Authors: George Rajna
You can't see them, but swarms of electrons are buzzing through the magnetic environment—the magnetosphere—around Earth.  When NASA's Magnetospheric Multiscale—or MMS—mission was launched, the scientists knew it would answer questions fundamental to the nature of our universe—and MMS hasn't disappointed.  Magnetic reconnection, a universal process that triggers solar flares and northern lights and can disrupt cell phone service and fusion experiments, occurs much faster than theory says that it should.  A surprising new class of X-ray pulsating variable stars has been discovered by a team of American and Canadian astronomers led by Villanova University's Scott Engle and Edward Guinan.  Late last year, an international team including researchers from the Kavli Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics (KIAA) at Peking University announced the discovery of more than 60 extremely distant quasars, nearly doubling the number known to science-and thus providing dozens of new opportunities to look deep into our universe's history.  Fuzzy pulsars orbiting black holes could unmask quantum gravity.  Cosmologists trying to understand how to unite the two pillars of modern science – quantum physics and gravity – have found a new way to make robust predictions about the effect of quantum fluctuations on primordial density waves, ripples in the fabric of space and time.  Physicists have performed a test designed to investigate the effects of the expansion of the universe—hoping to answer questions such as "does the expansion of the universe affect laboratory experiments?", "might this expansion change the lengths of solid objects and the time measured by atomic clocks differently, in violation of Einstein's equivalence principle?", and "does spacetime have a foam-like structure that slightly changes the speed of photons over time?", an idea that could shed light on the connection between general relativity and quantum gravity.  Einstein's equivalence principle states that an object in gravitational free fall is physically equivalent to an object that is accelerating with the same amount of force in the absence of gravity. This principle lies at the heart of general relativity and has been experimentally tested many times.
Comments: 26 Pages.
[v1] 2017-05-18 13:41:39
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