Science Confirms Your Older Sibling Is Probably Smarter Than You

You can blame this one on your parents

Ever feel like your parents always favored your older brother? He might have benefited from that more than you realize: First-born children are smarter than their siblings, according to a new University of Edinburgh study.

older sibling is smartest

To further explain the “birth order effect”—a phenomenon that seeks to understand why some children born earlier in a family grow up to receive a higher-level of education and better-paying jobs—researchers followed 5,000 children from pre-birth to the age of 14. The kids were assessed every 2 years with reading, letter-matching, and picture vocabulary tests. They found that first-born children exhibited higher IQ scores than their younger siblings by the age of one.
Blame it on your mom and dad: While parents with multiple children gave all their kids the same amount of emotional support, first-borns received more intellectual support with tasks that improved their thinking skills. What’s more, parents took part in fewer brain-boosting activities with their younger kids, like reading with them, playing instruments, and doing crafts. To make it even worse, mothers were more likely to take health risks after having their first kid, like smoking while pregnant.So yeah, your older brother might have had better grades than you, but he also had unique learning advantages as a kid—up until the age of 3, if you want to get specific. Next time he brags about his fancy job during a holiday dinner, feel free to call your parents out for never reading to you at bedtime.


Majority of parents with children at home don’t lock up prescribed opioids, study finds

Despite rise in opioid dependency in the U.S., a majority of parents who have prescription opioids at home do not report storing them safely, according to a new study published today in the journal Pediatrics.

Just 32 percent of parents of young children under the age 7 reported storing prescription opioids safely — in a latched or locked location — researchers from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health said in the study. The percentage was even lower for parents of older children between the ages of 7 and 17 — 11.7 percent. Parents who had children in both age groups leaned closer to those with young children; 29 percent reported storing the medications safely.

“Our work shines a light on the pervasiveness of unsafely stored opioids in American homes with children,” says study lead author Eileen McDonald, MS, faculty with the Johns Hopkins Center for Injury Research and Policy, said in a statement today. “Unsafely stored opioids can contribute to accidental ingestions among younger children and pilfering by older children, especially high school students.”

The study included data from 681 adults with children in the home who had been prescribed opioid medications. They were first recruited over the phone and then took a web survey about how they stored the medications.

While illicit opioid drugs like heroin and fenatnyl have grabbed headlines, deaths from prescription opioid drugs have more than quadrupled since 1999, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Most parents indicated that they are aware of the dangers these drugs pose to children, with 70 percent of respondents saying that locking up the opioid drugs “is a good way to keep my child from getting the medication” and “would prevent my child’s friends from getting the medication,” according to the study.

But parents with younger children expressed higher concern about storing their prescription opioids. Almost three-quarters of parents agreed with the statement, “Children can overdose on OPRs more easily than adults,” but those with younger children rated the risk higher on the scale.

Dr. Donna Seger, the executive director of the Tennessee Poison Center and a professor of clinical medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, said many parents know they should keep prescription drugs out of reach for very young children, but may not have the same concerns for adolescents.

“It’s not just a risk in toddlers, it’s a huge risk in adolescents,” Seger said, explaining that teens may start to experiment with different drugs at home. “The medicine cabinet is going to be an important place to get them.”

Opioid use among adolescents has continued to be a problem. Prescription opioid drugs are the second most common drugs used by 12- to 17-year-old children, after marijuana, according to the 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

“We know that teens who use these drugs recreationally frequently get them from homes where they are easily accessible, increasing their risk for addiction and overdose,” McDonald said in the statement.

Seger added that teens’ nervous systems are still developing, making them more “vulnerable” to drug use.

Overdose fatalities among adolescents and young adults doubled between 1999 and 2008, according to study authors.

Parents may be aware of the dangers around opioid drugs, Seger said, but still feel “my kid wouldn’t do it” and therefore don’t take extra steps to lock up medication.

Understanding the many risks associated with opioid medication, even those that are prescribed, is important for parents of both young children and teens, the study authors and Seger said.

“Both adolescents and parents believe they are prescribed drugs, so they must be safe,” Seger said.

The study points to the need for more research on ways to store opioids more safely in homes and promoting those methods, especially in homes with children.

This 3,500-Year-Old Greek Tomb Upended What We Thought We Knew About the Roots of Western Civilization

The recent discovery of the grave of an ancient soldier is challenging accepted wisdom among archaeologists

Griffin warrior resting place
The warrior was buried in an olive grove outside the acropolis of Pylos. Though archaeologist Carl Blegen explored the olive grove in the 1960s, he did not find anything.

They had been digging for days, shaded from the Greek sun by a square of green tarpaulin slung between olive trees. The archaeologists used picks to break the cream-colored clay, baked as hard as rock, until what began as a cluster of stones just visible in the dirt became four walls in a neat rectangle, sinking down into the earth. Little more than the occasional animal bone, however, came from the soil itself. On the morning of May 28, 2015, the sun gave way to an unseasonable drizzle. The pair digging that day, Flint Dibble and Alison Fields, waited for the rain to clear, then stepped down into their meter-deep hole and got to work. Dibble looked at Fields. “It’s got to be soon,” he said.

The season had not started well. The archaeologists were part of a group of close to three dozen researchers digging near the ancient Palace of Nestor, on a hilltop near Pylos on the southwest coast of Greece. The palace was built in the Bronze Age by the Mycenaeans—the heroes described in Homer’s epic poems—and was first excavated in the 1930s. The dig’s leaders, Jack Davis and Sharon Stocker, husband-and-wife archaeologists from the University of Cincinnati, in Ohio, had hoped to excavate in a currant field just downslope from the palace, but Greek bureaucracy and a lawyers’ strike kept them from obtaining the necessary permits. So they settled, disappointed, on a neighboring olive grove. They cleared the land of weeds and snakes and selected a few spots to investigate, including three stones that appeared to form a corner. As the trench around the stones sank deeper, the researchers allowed themselves to grow eager: The shaft’s dimensions, two meters by one meter, suggested a grave, and Mycenaean burials are famous for their breathtakingly rich contents, able to reveal volumes about the culture that produced them. Still, there was no proof that this structure was even ancient, the archaeologists reminded themselves, and it might simply be a small cellar or shed.

Dibble was clearing earth from around a large stone slab when his pick hit something hard and the monotony of the clay was broken by a vivid flash of green: bronze.

The pair immediately put down their picks, and after placing an excited call to Davis and Stocker they began to carefully sweep up the soil and dust. They knew they were standing atop something substantial, but even then they did not imagine just how rich the discovery would turn out to be.“It was amazing,” says Stocker, a small woman in her 50s with dangling earrings and blue-gray eyes. “People had been walking across this field for three-and-a-half-thousand years.”

Over the next six months, the archaeologists uncovered bronze basins, weapons and armor, but also a tumble of even more precious items, including gold and silver cups; hundreds of beads made of carnelian, amethyst, amber and gold; more than 50 stone seals intricately carved with goddesses, lions and bulls; and four stunning gold rings. This was indeed an ancient grave, among the most spectacular archaeological discoveries in Greece in more than half a century—and the researchers were the first to open it since the day it was filled in.

“It’s incredible luck,” says John Bennet, director of the British School at Athens. “The fact that it hadn’t been discovered before now is astonishing.” The spectacular find of priceless treasures made headlines around the globe, but what really intrigues scholars, says Stocker, is the “bigger world picture.” The very first organized Greek society belonged to the Mycenaeans, whose kingdoms exploded out of nowhere on the Greek mainland around 1600 B.C. Although they disappeared equally dramatically a few hundred years later, giving way to several centuries known as the Greek Dark Ages, before the rise of “classical” Greece, the Mycenaeans sowed the seeds of our common traditions, including art and architecture, language, philosophy and literature, even democracy and religion. “This was a crucial time in the development of what would become Western civilization,” Stocker says.

Yet remarkably little is known of the beginnings of Mycenaean culture. The Pylos grave, with its wealth of undisturbed burial objects and, at its bottom, a largely intact skeleton, offers a nearly unprecedented window into this time—and what it reveals is calling into question our most basic ideas about the roots of Western civilization.

Stocker and Davis
Jack Davis and Sharon Stocker, husband-and-wife archaeologists from the University of Cincinnati, discovered the warrior’s grave. 

In The Iliad, Homer tells of how Agamemnon, king of Mycenae, led a fleet of a thousand ships to besiege the city of Troy. Classical Greeks (and Romans, who traced their heritage to the Trojan hero Aeneas) accepted the stories in The Iliad and The Odyssey as a part of their national histories, but in later centuries scholars insisted that the epic battles fought between the Trojan and Mycenaean kingdoms were nothing more than myth and romantic fantasy. Before the eighth century B.C., archaeologists argued, societies on the Greek mainland were scattered and disorganized.

At the end of the 19th century, a German-born businessman named Heinrich Schliemann was determined to prove otherwise. He used clues in Homer’s epic poems to locate the remains of Troy, buried in a hillside at Hissarlik in Turkey. He then turned his attention to the Greek mainland, hoping to find the palace of Agamemnon. Near the ruins of the great walls at Mycenae, in the Argolid Peninsula, Schliemann found a circle of graves containing the remains of 19 men, women and children, all dripping with gold and other riches. He hadn’t found Agamemnon—the graves, nearly 3,500 years old, dated to several centuries before the battles of Troy—but he had unearthed a great, lost civilization, which he called the Mycenaean, after the sovereign city of the powerful mythic king.

Homer describes other palaces, too, notably that of King Nestor, at Pylos. The Iliad says Nestor contributed 90 ships to Agamemnon’s fleet, second only to the great leader himself. Schliemann searched in vain for Nestor’s palace; in modern Pylos, a sleepy coastal town in the southwest Peloponnese, there was no hint of ancient architecture, unlike at Mycenae. But in the 1920s, a landowner noticed old stone blocks near the summit of a hill near Pylos, and Konstantinos Kourouniotis, director of the National Archaeological Museum in Athens, invited his friend and collaborator Carl Blegen, of the University of Cincinnati, to investigate.

Blegen began excavations in April 1939. On his very first day, he uncovered a hoard of clay tablets, filled with an unreadable script known as Linear B, which had also been found on Crete, the largest of the Aegean islands. He had dug straight into the archive room of King Nestor’s palace. After World War II, Blegen went on to discover a grid of rooms and courtyards that rivals Mycenae in size and is now the best-preserved Bronze Age palace on the Greek mainland, not to mention a significant tourist attraction.

Today, Blegen’s work at Pylos is continued by Stocker and Davis (his official title is the Carl W. Blegen professor of Greek archaeology). Davis walks with me to the hilltop, and we pause to enjoy the gorgeous view of olive groves and cypress trees rolling down to a jewel-blue sea. Davis has white-blond hair, freckles and a dry sense of humor, and he is steeped in the history of the place: Alongside Stocker, he has been working in this area for 25 years. As we look out to sea, he points out the island of Sphacteria, where the Athenians beat the Spartans during a fifth-century B.C. battle of the Peloponnesian War.

Behind us, Nestor’s palace is surrounded by flowering oleander trees and is covered with an impressive new metal roof, completed just in time for the site’s reopening to the public in June 2016 after a three-year, multimillion-euro restoration. The roof’s graceful white curves protect the ruins from the elements, while a raised walkway allows visitors to admire the floor plan. The stone walls of the palace now rise just a meter from the ground, but it was originally a vast two-story complex, built around 1450 B.C., that covered more than 15,000 square feet and was visible for miles. Visitors would have passed through an open courtyard into a large throne room, Davis explains, with a central hearth for offerings and decorated with elaborately painted scenes including lions, griffins and a bard playing a lyre.

The Linear B tablets found by Blegen, deciphered in the 1950s, revealed that the palace was an administrative center that supported more than 50,000 people in an area covering all of modern-day Messenia in western Greece. Davis points out storerooms and pantries in which thousands of unused ceramic wine cups were found, as well as workshops for the production of leather and perfumed oils.

Echoes of Homer are everywhere. In The Odyssey, when Odysseus’ son Telemachus visits Pylos, he finds the inhabitants on the shore sacrificing bulls to the god Poseidon, before traveling to the palace to receive a bath from one of Nestor’s daughters. Tablets and animal bones that Blegen found in the archives room recall a feast in which 11 cattle were sacrificed to Poseidon, while on the other side of the building is a perfectly preserved terra-cotta bathtub, its interior painted with a repeating spiral motif.

The palace was destroyed in a fire around 1200 B.C., part of a wave of destruction that brought down the entire Mycenaean society, which in a few hundred years had developed distinctive art and architecture, its own writing system, a powerful military and trading routes that stretched across the known world. Scholars argue about what brought about the culture’s collapse, but drought, famine and invasion may all have played a role.

Davis and Stocker are interested not in the ruination of the palace, however, but in its beginnings. For several hundred years before the palace was built, the region was dominated by the Minoans, whose sophisticated civilization arose on Crete, with skilled artisans and craftsmen who traded widely in the Aegean, Mediterranean and beyond. By contrast, the people of mainland Greece, a few hundred miles to the north across the Kythera Strait, lived simple lives in small settlements of mud-brick houses, quite unlike the impressive administrative centers and well-populated Cretan villages at Phaistos and Knossos, the latter home to a maze-like palace complex of over a thousand interlocking rooms. “With no sign of wealth, art or sophisticated architecture, mainland Greece must have been a pretty depressing place to live,” says Davis. “Then, everything changes.”

Around 1600 B.C., the mainlanders began leaving almost unimaginable treasures in tombs—“a sudden splash of brilliance,” in the words of Louise Schofield, the archaeologist and former British Museum curator, describing the jewelry, weapons and golden death masks discovered by Schliemann in the graves at Mycenae. The mainland population swelled; settlements grew in size, number and apparent wealth, with ruling elites becoming more cosmopolitan, exemplified by the diverse riches they buried with their dead. At Pylos, a huge, beehive-shaped stone tomb known as a tholos was constructed, connected to mansion houses on the hilltop by a ceremonial road that led through a gateway in a surrounding fortification wall. Although thieves looted the tholos long before it was rediscovered in modern times, from what was left behind—seal stones, miniature gold owls, amethyst beads—it appears to have been stuffed with valuables to rival those at Mycenae.

This era, extending until the construction of palaces at Pylos, Mycenae and elsewhere, is known to scholars as the “shaft grave period” (after the graves that Schliemann discovered). Cynthia Shelmerdine, a classicist and renowned scholar of Mycenaean society at the University of Texas at Austin, describes this period as “the moment the door opens.” It is, she says, “the start of elites coming together to form something beyond just a minor chiefdom, the very beginning of what leads to the palatial civilization only a hundred years later.” From this first awakening, “it really takes a very short time for them to leap into full statehood and become great kings on a par with the Hittite emperor. It was a remarkable thing to happen.”

Yet partly as a result of the building of the palaces themselves, atop the razed mansions of early Mycenaeans, very little is known of the people and culture that gave birth to them. You can’t just tear up the plaster floors to see what’s underneath, Davis explains. The tholos itself went out of use around the time the palace was built. Whoever the first leaders here were, Davis and Stocker had assumed, they were buried in this plundered tomb. Until, less than a hundred yards from the tholos, the researchers found the warrior grave.

Davis and Stocker disagree on where they were when they received Dibble’s call from the dig site. Stocker remembers they were at the team’s workshop. Davis thinks they were at the local museum. Dibble recalls that they were in line at the bank. Whichever it was, they rushed to the site and, Stocker says, “basically never left.”

That first splash of green became an ocean, filled with layer after layer of bronze, reminiscent of Schliemann’s magnificent finds. “It was surreal,” says Dibble. “I felt like I was in the 19th century.”

The researchers celebrated the next day with a lunch of gourounopoulo (roast suckling pig) from the local farmer’s market, eaten under the olive trees. For Davis and Stocker, the challenge of the find soon set in. “Everything was interlocked, crushed with everything else,” says Davis. “We never imagined that we might find anything more than a few potsherds that could be put together with glue. Suddenly, we were faced with this huge mess.” The collaborators began working 15-hour shifts, hoping to clear the site as quickly as possible. But after two weeks, everyone was exhausted. “It became clear that we couldn’t continue at that pace, and we weren’t going to finish,” Stocker says. “There was too much stuff.”

About a week in, Davis was excavating behind the stone slab. “I’ve found gold,” he said calmly. Stocker thought he was teasing, but he turned around with a golden bead in his palm. It was the first in a flood of small, precious items: beads; a tiny gold birdcage pendant; intricately carved gold rings; and several gold and silver cups. “Then things changed,” says Stocker. Aware of the high risk of looting, she organized round-the-clock security, and, apart from the Ministry of Culture and the site’s head guard, the archaeologists agreed to tell no one about the more valuable finds. They excavated in pairs, always with one person on watch, ready to cover precious items if someone approached.

Largest ring discovered
The largest ring discovered was made of multiple finely soldered gold sheets.

And yet it was impossible not to feel elated, too. “There were days when 150 beads were coming out—gold, amethyst, carnelian,” says Davis. “There were days when there was one seal stone after another, with beautiful images. It was like, Oh my god, what will come next?!” Beyond the pure thrill of uncovering such exquisite items, the researchers knew that the complex finds represented an unprecedented opportunity to piece together this moment in history, promising insights into everything from religious iconography to local manufacturing techniques. The discovery of a golden cup, as lovely as the day it was made, proved an emotional moment. “How could you not be moved?” says Stocker. “It’s the passion of looking at a beautiful piece of art or listening to a piece of music. There’s a human element. If you forget that, it becomes an exercise in removing things from the ground.”

In late June 2015, the scheduled end to their season came and went, and a skeleton began to emerge—a man in his early 30s, his skull flattened and broken and a silver bowl on his chest. The researchers nicknamed him the “griffin warrior” after a griffin-decorated ivory plaque they found between his legs. Stocker got used to working alongside him in that cramped space, day after day in the blazing summer sun. “I felt really close to this guy, whoever he was,” she says. “This was a person and these were his things. I talked to him: ‘Mr. Griffin, help me to be careful.’”

In August, Stocker ended up in the local medical clinic with heatstroke. In September, she was rewarded with a gold-and-agate necklace that the archaeologists had spent four months trying to liberate from the earth. The warrior’s skull and pelvis were among the last items to be removed, lifted out in large blocks of soil. By November, the grave was finally empty. Every gram of soil had been dissolved in water and passed through a sieve, and the three-dimensional location of every last bead photographed and recorded.

Seven months later, Stocker sails through a low, green metal door into the basement of the archaeological museum in the small town of Chora, a few minutes’ drive from the palace. Inside, the room is packed with white tables, wooden drawers, and countless shelves of skulls and pots: the results of decades of excavations in this region.

Still the organizational force behind the Pylos project, Stocker looks after not just the human members of the team but a troupe of adopted animals, including the mascot, a sleek gray cat named Nestor, which she rescued from the middle of the road when he was 4 weeks old. “He was teeny,” she recalls. “One day he blew off the table.”

She’s also in charge of conservation. Around her, plastic boxes of all sizes are piled high, full of artifacts from the warrior’s grave. She opens box after box to show their contents—one holds hundreds of individually labeled plastic bags, each containing a single bead. Another yields seal stones carved with intricate designs: three reclining bulls; a griffin with outstretched wings. “I still can’t believe I’m actually touching them,” she says. “Most people only see things like this through glass in a museum.”

There are delicate ivory combs, thin bands of bronze (the remains of the warrior’s armor) and boar tusks likely from his helmet. From separate wrappings of acid-free paper she reveals a bronze dagger, a knife with a large, square blade (perhaps used for sacrifices) and a great bronze sword, its hilt decorated with thousands of minute fragments of gold. “It’s truly amazing, and in bad shape,” she says. “It’s one of our highest priorities.”

There are more than 1,500 objects in all, and although the most precious items aren’t here (they are under lock-and-key elsewhere), the scale of the task she faces to preserve and publish these objects is nearly overwhelming. She surveys the room: a life’s work mapped out before her.

“The way they dug this grave is just remarkable,” says Thomas Brogan, the director of the Institute for Aegean Prehistory Study Center for East Crete. “I think the sky’s the limit in terms of what we are going to learn.”


Quantum Equation Suggests The Big Bang Never Occurred – The Universe Has No Beginning

When it comes to the science regarding the true nature of our reality, you won’t find a shortage of theories, or a shortage of criticisms of each theory. We are like a race with amnesia, trying to discover and search for an answer that most probably exists, but has yet to be discovered. How did the universe begin?


According to new research, there might not have been a big bang. Instead, the universe might have existed forever. The theory was derived from the mathematics of general relativity, and compliment Einstein’s theory of general relativity.

“The Big Bang singularity is the most serious problem of general relativity because the laws of physics appear to break down there.”  – Ahmed Farag Ali, Benha University, Co-Author of the study. (source)

The big bang theory postulates that everything in existence resulted from a single event that launched the creation of the entire universe and that everything in existence today was once part of a single infinitely dense point, also known as the “singularity.”

Here is a good picture representing what the big bang theory is referring to.


So the big bang, again, postulates that the universe started out as an infinitely small point in space called a singularity, then exploded and created space where there was no space before, and that it is continually expanding. One big question regarding that expansion is; how did it happen? As you can see in the picture, “who is that guy?

According to Nassim Haramein, the Director of Research for the Resonance Project

“For every action there is an equal opposite reaction.” is one of the most foundational and proven concepts in all of physics. Therefore, if the universe is expanding then “the guy” (or whatever “he” is), who is blowing up that balloon, has to have some huge lungs that are contracting to be able to blow it up. This a concept that Nassim Haramein began exploring when creating an alternative unified field theory to explain the universe.” (source)

This is one out of many criticisms regarding the big bang theory. There are many considerations to be pondered. Can something come from nothing? What about quantum mechanics and the possibility that there is no moment of time at which the universe did not exist?

Again, so many considerations to be pondered.

According to

“The scientists propose that this fluid might be composed of gravitons—hypothetical massless particles that mediate the force of gravity. If they exist, gravitons are thought to play a key role in a theory of quantum gravity.In a related paper, Das and another collaborator, Rajat Bhaduri of McMaster University, Canada, have lent further credence to this model. They show that gravitons can form a Bose-Einstein condensate (named after Einstein and another Indian physicist, Satyendranath Bose) at temperatures that were present in the universe at all epochs.” (source)

The theory also suggests (obviously) that there are no singularities or dark matter, and that the universe is filled with a “quantum fluid.” These scientists are suggesting that this quantum fluid is filled with gravitons.

According to

“In a related paper, Das and another collaborator, Rajat Bhaduri of McMaster University, Canada, have lent further credence to this model. They show that gravitons can form a Bose-Einstein condensate (named after Einstein and another Indian physicist, Satyendranath Bose) at temperatures that were present in the universe at all epochs.”

As you can see, when quantum mechanics is thrown into the equation things appear to be far different. Again, this new theory is suggesting that the universe could have always existed, that it never was what we perceive to be as “the  beginning.” Perhaps it was just an event that did occur that we perceive as the beginning, perhaps the event occurred not from nothing, but something. Again, who is that guy blowing on the balloon in the picture? There is something there that has yet to be discovered.

“As far as we can see, since different points in the universe never actually converged in the past, it did not have a beginning. It lasted forever. It will also not have an end, in other words, there is no singularity. The universe could have lasted forever. It could have gone through cycles of being small and big. or it could have been created much earlier.” –  Saurya Das at the University of Lethbridge in Alberta, Canada, Co-Author of the study. (source)

What We Know Is Often Just Theory

To conclude, it’s clear that we do not yet have a solid explanation regarding what happened during the Big Bang, or if it even happened at all. This new theory is combining general relativity with quantum mechanics, and at the end of the day these are all just theories.

Not to mention the fact that theories regarding multiple dimensions, multiple universes and more have to be considered. When looking for the starting point of creation, our own universe might not even be the place to start. It might be hard given the fact that we cannot yet perceive other factors that have played a part in the make up of what we call reality. What is even harder is the fact that quantum physics is showing that the true nature and make up of the universe is not a physical material thing!

We just don’t know yet, and there are still new findings in modern day physics that delve into non-materialistic science that many mainstream materialistic scientists have yet to grasp and acknowledge.

I’ll leave you with a quote that might give you something to think about:

“A fundamental conclusion of the new physics also acknowledges that the observer creates the reality. As observers, we are personally involved with the creation of our own reality. Physicists are being forced to admit that the universe is a “mental” construction. Pioneering physicist Sir James Jeans wrote: “The stream of knowledge is heading toward a non-mechanical reality; the universe begins to look more like a great thought than like a great machine. Mind no longer appears to be an accidental intruder into the realm of matter, we ought rather hail it as the creator and governor of the realm of matter.” (R. C. Henry, “The Mental Universe”; Nature 436:29, 2005)

“Despite the unrivaled empirical success of quantum theory, the very suggestion that it may be literally true as a description of nature is still greeted with cynicism, incomprehension and even anger. (T. Folger, “Quantum Shmantum”; Discover 22:37-43, 2001)


Physicists Discover ‘Clearest Evidence Yet’ That The Universe Is A Hologram

A team of physicists have provided what has been described by the journal Nature as the “clearest evidence yet” that our universe is a hologram.

The new research could help reconcile one of modern physics’ most enduring problems : the apparent inconsistencies between the different models of the universe as explained by quantum physics and Einstein’s theory of gravity.


The two new scientific papers are the culmination of years’ work led by Yoshifumi Hyakutake of Ibaraki University in Japan, and deal with hypothetical calculations of the energies of black holes in different universes.

The idea of the universe existing as a ‘hologram’ doesn’t refer to a Matrix-like illusion, but the theory that the three dimensions we perceive are actually just“painted” onto the cosmological horizon – the boundary of the known universe.

If this sounds paradoxical, try to imagine a holographic picture that changes as you move it. Although the picture is two dimensional, observing it from different locations creates the illusion that it is 3D.

This model of the universe helps explain some inconsistencies between general relativity (Einstein’s theory) and quantum physics. Although Einstein’s work underpins much of modern physics, at certain extremes (such as in the middle of a black hole) the principles he outlined break down and the laws of quantum physics take over.

The traditional method of reconciling these two models has come from the 1997 work of theoretical physicist Juan Maldacena, whose ideas built upon string theory.

This is one of the most well respected ‘theories of everything’ (Stephen Hawking is a fan) and it posits that one-dimensional vibrating objects known as ‘strings’ are the elementary particles of the universe.

Maldacena has welcomed the new research by Hyakutake and his team, telling the journal Nature that the findings are “an interesting way to test many ideas in quantum gravity and string theory.”

Leonard Susskind, a theoretical physicist regarded as one of the fathers of string theory, added that the work by the Japanese team “numerically confirmed, perhaps for the first time, something we were fairly sure had to be true, but was still a conjecture.”

Simulation Shows Time Travel Is Possible

Australian scientists created a computer simulation in which quantum particles can move back in time. This might confirm the possibility of time travel on a quantum level, suggested in 1991. At the same time, the study revealed a number of effects which are considered impossible according to the standard quantum mechanics.

Using photons, physicists from the University of Queensland in Australia simulated time-traveling quantum particles. In particular, they studied the behavior of a single photon traveling back in time through a wormhole in space-time and interacting with itself. This time-traveling loop is called a closed timelike curve, i.e. a path followed by a particle which returns to its initial space-time point.


The physicists studied two possible scenarios for a time-traveling photon. In the first, the particle passes through a wormhole, moving back in time, and interacts with its older self. In the second scenario, the photon passes through normal space-time and interacts with another photon which is stuck in a closed timelike curve.

According to the researchers, their study will help to find a link between two great theories in physics:the Einstein’s general theory of relativity and quantum mechanics.

The question of time travel features at the interface between two of our most successful yet incompatible physical theories – Einstein’s general relativity and quantum mechanics,” said Martin Ringbauer of the University of Queensland who led the study. “Einstein’s theory describes the world at the very large scale of stars and galaxies, while quantum mechanics is an excellent description of the world at the very small scale of atoms and molecules.”

Einstein’s General Relativity suggests the possibility of moving back in time if the time-traveling object is stuck in a closed timelike curve. Yet, this possibility is known to cause a number of paradoxes, such as the famous “grandfather paradox”, in which a time traveler prevents his own existence by preventing his grandparents from meeting each other.

In 1991, the concept of time travel in the quantum world was suggested. It was said that traveling through time on a quantum level can prevent such paradoxes, since the properties of quantum particles are not precisely defined, in accordance with Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle.

The properties of quantum particles are “fuzzy” or uncertain to start with, so this gives them enough wiggle room to avoid inconsistent time travel situations,” said professor Timothy Ralph who participated in the study.

Thus, the experiment conducted by the Australian scientists shows that such kind of time travel might be possible.

At the same time, some new bizarre effects were discovered, which are forbidden by standard quantum mechanics. For instance, it appears that it is possible to accurately distinguish various states of a quantum system, despite the fact that it violates Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle.

New Mind-blowing Experiment Confirms That Reality Doesn’t Exist If You Are Not Looking At It

According to a well-known theory in quantum physics, a particle’s behavior changes depending on whether there is an observer or not. It basically suggests that reality is a kind of illusion and exists only when we are looking at it. Numerous quantum experiments were conducted in the past and showed that this indeed might be the case.


Now, physicists at the Australian National University have found further evidence for the illusory nature of reality. They recreated the John Wheeler’s delayed-choice experiment and confirmed that reality doesn’t exist until it is measured, at least on the atomic scale.

Thought-provoking findings

Some particles, such as photons or electrons, can behave both as particles and as waves. Here comes a question of what exactly makes a photon or an electron act either as a particle or a wave. This is what Wheeler’s experiment asks: at what point does an object ‘decide’?

The results of the Australian scientists’ experiment, which were published in the journal Nature Physics, show that this choice is determined by the way the object is measured, which is in accordance with what quantum theory predicts.

It proves that measurement is everything. At the quantum level, reality does not exist if you are not looking at it,” said lead researcher Dr. Andrew Truscott in a press release.

The experiment

The original version of John Wheeler’s experiment proposed in 1978 involved light beams being bounced by mirrors. However, it was difficult to implement it and get any conclusive results due to the level of technological progress back then. Now, it became possible to successfully recreate the experiment by usinghelium atoms scattered by laser light.

Dr. Truscott’s team forced a hundred of helium atoms into a state of matter called Bose-Einstein condensate. After this, they ejected all the atoms until there was only one left.

Then, the researchers used a pair of laser beams to create a grating pattern, which would scatter an atom passing through it just like a solid grating scatters light. Thus, the atom would either act as a particle and pass through one arm or act as a wave and pass through both arms.

Thanks to a random number generator, a second grating was then randomly added in order to recombine the paths. This was done only after the atom had already passed the first grate.

As a result, the addition of the second grating caused interference in the measurement, showing that the atom had traveled both paths, thus behaving like a wave. At the same time, when the second grating was not added, there was no interference and the atom appeared to have traveled only one path.

The results and their interpretation

As the second grating was added only after the atom had passed through the first one, it would be reasonable to suggest that the atom hadn’t yet ‘decided’ whether it was a particle or a wave before the second measurement.

According to Dr. Truscott, there may be two possible interpretations of these results. Either the atom ‘decided’ how to behave based on the measurement or a future measurement affected the photon’s past.

The atoms did not travel from A to B. It was only when they were measured at the end of the journey that their wave-like or particle-like behavior was brought into existence,” he said.

Thus, this experiment adds to the validity of the quantum theory and provides new evidence to the idea that reality doesn’t exist without an observer. Perhaps further research in the field of quantum physics and more thought-provoking evidence like this will completely change our understanding of reality one day.


This Ancient Sea Creature Is So Messed Up, Scientists Can’t Stop Arguing Over It

What is this madness?


Last year, scientists declared a decades-old mystery solved – that bizarre monstrosity you see in the image above had for years defied classification, but two separate studies said they finally had solid evidence that it was in fact a vertebrate.

But now, more researchers have entered the fray, and say this conclusion is just plain wrong – there’s no way this thing can be a fish, which means we still have no idea what it actually is.

Nicknamed the Tully monster, the creature belongs to the ancient genus Tullimonstrum, and is thought to have inhabited the shallow coastal waters of muddy estuaries in the Eastern US around 300 million years ago.

Only a single species, T. gregarium, is known, and fossils of the creature have only ever been found in the Mazon Creek fossil beds of Illinois.

But they were clearly abundant in the region – hundreds of fossils ended up in the Field Museum in Chicago after the species’ initial discovery in the 1950s.

As you can see in the reconstruction below, the Tully Monster had fins like a cuttlefish, eyestalks like a crab, and a rather intimidating ‘jaw-on-stick’:


This jumble of body parts has seen it compared to everything from molluscs and arthropods to worms, and more recently, to vertebrates like lampreys.

“This animal doesn’t fit easy classification because it’s so weird,” says Lauren Sallan from the University of Pennsylvania, one of the team behind its most recent analysis.

“It has these eyes that are on stalks, and it has this pincer at the end of a long proboscis, and there’s even disagreement about which way is up. But the last thing that the Tully monster could be is a fish.”

First discovered back in the 1955 by amateur fossil collector Francis Tully, the creature set off a decades-long investigation into what this bizarre conglomeration of features could actually represent.

“I knew right away. I’d never seen anything like it,” Tully said some years after the discovery, adding that after consulting several experts on the matter, he couldn’t assign it to any of the major animal groups – a “serious and embarrassing matter”.

Researchers had for many years assumed that it was some kind mollusc, like a sea cucumber, or a lobster-like arthropod, and while this explanation held for some time, two papers published in March 2016 (here and here) begged to differ.

A team from Yale University, led by palaeobiologist Victoria McCoy, asserted that the light line running all the way down the creature’s middle was not a gut, as previous research had suggested, but a notochord – a skeletal rod that forms the basis of vertebrate backbones.

As Ed Yong explained for The Atlantic last year, the notochord is a key feature of chordates – a vast group of vertebrate animals that includes fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals.

The team also found evidence of gill pouches in a few of the 1,200 or so specimens they analysed, which made them appear more ‘fish-like’ than previous studies had suggested.

They said this feature was likely missed by other researchers because, for some reason, these creatures tended to die on their fronts and backs instead of their sides – “a position that obscured their gills as they turned to stone”, says Yong.

A second study led by researchers at the University of Leicester in the UK also came to the conclusion that the Tully monster was a vertebrate, after scanning electron microscope (SEM) images of its eyes revealed structures called melanosomes.

The team argued that this meant the creature had complex eyes, and said this made it more likely that it was a vertebrate.

But now Sallan and her colleagues say they actually got the whole thing wrong.

“It’s important to incorporate all lines of evidence when considering enigmatic fossils: anatomical, preservational and comparative,” one of the team, Sam Giles from the University of Oxford in the UK, says in a press statement.

“Applying that standard to the Tully monster argues strongly against a vertebrate identity.”

The researchers argue that the Yale team’s conclusions are based on a misunderstanding of how creatures fossilise on the ocean floor – you generally see soft tissues preserved, and not internal structures like a notochord.

“In the marine rocks you just see soft tissues, you don’t see much internal structure preserved,” says Sallan.

The team also argues that having melanosomes in its eyes – structures that produce and store melanin – isn’t sufficient evidence to call the Tully monster a vertebrate either, because plenty of invertebrates evolved to have extraordinarily complex eyes.

And when they examined these fossilised eyes for themselves, they concluded that they’re ‘cup eyes’ – fairly simple structures without a lens.

“Eyes have evolved dozens of times. It’s not too much of a leap to imagine Tully monsters could have evolved an eye that resembled a vertebrate eye,” says Sallan.

“So the problem is, if it does have cup eyes, then it can’t be a vertebrate, because all vertebrates either have more complex eyes than that or they secondarily lost them. But lots of other things have cup eyes, like primitive chordates, molluscs and certain types of worms.”

This time around, the researchers are bringing more questions than answers, because while they’re sure that the Tully monster is not a vertebrate, they’re not ready to say what it could be instead.

And while we should keep in mind that this study is just one team’s interpretation against another’s, it’s important in science that the evidence be definitive before we jump to any conclusions.

“Having this kind of misassignment really affects our understanding of vertebrate evolution and vertebrate diversity at this given time,” says Sallan.

“It makes it harder to get at how things are changing in response to an ecosystem if you have this outlier. And though of course there are outliers in the fossil record – there are plenty of weird things and that’s great – if you’re going to make extraordinary claims, you need extraordinary evidence.”

The study has been published in Palaeontology.

World Health Organization’s Ranking of the World’s Health Systems

Some people fancy all health care debates to be a case of Canadian Health Care vs. American. Not so. According to the World Health Organization’s ranking of the world’s health systems, neither Canada nor the USA ranks in the top 25.

Improving the Canadian Healthcare System does not mean we must emulate the American system, but it may mean that perhaps we can learn from countries that rank better than both Canada and the USA at keeping their citizens healthy.

World Health Organization Ranking; The World’s Health Systems
1 France
2 Italy
3 San Marino
4 Andorra
5 Malta
6 Singapore
7 Spain
8 Oman
9 Austria
10 Japan
11 Norway
12 Portugal
13 Monaco
14 Greece
15 Iceland
16 Luxembourg
17 Netherlands
18 United Kingdom
19 Ireland
20 Switzerland
21 Belgium
22 Colombia
23 Sweden
24 Cyprus
25 Germany
26 Saudi Arabia
27 United Arab Emirates
28 Israel
29 Morocco
30 Canada
31 Finland
32 Australia
33 Chile
34 Denmark
35 Dominica
36 Costa Rica
37 USA
38 Slovenia
39 Cuba
40 Brunei
41 New Zealand
42 Bahrain
43 Croatia
44 Qatar
45 Kuwait
46 Barbados
47 Thailand
48 Czech Republic
49 Malaysia
50 Poland
51 Dominican Republic
52 Tunisia
53 Jamaica
54 Venezuela
55 Albania
56 Seychelles
57 Paraguay
58 South Korea
59 Senegal
60 Philippines
61 Mexico
62 Slovakia
63 Egypt
64 Kazakhstan
65 Uruguay
66 Hungary
67 Trinidad and Tobago
68 Saint Lucia
69 Belize
70 Turkey
71 Nicaragua
72 Belarus
73 Lithuania
74 Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
75 Argentina
76 Sri Lanka
77 Estonia
78 Guatemala
79 Ukraine
80 Solomon Islands
81 Algeria
82 Palau
83 Jordan
84 Mauritius
85 Grenada
86 Antigua and Barbuda
87 Libya
88 Bangladesh
89 Macedonia
90 Bosnia-Herzegovina
91 Lebanon
92 Indonesia
93 Iran
94 Bahamas
95 Panama
96 Fiji
97 Benin
98 Nauru
99 Romania
100 Saint Kitts and Nevis
101 Moldova
102 Bulgaria
103 Iraq
104 Armenia
105 Latvia
106 Yugoslavia
107 Cook Islands
108 Syria
109 Azerbaijan
110 Suriname
111 Ecuador
112 India
113 Cape Verde
114 Georgia
115 El Salvador
116 Tonga
117 Uzbekistan
118 Comoros
119 Samoa
120 Yemen
121 Niue
122 Pakistan
123 Micronesia
124 Bhutan
125 Brazil
126 Bolivia
127 Vanuatu
128 Guyana
129 Peru
130 Russia
131 Honduras
132 Burkina Faso
133 Sao Tome and Principe
134 Sudan
135 Ghana
136 Tuvalu
137 Ivory Coast
138 Haiti
139 Gabon
140 Kenya
141 Marshall Islands
142 Kiribati
143 Burundi
144 China
145 Mongolia
146 Gambia
147 Maldives
148 Papua New Guinea
149 Uganda
150 Nepal
151 Kyrgystan
152 Togo
153 Turkmenistan
154 Tajikistan
155 Zimbabwe
156 Tanzania
157 Djibouti
158 Eritrea
159 Madagascar
160 Vietnam
161 Guinea
162 Mauritania
163 Mali
164 Cameroon
165 Laos
166 Congo
167 North Korea
168 Namibia
169 Botswana
170 Niger
171 Equatorial Guinea
172 Rwanda
173 Afghanistan
174 Cambodia
175 South Africa
176 Guinea-Bissau
177 Swaziland
178 Chad
179 Somalia
180 Ethiopia
181 Angola
182 Zambia
183 Lesotho
184 Mozambique
185 Malawi
186 Liberia
187 Nigeria
188 Democratic Republic of the Congo
189 Central African Republic
190 Myanmar

Source: World Health Organization

The reason experts turn to mothers in DNA tests to determine identity

Morgue attendants and Kenya Red Cross officials offload bodies of those who died after a fire from an oil tanker in Naivasha at the Chiromo mortuary. Photo/Monicah Mwangi
Morgue attendants and Kenya Red Cross officials offload bodies of those who died after a fire from an oil tanker in Naivasha at the Chiromo mortuary.

IN full, DNA is deoxyribonucleic acid. It is a chemical found in genes. It is these genes in turn that give humans their features: Tall, short, black or light complexion, long hair, big teeth, etc.

DNA is found in each and every single cell of the human body.

In females these genes take an XX formation and in males an XY.

In sexual interaction between a man and woman, these genes, in this case sperm and egg, mix. Some genes are more dominant than others in that they express themselves more powerfully than others.

It must be borne in mind that humans are 99.9 per cent identical; it is just 0.1 per cent that is different. In the case of identical twins, they are 100 per cent identical.

DNA tests are carried out to identify just 0.1 per cent of an individual’s features.

What this means is that human features are predominantly the same, and that the difference in these features is very slight.

 By now you know an X from the egg and a Y from the sperm give us a male offspring. Where Sperm X fuses with egg X, the outcome is a female offspring.

Thus the process of DNA tests is all about taking human tissues of relatives and comparing their sequence. To determine whether the people under study have tissues with a common sequence. If they the people involved are related, their genes are similar.

As in all sciences, it is always a question of probability, because we are dealing with merely 0.1 per cent of the genes.

The reason why we turn to mothers in DNA tests is because they give birth. It can be ascertained that women give birth, unlike men. It is better to start off the DNA test with maternal relatives because the X gene is constant. As aforesaid, female offspring produce the X gene that is constant and runs throughout a family.

Maternal lineage is a sure one; if you have a brother and a sister, it is better to start with the sister in the case of a DNA test, because the X gene is constant in her.

The X gene runs in the entire family while the Y gene is limited in some instances to male offspring.