Physics News of the Week: Clues to Dark Matter and a Hidden Ocean that Might Harbor Life

| April 7, 2014 | 0 Comments

This week the top physics news headlines included new clues to dark matter, an ocean found on Enceladus and “unbreakable” codes inspired by nature. The summaries of these top news are given below. For more news, visit our news section or register for the email newsletter.

1. New Clues to Dark Matter (April 3)

Using publicly available data from NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope, independent scientists at Fermilab, the CfA, the MIT and the University of Chicago have developed new maps showing that the galactic center produces more high-energy gamma rays than can be explained by known sources. This is could be explained by certain forms of dark matter.

“The new maps allow us to analyze the excess and test whether more conventional explanations, such as the presence of undiscovered pulsars or cosmic-ray collisions on gas clouds, can account for it,” said Dan Hooper, an astrophysicist at Fermilab. “The signal we find cannot be explained by currently proposed alternatives and is in close agreement with the predictions of very simple dark matter models.”

2. A Hidden Ocean that Might Harbor Life (April 3)

It seems that our solar system hasn’t ran out of surprises just yet — measurements made by NASA’s Cassini  spacecraft have confirmed that a tiny moon of Saturn called Enceladus has a subsurface ocean. The tiny moon is a differentiated celestial body, which means that it’s comprised of two layers — an external icy layer and an internal rocky core made up of silicates. Excitingly, this layer of silicate rock, in conjunction with liquid water, means that Enceladus features a potentially habitable environment — one that could be even more hospitable to life than Europa.

This is exciting for astrobiologists because silicate provides many materials essential for life, such as phosphorous and sulphur. And in fact, scientists have already detected evidence of salts and organic molecules in the plumes. Because the water is in contact with silicates in the presence of energy, chemical reactions are possible. Taken together, this means that Enceladus is — in the words of the researchers — “an attractive place to look for life.”

3. New Method of Security Inspired by Nature (April 4)

A revolutionary new method of encrypting information has been recently patented by scientists at Lancaster University. The idea for this new discovery, interestingly, came from a mathematical model based on the complex interaction between human hearths and lungs. Scientists working on the interdisciplinary research that inspired the new discovery, including Dr Tomislav Stankovski, Professor Peter McClintock, Professor Aneta Stefanovska, and Dr Robert Young, commented on the discovery saying that their system will be nearly unbreakable once fully developed.

More news:

Geologic Clock Helps Determining Moon’s Age
Watching a Black Hole Gobble up a Gas Cloud
3 Times More Accurate Atomic Clocks

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