probes for working in wounds (lower left), forceps (upper left), hooks used to hold the skin back (left of center), and cyathisconele, cupped tools used to clean wounds (top center). Photo: Zev Radovan.


“Medicine in the Ancient World” by Sarah Yeomans was originally published in November 2013.

Sarah Yeomans is Director of Educational Programs at the Biblical Archaeology Society in Washington, D.C. She is an archaeologist specializing in the Imperial period of the Roman Empire with a particular emphasis on religions and ancient science. Yeomans is a faculty member in the department of religious studies at West Virginia University. In addition, she is pursuing her doctorate at the University of Southern California, where she is a Provost Fellow, and is a Mayers Fellow at the Huntington Library and Museum in Los Angeles. Yeomans holds an M.A. in archaeology from the University of Sheffield, England, and an M.A. in art history from USC. She has conducted archaeological fieldwork in Israel, Italy, Turkey, France and England and has worked on several television and film productions, most recently as an interviewed expert on Fox’s The Nativity: Facts, Fiction and Faith. Her current research involves ancient Roman medical technology and cult, as well as the impact of epidemics on Roman society. She is generally happiest when covered in dirt, roaming archaeological sites somewhere in the Mediterranean region.




a. Bronwen Wickkiser, “Asklepios Appears in a Dream,Archaeology Odyssey, July/August 2005.
b. George B. Griffenhagen, “Origins: On the Pill,Archaeology Odyssey, May/June 2002.
c. David W. Tschanz, “Origins: A Cure for the Common Cold?” Archaeology Odyssey, Summer 1998.
d. Hector Avolos, “Ancient Medicine,” Bible Review, June 1995.

1. See Galen, Galen on the Usefulness of the Parts of the Body, trans. by Margaret Tallmadge May (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1968) and A. Sorsby, A. Modern Ophthalmology (London: Butterworths, 1963).

2. See S. Missios, “Hippocrates, Galen, and the Uses of Trepanation in the Ancient Classical World,” Neurosurgical Focus 23(1):E11 (2007); P. Marino and M. Gonzales-Portillo,” Preconquest Peruvian Neurosurgeons: A Study of Inca and Pre-Columbian Trephination and the Art of Medicine in Ancient Peru” Neurology 47:4, (2000), pp. 940–955.



The post Medicine in the Ancient World appeared first on Biblical Archaeology Society.


The Masoretic Text and the Dead Sea Scrolls

‎Saturday, ‎January ‎21, ‎2017, ‏‎5:22:42 AM | Biblical Archaeology Society StaffGo to full article


This Bible History Daily feature was originally published in 2011.—Ed.

The Masoretic Text and the Dead Sea Scrolls

Inside Qumran Cave four, where 15,000 Dead Sea Scroll fragments from more than 580 documents were found. Many of the Biblical fragments from Cave 4 preserve readings that deviate from the standard readings of the Masoretic Text. To scholars, these variants are uniquely valuable because of their antiquity: The Dead Sea Scrolls are a thousand years older than our earliest complete edition of the Masoretic Text. Photo: Hershel Shanks.

At last, almost all of the Dead Sea Scrolls have been transcribed, transliterated, translated and either published or nearly published. But as soon as this task is accomplished, scholars are faced with new challenges: Do insights from the scrolls add to the Masoretic text (known as the original Hebrew Bible text, or the Tanakh, which roughly corresponds to the Protestant Old Testament), and if so, should the original Hebrew Bible text be modified based this information? Scholars from both sides of the divide weigh in on this issue below (see links below).


The Dead Sea Scrolls did not, as some early dreamers speculated, answer the age-old question: Where is the original Bible? Not, as it turns out, in the caves of Qumran. Nor do the scrolls include long lost books of the Bible. Furthermore, the scrolls did not utterly transform our image of the original Hebrew Bible text. Indeed, one of the most important contributions of the scrolls is that they have demonstrated the relative stability of the Masoretic text.

Interested in the history and meaning of the Dead Sea Scrolls? In the free eBook Dead Sea Scrolls, learn what the Dead Sea Scrolls are and why are they important. Find out what they tell us about the Bible, Christianity and Judaism.

Nevertheless, there are differences (some quite significant) between the scrolls and the Masoretic text. Furthermore, these differences have made scholars rethink variant readings found in other ancient manuscripts. How should scholars treat these variants with relationship to the Masoretic text? Should they try to determine which readings are the most original and then incorporate them in a new critical edition of the Hebrew Bible? Or should they continue to use the Masoretic text as their base? Does a single version of the Hebrew Bible exist that is older than all others presently known, and if so, where is the original Bible? These questions are not merely academic; for any changes made to scholarly editions of the Masoretic text will have repercussions for decades of research and will affect all future Bible translations.

The Dead Sea Scrolls have been called the greatest manuscript find of all time. Visit the BAS Dead Sea Scrolls Page for dozens of articles on the scrolls’ significance, discovery and scholarship.

Per usual in the world of academics and research, there are scholars two sides to every argument. The case of using the Dead Sea Scrolls to modify the Masoretic text is no different. Ronald S. Hendel of the University of California, Berkeley, argues that scholars can reconstruct a more original Hebrew Bible text if they “combine the best from each tradition.” James A. Sanders, founder and president emeritus of the Ancient Biblical Manuscript Center in Claremont, California, responds by urging scholars to “keep each tradition separate.”


And as far as answering the question: Where is the original Bible (and whether such a thing even exists): We don’t know. But to all scholars and Biblical archaeologists we can offer this advice: Keep digging!

This Bible History Daily feature was originally published on July 20, 2011.



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Josephus on the Essenes

‎Friday, ‎January ‎20, ‎2017, ‏‎11:54:46 PM | Biblical Archaeology Society StaffGo to full article


This Bible History Daily feature was originally published in 2012.—Ed.


Steve Mason argues that the texts of Josephus cannot be relied upon to support the conclusion that the Essenes were the authors of the Dead Sea Scrolls and the inhabitants of Qumran.

Flavius Josephus was a first-century Jewish historian, politician and soldier whose literary works provide crucial documentation of Roman Palestine in the first century A.D. At age 29, he was appointed general of the Jewish forces in Galilee. He was eventually captured by Vespasian, who was at that time the supreme commander of the Roman army. Josephus capitulated and sought to ingratiate himself with the Roman general, eventually becoming part of the imperial court in Rome. He was an eyewitness to the destruction of Jerusalem and the Second Temple by the Roman army in 70 A.D. He spent the rest of his life in Rome pursuing his literary career, the surviving results of which comprise a vital source of historical information.


Josephus’s commentaries on the laws and characteristics of the Essene community have been invaluable to scholars studying ancient Jewish laws and customs. They have also been the subject of much debate, particularly as they pertain to the Dead Sea Scrolls. Researchers have relied heavily on Josephus’s works as they try to determine who wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls, who inhabited Qumran, and whether or not the authors of the scrolls and the community at Qumran were in fact one and the same.

Professor Steve Mason asserts in his article “Did the Essenes Write the Dead Sea Scrolls? Don’t Rely on Josephus” (BAR, November/December 2008) that the texts of Josephus cannot be relied upon to support the conclusion that the Essenes were the authors of the Dead Sea Scrolls and the inhabitants of Qumran. So what does Josephus have to say about the Essene community? Following is a translated excerpt from The Jewish War, in which Josephus provides his main description of this fascinating group.

Interested in the history and meaning of the Dead Sea Scrolls? Find out what they tell us about the Bible, Christianity and Judaism when you download our free Dead Sea Scrolls eBook.

This deliberately literal translation of the Greek is from Steve Mason, Flavius Josephus: translation and commentary, vol. 1b: Judean War (Leiden: Brill, 2008).


The Jewish War, Book II, Chapter 8


119 For three forms of philosophy are pursued among the Judeans: the members of one are Pharisees, of another Sadducees, and the third [school], who certainly are reputed to cultivate seriousness, are called Essenes; although Judeans by ancestry, they are even more mutually affectionate than the others. 120 Whereas these men shun the pleasures as vice, they consider self-control and not succumbing to the passions virtue. And although there is among them a disdain for marriage, adopting the children of outsiders while they are still malleable enough for the lessons they regard them as family and instill in them their principles of character: 121 without doing away with marriage or the succession resulting from it, they nevertheless protect themselves from the wanton ways of women, having been persuaded that none of them preserves her faithfulness to one man.


122 Since [they are] despisers of wealth—their communal stock is astonishing—, one cannot find a person among them who has more in terms of possessions. For by a law, those coming into the school must yield up their funds to the order, with the result that in all [their ranks] neither the humiliation of poverty nor the superiority of wealth is detectable, but the assets of each one have been mixed in together, as if they were brothers, to create one fund for all. 123 They consider olive oil a stain, and should anyone be accidentally smeared with it he scrubs his body, for they make it a point of honor to remain hard and dry, and to wear white always. Hand-elected are the curators of the communal affairs, and indivisible are they, each and every one, [in pursuing] their functions to the advantage of all.


124 No one city is theirs, but they settle amply in each. And for those school-members who arrive from elsewhere, all that the community has is laid out for them in the same way as if they were their own things, and they go in and stay with those they have never even seen before as if they were the most intimate friends. 125 For this reason they make trips without carrying any baggage at all—though armed on account of the bandits. In each city a steward of the order appointed specially for the visitors is designated quartermaster for clothing and the other amenities. 126 Dress and also deportment of body: like children being educated with fear. They replace neither clothes nor footwear until the old set is ripped all over or worn through with age. 127 Among themselves, they neither shop for nor sell anything; but each one, after giving the things that he has to the one in need, takes in exchange anything useful that the other has. And even without this reciprocal giving, the transfer to them [of goods] from whomever they wish is unimpeded.


128 Toward the Deity, at least: pious observances uniquely [expressed]. Before the sun rises, they utter nothing of the mundane things, but only certain ancestral prayers to him, as if begging him to come up. 129 After these things, they are dismissed by the curators to the various crafts that they have each come to know, and after they have worked strenuously until the fifth hour they are again assembled in one area, where they belt on linen covers and wash their bodies in frigid water. After this purification they gather in a private hall, into which none of those who hold different views may enter: now pure themselves, they approach the dining room as if it were some [kind of] sanctuary. 130 After they have seated themselves in silence, the baker serves the loaves in order, whereas the cook serves each person one dish of one food. 131 The priest offers a prayer before the food, and it is forbidden to taste anything before the prayer; when he has had his breakfast he offers another concluding prayer. While starting and also while finishing, then, they honor God as the sponsor of life. At that, laying aside their clothes as if they were holy, they apply themselves to their labors again until evening. 132 They dine in a similar way: when they have returned, they sit down with the vistors, if any happen to be present with them, and neither yelling nor disorder pollutes the house at any time, but they yield conversation to one another in order. 133 And to those from outside, the silence of those inside appears as a kind of shiver-inducing mystery. The reason for this is their continuous sobriety and the rationing of food and drink among them—to the point of fullness.


134 As for other areas: although there is nothing that they do without the curators’ having ordered it, these two things are matters of personal prerogative among them: [rendering] assistance and mercy. For helping those who are worthy, whenever they might need it, and also extending food to those who are in want are indeed left up to the individual; but in the case of the relatives, such distribution is not allowed to be done without [permission from] the managers. 135 Of anger, just controllers; as for temper, able to contain it; of fidelity, masters; of peace, servants. And whereas everything spoken by them is more forceful than an oath, swearing itself they avoid, considering it worse than the false oath; for they declare to be already degraded one who is unworthy of belief without God. 136 They are extraordinarily keen about the compositions of the ancients, selecting especially those [oriented] toward the benefit of soul and body. On the basis of these and for the treatment of diseases, roots, apotropaic materials, and the special properties of stones are investigated.


The Dead Sea Scrolls have been called the greatest manuscript find of all time. Visit the BAS Dead Sea Scrolls Page for dozens of articles on the scrolls’ significance, discovery and scholarship.




137 To those who are eager for their school, the entry-way is not a direct one, but they prescribe a regimen for the person who remains outside for a year, giving him a little hatchet as well as the aforementioned waist-covering and white clothing. 138 Whenever he should give proof of his self-control during this period, he approaches nearer to the regimen and indeed shares in the purer waters for purification, though he is not yet received into the functions of communal life. For after this demonstration of endurance, the character is tested for two further years, and after he has thus been shown worthy he is reckoned into the group. 139 Before he may touch the communal food, however, he swears dreadful oaths to them: first, that he will observe piety toward the deity; then, that he will maintain just actions toward humanity; that he will harm no one, whether by his own deliberation or under order; that he will hate the unjust and contend together with the just; 140 that he will always maintain faithfulness to all, especially to those in control, for without God it does not fall to anyone to hold office, and that, should he hold office, he will never abuse his authority—outshining his subordinates, whether by dress or by some form of extravagant appearance; 141 always to love the truth and expose the liars; that he will keep his hands pure from theft and his soul from unholy gain; that he will neither conceal anything from the school-members nor disclose anything of theirs to others, even if one should apply force to the point of death. 142 In addition to these, he swears that he will impart the precepts to no one otherwise than as he received them, that he will keep away from banditry, and that he will preserve intact their school’s books and the names of the angels. With such oaths as these they completely secure those who join them.


143 Those they have convicted of sufficiently serious errors they expel from the order. And the one who has been reckoned out often perishes by a most pitiable fate. For, constrained by the oaths and customs, he is unable to partake of food from others. Eating grass and in hunger, his body wastes away and perishes. 144 That is why they have actually shown mercy and taken back many in their final gasps, regarding as sufficient for their errors this ordeal to the point of death.


145 Now with respect to trials, [they are] just and extremely precise: they render judgment after having assembled no fewer than a hundred, and something that has been determined by them is non-negotiable. There is a great reverence among them for—next to God—the name of the lawgiver, and if anyone insults him he is punished by death. 146 They make it point of honor to submit to the elders and to a majority. So if ten were seated together, one person would not speak if the nine were unwilling. 147 They guard against spitting into [their] middles or to the right side and against applying themselves to labors on the seventh days, even more than all other Judeans: for not only do they prepare their own food one day before, so that they might not kindle a fire on that day, but they do not even dare to transport a container—or go to relieve themselves. 148 On the other days they dig a hole of a foot’s depth with a trowel—this is what that small hatchet given by them to the neophytes is for—and wrapping their cloak around them completely, so as not to outrage the rays of God, they relieve themselves into it [the hole]. 149 After that, they haul back the excavated earth into the hole. (When they do this, they pick out for themselves the more deserted spots.) Even though the secretion of excrement is certainly a natural function, it is customary to wash themselves off after it as if they have become polluted.


150 They are divided into four classes, according to their duration in the training, and the later-joiners are so inferior to the earlier-joiners that if they should touch them, the latter wash themselves off as if they have mingled with a foreigner. 151 [They are] long-lived, most of them passing 100 years—as a result, it seems to me at least, of the simplicity of their regimen and their orderliness. Despisers of terrors, triumphing over agonies by their wills, considering death—if it arrives with glory—better than deathlessness. 152 The war against the Romans proved their souls in every way: during it, while being twisted and also bent, burned and also broken, and passing through all the torture-chamber instruments, with the aim that they might insult the lawgiver or eat something not customary, they did not put up with suffering either one: not once gratifying those who were tormenting [them], or crying. 153 But smiling in their agonies and making fun of those who were inflicting the tortures, they would cheerfully dismiss their souls, [knowing] that they would get them back again.


154 For the view has become tenaciously held among them that whereas our bodies are perishable and their matter impermanent, our souls endure forever, deathless: they get entangled, having emanated from the most refined ether, as if drawn down by a certain charm into the prisons that are bodies. 155 But when they are released from the restraints of the flesh, as if freed from a long period of slavery, then they rejoice and are carried upwards in suspension. For the good, on the one hand, sharing the view of the sons of Greece they portray the lifestyle reserved beyond Oceanus and a place burdened by neither rain nor snow nor heat, but which a continually blowing mild west wind from Oceanus refreshes. For the base, on the other hand, they separate off a murky, stormy recess filled with unending retributions. 156 It was according to the same notion that the Greeks appear to me to have laid on the Islands of the Blessed for their most courageous men, whom they call heroes and demi-gods, and for the souls of the worthless the region of the impious in Hades, in which connection they tell tales about the punishments of certain men—Sisyphuses and Tantaluses, Ixions and Tityuses—establishing in the first place the [notion of] eternal souls and, on that basis, persuasion toward virtue and dissuasion from vice. 157 For the good become even better in the hope of a reward also after death, whereas the impulses of the bad are impeded by anxiety, as they expect that even if they escape detection while living, after their demise they will be subject to deathless retribution. 158 These matters, then, the Essenes theologize with respect to the soul, laying down an irresistible bait for those who have once tasted of their wisdom.


159 There are also among them those who profess to foretell what is to come, being thoroughly trained in holy books, various purifications, and concise sayings of prophets. Rarely if ever do they fail in their predictions.


160 There is also a different order of Essenes. Though agreeing with the others about regimen and customs and legal matters, it has separated in its opinion about marriage. For they hold that those who do not marry cut off the greatest part of life, the succession, and more: if all were to think the same way, the line would very quickly die out. 161 To be sure, testing the brides in a three-year interval, once they have been purified three times as a test of their being able to bear children, they take them in this manner; but they do not continue having intercourse with those who are pregnant, demonstrating that the need for marrying is not because of pleasure, but for children. Baths [are taken] by the women wrapping clothes around themselves, just as by the men in a waist-covering. Such are the customs of this order.




For more, read Steve Mason, “Did the Essenes Write the Dead Sea Scrolls?” Biblical Archaeology Review, November/December 2008.

The Bible History Daily feature “Josephus on the Essenes” was originally published in July 2012.



The post Josephus on the Essenes appeared first on Biblical Archaeology Society.


'Oldest Evidence' of Life?

‎Monday, ‎March ‎20, ‎2017, ‏‎10:00:00 AMGo to full article

Recently, evolutionists discovered “microfossils up to almost 4.3 billion years old” in Canada. On what do they base this age?




The Fascinating Squid

‎Thursday, ‎March ‎16, ‎2017, ‏‎10:00:00 AMGo to full article

A recent science news article sheds light on the amazing squid, but definitely not on its supposed evolution or origin. Creation scientists maintain squid have always been squid, and science bears this out with a new and highly detailed squid fossil.




Extremely Ugly Seaworm Shows Extreme Non-Evolution

‎Monday, ‎March ‎13, ‎2017, ‏‎10:00:00 AMGo to full article

A Bobbit worm is a predatory sea worm that submerges beneath sandy sea bottoms. Lying still with its fanged jaws ready, it waits, then grabs and drags its prey underground. New evidence supports the idea that special creation, not evolution, explains this unique worm's body construction.




Will We Ever Colonize Mars?

‎Wednesday, ‎March ‎8, ‎2017, ‏‎10:00:00 AMGo to full article

We went to the moon—isn't Mars next? ICR Astrophysicist Dr. Jason Lisle gives his perspective on the difficulties in traveling to and colonizing Mars.




Reviewing 'Is Genesis History?'

‎Wednesday, ‎March ‎1, ‎2017, ‏‎10:00:00 AMGo to full article

On Thursday, February 23, select movie theaters around the country presented a special one-night showing of the documentary Is Genesis History? Due to its success, two encore presentations are scheduled for March 2 and 7. Two ICR scientists give their thoughts on the film.



Seven Earth-size Planets Discovered

‎Friday, ‎February ‎24, ‎2017, ‏‎10:00:00 AMGo to full article

Secular scientists are excited about the recent detection of seven Earth-size planets in the constellation Aquarius, a nearby solar system. According to the report, three of the planets orbit a parent star, called TRAPPIST-1, at a distance that would allow water to exist on their surface. Is their excitement merited?



More Evidence of a Wet Sahara

‎Thursday, ‎February ‎23, ‎2017, ‏‎10:00:00 AMGo to full article

Scientists from the University of Arizona recently announced that what is now the Sahara desert was once wet and green and extended as far north as the Mediterranean Sea.



Do Black Holes Exist?

‎Monday, ‎February ‎20, ‎2017, ‏‎10:00:00 AMGo to full article

Do black holes really exist? If so, what are they? ICR astrophysicist Dr. Jason Lisle sheds light on these mysterious celestial objects.




Earth Remains the Only Goldilocks Planet

‎Yesterday, ‎February ‎16, ‎2017, ‏‎10:00:00 AMGo to full article

Astronomer Stephen Kane hunts for signs of life in outer space. His team researched a distant star called Wolf 1061. Exoplanets (planets outside our solar system) orbit Wolf 1061, and one of them held the promise of liquid water, a prerequisite for life.



Dinosaur Eggs Not Bird-Like After All

‎Monday, ‎February ‎13, ‎2017, ‏‎10:00:00 AMGo to full article

Prevailing secular theory considers birds to be living dinosaurs, but new science is hatching to support the stark differences between these creatures. The data demonstrate dinosaurs were more likely cold-blooded like all modern reptiles.




Solving Appendix Mysteries

‎Yesterday, ‎February ‎9, ‎2017, ‏‎10:00:00 AMGo to full article

Some mammals have an appendix connected to their cecum—the first section of the large intestine—but others don't. How and when did that once-mysterious organ originate?



What about the Big Bang Theory?

‎Yesterday, ‎February ‎6, ‎2017, ‏‎10:00:00 AMGo to full article

Did the universe start with the Big Bang? Many Christians believe God used the Big Bang to create all that we see today. But ICR Astrophysicist Dr. Jason Lisle has a different perspective.




Scientific Evidence for Divine Design [Podcast]

‎Thursday, ‎February ‎2, ‎2017, ‏‎10:00:00 AMGo to full article

Geology, astronomy, and biology all point to a divine Designer. ICR zoologist and researcher Frank Sherwin examines the evidence in this 5-part podcast series. Mr. Sherwin uncovers the scientific and biblical evidence for a global Flood, designed universe, and true origin and history of biological structures.




What Was the Star of Bethlehem?

‎Yesterday, ‎January ‎26, ‎2017, ‏‎10:00:00 AMGo to full article

What "star" did the wise men see? Some say it was a planetary conjunction, and others tell us it was a supernatural manifestation. ICR Astrophysicist Dr. Jason Lisle gives his perspective.



Pregnant Mom Transfers Famine Info to Baby

‎Monday, ‎January ‎23, ‎2017, ‏‎10:00:00 AMGo to full article

A Chinese famine was so severe that 35 million lives perished between 1958 to 1962 due to the state's agricultural mistakes. Interestingly, this tragedy highlights an unseen biological relationship between organisms and their environment over multiple generations.




Well-Known Scientist Resigns, Cites Climate Craziness

‎Thursday, ‎January ‎19, ‎2017, ‏‎10:00:00 AMGo to full article

Professor Judith Curry, a well-known Georgia Institute of Technology climatologist, recently resigned her tenured faculty position. She said the "craziness" of climate science was a "deciding factor."




Fast Evolution Confirms Creationist Theory

‎Monday, ‎January ‎16, ‎2017, ‏‎10:00:00 AMGo to full article

A tenet of creationist theory maintains that creatures are designed for robust speciation. Although they cannot change into fundamentally different kinds, creatures can rapidly express a wide diversity of traits to fit changing environments. "Fast evolution affects everyone, everywhere" is one headline from the theme of the Royal Society's life science journal in January, 2017. But its content further bolsters creationist theory.




That's a Fact: Big Bang?

‎Thursday, ‎January ‎12, ‎2017, ‏‎10:00:00 AMGo to full article

How did the universe begin? Some people say that it came into existence billions of years ago in a massive explosion. But this Big Bang has some big problems.



Amazon Go, Creatures Depend on Sophisticated Sensors

‎Monday, ‎January ‎9, ‎2017, ‏‎10:00:00 AMGo to full article

What does the recently unveiled Amazon Go store have to do with several