All posts by uncover reality team

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Earth’s Magnetic Field Can Switch Direction 10 Times Faster than Previously Thought (Physics)

According to recent study of Davies and colleagues, changes in the direction of Earth’s internally generated magnetic field may take place 10 times faster than previously thought..

Figure: Earth’s magnetic field lines. Image credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.

The magnetic field of Earth is generated and maintained by a convective flow of molten metal that forms our planet’s outer core.

Motion of the liquid iron creates the electric currents that power the field, which not only helps guide navigational systems but also helps shield us from harmful extra terrestrial radiation and hold our atmosphere in place.

The geomagnetic field is constantly changing. To capture the evolution of the field back through geological time, geoscientists analyze the magnetic fields recorded by sediments, lava flows and human-made artifacts.

Accurately tracking the signal from Earth’s core field is extremely challenging and so the rates of field change estimated by these types of analysis are still debated.

Dr. Davies and his colleague, Professor Catherine Constable from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, combined computer simulations of the geomagnetic field generation process with a reconstruction of time variations in the field spanning the last 100,000 years

Their results show that changes in the direction of the geomagnetic field reached rates that are up to 10 times larger than the fastest currently reported variations of up to one degree per year.

They demonstrate that these rapid changes are associated with local weakening of the magnetic field.

This means these changes have generally occurred around times when the field has reversed polarity or during geomagnetic excursions when the dipole axis — corresponding to field lines that emerge from one magnetic pole and converge at the other — moves far from the locations of the North and South geographic poles.

The clearest example of this is a sharp change in the geomagnetic field direction of roughly 2.5 degrees per year 39,000 years ago.

This shift was associated with locally weak field strength, in a confined spatial region just off the west coast of Central America, and followed the global Laschamp excursion, a short reversal of the Earth’s magnetic field roughly 41,000 years ago.

Similar events are identified in computer simulations of the field which can reveal many more details of their physical origin than the limited paleomagnetic reconstruction.

Their detailed analysis indicates that the fastest directional changes are associated with movement of reversed flux patches across the surface of the liquid core.

These patches are more prevalent at lower latitudes, suggesting that future searches for rapid changes in direction should focus on these areas.

References: C.J. Davies & C.G. Constable. 2020. Rapid geomagnetic changes inferred from Earth observations and numerical simulations. Nat Commun 11, 3371; doi: 10.1038/s41467-020-16888-0..

Hubble Snaps Image of Barred Spiral Galaxy NGC 7513 (Astronomy)

The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has captured a striking photo of a bright, barred spiral galaxy called NGC 7513.

This Hubble image shows the barred spiral galaxy NGC 7513. The color image was made from separate exposures taken in the visible and infrared regions of the spectrum with Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3). Three filters were used to sample various wavelengths. The color results from assigning different hues to each monochromatic image associated with an individual filter. Image credit: NASA / ESA / Hubble / M. Stiavelli.

NGC 7513 is located approximately 56 million light-years away in the southern constellation of Sculptor.

Discovered on September 24, 1864 by the German astronomer Albert Marth, the galaxy has a diameter of around 65,000 light-years.

While some galaxies, like the Milky Way and the Andromeda Galaxy, are caught in each other’s gravitational pull and will eventually merge together, the vast majority of galaxies in our Universe appear to be moving away from each other..

This phenomenon is due to the expansion of the Universe, and it is the space between galaxies that is stretching, rather than the galaxies themselves moving..

NGC 7513 is moving at the astounding speed of 1,564 km per second (3.5 million mph), and it is heading away from us..

For context, the Earth orbits the Sun at about 30 km per second (over 67,000 mph)..

Though NGC 7513’s apparent movement away from the Milky Way might seem strange, it is not that unusual..

Are math equation beautiful? Euler’s identity makes mathematicians swoon.. (Maths)

Relationship goals: Find someone who talks about you the way Richard Feynman talks about Euler’s identity. In lectures, he called the equation “our jewel” and “the most remarkable formula in mathematics.” The equation has not only been called the most beautiful equation in mathematics, but it has even been compared to a Shakespearean sonnet.

Drumroll, please. Here is Euler’s identity: e^iπ + 1 = 0. Did that leave you breathless? Have you been swept off your feet? Are you sobbing tears of joy over its alluringly pure beauty? Okay, this may need an explanation. This equation has been renowned for its beauty for a few reasons. It comprises the five most important mathematical constants: 1 , 0 , pi (the number that defines a circle), e (the base of natural logarithms), and i (the most fundamental imaginary number).

Euler’s identity also contains the three basic mathematical operations: addition, multiplication, and exponentiation. “Euler’s identity is amazing because it is simple to look at and yet incredibly profound,” Professor of Mathematics David Percy of the University of Salford in the UK told the BBC. “What appeals to me is that this equality connects some incredibly complicated and seemingly unrelated concepts in a surprisingly concise form.” As for what the equation actually does, it basically describes two equivalent ways to move in a circle.

The equation’s namesake is 18th-century Swiss mathematician Leonhard Euler. He was one of the most prolific mathematicians of all time, according to the U.S. Naval Academy, with a resume that boasts 886 papers and books published. This guy was responsible for developing many concepts that span various fields of math — geometry, trigonometry, calculus, differential equations, number theory, and notational systems. The principles he came up with laid the foundation for modern mathematics as we know it. No big deal.

References: (1) (2) (3) (4)

People who can admit what they don’t know tend to know more.. (Psychology)

We’ve all been there. You’re around new people and you just want to impress them. It can be easy to pretend you know about movies, politics, or science just to get through an awkward situation. But contrary to what feels most natural, a new series of five studies from Pepperdine University shows that those who can admit when they don’t know something tend to actually have more knowledge. If you want to make those people think you’re smart, maybe the best thing to say is “I don’t know.”

Intellectual humility (IH) means having the insight and honesty to admit when you’re ignorant about or inexperienced with an issue. Scientists have long associated general humility — defined as the virtue of acknowledging your limitations — with more academic learning and better grades. That’s likely because you have to realize you have things to learn in order to learn successfully.

While humility is about recognizing that you have weaknesses in general, IH deals with intellectual fallibility specifically. A person is intellectually humble when they realize that their ideas and opinions might be incorrect. It involves an openness to new information and, according to the authors of the new study, “a healthy independence between intellect and ego.”

For the study, which was led by Elizabeth Krumrei-Mancuso, the team of researchers had one question: Is there a knowledge benefit to admitting intellectual fallibility? To find out, they ran not one, not two, but five separate experiments. They engaged nearly 1,200 participants in their study, and evaluated them using a number of questionnaires testing their cognitive abilities, measuring their own predictions of their cognitive abilities, and, of course, rating their levels of intellectual humility.

For that last part, they used different methods in different studies to get a more well-rounded set of results. One IH questionnaire used eight questions to assess participants on two elements: the “Knowing-It-All” subscale, which judged their attitudes of intellectual superiority, and the “Intellectual Openness” subscale, which assessed how open they were to learning from others. In other studies, they used the 22-question “Comprehensive Intellectual Humility Scale,” which assesses participants on four elements: independence of intellect and ego, openness to revising one’s viewpoint, respect for others’ viewpoints, and lack of intellectual overconfidence. The five studies were used to examine past learning, thinking styles, traits, and motivations.

Krumrei-Manusco and her team found that IH was associated with more general knowledge, though not greater cognitive ability. That is, people who are intellectually humble aren’t smarter, but they do tend to know more than those who aren’t. The researchers believe this leg-up on knowledge is thanks to the fact that IH leads directly to behaviors that can lead people to learn more — specifically, things like reflective thinking, intellectual curiosity, and openness. They also found that high IH correlated with less “social vigilantism,” which could mean that intellectually humble people work better with others. High IH was also associated with the desire to learn for the sake of learning.

The researchers noted that past studies also suggest that as people gain knowledge, they see an increase in intellectual humility. Basically, humility and knowledge are linked, but it’s hard to know in which direction. Maybe the more you learn, the more you realize you have to learn. Or maybe knowing that makes you more receptive to learning anything at all.

The best thing to remember is that curiosity seems to be a good thing. The world is big, and it’s impossible to know everything. At your next dinner party, ask questions and admit your own cluelessness. It might make you a little less clueless next time.

References: (1) Elizabeth J. Krumrei-Mancuso, Megan C. Haggard, Jordan P. LaBouff & Wade C. Rowatt, “Links between intellectual humility and acquiring knowledge”, Journal of positive psychology, vol. 15, no. 2, pp. 155-170, 2020.. (2) (3) Wade C. Rowatt , Christie Powers , Valerie Targhetta , Jessamy Comer , Stephanie Kennedy & Jordan Labouff, “Development and initial validation of an implicit measure of humility relative to arrogance”, Journal of positive psychology, vol 1, issue 4, Pages 198-211, 2006.. (4) Krumrei-Mancuso, E. J., & Rouse, S. V. (2016). The development and validation of the Comprehensive Intellectual Humility Scale. Journal of Personality Assessment, 98, 209-221.

Why do you stop liking new music as you get older? (Psychology)

When I was a teenager, my dad wasn’t terribly interested in the music I liked. To him, it just sounded like “a lot of noise,” while he regularly referred to the music he listened to as “beautiful.”

This attitude persisted throughout his life. Even when he was in his 80s, he once turned to me during a TV commercial featuring a 50-year-old Beatles tune and said, “You know, I just don’t like today’s music.”

It turns out that my father isn’t alone.

As I’ve grown older, I’ll often hear people my age say things like “they just don’t make good music like they used to.”

Why does this happen?

We know that musical tastes begin to crystallize as early as age 13 or 14. By the time we’re in our early 20s, these tastes get locked into place pretty firmly.

In fact, studies have found that by the time we turn 33, most of us have stopped listening to new music. Meanwhile, popular songs released when you’re in your early teens are likely to remain quite popular among your age group for the rest of your life.

There could be a biological explanation for this. There’s evidence that the brain’s ability to make subtle distinctions between different chords, rhythms, and melodies gets worse with age. So to older people, newer, less familiar songs might all “sound the same.”

But I believe there are some simpler reasons for older people’s aversion to newer music. One of the most researched laws of social psychology is something called the “mere exposure effect.” In a nutshell, it means that the more we’re exposed to something, the more we tend to like it.

This happens with people we know, the advertisements we see and, yes, the songs we listen to.

When you’re in your early teens, you probably spend a fair amount of time listening to music or watching music videos. Your favorite songs and artists become familiar, comforting parts of your routine.

For many people over 30, job and family obligations increase, so there’s less time to spend discovering new music. Instead, many will simply listen to old, familiar favorites from that period of their lives when they had more free time.

Of course, those teen years weren’t necessarily carefree. They’re famously confusing, which is why so many TV shows and movies — from “Glee” to “Love, Simon” to “Eighth Grade” — revolve around the high school turmoil.

Psychology research has shown that the emotions that we experience as teens seem more intense than those that come later. We also know that intense emotions are associated with stronger memories and preferences. All of this might explain why the songs we listen to during this period become so memorable and beloved.

So there’s nothing wrong with your parents because they don’t like your music. In a way, it’s all part of the natural order of things.

Why you sometimes miss, what’s right in front of you..?? (Psychology)

Confession time.. I use to look for my keys all over my house, while they are right in front of my eyes.. And I am willing to bet that something similar has happened to you, too. As it turns out, it’s not so uncommon to be so completely unaware of your surroundings. No, really, it’s not.

Before you read any further, watch the video below.

Weird, right? It’s called inattentional blindness, and it’s what happens when you encounter something in a place you aren’t at all expecting. No matter how strange, blatant, or eye-catching it is, our brains just don’t want to notice things where we don’t think they belong. That’s why it’s so easy to miss the bear amid the basketballs, and why you don’t notice your keys when they’re right by the door instead of their usual spot on your bedside table.

Here’s a classic example that spotlights exactly how pronounced this effect can be. Taking their cue from the old saying about money growing on trees, researchers made their own money tree by attaching dollar bills to a tree on the quad at Western Washington University. The dollars were attached to a branch that extended out over the walking path, and the spot was chosen specifically because researchers had seen many students have to duck to avoid it or push it out of their way. And that remained true after the dollars were attached — but hardly anybody noticed.

There’s another way that our brains can gloss over the details of a scene, though it’s not likely to occur outside of a research scenario. Even if the object is in the place that we expect it to be, our brains will sometimes gloss over it if it’s too large. In one example, people could easily spot the toothbrush on this bathroom counter but missed the GIANT toothbrush right behind it. On first blush, it seems like an unfair test, because if somebody tells you to find the toothbrush, they aren’t going to be looking for something four feet long. But here’s the rub: tell an artificial intelligence to find a toothbrush, and it’ll identify brushes big and small, no problem.

So does that mean that AI systems are better than humans and other animals at spotting what they’re looking for? Actually, it’s kind of the opposite. Our brains automatically jump to conclusions when given tasks like “find the toothbrush,” and most of the time, those conclusions are right (or at least well-informed). That makes us very good at finding and identifying things under normal conditions, and not so hot when their size and location have been tweaked. But while a deep learning network might be able to see the giant toothbrush easier than we can, it will also end up mistaking a vaguely toothbrush-shaped floor lamp for its target. You know what that means: “Terminator 2” could have been a lot shorter if they’d just set up John Connor mannequins all over Los Angeles.

References: (1) Siri carpenter,Sights unseen’, April 2001, Vol 32, No. 4, Print version: page 54.. (2) Ira E. Hyman, Jr., Benjamin A. Sarb, and Breanne M. Wise-Swanson, “Failure to see money on a tree: inattentional blindness for objects that guided behavior”, Front Psychol. 2014; 5: 356.. (3) Heather Murphy, “Why We Miss Objects That Are Right in Front of Us”, Nytimes..