Bad News Stuff

Quasars arise from supermassive black holes at the centers of galaxies; they are the brightest objects in nature, and can be seen clear across the universe. As standard candles, quasars aren’t ideal because their masses vary widely. Nevertheless, the researchers identified some regularities in the emissions from quasars, allowing the history of the cosmos to be traced back nearly 12 billion years. The team found that the rate of cosmic expansion deviated from expectations over that time span.

One interpretation of the results is that dark energy is not constant after all, but is changing, growing denser and thus stronger over cosmic time. It so happens that this increase in dark energy also would be just enough to resolve the discrepancy in measurements of the Hubble constant.

The bad news is that, if this model is right, dark energy may be in a particularly virulent and — most physicists say — implausible form called phantom energy. Its existence would imply that things can lose energy by speeding up, for instance. Robert Caldwell, a Dartmouth physicist, has referred to it as “bad news stuff.”

From here.

Over the course of the next six months, an unexpected side effect started to emerge. It first happened, according to the report, when Mr B happened to hear the Johnny Cash song Ring of Fire on the radio. “From this moment on,” the report says, “Mr B kept listening simply and solely to Johnny Cash and bought all his CDs and DVDs.”

When listening to his favourite songs, the report adds, Mr B felt like he was the hero in a movie, and although he played Johnny Cash songs almost exclusively for the following years, the music never annoyed him.

Brain implants made a Dutch man into a Johnny Cash fan. Even better, when the charge on the implants ran down, he stopped being a Johnny Cash fan.

Science, everybody.

He speculates that since bedding from stranger mice produces the effect, what causes the stress is the thought of imminent territorial aggression from males in general, rather than the threat of predation from human males specifically. “What they’re afraid of is strange male mice,” he explains. “It’s just that other male mammals, including us, smell like male mice.”

Mogil’s theory might also explain why the presence of female researchers and olfactory stimuli defuse the effect of stress-induced analgesia: If the mice smell a mixed-sexed group, the “strange” male mouse is likely to be within a group or with its family, and much less likely to be aggressive or defending territory. The scientist has received a grant to observe whether the same effect is true for people. He believes that it will be, however, since the stress disappears once the animal convinces itself there’s no actual danger, “humans would be able to do that fairly quickly"—and any observable stress response would likely be much smaller and shorter-lived.

Are male scientists screwing up research because of their gender?

In related news, male everything-elses may also be screwing things up because of their gender, but not because of their scent.