Top 15 Stories of 2021 (The Galaxy Report)

 

ESO Observatories

 

The Daily Galaxy editorial staff selections for the top 15 stories of 2021 selected from The Galaxy Report weekly feature, ranging from the world’s top scientists’ hopes and expectations for the James Webb Space telescope to the  laws of physics may be evolving to the U.S. Intelligence Services start taking UFOs seriously. 

“Unlocking the Universe’s Hidden Secrets” –Scientists Talk About the Impact of the James Webb Space Telescope–“As the James Webb Space Telescope begins its month-long voyage to LaGrange Point 2, several of the planet’s leading astronomers have shared their expectations and hopes for this epoch event in human history.”

Is The Universe Actually A Fractal?--On larger and larger scales, many of the same structures we see at small ones repeat themselves. Do we live in a fractal Universe? asks Big Think.

Homo sapien’s ‘Shadow’ Species –“Hints We May Have Had Story of Evolution All Wrong”, reports The Daily Galaxy. “Carl Sagan observed that the frontal lobe of the human brain, comprising more than two-thirds of our brain mass, is where “matter is transformed into consciousness.” Maybe, suggest scientists, we’ve had the story of human evolution wrong: that language evolved before our brains started getting larger (we have brains 3x the size of apes), and language led to brain size increase instead of being a result of it?”

Two scientists’ debate over whether the universe had a beginning – and how the elements were created –Taken from the December 2021 issue of Physics World where it first appeared under the headline “A tale of two scientists”. Laura Hiscott reviews Flashes of Creation: George Gamow, Fred Hoyle, and the Great Big Bang Debate by Paul Halpern

In dramatic shift, national intelligence director does not rule out ‘extraterrestrial’ origins for UFOs, reports The Hill –“Asked about a recent report in which the government admitted that it could not explain 143 out of 144 military encounters with mysterious flying objects – including several which appeared to demonstrate extraordinary technology – director of national intelligence Avril Haines said, “There’s always the question of ‘is there something else that we simply do not understand, that might come extraterrestrially?’”

Why is the universe just right for life? Blame the multiverse –Physicists have long speculated why our universe seems “just right” for life. The most complex answer might be the simplest – that every other universe also exists, reports New Scientist. 

Scientists Say the Laws of Physics May Be Changing –The cosmos is stranger than we know, reports Futurism. “Popular Mechanics published a lengthy explainer this week about a paper, titled “The Autodidactic Universe” and published earlier this year, in which the team argued for that precise mind-bending hypothesis. “We ask whether there might be a mechanism woven into the fabric of the natural world, by means of which the universe could learn its laws,” the authors wrote.

When Did Life Start in the Universe? asks Harvard’s Avi Loeb –Interstellar xenia, or the welcoming of cosmic strangers, could solve this mystery. “Our sun is not a typical star. Most stars are one tenth as massive and will live hundreds of times longer than the sun. Moreover, most stars formed billions of years before the sun, based on the observed star formation history since the big bang. Why were we born so late in cosmic history around a relatively massive star like the sun? Statistically speaking, we were more likely to exist earlier or around a lower-mass star..”

“Milky Way’s Sweet Spot” –Earth at Center of Galactic Habitable Zone –““The GHZ yields an age distribution for the complex life that may inhabit our Galaxy. We found that 75% of the stars in the GHZ are older than the Sun,” reports The Daily Galaxy.

In dramatic shift, national intelligence director does not rule out ‘extraterrestrial’ origins for UFOs, reports The Hill –“Asked about a recent report in which the government admitted that it could not explain 143 out of 144 military encounters with mysterious flying objects – including several which appeared to demonstrate extraordinary technology – director of national intelligence Avril Haines said, “There’s always the question of ‘is there something else that we simply do not understand, that might come extraterrestrially?’”

Touching the sun –“A spacecraft launched by NASA has done what was once thought impossible. On April 28, the Parker Solar Probe successfully entered the corona of the sun — an extreme environment that’s roughly 2 million degrees Fahrenheit.The historic moment was achieved thanks to a large collaboration of scientists and engineers, including members of the Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian (CfA) who built and monitor a key instrument onboard the probe: the Solar Probe Cup.

The Extraterrestrial Signal -We May Not Want to Receive –“Is there a fundamental flaw in why we have not received a signal from an advanced alien civilization? How do we decode an alien message –alien is alien so it might be impossible. What if they communicate chemically? Will they use the language of math and science signaling at 1420 megahertz? What if we are too primitive to comprehend a message or the technology of its signal that may exist in a form beyond matter? What if it’s a message from an extinct civilization astrophysicist such as Harvard’s Avi Loeb believes exist in our galaxy.”

Astronomers May Have Discovered the First Planet Outside of Our Galaxy –-a team led by astronomer Rosanne Di Stefano of the Harvard & Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics has determined that a huge dip in X-ray light from the Whirlpool Galaxy is best explained by an extragalactic planet in a galaxy 31 million light-years away. “We are trying to open up a whole new arena for finding other worlds by searching for planet candidates at X-ray wavelengths, a strategy that makes it possible to discover them in other galaxies,” said Di Stefano. 

“The Lesson?” –Our Modern Climate-Change Sequel May Be More Like Science Fiction Than Anything in Earth’s History

This is the way the world ends: not with a bang, but with a quantum vacuum decay of the ground state of the universe to its true minimum, reports Space.com. –“The universe underwent radical phase transitions in the past. These transitions eventually led to the division of the four fundamental forces of nature and the panoply of particles we know today. All of that occurred when the universe was less than a second old, and it has been stable ever since. But it might not last forever.”

Image credit: Courtesy of ESO

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