I spent the first half-hour of this morning looking for my eyeglasses, which got me to thinking about the Second Law of Thermodynamics, which dictates that the transfer of heat energy to a system tends to increase its molecular disorder, or entropy. But a similar process also occurs on a cosmic scale, driven in part by the energy output of supermassive black holes at the center of galaxies, each of which have the mass of about one billion suns. We used to think of the universe as a relatively orderly place, until a 2009 study by Australian researchers revealed that, in fact, the universe is about 100 times messier than we had suspected, and getting more so. In the early universe billions of years ago, entropy was relatively low, about 10 to the 88th power. Today, it is running at about 10 to the 104th power, which is considerably more chaotic, but fortunately still considerably short of what scientists say is the maximum universal entropy, 10 to the 122nd power. And that’s good, because if it ever gets to that point, not only will I not be able to find my glasses, but the unidirectional flow of time may cease to become dependable, which could result in me, say, remembering leaving them in a nightstand that I won’t purchase until 2012, whose molecules are still part of a forest in Burma. In any case, here are today’s links to interesting science stories — in no particular order, of course.
Are protons even smaller than what we previously thought? The results of a new experiment, if they are validated, could shake up particle physics.
Is a protein regulator the cure for addiction? A tiny snippet of RNA may help guard cocaine-using rats against addiction to the drug, a new study shows.
Newborn stars have been discovered in a distant cosmic cloud. The Spitzer Space Telescope enabled astronomers to see them.
Shouting Cetaceans. Whales are being forced to vocalize more loudly to be heard in today’s noise-polluted oceans. If only they had opposable digits on their flippers for texting.
Roadable Aircraft for U.S. military envisioned as solution to roadside bombs. A California company, Trek Aerospace, has a design for a sort of flying Humvee.
Gulf Oil spill app for smartphones. A new app, WhiteSands, will give subscribers the latest information on which beaches are affected by the aftermath of the BP oil rig disaster.
Windows security vigilantes are banding together. Independent computer security experts, irked at what they see as Redmond’s reticence to cooperate, have formed the Microsoft-Spurned Researcher Collective, a name that parodies the software giant’s Microsoft Security Response Center. They’ll independently publicize any potentially dangerous flaws that they spot in the company’s software.