Breakthough study finds remnants of Big Bang

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The universe is a big place. Most physicists say it is infinite, and estimates of our observable universe fall around 93 billion lightyears across. Fortunately, math and science give us the tools to unravel what we cannot see, such as last week’s breakthrough discovery of the “echo” from the Big Bang.

The Big Bang theory posits the universe burst from a single point some 13.7 billion years ago. In a fraction of a second it underwent staggering expansion, growing exponentially at speeds faster than light. Early phases of the universe contained plasma so “dense” (high-energy) that photons could not escape. About 380,000 years later, the plasma cooled enough to let light push through, giving the universe its first moment of transparency. This theory is widely accepted by the scientific community and explains many properties of our universe, such as cosmic background radiation, large-scale structures, and the large presence of light elements (more on these in future posts).

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Stephen Hawking: there are no black holes

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Famed physicist Stephen Hawking announced last week there are no black holes—at least not the way we think of them. His new, not-yet-peer-reviewed paper says the idea of an event horizon—the point of no escape—violates quantum mechanics and therefore does not exist. In doing away with the event horizon, Hawking claims to have solved the firewall paradox, one of the most pressing problems in modern physics.

First, some background. Stephen Hawking is a theoretical physicist and cosmologist and the Director of Research at the Centre for Theoretical Cosmology at Cambridge University. His work in quantum mechanics and general relativity is a cornerstone of modern physics and has made him one of the most famous scientists of the past century.

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Study finds brain games postpone cognitive decline

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A massive study released last week found that brain games and training can help slow the cognitive decline that comes with aging. The study, funded by the National Institute of Health and published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, is the first to find long-term benefits associated with brain games.

Researchers placed subjects in groups receiving speed-based tasks, memory exercises, reasoning games, or nothing at all. Sessions lasted about an hour and took place over six weeks. Testers evaluated subjects immediately following the trials and at intervals throughout ten years. At the end of the study, 71 percent of participants who received speed training performed at or above their level from the start of the study compared with 48 percent in the control group. Those who participated in reasoning games showed improvement as well, with 74 percent performing at or above their initial marks compared with only 62 percent of the control group. The memory games had no effect on performance. Continue reading

Happy holidays! Your vitamins may be killing you

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Happy holidays, everyone! I hope everyone is enjoying family, friends, and time to catch up on what really matters. We all have a lot of things to do, so I’m going to keep this post short and sweet: if you want to see many more holiday seasons, throw out your daily multivitamins.

According to new research, multivitamin supplements produce no health benefits and might even be harmful. Three major studies examined multivitamins’ effectiveness in preventing chronic disease, cancer, and cognitive decline. While researchers across the board found no benefits associated with the supplements, one study recommended against taking vitamin E or beta-carotene to prevent heart disease or cancer, finding they may put already at-risk individuals in increased danger.

Pills Supplements Multivitamins Vitamins Health Industry Benefits Harm Damage Danger FDA Regulated Snake Oil

New studies confirm that multivitamins, like most unregulated supplements, contain no health benefits. In other news, the above is not a complete breakfast. (Shutterstock)

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Is it okay to question science?

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In the early nineteenth century, phrenology was the talk of every town. The up and coming discipline examined the shape and contours of the skull to deduce a person’s psychological traits. By simply running his fingers across a skull, an expert could uncover amazing details about the person’s life, including spirituality and submissiveness. Except phrenology was nonsense, a pseudoscience used by many to justify American slavery.

Of course, many were critical of phrenology’s claims. Skeptics pointed to the questionable methodologies and lack of scientific guidelines. Others simply did not believe its outlandish claims. History would prove these skeptics correct, dismissing the faux discipline and shoving its findings off the table.

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If nothing else, phrenology serves of an example of the scientific community’s fallibility.

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