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Space Science

Voyager Clue Points To Origin of the Axis of Evil 293

KentuckyFC writes "Cosmologists have been scratching their heads over the discovery of a pattern imprinted on the cosmic microwave background, the radiation left over from the Big Bang. This pattern, the so-called Axis of Evil, just shouldn't be there. Now an independent researcher from Canada says the pattern may be caused by the boundary between the Solar System and interstellar space where there is a sharp change in pressure, temperature and density of ions in space. Known as the termination shock, astronomers had thought this boundary was spherical. But last year, data from the Voyager spacecraft which have crossed the boundary, showed it was asymmetric. The new thinking is that the termination shock acts like a giant lens, refracting light that passes through it. Any distortion of the lens ought to show up as a kind of imprinted pattern on an otherwise random image. But the real eye-opener is that as the shape of the termination shock changes (as the Solar Wind varies, for example), so too should the pattern in the microwave background. And there is tentative evidence that this is happening too (abstract)."
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Voyager Clue Points To Origin of the Axis of Evil

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  • So? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by nicolas.kassis ( 875270 ) on Thursday May 21, 2009 @11:48AM (#28040627)
    Does that mean that to get a clear view we need space crafts beyond the boundry?
  • Fascinating stuff (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Fuji Kitakyusho ( 847520 ) on Thursday May 21, 2009 @12:00PM (#28040831)
    I have been following the Voyager updates with some interest over the past couple of years. I find it astounding that we are still managing to get useful data from these vehicles which were launched back in the 70's. Certainly, they have exceeded their design mission, and only advances in large aperture radio coverage here on earth have allowed continued communication. To put this in perspective - the one way light time from earth to both vehicles is now on the order of about 30 hours! Interestingly, the vehicles are adorned with a message to prospective lifeforms who would encounter the spacecraft long in the future - a "golden record", which is technology long since obsolete here on earth during only the short 30 year span of the mission. Food for thought.
  • Re:Fascinating stuff (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Tisha_AH ( 600987 ) on Thursday May 21, 2009 @12:14PM (#28041039) Journal

    Way back in the 80's I was taking a receiver design course at George Washington University. My lab partner was involved in the continual design of more sensitive receivers to listen in on the voyager craft.
    It led to interesting discussions about how the pace of receiver design (sensitivity, noise floor, selectivity). At the time we were learning the state of the art, the folks at the research labs were pushing the limits further and further. It warms my heart to realize that 25 years later they are still making significant advancements.

    What it will take to monitor the weakening transmissions from the Pioneers and Voyagers five years from now doesn't exist today. Kudos to everyone involved in the process.

  • Re:Why Axis of Evil? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by FTWinston ( 1332785 ) on Thursday May 21, 2009 @12:15PM (#28041043) Homepage
    Well yeah, there was the 'silly political reference' - but most importantly, the pattern implies that the universe, which should be anisotropic, has a shape. In fact, according to measurements of the Axis, the entire universe is pointing in a particular direction (the 'axis' part). And that goes against a helluva lot of cosmological theory, hence the 'evil' part.

    It is left as an exercise for the user to determine why the word 'of' was included in the name.
  • Shouldn't? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Quiet_Desperation ( 858215 ) on Thursday May 21, 2009 @12:16PM (#28041061)

    just shouldn't be there.

    Sorry, but that's religious talk. Science revels in unexpected results.

  • by ShieldW0lf ( 601553 ) on Thursday May 21, 2009 @12:28PM (#28041207) Journal

    The singularity, or big bang, is the lowest common denominator state of the mass/energy of the multiverse. This universe is an expression of one of many higher order patterns which the multiverse can assume. Entropy and gravity are expressions of the universes inevitable degeneration back to the singular state. "Before" the big bang, there was another universe, and "After" the big bang, there will be another universe. Although that is misleading, because time is just another spatial dimension, and all of these universes exist simultaneously, connected at the singularity. None of this is infinite, just incredibly large and complex.

    Understanding the shape of the multiverse is synonymous with understanding the laws of reality. Where the multiverse came from is beyond human experience, and not really a useful question to contemplate.

  • by Culture20 ( 968837 ) on Thursday May 21, 2009 @12:31PM (#28041251)

    It means that in the next two to five years we can confidently expect the development and release of FTL travel, zero-point energy, a cure for mortality, replicator technology and hot green alien nymphomaniac bikini chicks. From Mars.

    If I'm immortal, what need do I have for hot green alien nymphomaniac bikini chicks? I'd be popping saltpeter pills and working on time travel science (since all the other super-science would be done, and being assured that I'd see the future via immortality, only the past would be of interest).

  • by MikeB0Lton ( 962403 ) on Thursday May 21, 2009 @12:36PM (#28041335)
    If it is beyond our experience, and not something to contemplate, how has your answer been derived? You said it as though it is fact, but it has not been proven. I am still stuck at the "something from nothing" question.
  • Re:Shouldn't? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Chelloveck ( 14643 ) on Thursday May 21, 2009 @12:44PM (#28041461) Homepage

    just shouldn't be there.

    Sorry, but that's religious talk. Science revels in unexpected results.

    Nah, that's good and scientific.

    Religious: "According to my faith, that shouldn't be there. So it's not. la-La-LA, I can't HEAR YOU!"

    Scientific: "According to my theory, that shouldn't be there. But it is. So what's wrong with my theory?"

    There's not necessarily a conflict between "shouldn't be" and "unexpected". It's "unexpected" because it "shouldn't be".

  • Re:Voyager (Score:2, Interesting)

    by eqisow ( 877574 ) on Thursday May 21, 2009 @01:00PM (#28041771) Homepage
    Not that the Voyagers aren't tough, but saying that is a disservice to the Mars rovers, many of which have kept going long after their original missions were complete. No, none of them have lasted as long as either Voyager, but the environmental factors aren't really the same either.
  • Re:too (abstract) (Score:3, Interesting)

    by radtea ( 464814 ) on Thursday May 21, 2009 @01:07PM (#28041873)

    It should be evenly distributed, but instead it's brighter and darker in places, and they think it's due to the uneven surface of the termination shock.

    However, in a paper linked from the first article there is a second effect that optical phenomena at the termination shock won't account for: there appears to be a preferential handedness of spiral galaxies, and the handedness exhibits itself along an axis that is close to the Axis of Evil.

    Furthermore, while this paper on optical effects is interesting and suggests some directions for more research, the author's own thoughts on what specific phenomena might be causing the distortions are, using his own term, "speculative."

    Other than the asymmetry of the termination shock it is by no means certain that any of these phenomena exist (that is, that they are not artifacts of the instruments or the analysis), which is the typical state of affairs in leading-edge science, so it'll be interesting to see how the truth unfolds over the next few years.

  • by psydeshow ( 154300 ) on Thursday May 21, 2009 @01:49PM (#28042673) Homepage

    Replicators... because in America, I totally need another way to get junk food conveniently without moving from my couch.

    Not to mention "Build Your Own Cheetos" and "Any-color Any-texture M&Ms". We don't just want junk food, we want designer junk food that we can design ourselves.

    It helps remind us that we are special snowflakes.

  • by SQLGuru ( 980662 ) on Thursday May 21, 2009 @01:54PM (#28042763) Journal

    It's obvious why....I'm the center of the universe.

    Assume the universe is infinite. If I look left, there is an infinite distance between me an the restaurant in that direction. If I look up, same thing, infinite distance. Right, down, forward, backward, same thing. The center of something is defined as the point where the distance between all opposing points is the same. Therefore, I am the center of the universe.

  • Re:Fascinating stuff (Score:3, Interesting)

    by fm6 ( 162816 ) on Thursday May 21, 2009 @03:26PM (#28044397) Homepage Journal

    I'm more impressed that we can still get signals from the thing. The radio only emits 20 watts. By the time the signal reaches earth, it's been attenuated to 0.00000000000000001 watts. Being able to grab that signal is equivalent to reading morse code transmitted by an ordinary light bulb 200 million miles away!

FORTUNE'S FUN FACTS TO KNOW AND TELL: A giant panda bear is really a member of the racoon family.