A young pup that spent 18,000 years buried in Siberian permafrost looks remarkably lifelike and pettable — for a freeze-dried mummy. From its frozen tomb, the Ice Age canine’s body emerged in near-perfect condition, retaining even the pads and nails on its small feet and plenty of hair, down to its tiny eyelashes and delicate whiskers.
The pup still had its milk teeth, suggesting it was under 2 months old when it died; The body is so well preserved that its resemblance to a wolf is clearly visible, The Siberian Times recently reported.
Dogs are descended from wolves, and their lineage may have split from their lupine ancestors’ as early as 40,000 years ago, according to ancient DNA evidence. Scientists at the University of Stockholm’s Centre for Palaeogenetics conducted genetic tests on the Siberian pup’s remains, but they were unable to determine if the mummy represented a dog or a wolf, the Times reported.
DNA analysis did tell the scientists that the pup was a male. They named it “Dogor” — “friend” in the Yakut language — though in English, the name references the mummy’s uncertain status: dog or … something else, according to the Times.
Researchers discovered the mummified pup during the summer of 2018 near the Indigirka River in Yakutia, in the northeastern part of Russia. The oldest known fossil of a domesticated dog dates to 14,700 years ago, though remains of dog-like canines are known from 35,000 years ago, another research team reported in 2017 in the journal Nature. In the study, the scientists suggested that dogs diverged genetically from their wolf ancestors between 36,900 and 41,500 years ago.
What does this mean for the Siberian pup? A mummified canine dating to 18,000 years ago could be a dog, a wolf or possibly even a transitional form — an animal with traits of both species, the Times reported.
“This is intriguing,” said Sergey Fedorov, a researcher with the North-Eastern Federal University in Yakutsk, Russia, and one of the scientists investigating the puppy. “We can’t wait to get results from further tests,” he told the Times.
Preserved in ice
Over the past several years in Siberia, melting permafrost has released some astonishingly well-preserved examples of ancient animals. In 2017, paleontologists unearthed an astonishing mummy of a young horse from a crater in Yakutia; the 2-month-old foal lived 30,000 to 40,000 years ago and its body was whole and undamaged, with its skin and hooves intact. And in 2018, a man searching for mammoth tusks discovered the mummy of a young Ice Age feline. Like the newfound puppy, the wild kitten’s species was hard to pin down, and experts suspect it could be a cave lion or a Eurasian lynx.
Then in June, a man walking by a river in Yakutia in Russia spied the enormous, severed head of an Ice Age wolf, dating to more than 40,000 years ago.
The frozen Siberian wilderness also recently revealed something more gruesome than ancient animal remains: a bag containing 54 severed human hands, buried in snow on a river island and found in 2018. Unlike the Ice Age mummies, the hands were modern in origin and were likely discarded illegally by a nearby forensic lab, according to Russian authorities.
So there you are, about to leap into a black hole. What could possibly await should — against all odds — you somehow survive? Where would you end up and what tantalizing tales would you be able to regale if you managed to clamor your way back?
The simple answer to all of these questions is, as Professor Richard Massey explains, “Who knows?” As a Royal Society research fellow at the Institute for Computational Cosmology at Durham University, Massey is fully aware that the mysteries of black holes run deep. “Falling through an event horizon is literally passing beyond the veil — once someone falls past it, nobody could ever send a message back,” he said. “They’d be ripped to pieces by the enormous gravity, so I doubt anyone falling through would get anywhere.”
If that sounds like a disappointing — and painful — answer, then it is to be expected. Ever since Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity was considered to have predicted black holes by linking space-time with the action of gravity, it has been known that black holes result from the death of a massive star leaving behind a small, dense remnant core. Assuming this core has more than roughly three-times the mass of the sun, gravity would overwhelm to such a degree that it would fall in on itself into a single point, or singularity, understood to be the black hole’s infinitely dense core.
The resulting uninhabitable black hole would have such a powerful gravitational pull that not even light could avoid it. So, should you then find yourself at the event horizon — the point at which light and matter can only pass inward, as proposed by the German astronomer Karl Schwarzschild — there is no escape. According to Massey, tidal forces would reduce your body into strands of atoms (or ‘spaghettification’, as it is also known) and the object would eventually end up crushed at the singularity. The idea that you could pop out somewhere — perhaps at the other side — seems utterly fantastical.
What about a wormhole?
Or is it? Over the years scientists have looked into the possibility that black holes could be wormholes to other galaxies. They may even be, as some have suggested, a path to another universe.
Such an idea has been floating around for some time: Einstein teamed up with Nathan Rosen to theorize bridges that connect two different points in space-time in 1935. But it gained some fresh ground in the 1980’s when physicist Kip Thorne — one of the world’s leading experts on the astrophysical implications of Einstein’s general theory of relativity — raised a discussion about whether objects could physically travel through them.
“Reading Kip Thorne’s popular book about wormholes is what first got me excited about physics as a child,” Massey said. But it doesn’t seem likely that wormholes exist.
Indeed, Thorne, who lent his expert advice to the production team for the Hollywood movie Interstellar, wrote: “We see no objects in our universe that could become wormholes as they age,” in his book “The Science of Interstellar” (W.W. Norton and Company, 2014). Thorne told Space.com that journeys through these theoretical tunnels would most likely remain science fiction, and there is certainly no firm evidence that a black hole could allow for such a passage.
Artist’s concept of a wormhole. If wormholes exist, they might lead to another universe. But, there’s no evidence that wormholes are real or that a black hole would act like one.
(Image credit: Shutterstock)
But, the problem is that we can’t get up close to see for ourselves. Why, we can’t even take photographs of anything that takes place inside a black hole — if light cannot escape their immense gravity, then nothing can be snapped by a camera. As it stands, theory suggests that anything which goes beyond the event horizon is simply added to the black hole and, what’s more, because time distorts close to this boundary, this will appear to take place incredibly slowly, so answers won’t be quickly forthcoming.
“I think the standard story is that they lead to the end of time,” said Douglas Finkbeiner, professor of astronomy and physics at Harvard University. “An observer far away will not see their astronaut friend fall into the black hole. They’ll just get redder and fainter as they approach the event horizon [as a result of gravitational red shift]. But the friend falls right in, to a place beyond ‘forever.’ Whatever that means.”
Maybe a black hole leads to a white hole
Certainly, if black holes do lead to another part of a galaxy or another universe, there would need to be something opposite to them on the other side. Could this be a white hole — a theory put forward by Russian cosmologist Igor Novikov in 1964? Novikov proposed that a black hole links to a white hole that exists in the past. Unlike a black hole, a white hole will allow light and matter to leave, but light and matter will not be able to enter.
Scientists have continued to explore the potential connection between black and white holes. In their 2014 study published in the journal Physical Review D, physicists Carlo Rovelli and Hal M. Haggard claimed that “there is a classic metric satisfying the Einstein equations outside a finite space-time region where matter collapses into a black hole and then emerges from a while hole.” In other words, all of the material black holes have swallowed could be spewed out, and black holes may become white holes when they die.
Far from destroying the information that it absorbs, the collapse of a black hole would be halted. It would instead experience a quantum bounce, allowing information to escape. Should this be the case, it would shed some light on a proposal by former Cambridge University cosmologist and theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking who, in the 1970’s, explored the possibility that black holes emit particles and radiation — thermal heat — as a result of quantum fluctuations.
Red shifting Star Orbiting Super massive Black Hole Demonstrates Einstein Prediction
“Hawking said a black hole doesn’t last forever,” Finkbeiner said. Hawking calculated that the radiation would cause a black hole to lose energy, shrink and disappear, as described in his 1976 paper published in Physical Review D. Given his claims that the radiation emitted would be random and contain no information about what had fallen in, the black hole, upon its explosion, would erase loads of information.
This meant Hawking’s idea was at odds with quantum theory, which says information can’t be destroyed. Physics states information just becomes more difficult to find because, should it become lost, it becomes impossible to know the past or the future. Hawking’s idea led to the ‘black hole information paradox’ and it has long puzzled scientists. Some have said Hawking was simply wrong, and the man himself even declared he had made an error during a scientific conference in Dublin in 2004.
So, do we go back to the concept of black holes emitting preserved information and throwing it back out via a white hole? Maybe. In their 2013 study published in Physical Review Letters, Jorge Pullin at Louisiana State University and Rodolfo Gambini at the University of the Republic in Montevideo, Uruguay, applied loop quantum gravity to a black hole and found that gravity increased towards the core but reduced and plonked whatever was entering into another region of the universe. The results gave extra credence to the idea of black holes serving as a portal. In this study, singularity does not exist, and so it doesn’t form an impenetrable barrier that ends up crushing whatever it encounters. It also means that information doesn’t disappear.
Maybe black holes go nowhere
Yet physicists Ahmed Almheiri, Donald Marolf, Joseph Polchinski and James Sully still believed Hawking could have been on to something. They worked on a theory that became known as the AMPS firewall, or the black hole firewall hypothesis. By their calculations, quantum mechanics could feasibly turn the event horizon into a giant wall of fire and anything coming into contact would burn in an instant. In that sense, black holes lead nowhere because nothing could ever get inside.
This, however, violates Einstein’s general theory of relativity. Someone crossing the event horizon shouldn’t actually feel any great hardship because an object would be in free fall and, based on the equivalence principle, that object — or person — would not feel the extreme effects of gravity. It could follow the laws of physics present elsewhere in the universe, but even if it didn’t go against Einstein’s principle it would undermine quantum field theory or suggest information can be lost.
Artist’s impression of a tidal disruption event which occurs when a star passes too close to a super massive black hole.
(Image credit: All About Space magazine)
A black hole of uncertainty
Step forward Hawking once more. In 2014, he published a study in which he eschewed the existence of an event horizon — meaning there is nothing there to burn — saying gravitational collapse would produce an ‘apparent horizon’ instead.
This horizon would suspend light rays trying to move away from the core of the black hole, and would persist for a “period of time.” In his rethinking, apparent horizons temporarily retain matter and energy before dissolving and releasing them later down the line. This explanation best fits with quantum theory — which says information can’t be destroyed — and, if it was ever proven, it suggests that anything could escape from a black hole.
Hawking went as far as saying black holes may not even exist. “Black holes should be redefined as metastable bound states of the gravitational field,” he wrote. There would be no singularity, and while the apparent field would move inwards due to gravity, it would never reach the center and be consolidated within a dense mass.
And yet anything which is emitted will not be in the form of the information swallowed. It would be impossible to figure out what went in by looking at what is coming out, which causes problems of its own — not least for, say, a human who found themselves in such an alarming position. They’d never feel the same again!
One thing’s for sure, this particular mystery is going to swallow up many more scientific hours for a long time to come. Rovelli and Francesca Vidotto recently suggested that a component of dark matter could be formed by remnants of evaporated black holes, and Hawking’s paper on black holes and ‘soft hair’ was released in 2018, and describes how zero-energy particles are left around the point of no return, the event horizon — an idea that suggests information is not lost but captured.
This flew in the face of the no-hair theorem which was expressed by physicist John Archibald Wheeler and worked on the basis that two black holes would be indistinguishable to an observer because none of the special particle physics pseudo-charges would be conserved. It’s an idea that has got scientists talking, but there is some way to go before it’s seen as the answer for where black holes lead. If only we could find a way to leap into one.
A team of astrophysicists has just spawned 8 million unique universes inside a supercomputer and let them evolve from just tots to old geezers. Their goal? To nail down the role that an invisible substance called dark matter played in our universe’s life since the Big Bang and what it means for our fate.
After discovering that our universe is mostly composed of dark matter in the late 1960s, scientists have speculated on its role in the formation of galaxies and their ability to give birth to new stars over time.
According to the Big Bang theory, not long after the universe was born, an invisible and elusive substance physicists have dubbed dark matter began to clump together by the force of gravity into massive clouds called dark matter haloes. As the haloes grew in size, they attracted the sparse hydrogen gas permeating the universe to come together and form the stars and galaxies we see today. In this theory, dark matter acts as the backbone of galaxies, dictating how they form, merge and evolve over time.
Why Did These Arachnids Evolve to Live Underground?
Researchers at The University of Western Australia and the Western Australian Museum have discovered 56 new species of arachnids, known as schizomids, in Western Australia’s Pilbara region. When Australia got too hot and dry, which killed off forests, these woodland creatures decided to live underground.
To better understand how dark matter shaped this history of the universe, Peter Behroozi, an assistant professor of astronomy at the University of Arizona, and his team created his own universes using the school’s supercomputer. The computer’s 2,000 processors worked without pause over a span of three weeks to simulate more than 8 million unique universes. Each universe individually obeyed a unique set of rules to help researchers understand the relationship between dark matter and the evolution of galaxies.
“On the computer, we can create many different universes and compare them to the actual one, and that lets us infer which rules lead to the one we see,” Behroozi said in a statement.
While previous simulations have focused on modeling single galaxies or generating mock universes with limited parameters, the UniverseMachine is the first of its scope. The program continuously created millions of universes, each containing 12 million galaxies, and each allowed to evolve over nearly the entire history of the real universe from 400 million years after the Big Bang to the present day.
“The big question is, ‘How do galaxies form?’” said study researcher Risa Wechsler, a professor of physics and astrophysics at Stanford University. “The really cool thing about this study is that we can use all the data we have about galaxy evolution — the numbers of galaxies, how many stars they have and how they form those stars — and put that together into a comprehensive picture of the last 13 billion years of the universe.”
Creating a replica of our universe, or even of a galaxy, would require an inexplicable amount of computing power. So Behroozi and his colleagues narrowed their focus to two key properties of galaxies: their combined mass of stars and the rate at which they give birth to new ones.
“Simulating a single galaxy requires 10 to the 48th computing operations,” Behroozi explained, referring to an octillion operation, or a 1 followed by 48 zeros. “All computers on Earth combined could not do this in a hundred years. So to just simulate a single galaxy, let alone 12 million, we had to do this differently.”
As the computer program spawns new universes, it makes a guess on how a galaxy’s rate of star formation is related to its age, its past interactions with other galaxies and the amount of dark matter in its halo. It then compares each universe with real observations, fine-tuning the physical parameters with every iteration to better match reality. The end result is a universe nearly identical to our own.
According to Wechsler, their results showed that the rate at which galaxies give birth to stars is tightly connected to the mass of their dark matter haloes. Galaxies with dark matter halo masses most similar to our own Milky Way had the highest star-formation rates. She explained that star formation is stifled in more massive galaxies by an abundance of blackholes
Their observations also challenged long-held beliefs that dark matter stifled star formation in the early universe.
“As we go back earlier and earlier in the universe, we would expect the dark matter to be denser, and therefore the gas to be getting hotter and hotter. This is bad for star formation, so we had thought that many galaxies in the early universe should have stopped forming stars a long time ago,” Behroozi said. “But we found the opposite: Galaxies of a given size were more likely to form stars at a higher rate, contrary to the expectation.”
Now, the team plans to expand the Universe Machine to test more ways dark matter might affect the properties of galaxies, including how their shapes evolve, the mass of their black holes and how often their stars go supernova.
“For me, the most exciting thing is that we now have a model where we can start to ask all of these questions in a framework that works,” Wechsler said. “We have a model that is inexpensive enough computationally, that we can essentially calculate an entire universe in about a second. Then we can afford to do that millions of times and explore all of the parameter space.”
Paleontologists excavating in Montana’s famous Hell Creek Formation have uncovered the score of a lifetime—one of the most preserved and complete juvenile Tyrannosaurus rex skeletons ever found.
Although digging up remains of a T. Rex in the area is not an uncommon feat, what makes this find unique is the quality of the fossil, and the age of the dinosaur in question. According to Kyle Atkins-Weltman, an assistant fossil preparatory at the Biodiversity Institute and Natural History Museum at the University of Kansas, there have been fewer than five “decently complete juvenile T. Rexe’s” discovered in the formation, which has produced a massive cache of dinosaur fossils since it was first excavated by famed paleontologist Barnum Brown in the late 1890’s.
Just how rare was it? As Atkins-Weltman told Live Science, “This is a 1-in-100-million specimen.”
The young dinosaur, which is believed to have been 6 to 8 years old when it died, was originally discovered by Kris Super, an assistant student preparator from the Natural History Museum in June of 2016, but his team didn’t have time to unearth the entire skeleton, so they couldn’t say for certain what kind of dinosaur they’d found. The following summer, they returned and realized just how extraordinary their discovery had been.
There are still many questions that remain to be answered about this discovery. Is it really a young T. rex, which lived during the last 2 million years of the Cretaceous period, from about 67 million to 65 million years ago. Or could it be another example of the controversial—and potentially bogus—Nannotyranus (a small genus of the tyrannosaurid family first catalogued in 1946)? With a specimen this complete, perhaps the answers will soon be revealed.
Doctors at a hospital in Australia were bewildered when a 30-year-old woman showed up with intense stomach pains.
Her heart rate was faster than normal, and the membrane lining her abdominal wall was inflamed, one of her doctors wrote in a medical article published Monday by BMJ Case Reports. But her vital signs, laboratory tests, ultrasound and a scan of her liver, gallbladder and bile ducts were all normal.
The woman also had not hadsurgery recently, which eliminated the possibility that a surgeon accidentally left a foreign object inside her, according to Popular Science. But a CT scan revealed that a thin, metallic wire was lodged in her intestines.
And it had been there for at least a decade.
That object, a little more than 2½ inches long, was a dental brace wire that the woman used to wear, according to her doctors. It caused her intestine “to twist around on itself — a condition known as volvulus,” according to a news release from BMJ Case Reports, an online collection of articles and case reports submitted by health-care professionals and researchers.
The woman told doctors that she wore braces 10 years ago and has had them removed since. She also said she does not remember ingesting the wire or losing part of her braces, wrote Talia Shepherd, one of the doctors who treated the woman at Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital in Nedlands in Western Australia.
A thin metallic wire is lodged in a woman’s intestines. (BMJ Case Reports)
“The case is so unique is because normally if you swallow something like that, it presents earlier,” Shepherd told Popular Science.
More typically, people unknowingly ingest things like fish bones instead of metallic objects, Shepherd said. And they usually realize it shortly after. In the woman’s case, she didn’t experience any pain until recently.
“We were all a bit dumbfounded,” Shepherd told the magazine. “It wasn’t what I was expecting to find at all.”
Accidentally ingesting foreign objects is not unheard of.
Last May, Live Science published a list of “11 Weird Things People Have Swallowed.” It includes small and pointed objects like a bobby pin and a dental instrument, as well as larger ones like a cellphone, a pen, a lighter and a toothbrush.
In a 2015 medical case from Saudi Arabia, doctors examining an X-Ray of a 16-month-old boy’s esophagus came face-to-face with an image of a smiling SpongeBob SquarePants. Ghofran Ageely, a radiology resident at King Abdulaziz University Hospital in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia, told Live Science that the toddler had swallowed his older sister’s SpongeBob pendant.
Ageely said she initially thought it was a pin or a hair accessory because an X-ray of the child’s body from the side showed a thin object in his esophagus. She was shocked after looking at the frontal view.
Last May, a Texas mother warned other parents after her daughter accidentally swallowed a fidget spinner. They were in a car when she noticed her daughter choking, Kelly Rose Joniec wrote on her Facebook page, according to USA Today.
A recent report by a consumer watchdog group warned parents of the dangers of the popular toy, which it said has “the potential to lead to tragic or deadly consequences.”
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As for the woman from Australia, Shepherd said she recovered well.