Friday, April 03, 2009

The Global Oceanic Conveyer Belt

There's a nice simplifed explanation of global thermohaline ocean circulation at Oceanic Conveyer Belt. The rest of the site nicely explains other aspects of "ocean motion".

Social Motives for Syntax

Social Motives for Syntax in Science.
Book review of Origins of Human Communication by Michael Tomasello,
MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, 2008. 407 pp. $36, £23.95. ISBN 9780262201773.
Summary: Tomasello argues for the importance of social interactions in an evolutionary transformation from pointing and pantomiming to human vocal communication.

On the Origin of Flowering Plants

On the Origin of Flowering Plants
Summary: Which plant was the mother of all angiosperms? In the fourth essay in Science's series in honor of the Year of Darwin, Elizabeth Pennisi discusses efforts to answer Darwin's question about how flowering plants diversified and spread so rapidly across the globe.

Sleeping to Reset Overstimulated Synapses

Sleeping to Reset Overstimulated Synapses in Science.
Summary: In this week's issue of Science (pp. 105 and 109), two studies with fruit flies provide what some researchers say is the most compelling evidence to date for the provocative hypothesis that sleep dials down synapses that have been cranked up by a day's worth of neural activity, helping to conserve both energy and precious real estate in the brain.

The North Atlantic Oscillation and Medieval Climate

Persistent Positive North Atlantic Oscillation Mode Dominated the Medieval Climate Anomaly in Science.
The Medieval Climate Anomaly (MCA) was the most recent pre-industrial era warm interval of European climate, yet its driving mechanisms remain uncertain. We present here a 947-year-long multidecadal North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) reconstruction and find a persistent positive NAO during the MCA. Supplementary reconstructions based on climate model results and proxy data indicate a clear shift to weaker NAO conditions into the Little Ice Age (LIA). Globally distributed proxy data suggest that this NAO shift is one aspect of a global MCA-LIA climate transition that probably was coupled to prevailing La NiƱa–like conditions amplified by an intensified Atlantic meridional overturning circulation during the MCA.

Exploring the Quantum Vacuum with Lasers

Quantum Vacuum Experiments Using High Intensity Lasers
The quantum vacuum constitutes a fascinating medium of study, in particular since near-future laser facilities will be able to probe the nonlinear nature of this vacuum. There has been a large number of proposed tests of the low-energy, high intensity regime of quantum electrodynamics (QED) where the nonlinear aspects of the electromagnetic vacuum comes into play, and we will here give a short description of some of these. Such studies can shed light, not only on the validity of QED, but also on certain aspects of nonperturbative effects, and thus also give insights for quantum field theories in general.

A Solar Twin?

High-Dispersion Spectroscopic Study of Solar Twins: HIP 56948, HIP 79672, and HIP 100963
An intensive spectroscopic study was performed for three representative solar twins (HIP 56948, HIP 79672, and HIP 100963) as well as for the Sun (Moon; reference standard), with an intention of (1) quantitatively discussing the relative-to-Sun similarities based on the precisely established differential parameters and (2) investigating the reason causing the Li abundance differences despite their similarities. It was concluded that HIP 56948 most resembles the Sun in every respect including the Li abundance (though not perfectly similar) among the three and deserves the name of "closest-ever solar twin", while HIP 79672 and HIP 100963 have somewhat higher effective temperature and appreciably higher surface Li composition. While there is an indication of Li being rotation-dependent because the projected rotation in HIP 56948 (and the Sun) is slightly lower than the other two, the rotational difference alone does not seem to be so large as to efficiently produce the marked change in Li. Rather, this may be more likely to be attributed (at least partly) to the slight difference in T_eff via some T_eff-sensitive Li-controlling mechanism. Since the abundance of beryllium was found to be essentially solar for all stars irrespective of Li, any physical process causing the Li diversity should work only on Li without affecting Be.

See also Age and mass of solar twins constrained by lithium abundance

Neutron Stars

The Behavior of Matter under Extreme Conditions
The cores of neutron stars harbor the highest matter densities known to occur in nature, up to several times the densities in atomic nuclei. Similarly, magnetic field strengths can exceed the strongest fields generated in terrestrial laboratories by ten orders of magnitude. Hyperon-dominated matter, deconfined quark matter, superfluidity, even superconductivity are predicted in neutron stars. Similarly, quantum electrodynamics predicts that in strong magnetic fields the vacuum becomes birefringent. The properties of matter under such conditions is governed by Quantum Chromodynamics (QCD) and Quantum Electrodynamics (QED), and the close study of the properties of neutron stars offers the unique opportunity to test and explore the richness of QCD and QED in a regime that is utterly beyond the reach of terrestrial experiments. Experimentally, this is almost virgin territory.