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This page is dedicated to My Grandson Brandon.




by Chuck Missler


PRICE R 159.00





This DVD includes notes in PDF format and M4A files.

This briefing pack contains 2 hours of teachings

Available in the following formats

Session 1

• Epistemology 101: How do we “know”?

– Scientific Myths of the Past

– Scientific Myths of the Present

• The Macrocosm: The Plasma Universe: Gravitational Presumption?

• The Microcosm: The Planck Wall

• The Metacosm: Fracture of Hyperspace?

Session 2

• The Holographic Model: David Bohm

• GEO 600 “Noise”

• The Black Hole Paradox

– String Theorists examine the elephant

• A Holographic Universe:

– Distances are synthetic (virtual) images

– A Geocentric Cosmology?

– Some Scriptural Perspective(s)



“One can’t believe impossible things,”

Alice laughed.

“I daresay you haven’t had much practice,”

said the Queen.

“When I was your age, I always did it for

half-an-hour a day.

Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many

as six impossible things before breakfast.”

Through the Looking Glass

Lewis Carroll (Charles Lutwidge Dodgson)


1 Disc
2 M4A Files
Color, Fullscreen 16:9, Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo, Region  This DVD will be viewable in other countries WITH the proper DVD player and television set.)

M4A File Video

Can be burned to disc and played on MP4 compatible DVD players.
Playable on iPod, iPhone, iPod Touch
Playable on any MP4 player
1 PDF Notes File
2 MP3 Files








Featured Briefing

A Holographic Universe?

by Dr. Chuck Missler

Are we actually living in a holographic universe? Are the distant galaxies only a virtual illusion? In a hologram, distances are synthetic! How does this impact our concepts of time and space?

There seems to be growing evidence to suggest that our world and everything in it may be only ghostly images, projections from a level of reality so beyond our own that the real reality is literally beyond both space and time.1

The Cosmos As a Super-Hologram?

An initiating architect of this astonishing idea was one of the world’s most eminent thinkers: University of London physicist David Bohm, a protégé of Einstein’s and one of the world’s most respected quantum physicists. Bohm’s work in plasma physics in the 1950s is considered a landmark. Earlier, at the Lawrence Radiation Laboratory, he noticed that in plasmas (ionized gases) the particles stopped behaving as individuals and started behaving as if they were part of a larger and interconnected whole. Moving to Princeton University in 1947, there, too, he continued his work in the behavior of oceans of ionized particles, noting their highly organized overall effects and their behavior, as if they knew what each of the untold trillions of individual particles was doing.

One of the implications of Bohm’s view has to do with the nature of location. Bohm’s interpretation of quantum physics indicated that at the subquantum level location ceased to exist. All points in space become equal to all other points in space, and it was meaningless to speak of anything as being separate from anything else. Physicists call this property “nonlocality”. The web of subatomic particles that compose our physical universe—the very fabric of “reality” itself—possesses what appears to be an undeniable “holographic” property. Paul Davis of the University of Newcastle upon Tyne, England, observed that since all particles are continually interacting and separating, “the nonlocal aspects of quantum systems is therefore a general property of nature.”2

The Nature of Reality

One of Bohm’s most startling suggestions was that the tangible reality of our everyday lives is really a kind of illusion, like a holographic image. Underlying it is a deeper order of existence, a vast and more primary level of reality that gives birth to all the objects and appearances of our physical world in much the same way that a piece of holographic film gives birth to a hologram. Bohm calls this deeper level of reality the implicate (“enfolded”) order and he refers to our level of existence the explicate (unfolded) order.3 This view is not inconsistent with the Biblical presentation of the physical (“explicate”) world as being subordinate to the spiritual (“implicate”) world as the superior reality.4

The Search for Gravity Waves

Gravitational waves are extremely small ripples in the structure of spacetime caused by astrophysical events like supernovae or coalescing massive binaries (neutron stars, black holes). They had been predicted by Albert Einstein in 1916, but not yet directly observed.

GEO 600 is a gravitational wave detector located near Sarstedt, Germany, which seeks to detect gravitational waves by means of a laser interferometer of 600 meter arms’ length. This instrument, and its sister interferometric detectors, are some of the most sensitive gravitational wave detectors ever designed. They are designed to detect relative changes in distance of the order of 10-21, about the size of a single atom compared to the distance from the Earth to the Sun! Construction on the project began in 1995.

Mystery Noise

On January 15, 2009, it was reported in New Scientist that some yet unidentified noise that was present in the GEO 600 detector measurements might be because the instrument is sensitive to extremely small quantum fluctuations of space-time affecting the positions of parts of the detector. This claim was made by Craig Hogan, a scientist from Fermilab, on the basis of his theory of how such fluctuations should occur motivated by the holographic principle.5 Apparently, the gravitational wave detector in Hannover may have detected evidence for a holographic Universe!

Gravitational Wave Observatories Join Forces

A number of major projects will now pool their data to analyze it, jointly boosting their chances of spotting a faint signal that might otherwise be hidden by detector noise. Using lasers, they measure the length between mirrored test masses hung inside tunnels at right angles to each other. Gravitational waves decrease the distance between the masses in one tunnel and increase it in the other by a tiny, but detectable amount. Combining the data will also make it possible to triangulate to find the source of any gravitational waves detected. These include: Laser Interferometer Gravitational Observatory based in Hanford, Washington and Livingston, Louisiana; Virgo Observatory, Pisa Italy; and, of course, the GEO 600 Observatory near Hanover, Germany.

The most ambitious of them is the Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA), a joint mission between NASA and the European Space Agency to develop and operate a space-based gravitational wave detector sensitive at frequencies between 0.03 mHz and 0.1 Hz. LISA seeks to detect gravitational-wave induced strains in space-time by measuring changes of the separation between fiducial masses in three spacecraft 5 million kilometers apart.

Cosmic Implications

Are we actually living in a holographic universe? Are the distant galaxies only a virtual illusion? In a hologram, distances are synthetic! How does this impact our concepts of time and space?

It gets even worse: Could our universe be geocentric? The implications are too staggering to embrace. The holographic paradigm is still a developing concept and riddled with controversies. For decades, science has chosen to ignore evidences that do not fit their standard theories. However, the volume of evidence has now reached the point that denial is no longer a viable option.

Clearly, 20th-century science has discovered that our “macrocosm”—studies of largeness—is finite, not infinite. Our universe is finite and had a beginning, and that’s what has led to the “big bang” speculations. We also realize that gravity is dramatically eclipsed by electromagnetic considerations when dealing with galaxies, etc. The plasma physicists have been trying to tell astronomers that for decades but no one was listening.

What is even more shocking has been the discoveries in the “microcosm”—studies of smallness—that run up against the “Planck Wall” of the non-location of subatomic particles, and the many strange paradoxes of quantum physics. We now discover that we are in a virtual reality that is a digital, simulated environment. The bizarre realization that the “constants” of physics are changing indicates that our “reality” is “but a shadow of a larger reality,”6 and that’s what the Bible has maintained all along!7

The Bible is, of course, unique in that it has always presented a universe of more than three dimensions,8 and revealed a Creator that is transcendent over His creation. It is the only “holy book” that demonstrates these contemporary insights. It’s time for us to spend more time with the handbook that the Creator has handed to us. It is the ultimate adventure, indeed!

For background information on the Holographic Universe, see our briefing series, The Beyond Collection, available on DVD and other formats, in the Christmas catalog insert in this issue.


  1. We explore the limitations of the Macrocosm, the Microcosm, and the super-embracing “Metacosm” in our Beyond Series.
  2. Paul Davis, Superforce, Simon & Schuster, New York, 1948, p.48.
  3. This is reminiscent of the Red King’s dream in Through the Looking Glass, in which Alice finds herself in deep metaphysical waters when the Tweedle brothers defend the view that all material objects, including ourselves, are only “sorts of things” in the mind of God.
  4. 2 Corinthians 4:18.
  5. Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab), located just outside Batavia, Illinois, near Chicago, is a US Department of Energy national laboratory specializing in high-energy particle physics. (Craig Hogan was then put in charge…)
  6. Scientific American, June 2005, “The Inconstancy of Constants”.
  7. Hebrews 11:3; John 1:1-3; et al.
  8. Ephesians 3:18. Nachmonides, writing in the 13th century, concluded, from his studies of the Genesis texts, that our universe has ten dimensions, of which only four are directly “knowable”.

The Physics of Immortality


by Dr. Chuck Missler

Price R 249.00



The Physics of Immortality

 This is an intensive review of what the Apostle Paul calls the most important chapter in the Bible: 1 Corinthians 15. Without it, “we are of all men most miserable.”
Did Jesus really rise from the dead? How do we know? Do we really believe it?
What kind of body did He have? Why did they have trouble recognizing Him?
How do we now know that we live within a digital virtual environment which is but “a shadow of a larger reality”? What are the implications of that “larger reality”? What is the relationship between “the twinkling of an eye” and Planck’s Constant for time (1043 seconds)?
Do you have your passport for the transit that’s coming? Are you really ready?
Join Dr. Chuck Missler in the Executive Briefing Room of the River Lodge, New Zealand, as he examines the physics of immortality.
This briefing pack contains 2 hours of teachings
Available in the following formats:
•1 Disc
•2 MP3 Files
•1 PDF Notes File

Chuck Missler had the opportunity to sit discuss Zero Point Energy (ZPE) with Barry Setterfield 

Space News from SpaceDaily.com



Space News From SpaceDaily.Com



Musk diving into minds while reaching for Mars

‎Today, ‎March ‎29, ‎2017, ‏‎2 hours agoGo to full article
San Francisco (AFP) March 28, 2017
Not content to reach for Mars and dethrone fossil fuels, tech entrepreneur Elon Musk on Tuesday is turning his focus to delving into people's minds. In a message fired off Tuesday on Twitter, Musk appeared to confirm he is creating a startup called Neuralink devoted to enabling brains to interface directly with computers, accessing processing power and perhaps even downloading memories for s

'Ground Control' Arrives at Leicester University

‎Today, ‎March ‎29, ‎2017, ‏‎2 hours agoGo to full article
Leicester, UK (SPX) Mar 29, 2017
Scientists at the University of Leicester will be step closer to controlling their own satellite missions after a new satellite ground station dish is installed on 28 March. The University is installing a satellite ground station, a facility which orbiting spacecraft use to transmit their data back to Earth, on the roof of its Physics and Astronomy Building. It will mean that a 2.4 metre s

Deep space gateway to open opportunities for distant destinations

‎Today, ‎March ‎29, ‎2017, ‏‎2 hours agoGo to full article
Washington DC (SPX) Mar 29, 2017
NASA is leading the next steps into deep space near the moon, where astronauts will build and begin testing the systems needed for challenging missions to deep space destinations including Mars. The area of space near the moon offers a true deep space environment to gain experience for human missions that push farther into the solar system, access the lunar surface for robotic missions but with

ExoTerra to become first privately owned space company to fly to an asteroid

‎Today, ‎March ‎29, ‎2017, ‏‎2 hours agoGo to full article
Littleton CO (SPX) Mar 29, 2017
NASA has awarded ExoTerra Corporation a $2.5M contract to demonstrate a novel solar electric propulsion system for CubeSats that will enable the shoebox-sized spacecraft to triple their available power and produce over 2.5 km/s of propulsion. Under the "Utilizing Public-Private Partnerships to Advance Tipping Point Technologies" award, ExoTerra will use the mission-enabling capability to f

The electric sands of Titan

‎Today, ‎March ‎29, ‎2017, ‏‎2 hours agoGo to full article
Atlanta GA (SPX) Mar 29, 2017
Experiments led by researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology suggest the particles that cover the surface of Saturn's largest moon, Titan, are "electrically charged." When the wind blows hard enough (approximately 15 mph), Titan's non-silicate granules get kicked up and start to hop in a motion referred to as saltation. As they collide, they become frictionally charged, like a bal

X-Hab working seventh season of academic-aided innovation

‎Today, ‎March ‎29, ‎2017, ‏‎2 hours agoGo to full article
Kennedy Space Center FL (SPX) Mar 29, 2017
Some of the newest tech that will make living on other worlds possible may come in part from research and imagination of college students working with NASA through a project called X-Hab that is entering its seventh year fostering cooperation between the space agency and universities around the country. Short for eXploration Systems and Habitation Academic Innovation Challenge, the X-Hab c

Researchers create artificial materials atom-by-atom

‎Today, ‎March ‎29, ‎2017, ‏‎2 hours agoGo to full article
Helsinki, Finland (SPX) Mar 29, 2017
Researchers at Aalto University have manufactured artificial materials with engineered electronic properties. By moving individual atoms under their microscope, the scientists were able to create atomic lattices with a predetermined electrical response. The possibility to precisely arrange the atoms on a sample bring 'designer quantum materials' one step closer to reality. By arranging atoms in

Planetary waves, first found on Earth, are discovered on sun

‎Today, ‎March ‎29, ‎2017, ‏‎2 hours agoGo to full article
Boulder CO (SPX) Mar 29, 2017
The same kind of large-scale planetary waves that meander through the atmosphere high above Earth's surface may also exist on the Sun, according to a new study led by a scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR). Just as the large-scale waves that form on Earth, known as Rossby waves, influence local weather patterns, the waves discovered on the Sun may be intimately

Final two ExoMars landing sites chosen

‎Today, ‎March ‎29, ‎2017, ‏‎2 hours agoGo to full article
Paris (ESA) Mar 29, 2017
Two ancient sites on Mars that hosted an abundance of water in the planet's early history have been recommended as the final candidates for the landing site of the 2020 ExoMars rover and surface science platform: Oxia Planum and Mawrth Vallis. A primary technical constraint is that the landing site be at a suitably low level, so that there is sufficient atmosphere to help slow the landing module

Extreme space weather: Protecting our critical infrastructure

‎Today, ‎March ‎29, ‎2017, ‏‎2 hours agoGo to full article
Munich, Germany (SPX) Mar 27, 2017
Extreme space weather has a global footprint and the potential to damage critical infrastructure on the ground and in space. A new report from the European Commission's Joint Research Centre (JRC) calls for bridging knowledge gaps and for better coordination at EU level to reduce the potential impact of space weather events. The sun shapes the space environment around the Earth. This so-ca

Satellites shed new light on earthquakes

‎Today, ‎March ‎29, ‎2017, ‏‎2 hours agoGo to full article
Paris (ESA) Mar 27, 2017
Satellite radar scans of last year's earthquake in New Zealand are changing the way we are thinking about earthquake hazards in regions where our planet's tectonic plates meet. The 7.8-magnitude quake that struck New Zealand's South Island near the town of Kaikoura on 14 November was one of the most comprehensively recorded earthquakes in history. Immediately after it, a team of scie

CryoSat reveals Antarctica in 3D

‎Today, ‎March ‎29, ‎2017, ‏‎2 hours agoGo to full article
Paris (ESA) Mar 27, 2017
Around 250 million measurements taken by ESA's CryoSat over the last six years have been used to create a unique 3D view of Antarctica, offering a snapshot of the undulating surface of this vast ice sheet. CryoSat's radar altimeter detects tiny variations in the height of the ice across the entire continent, including on the steeper continental margins where the vast majority of ice losses occur

U.S. Army studies 'third arm' device for soldiers

‎Today, ‎March ‎29, ‎2017, ‏‎2 hours agoGo to full article
Washington (UPI) Mar 27, 2017
The U.S. Army Research Laboratory is studying the use of a body-worn weapons mount for soldiers to carry and fire their weapons. The prototype mount is made of composite materials, weighs less than four pounds and is attached to a soldier's protective vest. "We're looking at a new way for the soldier to interface with the weapon," Zac Wingard, a mechanical engineer for the lab's

U.S. Air Force buys additional laser materials

‎Today, ‎March ‎29, ‎2017, ‏‎2 hours agoGo to full article
Washington (UPI) Mar 27, 2017
UES Inc. received a $48.7 million contract from the U.S. Air Force to research and develop laser materials. The contract supports the branch's Blue Systems Survivability program. Work will include research for advanced laser hardened materials and techniques. The U.S. Department of Defense says the goal of the research will be to develop a wide range of laser applications, but di

China to open first drone factory in Saudi Arabia

‎Today, ‎March ‎29, ‎2017, ‏‎2 hours agoGo to full article
Washington (UPI) Mar 27, 2017
China will soon construct the first unmanned aerial vehicle factory in the Middle East following a meeting with Saudi Arabian King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud. The New Arab reports Saudi Arabia granted the Chinese permission to move forward with the plan when the King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology signed a partnership agreement with China Aerospace Science and Technology Co

Sunrise 2: A Second Look At The Sun

‎Yesterday, ‎March ‎28, ‎2017, ‏‎7:25:54 AMGo to full article
Gottingen, Germany (SPX) Mar 28, 2017
During its two flights in 2009 and 2013, the balloon-borne solar observatory Sunrise experienced a unique view of our Sun: from a height of more than 35 kilometers and equipped with the largest solar telescope that had ever left Earth, Sunrise was able to resolve structures with a size of 50 kilometers in the Sun's ultraviolet (UV) light. The journal Astrophysical Journal Supplement Series now d

Andromeda Galaxy's Bright X-ray Mystery Solved by NuSTAR

‎Yesterday, ‎March ‎28, ‎2017, ‏‎7:25:54 AMGo to full article
Pasadena CA (JPL) Mar 28, 2017
The Milky Way's closest neighbor [of comparable size], [the] Andromeda [galaxy], features a dominant source of high-energy X-ray emission, but its identity was mysterious until now. As reported in a new study, NASA's NuSTAR (Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array) mission has pinpointed an object responsible for this high-energy radiation. The object, called Swift J0042.6+4112, is a possibl

New portal to unveil the dark sector of the universe

‎Yesterday, ‎March ‎28, ‎2017, ‏‎7:25:54 AMGo to full article
Seoul, South Korea (SPX) Mar 28, 2017
Once upon a time, the Universe was just a hot soup of particles. In those days, together with visible particles, other particles to us hidden or dark might have formed. Billions of years later scientists catalogued 17 types of visible particles, with the most recent one being the Higgs boson, creating the 'Standard Model'. However, they are still struggling to detect the hidden particles,

Astronomers find unexpected, dust-obscured star formation in distant galaxy

‎Yesterday, ‎March ‎28, ‎2017, ‏‎7:25:54 AMGo to full article
Amherst MA (SPX) Mar 28, 2017
Pushing the limits of the largest single-aperture millimeter telescope in the world, and coupling it with gravitational lensing, University of Massachusetts Amherst astronomer Alexandra Pope and colleagues report that they have detected a surprising rate of star formation, four times higher than previously detected, in a dust-obscured galaxy behind a Frontier Fields cluster. As Pope explai

GUSTO Explorer Will Study Churning Chaos in Milky Way

‎Yesterday, ‎March ‎28, ‎2017, ‏‎7:25:54 AMGo to full article
Greenbelt MD (SPX) Mar 28, 2017
NASA has selected a science mission that will measure emissions from the interstellar medium, which is the cosmic material found between stars. This data will help scientists determine the life cycle of interstellar gas in our Milky Way galaxy, witness the formation and destruction of star-forming clouds, and understand the dynamics and gas flow in the vicinity of the center of our galaxy.

Gravitational wave kicks monster black hole out of galactic core

‎Yesterday, ‎March ‎28, ‎2017, ‏‎7:25:54 AMGo to full article
Greenbelt MD (SPX) Mar 28, 2017
Astronomers have uncovered a supermassive black hole that has been propelled out of the center of a distant galaxy by what could be the awesome power of gravitational waves. Though there have been several other suspected, similarly booted black holes elsewhere, none has been confirmed so far. Astronomers think this object, detected by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, is a very strong case. Weighin

Milky Way-like galaxies in early universe embedded in 'super halos'

‎Yesterday, ‎March ‎28, ‎2017, ‏‎7:25:54 AMGo to full article
Charlottesville VA (SPX) Mar 28, 2017
By harnessing the extreme sensitivity of the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), astronomers have directly observed a pair of Milky Way-like galaxies seen when the universe was only eight percent of its current age. These progenitors of today's giant spiral galaxies are surrounded by "super halos" of hydrogen gas that extend many tens-of-thousands of light-years beyond their dus

Astronomers identify purest, most massive brown dwarf

‎Yesterday, ‎March ‎28, ‎2017, ‏‎7:25:54 AMGo to full article
London, UK (SPX) Mar 28, 2017
An international team of astronomers has identified a record breaking brown dwarf (a star too small for nuclear fusion) with the 'purest' composition and the highest mass yet known. The object, known as SDSS J0104+1535, is a member of the so-called halo - the outermost reaches - of our Galaxy, made up of the most ancient stars. The scientists report the discovery in Monthly Notices of the Royal

Happy Wanderer? Mysterious X-37B Space Plane Breaks Its Own Orbital Record

‎Yesterday, ‎March ‎28, ‎2017, ‏‎7:25:54 AMGo to full article
Moscow (Sputnik) Mar 27, 2017
The US Air Force's super-secret Boeing X-37B mini space shuttle just broke its own orbital record of 674 days in space. The landing date for the apparatus remains undetermined. The X-37B robotic space plane's current machine incarnation, OTV-4, just broke its own record by staying in orbit for 675 days, at least one day longer than its predecessor, OTV-3. The fourth of the X-37B unmanned s

SBIRS satellite successfully transmitting first images

‎Yesterday, ‎March ‎28, ‎2017, ‏‎7:25:54 AMGo to full article
Sunnyvale CA (SPX) Mar 27, 2017
From its final orbit location 22,000 miles above the equator, the third Lockheed Martin-built Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS) satellite recently sent its first images back down to Earth, a milestone known as "first light." The satellite was launched on Jan. 20 aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket and is the third in a series of Geosynchronous Earth Orbit (GEO) satellites that

Russia Hopes India to Join Initiative on Non-Deploying Weapons in Space

‎Yesterday, ‎March ‎28, ‎2017, ‏‎7:25:54 AMGo to full article
New Delhi (XNA) Mar 27, 2017
Russia hopes India will join the Russian initiative on non-deployment of weapons in outer space, Russian Foreign Ministry's Non-Proliferation and Arms Control Department Director Mikhail Ulyanov said on Thursday. Ulyanov reminded that in 2004, Russia took a unilateral decision not to be the first to place weapons in outer space, setting a good example for other countries to follow suit.

Where does laser energy go after being fired into plasma?

‎Yesterday, ‎March ‎28, ‎2017, ‏‎7:25:54 AMGo to full article
Glasgow, Scotland (SPX) Mar 27, 2017
An outstanding conundrum on what happens to the laser energy after beams are fired into plasma has been solved in newly-published research at the University of Strathclyde. The study discovered that the same forces that produce a bubble in plasma in the laser-plasma wakefield accelerator produce two additional low-energy but high-charge electron beams simultaneously with a low charge high energy

Scientists find out where laser energy goes when a beam is fired into plasma

‎Yesterday, ‎March ‎28, ‎2017, ‏‎7:25:54 AMGo to full article
Washington (UPI) Mar 23, 2017
Researchers in Scotland have figured out what happens to laser energy when a beam is fired into plasma. Plasma is the most abundant form of matter in the universe. When it is fully ionized, and the positive and negative charged particles separate, plasma can host powerful electronic and magnetic fields. Researchers can create plasma particle separation by hitting it with a laser

Astronomers Observe Early Stages of Milky Way-like Galaxies

‎Yesterday, ‎March ‎28, ‎2017, ‏‎7:25:54 AMGo to full article
Santa Cruz CA (SPX) Mar 28, 2017
For decades, astronomers have found distant galaxies by detecting the characteristic way their gas absorbs light from a bright quasar in the background. But efforts to observe the light emitted by these same galaxies have mostly been unsuccessful. Now, a team of astronomers using the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA) in Chile has observed emissions from two distant galaxies initially detecte

German scientists focus radiation of 10,000 suns with new light array

‎Yesterday, ‎March ‎28, ‎2017, ‏‎7:25:54 AMGo to full article
Washington (UPI) Mar 23, 2017
Researchers in Germany are trying to use a massive light array to generate clean energy. This week, the scientists switched on their Synlight experiment, a collection of 149 film projector spotlights on steroids. Together the lights can generate the radiation of 10,000 suns, making the world's biggest solar simulator. When concentrated on a single point, the lights can produce temperatu

ANU leads public search for Planet X

‎Monday, ‎March ‎27, ‎2017, ‏‎7:27:32 AMGo to full article
Canberra, Australia (SPX) Mar 27, 2017
The Australian National University (ANU) is launching a search for a new major planet within our solar system, inviting anyone around the world with access to the Internet to help make the historic discovery. Anyone who helps find the so-called Planet X will work with ANU astronomers to validate the discovery through the International Astronomical Union. ANU astrophysicist Dr. Brad T

OSIRIS-REx asteroid search tests instruments, science team

‎Monday, ‎March ‎27, ‎2017, ‏‎7:27:32 AMGo to full article
Greenbelt MD (SPX) Mar 27, 2017
During an almost two-week search, NASA's OSIRIS-REx mission team activated the spacecraft's MapCam imager and scanned part of the surrounding space for elusive Earth-Trojan asteroids - objects that scientists believe may exist in one of the stable regions that co-orbits the sun with Earth. Although no Earth-Trojans were discovered, the spacecraft's camera operated flawlessly and demonstrated tha

Invention May Give Spacecraft Improved Damage Report

‎Monday, ‎March ‎27, ‎2017, ‏‎7:27:32 AMGo to full article
Kennedy Space Center FL (SPX) Mar 27, 2017
There are few ways for astronauts to know exactly when the outside of their spacecraft has been damaged, but that may change in the future with an invention that acts like a sensory skin to pick up signs of damage in real-time. The invention uses a series of several technologies to create circuits printed on thin layers and that can be embedded in a spacecraft's structure, scientists behind the

Vietnam set to produce satellites by 2022

‎Monday, ‎March ‎27, ‎2017, ‏‎7:27:32 AMGo to full article
Hanoi (XNA) Mar 27, 2017
Vietnam targets to self-develop Lotusat-2 by 2022 when its technical facilities for satellite research, assembly, integration and testing are ready to operate, according to the Vietnam National Satellite Center (VNSC). Pham Anh Tuan, director of VNSC, was quoted by local Nhan Dan (People) newspaper as saying on Friday that after developing one-kilogram PicoDragon, the first Vietnamese self

Bangladesh to join India's South Asia Satellite initiative

‎Monday, ‎March ‎27, ‎2017, ‏‎7:27:32 AMGo to full article
Dhaka (IANS) Mar 27, 2017
Bangladesh has signed an agreement with India to formally join New Delhi's 'South Asia Satellite' initiative, through which the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) will launch a communication satellite for serving the South Asia region. The agreement was inked by Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) Chairman Shahjahan Mahmood and Indian High Commissioner Harsh Va

China to launch new weather satellite in second half of 2017

‎Monday, ‎March ‎27, ‎2017, ‏‎7:27:32 AMGo to full article
Beijing (XNA) Mar 27, 2017
China will launch a new meteorological satellite in the second half of this year, which will be capable of detecting auroras, the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC) announced Thursday. The satellite, the country's fourth Fengyun-III meteorological satellite, is expected to improve weather disaster forecasting ability as well as environmental monitoring. Compare

Ancient Art of Weaving Ready to Head to Mars and Beyond

‎Monday, ‎March ‎27, ‎2017, ‏‎7:27:32 AMGo to full article
Greenbelt MD (SPX) Mar 27, 2017
Weaving processes created millennia ago are part of the most cutting-edge technology on NASA's Orion spaceship that may one day shield humans from heat as they ride all the way to Mars and back. That same technology is finding a home on Earth as well, enabling thicker, denser composite materials for race cars, among other applications. It started with a connection problem: there are points

NASA Selects High Performance Spaceflight Computing (HPSC) Processor Contract

‎Monday, ‎March ‎27, ‎2017, ‏‎7:27:32 AMGo to full article
Greenbelt MD (SPX) Mar 27, 2017
NASA has selected Boeing Company in St. Louis for the High Performance Spaceflight Computing Processor (Chiplet) contract for the development of prototype Chiplet devices including packaged parts and bare die, a Chiplet behavioral model, Chiplet Evaluation Boards and System Software. This is a cost-plus fixed-fee contract with a total contract value of $26.6 million which includes five opt

The "Brain" of the Space Launch System RS-25 Engine Passes Critical Test

‎Monday, ‎March ‎27, ‎2017, ‏‎7:27:32 AMGo to full article
Stennis Space Center, MS (SPX) Mar 27, 2017
An RS-25 rocket engine with a new flight-model engine controller and flight configuration software was tested for the first time at NASA's Stennis Space Center last week. Four RS-25 engines, manufactured by Aerojet Rocketdyne, a subsidiary of Aerojet Rocketdyne Holdings, Inc., will help propel NASA's Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, America's next generation heavy-lift launch vehicle, and

Mars dust storm west of Opportunity starting to abate

‎Monday, ‎March ‎27, ‎2017, ‏‎7:27:32 AMGo to full article
Pasadena CA (JPL) Mar 27, 2017
Opportunity is just outside the rim of Endeavour Crater, heading to the gully, named 'Perseverance Valley.' The large regional dust storm to the west of the rover's site has started to abate, although there is still a lot of dust in the atmosphere and rover energy levels are affected. On Sol 4672 (March 16, 2017), Opportunity drove over 141 feet (43 meters) to the south. Owning to the elev





News About Time And Space


Giant magnetic fields in the universe

‎Friday, ‎March ‎24, ‎2017, ‏‎12:14:42 PMGo to full article
Bonn, Germany (SPX) Mar 23, 2017 - Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light-years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.

The results will be published on March 22 in the journal "Astronomy and Astrophysics."

Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light-years, i.e., 100 times the diameter of the Milky Way, they host a large number of such stellar systems, along with hot gas, magnetic fields, charged particles, embedded in large haloes of dark matter, the composition of which is unknown.

Collision of galaxy clusters leads to a shock compression of the hot cluster gas and of the magnetic fields. The resulting arc-like features are called "relics" and stand out by their radio and X-ray emission. Since their discovery in 1970 with a radio telescope near Cambridge, UK, relics were found in about 70 galaxy clusters so far, but many more are likely to exist. They are messengers of huge gas flows that continuously shape the structure of the universe.

Radio waves are excellent tracers of relics. The compression of magnetic fields orders the field lines, which also affects the emitted radio waves. More precisely, the emission becomes linearly polarized. This effect was detected in four galaxy clusters by a team of researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn (MPIfR), the Argelander Institute for Radio Astronomy at the University of Bonn (AIfA), the Thuringia State Observatory at Tautenburg (TLS), and colleagues in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.

They used the MPIfR's 100-m radio telescope near Bad Munstereifel-Effelsberg in the Eifel hills at wavelengths of 3 cm and 6 cm. Such short wavelengths are advantageous because the polarized emission is not diminished when passing through the galaxy cluster and our Milky Way. Fig.1 shows the most spectacular case.

Linearly polarized relics were found in the four galaxy clusters observed, in one case for the first time. The magnetic fields are of similar strength as in our Milky Way, while the measured degrees of polarization of up to 50% are exceptionally high, indicating that the emission originates in an extremely ordered magnetic field.

"We discovered the so far largest ordered magnetic fields in the universe, extending over 5-6 million light-years," says Maja Kierdorf from MPIfR Bonn, the project leader and first author of the publication. She also wrote her master thesis at Bonn University on this subject.

For this project, co-author Matthias Hoeft from TLS Tautenburg developed a method that permits to determine the "Mach number," i.e., the ratio of the relative velocity between the colliding gas clouds and the local sound speed, using the observed degree of polarization.

The resulting Mach numbers of about 2 tell us that the galaxy clusters collide with velocities of about 2,000 km/s, which is faster than previously derived from measurements of the X-ray emission.

The new Effelsberg telescope observations show that the polarization plane of the radio emission from the relics turns with wavelength.

This "Faraday rotation effect," named after the English physicist Michael Faraday, indicates that ordered magnetic fields also exist between the clusters and, together with hot gas, cause the rotation of the polarization plane. Such magnetic fields may be even larger than the clusters themselves.

"The Effelsberg radio telescope proved again to be an ideal instrument to detect magnetic fields in the universe," emphasizes co-author Rainer Beck from MPIfR who works on this topic for more than 40 years. "Now we can systematically search for ordered magnetic fields in galaxy clusters using polarized radio waves."

Research paper: "Relics in Galaxy Clusters at High Radio Frequencies," M. Kierdorf, R. Beck, M. Hoeft, U. Klein, R. J. van Weeren, W. R. Forman and C. Jones, 2017 Mar. 22, Astronomy and Astrophysics



Scientists evade the Heisenberg uncertainty principle

‎Friday, ‎March ‎24, ‎2017, ‏‎12:14:42 PMGo to full article
Madrid, Spain (SPX) Mar 23, 2017 - State-of-the-art sensors, such as MRIs and atomic clocks, are capable of making measurements with exquisite precision. MRI is used to image tissues deep within the human body and tells us whether we might suffer from an illness, while atomic clocks are extremely precise timekeepers used for GPS, internet synchronization, and long baseline interferometry in radio-astronomy. One might think these two instruments have nothing in common, but they do: both technologies are based on precise measurement the spin of the atom, the gyroscope-like motion of the electrons and the nucleus.

In MRI, for example, the pointing angle of the spin gives information about where in the body the atom is located, while the amount of spin (the amplitude) is used to distinguish different kinds of tissue. Combining these two pieces of information, the MRI can make a 3D map of the tissues in the body.

The sensitivity of this kind of measurement was long thought to be limited by Heisenberg's uncertainty principle, which states that accurately measuring one property of an atom puts a limit to the precision of measurement you can obtain on another property. For example, if we measure an electron's position with high precision, Heisenberg's principle limits the accuracy in the measurement of its momentum.

Since most atomic instruments measure two properties (spin amplitude and angle), the principle seems to say that the readings will always contain some quantum uncertainty. This long-standing expectation has now been disproven, however, by ICFO researchers Dr. Giorgio Colangelo, Ferran Martin Ciurana, Lorena C. Bianchet and Dr. Robert J. Sewell, led by ICREA Prof. at ICFO Morgan W. Mitchell.

In their article "Simultaneous tracking of spin angle and amplitude beyond classical limits", published this week in Nature, they describe how a properly designed instrument can almost completely avoid quantum uncertainty.

The trick is to realize that the spin has not one but two pointing angles, one for the north-east-south-west direction, and the other for the elevation above the horizon. The ICFO team showed how to put nearly all of the uncertainty into the angle that is not measured by the instrument.

In this way they still obeyed Heisenberg's requirement for uncertainty, but hid the uncertainty where it can do no harm. As a result, they were able to obtain an angle-amplitude measurement of unprecedented precision, unbothered by quantum uncertainty.

Prof. Mitchell uses a solid analogy to state that "To scientists, the uncertainty principle is very frustrating - we'd like to know everything, but Heisenberg says we can't. In this case, though, we found a way to know everything that matters to us. It's like the Rolling Stones song: you can't always get what you want / but if you try sometimes you just might find / you get what you need."

In their study, the ICFO team cooled down a cloud of atoms to a few micro-degrees Kelvin, applied a magnetic field to produce spin motion as in MRI, and illuminated the cloud with a
laser to measure the orientation of the atomic spins.

They observed that both the spin angle and uncertainty can be continuously monitored with a sensitivity beyond the previously expected limits, although still obeying the Heisenberg principle.

As for the challenges faced during the experiment, Colangelo comments that "in the first place, we had to develop a theoretical model to see if what we wanted to do was really possible.

Then, not all the technologies we used for the experiment existed when we started: among them, we had to design and develop a particular detector that was fast enough and with very low noise. We also had to improve a lot the way we were "preparing" the atoms and find a way to efficiently use all the dynamic range we had in the detector. It was a battle against the Dark Side of Quantum, but we won it!"

The results of the study are of paramount importance since this new technique shows that it is possible to obtain even more accurate measurements of atomic spins, opening a new path to the development of far more sensitive instruments and enabling the detection of signals, such as gravitational waves or brain activity, with unprecedented accuracy.



Futuristic clock prepared for space

‎Friday, ‎March ‎24, ‎2017, ‏‎12:14:42 PMGo to full article
Pasadena CA (JPL) Mar 23, 2017 - No one keeps time quite like NASA. Last month, the space agency's next-generation atomic clock was joined to the spacecraft that will take it into orbit in late 2017.

That instrument, the Deep Space Atomic Clock was developed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. On Feb. 17, JPL engineers monitored integration of the clock on to the Surrey Orbital Test Bed spacecraft at Surrey Satellite Technology in Englewood, Colorado.

Timekeeping plays a critical role in spacecraft navigation and will be especially important for future deep space missions. This clock will be smaller, lighter and magnitudes more precise than any atomic clock flown in space before.

Most spacecraft are tracked using "two-way" methods: the ground-based antenna 'pings' the spacecraft and waits for the signal to return. By measuring how long the signal takes to travel, the distance to the spacecraft can be calculated. A navigation team then processes this information to determine the spacecraft's flight path and determine if any course corrections are required.

The clock enables "one-way" tracking, where the spacecraft doesn't need to send the signal back to Earth. The tracking measurements could be taken onboard and processed with a spacecraft-based navigation system to determine the path and whether any maneuvers are needed to stay on course.

This will be a key advance for safely navigating future human exploration of the solar system by providing astronauts with their position and velocity when they need it. It will lighten the load on the antennas in NASA's Deep Space Network, allowing more spacecraft to be tracked with a single antenna.

The Deep Space Atomic Clock would also improve the precision and quantity of the radio data used by scientists for determining a planet's gravity field and probing its atmosphere.

The Deep Space Atomic Clock project is managed by JPL and funded by the Technology Demonstration Mission in NASA's Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD). STMD is responsible for developing the cross-cutting, pioneering, new technologies and capabilities needed by the agency to achieve its current and future missions.



Breaking the supermassive black hole speed limit

‎Friday, ‎March ‎24, ‎2017, ‏‎12:14:42 PMGo to full article
Los Alamos NM (SPX) Mar 23, 2017 - A new computer simulation helps explain the existence of puzzling supermassive black holes observed in the early universe. The simulation is based on a computer code used to understand the coupling of radiation and certain materials.

"Supermassive black holes have a speed limit that governs how fast and how large they can grow," said Joseph Smidt of the Theoretical Design Division at Los Alamos National Laboratory, "The relatively recent discovery of supermassive black holes in the early development of the universe raised a fundamental question, how did they get so big so fast?"

Using computer codes developed at Los Alamos for modeling the interaction of matter and radiation related to the Lab's stockpile stewardship mission, Smidt and colleagues created a simulation of collapsing stars that resulted in supermassive black holes forming in less time than expected, cosmologically speaking, in the first billion years of the universe.

"It turns out that while supermassive black holes have a growth speed limit, certain types of massive stars do not," said Smidt. "We asked, what if we could find a place where stars could grow much faster, perhaps to the size of many thousands of suns; could they form supermassive black holes in less time?"

It turns out the Los Alamos computer model not only confirms the possibility of speedy supermassive black hole formation, but also fits many other phenomena of black holes that are routinely observed by astrophysicists.

The research shows that the simulated supermassive black holes are also interacting with galaxies in the same way that is observed in nature, including star formation rates, galaxy density profiles, and thermal and ionization rates in gasses.

"This was largely unexpected," said Smidt. "I thought this idea of growing a massive star in a special configuration and forming a black hole with the right kind of masses was something we could approximate, but to see the black hole inducing star formation and driving the dynamics in ways that we've observed in nature was really icing on the cake."

A key mission area at Los Alamos National Laboratory is understanding how radiation interacts with certain materials. Because supermassive black holes produce huge quantities of hot radiation, their behavior helps test computer codes designed to model the coupling of radiation and matter. The codes are used, along with large- and small-scale experiments, to assure the safety, security, and effectiveness of the U.S. nuclear deterrent.

"We've gotten to a point at Los Alamos," said Smidt, "with the computer codes we're using, the physics understanding, and the supercomputing facilities, that we can do detailed calculations that replicate some of the forces driving the evolution of the Universe."

Research paper



Does the universe have a rest frame?

‎Friday, ‎March ‎24, ‎2017, ‏‎12:14:42 PMGo to full article
Washington DC (SPX) Mar 23, 2017 - Physics is sometimes closer to philosophy when it comes to understanding the universe. Donald Chang from Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, China, attempts to elucidate whether the universe has a resting frame. The results have recently been published in EPJ Plus.

To answer this tricky question, he has developed an experiment to precisely evaluate particle mass. This is designed to test the special theory of relativity that assumes the absence of a rest frame, otherwise it would be possible to determine which inertial frame is stationary and which frame is moving.

This assumption, however, appears to diverge from the standard model of cosmology, which assumes that what we see as a vacuum is not an empty space. The assumption is that the energy of our universe comes from the quantum fluctuation in the vacuum.

In a famous experiment conducted by Michelson and Morley in the late 19th century, the propagation of light was proved to be independent of the movement of the laboratory system.

Einstein, his Special Theory of Relativity, inferred that the physical laws governing the propagation of light are equivalent in all inertial frames--this was later extended to all physics laws not just optics.

In this study, the author set out to precisely measure the masses of two charged particles moving in opposite directions.

The conventional thinking assumes that the inertial frame applies equally to both particles. If that's the case, no detectable mass difference between these two particles is likely to arise.

However, if the contrary is true, and there is a rest frame in the universe, the author expects to see mass difference that is dependent on the orientation of the laboratory frame.

This proposed experiment partially inspired by the Michelson and Morley experiments can be conducted using existing experimental techniques. For simplicity, an electron can be used as the charged particle in the experiment.

D. C. Chang (2017), Is there a rest frame in the universe? A proposed experimental test based on a precise measurement of particle mass, Eur. Phys. J. Plus 132:140, DOI 10.1140/epjp/i2017-11402-4



NASA's swift mission maps a star's 'death spiral' into a Black Hole

‎Friday, ‎March ‎24, ‎2017, ‏‎12:14:42 PMGo to full article
Greenbelt MD (SPX) Mar 21, 2017 - Some 290 million years ago, a star much like the sun wandered too close to the central black hole of its galaxy. Intense tides tore the star apart, which produced an eruption of optical, ultraviolet and X-ray light that first reached Earth in 2014. Now, a team of scientists using observations from NASA's Swift satellite have mapped out how and where these different wavelengths were produced in the event, named ASASSN-14li, as the shattered star's debris circled the black hole.

"We discovered brightness changes in X-rays that occurred about a month after similar changes were observed in visible and UV light," said Dheeraj Pasham, an astrophysicist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and the lead researcher of the study. "We think this means the optical and UV emission arose far from the black hole, where elliptical streams of orbiting matter crashed into each other."

Astronomers think ASASSN-14li was produced when a sun-like star wandered too close to a 3-million-solar-mass black hole similar to the one at the center of our own galaxy. For comparison, the event horizon of a black hole like this is about 13 times bigger than the sun, and the accretion disk formed by the disrupted star could extend to more than twice Earth's distance from the sun.

When a star passes too close to a black hole with 10,000 or more times the sun's mass, tidal forces outstrip the star's own gravity, converting the star into a stream of debris.

Astronomers call this a tidal disruption event. Matter falling toward a black hole collects into a spinning accretion disk, where it becomes compressed and heated before eventually spilling over the black hole's event horizon, the point beyond which nothing can escape and astronomers cannot observe. Tidal disruption flares carry important information about how this debris initially settles into an accretion disk.

Astronomers know the X-ray emission in these flares arises very close to the black hole. But the location of optical and UV light was unclear, even puzzling. In some of the best-studied events, this emission seems to be located much farther than where the black hole's tides could shatter the star. Additionally, the gas emitting the light seemed to remain at steady temperatures for much longer than expected.

ASASSN-14li was discovered Nov. 22, 2014, in images obtained by the All Sky Automated Survey for SuperNovae (ASASSN), which includes robotic telescopes in Hawaii and Chile. Follow-up observations with Swift's X-ray and Ultraviolet/Optical telescopes began eight days later and continued every few days for the next nine months. The researchers supplemented later Swift observations with optical data from the Las Cumbres Observatory headquartered in Goleta, California.

In a paper describing the results published March 15 in The Astrophysical Journal Letters, Pasham, Cenko and their colleagues show how interactions among the infalling debris could create the observed optical and UV emission.

Tidal debris initially falls toward the black hole but overshoots, arcing back out along elliptical orbits and eventually colliding with the incoming stream.

"Returning clumps of debris strike the incoming stream, which results in shock waves that emit visible and ultraviolet light," said Goddard's Bradley Cenko, the acting Swift principal investigator and a member of the science team. "As these clumps fall down to the black hole, they also modulate the X-ray emission there."

Future observations of other tidal disruption events will be needed to further clarify the origin of optical and ultraviolet light.



Scientists identify a black hole choking on stardust

‎Friday, ‎March ‎24, ‎2017, ‏‎12:14:42 PMGo to full article
Boston MA (SPX) Mar 16, 2017 - Data suggest black holes swallow stellar debris in bursts. In the center of a distant galaxy, almost 300 million light years from Earth, scientists have discovered a supermassive black hole that is "choking" on a sudden influx of stellar debris.

In a paper published in Astrophysical Journal Letters, researchers from MIT, NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, and elsewhere report on a "tidal disruption flare" - a dramatic burst of electromagnetic activity that occurs when a black hole obliterates a nearby star. The flare was first discovered on Nov. 11, 2014, and scientists have since trained a variety of telescopes on the event to learn more about how black holes grow and evolve.

The MIT-led team looked through data collected by two different telescopes and identified a curious pattern in the energy emitted by the flare: As the obliterated star's dust fell into the black hole, the researchers observed small fluctuations in the optical and ultraviolet (UV) bands of the electromagnetic spectrum. This very same pattern repeated itself 32 days later, this time in the X-ray band.

The researchers used simulations of the event performed by others to infer that such energy "echoes" were produced from the following scenario: As a star migrated close to the black hole, it was quickly ripped apart by the black hole's gravitational energy.

The resulting stellar debris, swirling ever closer to the black hole, collided with itself, giving off bursts of optical and UV light at the collision sites. As it was pulled further in, the colliding debris heated up, producing X-ray flares, in the same pattern as the optical bursts, just before the debris fell into the black hole.

"In essence, this black hole has not had much to feed on for a while, and suddenly along comes an unlucky star full of matter," says Dheeraj Pasham, the paper's first author and a postdoc in MIT's Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research.

"What we're seeing is, this stellar material is not just continuously being fed onto the black hole, but it's interacting with itself - stopping and going, stopping and going. This is telling us that the black hole is 'choking' on this sudden supply of stellar debris."

Pasham's co-authors include MIT Kavli postdoc Aleksander Sadowski and researchers from NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, the University of Maryland, the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Columbia University, and Johns Hopkins University.

A "lucky" sighting
Pasham says tidal disruption flares are a potential window into the universe's many "hidden" black holes, which are not actively accreting, or feeding on material.

"Almost every massive galaxy contains a supermassive black hole," Pasham says. "But we won't know about them if they're sitting around doing nothing, unless there's an event like a tidal disruption flare."

Such flares occur when a star, migrating close to a black hole, gets pulled apart from the black hole's immense gravitational energy. This stellar obliteration can give off incredible bursts of energy all along the electromagnetic spectrum, from the radio band, through the optical and UV wavelengths, and on through the X-ray and high-energy gamma ray bands. As extreme as they are, tidal disruption flares are difficult to observe, as they happen infrequently.

"You'd have to stare at one galaxy for roughly 10,000 to 100,000 years to see a star getting disrupted by the black hole at the center," Pasham says.

Nevertheless, on Nov. 11, 2014, a global network of robotic telescopes named ASASSN (All Sky Automated Survey for SuperNovae) picked up signals of a possible tidal disruption flare from a galaxy 300 million light years away. Scientists quickly focused other telescopes on the event, including the X-ray telescope aboard NASA's Swift satellite, an orbiting spacecraft that scans the sky for bursts of extremely high energy.

"Only recently have telescopes started 'talking' to each other, and for this particular event we were lucky because a lot of people were ready for it," Pasham says. "It just resulted in a lot of data."

A light-on collision
With access to these data, Pasham and his colleagues wanted to solve a longstanding mystery: Where did a flare's bursts of light first arise? Using models of black hole dynamics, scientists have been able to estimate that as a black hole rips a star apart, the resulting tidal disruption flare can produce X-ray emissions very close to the black hole. But it's been difficult to pinpoint the origin of optical and UV emissions. Doing so would be an added step toward understanding what happens when a star gets disrupted.

"Supermassive black holes and their host galaxies grow in-situ," Pasham says. "Knowing exactly what happens in tidal disruption flares could help us understand this black hole and galaxy coevolution process."

The researchers studied the first 270 days following the detection of the tidal disruption flare, named ASASSN-14li. In particular, they analyzed X-ray and optical/UV data taken by the Swift satellite and the Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope. They identified fluctuations, or bursts, in the X-ray band - two broad peaks (one around day 50, and the other around day 110) followed by a short dip around day 80. They identified this very same pattern in the optical/UV data some 32 days earlier.

To explain these emission "echoes," the team ran simulations of a tidal disruption flare produced from a black hole obliterating a star. The researchers modeled the resulting accretion disc - an elliptical disc of stellar debris swirling around the black hole - along with its probable speed, radius, and rate of infall, or speed at which material falls onto the black hole.

From simulations run by others, the researchers conclude that the optical and UV bursts likely originated from the collision of stellar debris on the outer perimeter of the black hole.

As this colliding material circles closer into the black hole, it heats up, eventually giving off X-ray emissions, which can lag behind the optical emissions, similar to what the scientists observed in the data.

"For supermassive black holes steadily accreting, you wouldn't expect this choking to happen," Pasham says.

"The material around the black hole would be slowly rotating and losing some energy with each circular orbit. But that's not what's happening here. Because you have a lot of material falling onto the black hole, it's interacting with itself, falling in again, and interacting again. If there are more events in the future, maybe we can see if this is what happens for other tidal disruption flares."

This research was supported, in part, by NASA.



Radiation from nearby galaxies helped fuel first monster black holes

‎Friday, ‎March ‎24, ‎2017, ‏‎12:14:42 PMGo to full article
New York NY (SPX) Mar 15, 2017 - The appearance of supermassive black holes at the dawn of the universe has puzzled astronomers since their discovery more than a decade ago. A supermassive black hole is thought to form over billions of years, but more than two dozen of these behemoths have been sighted within 800 million years of the Big Bang 13.8 billion years ago.

In a new study in the journal Nature Astronomy, a team of researchers from Dublin City University, Columbia University, Georgia Tech, and the University of Helsinki, add evidence to one theory of how these ancient black holes, about a billion times heavier than our sun, may have formed and quickly put on weight.

In computer simulations, the researchers show that a black hole can rapidly grow at the center of its host galaxy if a nearby galaxy emits enough radiation to switch off its capacity to form stars. Thus disabled, the host galaxy grows until its eventual collapse, forming a black hole that feeds on the remaining gas, and later, dust, dying stars, and possibly other black holes, to become super gigantic.

"The collapse of the galaxy and the formation of a million-solar-mass black hole takes 100,000 years - a blip in cosmic time," says study co-author Zoltan Haiman, an astronomy professor at Columbia University. "A few hundred-million years later, it has grown into a billion-solar-mass supermassive black hole. This is much faster than we expected."

In the early universe, stars and galaxies formed as molecular hydrogen cooled and deflated a primordial plasma of hydrogen and helium. This environment would have limited black holes from growing very big as molecular hydrogen turned gas into stars far enough away to escape the black holes' gravitational pull. Astronomers have come up with several ways that supermassive black holes might have overcome this barrier.

In a 2008 study, Haiman and his colleagues hypothesized that radiation from a massive neighboring galaxy could split molecular hydrogen into atomic hydrogen and cause the nascent black hole and its host galaxy to collapse rather than spawn new clusters of stars.

A later study led by Eli Visbal, then a postdoctoral researcher at Columbia, calculated that the nearby galaxy would have to be at least 100 million times more massive than our sun to emit enough radiation to stop star-formation. Though relatively rare, enough galaxies of this size exist in the early universe to explain the supermassive black holes observed so far.

The current study, led by John Regan, a postdoctoral researcher at Ireland's Dublin City University, modeled the process using software developed by Columbia's Greg Bryan, and includes the effects of gravity, fluid dynamics, chemistry and radiation.

After several days of crunching the numbers on a supercomputer, the researchers found that the neighboring galaxy could be smaller and closer than previously estimated. "The nearby galaxy can't be too close, or too far away, and like the Goldilocks principle, too hot or too cold," said study coauthor John Wise, an associate astrophysics professor at Georgia Tech.

The current study, led by John Regan, a postdoctoral researcher at Ireland's Dublin City University, attempted to model the process. Using simulations to measure how radiation from one galaxy influenced black hole formation in the other, the researchers found that the neighboring galaxy could be smaller and closer than previously estimated.

"The nearby galaxy can't be too close, or too far away, and like the Goldilocks principle, too hot or too cold," said study coauthor John Wise, an associate astrophysics professor at Georgia Tech.

Though massive black holes are found at the center of most galaxies in the mature universe, including our own Milky Way, they are far less common in the infant universe. The earliest supermassive black holes were first sighted in 2001 through a telescope at New Mexico's Apache Point Observatory as part of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey.

The researchers hope to test their theory when NASA's James Webb Space Telescope, the successor to Hubble, goes online next year and beams back images from the early universe.

Other models of how these ancient behemoths evolved, including one in which black holes grow by merging with millions of smaller black holes and stars, await further testing. "Understanding how supermassive black holes form tells us how galaxies, including our own, form and evolve, and ultimately, tells us more about the universe in which we live," said Regan, at Dublin City University.

The study is titled, "Rapid formation of massive black holes in close proximity to embryonic protogalaxies." The other authors are Eli Visbal, now a postdoctoral researcher at the Simons Foundation Flatiron Institute, Peter Johansson, an astrophysics professor at the University of Helsinki, and Greg Bryan, an astronomy professor at Columbia and the Flatiron Institute.



The formation of supermassive black holes in the very early universe

‎Friday, ‎March ‎24, ‎2017, ‏‎12:14:42 PMGo to full article
Helsinki, Finland (SPX) Mar 15, 2017 - Observations in the past decade have demonstrated that extremely massive supermassive black holes were already in place when the Universe was less than 800 million years old. Supermassive black holes found at the centres of galaxies typically have masses of millions up to even billions of solar masses, whereas the black holes formed in the collapse of massive stars have masses around 5-20 solar masses.

"The observations of extremely massive black holes in the very early Universe are somewhat surprising, since it is not straightforward to grow the mass of black hole from tens up to billions of solar masses in the limited time available," says Associate Professor Peter Johansson from University of Helsinki, who has developed a new simulation model to describe in more detail the formation of supermassive black holes in the early Universe.

A black hole grows most effectively through the accretion of gas, but when the gas hurls towards the black hole it heats up strongly due to friction forces and the strong gravitational field. The resulting hot gas radiates strongly and some fraction of the radiation couples with the infalling gas exerting strong radiation pressure, preventing further gas infall.

Thus black holes cannot be force-fed, as too much accretion results in a strong burst of radiation that pushes back the infalling gas.

When very large gas clouds collapse directly to seed supermassive black holes

During the last years an alternative model for the formation of supermassive black holes in the early Universe has been developed. In this so called "Direct collapse black hole model" very large gas clouds with masses of 10 000 -100 000 solar masses collapse directly to seed supermassive black holes.

A prerequisite for this direct collapse is that the gas cooling is very inefficient, as otherwise the collapsing gas cloud would fragment and result in star formation. In the very early Universe the only way of cooling gas at low temperatures was by emission from molecular hydrogen.

An article titled "Rapid formation of massive black holes in close proximity to embryonic protogalaxies" published in the prestigious Nature Astronomy journal on March 13th, 2017, shows for the first time that the near simultaneous formation of two galaxies can lead to a situation in which the radiation from the first galaxy can destroy the molecular hydrogen in the second galaxy just at the right time.

"In this way a massive direct collapse black hole seed can form in the second galaxy, which can evolve rather quickly to a billion solar mass black hole by the time they are observed in the Universe," says Johansson.

The new simulation model describing the formation of supermassive black holes in the early Universe in more detail was developed at the University of Helsinki by Peter Johansson in close collaboration with Irish and American researchers.

Research paper



Streamlining the measurement of phonon dispersion

‎Friday, ‎March ‎24, ‎2017, ‏‎12:14:42 PMGo to full article
Washington DC (SPX) Mar 15, 2017 - As the interest in renewable energy and energy-efficient devices continues to grow, so has the scientific community's interest in discovering and designing new materials with desirable physical properties that could be used in solar cells or energy storage devices.

A key tool in this work is High Resolution Electron Energy Loss Spectroscopy (HREELS), which involves exposing a material to a beam of electrons of known kinetic energy. While the electrons lose energy when they bounce off atoms in the surface of the material, that energy loss can be measured and used to make important determinations about the material.

"Phonons, collective excitations that rule the movement of atoms within the crystal lattice of a solid, are a subject of particular interest for scientists because they affect physical properties such as a given material's capacity to conduct electricity or heat," explained Francois C. Bocquet, a physicist at the Forschungszentrum Julich, a scientific research center in Julich, Germany.

"These properties are important because they affect the suitability of a material for use in different applications."

"The challenge has been that it can be very time consuming for surface scientists using HREELS to measure phonons' dispersion or net loss of energy at all angles. Until now, it was only possible to measure one angle and one loss of energy at a time, so it could take more than a day to measure the dispersion.

"In fact, it could take as much as a week if you didn't happen to choose an appropriate kinetic energy for the electrons in the incoming beam because this impacts the intensity of the phonons and thus the ease with which they can be measured," Bocquet said.

To address these problems, Bocquet and his colleagues have adapted an instrument used for HREELS with new components so that the phonon dispersion of a given material can be measured in a matter of minutes. They describe their device this week in the journal Review of Scientific Instruments, from AIP Publishing.

"Our apparatus has two major components that allow us to improve the measurement of phonon dispersion," Bocquet said, whose research is also funded by the Initiative and Networking Fund of the Helmholtz Association.

"The first is a hemispherical electron analyzer, which has been used successfully for more than a decade in Angular-Resolved Photoelectron Spectroscopy. The second is a high energy-resolution electron source that was developed in house.

"It can be optimized with software that we created so that electrons of the incoming beam have the desired kinetic energy and are focused on a very small area on the sample that fits the field of view of the hemispherical electron analyzer."

The improved time frame for determining phonon dispersion has the added benefit of allowing surface scientists to address samples whose measurement was too cumbersome until now.

"Surface scientists typically work in vacuum conditions because the surfaces they study must be extremely clean and have no contaminants. Since no vacuum is ever perfect, however, they usually have to stop measuring a given sample after a few hours and prepare it again. Cutting down the time to measure dispersion means that it is now possible to measure samples that are difficult to prepare and short-lived," Bocquet said.

Bocquet and his colleagues intend to use their device to investigate materials related to graphene, a well-known substance that has attracted a lot of interest among scientists in the last decade. They are also eager to see what materials other surface scientists use it to study.

"There are so many interesting new materials being developed whose physical properties could be understood more deeply if we could measure their phonon dispersion," Bocquet said. "This information would help scientists and engineers to determine these materials' suitability for use in new devices that address pressing global challenges."

The article, "Electron energy loss spectroscopy with parallel readout of energy and momentum," is authored by Harald Ibach, Francois C. Bocquet, Jessica Sforzini, Serguei Soubatch and F. Stefan Tautz. The article appeared in Review of Scientific Instruments Tuesday, March 14, 2017 (DOI: 10.1063/1.49775290).



Hubble dates black hole's last big meal

‎Thursday, ‎March ‎16, ‎2017, ‏‎4:58:06 AMGo to full article
Greenbelt MD (SPX) Mar 13, 2017 - For the supermassive black hole at the center of our Milky Way galaxy, it's been a long time between dinners. NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has found that the black hole ate its last big meal about 6 million years ago, when it consumed a large clump of infalling gas. After the meal, the engorged black hole burped out a colossal bubble of gas weighing the equivalent of millions of suns, which now billows above and below our galaxy's center.

The immense structures, dubbed the Fermi Bubbles, were first discovered in 2010 by NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope. But recent Hubble observations of the northern bubble have helped astronomers determine a more accurate age for the bubbles and how they came to be.

"For the first time, we have traced the motion of cool gas throughout one of the bubbles, which allowed us to map the velocity of the gas and calculate when the bubbles formed," said lead researcher Rongmon Bordoloi of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge.

"What we find is that a very strong, energetic event happened 6 million to 9 million years ago. It may have been a cloud of gas flowing into the black hole, which fired off jets of matter, forming the twin lobes of hot gas seen in X-ray and gamma-ray observations. Ever since then, the black hole has just been eating snacks."

The new study is a follow-on to previous Hubble observations that placed the age of the bubbles at 2 million years old.

A black hole is a dense, compact region of space with a gravitational field so intense that neither matter nor light can escape. The supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy has compressed the mass of 4.5 million sun-like stars into a very small region of space.

Material that gets too close to a black hole is caught in its powerful gravity and swirls around the compact powerhouse until it eventually falls in. Some of the matter, however, gets so hot it escapes along the black hole's spin axis, creating an outflow that extends far above and below the plane of a galaxy.

The team's conclusions are based on observations by Hubble's Cosmic Origins Spectrograph (COS), which analyzed ultraviolet light from 47 distant quasars. Quasars are bright cores of distant active galaxies.

Imprinted on the quasars' light as it passes through the Milky Way bubble is information about the speed, composition, and temperature of the gas inside the expanding bubble.

The COS observations measured the temperature of the gas in the bubble at approximately 17,700 degrees Fahrenheit. Even at those sizzling temperatures, this gas is much cooler than most of the super-hot gas in the outflow, which is 18 million degrees Fahrenheit, seen in gamma rays.

The cooler gas seen by COS could be interstellar gas from our galaxy's disk that is being swept up and entrained into the super-hot outflow. COS also identified silicon and carbon as two of the elements being swept up in the gaseous cloud. These common elements are found in most galaxies and represent the fossil remnants of stellar evolution.

The cool gas is racing through the bubble at 2 million miles per hour. By mapping the motion of the gas throughout the structure, the astronomers estimated that the minimum mass of the entrained cool gas in both bubbles is equivalent to 2 million suns. The edge of the northern bubble extends 23,000 light-years above the galaxy.

"We have traced the outflows of other galaxies, but we have never been able to actually map the motion of the gas,"

Bordoloi said. "The only reason we could do it here is because we are inside the Milky Way. This vantage point gives us a front-row seat to map out the kinematic structure of the Milky Way outflow."

The new COS observations build and expand on the findings of a 2015 Hubble study by the same team, in which astronomers analyzed the light from one quasar that pierced the base of the bubble.

"The Hubble data open a whole new window on the Fermi Bubbles," said study co-author Andrew Fox of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Maryland. "Before, we knew how big they were and how much radiation they emitted; now we know how fast they are moving and which chemical elements they contain. That's an important step forward." The Hubble study also provides an independent verification of the bubbles and their origin, as detected by X-ray and gamma-ray observations.

"This observation would be almost impossible to do from the ground because you need ultraviolet spectroscopy to detect the fingerprints of these elements, which can only be done from space," Bordoloi said. "Only with COS do you have the wavelength coverage, the sensitivity, and the spectral resolution coverage to make this observation."

The Hubble results appeared in the January 10, 2017, edition of The Astrophysical Journal.



Magnetic fields at the crossroads

‎Thursday, ‎March ‎16, ‎2017, ‏‎4:58:06 AMGo to full article
Washington DC (SPX) Mar 09, 2017 - From compasses used in ancient overseas navigation to electrical motors, sensors, and actuators in cars, magnetic materials have been a mainstay throughout human history. In addition, almost all information that exists in contemporary society is recorded in magnetic media, like hard drive disks.

A team of researchers at the Brazilian Center for Physics Research is studying the motion of vortex domain walls - local regions of charge that collectively store information via their configuration - driven by magnetic fields in ferromagnetic nanowires, which are configured in a straight line with an asymmetric Y-like branch. They discuss their work in this week's Journal of Applied Physics.

The question posed by the group was: What happens to the vortex wall when it meets the branch? Does it changes it direction or not, or could it be split in two walls?

"To make a simplistic parallel, if we imagine that the vortex wall is a tornado and the tornado is running on a straight road and encounters a cross-road, what happens next; can it split into two tornados?" said Luiz Sampaio, a researcher at the Brazilian Center for Physics Research in Rio De Janeiro.

Generally speaking, magnetic fields can be used to change the magnetization of a magnetic material, much like a bar magnet can magnetize an otherwise nonmagnetic sewing needle, and can even reverse its magnetization completely in some cases.

The process involved in magnetization reversal sometimes exhibits the nucleation and movement of these domain walls, which constitute the transition between two regions of charge magnetized in different directions.

Domain wall motion has been widely explored in ferromagnetic nanowires due to their high potential for applications in spintronic devices, those that use the quantum spin properties of electrons.

The control and manipulation of these domain walls is crucial for successful realizing magnetic memory, logic and sensors devices. By modifying the nanowire geometry, scientists hope to acquire a higher control of the domain wall motion and set a route towards achieving reliability in switching magnetization in ferromagnetic nanowires. The team devised a study using two steps.

"First, we fabricated samples using electron-beam lithography, magnetron sputtering and lift-off techniques," said Sampaio. After the nanometer-scale fabrication, they then measured the switching magnetization behavior mediated by the domain wall propagation.

The second step was to carry out micromagnetic simulations to guide and interpret the experimental results. "These two tools allowed us to study in detail the processes of vortex domain walls at the branch entrance," he said.

Moving forward, the team wants to understand whether the angle between the nanowire and branch can increase the asymmetric behavior at the branch entrance. This would increase the likelihood of observing only one type of vortex domain wall, clockwise or counterclockwise. This will require varying the nanowire angles with the branch to select the vortex chirality.

Understanding the dynamical aspects of vortex domain walls opens a route to better control of their motion and trajectory. This may be important for producing logic gates, which can be based on the domain wall motion in line with such branches.

The magnetization in the branches can be oriented in two different directions along the nanowire axis, where each direction would serve as the "0" and "1" necessary for data storage and processing.

"To provide the reliability needed for these applications, a higher degree of control in the magnetization switching is required, but to enhance the efficiency of the processes involved in the magnetization switching, the vortex domain wall seems to be a promising candidate," said Sampaio.

"Trajectory and chirality of vortex domain walls in ferromagnetic nanowires with an asymmetric Y-branch," is authored by Jeovani Brandao, Alexandre M. Silva, F. Garcia and Luiz C. Sampaio. The article will appear in Journal of Applied Physics March 7, 2017 (DOI: 10.1063/1.4976967).



Researchers propose technique for measuring weak or nonexistent magnetic fields

‎Thursday, ‎March ‎16, ‎2017, ‏‎4:58:06 AMGo to full article
Ames IA (SPX) Mar 09, 2017 - Physicists at the University of Iowa have proposed a new technique to detect and measure materials that give off weak magnetic signals or have no magnetic field at all. Their solution would use a noninvasive probe to induce a magnetic response in the material being studied and then detect how that response changes the probe's own magnetic field.

The technique has many potential real-world applications, including yielding more sensitive magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machines, developing high-speed-storage memory in the semiconducting industry, and producing more efficient computer processing units (CPUs).

"This approach is designed to measure the situation where if you didn't have the probe nearby, you'd see nothing. There wouldn't be any magnetic fields at all," says Michael Flatte, physics and astronomy professor and senior author of the paper published in the journal Physical Review Letters. "It's only the probe itself that's causing the presence of the magnetic fields."

The probe does this by creating "magnetic moments" in materials that otherwise would emit a weak magnetic field or have no magnetic field at all. Magnetic moments occur when a group of electrons orient themselves in the same direction, much like tiny compass needles all pointing, say, north. That uniform orientation creates a tiny magnetic field. Iron, for example, produces a strong response because most of its electrons get oriented in the same direction when it encounters a magnetic force.

All it takes for the probe, which is just a few nanomaters in diameter, to create a magnetic moment is for two of its six electrons to snap to the same directional orientation. When that happens, the probe stimulates enough electrons in materials with weak or nonexistent magnetic fields to re-orient themselves, creating a magnetic moment in the material--or just enough of one--that the probe can detect. How the material's magnetic moment influences the probe's own magnetic field is measurable, which gives researchers the means to calculate the material's physical dimensions, such as its thickness.

"These electrons (in materials with weak or nonexistent magnetic fields) have their own field that acts back on the probe and distorts the probe (in a way) that you can then measure," says Flatte, director of the UI's Optical Science Technology Center.

This becomes important when trying to capture the dimensions of magnetic layers that are buried or sandwiched between nonmagnetic layers. Such situations arise when working with semiconductors and will increase as computer processing advances.

"We calculate the magnetic response, and from that we would know where the magnetic fields end and thus know the layer thickness," Flatte says.

The concept builds upon an emerging sampling approach called nitrogen-vacancy center magnetometry. This technique, which relies upon an introduced defect in a diamond's crystal structure (subbing in a nitrogen atom for two carbon atoms), is effective in part because the probe it uses (like the proposed UI probe) is made of diamond, which creates small magnetic moments key to detecting magnetic fields in the studied materials.

But there is a drawback: Nitrogen-vacancy center magnetometry only works with magnetized materials. That rules out superconductors, where the magnetic field ceases to exist at certain temperatures, and many other materials. Flatte and co-author Joost van Bree's proposed solution gets around that by using the probe to create a magnetic field that forces materials with weak or nonexistent magnetic fields to react to it.

"If you apply a magnetic field to a superconductor, it will attempt to cancel that magnetic field applied to it," Flatte says. "Even though it's doing that, it creates a magnetic field outside of itself that then affects the spin centers. That's what then can be detected."

Research paper



NASA Wants to Create the Coolest Spot in the Universe

‎Thursday, ‎March ‎16, ‎2017, ‏‎4:58:06 AMGo to full article
Pasadena CA (JPL) Mar 07, 2017 - This summer, an ice chest-sized box will fly to the International Space Station, where it will create the coolest spot in the universe. Inside that box, lasers, a vacuum chamber and an electromagnetic "knife" will be used to cancel out the energy of gas particles, slowing them until they're almost motionless. This suite of instruments is called the Cold Atom Laboratory (CAL), and was developed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. CAL is in the final stages of assembly at JPL, ahead of a ride to space this August on SpaceX CRS-12.

Its instruments are designed to freeze gas atoms to a mere billionth of a degree above absolute zero. That's more than 100 million times colder than the depths of space.

"Studying these hyper-cold atoms could reshape our understanding of matter and the fundamental nature of gravity," said CAL Project Scientist Robert Thompson of JPL. "The experiments we'll do with the Cold Atom Lab will give us insight into gravity and dark energy - some of the most pervasive forces in the universe."

When atoms are cooled to extreme temperatures, as they will be inside of CAL, they can form a distinct state of matter known as a Bose-Einstein condensate. In this state, familiar rules of physics recede and quantum physics begins to take over. Matter can be observed behaving less like particles and more like waves. Rows of atoms move in concert with one another as if they were riding a moving fabric. These mysterious waveforms have never been seen at temperatures as low as what CAL will achieve.

NASA has never before created or observed Bose-Einstein condensates in space. On Earth, the pull of gravity causes atoms to continually settle towards the ground, meaning they're typically only observable for fractions of a second.

But on the International Space Station, ultra-cold atoms can hold their wave-like forms longer while in freefall. That offers scientists a longer window to understand physics at its most basic level. Thompson estimated that CAL will allow Bose-Einstein condensates to be observable for up to five to 10 seconds; future development of the technologies used on CAL could allow them to last for hundreds of seconds.

Bose-Einstein condensates are a "superfluid" - a kind of fluid with zero viscosity, where atoms move without friction as if they were all one, solid substance.

"If you had superfluid water and spun it around in a glass, it would spin forever," said Anita Sengupta of JPL, Cold Atom Lab project manager. "There's no viscosity to slow it down and dissipate the kinetic energy. If we can better understand the physics of superfluids, we can possibly learn to use those for more efficient transfer of energy."

Five scientific teams plan to conduct experiments using the Cold Atom Lab. Among them is Eric Cornell of the University of Colorado, Boulder and the National Institute for Standards and Technology. Cornell is one of the Nobel Prize winners who first created Bose-Einstein condensates in a lab setting in 1995.

The results of these experiments could potentially lead to a number of improved technologies, including sensors, quantum computers and atomic clocks used in spacecraft navigation.

Especially exciting are applications related to dark energy detection, said Kamal Oudrhiri of JPL, the CAL deputy project manager. He noted that current models of cosmology divide the universe into roughly 27 percent dark matter, 68 percent dark energy and about 5 percent ordinary matter.

"This means that even with all of our current technologies, we are still blind to 95 percent of the universe," Oudrhiri said. "Like a new lens in Galileo's first telescope, the ultra-sensitive cold atoms in the Cold Atom Lab have the potential to unlock many mysteries beyond the frontiers of known physics."

The Cold Atom Lab is currently undergoing a testing phase that will prepare it prior to delivery to Cape Canaveral, Florida.

"The tests we do over the next months on the ground are critical to ensure we can operate and tune it remotely while it's in space, and ultimately learn from this rich atomic physics system for years to come," said Dave Aveline, the test-bed lead at JPL.

JPL is developing the Cold Atom Laboratory, sponsored by the International Space Station Program at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston.



OLYMPUS experiment sheds light on structure of protons

‎Thursday, ‎March ‎16, ‎2017, ‏‎4:58:06 AMGo to full article
Boston MA (SPX) Mar 07, 2017 - A mystery concerning the structure of protons is a step closer to being solved, thanks to a seven-year experiment led by researchers at MIT. For many years researchers have probed the structure of protons - subatomic particles with a positive charge - by bombarding them with electrons and examining the intensity of the scattered electrons at different angles.

In this way they have attempted to determine how the proton's electric charge and magnetization are distributed. These experiments had previously led researchers to assume that the electric and magnetic charge distributions are the same, and that one photon - an elementary particle of light - is exchanged when the protons interact with the bombarding electrons.

However, in the early 2000s, researchers began to carry out experiments using polarized electron beams, which measure electron-proton elastic scattering using the spin of the protons and electrons. These experiments revealed that the ratio of electric to magnetic charge distributions decreased dramatically with higher-energy interactions between the electrons and protons.

This led to the theory that not one but two photons were sometimes being exchanged during the interaction, causing the uneven charge distribution. What's more, the theory predicted that both of these particles would be so-called "hard," or high-energy photons.

In a bid to identify this "two-photon exchange," an international team led by researchers in the Laboratory for Nuclear Science at MIT carried out a seven-year experiment, known as OLYMPUS, at the German Electron Synchrotron (DESY) in Hamburg.

In a paper published this week in the journal Physical Review Letters, the researchers reveal the results of this experiment, which indicate that two photons are indeed exchanged during electron-proton interactions.

However, unlike the theoretical predictions, analysis of the OLYMPUS measurements suggests that, most of the time, only one of the photons has high energy, while the other must carry very little energy indeed, according to Richard Milner, a professor of physics and member of the Laboratory for Nuclear Science's Hadronic Physics Group, who led the experiment.

"We saw little if no evidence for a hard two-photon exchange," Milner says.

Having proposed the idea for the experiment in the late 2000s, the group was awarded funding in 2010.

The researchers had to disassemble the former BLAST spectrometer - a complex 125-cubic-meter-sized detector based at MIT - and transport it to Germany, where it was reassembled with some improvements. They then carried out the experiment over three months in 2012, before the particle accelerator at the laboratory was itself decommissioned and shut down at the end of that year.

The experiment, which was carried out at the same time as two others in the U.S. and Russia, involved bombarding the protons with both negatively charged electrons and positively charged positrons, and comparing the difference between the two interactions, according to Douglas Hasell, a principal research scientist in the Laboratory for Nuclear Science and the Hadronic Physics Group at MIT, and another of the paper's authors.

The process will produce a subtly different measurement depending on whether the protons are scattered by electrons or positrons, Hasell says. "If you see a difference (in the measurements), it would indicate that there is a two-photon effect that is significant."

The collisions were run for three months, and the resulting data took a further three years to analyze, Hasell says.

The difference between the theoretical and experimental results means further experiments may need to be carried out in the future, at even higher energies where the two-photon exchange effect is expected to be larger, Hasell says.

It may prove difficult to achieve the same level of precision reached in the OLYMPUS experiment, however.

"We ran the experiment for three months and produced very precise measurements," he says. "You would have to run for years to get the same level of precision, unless the performance (of the experiment) could be improved."

In the immediate future, the researchers plan to see how the theoretical physics community responds to the data, before deciding on their next step, Hasell says.

"It may be that they can make a small adjustment to a detail within their theoretical models to bring it all into agreement, and explain the data at both higher and lower energies," he says.

"Then it will be up to the experimentalists to check if that holds to be the case."

Hard Two-Photon Contribution to Elastic Lepton-Proton Scattering Determined by the OLYMPUS Experiment



Synchrotron sheds light on carbon chemistry at ocean surfaces

‎Thursday, ‎March ‎16, ‎2017, ‏‎4:58:06 AMGo to full article
Washington DC (SPX) Mar 09, 2017 - Nature's carbonate system, the dynamic chemistry involving carbon dioxide (CO2), carbonate (CO32-), bicarbonate (HCO3-), and carbonic acid (H2CO3), is a vital component of the biosphere. Carbonate, bicarbonate, and carbonic acid emerge when atmospheric carbon dioxide dissolves in the oceans, which is the largest sink for this greenhouse gas.

Researchers are interested in better understanding the carbonate system to potentially help facilitate carbon sequestration schemes, especially with carbon-bonding minerals, to help mitigate climate change. The carbonate system is also central to biological respiration systems, another reason why researchers are interested in this chemistry.

Recently, a group of chemists from the University of California, Berkeley teamed up with scientists at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) and made breakthrough discoveries about the carbonate species' behavior at saltwater surfaces, like that of the ocean. They report their findings this week in The Journal of Chemical Physics, from AIP Publishing.

According to one of the paper's authors, UC Berkeley chemistry professor Richard Saykally, a strong motivation for this research was understanding the chemical processes involved in carbon sequestration. They found that while neutral carbonic acid was most heavily present at the surface, as was expected, the more highly charged carbonate ion was more abundant than the weaker bicarbonate.

"We want to generally advance our understanding of the global carbon cycle," Saykally said. "The aspects of this cycle that we have been focusing on begin with carbon dioxide in the atmosphere dissolving into salt water, followed by some very interesting chemistry."

Carbon dioxide is captured by the water surface and hydrated to form carbonic acid or bicarbonate, which can then ionize into either bicarbonate or carbonate where carbonate may react with dissolved magnesium or calcium ions to form limestone.

"We want to know all those steps going from gaseous carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to limestone," Saykally said. "Our goal is to understand all the details in all the steps in that process."

UC Berkeley chemistry doctoral candidate Royce Lam, a co-author of the paper who led much of the research, wanted to build on earlier examinations of the hydration structure of carbonic system species, focusing on the relative abundances of carbonate species at the liquid surface.

Collaborating with LBNL's Dr. Hendrik Bluhm, Lam and co-authors made use of the ambient pressure photoemission spectroscopy (APPES) beamline (11.0.2) at the Advanced Light Source synchrotron at LBNL, to conduct X-ray photoemission spectroscopy (XPS) measurements - a way to probe the molecular makeup of materials using an intense beam of high-energy X-rays. The XPS system enabled them to probe different aspects of the carbonate system they could not access before.

"What is special about XPS is that it allows us to probe at different depths into the water surface," Lam said. "This is one of the few beamlines in the world that can do this class of experiments on liquids."

For samples, Lam combined solutions of the carbonate species and hydrochloric acid, which fortuitously resembled the ocean system. With a liquid microjet device, the researchers injected these samples into a vacuum chamber and probed them at multiple X-ray energies to deduce the relative abundances of the carbonate species from the photoemitted electrons.

At the liquid surface, both carbonate and carbonic acid were more abundant than biocarbonate. The most significant surprise was that the more highly charged carbonate was more abundant at the surface than the less charged bicarbonate, which conflicts with expectations from existing theoretical models.

This raises important question about where the bicarbonate could be moving in the system, with a possibility that the carbonate could be "ion pairing" with sodium, changing the chemistry, and causing bicarbonate to move to lower depths.

"We are still working on the theory and we hope that this paper will stimulate further theoretical discussion that may actually yield definitive insights about what is going on here," Lam said.

Lam hopes that this research will also lead to more direct research on carbon sequestration possibilities.

"So, the next step would be to look further into ion pairing, and essentially limestone or mineral formation, specifically, looking at the interaction of calcium and magnesium ions with carbonate," Lam said of one carbon sequestration possibility he discussed.

Saykally feels this research connects with the whole system of aqueous carbonate chemistry, with applications ranging from carbon sequestration to biomedical research.

"In order to achieve these kinds of advances, I believe you have to know every detail of the chemistry involved in all those steps of the water-carbonate system." Saykally said. "It is a very intricate chemistry with profound practical implications."

The article, "Reversed interfacial fractionation of carbonate and bicarbonate evidenced by X-ray photoemission spectroscopy," is authored by Royce K. Lam, Jacob Smith, Anthony Rizzuto, Osman Karsiliolu, Hendrik Bluhm and Richard J. Saykally. The article will appear in The Journal of Chemical Physics March 7,2017 (DOI: 10.1063/1.4977046).



Towards mastering terahertz waves?

‎Thursday, ‎March ‎16, ‎2017, ‏‎4:58:06 AMGo to full article
Geneva, Switzerland (SPX) Mar 09, 2017 - The terahertz waves span frequency ranges between the infrared spectrum (used, for example, for night vision) and gigahertz waves (which find their application, among other, in Wi-Fi connections). Terahertz waves allow for the detection of materials that are undetectable at other frequencies. However, the use of these waves is severely limited by the absence of suitable devices and materials allowing to control them.

Researchers at the University of Geneva (UNIGE), working with the Federal Polytechnic School in Zurich (ETHZ) and two Spanish research teams, have developed a technique based on the use of graphene, which allows for the potentially very quick control of both the intensity and the polarization of terahertz light. This discovery, presented in Nature Communications, paves the way for a practical use of terahertz waves, in particular for imaging and telecommunications.

Graphene is a single atomic layer of carbon atoms that form a honeycomb network. It is found for example in graphite, the main constituent of pencil rods. In the Department of Quantum Matter Physics of UNIGE's Faculty of Sciences, Alexey Kuzmenko's team has been working on graphene's physical properties for several years.

"The interaction between terahertz radiation and the electrons in graphene is very strong and we have therefore come to the hypothesis that it should be possible to use graphene to manage terahertz waves," Kuzmenko explains. Working within the framework of the European project Graphene Flagship, scientists have made a graphene-based transistor adapted to terahertz waves.

"By combining the electrical field, which enables us to control the number of electrons in graphene and thus allows more or less light to pass through, with the magnetic field, which bends the electronic orbits, we have been able to control not just the intensity of the terahertz waves, but also their polarisation," comments Jean-Marie Poumirol, a member of the UNIGE research team and the first author of the study.

"It is rare that purely electrical effects are used to control magnetic phenomena." Scientists are now able to apply such control over a complete range of terahertz frequencies.

Practical applications of terahertz waves
Today, the UNIGE research team's focus is to move on from the prototype, and develop practical applications and new opportunities by controlling terahertz waves. Their objective is to make terahertz waves industrially competitive in the next few years. There are two main areas of application for this innovation, the first being communications.

"Using a film of graphene associated with terahertz waves, we should be potentially able to send fully-secured information at speeds of about 10 to 100 times faster than with Wi-Fi or radio waves, and do it securely over short distances," explains Poumirol. This would present a significant advantage in telecommunications.

The second sphere of application is that of imaging.

Being non-ionising, terahertz waves do not alter DNA and therefore are very useful in medicine, biology and pharmacy. Additionally, the control of the circular polarization of the terahertz waves will allow distinction between different symmetries (left-handed or right-handed) of biological molecules, which is a very important property in medical applications.

Furthermore, there is potentially a very powerful application of these waves in homeland security. Kuzmenko continues, "Terahertz waves are stopped by metals and are sensitive to plastics and organic matter. This could lead to more effective means of detecting firearms, drugs and explosives carried by individuals, and could perhaps serve as a tool to strengthen airport safety."



Quantum entanglement between a single photon and a trillion of atoms

‎Thursday, ‎March ‎16, ‎2017, ‏‎4:58:06 AMGo to full article
Warsaw, Poland (SPX) Mar 03, 2017 - New light is shed on the famous paradox of Einstein, Podolsky and Rosen after 80 years. A group of researchers from the Faculty of Physics at the University of Warsaw has created a multidimensional entangled state of a single photon and a trillion of hot rubidium atoms. This hybrid entanglement has been stored in the laboratory for several microseconds. The research has been published in the prestigious Optica journal.

In their famous Physical Review article published in 1935, A. Einstein, B. Podolsky and N. Rosen have considered a decay of a particle into two products. In their thought-experiment, two products of decay were projected in exactly opposite directions, or more scientifically speaking their momenta were anti-correlated.

It would not be a mystery within the framework of classical physics, however when applying the rules of the Quantum theory, the three researchers quickly arrived at a paradox. The Heisenberg uncertainty principle, dictating that position and momentum of a particle cannot be measured at the same time within arbitrary precision, lies at the center of this paradox.

In Einstein's thought-experiment one can measure momentum of one particle and immediately know momentum of the other without measurement, as it is exactly opposite. Then, one only needs to measure position of this second particle and the Heisenberg uncertainty principle seems to be violated, which seriously baffled the three physicists.

Only today we know that this experiment is not, in fact, a paradox. The mistake of Einstein and co-workers was to use one-particle uncertainty principle to a system of two particles. If we treat these two particles as described by a single quantum state, we learn that the original uncertainty principle ceases to apply, especially if these particles are entangled.

In the Quantum Memories Laboratory at the University of Warsaw, the group of three physicists was first to create such an entangled state consisting of a macroscopic object - a group of about one trillion atoms, and a single photon - a particle of light.

"Single photons, scattered during the interaction of a laser beam with atoms, are registered on a sensitive camera. A single registered photon carries information about the quantum state of the entire group of atoms. The atoms may be stored, and their state may be retrieved on demand." - says Michal Dabrowski, PhD student and co-author of the article.

The results of the experiment confirm that the atoms and the single photon are in a joint, entangled state. By measuring position and momentum of the photon, we gain all information about the state of atoms. To confirm this, polish scientists convert the atomic state into another photon, which again is measured using the state-of-the-art camera developed in the Quantum Memories Laboratory.

"We demonstrate the Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen apparent paradox in a very similar version as originally proposed in 1935, however we extend the experiment by adding storage of light within the large group of atoms.

"Atoms store the photon in a form of a wave made of atomic spins, containing one trillion atoms. Such a state is very robust against loss of a single atoms, as information is spread across so many particles." - says Michal Parniak, PhD student taking part in the study.

The experiment performed by the group from the University of Warsaw is unique in one other way as well. The quantum memory storing the entangled state, created thanks to "PRELUDIUM" grant from the Poland's National Science Centre and "Diamentowy Grant" from the Polish Ministry of Science and Higher Education, allows for storage of up to 12 photons at once.

This enhanced capacity is promising in terms of applications in quantum information processing.

"The multidimensional entanglement is stored in our device for several microseconds, which is roughly a thousand times longer than in any previous experiments, and at the same time long enough to perform subtle quantum operations on the atomic state during storage" - explains Dr. Wojciech Wasilewski, group leader of the Quantum Memories Laboratory team.

The entanglement in the real and momentum space, described in the Optica article, can be used jointly with other well-known degrees of freedom such as polarization, allowing generation of so-called hyper-entanglement.

Such elaborate ideas constitute new and original test of the fundamentals of quantum mechanics - a theory that is unceasingly mysterious yet brings immense technological progress.

Research paper: "Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen paradox in a hybrid bipartite system"



Exploring the mysteries of supercooled water

‎Thursday, ‎March ‎2, ‎2017, ‏‎10:48:07 AMGo to full article
Washington DC (SPX) Mar 01, 2017 - There are few things more central to life on earth than water. It dominates the physical landscape, covering much of the planet as oceans. It's also a major component of the human body, comprising, for example, more than 70% of the mass of a newborn baby.

Yet despite its omnipresence, water has many physical properties that are still not completely understood by the scientific community. One of the most puzzling relates to the activity of water molecules after they undergo a process called "supercooling."

Now, new findings from Roma Tre University, in Rome, Italy, on the interactions of water molecules under these exotic conditions appear this week in the Journal of Chemical Physics, from AIP Publishing.

"Normally, when liquid water is cooled below its freezing point, the water molecules arrange themselves in the ordered, crystal structure that is ice," said Paola Gallo, an associate professor of physics at Roma Tre University.

"With supercooling, special techniques are employed to cool water very quickly in such a way that it remains a liquid even though its temperature has been lowered well below its freezing point. There are a number of anomalies in water molecules' activity in these supercooled conditions that have not yet been fully explained."

Using a computer-based simulation, Gallo and her colleagues shed light on a thermodynamic property of water that helps explain how water molecules in a supercooled state interact with each other and with the molecules of other materials.

"While supercooling is an important phenomenon to study, the challenge is that it's very difficult to supercool water in a lab," said Gallo.

In the past, scientists have attempted to address this issue by supercooling water "in confinement," focusing efforts on studying water confined in manufactured pores having a radius of a few namometers (i.e. one or two orders of magnitude larger than the diameter of the molecule of water). This, however, has raised a question of whether the properties of this confined water differ from that of bulk water, where water molecules interact freely in larger volumes.

"This question has been a point of ongoing interest in our work," said Gallo. "In previous studies, we have shown that interactions with other chemicals affect only those water molecules that are very physically close to the molecules of another chemical, such as the molecules that make up the wall of the pore. The water molecules at the center of the pore, the free water, retain many of the properties of bulk water."

"With this study, we discovered that there are further parallels," Gallo also said. "Specifically, our simulation shows that a property of the structure of the network of water molecules, which can be measured and verified experimentally, can be used to determine the changes in water's entropy, the thermodynamic quantity that measures disorder in a system [...] that may offer insights on some of the more unusual thermodynamic facets of water's activity in this supercooled state."

These findings create a framework for other experimental physicists to recreate the simulation with physical samples in a lab. For Gallo and her colleagues, their work offers a foundation for further investigation of the relationships between the thermodynamic characteristics of confined and bulk water.

"Water is the most important liquid that we have on earth," explained Gallo. "Any insights that researchers can uncover about its properties can advance not only our collective understanding of physics, but also of biology and chemistry, and open up new possibilities for integrating this knowledge into different technological applications."

The article, "Structural properties and fragile to strong transition in confined water," is authored by Margherita De Marzio, Gaia Camisasca, Maria Martin Conde, Mauro Rovere and Paola Gallo. The article will appear in The Journal of Chemical Physics Feb. 28, 2017 [DOI:10.1063/1.4975624].



Existence of a new quasiparticle demonstrated

‎Thursday, ‎March ‎2, ‎2017, ‏‎10:48:07 AMGo to full article
Vienna, Austria (SPX) Mar 01, 2017 - How do molecules rotate in a solvent? Answering this question is a complicated task since the molecular rotation is perturbed by a very large number of surrounding atoms. For a long time, large-scale computer simulations have been the main approach to model molecule-solvent interactions. However, they are extremely time consuming and sometimes completely infeasible.

Now, Mikhail Lemeshko from the Institute of Science and Technology Austria (IST Austria) has proven that angulons - a certain type of quasiparticle he proposed two years ago - do in fact form when a molecule is immersed in superfluid helium. This offers a quick and simple description for rotation of molecules in solvents.

In physics, the concept of quasiparticles is used as a technique to simplify the description of many-particle systems. Namely, instead of modeling strong interactions between trillions of individual particles, one identifies building blocks of the system that are interacting with one another only weakly.

These building blocks are called quasiparticles and might consist of groups of particles. For example, to describe air bubbles rising up in water from first principles, one would need to solve an enormous set of equations describing the position and momentum of each water molecule.

On the other hand, one could notice that the bubbles themselves can be treated as individual particles - or quasiparticles - which drastically simplifies the description of the system. As another example, consider a running horse engulfed in a cloud of dust.

One can think of it as a quasiparticle consisting of the horse itself and the dust cloud moving along with it. Understanding what is going on in terms of such a 'quasi-horse' is substantially easier compared to treating every dust grain, as well as the horse, separately in a complicated simulation.

The latter example is similar to what Mikhail Lemeshko did in his study. Instead of treating the rotating molecule and all the atoms of the surrounding material separately, he used angulons to look at the problem from a different perspective. Angulon quasiparticles, which form when a rotating object interacts with a surrounding environment, were predicted theoretically two years ago by Lemeshko and Schmidt.

Until now, however, they were considered only theoretically and their actual existence was still to be demonstrated. Lemeshko's study, which was published this week in Physical Review Letters, is based on experimental data collected by several laboratories over the last two decades.

All the experiments had one thing in common: molecules of different types were observed to rotate inside tiny droplets of superfluid helium. As Lemeshko has shown, independent of which molecule was studied, be it heavy or light species, methane, water, carbon dioxide or ammonia, the outcome of the angulon theory was always in good agreement with the measurements. This indicates that the angulon quasiparticles indeed form inside helium droplets.

"In our first study we proposed angulons as a possibility for describing rotation of molecules in solvents. Now we have provided strong evidence that angulons actually exist," says Lemeshko. This substantially simplifies existing many-particle theories and could lead to applications in molecular physics, theoretical chemistry, and even biology.

A first application of the angulon theory was already found by Enderalp Yakaboylu, a postdoc in Lemeshko's group. The authors predicted that even a medium that is non-polarizable can shield an immersed impurity from an external electromagnetic field. This effect, which seems to contradict intuition, is called "anomalous screening" and is caused by an exchange of angular momentum on quantum level.

The discovery, which the authors also publish in Physical Review Letters, was made possible by describing the charged particle and the interacting surroundings as angulon quasiparticle. Future measurements will show if the prediction can be proven experimentally.

Research paper



Exploring Colliding Black Holes and Neutron Stars

‎Thursday, ‎March ‎2, ‎2017, ‏‎10:48:07 AMGo to full article
Hannover, Germany (SPX) Mar 01, 2017 - In January 2017 - just one year after the dawn of gravitational-wave astronomy - the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics (Albert Einstein Institute, AEI) has expanded through the addition of a young research team.

Led by Dr. Frank Ohme, the Max Planck Independent Research Group "Binary Merger Observations and Numerical Relativity" will study collisions of black holes and neutron stars through sophisticated computer simulations, exploring some the fundamental questions in the new field of gravitational-wave astronomy over the next five years.

"When the LIGO instruments detected gravitational waves for the first time on September 14, 2015, we quickly knew that black holes were the source of the signal," says Dr. Frank Ohme, leader of the Max Planck Independent Research Group.

"This was only possible because we knew the shape of such signals from theoretical predictions - solutions of Einstein's equations." These equations determine how black holes warp the spacetime around them and thus emit gravitational waves that can be observed with detectors such as LIGO, Virgo, and GEO600.

Simulating Gravitational Waves in the "Holodeck"
However, the equations are so complicated that the most violent (and most interesting) part of the collision can only be understood by large-scale simulations on supercomputers. To extract every quantum of scientific information from the faint signals, a handful of groups around the world are performing increasingly complex numerical simulations.

The newly established Max Planck Independent Research Group at the AEI is one of them. Its researchers operate the computer cluster "Holodeck" for their compute-intensive simulations. "Holodeck" consists of 680 CPU cores connected with a fast InfiniBand network.

"Our goal is to develop models to improve our understanding of black-hole merger dynamics and allow us to observe fascinating phenomena such as precessing binaries or black-hole 'kicks.'" explains Ohme.

In addition to more gravitational waves from colliding black hole binaries, merging double neutron stars are next on the list of most anticipated future detections. Neutron stars are compact remnants from supernova explosion that contain more mass than our Sun in a sphere of only 20 kilometers in diameter.

Ohme's Max Planck Research Group will harness numerical simulations to shed light on the behaviour of extremely dense neutron-star matter. "Nobody knows exactly how matter behaves under the extreme conditions inside neutron stars. By combining our simulations with future observations of gravitational waves from colliding neutron stars we will get entirely new insights into these fascinating objects," says Ohme.

At the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics in Hannover, Ohme's group closely collaborates with the division "Observational Relativity and Cosmology" led by Prof. Bruce Allen, the institute's Managing Director. "I am very happy that Frank Ohme has chosen our institute in Hannover as host institution for his Max Planck Independent Research Group," says Allen. "This strengthens and broadens our research and positions us even better in the new era of gravitational-wave astronomy."

Frank Ohme (born 1983) studied physics at the Friedrich-Schiller University in Jena, Germany, and researched for his PhD between 2009 and 2012 at the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics (Albert Einstein Institute, AEI) in Potsdam. His dissertation focused on the interface of numerical-relativity simulations and data analysis in gravitational-wave research.

After a short stint as post-doctoral researcher at the AEI in Hannover, he was a researcher at the School of Physics and Astronomy at Cardiff University until the end of 2016. Since the start of 2017 he has been leading the Max Planck Independent Research Group "Binary Merger Observations and Numerical Relativity" at the AEI in Hannover.



Stars Regularly Ripped Apart by Black Holes

‎Thursday, ‎March ‎2, ‎2017, ‏‎10:48:07 AMGo to full article
Sheffield UK (SPX) Feb 27, 2017 - Astronomers based at the University of Sheffield have found evidence that stars are ripped apart by supermassive black holes 100 times more often than previously thought.

Until now, such stellar cannibalism - known as tidal disruption events, or TDEs - had only been found in surveys which observed many thousands of galaxies, leading astronomers to believe they were exceptionally rare: only one event every 10,000 to 100,000 years per galaxy.

However, the pioneering study conducted by leading scientists from the University's Department of Physics and Astronomy recorded a star being destroyed by a supermassive black hole in a survey of just 15 galaxies - an extremely small sample size by astronomy standards.

"Each of these 15 galaxies is undergoing a 'cosmic collision' with a neighbouring galaxy," said Dr. James Mullaney, Lecturer in Astronomy and co-author of the study.

"Our surprising findings show that the rate of TDEs dramatically increases when galaxies collide. This is likely due to the fact that the collisions lead to large numbers of stars being formed close to the central supermassive black holes in the two galaxies as they merge together."

The supermassive black holes that lurk in the hearts of all large galaxies can be elusive. This is because they don't shine in a conventional sense due to their gravity being so strong that nothing can escape, not even light itself.

However, the release of energy as stars are ripped apart when they move close to the black holes leads to dramatic flares. The galaxies' nuclei can then appear as bright as all the billions of stars in a typical galaxy combined. In this way, TDEs can be used to locate otherwise dim black holes and study their strong gravity and how they accrete matter.

"Our team first observed the 15 colliding galaxies in the sample in 2005, during a previous project," said Rob Spence, University of Sheffield PhD student and co-author of the study.

"However, when we observed the sample again in 2015, we noticed that one galaxy - F01004-2237 - appeared strikingly different. This led us to look at data from the Catalina Sky Survey, which monitors the brightness of objects in the sky over time. We found that in 2010, the brightness of F01004-2237 flared dramatically."

The particular combination of variability and post-flare spectrum observed in F01004-2237 - which is 1.7 billion light-years from Earth - was unlike any known supernova or active galactic nucleus, but characteristic of TDEs.

Clive Tadhunter, Professor of Astrophysics and leader of the study, said: "Based on our results for F01004-2237, we expect that TDE events will become common in our own Milky Way galaxy when it eventually merges with the neighbouring Andromeda galaxy in about 5 billion years.

"Looking towards the centre of the Milky Way at the time of the merger we'd see a flare approximately every 10 to 100 years. The flares would be visible to the naked eye and appear much brighter than any other star or planet in the night sky."

Research Report: "A Tidal Disruption Event in the Nearby Ultra-Luminous Infrared Galaxy F01004-2237," James Mullaney, Rob Spence and Clive Tadhunter, 2017 Feb. 27, Nature Astronomy



First trace of differences between matter and 'ordinary' antimatter

‎Thursday, ‎March ‎2, ‎2017, ‏‎10:48:07 AMGo to full article
Cracow, Poland (SPX) Feb 24, 2017 - The world around us is mainly constructed of baryons, particles composed of three quarks. Why are there no antibaryons, since just after the Big Bang, matter and antimatter came into being in exactly the same amounts? A lot points to the fact that after many decades of research, physicists are closer to the answer to this question. In the Large Hadron Collider beauty (LHCb) experiment the first trace of the differences between baryons and antibaryons has just been encountered.

In data collected during the first phase of operation of the Large Hadron Collider the LHCb collaboration team has discovered an interesting asymmetry. The most recent analysis of decays of the beauty baryon Lambda b, a particle six times more massive than a proton, suggests that it decays a little differently than its antimatter counterpart. If this result is confirmed, it will be possible to talk about having observed the first difference between antibaryons and baryons, i.e. the family of particles which to a greater degree make up our everyday world.

Certain differences between matter and antimatter have already been observed previously. In 1964, it was noticed that kaons - that is, K mesons, particles made up of a strange quark and an up or down antiquark - sometimes decay somewhat differently than antikaons (the Nobel Prize was awarded for this discovery in 1980). In turn, in recent years there have been reports of the discovery of slightly clearer differences in the decays of antimesons and B mesons of various types (the B meson consists of a beauty quark and an up, down, strange or charm quark).

Mesons are quark-antiquark pairs with short lifetimes, appearing today in the Universe in small quantities, and on Earth, produced mainly in high-energy collisions in particle accelerators. Meanwhile the matter of which the macroscopic structures of our world are composed is made up of leptons (these include electrons) and to a greater degree baryons - clusters of three quarks (the proton is a baryon containing two up quarks and one down, as is the neutron which is composed of two down quarks and one up).

The most recent analysis of data from the LHCb collaboration, published in the journal Nature Physics and concerning the decays of Lambda b particles composed of down, up and beauty quarks, is thus the first indication of the possible differences between baryonic matter and its antimatter reflection.

"We cannot yet talk about a discovery. Nevertheless, we are dealing with something that seems to be an increasingly promising observational clue, taken from the data from the first stage of operation of the LHC accelerator.

"We will, however, have to wait for the final confirmation - or denial... - of the current result another dozen or so months until the official end of the analysis of data from the second run," stresses Prof. Marcin Kucharczyk from the Institute of Nuclear Physics of the Polish Academy of Sciences (IFJ PAN) in Cracow, one of the participants of the LHCb collaboration.

Modern particle physics and cosmological models suggest that antimatter came into being in exactly the same amounts as matter. This fact is linked with spectacular consequences: When a particle encounters its antiparticle, there is a great likelihood of mutual annihilation, i.e. a process in which both particles completely transform into energy. This mechanism is extremely efficient. The amount of energy generated by the annihilation of a kilogram of antimatter with a good approximation corresponds to the amount of energy that would be released as a result of burning the annual petrol production of all the refineries in Poland.

If in the contemporary Universe there were planets, stars or galaxies made of antimatter, they should emit large amounts of radiation with very characteristic energies. This would arise due to the inevitable interactions with matter of the opposite type, leading to annihilation.

Meanwhile, astronomers only observe annihilation radiation here and there and in residual amounts, well explained by physical phenomena which are also today responsible for the formation of small amounts of antimatter. Thus the fundamentally important question arises: since originally matter and antimatter filled the Universe in exactly equal amounts, why have they not completely disappeared? Why has a small portion of matter managed to survive the era of annihilation?

In the living world great extinctions leading to the extinction of species last for tens and hundreds of thousands of years. Meanwhile, everything points to the fact that antimatter annihilated by matter disappeared from our universe fractions of a second after the Big Bang.

For every few billion particles of matter just one particle survived the giant cataclysm. If a similar scale of destruction touched the human species, within seconds the Earth's population would be down to one live individual. The question of why only he survived would certainly be most apt.

"In modern physics, it is assumed that the existence of matter should be due to some minor differences between the properties of particles and antiparticles. In equations, to convert a particle into an antiparticle, you have to change the sign of the corresponding quantum characteristics - in the case of electrons or the quarks making up protons or neutrons it is the electrical charge - and change the character of the spatial coordinates, i.e. form a mirror image. The combination of these two operations is called CP symmetry, that is, charge and parity symmetry. Thus, attempts to detect differences between matter and antimatter boil down to tracking events in which CP symmetry is not preserved," explains Prof. Kucharczyk.

Looking for signs of CP violation, the LHCb collaboration researchers chose from a huge number of collisions and the products of their decays approx. 6,000 cases in which Lambda b particles decayed to a proton and three pi mesons (pions), and approx.

1,000 cases with a decay path leading to a proton, a pion and two kaons. Detailed analysis revealed that the angles at which the products of decays diverge are sometimes somewhat different for Lambda b baryons than for their antimatter partners.

The result is confirmed with a statistical significance of 3.3 standard deviations (sigma), which corresponds to a probability of approx. 99% that it is not a random fluctuation. In particle physics it is assumed, however, that one can talk of a discovery only with a statistical significance of over 5 sigma, that is, when the probability of a random fluctuation is less than one to more than three million.

Research paper



Changes of supermassive black hole in the center of NGC 2617 galaxy

‎Thursday, ‎March ‎2, ‎2017, ‏‎10:48:07 AMGo to full article
Moscow, Russia (SPX) Feb 22, 2017 - Members of the Sternberg Astronomical Institute of the Lomonosov Moscow State University have been studying changes in the appearance of emission from around the supermassive black hole in the centre of a galaxy known to astronomers as NGC 2617. The centre of this galaxy, underwent dramatic changes in its appearance several years ago: it became much brighter and things that had not been seen before were seen.

This sort of dramatic change can give us valuable information for understanding what the surroundings of a giant black hole are like and what is going on near the black hole. The results of these investigations have been published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, one of the world's top-rated astronomical journals.

Most galaxies such as our own have a giant black hole in their central nuclei. These monstrous holes have masses ranging from a million to a billion times the mass of our sun. The black hole in our galaxy is inactive, but in some galaxies, the black hole is swallowing gas that is spiraling into it and emitting enormous amounts of radiation.

These galaxies are called "active galactic nuclei" or AGNs for short. The energy output from around the black holes of these AGNs can exceed that of the hundreds of billions of stars in the rest of the galaxy. Just how these galaxies get their supermassive black holes is a major mystery.

The nuclei of galaxies where the supermassive black holes are vigorously swallowing gas are classified into two types: those where we get a direct view of the matter spiraling into the black hole at a speed that is thousands of times faster than the speed of sound, and those where the inner regions are obscured by dust and we only see more slowly moving gas much further from the black hole.

For decades astronomers have wondered why we see the innermost regions of some active galactic nuclei but not others. A popular explanation of the two types of active galactic nuclei is that they are really the same but they appear to be different to us because we are viewing them from different angles. If they are face-on we can see the hot gas spiraling into the black hole directly. If the active galactic nucleus is tilted, then dust around the nucleus blocks our view and we can only see the more slowly moving gas a light year or more away.

The leader of the international research team involved in the investigation, Viktor Oknyansky, a Senior Researcher at the Sternberg Astronomical Institute of the Lomonosov Moscow State University says: "Cases of object transition from one type to the other turn out to be a definite problem for this orientation model. In 1984 we found a change in the appearance of another active galactic nucleus known as NGC 4151. It was one of few known cases of this kind in the past. We now know of several dozen active galactic nuclei that have changed their type. In our recent study we have focused on one of the best cases - NGC 2617."

Oknyansky continues: "In 2013 a team of researchers in the US found that NGC 2617 had changed being an active galaxy where the inner regions were hidden to one where the inner regions were now exposed. We didn't not know how long it would remain in this new unveiled state. It could last for only a short period of time or, on the other hand, for dozens of years. The title of the paper by the US astronomers was "The man behind the curtain..."

When we began our study we didn't know how long the curtain would remain open, but we've titled our paper "The curtain remains open...", because we are continuing to see into the inner regions of NGC 2617.

According to the authors there is no accepted explanation so far of what could cause us to start seeing down to the inner regions of an active galactic nucleus when it was previously hidden.

Viktor Oknyansky comments: "It's clear that this phenomenon isn't very rare, on the contrary, we think it's quite typical. We consider various possible explanations. One is that perhaps a star has come too close to the black hole and has been torn apart. However, the disruption of a star by a black hole is very rare and we don't think that such events can explain the observed frequency of type changes of active galactic nuclei.

Instead we favour a model where the black hole has started swallowing gas more rapidly. As the material spirals in towards the black holes it emits strong radiation. We speculate that this intense radiation destroys some of the dust surrounding the nucleus and permits us to see the inner regions."

Oknyansky continues: "Study of these rapid changes of type is very important for understanding what is going on around supermassive black holes that are rapidly swallowing gas. So, what we have concentrated on is getting observations of the various types of radiation emitted by NGC 2617. This has involved a large-scale effort."

The observational data for the project were obtained using the MASTER Global Robotic Network operated by Professor Vladimir Lipunov and his team, the new 2.5-m telescope located near Kislovodsk, a 2-m telescope of the observatory in Azerbajan, the Swift X-ray satellite, and some other telescopes. This research has been conducted in cooperation with colleagues from Azerbaijan, the USA, Finland, Chili, Israel and the South Africa.

Research paper



Why it will take supercomputers, AI to solve time travel conundrum

‎Thursday, ‎March ‎2, ‎2017, ‏‎10:48:07 AMGo to full article
Moscow (Sputnik) Feb 22, 2017 - In an interview with Sputnik Mundo, Russian cosmologist Andrei Kananin said that time travel is possible and people may be able to visit the future in a time machine, but there is one serious catch.

According to Kananin, the time machine that will allow people to travel into the future could be created as early as this generation. Such a journey will be available to even technologically "ordinary" people with no special training.

It has been confirmed experimentally that time travel into the future is possible. In theory, the principle behind it is quite simple: one must create a machine that moves at a near-light speed.

If a person is to 'fly' in such a machine then the time that has passed for them would be much less than it would be for Earth, hence when one comes out of such a machine they will be present in the future, the expert explains.

"It is important to be very accurate regarding how long in time the machine will be moving at that speed. That time will determine how far into the future one will actually go," Kananin told Sputnik Mundo.

In fact, it means that the time machine is actually a space ship, however, such a flight is a one way trip.

"But we want to come back! And this is a big problem. The fact is that modern science believes that a return to the past is impossible by fact. Violation of chronology can lead to fatal changes in the history of mankind or lead to a real time paradox," the cosmologist said.

Then there is also the famous "grandfather paradox". In addition to that, if one is present in the past, then he has been there before and hence, will always be a part of that past that led one there in the first place.

Most experts also believe that in nature, there is a mechanism acting as a self-chronological system of the universe which keeps it safe from the occurring paradoxes.

It could mean that if a person goes back into the past with a criminal intent to kill his grandfather, the person will definitely be stopped by something.

"The power of the human mind over the laws of nature, time travel, victory over death and disease, development of the universe, solving the mystery of human consciousness and other similar problems, which modern cosmology is involved in today, is a real breakthrough. It is a dream and proof of the triumph of the mind over soulless matter. It is a triumph of the inexhaustible thirst for knowledge of the unknown," Kananin said.

Despite the fact that at present devices for time travel have not yet been built, there are real sketches of workable time machines.

In principal all these options of time machines are possible physically and are technologically understandable to modern engineers. Hence, at an appropriate moment of scientific development they can be constructed.

According to the cosmologist, even in 1,000 years, humans are unlikely to construct a workable time machine. However, a supercomputer and especially artificial intelligence is going to be possible in the foreseeable future.

"It is a fact that just 30 years ago no one could have believed that a computer could beat a world-class chess player," the cosmologist concluded.

Source: Sputnik News



Molecular phenomenon discovered by advanced NMR facility

‎Thursday, ‎March ‎2, ‎2017, ‏‎10:48:07 AMGo to full article
Warwick, UK (SPX) Feb 21, 2017 - Cutting edge technology has shown a molecule self-assembling into different forms when passing between solution state to solid state, and back again - a curious phenomenon in science - says research by the University of Warwick.

Professor Steven P. Brown from the Department of Physics, with colleagues in the Department of Chemistry, have identified that the supramolecular structure of a guanosine derivative can be different upon passing from the solid state into the solution state and vice versa.

This defies chemical precedent, as self-assembled structures driven by the formation of specific intermolecular hydrogen bonds in solution would be expected to remain the same in the solid state.

The phenomenon was revealed by the state-of-the-art nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) facility at Warwick.

In solution state, the guanosine derivative analysed by the researchers is constituted by quartet-like molecular structure - and scientific intuition would suggests that this should remain like this in the solid state.

However, upon changing into the solid state, the supramolecular assembly surprisingly contains both quartet and ribbon structures.

Professor Brown and his colleagues made this discovery using advanced NMR spectroscopy technology, which measures the magnetic response of nuclei at the centre of atoms.

The researchers identified the distinct supramolecular states by spotting varying peaks in spectra that identify close approach of these magnetic nuclei in atoms.

Professor Brown comments:

"Access to state-of-the-art NMR infrastructure has enabled us to see with chemical precision how the guanosine-based molecules self-assemble, thus revealing the surprising phenomenon of a change in self-assembly upon going changing from solution to solid and from solid to solution."

The research, 'Co-existence of Distinct Supramolecular Assemblies in Solution and in the Solid State', is published in Chemistry: A European Journal - and is designated a Very Important Paper.



Black hole is producing its own fuel for star-making

‎Thursday, ‎March ‎2, ‎2017, ‏‎10:48:07 AMGo to full article
Boston MA (SPX) Feb 17, 2017 - The Phoenix cluster is an enormous accumulation of about 1,000 galaxies, located 5.7 billion light years from Earth. At its center lies a massive galaxy, which appears to be spitting out stars at a rate of about 1,000 per year. Most other galaxies in the universe are far less productive, squeaking out just a few stars each year, and scientists have wondered what has fueled the Phoenix cluster's extreme stellar output.

Now scientists from MIT, the University of Cambridge, and elsewhere may have an answer. In a paper published this week in the Astrophysical Journal, the team reports observing jets of hot, 10-million-degree gas blasting out from the central galaxy's black hole and blowing large bubbles out into the surrounding plasma.

These jets normally act to quench star formation by blowing away cold gas - the main fuel that a galaxy consumes to generate stars. However, the researchers found that the hot jets and bubbles emanating from the center of the Phoenix cluster may also have the opposite effect of producing cold gas, that in turn rains back onto the galaxy, fueling further starbursts. This suggests that the black hole has found a way to recycle some of its hot gas as cold, star-making fuel.

"We have thought the role of black hole jets and bubbles was to regulate star formation and to keep cooling from happening," says Michael McDonald, assistant professor of physics in MIT's Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research. "We kind of thought they were one-trick ponies, but now we see they can actually help cooling, and it's not such a cut-and-dried picture."

The new findings help to explain the Phoenix cluster's exceptional star-producing power. They may also provide new insight into how supermassive black holes and their host galaxies mutually grow and evolve.

McDonald's co-authors include lead author Helen Russell, an astronomer at Cambridge University; and others from the University of Waterloo, the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, the University of Illinois, and elsewhere.

Hot jets, cold filaments
The team analyzed observations of the Phoenix cluster gathered by the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA), a collection of 66 large radio telescopes spread over the desert of northern Chile. In 2015, the group obtained permission to direct the telescopes at the Phoenix cluster to measure its radio emissions and to detect and map signs of cold gas.

The researchers looked through the data for signals of carbon monoxide, a gas that is present wherever there is cold hydrogen gas. They then converted the carbon monoxide emissions to hydrogen gas, to generate a map of cold gas near the center of the Phoenix cluster. The resulting picture was a puzzling surprise.

"You would expect to see a knot of cold gas at the center, where star formation happens," McDonald says. "But we saw these giant filaments of cold gas that extend 20,000 light years from the central black hole, beyond the central galaxy itself. It's kind of beautiful to see."

The team had previously used NASA's Chandra X-Ray Observatory to map the cluster's hot gas. These observations produced a picture in which powerful jets flew out from the black hole at close to the speed of light. Further out, the researchers saw that the jets inflated giant bubbles in the hot gas.

When the team superimposed its picture of the Phoenix cluster's cold gas onto the map of hot gas, they found a "perfect spatial correspondence": The long filaments of frigid, 10-kelvins gas appeared to be draped over the bubbles of hot gas.

"This may be the best picture we have of black holes influencing the cold gas," McDonald says.

Feeding the black hole
What the researchers believe to be happening is that, as jet inflate bubbles of hot, 10-million-degree gas near the black hole, they drag behind them a wake of slightly cooler, 1-million-degree gas.

The bubbles eventually detach from the jets and float further out into the galaxy cluster, where each bubble's trail of gas cools, forming long filaments of extremely cold gas that condense and rain back onto the black hole as fuel for star formation.

"It's a very new idea that the bubbles and jets can actually influence the distribution of cold gas in any way," McDonald says.

Scientists have estimated that there is enough cold gas near the center of the Phoenix cluster to keep producing stars at a high rate for another 30 to 40 million years. Now that the researchers have identified a new feedback mechanism that may supply the black hole with even more cold gas, the cluster's stellar output may continue for much longer.

"As long as there's cold gas feeding it, the black hole will keep burping out these jets," McDonald says. "But now we've found that these jets are making more food, or cold gas. So you're in this cycle that, in theory, could go on for a very long time."

He suspects the reason the black hole is able to generate fuel for itself might have something to do with its size. If the black hole is relatively small, it may produce jets that are too weak to completely blast cold gas away from the cluster.

"Right now [the black hole] may be pretty small, and it'd be like putting a civilian in the ring with Mike Tyson," McDonald says. "It's just not up to the task of blowing this cold gas far enough away that it would never come back."

The team is hoping to determine the mass of the black hole, as well as identify other, similarly extreme starmakers in the universe.

Research paper: ALMA observations of massive molecular gas filaments encasing radio bubbles in the Phoenix Cluster



Black-hole-powered jets forge fuel for star formation

‎Thursday, ‎March ‎2, ‎2017, ‏‎10:48:07 AMGo to full article
Charlottesville VA (SPX) Feb 17, 2017 - Astronomers using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) have discovered a surprising connection between a supermassive black hole and the galaxy where it resides.

Powerful radio jets from the black hole - which normally suppress star formation - are stimulating the production of cold gas in the galaxy's extended halo of hot gas. This newly identified supply of cold, dense gas could eventually fuel future star birth as well as feed the black hole itself.

The researchers used ALMA to study a galaxy at the heart of the Phoenix Cluster, an uncommonly crowded collection of galaxies about 5.7 billion light-years from Earth.

The central galaxy in this cluster harbors a supermassive black hole that is in the process of devouring star-forming gas, which fuels a pair of powerful jets that erupt from the black hole in opposite directions into intergalactic space. Astronomers refer to this type of black-hole powered system as an active galactic nucleus (AGN).

Earlier research with NASA's Chandra X-ray observatory revealed that the jets from this AGN are carving out a pair of giant "radio bubbles," huge cavities in the hot, diffuse plasma that surrounds the galaxy.

These expanding bubbles should create conditions that are too inhospitable for the surrounding hot gas to cool and condense, which are essential steps for future star formation.

The latest ALMA observations, however, reveal long filaments of cold molecular gas condensing around the outer edges of the radio bubbles. These filaments extend up to 82,000 light-years from either side of the AGN. They collectively contain enough material to make about 10 billion suns.

"With ALMA we can see that there's a direct link between these radio bubbles inflated by the supermassive black hole and the future fuel for galaxy growth," said Helen Russell, an astronomer with the University of Cambridge, UK, and lead author on a paper appearing in the Astrophysical Journal. "This gives us new insights into how a black hole can regulate future star birth and how a galaxy can acquire additional material to fuel an active black hole."

The AGN and Galaxy Growth Connection
The new ALMA observations reveal previously unknown connections between an AGN and the abundance of cold molecular gas that fuels star birth.

"To produce powerful jets, black holes must feed on the same material that the galaxy uses to make new stars," said Michael McDonald, an astrophysicist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge and coauthor on the paper. "This material powers the jets that disrupt the region and quenches star formation. This illustrates how black holes can slow the growth of their host galaxies."

Without a significant source of heat, the most massive galaxies in the universe would be forming stars at extreme rates that far exceed observations. Astronomers believe that the heat, in the form of radiation and jets from an actively feeding supermassive black hole, prevents overcooling of the cluster's hot gas atmosphere, suppressing star formation.

This story, however, now appears more complex. In the Phoenix Cluster, Russell and her team found an additional process that ties the galaxy and its black hole together. The radio jets that heat the core of the cluster's hot atmosphere also appear to stimulate the production of the cold gas required to sustain the AGN.

"That's what makes this result so surprising," said Brian McNamara, an astronomer at the University of Waterloo, Ontario, and co-author on the paper. "This supermassive black hole is regulating the growth of the galaxy by blowing bubbles and heating the gases around it. Remarkably, it also is cooling enough gas to feed itself."

This result helps astronomers understand the workings of the cosmic "thermostat" that controls the launching of radio jets from the supermassive black hole.

"This could also explain how the most massive black holes were able to both suppress run-away starbursts and regulate the growth of their host galaxies over the past six billion years or so of cosmic history," noted Russell.



Measuring time without a clock

‎Sunday, ‎February ‎12, ‎2017, ‏‎5:17:50 AMGo to full article
Lausanne, Switzerland (SPX) Feb 10, 2017 - EPFL scientists have been able to measure the ultrashort time delay in electron photoemission without using a clock. The discovery has important implications for fundamental research and cutting-edge technology. When light shines on certain materials, it causes them to emit electrons. This is called "photoemission" and it was discovered by Albert Einstein in 1905, winning him the Nobel Prize.

But only in the last few years, with advancements in laser technology, have scientists been able to approach the incredibly short timescales of photoemission. Researchers at EPFL have now determined a delay of one billionth of one billionth of a second in photoemission by measuring the spin of photoemitted electrons without the need of ultrashort laser pulses. The discovery is published in Physical Review Letters.

Photoemission has proven to be an important phenomenon, forming a platform for cutting-edge spectroscopy techniques that allow scientists to study the properties of electrons in a solid. One such property is spin, an intrinsic quantum property of particles that makes them look like as if they were rotating around their axis. The degree to which this axis is aligned towards a particular direction is referred to as spin polarization, which is what gives some materials, like iron, magnetic properties.

Although there has been great progress in using photoemission and spin polarization of photo-emitted electrons, the time scale in which this entire process takes places have not been explored in great detail.

The common assumption is that, once light reaches the material, electrons are instantaneously excited and emitted. But more recent studies using advanced laser technology have challenged this, showing that there is actually a time delay on the scale of attoseconds.

Time without a clock
The lab of Hugo Dil at EPFL, with colleagues in Germany, showed that during photoemission, the spin polarization of emitted electrons can be related to the attosecond time delays of photoemission. More importantly, they have shown this without the need for any experimental time resolution or measurement - essentially, without the need for a clock. To do this, the scientists used a type of photoemission spectroscopy (SARPES) to measure the spin of electrons photo-emitted from a crystal of copper.

"With lasers you can directly measure the time delay between different processes, but it is difficult to determine when a process starts - time zero," says Mauro Fanciulli, a PhD student of Dil's group and first author on the paper. "But in our experiment we measure time indirectly, so we don't have that problem - we could access one of the shortest timescales ever measured. The two techniques [spin and lasers], are complementary, and together they can yield a whole new realm of information."

The information about the timescale of photoemission is included in the wavefunction of the emitted electrons. This is a quantum description of the probability of where any given electron can be found at any given time. By using SAPRES, the scientists were able to measure the spin of the electrons, which in turn allowed them to access their wavefunction properties.

"The work is a proof of principle that can trigger further fundamental and applied research," says Hugo Dil. "It deals with the fundamental nature of time itself and will help understand the details of the photoemission process, but it can also be used in photoemission spectroscopy on materials of interest." Some of these materials include graphene and high-temperature superconductors, which Dil and his colleagues will be studying next.

Mauro Fanciulli, Henrieta Volfova, Stefan Muff, Jurgen Braun, Hubert Ebert, Jan Minar, Ulrich Heinzmann, J. Hugo Dil. Spin polarization and attosecond time delay in photoemission from spin degenerate states of solids. Physical Review Letters 08 February 2017. DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.118.067402



Stars align in test supporting 'spooky action at a distance'

‎Sunday, ‎February ‎12, ‎2017, ‏‎5:17:50 AMGo to full article
Boston MA (SPX) Feb 08, 2017 - Quantum entanglement may appear to be closer to science fiction than anything in our physical reality. But according to the laws of quantum mechanics - a branch of physics that describes the world at the scale of atoms and subatomic particles - quantum entanglement, which Einstein once skeptically viewed as "spooky action at a distance," is, in fact, real.

Imagine two specks of dust at opposite ends of the universe, separated by several billion light years. Quantum theory predicts that, regardless of the vast distance separating them, these two particles can be entangled. That is, any measurement made on one will instantaneously convey information about the outcome of a future measurement on its partner. In that case, the outcomes of measurements on each member of the pair can become highly correlated.

If, instead, the universe behaves as Einstein imagined it should - with particles having their own, definite properties prior to measurement, and with local causes only capable of yielding local effects - then there should be an upper limit to the degree to which measurements on each member of the pair of particles could be correlated. Physicist John Bell quantified that upper limit, now known as "Bell's inequality," more than 50 years ago.

In numerous previous experiments, physicists have observed correlations between particles in excess of the limit set by Bell's inequality, which suggests that they are indeed entangled, just as predicted by quantum theory. But each such test has been subject to various "loopholes," scenarios that might account for the observed correlations even if the world were not governed by quantum mechanics.

Now, physicists from MIT, the University of Vienna, and elsewhere have addressed a loophole in tests of Bell's inequality, known as the freedom-of-choice loophole, and have presented a strong demonstration of quantum entanglement even when the vulnerability to this loophole is significantly restricted.

"The real estate left over for the skeptics of quantum mechanics has shrunk considerably," says David Kaiser, the Germeshausen Professor of the History of Science and professor of physics at MIT. "We haven't gotten rid of it, but we've shrunk it down by 16 orders of magnitude."

A research team including Kaiser; Alan Guth, the Victor F. Weisskopf Professor of Physics at MIT; Andrew Friedman, an MIT research associate; and colleagues from the University of Vienna and elsewhere has published its results in the journal Physical Review Letters.

Closing the door on quantum alternatives
The freedom-of-choice loophole refers to the idea that experimenters have total freedom in choosing their experimental setup, from the types of particles to entangle, to the measurements they choose to make on those particles. But what if there were some other factors or hidden variables correlated with the experimental setup, making the results appear to be quantumly entangled, when in fact they were the result of some nonquantum mechanism?

Physicists have attempted to address this loophole with extremely controlled experiments, in which they produce a pair of entangled photons from a single source, then send the photons to two different detectors and measure properties of each photon to determine their degree of correlation, or entanglement.

To rule out the possibility that hidden variables may have influenced the results, researchers have used random number generators at each detector to decide what property of each photon to measure, in the split second between when the photon leaves the source and arrives at the detector.

But there is a chance, however slight, that hidden variables, or nonquantum influences, may affect a random number generator before it relays its split-second decision to the photon detector.

"At the heart of quantum entanglement is the high degree of correlations in the outcomes of measurements on these pairs [of particles]," Kaiser says. "But what if a skeptic or critic insisted these correlations weren't due to these particles acting in a fully quantum mechanical way? We want to address whether there is any other way that those correlations could have snuck in without our having noticed."

"Stars aligned"
In 2014, Kaiser, Friedman, and their colleague Jason Gallicchio (now a professor at Harvey Mudd College) proposed an experiment to use ancient photons from astronomical sources such as stars or quasars as "cosmic setting generators," rather than random number generators on Earth, to determine the measurements to be made on each entangled photon.

Such cosmic light would be arriving at Earth from objects that are very far away - anywhere from dozens to billions of light years away. Thus, if some hidden variables were to interfere with the randomness of the choice of measurements, they would have had to have set those changes in motion before the time the light left the cosmic source, long before the experiment on Earth was conducted.

In this new paper, the researchers have demonstrated their idea experimentally for the first time. The team, including Professor Anton Zeilinger and his group at the University of Vienna and the Austrian Academy of Sciences, set up a source to produce highly entangled pairs of photons on the roof of a university laboratory in Vienna. In each experimental run, they shot the entangled photons out in opposite directions, toward detectors located in buildings several city blocks away - the Austrian National Bank and a second university building.

The researchers also set up telescopes at both detector sites and trained them on stars, the closest of which is about 600 light years away, which they had previously determined would send sufficient photons, or starlight, in their direction.

"On those nights, the stars aligned," Friedman says. "And with bright stars like these, the number of photons coming in can be like a firehose. So we have these very fast detectors that can register detections of cosmic photons on subnanosecond timescales."

"Out of whack" with Einstein
In the few microseconds before an entangled photon arrived at a detector, the researchers used each telescope to rapidly measure a property of an incoming stellar photon - in this case, whether its wavelength was redder or bluer than a particular reference wavelength.

They then used this random property of the stellar photon, generated 600 years ago by its star, to determine what property of the incoming entangled photons to measure. In this case, red stellar photons signaled a detector to measure an entangled photon's polarization in a particular direction. A blue stellar photon would set the device to measure the polarization of the entangled particle along a different direction.

The team conducted two experiments, with each experimental run lasting only three minutes. In each case, the researchers measured about 100,000 pairs of entangled photons. They found that the polarization measurements of the photon pairs were highly correlated, well in excess of the bound set by Bell's inequality, in a way that is most easily explained by quantum mechanics.

"We find answers consistent with quantum mechanics to an enormously strong degree, and enormously out of whack with an Einstein-like prediction," Kaiser says.

The results represent improvements by 16 orders of magnitude over previous efforts to address the freedom-of-choice loophole.

"All previous experiments could have been subject to this weird loophole to account for the results microseconds before each experiment, versus our 600 years," Kaiser says. "So it's a difference of a millionth of a second versus 600 years' worth of seconds - 16 orders of magnitude."

"This experiment pushes back the latest time at which the conspiracy could have started," Guth adds.

"We're saying, in order for some crazy mechanism to simulate quantum mechanics in our experiment, that mechanism had to have been in place 600 years ago to plan for our doing the experiment here today, and to have sent photons of just the right messages to end up reproducing the results of quantum mechanics. So it's very far-fetched."



A middleweight black hole is hiding at the center of a giant star cluster

‎Sunday, ‎February ‎12, ‎2017, ‏‎5:17:50 AMGo to full article
Boston MA (SPX) Feb 10, 2017 - All known black holes fall into two categories: small, stellar-mass black holes weighing a few Suns, and supermassive black holes weighing millions or billions of Suns. Astronomers expect that intermediate-mass black holes weighing 100 - 10,000 Suns also exist, but so far no conclusive proof of such middleweights has been found. Today, astronomers are announcing new evidence that an intermediate-mass black hole (IMBH) weighing 2,200 Suns is hiding at the center of the globular star cluster 47 Tucanae.

"We want to find intermediate-mass black holes because they are Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics
between stellar-mass and supermassive black holes. They may be the primordial seeds that grew into the monsters we see in the centers of galaxies today," says lead author Bulent Kiziltan of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA).

This work appears in the Feb. 9, 2017, issue of the prestigious science journal Nature.

47 Tucanae is a 12-billion-year-old star cluster located 13,000 light-years from Earth in the southern constellation of Tucana the Toucan. It contains thousands of stars in a ball only about 120 light-years in diameter. It also holds about two dozen pulsars that were important targets of this investigation.

47 Tucanae has been examined for a central black hole before without success. In most cases, a black hole is found by looking for X-rays coming from a hot disk of material swirling around it. This method only works if the black hole is actively feeding on nearby gas. The center of 47 Tucanae is gas-free, effectively starving any black hole that might lurk there.

The supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way also betrays its presence by its influence on nearby stars. Years of infrared observations have shown a handful of stars at our galactic center whipping around an invisible object with a strong gravitational tug. But the crowded center of 47 Tucanae makes it impossible to watch the motions of individual stars.

The new research relies on two lines of evidence. The first is overall motions of stars throughout the cluster. A globular cluster's environment is so dense that heavier stars tend to sink to the center of the cluster. An IMBH at the cluster's center acts like a cosmic "spoon" and stirs the pot, causing those stars to slingshot to higher speeds and greater distances. This imparts a subtle signal that astronomers can measure.

By employing computer simulations of stellar motions and distances, and comparing them with visible-light observations, the team finds evidence for just this sort of gravitational stirring.

The second line of evidence comes from pulsars, compact remnants of dead stars whose radio signals are easily detectable. These objects also get flung about by the gravity of the central IMBH, causing them to be found at greater distances from the cluster's center than would be expected if no black hole existed.

Combined, this evidence suggests the presence of an IMBH of about 2,200 solar masses within 47 Tucanae.

Since this black hole has eluded detection for so long, similar IMBHs may be hiding in other globular clusters. Locating them will require similar data on the positions and motions of both the stars and any pulsars within the clusters.



Exploring the matter that filled the early universe

‎Sunday, ‎February ‎12, ‎2017, ‏‎5:17:50 AMGo to full article
Chicago IL (SPX) Feb 07, 2017 - Theorists and scientists conducting experiments that recreate matter as it existed in the very early universe are gathered in Chicago this week to present and discuss their latest results. These experiments, conducted at the world's premier particle colliders - the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC) at the U.S. Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory, and the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at the European Center for Nuclear Research (CERN) - are revealing intriguing information about the building blocks of visible matter and the force that holds them together in the universe today.

The Quark Matter 2017 conference (QM17) will feature new results describing the particles created as atomic nuclei smash into one another at nearly the speed of light at RHIC and the LHC. These "ultrarelativistic heavy-ion collisions" melt ordinary protons and neutrons, momentarily setting free their inner constituents - quarks and gluons - so scientists can study their behavior and interactions. The physicists want to sort out the detailed properties of the hot "quark-gluon plasma" (QGP), and understand what happens as this primordial soup cools and coalesces to form the more familiar matter of today's world.

The two scientific collaborations conducting nuclear physics research at RHIC-STAR and PHENIX, named for their house-sized detectors-will present findings that build on earlier discoveries at this DOE Office of Science User Facility. The two collaborations perform cross-checking analyses to verify results, while also exploiting each detector's unique capabilities and strengths for independent explorations. The QM17 presentations will showcase precision measurements made possible by recent detector upgrades.

"These results illustrate how a global community of dedicated scientists is taking full advantage of RHIC's remarkable versatility to explore in depth the structure of nuclear matter over a wide range of temperatures and densities to better understand the dynamic behavior of quarks and gluons and the strong nuclear force," said Berndt Mueller, Associate Laboratory Director for Nuclear and Particle Physics at Brookhaven Lab. "The latest RHIC findings indicate that RHIC sits at the 'sweet spot' for probing the most interesting questions about the quark-gluon plasma and its transition to matter as we know it."

The meeting will also feature talks on the planned upgrade of the PHENIX experiment to a new RHIC detector known as sPHENIX, which will have greatly increased capabilities for tracking subatomic interactions. In addition, at least one talk will focus on the scientific rationale for building an Electron-Ion Collider, a proposed future facility that would enable an in-depth exploration of gluons in protons and other nuclei, opening a new frontier in nuclear physics.

Select QM 2017 Highlights from RHIC

Does size really matter?
Before RHIC began operations in 2000, nuclear physicists suspected it would take collisions of large nuclei such as gold to produce enough heat to create quark-gluon plasma. Since then, RHIC's gold-gold smashups (and later collisions of lead nuclei at the LHC) have reliably recreated a soup of quarks and gluons that flows like a nearly "perfect" liquid with extraordinarily low viscosity. Scientists detect the flow by observing correlations in certain characteristics of particles streaming from the collisions even when they are relatively far apart. More recently, smashups of smaller nuclei such as helium and even single protons with the large nuclei have produced correlation patterns that suggest that smaller drops of QGP might be possible. The latest results, to be presented by PHENIX, come from collisions of protons with aluminum nuclei, and also from deuteron-gold collisions over a range of collision energies. Lowering the energy changes how long the QGP phase lasts, which should change the strength of the correlations. The new results also include the first analysis of particles emerging closest to the colliding beams in the forward and rearward directions, as tracked by the recently installed Forward Silicon Vertex Tracker. Adding this tracker to detector components picking up particles emerging more centrally, perpendicular to the colliding beams, gives the physicists a way to test in three dimensions how the correlations vary with the pressure gradients created by the asymmetrical collisions.

Discerning differences among heavy quarks
PHENIX's Central Barrel and Forward Silicon Vertex Tracker and STAR's high precision Heavy Flavor Tracker (HFT) give RHIC physicists access to studying the behavior of so-called heavy quarks, which go by the exotic names of "charm" and "bottom." These particles, produced in the QGP, start to decay into other particles a short distance from the collision zone, but those decay products eventually strike the trackers. By tracing their tracks, scientists can identify precisely where the decay took place. And since charm and bottom quarks have slightly different lifetimes before decaying, and therefore different travel distances, this method gives the scientists a way to tell them apart.

Going with the flow
One way scientists will use this data is to see how heavy quarks are affected by the QGP, and whether there are differences among them. Earlier indirect findings by PHENIX, later confirmed by STAR, already indicated that heavy quarks get swept up in the flow of the QGP, somewhat like a rock getting pulled along by a stream instead of sinking to the bottom. These observations formed part of the motivation for the construction of the STAR HFT. New data from the HFT to be presented by STAR provide the first direct evidence of heavy quark flow, and show that the interactions of these heavy particles with the QGP medium are strong. STAR's HFT is the first application of the silicon based Monolithic Active Pixel Sensor technology in a collider environment. The measurements show that the flow of a type of heavy particles called D0s, which contain a charm quark, follows the same trend as seen for lighter particles and can be described by the same viscous hydrodynamics. The unprecedented precision in this measurement will pave the path towards precisely determining one of the intrinsic transport properties of the QGP and tell us how quarks interact with it.

PHENIX will present precision results from its Central Barrel Vertex Detector showing that some heavy quarks are more affected by the QGP than others. The results show that charm quarks lose more energy in the QGP than heavier bottom quarks. With this high statistics data set, PHENIX will now be able to study how the energy-loss is affected by how central, or head-on, the collisions are. PHENIX will also present its first heavy-quark result from the Forward Silicon Vertex Tracker, measuring the total cross section of bottom quarks emerging in the forward and rearward directions in collisions between copper and gold ions.

Learning how particles grow
The STAR HFT has also made it possible to make the first measurements of a particle called Lambda c emerging from RHIC collisions. Lambda c is made of three quarks-just like protons and neutrons-but with one of the three being a heavy quark. These Lambda c particles are extremely difficult to tease out from the data. But because they can only be created in energetic particle collisions, they carry unique information about the conditions within. Studying this "sentry" information carried by the Lambda c should help scientists learn how relatively "free" quarks that populate the early-stage QGP eventually coalesce and combine to form the more familiar composite particles of ordinary matter.

Tracking high-momentum jets
Observing how jets of particles springing from individual quarks or gluons lose energy, or get "quenched," as they interact with the medium has been one major sign that RHIC's energetic collisions of gold on gold were forming QGP. STAR will present several new jet studies that provide further insights into both how this quenching occurs and how the lost energy re-emerges, In addition, PHENIX will present new results exploring the question of whether collisions of smaller particles with gold, which appear to create the flow patterns of QGP, also show evidence of jet quenching. Their results include data on jet energy loss in a variety of collision systems, both large and small. The method uses photons emitted opposite the jet to calibrate how much energy the jet should have to determine whether or not there was quenching. The data show some modifications to the jet structure and the yield of high-momentum particles inside the jets, but it is not yet clear how to interpret these results.

Taking the QGP's temperature
Tracking heavy quarks and particles made from them gives RHIC physicists a new way to zero in on a more precise temperature of the QGP-already known to be more than 250,000 times hotter than the center of the sun. The new precision comes from measuring how different bound states of heavy quark-antiquark pairs, held together with different amounts of energy, melt in the plasma. STAR counts up different types of these particles (for example, Upsilons, pairs of bottom and anti-bottom quarks, that come in several binding varieties) using another recently upgraded detector component called the Muon Telescope Detector. Muons are the decay products of the Upsilons. STAR uses these counts to look for a deficit of one type of Upsilon relative to another to set boundaries on the QGP temperature. The physicists are eager to compare their results with those from the LHC, where with higher collision energies, they expect to see higher temperatures.

PHENIX's measurements of temperature have relied on tracking photons, particles of light, emitted from the hot matter (think of the glow of an iron bar in a blacksmith's fire, where the color of the light is related to how hot the iron is). But PHENIX's photon data have uncovered something unusual: While collisions initially emit photons equally in all directions, fractions of a second later the emitted photons appear to have a directional preference that resembles the elliptical flow pattern of the perfect liquid QGP. This is intriguing because photons shouldn't interact with the matter-or even be produced in such measurable quantities as the matter produced in the collisions cools and expands. To explore this mystery, PHENIX measured thermal direct photons at different gold-gold collision energies (39, 62, and 200 billion electron volts, or GeV), as well as in the smaller collision system. The results they present will shed light on the sources of these direct photons.

Disentangling the effects of cold nuclear matter
RHIC physicists are also learning more about "cold" nuclear matter-the state of the nucleus, filled with a field of gluons, before it collides-and how to account for its effects when studying the hot QGP. In order to disentangle the effects of cold nuclear matter, PHENIX is comparing the suppression of the excited state of the bound charm-anti-charm particle known as Psi to its ground state. They are studying collisions of protons and helium with gold or aluminum-small systems where cold nuclear matter predominates-and will use these as a baseline for better understanding the sequential melting of the bound states in the hot QGP. Their findings indicate that the less tightly bound version of the Psi is more than twice as susceptible to the effects of cold nuclear matter than the more tightly bound version. This effect must be accounted for in analyzing the data from QGP-creating collisions where the presence of both cold and hot nuclear matter influences the results.

New way to turn down the energy
STAR has exploited RHIC's ability to collide nuclei over a wide range of collision energies, conducting a Beam Energy Scan to explore the creation of QGP and its transition to ordinary nuclear matter over a wide range of conditions. At QM17 they'll present data from collisions at the lowest energy yet. Instead of colliding one beam into the beam coming into the detector from the opposite direction, as occurs in most RHIC experiments, STAR placed a stationary target (a foil of gold) within the beam pipe inside STAR and aimed just one beam at the target. Like a collision in which one moving car crashes into one that is parked, this fixed-target collision lowered the impact compared to what would occur if both beams (or cars) were moving and colliding head on. Data from these low energy collisions will be an integral part of phase two of the Beam Energy Scan, which is enabled by improvements to the RHIC accelerator complex that allow for higher collision rates.



Middleweight Black Hole Hiding in Giant Star Cluster - embargo until Wednesday, 8 February 2017, at 1:00 pm

‎Sunday, ‎February ‎12, ‎2017, ‏‎5:17:50 AMGo to full article
Boston MA (SPX) Feb 08, 2017 - All known black holes fall into two categories: small, stellar-mass black holes weighing a few Suns, and supermassive black holes weighing millions or billions of Suns. Astronomers expect that intermediate-mass black holes weighing 100 to 10,000 Suns also exist, but so far no conclusive proof of such middleweights has been found. Today, astronomers are announcing new evidence that an intermediate-mass black hole (IMBH) weighing 2,200 Suns is hiding at the center of the globular star cluster 47 Tucanae.

"We want to find intermediate-mass black holes because they are Harvard-Smithsonian Center For Astrophysics
between stellar-mass and supermassive black holes. They may be the primordial seeds that grew into the monsters we see in the centers of galaxies today," says lead author Bulent Kiziltan of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA).

47 Tucanae is a 12-billion-year-old star cluster located 13,000 light-years from Earth in the southern constellation of Tucana the Toucan. It contains hundreds of thousands of stars in a ball only about 120 light-years in diameter. It also holds about two dozen pulsars that were important targets of this investigation.

47 Tucanae has been examined for a central black hole before without success. In most cases, a black hole is found by looking for X-rays coming from a hot disk of material swirling around it. This method only works if the black hole is actively feeding on nearby gas. The center of 47 Tucanae is gas-free, effectively starving any black hole that might lurk there.

The supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way also betrays its presence by its influence on nearby stars. Years of infrared observations have shown a handful of stars at our galactic center whipping around an invisible object with a strong gravitational tug. But the crowded center of 47 Tucanae makes it impossible to watch the motions of individual stars.

The new research relies on two lines of evidence. The first is overall motions of stars throughout the cluster. A globular cluster's environment is so dense that heavier stars tend to sink to the center of the cluster. An IMBH at the cluster's center acts like a cosmic "spoon" and stirs the pot, causing those stars to slingshot to higher speeds and greater distances. This imparts a subtle signal that astronomers can measure.

By employing computer simulations of stellar motions and distances, and comparing them with visible-light observations, the team finds evidence for just this sort of gravitational stirring.

The second line of evidence comes from pulsars, compact remnants of dead stars whose radio signals are easily detectable. These objects also get flung about by the gravity of the central IMBH, causing them to be found at greater distances from the cluster's center than would be expected if no black hole existed.

Combined, this evidence suggests the presence of an IMBH of about 2,200 solar masses within 47 Tucanae.

Since this black hole has eluded detection for so long, similar IMBHs may be hiding in other globular clusters. Locating them will require similar data on the positions and motions of both the stars and any pulsars within the clusters.

This work appears in the Feb. 9, 2017, issue of the prestigious science journal Nature



Black Hole Meal Sets Record for Duration and Size

‎Sunday, ‎February ‎12, ‎2017, ‏‎5:17:50 AMGo to full article
Boston MA (SPX) Feb 07, 2017 - A giant black hole ripped apart a star and then gorged on its remains for about a decade, according to astronomers. This is more than 10 times longer than any observed episode of a star's death by black hole. Researchers made this discovery using data from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory and Swift satellite as well as ESA's XMM-Newton.

The trio of orbiting X-ray telescopes found evidence for a "tidal disruption event" (TDE), wherein the tidal forces due to the intense gravity from a black hole can destroy an object - such as a star - that wanders too close. During a TDE, some of the stellar debris is flung outward at high speeds, while the rest falls toward the black hole. As it travels inwards to be ingested by the black hole, the material becomes heats up to millions of degrees and generates a distinct X-ray flare.

"We have witnessed a star's spectacular and prolonged demise," said Dacheng Lin from the University of New Hampshire in Durham, New Hampshire, who led the study. "Dozens of tidal disruption events have been detected since the 1990s, but none that remained bright for nearly as long as this one."

The extraordinary long bright phase of this event spanning over 10 years means that among observed TDEs this was either the most massive star ever to be completely torn apart during one of these events, or the first where a smaller star was completely torn apart.

The X-ray source containing this force-fed black hole, known by its abbreviated name of XJ1500+0154, is located in a small galaxy about 1.8 billion light-years from Earth.

The source was not detected in a Chandra observation on April 2, 2005, but was detected in an XMM-Newton observation on July 23, 2005, and reached peak brightness in a Chandra observation on June 5, 2008. These observations show that the source became at least 100 times brighter in X-rays. Since then, Chandra, Swift, and XMM-Newton have observed it multiple times.

The sharp X-ray vision of Chandra data shows that XJ1500+0154 is located at the center of its host galaxy, the expected location for a supermassive black hole.

The X-ray data also indicate that radiation from material surrounding this black hole has consistently surpassed the so-called Eddington limit, defined by a balance between the outward pressure of radiation from the hot gas and the inward pull of the gravity of the black hole.

"For most of the time we've been looking at this object, it has been growing rapidly," said co-author James Guillochon of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Mass. "This tells us something unusual - like a star twice as heavy as our Sun - is being fed into the black hole."

The conclusion that supermassive black holes can grow, from TDEs and perhaps other means, at rates above those corresponding to the Eddington limit has important implications. Such rapid growth may help explain how supermassive black holes were able to reach masses about a billion times higher than the Sun when the universe was only about a billion years old.

"This event shows that black holes really can grow at extraordinarily high rates," said co-author Stefanie Komossa of QianNan Normal University for Nationalities in Duyun City, China. "This may help understand how precocious black holes came to be."

Based on the modeling by the researchers the black hole's feeding supply should be significantly reduced in the next decade. This would result in XJ1500+0154 fading in X-ray brightness over the next several years.

Research paper: "A Likely Decade-long Sustained Tidal Disruption Event," Dacheng Lin et al., 2017 Feb. 6, Nature Astronomy



Shaken, but not stirred

‎Sunday, ‎February ‎12, ‎2017, ‏‎5:17:50 AMGo to full article
Munich, Germany (SPX) Feb 03, 2017 - A team of researchers led by Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitaet (LMU) in Munich physics professor Immanuel Bloch has experimentally realized an exotic quantum system which is robust to mixing by periodic forces. When James Bond asks the barkeeper for a Martini ("shaken, not stirred"), he takes it for granted that the ingredients of the drink are miscible. If he were to place the order in a bar in the quantum realm, however, Agent 007 might be in for a surprise!

For a research team around the physicists Pranjal Bordia, Professor Immanuel Bloch (LMU and Max-Planck-Institute for Quantum Optics) and Professor Michael Knap (TU Munich, Physics Department and Institute for Advanced Study) has now prepared a form of quantum matter that is robust to shaking - a property that would make life difficult for cocktail lovers.

In fact, the problem with quantum matter normally lies in its very sensitivity to perturbation: The action of even weak oscillatory forces typically has drastic consequences in the long term and is expected to dramatically alter its initial state. Therefore - up until now - it had been widely assumed that quantum systems should normally be susceptible to mixing, since shaking injects energy into the system, and should cause it to heat up indefinitely.

But the Munich group has now experimentally characterized an exotic quantum state that does not behave in this way: When subjected to a periodic force, its constituents do not mix. The researchers first cooled a cloud of potassium atoms to an extremely low temperature in a vacuum chamber.

They then loaded the ultracold atoms into an optical lattice formed by counter-propagating laser beams that generate standing waves. Such a lattice can be thought of as a network of energy wells in which the atoms can be individually trapped, like the eggs in an egg carton.

"In addition, we were able to introduce disorder into the lattice in a controlled manner by randomly altering the depth of the individual wells," says Pranjal Bordia, first author of the new study.

By this means, the potassium atoms could be localized in special areas of the network, and were not evenly distributed within the lattice. The physicists then shook the lattice by periodically varying the intensity of the laser light. But the system turned out to be so stable that the localized groups of atoms did not mix. The potassium atoms were tossed about somewhat, but their overall distribution in the lattice remained intact.

The experiments confirm recently published predictions relating to a specific class of quantum systems in which disorder actually serves to localize quantum particles. Moreover, the observation that this newly realized exotic quantum state remained stable for an unexpectedly long time is supported by the results of subsequent high-performance numerical simulations.

The experimental demonstration of this quantum system could have practical consequences for efforts to develop robust quantum computers, and studies of exotic quantum states promise to yield new insights into fundamental issues in theoretical physics.

Research paper



Quantum phase transition observed for the first time

‎Sunday, ‎February ‎12, ‎2017, ‏‎5:17:50 AMGo to full article
Klosterneuburg, Austria (SPX) Feb 03, 2017 - A group of scientists led by Johannes Fink from the Institute of Science and Technology Austria (IST Austria) reported the first experimental observation of a first-order phase transition in a dissipative quantum system. Phase transitions are something we often encounter in everyday life when we watch the change of the state of matter, for example the freezing of water at the critical temperature of 0 degrees Celsius.

However, phase transitions also occur at the quantum mechanical level, where they are - in spite of their importance for various fields of physics - relatively unexplored.

One example of a phase transition at the quantum level is the photon-blockade breakdown, which was only discovered two years ago. During photon blockade, a photon fills a cavity in an optical system and prevents other photons from entering the same cavity until it leaves, hence blocking the flow of photons.

But if the photon flux increases to a critical level, a quantum phase transition has been predicted to occur: The photon blockade breaks down, and the state of the system changes from opaque to transparent. This specific phase transition has now been experimentally observed by researchers who, for the first time, managed to meet the very specific conditions that are necessary to fully study this effect.

During a phase transition, the continuous tuning of an external parameter, for example temperature, leads to a transition between two robust steady states with different attributes. First-order phase transitions are characterized by a coexistence of the two stable phases when the control parameter is within a certain range close to the critical value.

The two phases form a mixed-phase in which some parts have completed the transition and others have not, like in a glass in which ice and water are present at the same time. The experimental results that Fink and his collaborators will publish in the journal Physical Review X give an insight into the quantum mechanical basis of this effect in a microscopic, zero-dimensional system.

Their setup consisted of a microchip with a superconducting microwave resonator acting as the cavity and a few superconducting qubits acting as the atoms. The chip was cooled to a temperature astoundingly close to absolute zero - 0.01 Kelvin - so that thermal fluctuations did not play a role. To produce a flux of photons, the researchers then sent a continuous microwave tone to the input of the resonator on the chip.

On the output side they amplified and measured the transmitted microwave flux. For certain input powers they detected a signal flipping stochastically between zero transmission and full transmission: the expected coexistence of both phases had occurred.

"We have observed this random switching between opaque and transparent for the first time and in agreement with theoretical predictions," says lead author Johannes Fink from IST Austria.

Potential future applications are memory storage elements as well as processors for quantum simulation. "Our experiment took exactly 1.6 milliseconds to complete for any given input power. The corresponding numerical simulation took a couple of days on a national supercomputer cluster. This gives an idea why these systems could be useful for quantum simulations," Fink explains.

Johannes Fink came to IST Austria in 2016 to start his working group on Quantum Integrated Devices. The main objective of his group is to advance and integrate quantum technology for chip-based computation, communication, and sensing.

Research paper



Research pushes concept of entropy out of kilter

‎Sunday, ‎February ‎12, ‎2017, ‏‎5:17:50 AMGo to full article
Providence RI (SPX) Feb 03, 2017 - Entropy, the measure of disorder in a physical system, is something that physicists understand well when systems are at equilibrium, meaning there's no external force throwing things out of kilter. But new research by Brown University physicists takes the idea of entropy out of its equilibrium comfort zone. The research, published in Physical Review Letters, describes an experiment in which the emergence of a non-equilibrium phenomenon actually requires an entropic assist.

"It's not clear what entropy even means when you're moving away from equilibrium, so to have this interplay between a non-equilibrium phenomenon and an entropic state is surprising," said Derek Stein, a Brown University physicist and co-author of the work. "It's the tension between these two fundamental things that is so interesting."

The phenomenon the research investigated is known as "giant acceleration of diffusion," or GAD. Diffusion is the term used to describe the extent to which small, jiggling particles spread out. The jiggling refers to Brownian motion, which describes the random movement of small particles as a result of collisions with surrounding particles. In 2001, a group of researchers developed a theory of how Brownian particles would diffuse in a system that was pushed out of equilibrium.

Imagine jiggling particles arranged on a surface with undulating bumps like a washboard. Their jiggle isn't quite big enough to enable the particles to jump over the bumps in the board, so they don't diffuse much at all. However, if the board were tilted to some degree (in other words, moved out of equilibrium) the bumps would become easier to jump over in the downward-facing direction.

As tilt begins to increase, some particles will jiggle free of the washboard barriers and run down the board, while others will stay put. In physics terms, the particles have become more diffusive - more spread-out - as the system is moved out of equilibrium. The GAD theory quantifies this diffusivity effect and predicts that as tilt starts to increase, diffusivity accelerates. When the tilt passes the point where all the particles are able to jiggle free and move down the washboard, then diffusivity decreases again.

The theory is important, Stein says, because it's one of only a few attempts to make solid predictions about how systems behave away from equilibrium. It's been tested in a few other settings and has been found to make accurate predictions.

But Stein and his team wanted to test the theory in an unfamiliar setting - one that introduces entropy into the mix.

For the experiment, Stein and his colleagues placed DNA strands into nanofluidic channels - essentially, tiny fluid-filled hallways through which the molecules could travel. The channels were lined however with nanopits - tiny rectangular depressions that create deep spots within the relatively narrower channels.

At equilibrium, DNA molecules tend to arrange themselves in disordered, spaghetti-like balls. As a result, when a molecule finds its way into a nanopit where it has more room to form a disordered ball, it tends to stay stuck there. The pits can be seen as being somewhat like the dips between bumps on the theoretical GAD washboard, but with a critical difference: The only thing actually holding the molecule in the pit is entropy.

"This molecule is randomly jiggling around in the pit - randomly selecting different configurations to be in - and the number of possible configurations is a measure of the molecule's entropy," Stein explained. "It could, at some point, land on a configuration that's thin enough to fit into the channel outside the pit, which would allow it to move from one pit to another. But that's unlikely because there are so many more shapes that don't go through than shapes that do. So the pit becomes an 'entropic barrier.'"

Stein and his colleagues wanted to see if the non-equilibrium GAD dynamic would still emerge in a system where the barriers were entropic. They used a pump to apply pressure to the nanofluidic channels, pushing them out of equilibrium. They then measured the speeds of each molecule to see if GAD emerged. What they saw was largely in keeping with the GAD theory. As the pressure increased toward a critical point, the diffusivity of the molecules increased - meaning some molecules zipped across the channel while others stayed stuck in their pits.

"It wasn't at all clear how this experiment would come out," Stein said. "This is a non-equilibrium phenomenon that requires barriers, but our barriers are entropic and we don't understand entropy away from equilibrium."

The fact that the barriers remained raises interesting questions about the nature of entropy, Stein says.

"Non-equilibrium and entropy are two concepts that are kind of at odds, but we show a situation in which one depends on the other," he said. "So what's the guiding principle that tells what the tradeoff is between the two? The answer is: We don't have one, but maybe experiments like this can start to give us a window into that."

In addition to the more profound implications, there may also be practical applications for the findings, Stein says. The researchers showed that they could estimate the tiny piconewton forces pushing the DNA forward just by analyzing the molecules' motion. For reference, one newton of force is roughly the weight of an average apple. A piconewton is one trillionth of that.

The experiment also showed that, with the right amount of pressure, the diffusivity of the DNA molecules was increased by factor of 15. So a similar technique could be useful in quickly making mixtures. If such a technique were developed to take advantage of GAD, it would be a first, Stein says.

"No one has ever harnessed a non-equilibrium phenomenon for anything like that," he said. "So that would certainly be an interesting possibility."

Research paper



Study reveals substantial evidence of holographic universe

‎Sunday, ‎February ‎12, ‎2017, ‏‎5:17:50 AMGo to full article
Southampton, UK (SPX) Jan 31, 2017 - A UK, Canadian and Italian study has provided what researchers believe is the first observational evidence that our universe could be a vast and complex hologram. Theoretical physicists and astrophysicists, investigating irregularities in the cosmic microwave background (the 'afterglow' of the Big Bang), have found there is substantial evidence supporting a holographic explanation of the universe - in fact, as much as there is for the traditional explanation of these irregularities using the theory of cosmic inflation.

The researchers, from the University of Southampton (UK), University of Waterloo (Canada), Perimeter Institute (Canada), INFN, Lecce (Italy) and the University of Salento (Italy), have published findings in the journal Physical Review Letters. A holographic universe, an idea first suggested in the 1990s, is one where all the information, which makes up our 3D 'reality' (plus time) is contained in a 2D surface on its boundaries.

Professor Kostas Skenderis of Mathematical Sciences at the University of Southampton explains: "Imagine that everything you see, feel and hear in three dimensions (and your perception of time) in fact emanates from a flat two-dimensional field. The idea is similar to that of ordinary holograms where a three-dimensional image is encoded in a two-dimensional surface, such as in the hologram on a credit card. However, this time, the entire universe is encoded!"

Although not an example with holographic properties, it could be thought of as rather like watching a 3D film in a cinema. We see the pictures as having height, width and crucially, depth - when in fact it all originates from a flat 2D screen. The difference, in our 3D universe, is that we can touch objects and the 'projection' is 'real' from our perspective.

In recent decades, advances in telescopes and sensing equipment have allowed scientists to detect a vast amount of data hidden in the 'white noise' or microwaves (partly responsible for the random black and white dots you see on an un-tuned TV) left over from the moment the universe was created.

Using this information, the team were able to make complex comparisons between networks of features in the data and quantum field theory. They found that some of the simplest quantum field theories could explain nearly all cosmological observations of the early universe.

Professor Skenderis comments: "Holography is a huge leap forward in the way we think about the structure and creation of the universe. Einstein's theory of general relativity explains almost everything large scale in the universe very well, but starts to unravel when examining its origins and mechanisms at quantum level. Scientists have been working for decades to combine Einstein's theory of gravity and quantum theory. Some believe the concept of a holographic universe has the potential to reconcile the two. I hope our research takes us another step towards this."

The scientists now hope their study will open the door to further our understanding of the early universe and explain how space and time emerged.

Study reveals evidence that the universe is a hologram
Waterloo, Canada (SPX) Jan 31 - The first observational evidence that the universe could be a hologram has been published in the journal Physical Review Letters. The international study may lead to new beliefs on the Big Bang Theory and on quantum gravity, one of theoretical physics' most profound problems.

Researchers from the University of Waterloo, Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics, University of Southampton (UK), INFN, Lecce (Italy) and the University of Salento (Italy), believe the study further explains how space and time emerged.

"We are proposing using this holographic universe, which is a very different model of the Big Bang than the popularly accepted one that relies on gravity and inflation," said Niayesh Afshordi, professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Waterloo, and lead author in the study. "Each of these models makes distinct predictions that we can test as we refine our data and improve our theoretical understanding - all within the next five years."

Theoretical physicists and astrophysicists first identified the concept of a holographic universe in the 1990s. This week, researchers have published observational evidence to support a 2D holographic explanation of the universe. This work could lead to a functioning theory of quantum gravity, a theory that harmonizes quantum mechanics with Einstein's theory of gravity.

"The key to understanding quantum gravity is understanding field theory in one lower dimension," said Afshordi. "Holography is like a Rosetta Stone, translating between known theories of quantum fields without gravity and the uncharted territory of quantum gravity itself."

Holography, with its more simplified approach, allows the researchers to study the dense conditions of quantum gravity during the Big Bang at its boundary, which provides as much information as studying the Big Bang itself.



Scientists unveil new form of matter: Time crystals

‎Tuesday, ‎January ‎31, ‎2017, ‏‎11:47:00 AMGo to full article
Berkeley CA (SPX) Jan 27, 2017 - To most people, crystals mean diamond bling, semiprecious gems or perhaps the jagged amethyst or quartz crystals beloved by collectors. To Norman Yao, these inert crystals are the tip of the iceberg. If crystals have an atomic structure that repeats in space, like the carbon lattice of a diamond, why can't crystals also have a structure that repeats in time? That is, a time crystal?

In a paper published online last week in the journal Physical Review Letters, the University of California, Berkeley assistant professor of physics describes exactly how to make and measure the properties of such a crystal, and even predicts what the various phases surrounding the time crystal should be - akin to the liquid and gas phases of ice.

This is not mere speculation. Two groups followed Yao's blueprint and have already created the first-ever time crystals. The groups at the University of Maryland and Harvard University reported their successes, using two totally different setups, in papers posted online last year, and have submitted the results for publication. Yao is a co-author on both papers.

Time crystals repeat in time because they are kicked periodically, sort of like tapping Jell-O repeatedly to get it to jiggle, Yao said. The big breakthrough, he argues, is less that these particular crystals repeat in time than that they are the first of a large class of new materials that are intrinsically out of equilibrium, unable to settle down to the motionless equilibrium of, for example, a diamond or ruby.

"This is a new phase of matter, period, but it is also really cool because it is one of the first examples of non-equilibrium matter," Yao said. "For the last half-century, we have been exploring equilibrium matter, like metals and insulators. We are just now starting to explore a whole new landscape of non-equilibrium matter."

While Yao is hard put to imagine a use for a time crystal, other proposed phases of non-equilibrium matter theoretically hold promise as nearly perfect memories and may be useful in quantum computers.

An ytterbium chain
The time crystal created by Chris Monroe and his colleagues at the University of Maryland employs a conga line of 10 ytterbium ions whose electron spins interact, similar to the qubit systems being tested as quantum computers.

To keep the ions out of equilibrium, the researchers alternately hit them with one laser to create an effective magnetic field and a second laser to partially flip the spins of the atoms, repeating the sequence many times. Because the spins interacted, the atoms settled into a stable, repetitive pattern of spin flipping that defines a crystal.

Time crystals were first proposed in 2012 by Nobel laureate Frank Wilczek, and last year theoretical physicists at Princeton University and UC Santa Barbara's Station Q independently proved that such a crystal could be made. According to Yao, the UC Berkeley group was "the bridge between the theoretical idea and the experimental implementation."

From the perspective of quantum mechanics, electrons can form crystals that do not match the underlying spatial translation symmetry of the orderly, three-dimensional array of atoms, Yao said. This breaks the symmetry of the material and leads to unique and stable properties we define as a crystal.

A time crystal breaks time symmetry. In this particular case, the magnetic field and laser periodically driving the ytterbium atoms produce a repetition in the system at twice the period of the drivers, something that would not occur in a normal system.

"Wouldn't it be super weird if you jiggled the Jell-O and found that somehow it responded at a different period?" Yao said. "But that is the essence of the time crystal. You have some periodic driver that has a period 'T', but the system somehow synchronizes so that you observe the system oscillating with a period that is larger than 'T'."

Yao worked closely with Monroe as his Maryland team made the new material, helping them focus on the important properties to measure to confirm that the material was in fact a stable or rigid time crystal. Yao also described how the time crystal would change phase, like an ice cube melting, under different magnetic fields and laser pulsing.

The Harvard team, led by Mikhail Lukin, set up its time crystal using densely packed nitrogen vacancy centers in diamonds.

"Such similar results achieved in two wildly disparate systems underscore that time crystals are a broad new phase of matter, not simply a curiosity relegated to small or narrowly specific systems," wrote Phil Richerme, of Indiana University, in a perspective piece accompanying the paper published in Physical Review Letters.

"Observation of the discrete time crystal... confirms that symmetry breaking can occur in essentially all natural realms, and clears the way to several new avenues of research."

Yao is continuing his own work on time crystals as he explores the theory behind other novel but not-yet-realized non-equilibrium materials.



How fast is the universe expanding? Quasars provide an answer

‎Tuesday, ‎January ‎31, ‎2017, ‏‎11:47:00 AMGo to full article
Lausanne, Switzerland (SPX) Jan 27, 2017 - The H0LiCOW collaboration, a cosmology project led by EPFL and Max Planck Institute and regrouping several research organizations in the world has made a new measurement of the Hubble constant, which indicates how fast the universe is expanding. The new measurement challenges some of the most recent ones, potentially pointing towards new physics beyond the standard cosmological model.

Measuring how far objects are across space has led to great discoveries, for example that our universe is expanding. The rate of this expansion is determined by the current Standard Cosmological Model, "Lambda CDM", which puts the current expansion rate at about 72 km per second per megaparsec (a megaparsec is about 3.3 million light-years).

This rate is called the "Hubble constant", H0, and has been constantly refined for almost a century: a high-precision measurement of H0 has profound implication both in cosmology and in physics. Now, the H0LiCOW collaboration has used new tools to independently calculate the all-important Hubble constant with 3.8% precision.

The new figure agrees with recent independent studies, which are however in tension with the predictions of the Standard Cosmological Model, potentially pointing towards new physics. The work is published in five papers in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

A history of expansion
The expansion of the Universe, based on the idea that the Universe originated with the Big Bang, was first proposed by the Belgian cosmologist Georges Lemaitre. At around the same time, in the late 1920's, the astronomer Edwin Hubble was studying galaxies moving away from the Milky Way, and noticed that those farthest from Earth seemed to be moving faster.

What he was actually observing was the Universe expanding, and he set out to calculate its rate. Hubble's observations uncovered a constant that quantified this expansion, and which was later going to be named "the Hubble constant".

Over the years, measurements of H0 have been refined with ever-improving telescopes and more sensitive measuring tools. These tools include the Hubble telescope, which made measurements on Cepheid stars, a type of extremely bright star that pulsates radially in a predictable way, as well as exploding stars called supernovae. Another way of measuring the rate of the Universe's expansion is to use the cosmic microwave background (CMB): the almost constant background temperature across the universe known as the "afterglow" or "fossil radiation" of the Big Bang.

Quasars: a new measurement for the Hubble constant
The H0LiCOW collaboration has now independently measured the Hubble constant, exploiting a cosmic phenomenon called "gravitational lensing", whereby the enormous mass of galaxies bends spacetime. Galaxies act as lenses that can magnify and distort the normally faint image from objects further away. They can also produce several "lensed" images of the original objects, making them appear multiple.

To measure the Hubble constant, the scientists studied the light coming from five quasars seen multiple due to gravitational lensing from foreground galaxies. Quasars are supermassive black holes at the centers of galaxies and radiate huge amounts of electromagnetic energy.

The luminosity of quasars shows random variations over the years resulting in an apparent flickering of their intensity. This flickering is seen delayed in each lensed image of the quasar because the light takes different paths in each image. But the distance that the quasar light travels in each image depends of the expansion of the Universe, set by the Hubble constant.

As a consequence, measuring the time-delay between the lensed images of quasars provides a way to determine the Hubble constant. The H0LiCOW collaborators are world leaders in such measurements, notably though their COSMOGRAIL program using mainly the Swiss 1.2m telescope located in the Chilean Andes on the site of the European Southern Observatory.

Using this technique, the Hubble constant is measured with 3.8% accuracy within the framework of the Standard Cosmological Model. This is an independent measurement, since three strongly lensed quasars are enough to provide what the scientists call a standalone, "Time-Delay-Strong-Lensing cosmological probe".

The findings agree with the most recent measurements of the Hubble constant in the local Universe using Cepheids and supernovae. But they also disagree significantly with the much-publicized cosmic microwave background measurements made with the Planck satellite in 2015.

"The tension between local and CMB measurements of the Hubble constant is strengthened by the new strong lensing observations," says Frederic Courbin at EPFL's Laboratory of Astrophysics, which is part of H0LiCOW. "The tension can be caused by new physics beyond the Standard Cosmological Model, in particular new forms of dark energy."







Beyond Perception - DVD

by Chuck Missler  




PRICE R 159.00


Media Type: DVD
Published 20-Sep-2010
Published by Koinonia House
Why do scientists now believe we live in a 10-dimensional universe?

Has physics finally reached the very boundaries of reality?

There seems to be evidence to suggest that our world and everything in it are only ghostly images; projections from a level of reality so beyond our own that the real reality is literally beyond both space and time. The main architect of this astonishing idea is one of the world's most eminent thinkers- physicist David Bohm, a protege of Einstein's. Earlier, he noticed that, in plasmas, particles stopped behaving like individuals and started behaving as if they were part of a larger and inter connected whole. He continued his work in the behavior of oceans of these particles, noting their behaving as if they know what each on the untold trillions of individual particles were doing.

This briefing pack DVD comes with:
-two mp3 audio files
-one notes file in pdf format

This DVD includes notes in PDF format and MP3 files.

Encoding: This DVD will be viewable in other countries WITH the proper DVD player and television set.
Format: Color, Fullscreen
Aspect Ratio: 4:3
Audio Encoding: Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo
Run Time: 2 hour(s)
Number of discs: 1

The Beyond Collection 







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Genetics Research Confirms Biblical Timeline

Exciting research from the summer of 2012 described DNA variation in the protein coding regions of the human genome linked to population growth. One of the investigation's conclusions was that the human genome began to rapidly diversify not more than 5,000 years ago.1,2 This observation closely agrees with a biblical timeline of post-flood human diversification. Yet another study, this one published in the journal Nature, accessed even more extensive data and unintentionally confirmed the recent human history described in Genesis.3

Differences in human DNA can be characterized across populations and ethnic groups using a variety of techniques. One of the most informative genetic technologies in this regard is the analysis of rare DNA variation in the protein coding regions of the genome. Variability in these regions is less frequent than the more numerous genetic differences that occur in the non-coding regulatory regions. Researchers can statistically combine this information with demographic data derived from population growth across the world to generate time scales related to human genetic diversification.4

What makes this type of research unique is that evolutionary scientists typically incorporate hypothetical deep time scales taken from the authority of paleontologists or other similar deep-time scenarios to calibrate models of genetic change over time. Demographics-based studies using observed world population dynamics do not rely on this bias and are therefore more accurate and realistic.

In a 2012 Science report, geneticists analyzed DNA sequences of 15,585 protein-coding gene regions in the human genome for 1,351 European Americans and 1,088 African Americans for rare DNA variation.1,2 This new study accessed rare coding variation in 15,336 genes from over 6,500 humans—almost three times the amount of data compared to the first study.3 A separate group of researchers performed the new study.

The Nature results convey a second spectacular confirmation of the amazingly biblical conclusions from the first study. These scientists confirmed that the human genome began to rapidly diversify not more than 5,000 years ago. In addition, they found significant levels of  variation to be associated with degradation of the human genome, not forward evolutionary progress. This fits closely with research performed by Cornell University geneticist John Sanford who demonstrated through biologically realistic population genetic modeling that genomes actually devolve over time in a process called genetic entropy.5

According to the Bible, the pre-flood world population was reduced to Noah's three sons and their wives, creating a genetic bottleneck from which all humans descended. Immediately following the global flood event, we would expect to see a rapid diversification continuing up to the present. According to Scripture, this began not more than 5,000 years ago. We would also expect the human genome to devolve or degrade as it accumulates irreversible genetic errors over time. Now, two secular research papers confirm these biblical predictions.


  1. Tomkins, J. 2012. Human DNA Variation Linked to Biblical Event Timeline. Creation Science Update. Posted on icr.org July 23, 2012, accessed December 31, 2012.
  2. Tennessen, J. et al. 2012. Evolution and Functional Impact of Rare Coding Variation from Deep Sequencing of Human Exomes. Science. 337 (6090): 64-69.
  3. Fu, W, et al. Analysis of 6,515 exomes reveals the recent origin of most human protein-coding variants. Nature. Published online before print, July 13, 2012.
  4. Keinan, A and A. Clark. 2012. Recent Explosive Human Population Growth Has Resulted in an Excess of Rare Genetic Variants. Science. 336 (6082): 740-743.
  5. Sanford, J. C. 2008. Genetic Entropy and the Mystery of the Genome, 3rd ed. Waterloo, NY: FMS Publications.

* Dr. Tomkins is a Research Associate and received his Ph.D. in Genetics from Clemson University.



ICR Falsely Placed on False News List

‎Yesterday, ‎March ‎27, ‎2017, ‏‎10:00:00 AMGo to full article


A Harvard library website that offers ways to spot "fake news" links to a non-Harvard google doc with "Tips for analyzing news sources." The doc lists hundreds of "False, Misleading, Clickbait-y, and/or Satirical 'News' Sources," and as of this writing, the list includes the Institute for Creation Research.




That's a Fact: Global Flood

‎Yesterday, ‎March ‎23, ‎2017, ‏‎10:00:00 AMGo to full article

The book of Genesis describes a catastrophic worldwide Flood. Is there any evidence that floodwaters covered the entire Earth?




Where Are the Royal Archives at Tel Hazor?

‎Yesterday, ‎March ‎23, ‎2017, ‏‎3:11:29 PM | Marek DospělGo to full article


“Joshua […] took Hazor and struck its king down with the sword. Before that time, Hazor was the head of all those kingdoms. […] Israel burned none of the towns that stood on mounds except Hazor, which Joshua did burn.”—Joshua 11:10–13

It was only natural that the expressive Biblical account of Joshua’s conquest of Canaan guided the earliest archaeological investigations in the Land of Israel. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, archaeologists turned their attention to Jericho, Lachish (then identified with Tell el-Hesi), ‘Ai and Bethel, all of which were reportedly conquered in the latter part of the 13th century B.C.E. by the invading Israelites. None of these cities, however, was as prominent as Hazor, whose king headed the northern coalition of Canaanite kings.

The Biblical Book of Joshua and historical documents from the second millennium B.C.E. picture the northern Canaanite city-state of Hazor as the most important urban center in the Southern Levant. The Late Bronze Age city of Hazor—located on a mound seven miles north of the Sea of Galilee—boasted an impressive acropolis with temple and palace buildings as well as a lower city spread out below the tell. One major discovery remains elusive, however: Where are Hazor’s cuneiform archives? Tel Hazor field co-director Shlomit Bechar describes the search for the archives in “How to Find the Hazor Archives (I Think)” in the March/April 2017 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review.


This bird’s-eye view of the so-called Administrative Palace in the Canaanite city of Hazor shows impressive stone walls, but also traces of violent devastation. Photo: Courtesy of Shlomit Bechar.

Sometime in the second half of the 13th century B.C.E., a sudden ruin fell upon the city, leaving behind massive destruction layers. Archaeology provides us with tangible evidence of a violent conflagration: the heat must have been excessive, as it cracked the basalt slabs lining the walls, melted clay vessels and turned mudbricks into glass. Most scholars now eliminate the Egyptians, the Sea Peoples and the rival Canaanite city-states as suspects, accepting the claim expressed in the opening quote from the Book of Joshua that it was the Israelites who destroyed Hazor in the course of their ultimate conquest of Canaan.

As the point where three of the world’s major religions converge, Israel’s history is one of the richest and most complex in the world. Sift through the archaeology and history of this ancient land in the free eBook Israel: An Archaeological Journey, and get a view of these significant Biblical sites through an archaeologist’s lens.

tel-hazor-mapA Canaanite city of such importance, argue archaeologists further, must have harbored an extensive archive of documents. The late Yigael Yadin, who excavated Tel Hazor in the 1950s and 1960s and was a great proponent of the conquest theory of the Israelite settlement of Canaan, was first to suggest the existence of an archive of cuneiform tablets at Tel Hazor. In fact, he expected two archives—one from the Middle Bronze Age (2000–1550 B.C.E.), the other from the Late Bronze Age (1550–1200 B.C.E.).


Upon joining the resumed excavations at Tel Hazor in the early 2000s, Sharon Zuckerman of the Institute of Archaeology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem refined Yadin’s argument, focusing on the Late Bronze Age archive. Zuckerman even suggested a specific location within the Canaanite city where she expected an archive of cuneiform tablets dating to the period just before the alleged conquest of Canaan by the Israelites.

During the past ten excavation seasons—even after Zuckerman’s untimely passing in 2014—archaeological works at Tel Hazor, headed now by Amnon Ben-Tor, have been focused on the suggested location. It lies just south of the so-called Podium Complex at the entrance to the acropolis of the late Canaanite city of Hazor and has been identified as the administrative palace of the king.

So far, no archive has been discovered, but archaeologists are confident that it is just a matter of time before their long-held hopes come true. To be sure, a royal archive of a prominent Canaanite city-state would greatly expand our knowledge of the Levantine societies in the final stages of the Bronze Age.

Hazor: Canaanite Metropolis, Israelite City, a popular summary of 30 excavation seasons by long-time Hazor dig director Amnon Ben-Tor, discover ancient Hazor’s remarkable history.

Two kinds of archaeological finds from Tel Hazor deserve mentioning here in support of the enthusiastic expectations: isolated discoveries of cuneiform clay tablets and numerous fragments of Egyptian statuary.


To this day, 18 cuneiform tablets have been recovered from within the Canaanite city. The latest two pieces come from secure archaeological contexts, meaning they were found in their original position during a controlled excavation. They represent a legal document concerning a slave rental and a text for divination (see images below).


Cuneiform tablets discovered so far at Tel Hazor include a legal document (left) that parallels in time and topic the famous Law Code of Hammurabi of Babylon. Inscribed in Akkadian and dating also before the conquest of Canaan, a cuneiform tablet (right) bears a religious text used in divination. Photo: Courtesy of Shlomit Bechar.

Similarly promising are 18 fragments of Egyptian statues found across the site—sharing the fate of the local, Canaanite cultic shrines and figurines deliberately smashed into pieces, which might signal iconoclastic motivations that would fit well with the assumed identity of the conquerors as the worshipers of Yahweh. Two of the latest finds from Tel Hazor are particularly intriguing in that they represent the only monumental Egyptian statues found so far in second millennium contexts in the whole of Levant. Strangely enough, one of them represents King Menkaure, who ruled Egypt in the late 26th century B.C.E.—well before anything is known about the settlement at Tel Hazor. It is also the only known representation of the king as a sphinx (human-headed, reclining lion). The other statue belongs to a priest of the Egyptian god Ptah (see image below).


Fragmented statue of Nebpu, an Egyptian priest of Ptah in Memphis, with its discoverers. Its base is inscribed with hieroglyphs and the statue originally stood about 5 feet tall. How and when did the statue come to Tel Hazor? Photo: Shlomit Bechar.

For a detailed discussion of the leads and clues in the search for a cuneiform tablets archive in the Canaanite city of Hazor, read Shlomit Bechar’s article “How to Find the Hazor Archives (I Think)” in the March/April 2017 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review.




BAS Library Members: Read the full article “How to Find the Hazor Archives (I Think)” in the March/April 2017 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review.

Not a BAS Library member yet? Join the BAS Library today.



More on Tel Hazor in Bible History Daily:

Hazor Excavations’ Amnon Ben-Tor Reveals Who Conquered Biblical Canaanites

Rare Egyptian Sphinx Fragment Discovered at Hazor

Scorched Wheat May Provide Answers on the Destruction of Canaanite Tel Hazor



More on Tel Hazor in the BAS Library:

Sharon Zuckerman, “Where Is the Hazor Archive Buried?” Biblical Archaeology Review, March/April 2006.

Amnon Ben-Tor, “Who Destroyed Canaanite Hazor?” Biblical Archaeology Review, July/August 2013.

Amnon Ben-Tor, “Excavating Hazor, Part One: Solomon’s City Rises from the Ashes,” Biblical Archaeology Review, March/April 1999.

Amnon Ben-Tor and Maria Teresa Rubiato, “Excavating Hazor, Part Two: Did the Israelites Destroy the Canaanite City?” Biblical Archaeology Review, May/June 1999.



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Ancient Rock Art Shines Light on “Dark” Period

‎Wednesday, ‎March ‎22, ‎2017, ‏‎11:05:35 PM | Robin NgoGo to full article


For the first time in the Southern Levant, ancient rock art has been found in a megalithic tomb structure known as a dolmen. Composed of huge stones and resembling a table, this 4,000-year-old dolmen resides in a field of more than 400 dolmens in Israel’s Golan Heights. Archaeologists from Tel Hai College, the Institute of Archaeology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) recently published a study of this monumental dolmen—one of the largest found in the Levant—in the journal PLOS ONE.


The 4,000-year-old dolmen in which ancient rock art was discovered. Photo: Gonen Sharon, Tel Hai College.

The dolmen is surrounded by a huge circular stone heap (a tumulus) almost 66 feet in diameter. A massive stone slab covering the central chamber of the dolmen measures about 6.5 by 10 feet and weighs at least 50 tons. On the ceiling inside the chamber are a number of engravings.

“The engraved shapes depict a straight line going to the center of an arc,” said IAA archaeologist Uri Berger, one of the coauthors of the study, in an IAA press release. “About 15 such engravings were documented on the ceiling of the dolmen, spread out in a kind of arc along the ceiling. No parallels exist for these shapes in the engraved rock drawings of the Middle East, and their significance remains a mystery.”


The ancient rock art inside the dolmen. Photo: Gonen Sharon, Tel Hai College.

Excavation of the central chamber of the dolmen uncovered a few centimeters below the surface the burial of at least three people: an adult male, an adult female and a child. The poor preservation of the skeletal remains has hindered further study.

“It is currently not possible to conclude whether the burials were found as placed during the original use of the dolmen or as disturbed by later burials,” the researchers write in the PLOS ONE article.

The free eBook Life in the Ancient World guides you through craft centers in ancient Jerusalem, family structure across Israel and ancient practices—from dining to makeup—throughout the Mediterranean world.

While the meaning of the ancient rock art is uncertain, the researchers offer a suggestion in their study: “Given the burial context and the placement of the engravings above the human remains, a possible interpretation is that they are schematic human forms or symbolic representations of the soul of the deceased. From this depiction, one may postulate the meaning of the panel as representing, or relating to, the journey that awaits the deceased.”

According to the archaeologists, the dolmen field—known as the Shamir Dolmen Field—has provided evidence that the time period in which the dolmens were constructed witnessed more socio-economic complexity than previously thought. In the PLOS ONE study, the scholars elaborate:

Until recently, the Intermediate Bronze Age (IB) of the Levant was understood by researchers as the “Dark Ages” between two urban periods. The collapse of the Early Bronze cities, the near absence of settlements in the archaeological record, together with no reported monumental buildings or any other indicators of a central regime, led to the definition of the socio-economic structure of the IB as “small-scaled mixed agro-pastoralism.” The findings from the Shamir Dolmen Field challenge this view and suggest that, at least in the Hula Valley Basin and the Northern Golan Heights, a governmental body existed that had the ability to recruit the labor and organization needed for the stonemasonry of monumental architecture.

Read the IAA press release and the PLOS ONE study.



Related reading in Bible History Daily:

Viewing Petroglyphs as More than Scribbles

Searching for Biblical Mt. Sinai
Biblical motifs in rock art in the southern Negev?

The Autographed Rock Art of Southern Jordan



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Has the Childhood Home of Jesus Been Found?

‎Friday, ‎March ‎17, ‎2017, ‏‎3:00:27 PM | Ellen WhiteGo to full article


This Bible History Daily feature was originally published in 2015. It has been updated.—Ed.


This very well could be the childhood home of Jesus. It doesn’t look inviting, but this rock-hewn courtyard house was quite likely Jesus’ home in Nazareth. The recent excavation by Ken Dark and the Nazareth Archaeological Project revealed evidence suggesting this is where Jesus was raised—or at the least the place venerated as such by the Byzantine period. Photo: Ken Dark.

The childhood home of Jesus may have been found underneath the Sisters of Nazareth Convent in Nazareth, Israel, according to archaeologist Ken Dark.


The excavation site located beneath the convent has been known since 1880, but it was never professionally excavated until the Nazareth Archaeological Project began its work in 2006. In “Has Jesus’ Nazareth House Been Found?” in the March/April 2015 issue of BAR, Ken Dark, the director of the Nazareth Archaeological Project, not only describes the remains of the home itself, but explores the evidence that suggests that this is the place where Jesus spent his formative years—or at least the place regarded in the Byzantine period as the childhood home of Jesus.

The excavation revealed a first-century “courtyard house” that was partially hewn from naturally occurring rock and partially constructed with rock-built walls. Many of the home’s original features are still intact, including doors and windows. Also found at the site were tombs, a cistern and, later, a Byzantine church.

The Galilee is one of the most evocative locales in the New Testament—the area where Jesus was raised and where many of the Apostles came from. Our free eBook The Galilee Jesus Knew focuses on several aspects of Galilee: how Jewish the area was in Jesus’ time, the ports and the fishing industry that were so central to the region, and several sites where Jesus likely stayed and preached.

The remains combined with the description found in the seventh-century pilgrim account De Locus Sanctis point to the courtyard house found beneath the convent as what may have been regarded as Jesus’ home in Nazareth. Archaeological and geographical evidence from the Church of the Annunciation, the International Marion Center and Mary’s Well come together to suggest that this location may be where Jesus transitioned from boy to man.


Ken Dark also discusses the relationship between the childhood home of Jesus, Nazareth and the important site of Sepphoris. It has been thought that Sepphoris would have provided Joseph with work and Jesus many important cultural experiences. However, Ken Dark believes that Nazareth was a larger town than traditionally understood and was particularly Jewish in its identity—as opposed to the Roman-influenced Sepphoris. This is partially based on the result of his survey of the Nahal Zippori region that separates Sepphoris and Nazareth geographically.

For more on the childhood home of Jesus, read the full article “Has Jesus’ Nazareth House Been Found?” by Ken Dark in the March/April 2015 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review.




BAS Library Members: Read the full article “Has Jesus’ Nazareth House Been Found?” by Ken Dark in the March/April 2015 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review.

Not a BAS Library member yet? Join the BAS Library today.

This Bible History Daily feature was originally published on March 2, 2015.

Is it possible to identify the first-century man named Jesus behind the many stories and traditions about him that developed over 2,000 years in the Gospels and church teachings? Visit the Jesus/Historical Jesus study page to read free articles on Jesus in Bible History Daily.



Related reading in the BAS Library:

Steve Mason, “Where Was Jesus Born?: O Little Town of…Nazareth?” Bible Review, February 2000.

Philip J. King, “Biblical Views: Jesus’ Birthplace and Jesus’ Home,” Biblical Archaeology Review, November/December 2014.

Eric M. Meyers, “The Pools of Sepphoris: Ritual Baths or Bathtubs? Yes, They Are,” Biblical Archaeology Review, July/August 2000.

Mark Chancey and Eric M. Meyers, “Spotlight on Sepphoris: How Jewish Was Sepphoris in Jesus’ Time?” Biblical Archaeology Review, July/August 2000.

Zeev Weiss, “The Sepphoris Synagogue Mosaic,” Biblical Archaeology Review, September/October 2000.

Not a BAS Library member yet? Join the BAS Library today.

Which finds made our top 10 Biblical archaeology discoveries of 2015? Find out >>



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Is the Earliest Image of the Virgin Mary in the Dura-Europos Church?

‎Thursday, ‎March ‎16, ‎2017, ‏‎3:27:43 PM | Biblical Archaeology Society StaffGo to full article




Is this wall painting of a woman at a well from the third-century Dura-Europos church the earliest image of the Virgin Mary? Photo: Yale University Art Gallery.

In the oldest known Christian church, located at the site of Dura-Europos in eastern Syria, a wall painting depicts a woman leaning over a well. Who is she? Some believe this is the Biblical scene of the Samaritan woman who speaks with Jesus beside Jacob’s well (John 4:1–42). In “Earliest Depictions of the Virgin Mary” in the March/April 2017 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review, Biblical scholar Mary Joan Winn Leith discusses another possibility.


The third-century C.E. Dura-Europos church was discovered in excavations conducted before World War II. Only recently, however, has a new light been shone on the portrait of the woman at the well, which is located in the small baptistery of the church. Leith reviews scholar Michael Peppard’s argument that the portrait depicts not the Samaritan woman but the Virgin Mary at the moment of the Annunciation, when the angel Gabriel announces to her that she will bear the Son of God, Jesus:

As Peppard explains, the third-century Dura Annunciation is based not on the Biblical Annunciation in Luke 1:26–38 but on the Gospel of James (a.k.a. the Protevangelium of James), a second-century apocryphal (i.e., not considered authoritative) gospel that narrates the life of Mary up to and including the birth of Jesus. According to the Gospel of James, Mary “took the pitcher and went forth to fill it with water and lo! a voice saying, ‘Hail thou that art highly favored, the Lord is with thee, blessed art thou among women.’ And she looked around on the right and on the left to see from where this voice could have come.”

If Peppard’s interpretation is correct, this would make the portrait at the Dura-Europos church the earliest image of the Virgin Mary.

Our free eBook Ten Top Biblical Archaeology Discoveries brings together the exciting worlds of archaeology and the Bible! Learn the fascinating insights gained from artifacts and ruins, like the Pool of Siloam in Jerusalem, where the Gospel of John says Jesus miraculously restored the sight of the blind man, and the Tel Dan inscription—the first historical evidence of King David outside the Bible.

According to Leith, other early images of the Virgin Mary can shed light on Christian beliefs in the first centuries of the Common Era.


“Among the puzzles is how Christians viewed Jesus’ mother Mary in the earliest centuries of Christianity,” writes Leith. “Mary’s status in Christianity only became official in 431 when the Council of Ephesus awarded her the title Theotokos, ‘the one who gives birth to God.’ Information about Mary’s significance before then, whether visual or textual, is surprisingly sparse, but archaeology has supplied some helpful clues.”

Get an in-depth look at the portrait of the woman at the well from the Dura-Europos church and explore other early images of the Virgin Mary by reading the full article “Earliest Depictions of the Virgin Mary” by Mary Joan Winn Leith in the March/April 2017 issue of BAR.




BAS Library Members: Read the full article “Earliest Depictions of the Virgin Mary” by Mary Joan Winn Leith in the March/April 2017 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review.

Not a BAS Library member yet? Join the BAS Library today.



Related reading in Bible History Daily:

The Origins of “The Cherry Tree Carol” by Mary Joan Winn Leith

The Virgin Mary and the Prophet Muhammad by Mary Joan Winn Leith

Were Mary and Joseph Married or Engaged at Jesus’ Birth? by Mark Wilson

The Archaeological Quest for the Earliest Christians: Part 1 and Part 2 by Douglas Boin

Mary’s Many Sides

Mary, Simeon or Anna: Who First Recognized Jesus as Messiah?



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Origins: 3.14159265…

‎Tuesday, ‎March ‎14, ‎2017, ‏‎3:00:55 PM | Biblical Archaeology Society StaffGo to full article


Read Kim Jonas’s article “Origins: 3.14159265…” as it originally appeared in Archaeology Odyssey, March/April 2000. The article was first republished in Bible History Daily in 2014.—Ed.


π, or pi, has a value of 3.14159265…

How do you find the holy grail of mathematics?


You start with a circle, which is the easiest geometric shape to draw (just fix one end of a string in place and swing the other end around it, inscribing a circle). Then measure the circle’s perimeter (also known as the circumference) and the distance across its widest point (the diameter). Divide the circumference by the diameter—and you have that well-known but eternally daunting number, π, or pi, which has a value of 3.14159265…

That is part of the mystique of pi: Whatever the size of the circle, the value remains the same (what mathematicians call a “constant”). Unfortunately, pi is also “irrational,” meaning that it is impossible to calculate its value completely; the decimals go on forever without regular repetition.

Calculating the value of pi has been a puzzle for millennia. One of the earliest implied values is given in a Biblical passage describing the construction of a huge basin for Solomon’s Temple: “Then [Hiram of Tyre] made the molten sea; it was round, ten cubits from brim to brim, and five cubits high. A line of thirty cubits would encircle it completely” (1 Kings 7:23). In other words, pi = 30÷10 or 3.

The Temple craftsmen obviously obtained these numbers through direct measurement—perhaps using a rope—and they came up with a simple approximation of pi. More than a thousand years earlier, the Sumerians had developed a mathematical method for measuring the dimensions of circles, that of inscribed equilateral polygons (a geometric shape with three or more straight sides). The ancient Sumerians realized that the perimeter of a polygon inscribed in a circle would always be slightly smaller than the circle’s circumference. This allowed them to make a fairly accurate measurement of a curved line, which is almost impossible to do with ordinary measuring devices.

The free eBook Life in the Ancient World guides you through craft centers in ancient Jerusalem, family structure across Israel and articles on ancient practices—from dining to makeup—across the Mediterranean world.

According to a 4,000-year-old cuneiform tablet discovered in 1936, the Sumerians found the ratio of the perimeter of an inscribed hexagon to that of the circle to be 3456/3600, which factors out to 216/225. The Sumerians could thus measure any circle (by measuring an inscribed polygon and making the adjustment). Then they could measure the circle’s diameter—a simple straight line—and divide it into the circumference, producing an approximation of pi. In this way, the Sumerians found pi to be 3 23/216 (3.1065), a much better calculation of pi than the Biblical value. Why wasn’t this known to the Israelites at the time of Solomon? We’ll never know.


In an ancient Egyptian mathematical treatise known as the Rhind Papyrus (c. 1650 B.C.E.), a scribe named Ahmes states that a certain circular field 9 units across (that is, with a diameter of 9) had an area of 64 units. Today, we know the relations between the diameter, circumference and area of a circle: Area equals pi multiplied by the square of the radius (half the diameter), or a = πr2. Changing this equation around, we find that pi equals the area divided by the square of the radius. The field’s radius is 4.5 (half of nine); the square of 4.5 is 20.25; and 64 divided by 20.25 equals 3.16. Therefore, π = 3.16. Thus some modern commentators have given Ahmes credit for a close approximation of pi. But was our ancient Egyptian scribe aware of this formula? Almost certainly not. He didn’t know he was approximating pi, and I should not like to give him credit for it.


Our next significant player is the Greek philosopher Antiphon. In the late fifth century B.C.E., he realized that if successive polygons were inscribed within a circle, doubling the number of sides each time, the difference between the polygon’s perimeter and the circle’s circumference would diminish toward zero (think of a circle as a polygon with an infinite number of sides). While Antiphon didn’t calculate pi using his method (as far as we know), his idea would be the basis of all improvements in the value of pi until the 17th century C.E.

Two centuries later, Archimedes (c. 287–212 B.C.E.) inscribed a hexagon in a circle; then he doubled the sides until he had a 96-sided polygon inscribed in the circle. At the same time, he superscribed a similar series of polygons outside the circle. By this method, he found that pi was greater than 3.14084 and less than 3.14286—an extremely close approximation of the actual value (3.14159265). Archimedes was the first mathematician to bound pi in this way, by calculating its upper and lower limits. Thus he should be credited with making the search for the value of pi a science.

Learn about the ancient origins of other inventions—from the calendar to medicinal pills—in
The Origins of Things (Or How the Hour Got Its Minutes).

For almost 2,000 years, no one improved on Archimedes’s method of inscribed and superscribed polygons, though refinements were made in the calculation. The second-century C.E. Alexandrian astronomer Ptolemy, for instance, used Archimedes’s method to reach a value of 3.14167. And the method was invented independently by Indian and Chinese mathematicians. In the fifth century C.E., the Chinese mathematician Tsu Chung-Chih and his son Tsu Keng-Chih, using the polygon method, found that pi falls between 3.1415926 and 3.1415927, which is precise enough for most purposes even today.


The calculation of accurate trigonometric tables in the 16th century made the Archimedian approach much easier to pursue than before. The French lawyer and amateur mathematician François Viète (1540–1603) used trigonometry to calculate the perimeter of a polygon with 393,216 sides, pinpointing p somewhere between 3.1415926535 and 3.1415926537.

But it was Isaac Newton’s development of calculus that reduced the calculation of pi to plain old arithmetic. In 1655, John Wallis published his proof of the infinite product π÷2 = 2 x 2/3 x 4/3 x 4/5 x 6/5 x 6/7… And James Gregory, in 1671, found the infinite sum of π÷4 = 1 – 1/3 + 1/5 – 1/7 + 1/9 – 1/11… These formulas take hundreds of steps to arrive at even the first few digits of pi, but they demonstrated the feasibility of the new method. Within a few years, Newton found a series of formulas that quickly gave him a 16-digit expansion of pi. From then on, further computation of pi was only a matter of desire and endurance.

When it comes to endurance, nothing can beat a computer. In 1949, the primitive ENIAC computer, the first of the “giant brains,” was fed an algorithm for calculating pi. Three days later, it arrived at an answer 2,037 digits long. Today programs are available that allow you to calculate a billion digits of pi on your Pentium computer over the weekend.

What’s the point of computing pi out that far? There is none. If we knew the diameter of the universe, the first 30 digits of pi would theoretically enable us to calculate its circumference to within a millimeter. That’s closer than we would ever need to come; the rest is just showing off.




“Origins: 3.14159265…” by Kim Jonas originally appeared in the March/April 2000 issue of Archaeology Odyssey. The article was first republished in Bible History Daily on March 14, 2014.

Kim Jonas, a former college math professor, is currently a statistician for the U.S. Census Bureau.



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Classical Corner: The Antonine Plague and the Spread of Christianity

‎Monday, ‎March ‎13, ‎2017, ‏‎3:09:52 PM | Biblical Archaeology Society StaffGo to full article




Marcus Aurelius. Photo: © DEA Picture Library/Art Resource, NY.

The year was 166 C.E., and the Roman Empire was at the zenith of its power. The triumphant Roman legions, under the command of Emperor Lucius Verrus, returned to Rome victorious after having defeated their Parthian enemies on the eastern border of the Roman Empire. As they marched west toward Rome, they carried with them more than the spoils of plundered Parthian temples; they also carried an epidemic that would ravage the Roman Empire over the course of the next two decades, an event that would inexorably alter the landscape of the Roman world. The Antonine Plague, as it came to be known, would reach every corner of the empire and is what most likely claimed the life of Lucius Verrus himself in 169—and possibly that of his co-emperor Marcus Aurelius in 180.1


The pestilential that swept through the Roman Empire following the return of Lucius Verrus’s army is attested to in the works of several contemporary observers.2 The famous physician Galen found himself in the middle of an outbreak not once, but twice. Present in Rome during the initial outbreak in 166, Galen’s sense of self-preservation evidently overcame his scientific curiosity, and he retreated to his home city of Pergamon. His respite didn’t last long; with the epidemic still raging, the emperors called him back to Rome in 168.

The free eBook Life in the Ancient World guides you through craft centers in ancient Jerusalem, family structure across Israel and ancient practices—from dining to makeup—throughout the Mediterranean world.

The effect on Rome’s armies was apparently devastating. Close proximity to sick fellow soldiers and less-than-optimal living conditions made it possible for the outbreak to spread rapidly throughout the legions, such as those stationed along the northern frontier at Aquileia. Both emperors and their attendant physician Galen were present with the legions in Aquileia when the plague swept through the winter barracks, prompting the emperors to flee to Rome and leave Galen behind to attend to the troops. Legions elsewhere in the empire were similarly stricken; military recruitment in Egypt drew upon the sons of soldiers to augment their shrinking ranks, and army discharge certificates from the Balkan region suggest that there was a significant decrease in the number of soldiers who were allowed to retire from military service during the period of the plague.3

The effect on the civilian population was evidently no less severe. In his letter to Athens in 174/175, Marcus Aurelius loosened the requirements for membership to the Areopagus (the ruling council of Athens), as there were now too few surviving upper-class Athenians who met the requirements he had introduced prior to the outbreak.4 Egyptian tax documents in the form of papyri from Oxyrhynchus and Fayum attest to significant population decreases in Egyptian cities; it did not escape the attention of the cities’ administrators that mortality and the subsequent flight of fearful survivors substantially impacted their tax revenues.5 In Rome itself a beleaguered Marcus Aurelius (who, after the death of Lucius Verrus, became the empire’s sole ruler) was simultaneously contending with a Marcomannic invasion on the empire’s northern frontier, a Sarmatian invasion on its eastern frontier and an empire-wide pandemic. Epigraphic and architectural evidence in Rome indicate that civic building projects—a significant feature of second-century Rome’s robust economy—came to an effective halt between 166 and 180.6 A similar pause in civic building projects shows up in London during the same period.7

Watch author Sarah Yeomans as she lectures on “Doctors, Diseases and Deities: Epidemic Crises and Medicine in Ancient Rome.”

Archaeological and textual evidence help us paint a picture of the impact of the Antonine Plague in various regions of the Roman Empire, but what was it?


Galen’s surviving case notes describe a virulent and dangerous disease, the symptoms and progression of which point to at least one—if not two—strains of the smallpox virus.8 Dio Cassius describes the deaths of up to 2,000 people per day in Rome alone during a particularly lethal outbreak in 189.9 It has been estimated that the mortality rate over the 23-year period of the Antonine Plague was 7–10 percent of the population; among the armies and the inhabitants of more densely populated cities, the rate could have been as high as 13–15 percent.10 Aside from the practical consequences of the outbreak, such as the destabilization of the Roman military and economy, the psychological impact on the populations must have been substantial. It is easy to imagine the sense of fear and helplessness ancient Romans must have felt in the face of such a ruthless, painful, disfiguring and frequently fatal disease.

It is not difficult to understand, then, the apparent shifts in religious practices that came about as a result of the Antonine Plague. While civic architectural projects were put on hold, the building of sacred sites and ceremonial ways intensified.11 Marcus Aurelius is said to have invested heavily in restoring the temples and shrines of Roman deities, and one wonders whether it was in part due to the plague that Christianity coalesced and spread so rapidly throughout the empire at the end of the second century. Human beings, both ancient and modern, tend to be more open to considerations of the divine in times of fear and in the face of imminent mortality. Even today in modern America, while a place of worship is rare inside an office building, there is one in almost every hospital. It seems that the ancient Romans, in the face of an inexplicable and incurable epidemic, turned to the divine. But the gods moved slowly—it would be another 1,800 years before the smallpox virus was finally eradicated.

“Classical Corner: The Antonine Plague and the Spread of Christianity” by Sarah K. Yeomans originally appeared in the March/April 2017 Biblical Archaeology Review.

Sarah K. Yeomans is the Director of Educational Programs at the Biblical Archaeology Society. She is currently pursuing her doctorate at the University of Southern California and specializes in the Imperial period of the Roman Empire with a particular emphasis on religions and ancient science. She is also a faculty member in the Department of Religious Studies at West Virginia University.




1. This modern term for the second-century plague in Rome comes from the dynastic name of the emperors at the time. Marcus Aurelius and his co-emperor Lucius Verrus were both members of the Antonine family. Because of Galen’s surviving case notes that documented the symptoms of the disease, the epidemic is sometimes referred to as the “Plague of Galen.”

2. Galen, Aelius Aristides, Lucian and Cassius Dio were all first-hand witnesses to the epidemic.

3. Richard P. Duncan-Jones, Structure and Scale in the Roman Economy (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1990), p. 72; Richard P. Duncan-Jones, “The Impact of the Antonine Plague,” Journal of Roman Archaeology 9 (1996), p. 124.

4. James H. Oliver, Greek Constitutions of Early Roman Emperors from Inscriptions to Papyri (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, 1989), pp. 366–388.

5. For further discussions of papyrological evidence, see R.J. Littman and M.L. Littman, “Galen and the Antonine Plague,” American Journal of Philology 94 (1973), pp. 243–255; Duncan-Jones, “Antonine Plague”; R.S Bagnall, “Oxy. 4527 and the Antonine Plague in Egypt: Death or Flight?” Journal of Roman Archaeology 13 (2000), pp. 288–292.

6. The same cessation of construction is not, however, evident in Spain or in the North African provinces outside of Egypt, possibly indicating that certain areas of the empire were more affected than others. See Duncan-Jones, “Antonine Plague.”

7. Dominic Perring, “Two Studies on Roman London. A: London’s Military Origins; B: Population Decline and Ritual Landscapes in Antonine London,” Journal of Roman Archaeology 24 (2011), pp. 249–268.

8. Until recently it was thought that the Antonine Plague could possibly have been a measles epidemic. However, recent scientific data have eliminated this possibility. See Y. Furuse, A. Suzuki and H. Oshitani, “Origin of the Measles Virus: Divergence from Rinderpest Virus Between the 11th and 12th Centuries,” Virology 7 (2010), pp. 52–55.

9. Dio Cassius 73.14.3–4; for a discussion of the smallpox pathologies, see Littman and Littman, “Galen.”

10. Littman and Littman, “Galen,” p. 255.

11. Perring, “Two Studies.”



Related reading in Bible History Daily:

Medicine in the Ancient World by Sarah K. Yeomans

Doctors, Diseases and Deities: Epidemic Crises and Medicine in Ancient Rome by Sarah K. Yeomans

Ancient Pergamon: City of science … and satan? by Sarah K. Yeomans

Ancient Cupping in Israel

Justinian Plague Linked to the Black Death

The Cyprian Plague



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2,000-Year-Old Road Unearthed in Bet Shemesh

‎Thursday, ‎March ‎9, ‎2017, ‏‎9:19:56 PM | Robin NgoGo to full article




A 2,000-year-old Roman road was discovered in Bet Shemesh, Israel. Photo: Assaf Peretz, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

Archaeologists working in Bet Shemesh, located 19 miles west of Jerusalem in Israel, discovered a Roman-period road near the modern Highway 375. The excavation was conducted by the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) ahead of the installation of a water pipeline to Jerusalem.


The 2,000-year-old road spanned a width of 20 feet and stretched about a mile. According to IAA excavation director Irina Zilberbod in an IAA press release, the road had been built to connect a Roman settlement near Bet Shemesh with a major Roman imperial road. The Roman imperial road is believed to have been built around the time that Emperor Hadrian visited the province of Judea, c. 130 C.E., before the outbreak of the Bar-Kokhba revolt.

The IAA press release describes the network of roads that cropped up in the Roman period:

Up until 2,000 years ago, most of the roads in the country were actually improvised trails. However during the Roman period, as a result of military and other campaigns, the national and international road network started to be developed in an unprecedented manner. The Roman government was well aware of the importance of the roads for the proper running of the empire. From the main roads … there were secondary routes that led to the settlements where all of the agricultural products were grown. The grain, oil and wine, which constituted the main [diet] at the time, were transported along the secondary routes from the surroundings villages and then by way of the main roads to the large markets in Israel and even abroad.

Discovered within the pavement stones of the Roman road at Bet Shemesh were a coin of the Roman prefect of Judea, Pontius Pilate (29 C.E.), a coin of Judean king Agrippa I (41 C.E.), a coin from Year 2 of the Great Revolt (67 C.E.) and a coin dated to the Umayyad period (c. 661–750 C.E.).


The ancient coins discovered in the excavation at Bet Shemesh. Photo: Clara Amit, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

Read the IAA press release.

As the point where three of the world’s major religions converge, Israel’s history is one of the richest and most complex in the world. Sift through the archaeology and history of this ancient land in the free eBook Israel: An Archaeological Journey, and get a view of these significant Biblical sites through an archaeologist’s lens.

Related reading in Bible History Daily:

Archaeologists Reveal a Desecrated Iron Age Temple at Beth-Shemesh

To Jerusalem: Pilgrimage Road Identified?

Inscription Reveals Governor of Judea Before the Bar-Kokhba Revolt



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First Person: Misogyny in the Bible

‎Tuesday, ‎March ‎7, ‎2017, ‏‎10:01:31 PM | Biblical Archaeology Society StaffGo to full article




Hershel Shanks

Christopher Rollston is one of the world’s leading paleographers of ancient Near Eastern inscriptions. I have been harshly critical of some of his views, principally regarding unprovenanced inscriptions—inscriptions that have surfaced only from the antiquities market, not from a professional archaeological excavation. They may be forgeries, he argues. Although my criticism of Chris’s position is intense,1 we remain good friends and regularly share a meal. Chris is also a master carpenter. Above my office door hangs a beautiful polished wooden plaque expertly carved with my name in paleo-Hebrew script—the kind of Hebrew letters used before the Babylonian destruction of the Solomonic (First) Temple in 586 B.C.E.


Several years ago, when Chris was teaching at Emmanuel Christian Seminary, a Tennessee seminary affiliated with the Restoration Movement, he wrote an article about the Bible’s sometimes “unfair” or unequal treatment of women.2 He recently published a revised and augmented version of this controversial article.3

Here are some examples from his article:

Noah and his wife had three sons (Shem, Ham and Japheth—Genesis 5:32) who were each married. All eight were on the ark. We know the names of all the men, but none of the women (Genesis 8:18), not even Noah’s wife.

Rollston finds the marginalization of women obvious and “clear” in the Ten Commandments: “The wife is classified as her husband’s property, and she’s listed with the slaves and work animals. There is also a striking omission in this commandment: Never does it say, ‘You shall not covet your neighbor’s husband.’”

In the free eBook Exploring Genesis: The Bible’s Ancient Traditions in Context, discover the cultural contexts for many of Israel’s earliest traditions. Explore Mesopotamian creation myths, Joseph’s relationship with Egyptian temple practices and three different takes on the location of Ur of the Chaldees, the birthplace of Abraham.

Rollston continues with other examples:


An unmarried woman could be compelled to marry her rapist, as long as the rapist could pay the standard bride price and the woman’s father was comfortable with the marriage (Deuteronomy 22:28–29). Polygyny (a man having multiple wives at the same time) was not condemned, but was an accepted and legal custom (Deuteronomy 21:15–17; Genesis 4:19–24; and 2 Samuel 3:2–5). A woman’s religious vow could be nullified by her father or her husband (Numbers 30:3–15). And the assumption of the text is that the priesthood is all male (Leviticus 21). In short, within the legal literature of the Bible, women were not accorded the same status as men.

Other examples come from the New Testament; here is one of Rollston’s examples:

[1 Timothy 2] begins by stating that “men should pray” (and the word used here for men is andras, a gendered word that refers only to males) and then says “women should dress themselves modestly and decently” (vv. 8–9). So men are to pray, and women are to dress modestly. That’s quite a contrast. But there’s more: “Let a woman learn in silence and full submission. I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she is to be silent” (vv. 11–12). The author’s rationale: “For Adam was formed first, then Eve, and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor” (vv. 13–14). According to this text, women were to be silent in worship gatherings (and men were certainly not told to be silent), and the rationale for this mandate is that woman (Eve) was created second and sinned first. And the final blow is this: A woman “will be saved” (the future tense of the standard word for “be saved,” “be given salvation”) “through childbirth if she remains in faith and love and sanctification with modesty” (1 Timothy 2:15).


Learn about Biblical women with slighted traditions in the Bible History Daily feature Scandalous Women in the Bible, which includes articles on Lilith, Mary Magdalene and Jezebel.

Rollston recently told us in writing what we already knew. This criticism of the Bible led to his “forced ouster” from Emmanuel Christian Seminary.


Not long after his “forced ouster,” I saw Chris and told him that this could be the best thing that ever happened to him. And so it turned out. Eventually he obtained a tenured position at the George Washington University (GWU) in Washington, D.C. Soon thereafter the prestigious position of editor of the Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research (BASOR) opened up, and Chris and his distinguished colleague Eric Cline at GWU were appointed as coeditors to fill the position. Seldom do we write stories with such happy endings.

“First Person: Misogyny in the Bible” by Hershel Shanks originally appeared in Biblical Archaeology Review, March/April 2017.




1. See Hershel Shanks, “Predilections—Is the ‘Brother of Jesus’ Inscription a Forgery?” Biblical Archaeology Review, September/October 2015.

2. Christopher Rollston, “The Marginalization of Women: A Biblical Value We Don’t Like to Talk About,” Huffington Post, August 31, 2012.

3. Christopher A. Rollston, “Women, the Bible, and the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution,” in Frances Flannery and Rodney Alan Werline, eds., The Bible in Political Debate (New York: Bloomsbury, 2016).



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The Church of Laodicea in the Bible and Archaeology

‎Monday, ‎March ‎6, ‎2017, ‏‎3:59:57 PM | Megan SauterGo to full article


“I know your works; you are neither cold nor hot. I wish that you were either cold or hot. So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I am about to spit you out of my mouth.”—Revelation 3:15–16

Why does the author of the Book of Revelation call the church of Laodicea “lukewarm”?

The church of Laodicea is the last of seven churches addressed in Revelation. This harsh pronouncement suggests that the Christians at Laodicea—located in modern Turkey—wavered in their commitments to the Christian faith. The historical and archaeological context of this situation is worth investigating.


Temple A at Laodicea, Turkey. Originally dedicated to Apollo, Artemis and Aphrodite, Temple A at Laodicea, Turkey, later was used for the imperial cult. It dates to the second century C.E. Photo: © Mark R. Fairchild, Huntington University.

Mark R. Fairchild of Huntington University explores the Laodicean church’s lukewarm reputation, while examining the recent archaeological excavations at Laodicea, Turkey, in his article “Laodicea’s ‘Lukewarm’ Legacy: Conflicts of Prosperity in an Ancient Christian City,” published in the March/April 2017 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review.

We are not told who founded the church of Laodicea in the Bible, yet from textual evidence in the New Testament, we can infer that Epaphras, one the apostle Paul’s disciples, likely planted it. We know that Epaphras founded the church at Colossae (Colossians 1:6–7), one of Laodicea’s close neighbors. Therefore, it seems plausible that he would also be responsible for planting the church at Laodicea.

In the free eBook Paul: Jewish Law and Early Christianity, learn about the cultural contexts for the theology of Paul and how Jewish traditions and law extended into early Christianity through Paul’s dual roles as a Christian missionary and a Pharisee.

Laodicea was a wealthy city during the Roman period. Not only was Laodicea located on major trade routes that connected it to important cities like Ephesus, Smyrna and Sardis, but also it was a center of textile production and banking. Perhaps not surprisingly, the church of Laodicea is noted as being wealthy in the Bible (see Revelation 3:17).


The Book of Revelation was penned during the Roman emperor Domitian’s reign (r. 81–96 C.E.). Domitian was notorious for being the first Roman emperor who declared himself a god while still alive. This affronted Christians, Jews and the Roman Senate alike. Other emperors were deified only after their death.



Etched into this broken column fragment are four religious symbols: a menorah, lulav (palm branch), shofar (ram’s horn) and cross. The first three symbols are Jewish, but the cross is distinctly Christian. The column originally belonged to a nymphaeum (a public fountain) in Laodicea. The Jewish symbols were likely added to the column in the late Roman or early Byzantine period, and the cross was added in the early Byzantine period. That the Christian cross extends from the Jewish menorah suggests that the Laodicean church grew out of the synagogue. Photo: © Mark R. Fairchild, Huntington University.

Domitian persecuted those who would not participate in the imperial cult (the worship of emperors and dynastic families). Although Jews were exempt from participating, Christians were not. Fairchild explains, “As part of the Pax Romana, the staunchly monotheistic Jews in the cities of the Mediterranean world were exempt from the requirements of emperor worship. As long as Christianity was considered a sect within Judaism, the Christians in these cities were likewise exempt from emperor worship.” At first, the Christian Church was composed almost entirely of Jews. However, as more Gentiles (non-Jews) converted to Christianity, the percentage of Jewish people in the Christian Church decreased, and, therefore, Christians’ special status as Jewish monotheists, which permitted them to refrain from emperor worship, was removed.


The Christians at Laodicea were affected by Domitian’s decrees. Their response to this persecution—which even involved their ability to buy and sell—is what causes the author of Revelation to call them “lukewarm.” Fairchild elaborates:

The difficulties that this placed upon the Christians of Asia were expressed in detail throughout the Book of Revelation. Those who refused to worship the image of the beast (the emperor) were killed. Christians could no longer buy or sell unless they had taken the mark of the beast (Revelation 13). The pressure upon rich Christians to maintain their wealth was intense. Since a great deal of Laodicea’s wealth depended upon trade, the Christian merchants were in a quandary. Would they cooperate with the imperial cult and maintain their trade associations, or would they forswear Domitian and reaffirm their faith in Christ? Many of the Laodicean Christians compromised their faith in such ways that the writer of the apocalypse could say, “I will spit you out of my mouth” (Revelation 3:16).

Other churches throughout the Roman Empire responded differently. For example, the Christians at Smyrna are applauded in the Book of Revelation for maintaining their faith in the midst of extreme difficulty by refusing to participate in the imperial cult—even though this meant affliction and poverty for them (see Revelation 2:9).

Yet the Laodicean church’s “lukewarm” legacy was not its final legacy.

The church at Laodicea survived Domitian’s reign. The city became a bishopric (seat of a Christian bishop), and a Christian council was even held there in the fourth century C.E. Archaeologists have discovered about 20 ancient Christian chapels and churches at the site. The largest church at Laodicea, called the Church of Laodicea took up an entire city block and dates to the beginning of the fourth century.


The Church of Laodicea. Dated to the beginning of the fourth century C.E., the Church of Laodicea spanned an entire city block. The church faced east and was decorated with marble floors. Photo: © Mark R. Fairchild, Huntington University.

Laodicea remained an important city until the seventh century C.E. when it was struck by a devastating earthquake and subsequently abandoned.

To learn more about the church of Laodicea in the Bible and the recent archaeological excavations at the site, read “Laodicea’s ‘Lukewarm’ Legacy: Conflicts of Prosperity in an Ancient Christian City” by Mark R. Fairchild in the March/April 2017 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review.




BAS Library Members: Read the full article “Laodicea’s ‘Lukewarm’ Legacy: Conflicts of Prosperity in an Ancient Christian City,” by Mark R. Fairchild in the March/April 2017 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review.

Not a BAS Library member yet? Join the BAS Library today.

Available in the BAS Store:
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Watch on CNN: Finding Jesus

‎Monday, ‎March ‎6, ‎2017, ‏‎3:30:08 PM | Biblical Archaeology Society StaffGo to full article


This Bible History Daily feature was originally published in 2015. It has been updated.—Ed.


Watch on CNN: Finding Jesus: Faith, Fact, Forgery

CNN is currently airing the second season of Finding Jesus: Faith, Fact, Forgery, which aims to investigate artifacts that shed light on the world in which Jesus lived. The first season tackled the Shroud of Turin, relics of John the Baptist, the “Gospel of Judas,” the ossuary (bone box) inscribed “James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus,” pieces of the “True Cross” and the “Gospel of Mary.”


The second season of CNN’s Finding Jesus will examine the stone that proves Pontius Pilate’s existence, the story of Lazarus and his sisters Mary and Martha, the childhood home of Jesus, the tomb of King Herod the Great, the bones of St. Peter and the story of doubting Thomas.

This second season features interviews with a number of Bible and archaeology experts, including Robert Cargill, Nicola Denzey Lewis, Mark Goodacre, Shimon Gibson and Candida Moss.

For more on CNN’s Finding Jesus, follow the conversation online on Twitter at ‪#‎FindingJesus‬.

Finding Jesus: Faith, Fact, Forgery airs on CNN on Sundays at 9 p.m. ET/PT.

This Bible History Daily feature was originally published on March 11, 2015.

In the free eBook Real or Fake? A Special Report, find out whether several famous objects are actually fakes, how can they be tested, and whether they should even be studied by scholars.



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Free Hebrew Bible Course with Shaye Cohen

‎Tuesday, ‎February ‎28, ‎2017, ‏‎6:09:48 PM | Biblical Archaeology Society StaffGo to full article


This Bible History Daily feature was originally published in 2015.—Ed.

Learn about the Hebrew Bible in
a free course of 25 video lectures by Shaye Cohen, Littauer Professor of Hebrew Literature and Philosophy at Harvard University. This course, which you can start and stop any time, surveys the major books and ideas of the Hebrew Bible (also called the Old Testament), examining the historical context in which the texts emerged and were redacted.


A major subtext of this free Hebrew Bible course is the distinction between how the Bible was read by ancient interpreters (whose interpretations became the basis for many iconic literary and artistic works of Western Civilization) and how it is approached by modern Bible scholarship. James Kugel, former Harvard professor and author of the course’s textbook, contends that these ways of reading the Bible are mutually exclusive. Professor Shaye Cohen respectfully disagrees.

The course syllabus is your primary road map; it contains general information about the course and lists the topics covered and assigned readings for each of the 25 lectures. Video recordings of each lecture can be viewed alongside Professor Cohen’s lecture notes. A series of timelines is available to illustrate aspects of the course which unfold over time.

Click here to start the free Hebrew Bible course!


Sample the course by watching Professor Shaye Cohen’s first lecture:



Click here to check out Professor Shaye Cohen’s free Hebrew Bible course!





This Bible History Daily feature was originally published on February 25, 2015.

In the free eBook Exploring Genesis: The Bible’s Ancient Traditions in Context, discover the cultural contexts for many of Israel’s earliest traditions. Explore Mesopotamian creation myths, Joseph’s relationship with Egyptian temple practices and three different takes on the location of Ur of the Chaldees, the birthplace of Abraham.

Related reading in Bible History Daily:

Defining Biblical Hermeneutics

Who Are the Nephilim?

The Man Moses by Peter Machinist

Searching for Biblical Mt. Sinai

Did I Find King David’s Palace? by Eilat Mazar



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Did Archaeologists Really Discover a New Dead Sea Scroll Cave?

‎Tuesday, ‎February ‎21, ‎2017, ‏‎8:50:18 PM | Biblical Archaeology Society StaffGo to full article




Archaeologists excavating a cave west of the Dead Sea settlement of Qumran found this piece of parchment that had been rolled up in a jug. Could this and other evidence found inside the cave indicate that a new Dead Sea Scroll cave has been discovered? Photo: Casey L. Olson and Oren Gutfeld.

I read with eager anticipation the first news stories out of Israel that a new Dead Sea Scroll cave had been discovered west of Qumran. As one who wrote a dissertation on Qumran and who teaches a Dead Sea Scrolls course at the University of Iowa, I was keen to see how the new discovery would fit into our present knowledge of the scrolls. What was found that made it a “Dead Sea Scroll Cave”? Was it a new copy of a Biblical book? Was it a copy of a known pseudepigraphical work? Or, was it a new, previously unknown sectarian manuscript that sheds light on the late Second Temple Jewish world?


As I read the Hebrew University of Jerusalem press release and various press reports, I quickly discovered the answer: none of the above. Let me explain:

Recently, a Hebrew University press release and multiple news reports announced a discovery made by archaeologists Dr. Oren Gutfeld, Teaching Fellow at the Hebrew University, and Dr. Randall Price, Founder and President of World of the Bible Ministries, Inc. and Distinguished Research Professor and Executive Director of the Center for Judaic Studies at Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University.1



A Dead Sea Scroll fragment from Qumran Cave 4. Photo: Courtesy Israel Antiquities Authority.

Among the hundreds of caves explored near the Dead Sea settlement of Qumran, only eleven caves have ever produced scrolls or scroll fragments. Gutfeld and Price claim that the cave they excavated should be considered the 12th Dead Sea Scroll cave, despite the fact that Gutfeld confirms, “[A]t the end of the day no scroll was found, and instead we ‘only’ found a piece of parchment rolled up in a jug that was being processed for writing…”


However, Gutfeld claims later in the press release, “[N]ow there is no doubt that this is the 12th cave.” Gutfeld makes this claim because of the discovery inside the cave of pickaxe heads that appear to have been made in the 1950s—which suggest that people had been inside the cave around that time. Gutfeld continues, “[T]he findings indicate beyond any doubt that the cave contained scrolls that were stolen. The findings include the jars in which the scrolls and their covering were hidden, a leather strap for binding the scroll, a cloth that wrapped the scrolls, tendons and pieces of skin connecting fragments, and more.”

But no Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered, only a blank piece of parchment.

Thus, Gutfeld speculates that this must be the “12th Dead Sea Scroll Cave,” arguing that Dead Sea Scrolls must have been looted from the cave. Once again, Gutfeld speculates regarding these proposed looters: “I imagine they came into the tunnel. They found the scroll jars. They took the scrolls … They even opened the scrolls and left everything around, the textiles, the pottery” (italics mine).

Interested in the history and meaning of the Dead Sea Scrolls? In the free eBook Dead Sea Scrolls, learn what the Dead Sea Scrolls are and why are they important. Find out what they tell us about the Bible, Christianity and Judaism.

I must, in all fairness, concede that Gutfeld’s speculation is entirely plausible. However, we must also acknowledge that it is still speculation—even if well-informed speculation on the part of Prof. Gutfeld—because no Dead Sea Scrolls were actually discovered in the cave! We could similarly speculate that scrolls were once present in several other caves excavated in the past, but that does not make them scroll caves. If there are no Dead Sea Scrolls in the cave, then it is not a scroll cave, even if we think there might have been in the past.



The caves of Qumran. Photo: “Caves@Dead Sea Scrolls (8246948498)” by Lux Moundi is licensed under CC-BY-SA-2.0.

Let me also state that it is possible that Gutfeld’s team did find scrolls or scroll fragments in the cave, but are not announcing this discovery in an effort to keep looters from surreptitiously stealing any scrolls that still may be in the cave. Withholding public disclosure of a major find is not uncommon on digs in Israel, as is withholding the exact location of the cave. If Gutfeld has discovered actual scrolls in the cave that the team has simply not announced, then this should obviously be considered Cave 12. However, absent the disclosure of the discovery of actual scrolls, we must evaluate the claim of a new Dead Sea Scroll cave on the evidence that has been disclosed, and the disclosed evidence does not warrant a designation of a scroll-producing cave. Gutfeld’s team did not find a new Dead Sea Scroll cave.


Allow me, however, to provide an alternative conclusion that better fits the evidence we have. It is possible to argue that the cave in question was part of a larger parchment production enterprise, and that the jars, leather, textiles and blank parchment discovered in the cave are simply the latest evidence that someone or some group near Qumran engaged in some form of scribal activity and had the means of producing its own parchment. Indeed, the discovery of a blank piece of parchment—placed there either to dry or for storage—fits with previously discovered pieces of archaeological evidence that have been piling up for years, all of which support the theory that scrolls were produced at Qumran.

Visit the Dead Sea Scrolls study page in Bible History Daily for more on this priceless collection of ancient manuscripts.


One of the inkwells discovered at Qumran.

In the excavations of the Qumran ruins in the 1950s, a stylus and multiple inkwells were discovered, suggesting that some sort of writing was taking place at Qumran. In addition, stables and the bony remains of numerous animals buried inside jars were also excavated within the ruins of Qumran. The presence of animals means that Qumran was capable of producing the animal skins needed to manufacture parchment. Large, shallow pools were also uncovered in the western building at Qumran that may have been used to soak the parchment. Lime, which is used in curing parchment, was also found in large quantities at Qumran.2 This initial evidence—along with the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in caves surrounding Qumran—led early archaeologists like Roland de Vaux, Gerald Lankester Harding and Eleazar Sukenik to conclude that some Jewish sect (the Essenes, they believed) wrote the scrolls at Qumran.


More recent scientific tests support the theory that Qumran could have been a site of scroll production. In July 2010, a team of Italian scientists from the National Laboratories of the South in Catania, Italy—which is part of Italy’s National Institute for Nuclear Physics—led by Professor Giuseppe Pappalardo, discovered that the ink used to write the Temple Scroll possesses the same unusually high bromine levels as the waters from the Dead Sea, suggesting that the ink used on the Temple Scroll came from water from the Dead Sea and not from some other water source. This evidence indicates that the ink was produced near Qumran and not Jerusalem.

Gutfeld and Price’s recent discovery of curing jars, leather, textiles and a blank piece of parchment is but the latest piece of evidence supporting the theory that Qumran was, in fact, a place of scribal activity, and perhaps even of scribal implement production.

But this cannot be called the discovery of a new Dead Sea Scroll cave. One can certainly understand why archaeologists would be tempted to issue a press release stating as much, especially before any peer-reviewed reports about the excavation are published. The press is far more likely to cover a story claiming “New Dead Sea Scrolls Discovered!”—which is inevitably what people think when they read of the discovery of a “new Dead Sea Scroll cave,” especially in the weeks leading up to Easter—than they are to write a story about the discovery of the most recent piece of evidence supporting the theory that scribal activity took place near Qumran.

But that does not mean this most recent discovery is unimportant. Despite the fact that Gutfeld and Price did not discover a new Dead Sea Scroll or a new Dead Sea Scroll cave, they have provided archaeologists studying Qumran and its relationship to the Dead Sea Scrolls with another piece of solid evidence that someone near Qumran was engaged in activities required for scribal endeavors. And this discovery offers one more piece of evidence that someone or some group living at Qumran was capable of producing the materials needed to produce the Dead Sea Scrolls discovered in the caves surrounding Qumran.

Robert R. Cargill is Assistant Professor of Classics and Religious Studies at the University of Iowa and Associate Editor at Biblical Archaeology Review. His research includes study in the Qumran and the Dead Sea Scrolls, literary criticism of the Bible and the Pseudepigrapha, and the Ancient Near East. Cargill’s recent book is The Cities that Built the Bible (HarperOne, 2016).




1. The archaeological project is a joint expedition carried out by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the Israel Antiquities Authority, the Israel Nature and Parks Authority and the Civil Administration of Judea and Samaria (“Judea and Samaria” is the Israel Defense Forces’ name for the West Bank), which is a part of the Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT). COGAT “is charged with administering the government’s civilian policy in the territories of Judea and Samaria and the corresponding the civilian policy to the Gaza Strip.”

2. The manufacture of parchment is shown in a beautiful video produced by the BBC.



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Call for Entries: Biblical Archaeology Society 2017 Publication Awards

‎Tuesday, ‎February ‎21, ‎2017, ‏‎4:30:54 PM | Biblical Archaeology Society StaffGo to full article


profile pic_lampNominations are invited for the 2017 Biblical Archaeology Society Publication Awards for books published in 2015 and 2016. The biennial BAS Publication Awards for books about archaeology and the Bible have been presented since 1985. These prestigious awards have been made possible by grants from Eugene and Emily Grant, the Rohr Family in Memory of Sami Rohr, Judy and Michael Steinhardt, and Samuel D. Turner and Elizabeth Goss.



Best Popular Book on Archaeology


W.F. Albright Institute of Archaeological Research
26 Salah ed-Din St.
P.O. Box 19096
91190 Jerusalem
*Suggest expedited delivery, such as Priority Mail International

Dept. of Archaeology and Art History
University of Evansville
1800 Lincoln Ave.
Evansville, IN 47722

Dept. of Biblical and Religious Studies
Azusa Pacific University
701 E. Foothill Blvd.
Azusa, CA 91702-7000




Best Scholarly Book on Archaeology


W.F. Albright Institute of Archaeological Research
26 Salah ed-Din St.
P.O. Box 19096
91190 Jerusalem
*Suggest expedited delivery, such as Priority Mail International

Dept. of Archaeology and Art History
University of Evansville
1800 Lincoln Ave.
Evansville, IN 47722

Dept. of Biblical and Religious Studies
Azusa Pacific University
701 E. Foothill Blvd.
Azusa, CA 91702-7000




Best Book Relating to the Hebrew Bible


Dept. of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations
Harvard University
6 Divinity Ave.
Cambridge, MA 02138

Institute for Research in the Humanities
Rm. 221
University of Wisconsin–Madison
432 East Campus Mall
Madison, WI 53706

Dept. of Theology
William Jessup University
Rocklin Campus
2121 University Ave.
Rocklin, CA 95765




Best Book Relating to the New Testament


Ashland Theological Seminary
910 Center St.
Ashland, OH 44805

Emerita Professor
4356 West Pine Blvd.
St. Louis, MO 63108-2206

Dept. of Religious Studies
University of North Carolina–Charlotte
9201 University City Blvd.
Charlotte, NC 28223-0001




Qualifications & Rules

(1) Nominations: Publishers or authors (or others) should send one copy of every nominated book to each of the judges in the relevant category. Please mark “BAS Publication Awards.” One copy should also be sent to BAS Publication Awards, 4710 41st Street NW, Washington DC 20016; please specify the category in which your book is nominated.

(2) Judges are entitled to nominate books not otherwise nominated.

(3) All nominated books must have been published in English in 2015 or 2016.

(4) Nominations must be received by April 23, 2017. At least three different books must be submitted in a category for a prize to be awarded for that category.

(5) The judges’ decisions are final.

(6) The winning authors will receive an honorary citation certificate and a prize of $500.

The post Call for Entries: Biblical Archaeology Society 2017 Publication Awards appeared first on Biblical Archaeology Society.


The Song of Songs: Love Is Strong as Death

‎Monday, ‎February ‎13, ‎2017, ‏‎4:25:48 PM | Biblical Archaeology Society StaffGo to full article


Read Philip Stern’s Biblical Views column “Love Is Strong as Death—but Don’t Spend the Family’s Wealth” from the Biblical Archaeology Review, January/February 2017.—Ed.



“Love Is Strong as Death—but Don’t Spend the Family’s Wealth”

By Philip Stern


The Song of Songs (or Song of Solomon) from the Hebrew Bible is a love song beyond compare—although it has been compared to everything. Some have deemed it ancient pornography. Others have sung its praise. In the second century C.E., Rabbi Akiva called it the “holy of holies.”1


Modern artist Marc Chagall’s interpretation of the Song of Songs. Photo: Courtesy Jacabook.

Saadia Gaon, a prodigious tenth-century scholar and rabbi, observed that Song of Songs resembles a locked door to which the key is missing. However, I believe that the key to understanding the Song is near at hand:

6 Set me as a seal upon your heart,
As a seal upon your arm.
For strong as death is love,
Harsh as the netherworld (Sheol) is passion.
Her flames are flames of fire,
a mighty blaze.


7 Torrents of water cannot extinguish love,
Rivers cannot sweep it away!
[Yet] if a man were to expend
all the wealth of his house for love,
[People] would surely heap scorn upon him.


(Song of Songs 8:6–7, author’s translation)


Although the translation “strong as death” in verse 6 is long established—going back to the earliest translation we have, the Greek Septuagint (c. 150 B.C.E.)—I would add the nuance, “fierce.”2 “Fierce” has the advantage of being a good parallel to “harsh,” and both “fierce” and “strong” are definitions available to the Hebrew reader. Both characterize the attitude toward love of the Song.

Scholars have long tangled with this passage. An example of a scholar armed with erudition and insight, yet who comes to a startling conclusion, is that of Aren Wilson-Wright of the University of Texas at Austin.3 To Wilson-Wright, “the Song identifies love with the most powerful force in the Israelite imagination—YHWH, the divine warrior.” Wilson-Wright uses the comparative method, using texts from within and outside of the Hebrew Bible. However, if you read the Song itself, you realize that Wilson-Wright is wrong. The Song has almost no mention of war, divine or otherwise, and it never uses that ubiquitous Hebrew name of God, YHWH. Wilson-Wright can come to his conclusion only by ignoring the end of the passage, “Yet if a man were to expend all the wealth of his household for love, people would surely heap scorn upon him,” which strongly militates against the idea that the poet is making a statement about love as the God of Israel.

The religion section of most bookstores includes an amazing array of Bibles. In our free eBook The Holy Bible: A Buyer’s Guide, prominent Biblical scholars Leonard Greenspoon and Harvey Minkoff expertly guide you through 21 different Bible translations (or versions) and address their content, text, style and religious orientation.

There is thus one thing that love does not overpower among the common people, and that is money—a startlingly modern sentiment. Yet the poet probably says this wryly, as something he or she (some scholars believe a woman wrote the book4) deplores, based on the attitude toward love manifested in the entirety of this little Biblical book.

The sentiment in the last line of the Song quoted above has the ring of a proverb, and we may compare it to Proverbs 6:30–31. (The words in italics are found in the Hebrew of both Proverbs and Song of Songs):

[People] should not despise the thief who steals
to fill his gullet because he is starving.
But if he is caught he shall pay sevenfold;
he shall expend all the wealth of his house.


(Proverbs 6:30–31, author’s translation)


[Yet] if a man were to expend all the wealth of his house for love,
[People] would surely despise him.


(Song of Songs 8:7b, author’s translation)


Although the topic in Proverbs is different from the verse in the Song, the overlap in language is striking. The Song has been considered wisdom literature. Yet if we compare it to books that are clearly in the wisdom genre—namely Proverbs, Job and Ecclesiastes—we see that while the Song here and elsewhere has a connection to wisdom, it is in a class by itself. Where else in the Bible can you find lines like, “My love is mine, and I am his”?

The Song (at least on the basic level) doesn’t treat God or the fate of the people Israel: The name Israel appears but once in passing in the book—in Song of Songs 3:7. No less a Bible scholar than James Kugel (and among others, Wilson-Wright) has translated the words I translated above, “mighty blaze” (Hebrew shalhebetyah) as “flame of Yah,” where Yah is a divine name, a sort of abbreviation for the four-lettered name of God, YHWH. However, many scholars disagree and argue that the “yah” of Hebrew shalhebetyah is not to be taken as a divine name or epithet, but as a superlative (hence my translation, “mighty blaze”; compare with Jeremiah 2:31, “deep gloom”). And shalhebetyah is a reference not to the God of Israel but to love, as the continuation, “Torrential waters cannot extinguish love,” shows. “Torrential waters” come as an antithesis to the “mighty blaze,” but the word that is in parallel with shalhebetyah is love. The word that I translate as “extinguish” always refers to something burning, usually a flame—sometimes the burning of God’s wrath. (A good example is Jeremiah 7:20: “Thus says the Lord God: My wrath and rage shall be poured out [singular verb in Hebrew] … It shall burn, with none to extinguish it” [author’s translation].) Here it is love that is burning. Just so it is love whose flames are flames of fire, approaching the text from the other side. The poet’s language is crystal clear; it sings in a fresh way of the power of love. We see this, too, in the image of the woman’s wishing to be a seal on the male lover’s heart and arm to express her love, in a way that Shakespeare imitated when he wrote of Romeo wishing to be a glove on Juliet’s hand.

The poet’s aim, I would posit, is to sing of love with all the power of the Hebrew tongue. The Song is not a polemic, as some think, but a song of victory celebrating romantic love. And Song of Songs 8:6–7 is the “key” that unlocks the poem. A brief example: Chapter 3 begins with the woman on her bed, apparently dreaming. Yet she awakes and rouses herself in search of her love, encounters the city watchmen, and then finds her man. There are scholars who claim the whole thing must be a dream, because no woman would go out at night in ancient Jerusalem. It seems to me that a young woman—presumably a teenager—who is madly in love would risk going out at night. Chapter 5 fleshes out this contention. The lover knocks, but the woman is slow to answer. He disappears into the night, and she heads after him, only to receive a hiding—perhaps actually a wound—from the watchmen.

The poet isn’t naïve: “Harsh as the netherworld is passion.” Thus we see that the passage with which we began is the key to these two episodes, for to the impetuous young woman, “love is strong as death.”

Biblical Views: “Love Is Strong as Death—but Don’t Spend the Family’s Wealth” by Philip Stern was originally published in Biblical Archaeology Review, January/February 2017.

Dr. Philip Stern is the author of The Biblical Herem: A Window on Israel’s Religion Experience (1991), and his current projects include aiding a colleague with a translation of Job and working on a commentary of the Song of Songs.




1. Richard S. Hess, “Song of Songs: Not Just a Dirty Book,” Bible Review, Winter 2005; Jack M. Sasson, “Unlocking the Poetry of Love in the Song of Songs,” Bible Review, Spring 1985.

2. The New Jewish Publication Society translation also reads “fierce.”

3. Aren M. Wilson-Wright, “Love Conquers All: Song of Songs 8:6b–7a as a Reflex of the Northwest Semitic Combat Myth,” Journal of Biblical Literature 134 (2015), pp. 333–345.

4. S.D. Goitein, “The Song of Songs: A Female Composition,” in Athalya Brenner, ed., A Feminist Companion to the Song of Songs (Sheffield, England: Sheffield Academic Press, 1993), pp. 58–66.



Related reading in Bible History Daily:

Defining Biblical Hermeneutics

What Is the Oldest Hebrew Bible?

How Was the Bible Written During and After the Exile?



The post The Song of Songs: Love Is Strong as Death appeared first on Biblical Archaeology Society.


D.C.-Area Archaeology Event

‎Friday, ‎February ‎10, ‎2017, ‏‎9:19:22 PM | Biblical Archaeology Society StaffGo to full article


poxy1On Friday, February 17, 2017, Christopher Rollston, Associate Professor of Northwest Semitic Languages and Literatures at the George Washington University, will deliver the lecture “Women in the Coptic Gospel of Thomas: In Life and in the Afterlife” in the Washington, D.C. area. The lecture is hosted by the American Research Center in Egypt–DC Chapter (ARCE–DC).

The Gospel of Thomas has been a lightning rod for the subject of gender in antiquity. This lecture will focus on some of the assumptions about gender (in life and in the afterlife) that are present in the Gospel of Thomas, while also factoring in the broader cultural context of the Greco-Roman World, Second Temple Judaism and Early Christianity.

Click here for more information.

The religion section of most bookstores includes an amazing array of Bibles. In our free eBook The Holy Bible: A Buyer’s Guide, prominent Biblical scholars Leonard Greenspoon and Harvey Minkoff expertly guide you through 21 different Bible translations (or versions) and address their content, text, style and religious orientation.



Related reading in Bible History Daily:

The Sayings of Jesus in the Gospel of Thomas

The Gospel of Thomas’s 114 Sayings of Jesus

Christian Apocrypha: The “Lost Gospels”?

The Nag Hammadi Codices and Gnostic Christianity



The post D.C.-Area Archaeology Event appeared first on Biblical Archaeology Society.


Did Jesus’ Last Supper Take Place Above the Tomb of David?

‎Thursday, ‎February ‎9, ‎2017, ‏‎4:13:48 PM | Marek DospělGo to full article


Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and make preparations for us to eat the Passover. […] As you enter the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. […] He will show you a large room upstairs, all furnished. Make preparations there.” (Luke 22:7–12)



Masonry of the Cenacle’s eastern wall clearly demonstrates its “layered” history—from the Second Temple period through the Byzantine and Crusader periods to the Ottoman period. Visible on the right is the Dormition Abbey. Photo: Courtesy of David C. Clausen.

This two-story stone building atop Mount Zion (right) ranks among the most intriguing sites in Jerusalem. It is traditionally called the Cenacle (from the Latin coenaculum, “dining-room”) and you will find it just outside the present-day Old City walls to the south (see map). The building’s lower story has been associated since the Middle Ages with the Tomb of David, the purported burial place of the Biblical King David, while the upper story—often referred to in English as the “Upper Room”—is traditionally believed to be the place of Jesus’ Last Supper.1


Even though it suffered numerous natural and man-inflicted disasters and was claimed and successively held by the faithful of all three monotheistic religions, the Last Supper Cenacle remains standing as a testimony to a long-shared sacrality in the Eternal City. It has been a church, a mosque and a synagogue.

It was not until quite recently, however, that the location of Jesus’ Last Supper and the identity of this particular building were questioned and became an object of scholarly debate. David Christian Clausen, adjunct lecturer in Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, examines the evidence for various claims regarding the historical purpose of the Cenacle in his Archaeological Views column “Mount Zion’s Upper Room and Tomb of David” in the January/February 2017 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review.


Jesus’ Last Supper and the Tomb of David are traditionally associated with the Cenacle on Mount Zion.

Regrettably, no archaeological excavation has ever been attempted at or around the alleged site of Jesus’ Last Supper and the Tomb of David on Mount Zion to assess the development, relationship or even age of the built structures. Only limited probing and non-invasive soundings were performed at different times in history—typically in association with new construction or renovation at the site.

Jerusalem lies at the heart of Biblical archaeology. In the free eBook Jerusalem Archaeology: Exposing the Biblical City, learn about the latest finds in the Biblical world’s most vibrant city.

In his latest book,2 Clausen looks at all the extant historical evidence and tries to make sense of what the limited archaeological data tell us when interpreted together with contemporary artistic representations, literary sources, accounts by Western pilgrims and the various traditions passed on through the ages.


In unraveling the complex story, Clausen tackles two sets of issues: First, when was the building we now call the Cenacle established, and what were its functions over the centuries? Second, where are the actual sites of Jesus’ Last Supper and the Tomb of David?



The presumptive Tomb of David is commemorated in the Cenacle on Mount Zion by this cenotaph. The niche visible behind the cenotaph is seen by some as evidence for the space having been a synagogue in antiquity. Photo: Courtesy of David C. Clausen.

Biblical texts locate the Tomb of David in the City of David, the ancient settlement overlooking the Kidron Valley (1 Kings 2:10 and Nehemiah 3:14–16). It was apparently only in the Middle Ages that the burial place of King David began to be expressly associated with Mount Zion. Adding to the puzzle, however, is the uncertain location of the Biblical Zion vs. the modern-day Mount Zion. Can we safely identify the Biblical Zion with the western hill we now call Mount Zion?


Modern scholars generally argue that the Biblical Zion was located on the hill east of the present-day Mount Zion, on the site where the formerly Jebusite City of David stood; they also mostly agree that Mount Zion came to be identified with the western hill only around the turn of the era. It is thus highly unlikely that the Cenacle has anything to do with the actual tomb of David.3

Where Jesus’ Last Supper took place as narrated in the Gospels is even more intricate. Unlike with the tomb of David, the location of the Last Supper’s cenacle is not specified in the Bible.4 Nor is the location of a number of other events associated with the same building clear, including appearances by the risen Jesus (Luke 24:36; John 20:19–29), the selection of Matthias the twelfth apostle (Acts 1:26), the first Pentecost following Easter Sunday (Acts 2:1–14), and the interment of Jesus’ brother James. And literary sources, such as the anonymous pilgrim from Bordeaux and Egeria who associate the location of Jesus’ Last Supper with Mount Zion, go back only to the fourth century C.E.

As the alleged place of congregation and worship for early Christians in Jerusalem, the Cenacle on Mount Zion would be the first Christian church ever.5 So, did subsequent churches at the site of today’s Cenacle honor the location of the original Upper Room? Was the Byzantine basilica of Hagia Sion (“Holy Zion”)—built in 379–381 C.E. and demolished in 1009 C.E.—constructed to incorporate the house where Jesus’ Last Supper happened? Called “the mother of all churches,” the Hagia Sion might have been, but the sixth-century mosaics of Jerusalem from Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome and St. George Church in Madaba, Jordan, which are the two earliest artistic representations of the basilica, do not support this opinion, but rather show an autonomous structure standing to the south of the Holy Zion Church.


This sixth-century C.E. mosaic map of Jerusalem from the Church of St. George in Madaba, Jordan, shows the large Byzantine basilica on Mount Zion with a small building next to it (encircled), which might be the building traditionally identified as the “Upper Room” of Jesus’ Last Supper and the Tomb of David.

Next, what is the relationship of the earliest architectural stages of the Cenacle to the Crusader-period Church of Virgin Mary and to the modern Dormition Abbey and the Basilica of the Assumption (or Dormition), built in the early 1900s over the western end of the Byzantine-era Hagia Sion?


A mosaic in the Santa Maria Maggiore Church in Rome depicts a large basilica on Mount Zion flanked by a small building—the cenacle of Jesus’ Last Supper and the Tomb of David? Photo: Courtesy of David C. Clausen.

But, most fundamentally: Do the Cenacle’s origins actually date back to Jesus’ time? Without new hard evidence—such as from excavations—this is impossible to tell for sure. Did other Biblical events traditionally associated with this building really take place at the same spot? We might never know.


Re-used in this medieval, Islamic-period dome inside the Cenacle is a Crusader-era column capital with carved eagles and other Christian symbols. Photo: Courtesy of David C. Clausen.

Some scholars, including Amit Reem of the Israel Antiquities Authority, maintain that the structures detected under the Cenacle are nothing more than just remains of a late-fourth-century Byzantine church, the Holy Zion basilica. Clausen, however, asserts that the Cenacle’s oldest elements did originate before the Byzantine period.

To learn Clausen’s full argument, read his Archaeological Views column “Mount Zion’s Upper Room and Tomb of David” in the January/February 2017 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review.




BAS Library members: Read the full Archaeological Views column “Mount Zion’s Upper Room and Tomb of David” by David Christian Clausen in the January/February 2017 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review.

Not a BAS Library member yet? Join the BAS Library today.




1. “Room upstairs” in the opening quote from Luke’s gospel corresponds in the original Greek text to the word anagaion, which denotes any upper-floor room (or elevated part) of the house. In Luke’s gospel, it serves as a dining-room (hence the Latin coenaculum).

2. David Christian Clausen, The Upper Room and Tomb of David: The History, Art and Archaeology of the Cenacle on Mount Zion (Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2016).

3. See Jeffrey R. Zorn, “Is T1 David’s Tomb?” BAR, November/December 2012.

4. See Matthew 26:17–20; Mark 14:12–17; Luke 22:7–12.

5. See Bargil Pixner, “Church of the Apostles Found on Mt. Zion,” BAR, May/June 1990.



Related reading in Bible History Daily:

Was Jesus’ Last Supper a Seder? by Jonathan Klawans

Jesus’ Last Supper Still Wasn’t a Passover Seder Meal by Jonathan Klawans

The Last Days of Jesus: A Final “Messianic” Meal by James Tabor

Pilgrims’ Progress to Byzantine Jerusalem



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Sold! Earliest Surviving 10 Commandments Stone

‎Wednesday, ‎February ‎8, ‎2017, ‏‎6:04:32 PM | Megan SauterGo to full article




A 10 Commandments stone tablet—believed by some to be the oldest stone copy of the 10 Commandments—was sold at an auction in November 2016 for $850,000. Photo: Courtesy Heritage Auctions/HA.com.

An early copy of the 10 Commandments sold for $850,000 last November.


Dated by some to c. 300–500 C.E., this marble tablet may be the oldest stone copy of the 10 Commandments—even though it displays only nine of the traditional 10 Commandments from Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5.1 The 10 Commandments stone omits the command to not take the Lord’s name in vain (Exodus 20:7; Deuteronomy 5:11) and includes instead a charge to build a temple on Mt. Gerizim. Although this addition is likely unfamiliar to many Christians and Jews, it reflects the particular religious beliefs of the Samaritans. The tablet, which is written in the Samaritan script, likely adorned a Samaritan synagogue.

About 115 pounds and 2 feet tall, the 10 Commandments stone entered the collection of the Living Torah Museum in Brooklyn, New York, in 2005. According to the museum’s founder, Rabbi Shaul Deutsch, the tablet was first discovered in Yavneh (near Tel Aviv in modern Israel) during the construction of the Palestine-Egypt railway in 1913.

The Living Torah Museum auctioned the 10 Commandments stone last November with an opening bid of $250,000. It sold for more than three times that amount.

Although the purchaser of the 10 Commandments stone does not wish to be identified at this time, there is no fear that this piece will become lost in a private collection. A stipulation in the original export agreement with the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) mandates that the tablet be put on public display, which means that soon this piece will be accessible to the public once more.

Our free eBook Ten Top Biblical Archaeology Discoveries brings together the exciting worlds of archaeology and the Bible! Learn the fascinating insights gained from artifacts and ruins, like the Pool of Siloam in Jerusalem, where the Gospel of John says Jesus miraculously restored the sight of the blind man, and the Tel Dan inscription—the first historical evidence of King David outside the Bible.




1. See Hershel Shanks, “Yes, Virginia, There IS an American Biblical Archaeology Museum,” BAR, November/December 2004.



Related reading in Bible History Daily:

Ten Commandments Dead Sea Scroll to Be Displayed in Israel

Love Your Neighbor: Only Israelites or Everyone?

The Samaritan Schism by Lawrence H. Schiffman



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Site-Seeing: Archaeological Remains in Holy Sepulchre’s Shadow

‎Monday, ‎January ‎30, ‎2017, ‏‎4:34:43 PM | Biblical Archaeology Society StaffGo to full article




The Lutheran Church of the Redeemer, Jerusalem, Israel. Photo: “Lutheran Church of the Redeemer, Jerusalem 307” by Gabrielw.tour is licensed under CC-by-SA-3.0.

Jerusalem is full of fabulous sites. If you are lucky enough to have been there, you know this is a very visceral place. This new BAR feature is meant to highlight slightly out-of-the-way sites, however. These are places you may have missed on your first (or even your second) visit, but that may be worth your time when you are lucky enough to make it back.


The Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in Jerusalem is one such site. If you’ve been to Jerusalem’s Old City, you’ve seen the building at least from a distance: Its bell tower dominates the Old City skyline. If you have ever walked the Via Dolorosa—the traditional 14 Stations of the Cross, starting from just inside St. Stephen’s Gate in the Muslim Quarter and ending with the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the Christian Quarter—you have walked right by the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer. It was on your left as you made your way toward the Holy Sepulchre between Station 9 (Jesus’ third fall) and Station 10 (the dividing of Jesus’ garments). But it is quite likely that you walked right by; after making nine stops on the way to the Holy Sepulchre, who has time for a tenth? (Stations 10 through 14 are located within the compound of the Holy Sepulchre.)

If you haven’t been there, the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer is indeed worth a stop.
First, the church is worth seeing for what it is: an impressive example of late 19th-century neo-Romanesque architecture. This church was completed for Kaiser Wilhelm’s famous 1898 pilgrimage to Jerusalem (the one for which the Ottoman ramparts were breached and opened near Jaffa Gate).

If you have little interest in 19th-century church architecture, you should visit the church for a second reason: the bell tower. If you are willing to pay a small fee and exert some serious effort climbing 178 spiral staircase steps, you can take in fabulous unobstructed views of Jerusalem. You can even look down on the domes of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. But don’t worry—if climbing those stairs is not for you, there are more riches in store.

Jerusalem lies at the heart of Biblical archaeology. In the free eBook Jerusalem Archaeology: Exposing the Biblical City, learn about the latest finds in the Biblical world’s most vibrant city.

Jonathan Klawans

Jonathan Klawans

Indeed, the primary reason BAR readers should not miss this site is for the archaeological remains visible throughout.


The modern structure was erected on the site of an earlier Crusader church, known as Santa Maria Latina. Various medieval elements have been worked into the newer building. Some ruins are visible from the outside on the north side of the building (along the traditional path of the Via Dolorosa), but the better part of these can be seen within the structure. In fact, the complex adjacent to the sanctuary of the church includes a full four-sided medieval cloister. Apparently, it’s the only complete cloister in the entire Old City (who knew?). And built into second-floor restored medieval rooms off the cloister is a small, but elegant, museum of archaeology, displaying a range of artifacts discovered during the construction of the church.

But the real highlight for BAR readers is down below. Before the church was constructed, excavations took place underneath.1 These are now accessible by walking down a staircase near the tower entrance. A short movie (available in German, English, Hebrew, Arabic and Russian—and soon in Spanish, French, etc.) provides a brief orientation to the site. There are remnants of walls from the Hadrianic period (117–138 C.E.), pavement from the fourth century, mosaics from the 12th century and more (but not too much more, because it’s a rather small space).

The complex is open to the public from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Saturday. (Worship services are held in English, German and Arabic on Sundays and other times, as well.) There is a modest fee (15 NIS) for admission to the tower, museum and excavations. Travel services within the complex are minimal. Booklets about the church, postcards of the church and a guidebook of the excavations are for sale, and there is a clean bathroom. Cold drinks and other refreshments can easily be found right outside along Muristan Road or inside the adjacent Muristan Market. But don’t be in a rush to leave: True to its nature, the cloistered courtyard provides a quiet, shady place to rest after walking up (and down) all those steps.

Jonathan Klawans is Professor of Religion at Boston University. His most recent book is Josephus and the Theologies of Ancient Judaism (Oxford, 2012).

Site-Seeing: “Archaeological Remains in Holy Sepulchre’s Shadow” by Jonathan Klawans was originally published in Biblical Archaeology Review, January/February 2017.




1. For more information, see Marcel Serr and Dieter Vieweger, Archaeological Views: “Golgotha: Is the Holy Sepulchre Church Authentic?” BAR, May/June 2016.



Related reading in Bible History Daily:

Where Is Golgotha, Where Jesus Was Crucified?

Tour Showcases Remains of Herod’s Jerusalem Palace—Possible Site of the Trial of Jesus

What Were the Crusades and How Did They Impact Jerusalem?

Journey to Jerusalem: A Tel Kabri Dig Weekend



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Myra, Turkey: St. Nicholas’s Christian Capital

‎Thursday, ‎January ‎26, ‎2017, ‏‎5:57:07 PM | Noah WienerGo to full article


This Bible History Daily feature was originally published in 2014.—Ed.


At Myra, a 13th-century chapel's interior includes a cross-shaped window positioned to illuminate the altar table with a cross of sunlight. Photo: Myra-Andriake Excavations.

For centuries the city of Myra, located in the heart of Lycia on the southern coast of Turkey, served as a pilgrimage destination for Byzantine Christians. The fourth-century bishop of Myra, later canonized as St. Nicholas (and commonly remembered as Santa Claus), shaped the development of the Christian city before his traditional burial at Myra. For over 1,500 years, the church of St. Nicholas has stood out as an icon of the Christian saint’s influence in an area marked by the monumental remains of the earlier Greco-Roman Lycian populace.


Recent archaeological activity at Myra has begun to expose a remarkably intact Christian city beneath modern Demre. While the church of St. Nicholas, the honeycomb tombs and the theater have endured as iconic symbols of the Lycian coast, the majority of the ancient city was buried under 18 feet of sediment deposited by the nearby Myros River.

Archaeologists have completed the excavation of a 13th-century chapel preserved with a Pompeiian clarity. Built just a century before the city was abandoned, the structure features a six-foot deesis fresco depicting Jesus, John and Mary holding scrolls with Greek Biblical texts, a style never before found in Turkey. Details of the architecture remain in pristine shape, including a cross-shaped window that shines directly onto the altar. Archaeologists working at the site hope that the preservation witnessed in the chapel excavation will extend down to the earliest Christian and Greco-Roman remains as well.


In “Destinations: Myra, Turkey” in the Summer 1998 issue of Archaeology Odyssey, Julie Skurdenis described Lycia and Myra:

I had come to Turkey to visit the sites of ancient Lycia, which dot a 160-mile stretch of Mediterranean coastline between the cities of Fethiye and Antalya. With its majestic rock-cut tombs, Lycia is a place of rugged beauty. It remains relatively remote, despite the recent intrusion of a modern highway.



The fourth-century church of St. Nicholas in Demre was built to commemorate the bishop of Myra. The church once contained the remains of St. Nicholas, but Italian merchants reportedly raided his tomb and carried off his bones to Italy. Photo: Sonia Halliday Photographs.

The fourth-century church of St. Nicholas in Demre was built to commemorate the bishop of Myra. The church once contained the remains of St. Nicholas, but Italian merchants reportedly raided his tomb and carried off his bones to Italy. Photo: Sonia Halliday Photographs.

But I had also come to Turkey because of Santa Claus, or Baba Noel, as jolly old St. Nick is known here. The Lycian city of Myra was home to St. Nicholas, the fourth-century A.D. Christian bishop who became associated with Christmas and gift giving.


Where the Lycians originally came from no one really knows. Herodotus reports that they were Minoans from Crete, arriving sometime around 1400 B.C. More likely they were an indigenous tribe related to the Hittites and referred to in Hittite documents as the Lukka. In Homer’s Iliad, the Lycians fight as allies of Troy in the Trojan War.

Throughout its history, Lycia was controlled by a succession of foreign rulers: the Persians in the sixth century B.C., the Athenians in the fifth century, Alexander the Great in the fourth century, and then Alexander’s successors, the Ptolemies, who also ruled Egypt. After a brief subjugation by the Syrians, Lycia came under Roman influence in the second century B.C. In late Roman times, Myra became the seat of a Christian bishopric. The Byzantine emperor Theodosius II made the city the capital of Lycia in the fifth century A.D. But the region’s demise came two centuries later, with invasions by the Arabs and the silting up of its formerly busy harbor.

In the
free eBook Paul: Jewish Law and Early Christianity, learn about the cultural contexts for the theology of Paul and how Jewish traditions and law extended into early Christianity through Paul’s dual roles as a Christian missionary and a Pharisee.


This recently excavated thirteen-century chapel was discovered in a remarkable state of preservation after it was covered by a quick buildup of sediments. Photo: Myra-Andriake Excavations.

The English traveler Sir Charles Fellows, who visited Lycia in 1838, noted that Myra’s “ruins appear to be little injured by age.” Indeed, Myra—whose name may derive from the Greek word for myrrh, a fragrant gum resin used to make incense—is one of the most beautiful places along Turkey’s southern coast. When I arrived at the ancient city, the bright blue Turkish skies turned black, unleashing continual rainstorms. (Fellows had a similar experience on his first day at Myra: “Yesterday the rain came down in torrents,” he wrote, “and we remained busily employed in sketching and writing in our little hut, which was scarcely proof against the heavy rain.”) For me, however, the rain only heightened the ancient city’s dramatic beauty.


What is left of Lycian Myra, in addition to remnants of its acropolis wall, is its necropolis—dozens of tombs carved out of a steep cliff, one atop the other, honeycombing the mountainside. Some of the tombs are elaborate temple-like structures, but most resemble Lycian houses of 2,400 years ago; even their roofs were carefully carved out of the rock to resemble the ends of logs. The Lycians apparently believed that the dead should feel at home in their final resting places.


The dramatic tombs of ancient Myra were expertly carved out of a sheer, rocky cliff. The tombs show a variety of architectural styles: Some resemble ornate temples, though most look like modest houses. Photo: Giovanni Lattanzi.

The dramatic tombs of ancient Myra were expertly carved out of a sheer, rocky cliff. The tombs show a variety of architectural styles: Some resemble ornate temples, though most look like modest houses. Photo: Giovanni Lattanzi.

The interiors of the tombs are lined with stone benches, sometimes carved to look like beds, on which the dead were placed. Carved reliefs adorn the exterior and interior walls as well as the pediments above the entrances to some of the tombs. One recurring subject of these carvings is the funeral banquet, attended by the deceased and his family and friends.


Myra’s Roman past is represented by the well-preserved Greco-Roman theater, located at the base of the cliff beside the necropolis. Constructed in the second century B.C., the theater was damaged during the massive earthquake of 141 A.D. and restored by Opramoas, a wealthy official who lived in Rhodiapolis, Myra’s neighbor to the east. The theater’s cavea, or auditorium, rests against the cliff. Myrans attending plays or, later in the city’s history, gladitorial spectacles, would have entered either at ground level or through the huge vaulted passageways on either side of the cavea. Along the sides of these passageways are small rooms where sellers once hawked their goods, crying out the Roman equivalent of “Get your cold beer.” Sheltered under the theater’s vaulted passageways, I could have used a cold beer during an hour-long deluge of Jovian proportions! Other remnants of Roman Myra—its agora, baths and temples—still lie buried near the theater.

St. Nicholas’s church in Demre (also called Kale) is about a mile from the theater’s ruins. St. Nicholas was born in Patara, another Lycian city just west of Myra, around 300 A.D. Little is known of his life other than that he was bishop of Myra and may have been imprisoned during the final years of Emperor Diocletian’s reign. The Demre church, now sunken into a hollow, probably dates to the fourth century. It was largely rebuilt in 1043 by the Byzantine emperor Constantine IX and again in 1862 by Czar Nicholas I. Except for a few 19th-century additions—such as a belltower—it looks the way it probably did in the 11th century, when Nicholas’s body was supposedly stolen by Italian merchants and carried off to Bari in southern Italy.


Myra’s Roman past is represented by the well-preserved Greco-Roman theater, located at the base of the cliff beside the necropolis. Constructed in the second century B.C., the theater was damaged during the massive earthquake of 141 A.D. and restored by the wealthy official Opramoas.

Myra’s Roman past is represented by the well-preserved Greco-Roman theater, located at the base of the cliff beside the necropolis. Constructed in the second century B.C., the theater was damaged during the massive earthquake of 141 A.D. and restored by the wealthy official Opramoas.

The four-aisled basilica has marble pavements, remnants of frescoes and an ornate broken tomb in the church’s southern aisle, which may have once held the saint’s bones. A huge modern statue of Nicholas looms over a small garden adjacent to the church: He carries a sack of gifts and is surrounded by a cluster of children.


Interestingly enough, the legend of Santa Claus was born, not in the frigid terrain of the North Pole, but in the warm climes of southern Turkey. As the story goes, St. Nicholas took pity on the poor girls of Demre who remained hopelessly unmarried, unable to afford a suitable dowry. So Nicholas began dropping bags filled with coins down the chimneys of the unsuspecting girls’ houses. In Europe, Nicholas became associated with the feast of Christmas; in America, his name was subsequently changed to Santa Claus.
Myra is not the only spectacular ancient Lycian city. On the road between Fethiye and Kalkan, one can find a cluster of sites with tombs cut from steep rock escarpments—a “string of Lycian pearls,” as one local caretaker called them with obvious pride. Xanthos boasts unique pillar tombs. Tlos contains a rock necropolis and numerous sarcophagi. Letoon, once the national shrine of Lycia, has three temples dedicated to the titaness Leto and her divine twins, Artemis and Apollo. And Patara, the birthplace of St. Nicholas, is renowned for its spectacular white sand beach as well as its monumental gateway and Lycian necropolis.



This Bible History Daily feature was originally published on May 1, 2014.—Ed.



More on Myra and the Lycian coast in Bible History Daily:

Delikkemer: Hydrating Democracy at Patara

Ancient Synagogue Discovered in Southern Turkey

Jews in Roman Turkey

Restoration Completed on the World’s Oldest Major Parliament

Newly Established Hiking Trail Guides Adventurous Travelers Through Turkey’s Archaeological Wonders



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Jews in Roman Turkey

‎Wednesday, ‎January ‎25, ‎2017, ‏‎6:57:33 PM | Megan SauterGo to full article


This Bible History Daily feature was originally published in 2015.—Ed.


Fragments of chancel screens with seven-branched menorahs and other Jewish symbols on them were uncovered in a Jewish building at Limyra—in Roman Turkey—by Martin Seyer and his excavation team. Photo: Courtesy Martin Seyer

Located on the coast of southwestern Turkey, Limyra has a long, rich history—although the site now lies in ruins. Occupied for more than a millennium, it served as the home for many different religious groups. A recent archaeological discovery at Limyra suggests that a Jewish community also lived there.


Martin Seyer of the Austrian Archaeological Institute explains the history of the site and shares an update about recent excavations at Limyra, Turkey, in his article “Mysterious Jewish Building in Roman Turkey” in the January/February 2016 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review.

Limyra, Turkey, was first settled in the sixth century B.C.E. During the fourth century B.C.E., it was the largest city in Lycia (a region on the southern coast of Anatolia). Limyra and its surrounding region have roughly 400 tombs divided among five necropoleis. This is the largest number of tombs of any Lycian city. The site also has temples from the Hellenistic and Roman periods.

Several centuries later, in the Byzantine period, Limyra served as the seat of a bishop. Three basilical churches, including the Episcopal (Bishop’s) Church from the late fifth or sixth century C.E., stood in the city at that time.

In the free eBook Paul: Jewish Law and Early Christianity, learn about the cultural contexts for the theology of Paul and how Jewish traditions and law extended into early Christianity through Paul’s dual roles as a Christian missionary and a Pharisee.


Necropolis I is the most famous necropolis surrounding Limyra, Turkey. It has nine impressive Lycian tombs. Photo: Courtesy Martin Seyer

In the midst of these pagan and Christian influences, it appears that there was also a Jewish presence at Limyra, Turkey. In a building recently excavated by Martin Seyer, chancel screens with Jewish symbolsmenorahs, a shofar and a lulav (palm branch)—have been uncovered. In a later period, these screens were broken and reused as paving stones.


In the same building, close to the discovery spot of the chancel screens, is a water basin. With plastered walls and a floor of marble slabs, this basin was fed by rainwater. A low stone bench rests against one of the walls. Could this basin have served as a mikveh, a Jewish ritual bath?

With its Jewish features, could this structure have been a synagogue? Martin Seyer clarifies that although it is not possible to create a precise stratigraphy for this building because of the high groundwater level, there are still some reasons to interpret this structure as a synagogue:

In short, it appears that this building had features of a synagogue in both an early and late phase. The chancel screens that were laid as paving in the vestibule indicate that the water basin can be viewed in connection with a Jewish structure. Even if these slabs were laid in secondary usage to raise the floor level against the gradually rising groundwater, they nevertheless indicate that a synagogue was once located in the immediate vicinity. These slabs are without doubt remnants of screens that separated the Torah shrine from the rest of the hall. Such chancel screens have been found in many synagogues near the Torah shrine. It is therefore not improbable that the building partially excavated in Limyra was itself a synagogue.

This building with its Jewish features is the only attestation of a Jewish community in Limyra, Turkey. Previous to its discovery, the only other indicator that there were Jewish inhabitants at Limyra was a solitary Greek inscription on a rock tomb that reads, “Tomb of Iudas.” The recently excavated building with Jewish features shows that there were enough Jewish inhabitants to justify a synagogue.

To learn more about Limyra, read the full article “Mysterious Jewish Building in Roman Turkey” by Martin Seyer in the January/February 2016 issue of BAR.




BAS Library Members: Read the full article “Mysterious Jewish Building in Roman Turkey,” by Martin Seyer in the January/February 2016 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review.

Not a BAS Library member yet? Join the BAS Library today.

This Bible History Daily feature was originally published on December 21, 2015.—Ed.



Learn more about the Jewish presence in Roman Turkey and synagogues in the BAS Library:

Paul’s Journeys Special Collection

Rachel Hachlili, “Synagogues: Before and After the Roman Destruction of the Temple,” Biblical Archaeology Review, May/June 2015.



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D.C.-Area Archaeology Event

‎Monday, ‎January ‎23, ‎2017, ‏‎11:44:41 PM | Biblical Archaeology Society StaffGo to full article


The Washington, D.C.-area Biblical Archaeology Society of Northern Virginia (BASONOVA) will host the lecture “Doctors, Diseases and Deities: Epidemic Crises and Medicine in Ancient Rome” by Sarah Yeomans on January 29, 2017. Not in the D.C. area? The Biblical Archaeology Society offers a wide range of travel/study programs in the United States and across the globe.

Sunday, January 29, 2017, Sarah Yeomans, Director of Educational Programs at the Biblical Archaeology Society, will deliver the lecture “Doctors, Diseases and Deities: Epidemic Crises and Medicine in Ancient Rome.”


Life in the ancient Roman world could be perilous. War, disease, famine and childbirth are a just a few examples of circumstances that contributed to a much lower average lifespan than that which we enjoy today.

People in antiquity were no less concerned about the prevention and cure of maladies than they are now, and entire cults, sanctuaries and professions dedicated to health dotted the spiritual, physical and professional landscapes of the ancient world.

In her presentation, Yeomans examines a recently excavated, as-yet unpublished archaeological site that has substantially contributed to our understanding of what ancient Romans did to combat disease and injury, as well as evidence for how they responded to one of the most horrifying epidemics the ancient world had ever seen: the Antonine Plague of the 2nd century C.E.

Click here for more information.




About the speaker:

sarah-yeomans-2Sarah Yeomans is Director of Educational Programs at the Biblical Archaeology Society in Washington, D.C. She is an archaeologist specializing in the Imperial period of the Roman Empire with a particular emphasis on religions and ancient science. Yeomans is a faculty member in the department of religious studies at West Virginia University. In addition, she is pursuing her doctorate at the University of Southern California, where she is a Provost Fellow, and is a Mayers Fellow at the Huntington Library and Museum in Los Angeles. Yeomans holds an M.A. in archaeology from the University of Sheffield, England, and an M.A. in art history from USC. She has conducted archaeological fieldwork in Israel, Italy, Turkey, France and England and has worked on several television and film productions, most recently as an interviewed expert on Fox’s The Nativity: Facts, Fiction and Faith. Her current research involves ancient Roman medical technology and cult, as well as the impact of epidemics on Roman society. She is generally happiest when covered in dirt, roaming archaeological sites somewhere in the Mediterranean region.

The free eBook Life in the Ancient World guides you through craft centers in ancient Jerusalem, family structure across Israel and ancient practices—from dining to makeup—throughout the Mediterranean world.



Related reading in Bible History Daily:

Doctors, Diseases and Deities: Epidemic Crises and Medicine in Ancient Rome
Video lecture featuring Sarah Yeomans

Medicine in the Ancient World by Sarah Yeomans

Ancient Pergamon: City of science … and satan? by Sarah Yeomans

Ancient Cupping in Israel

Justinian Plague Linked to the Black Death

The Cyprian Plague

Epilepsy, Tutankhamun and Monotheism

Heart Disease in Mummies

Prehistoric Parasite Bloomed with Mesopotamian Farming



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Where Is the Original Siloam Pool from the Bible?

‎Monday, ‎January ‎23, ‎2017, ‏‎4:13:26 PM | Biblical Archaeology Society StaffGo to full article




Is the original Siloam Pool—the water pool fed by Jerusalem’s Gihon Spring during the First Temple period—beneath the Second Temple-period Pool of Siloam (pictured here), perhaps underneath the orchard in the left of this photo? Photo: “Picture Time at the Pool of Siloam” by Ian Scott is licensed under CC-by-SA-2.0.

Where is the original Siloam Pool, the water pool that fed Jerusalem in the First Temple period and is mentioned in the Bible (2 Kings 20:20; 2 Chronicles 32:2–4)? Although the Second Temple-period Siloam Pool—which appears in John 9 where Jesus heals a blind man—was discovered in 2004, the earlier Siloam Pool remains unknown. BAR’s Editor Hershel Shanks investigates a possible location for the Biblical Pool of Siloam from King Hezekiah’s time in the article “The Pool of Siloam Has Been Found, but Where Is the Pool of Siloam?” published in the January/February 2017 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review.


What do we know about the original Siloam Pool? In the Bible, we see that this pool was constructed during King Hezekiah’s reign in the late eighth century B.C.E. It sat inside the city’s walls at the end of the Siloam Tunnel, which is also attributed to Hezekiah in the Bible (2 Kings 20:20). The tunnel connected the Siloam Pool with the Gihon Spring, Jerusalem’s main water source that was outside the city’s walls. Hezekiah built the tunnel and pool in response to the threat of an attack by the Assyrian monarch Sennacherib (2 Chronicles 32:2–4). The new water system brought water from the Gihon Spring safely inside the city, so that the inhabitants of Jerusalem would have ready access to water even during a siege.

Our free eBook Ten Top Biblical Archaeology Discoveries brings together the exciting worlds of archaeology and the Bible! Learn the fascinating insights gained from artifacts and ruins, like the Pool of Siloam in Jerusalem, where the Gospel of John says Jesus miraculously restored the sight of the blind man, and the Tel Dan inscription—the first historical evidence of King David outside the Bible.


Hezekiah’a Tunnel weaves its way underneath the City of David, connecting the Gihon Spring in the east to the Siloam Pool in the southwestern end of the city.

Archaeology has not yet uncovered this Siloam Pool—the Biblical Pool of Siloam from King Hezekiah’s time. However, the second Siloam Pool—the later Second Temple-period pool that also appears in the Bible—has been unearthed. This pool was discovered in 2004 southeast of where the Siloam Tunnel empties into yet another pool (the third Siloam Pool; see below). The second Siloam Pool is the location of the Biblical miracle from John 9, where Jesus heals a man who had been blind since birth. Jesus spits on the ground, makes mud and puts this mud on the man’s eyes. Then he tells him to wash in the Pool of Siloam. In the Bible it records that after washing in the Siloam Pool, the man receives his sight.


A third Siloam Pool dates to the Byzantine period. The construction of this pool as well as that of the Church of Siloam just north of the pool are generally attributed to the empress Eudocia in the fifth century C.E. Located at the end of the Siloam Tunnel, the third Siloam Pool was built to commemorate the miracle from John 9—since the earlier two pools were already covered up by this time.

Although no one definitively knows the location of the first Siloam Pool, several archaeologists have suggested possibilities. BAR’s Editor Hershel Shanks adds to the chorus, proposing that the original Siloam Pool is underneath the second Pool of Siloam or possibly in the orchard located south of the second pool. The only way to determine if this location is correct would be to dig some probes, and only time will tell if that is a possibility.

To read more about the hunt for the original Siloam Pool, read “The Pool of Siloam Has Been Found, but Where Is the Pool of Siloam?” by Hershel Shanks in the January/February 2017 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review.




BAS Library members: Read the full article “The Pool of Siloam Has Been Found, but Where Is the Pool of Siloam?” by Hershel Shanks in the January/February 2017 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review.

Not a BAS Library member yet? Join the BAS Library today.



Related reading in Bible History Daily:

The Siloam Pool: Where Jesus Healed the Blind Man

Hezekiah’s Tunnel Reexamined

The Bethesda Pool, Site of One of Jesus’ Miracles

Where Did Jesus Turn Water into Wine?



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Medicine in the Ancient World

‎Sunday, ‎January ‎22, ‎2017, ‏‎4:00:13 PM | Sarah YeomansGo to full article


This Bible History Daily article was originally published in 2013.—Ed.


Many Emergency Medical Service departments use the Star of Life - an image which is derived from ancient images of Asklepios. Snakes were believed to be sacred to the god, and he was often depicted as a bearded man with a walking staff that was entwined with serpents.

Life in the ancient world was risky business. The perils of war, disease, famine and childbirth are a just a few examples of circumstances that contributed to a much lower average lifespan in the ancient world than we have in the modern era. People in antiquity were no less concerned about the prevention and cure of maladies than they are now, however, and entire cults, sanctuaries and professions dedicated to health dotted the spiritual, physical and professional landscapes of the ancient world. So what exactly did ancient cultures do to combat disease and injury, and did these methods have any real basis in science as we know it today? The answers may surprise you.


In many societies, the gods played an integral role in human health. In the Greek world, the god Asklepios was dedicated exclusively to healing.a Sanctuaries called Asklepions drew the ill and injured, who would often travel for days to seek the healing that they believed these ancient sanitariums could provide. Similar in some ways to the modern spa, Asklepions provided baths, healthy foods and sanctuary rooms intended specifically for sleep and meditation. Most Asklepions were located in remote and beautiful areas, such as the famous sanctuaries of Epidauros in Greece and Pergamon in northwest Turkey. Animal sacrifices and votive offerings were made at altars and temples to the god. Excavations at Asklepions have uncovered “anatomical votives,” so named because they represent the body part that was injured or affected by illness.

Learn the stories behind Biblical archaeology finds like the Pool of Siloam in Israel, where the Gospel of John says Jesus miraculously restored sight to a blind man, in the free eBook Ten Top Biblical Archaeology Discoveries.


This gilded bronze ear was presented to the Asklepion at ancient Pergamon by a woman named Fabia Secunda, who had in made “for the god Asklepios because the ear was healed in a dream.”

By the fifth century B.C., physicians and the god of healing had become intrinsically linked, with Asklepios as the divine patron of the medical profession. Hippocrates, the most famous physician of antiquity, lived during this time, and medical treatises that he authored would be used as medical textbooks for centuries to come. From such writings, as well as other inscriptions, we see that ancient physicians knew that lancing, draining and cleaning infected wounds promoted healing, and that they knew of certain herbs that had healing and disinfecting properties.b Wild ginger was known to be helpful for nausea, and a particular clay found on the Greek island of Lemnos was believed to be helpful for ailments such as dysentery. This clay, called terra sigillata for the stamped discs that were formed from it and sold as medicine, contains the counterpart to elements such as kaolin and bentonite, which are used in modern medicines to treat diarrhea.



This first-century A.D. relief of a leg was dedicated by a man named Tycheas as “a thank-offering to Asklepios and Hygeia” at the Asklepion on the island of Melos, Greece. Photo: Bridgeman Art Library.

Surgical techniques in the ancient world could be surprisingly advanced. The famous Roman physician Galen (c. 129–199 A.D.), who was born in ancient Pergamon near the Asklepion, is generally regarded as the most accomplished medical researcher of the Roman world, and some of his surgical procedures would not be seen again until modern times. He successfully conducted cataract surgeries by inserting a needle behind the lens of the eye in order to remove the cataract, and his described methods of preparing a clean operating theater reveal a keen awareness of contagion.1 While some of Galen’s practices and theories are still followed and praised by physicians today, others, such as his rejection of the stomach wall as having no role in digestion, have been proven by modern science to be erroneous.


By the seventh century A.D., medicine as a science that was relatively independent of religious restrictions had virtually disappeared in the west, as the use of cadavers for scientific dissection had been prohibited by the Church. However, Islamic scholars in the East were studying Greek medicine in depth.c Herbs such as henbane and Indian hemp (related to marijuana) were known for their anesthetic properties, and physicians stressed the effects of diet and environment on health. Perhaps one of the most famous eastern physicians was Abu ‘Ali al-Husayn ibn ‘Abd Allah ibn Sina (980–1037 A.D.), whose work The Canon of Medicine codified existing medical knowledge. The Canon includes descriptions, causes and diagnostic techniques for conditions such as rabies, stomach ulcers, different types of hepatitis, breast cancer, facial paralysis, diphtheria, leprosy, diabetes, cancer and gout. Later translations Latinized his name to Avicenna, and by the 13th century his work had become the standard medical reference text throughout Western Europe.

Watch author Sarah Yeomans as she lectures on “Doctors, Diseases and Deities: Epidemic Crises and Medicine in Ancient Rome.”



This first-century A.D. ceramic votive depicts an image of a uterus; it was probably dedicated by a woman in hopes of conceiving. Such a representation demonstrates a sophisticated understanding of both the anatomy and function of internal organs. Photo: British Museum.

A scarred skull demonstrates evidence of trephination, a surgical technique in which holes were drilled in the patient’s skull to relieve intracranial pressure caused by head trauma. Photo: Israel Antiquities Authority.

Archaeology has further illuminated medical practices in the ancient world. Certain skeletons discovered during excavations demonstrate evidence of rather astonishing surgical successes. Perhaps the most startling evidence of sophisticated ancient surgery can be found in skulls that show signs of trepanation, a procedure still used today that is performed by drilling a hole into the skull to relieve intracranial pressure. Trepanated skulls from ancient societies in Central and South America, Africa, Asia, Europe and the Near and Middle East have been found that perhaps date back as far as the Mesolithic period, about 12,000 years ago.2 By examining the bone regrowth around the surgical hole in the skull, scientists are able to determine how long the patient survived after undergoing the procedure. Some patients died immediately, some lived only a few weeks, but others seem to have healed completely.

The plague of Justinian was one of the worst epidemics in human history. Click here to read a Bible History Daily feature on the pestilence, including recent research on bacterial links between the Justinian plague and the Black Death.


A 2.5 millimeter bronze wire (indicated by an arrow) in this tooth’s canal is evidence of early dentistry. Discovered in a mass grave at Horvat En Ziq, a small Nabatean fortress in the northern Negev desert in Israel, the incisor contains one of the earliest known fillings, dating to about 200 B.C.E. Photo: Israel Antiquities Authority.

Excavations have also revealed evidence of sophisticated dental practices in antiquity. In a mass grave at Horvat en Ziq in the northern Negev desert of Israel, a skull dating to about 200 B.C. was found that contains one of the earliest known dental fillings. A 2.5-millimeter bronze wire had been inserted into the tooth’s canal.d Elsewhere, skulls recovered from the catacombs in Rome, which were in use during the first through the fifth centuries A.D., exhibit some rather pricey dental work: Several were recovered that have gold fillings.


Ironically, it is often the funerary monuments and graves of ancient doctors that attest to their care of the living. Tablets that decorated funerary altars of physicians often depicted the instruments of their profession—objects that look remarkably similar to instruments used by surgeons today. Scalpels, forceps, forked probes for examining wounds, needles for stitching wounds, small spoons for cleaning wounds and measuring medicines, catheters and even gynecological specula are all examples of instruments employed by the medical doctors of antiquity.

Learn about the medical treatment of cupping in Bible History Daily >>

Of course, calling on a higher power for assistance during a physical trial or illness was as common in the ancient world as it is today. Many modern hospitals have nondenominational worship spaces where people can pray and meditate; people in antiquity visited shrines and temples to do the same. Individuals preparing to undergo dangerous ordeals such as childbirth or battle would often invoke the protection of the divine. Even as medical science continues to evolve, the contemplation of mortality will likely continue to cause humans to look beyond the known for the explanations that even modern science cannot yet provide.



This array of bronze surgical instruments, from a private collection in Jerusalem, dates from 40 B.C.E. to 400 C.E. and includes spoons used to scrape out wounds (lower right), a forked probe (among the spoons), knife and scalpel handles (center, their iron blades have disintegrated), spatula probes for working in wounds (lower left), forceps (upper left), hooks used to hold the skin back (left of center), and cyathisconele, cupped tools used to clean wounds (top center). Photo: Zev Radovan.


“Medicine in the Ancient World” by Sarah Yeomans was originally published in November 2013.

Sarah Yeomans is Director of Educational Programs at the Biblical Archaeology Society in Washington, D.C. She is an archaeologist specializing in the Imperial period of the Roman Empire with a particular emphasis on religions and ancient science. Yeomans is a faculty member in the department of religious studies at West Virginia University. In addition, she is pursuing her doctorate at the University of Southern California, where she is a Provost Fellow, and is a Mayers Fellow at the Huntington Library and Museum in Los Angeles. Yeomans holds an M.A. in archaeology from the University of Sheffield, England, and an M.A. in art history from USC. She has conducted archaeological fieldwork in Israel, Italy, Turkey, France and England and has worked on several television and film productions, most recently as an interviewed expert on Fox’s The Nativity: Facts, Fiction and Faith. Her current research involves ancient Roman medical technology and cult, as well as the impact of epidemics on Roman society. She is generally happiest when covered in dirt, roaming archaeological sites somewhere in the Mediterranean region.




a. Bronwen Wickkiser, “Asklepios Appears in a Dream,Archaeology Odyssey, July/August 2005.
b. George B. Griffenhagen, “Origins: On the Pill,Archaeology Odyssey, May/June 2002.
c. David W. Tschanz, “Origins: A Cure for the Common Cold?” Archaeology Odyssey, Summer 1998.
d. Hector Avolos, “Ancient Medicine,” Bible Review, June 1995.

1. See Galen, Galen on the Usefulness of the Parts of the Body, trans. by Margaret Tallmadge May (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1968) and A. Sorsby, A. Modern Ophthalmology (London: Butterworths, 1963).

2. See S. Missios, “Hippocrates, Galen, and the Uses of Trepanation in the Ancient Classical World,” Neurosurgical Focus 23(1):E11 (2007); P. Marino and M. Gonzales-Portillo,” Preconquest Peruvian Neurosurgeons: A Study of Inca and Pre-Columbian Trephination and the Art of Medicine in Ancient Peru” Neurology 47:4, (2000), pp. 940–955.



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The Masoretic Text and the Dead Sea Scrolls

‎Saturday, ‎January ‎21, ‎2017, ‏‎5:22:42 AM | Biblical Archaeology Society StaffGo to full article


This Bible History Daily feature was originally published in 2011.—Ed.

The Masoretic Text and the Dead Sea Scrolls

Inside Qumran Cave four, where 15,000 Dead Sea Scroll fragments from more than 580 documents were found. Many of the Biblical fragments from Cave 4 preserve readings that deviate from the standard readings of the Masoretic Text. To scholars, these variants are uniquely valuable because of their antiquity: The Dead Sea Scrolls are a thousand years older than our earliest complete edition of the Masoretic Text. Photo: Hershel Shanks.

At last, almost all of the Dead Sea Scrolls have been transcribed, transliterated, translated and either published or nearly published. But as soon as this task is accomplished, scholars are faced with new challenges: Do insights from the scrolls add to the Masoretic text (known as the original Hebrew Bible text, or the Tanakh, which roughly corresponds to the Protestant Old Testament), and if so, should the original Hebrew Bible text be modified based this information? Scholars from both sides of the divide weigh in on this issue below (see links below).


The Dead Sea Scrolls did not, as some early dreamers speculated, answer the age-old question: Where is the original Bible? Not, as it turns out, in the caves of Qumran. Nor do the scrolls include long lost books of the Bible. Furthermore, the scrolls did not utterly transform our image of the original Hebrew Bible text. Indeed, one of the most important contributions of the scrolls is that they have demonstrated the relative stability of the Masoretic text.

Interested in the history and meaning of the Dead Sea Scrolls? In the free eBook Dead Sea Scrolls, learn what the Dead Sea Scrolls are and why are they important. Find out what they tell us about the Bible, Christianity and Judaism.

Nevertheless, there are differences (some quite significant) between the scrolls and the Masoretic text. Furthermore, these differences have made scholars rethink variant readings found in other ancient manuscripts. How should scholars treat these variants with relationship to the Masoretic text? Should they try to determine which readings are the most original and then incorporate them in a new critical edition of the Hebrew Bible? Or should they continue to use the Masoretic text as their base? Does a single version of the Hebrew Bible exist that is older than all others presently known, and if so, where is the original Bible? These questions are not merely academic; for any changes made to scholarly editions of the Masoretic text will have repercussions for decades of research and will affect all future Bible translations.

The Dead Sea Scrolls have been called the greatest manuscript find of all time. Visit the BAS Dead Sea Scrolls Page for dozens of articles on the scrolls’ significance, discovery and scholarship.

Per usual in the world of academics and research, there are scholars two sides to every argument. The case of using the Dead Sea Scrolls to modify the Masoretic text is no different. Ronald S. Hendel of the University of California, Berkeley, argues that scholars can reconstruct a more original Hebrew Bible text if they “combine the best from each tradition.” James A. Sanders, founder and president emeritus of the Ancient Biblical Manuscript Center in Claremont, California, responds by urging scholars to “keep each tradition separate.”


And as far as answering the question: Where is the original Bible (and whether such a thing even exists): We don’t know. But to all scholars and Biblical archaeologists we can offer this advice: Keep digging!

This Bible History Daily feature was originally published on July 20, 2011.



The post The Masoretic Text and the Dead Sea Scrolls appeared first on Biblical Archaeology Society.


Josephus on the Essenes

‎Friday, ‎January ‎20, ‎2017, ‏‎11:54:46 PM | Biblical Archaeology Society StaffGo to full article


This Bible History Daily feature was originally published in 2012.—Ed.


Steve Mason argues that the texts of Josephus cannot be relied upon to support the conclusion that the Essenes were the authors of the Dead Sea Scrolls and the inhabitants of Qumran.

Flavius Josephus was a first-century Jewish historian, politician and soldier whose literary works provide crucial documentation of Roman Palestine in the first century A.D. At age 29, he was appointed general of the Jewish forces in Galilee. He was eventually captured by Vespasian, who was at that time the supreme commander of the Roman army. Josephus capitulated and sought to ingratiate himself with the Roman general, eventually becoming part of the imperial court in Rome. He was an eyewitness to the destruction of Jerusalem and the Second Temple by the Roman army in 70 A.D. He spent the rest of his life in Rome pursuing his literary career, the surviving results of which comprise a vital source of historical information.


Josephus’s commentaries on the laws and characteristics of the Essene community have been invaluable to scholars studying ancient Jewish laws and customs. They have also been the subject of much debate, particularly as they pertain to the Dead Sea Scrolls. Researchers have relied heavily on Josephus’s works as they try to determine who wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls, who inhabited Qumran, and whether or not the authors of the scrolls and the community at Qumran were in fact one and the same.

Professor Steve Mason asserts in his article “Did the Essenes Write the Dead Sea Scrolls? Don’t Rely on Josephus” (BAR, November/December 2008) that the texts of Josephus cannot be relied upon to support the conclusion that the Essenes were the authors of the Dead Sea Scrolls and the inhabitants of Qumran. So what does Josephus have to say about the Essene community? Following is a translated excerpt from The Jewish War, in which Josephus provides his main description of this fascinating group.

Interested in the history and meaning of the Dead Sea Scrolls? Find out what they tell us about the Bible, Christianity and Judaism when you download our free Dead Sea Scrolls eBook.

This deliberately literal translation of the Greek is from Steve Mason, Flavius Josephus: translation and commentary, vol. 1b: Judean War (Leiden: Brill, 2008).


The Jewish War, Book II, Chapter 8


119 For three forms of philosophy are pursued among the Judeans: the members of one are Pharisees, of another Sadducees, and the third [school], who certainly are reputed to cultivate seriousness, are called Essenes; although Judeans by ancestry, they are even more mutually affectionate than the others. 120 Whereas these men shun the pleasures as vice, they consider self-control and not succumbing to the passions virtue. And although there is among them a disdain for marriage, adopting the children of outsiders while they are still malleable enough for the lessons they regard them as family and instill in them their principles of character: 121 without doing away with marriage or the succession resulting from it, they nevertheless protect themselves from the wanton ways of women, having been persuaded that none of them preserves her faithfulness to one man.


122 Since [they are] despisers of wealth—their communal stock is astonishing—, one cannot find a person among them who has more in terms of possessions. For by a law, those coming into the school must yield up their funds to the order, with the result that in all [their ranks] neither the humiliation of poverty nor the superiority of wealth is detectable, but the assets of each one have been mixed in together, as if they were brothers, to create one fund for all. 123 They consider olive oil a stain, and should anyone be accidentally smeared with it he scrubs his body, for they make it a point of honor to remain hard and dry, and to wear white always. Hand-elected are the curators of the communal affairs, and indivisible are they, each and every one, [in pursuing] their functions to the advantage of all.


124 No one city is theirs, but they settle amply in each. And for those school-members who arrive from elsewhere, all that the community has is laid out for them in the same way as if they were their own things, and they go in and stay with those they have never even seen before as if they were the most intimate friends. 125 For this reason they make trips without carrying any baggage at all—though armed on account of the bandits. In each city a steward of the order appointed specially for the visitors is designated quartermaster for clothing and the other amenities. 126 Dress and also deportment of body: like children being educated with fear. They replace neither clothes nor footwear until the old set is ripped all over or worn through with age. 127 Among themselves, they neither shop for nor sell anything; but each one, after giving the things that he has to the one in need, takes in exchange anything useful that the other has. And even without this reciprocal giving, the transfer to them [of goods] from whomever they wish is unimpeded.


128 Toward the Deity, at least: pious observances uniquely [expressed]. Before the sun rises, they utter nothing of the mundane things, but only certain ancestral prayers to him, as if begging him to come up. 129 After these things, they are dismissed by the curators to the various crafts that they have each come to know, and after they have worked strenuously until the fifth hour they are again assembled in one area, where they belt on linen covers and wash their bodies in frigid water. After this purification they gather in a private hall, into which none of those who hold different views may enter: now pure themselves, they approach the dining room as if it were some [kind of] sanctuary. 130 After they have seated themselves in silence, the baker serves the loaves in order, whereas the cook serves each person one dish of one food. 131 The priest offers a prayer before the food, and it is forbidden to taste anything before the prayer; when he has had his breakfast he offers another concluding prayer. While starting and also while finishing, then, they honor God as the sponsor of life. At that, laying aside their clothes as if they were holy, they apply themselves to their labors again until evening. 132 They dine in a similar way: when they have returned, they sit down with the vistors, if any happen to be present with them, and neither yelling nor disorder pollutes the house at any time, but they yield conversation to one another in order. 133 And to those from outside, the silence of those inside appears as a kind of shiver-inducing mystery. The reason for this is their continuous sobriety and the rationing of food and drink among them—to the point of fullness.


134 As for other areas: although there is nothing that they do without the curators’ having ordered it, these two things are matters of personal prerogative among them: [rendering] assistance and mercy. For helping those who are worthy, whenever they might need it, and also extending food to those who are in want are indeed left up to the individual; but in the case of the relatives, such distribution is not allowed to be done without [permission from] the managers. 135 Of anger, just controllers; as for temper, able to contain it; of fidelity, masters; of peace, servants. And whereas everything spoken by them is more forceful than an oath, swearing itself they avoid, considering it worse than the false oath; for they declare to be already degraded one who is unworthy of belief without God. 136 They are extraordinarily keen about the compositions of the ancients, selecting especially those [oriented] toward the benefit of soul and body. On the basis of these and for the treatment of diseases, roots, apotropaic materials, and the special properties of stones are investigated.


The Dead Sea Scrolls have been called the greatest manuscript find of all time. Visit the BAS Dead Sea Scrolls Page for dozens of articles on the scrolls’ significance, discovery and scholarship.




137 To those who are eager for their school, the entry-way is not a direct one, but they prescribe a regimen for the person who remains outside for a year, giving him a little hatchet as well as the aforementioned waist-covering and white clothing. 138 Whenever he should give proof of his self-control during this period, he approaches nearer to the regimen and indeed shares in the purer waters for purification, though he is not yet received into the functions of communal life. For after this demonstration of endurance, the character is tested for two further years, and after he has thus been shown worthy he is reckoned into the group. 139 Before he may touch the communal food, however, he swears dreadful oaths to them: first, that he will observe piety toward the deity; then, that he will maintain just actions toward humanity; that he will harm no one, whether by his own deliberation or under order; that he will hate the unjust and contend together with the just; 140 that he will always maintain faithfulness to all, especially to those in control, for without God it does not fall to anyone to hold office, and that, should he hold office, he will never abuse his authority—outshining his subordinates, whether by dress or by some form of extravagant appearance; 141 always to love the truth and expose the liars; that he will keep his hands pure from theft and his soul from unholy gain; that he will neither conceal anything from the school-members nor disclose anything of theirs to others, even if one should apply force to the point of death. 142 In addition to these, he swears that he will impart the precepts to no one otherwise than as he received them, that he will keep away from banditry, and that he will preserve intact their school’s books and the names of the angels. With such oaths as these they completely secure those who join them.


143 Those they have convicted of sufficiently serious errors they expel from the order. And the one who has been reckoned out often perishes by a most pitiable fate. For, constrained by the oaths and customs, he is unable to partake of food from others. Eating grass and in hunger, his body wastes away and perishes. 144 That is why they have actually shown mercy and taken back many in their final gasps, regarding as sufficient for their errors this ordeal to the point of death.


145 Now with respect to trials, [they are] just and extremely precise: they render judgment after having assembled no fewer than a hundred, and something that has been determined by them is non-negotiable. There is a great reverence among them for—next to God—the name of the lawgiver, and if anyone insults him he is punished by death. 146 They make it point of honor to submit to the elders and to a majority. So if ten were seated together, one person would not speak if the nine were unwilling. 147 They guard against spitting into [their] middles or to the right side and against applying themselves to labors on the seventh days, even more than all other Judeans: for not only do they prepare their own food one day before, so that they might not kindle a fire on that day, but they do not even dare to transport a container—or go to relieve themselves. 148 On the other days they dig a hole of a foot’s depth with a trowel—this is what that small hatchet given by them to the neophytes is for—and wrapping their cloak around them completely, so as not to outrage the rays of God, they relieve themselves into it [the hole]. 149 After that, they haul back the excavated earth into the hole. (When they do this, they pick out for themselves the more deserted spots.) Even though the secretion of excrement is certainly a natural function, it is customary to wash themselves off after it as if they have become polluted.


150 They are divided into four classes, according to their duration in the training, and the later-joiners are so inferior to the earlier-joiners that if they should touch them, the latter wash themselves off as if they have mingled with a foreigner. 151 [They are] long-lived, most of them passing 100 years—as a result, it seems to me at least, of the simplicity of their regimen and their orderliness. Despisers of terrors, triumphing over agonies by their wills, considering death—if it arrives with glory—better than deathlessness. 152 The war against the Romans proved their souls in every way: during it, while being twisted and also bent, burned and also broken, and passing through all the torture-chamber instruments, with the aim that they might insult the lawgiver or eat something not customary, they did not put up with suffering either one: not once gratifying those who were tormenting [them], or crying. 153 But smiling in their agonies and making fun of those who were inflicting the tortures, they would cheerfully dismiss their souls, [knowing] that they would get them back again.


154 For the view has become tenaciously held among them that whereas our bodies are perishable and their matter impermanent, our souls endure forever, deathless: they get entangled, having emanated from the most refined ether, as if drawn down by a certain charm into the prisons that are bodies. 155 But when they are released from the restraints of the flesh, as if freed from a long period of slavery, then they rejoice and are carried upwards in suspension. For the good, on the one hand, sharing the view of the sons of Greece they portray the lifestyle reserved beyond Oceanus and a place burdened by neither rain nor snow nor heat, but which a continually blowing mild west wind from Oceanus refreshes. For the base, on the other hand, they separate off a murky, stormy recess filled with unending retributions. 156 It was according to the same notion that the Greeks appear to me to have laid on the Islands of the Blessed for their most courageous men, whom they call heroes and demi-gods, and for the souls of the worthless the region of the impious in Hades, in which connection they tell tales about the punishments of certain men—Sisyphuses and Tantaluses, Ixions and Tityuses—establishing in the first place the [notion of] eternal souls and, on that basis, persuasion toward virtue and dissuasion from vice. 157 For the good become even better in the hope of a reward also after death, whereas the impulses of the bad are impeded by anxiety, as they expect that even if they escape detection while living, after their demise they will be subject to deathless retribution. 158 These matters, then, the Essenes theologize with respect to the soul, laying down an irresistible bait for those who have once tasted of their wisdom.


159 There are also among them those who profess to foretell what is to come, being thoroughly trained in holy books, various purifications, and concise sayings of prophets. Rarely if ever do they fail in their predictions.


160 There is also a different order of Essenes. Though agreeing with the others about regimen and customs and legal matters, it has separated in its opinion about marriage. For they hold that those who do not marry cut off the greatest part of life, the succession, and more: if all were to think the same way, the line would very quickly die out. 161 To be sure, testing the brides in a three-year interval, once they have been purified three times as a test of their being able to bear children, they take them in this manner; but they do not continue having intercourse with those who are pregnant, demonstrating that the need for marrying is not because of pleasure, but for children. Baths [are taken] by the women wrapping clothes around themselves, just as by the men in a waist-covering. Such are the customs of this order.




For more, read Steve Mason, “Did the Essenes Write the Dead Sea Scrolls?” Biblical Archaeology Review, November/December 2008.

The Bible History Daily feature “Josephus on the Essenes” was originally published in July 2012.



The post Josephus on the Essenes appeared first on Biblical Archaeology Society.


'Oldest Evidence' of Life?

‎Monday, ‎March ‎20, ‎2017, ‏‎10:00:00 AMGo to full article

Recently, evolutionists discovered “microfossils up to almost 4.3 billion years old” in Canada. On what do they base this age?




The Fascinating Squid

‎Thursday, ‎March ‎16, ‎2017, ‏‎10:00:00 AMGo to full article

A recent science news article sheds light on the amazing squid, but definitely not on its supposed evolution or origin. Creation scientists maintain squid have always been squid, and science bears this out with a new and highly detailed squid fossil.




Extremely Ugly Seaworm Shows Extreme Non-Evolution

‎Monday, ‎March ‎13, ‎2017, ‏‎10:00:00 AMGo to full article

A Bobbit worm is a predatory sea worm that submerges beneath sandy sea bottoms. Lying still with its fanged jaws ready, it waits, then grabs and drags its prey underground. New evidence supports the idea that special creation, not evolution, explains this unique worm's body construction.




Will We Ever Colonize Mars?

‎Wednesday, ‎March ‎8, ‎2017, ‏‎10:00:00 AMGo to full article

We went to the moon—isn't Mars next? ICR Astrophysicist Dr. Jason Lisle gives his perspective on the difficulties in traveling to and colonizing Mars.




Reviewing 'Is Genesis History?'

‎Wednesday, ‎March ‎1, ‎2017, ‏‎10:00:00 AMGo to full article

On Thursday, February 23, select movie theaters around the country presented a special one-night showing of the documentary Is Genesis History? Due to its success, two encore presentations are scheduled for March 2 and 7. Two ICR scientists give their thoughts on the film.



Seven Earth-size Planets Discovered

‎Friday, ‎February ‎24, ‎2017, ‏‎10:00:00 AMGo to full article

Secular scientists are excited about the recent detection of seven Earth-size planets in the constellation Aquarius, a nearby solar system. According to the report, three of the planets orbit a parent star, called TRAPPIST-1, at a distance that would allow water to exist on their surface. Is their excitement merited?



More Evidence of a Wet Sahara

‎Thursday, ‎February ‎23, ‎2017, ‏‎10:00:00 AMGo to full article

Scientists from the University of Arizona recently announced that what is now the Sahara desert was once wet and green and extended as far north as the Mediterranean Sea.



Do Black Holes Exist?

‎Monday, ‎February ‎20, ‎2017, ‏‎10:00:00 AMGo to full article

Do black holes really exist? If so, what are they? ICR astrophysicist Dr. Jason Lisle sheds light on these mysterious celestial objects.




Earth Remains the Only Goldilocks Planet

‎Yesterday, ‎February ‎16, ‎2017, ‏‎10:00:00 AMGo to full article

Astronomer Stephen Kane hunts for signs of life in outer space. His team researched a distant star called Wolf 1061. Exoplanets (planets outside our solar system) orbit Wolf 1061, and one of them held the promise of liquid water, a prerequisite for life.



Dinosaur Eggs Not Bird-Like After All

‎Monday, ‎February ‎13, ‎2017, ‏‎10:00:00 AMGo to full article

Prevailing secular theory considers birds to be living dinosaurs, but new science is hatching to support the stark differences between these creatures. The data demonstrate dinosaurs were more likely cold-blooded like all modern reptiles.




Solving Appendix Mysteries

‎Yesterday, ‎February ‎9, ‎2017, ‏‎10:00:00 AMGo to full article

Some mammals have an appendix connected to their cecum—the first section of the large intestine—but others don't. How and when did that once-mysterious organ originate?



What about the Big Bang Theory?

‎Yesterday, ‎February ‎6, ‎2017, ‏‎10:00:00 AMGo to full article

Did the universe start with the Big Bang? Many Christians believe God used the Big Bang to create all that we see today. But ICR Astrophysicist Dr. Jason Lisle has a different perspective.




Scientific Evidence for Divine Design [Podcast]

‎Thursday, ‎February ‎2, ‎2017, ‏‎10:00:00 AMGo to full article

Geology, astronomy, and biology all point to a divine Designer. ICR zoologist and researcher Frank Sherwin examines the evidence in this 5-part podcast series. Mr. Sherwin uncovers the scientific and biblical evidence for a global Flood, designed universe, and true origin and history of biological structures.




What Was the Star of Bethlehem?

‎Yesterday, ‎January ‎26, ‎2017, ‏‎10:00:00 AMGo to full article

What "star" did the wise men see? Some say it was a planetary conjunction, and others tell us it was a supernatural manifestation. ICR Astrophysicist Dr. Jason Lisle gives his perspective.



Pregnant Mom Transfers Famine Info to Baby

‎Monday, ‎January ‎23, ‎2017, ‏‎10:00:00 AMGo to full article

A Chinese famine was so severe that 35 million lives perished between 1958 to 1962 due to the state's agricultural mistakes. Interestingly, this tragedy highlights an unseen biological relationship between organisms and their environment over multiple generations.




Well-Known Scientist Resigns, Cites Climate Craziness

‎Thursday, ‎January ‎19, ‎2017, ‏‎10:00:00 AMGo to full article

Professor Judith Curry, a well-known Georgia Institute of Technology climatologist, recently resigned her tenured faculty position. She said the "craziness" of climate science was a "deciding factor."




Fast Evolution Confirms Creationist Theory

‎Monday, ‎January ‎16, ‎2017, ‏‎10:00:00 AMGo to full article

A tenet of creationist theory maintains that creatures are designed for robust speciation. Although they cannot change into fundamentally different kinds, creatures can rapidly express a wide diversity of traits to fit changing environments. "Fast evolution affects everyone, everywhere" is one headline from the theme of the Royal Society's life science journal in January, 2017. But its content further bolsters creationist theory.




That's a Fact: Big Bang?

‎Thursday, ‎January ‎12, ‎2017, ‏‎10:00:00 AMGo to full article

How did the universe begin? Some people say that it came into existence billions of years ago in a massive explosion. But this Big Bang has some big problems.



Amazon Go, Creatures Depend on Sophisticated Sensors

‎Monday, ‎January ‎9, ‎2017, ‏‎10:00:00 AMGo to full article

What does the recently unveiled Amazon Go store have to do with several new studies detailing how flies find water or how tiny roundworms can "taste light?" The "world's most advanced shopping technology" that links the cutting-edge Amazon Go store to its customers depends on the same vital element linking roundworms and spiders to their environments: a sensor.



Brain-Computer Interface Unmasks Mind-Brain Relationship

‎Thursday, ‎January ‎5, ‎2017, ‏‎10:00:00 AMGo to full article

A new bioengineered medical device was designed to treat people with a severe loss of neurologic muscle control. It affords a rare opportunity to clearly see some of the hidden relationships between mind, body, and designed interfaces. A unique case study indicates that the brain actually responds to the mind as a separate entity.



The Bible and Science [Podcast]

‎Tuesday, ‎January ‎3, ‎2017, ‏‎10:00:00 AMGo to full article

Is the Bible trustworthy? Are scientific theories 100% factual? How can Christians resolve the origins debate? ICR’s CEO Dr. Henry Morris III offers clarity and insight for questions about the origin of the universe, the accuracy of Scripture, and the role of faith in every human heart.



Top 2016 News: Marvels of Human Design

‎Yesterday, ‎December ‎29, ‎2016, ‏‎10:00:00 AMGo to full article

Just when we thought we knew all the basics about the human body, anatomists made three surprising discoveries in 2016. The newfound human body complexity borders on science fiction.



'Big Science' Celebrates Invalid Milankovitch Paper

‎Monday, ‎December ‎26, ‎2016, ‏‎10:00:00 AMGo to full article

This month, Science and Nature commemorated the anniversary of an important paper that was published in Science forty years ago, titled "Variations in the Earth's Orbit: Pacemaker of the Ice Ages." This paper convinced many secular scientists of the validity of the astronomical, or Milankovitch, ice age theory. But it appears that celebrated paper has been invalid for a quarter century.



Why Jesus Came Down From Heaven

‎Saturday, ‎December ‎24, ‎2016, ‏‎10:00:00 AMGo to full article

At Christmas, even the secular world makes much of the Christ child, born in a manger. But few seem to recognize that He had been eternally one with the Father in heaven before He chose to come down. And even fewer stop to learn just why He chose to come down.



Top 2016 News: Evidence for Recent Creation

‎Thursday, ‎December ‎22, ‎2016, ‏‎10:00:00 AMGo to full article

In a culture virtually convinced that the world is billions of years old, few people listen to evidence that clearly supports a young Earth. But that's what the Bible teaches. And plenty of science, including four finds from 2016, backs up the Bible's version of Earth history.




Top 2016 News: Fossil Discoveries

‎Monday, ‎December ‎19, ‎2016, ‏‎10:00:00 AMGo to full article

2016 revealed Cretaceous bird-feather proteins, original dinosaur-skin tissue, Triassic mosasaur blood vessels, and organic remnants from ancient fossil microbes. These four finds challenge scientists to question the popular model.



Top 2016 News: Fossil Discoveries

‎Monday, ‎December ‎19, ‎2016, ‏‎10:00:00 AMGo to full article

2016 revealed Cretaceous bird-feather proteins, original dinosaur-skin tissue, Triassic mosasaur blood vessels, and organic remnants from ancient fossil microbes. These four finds challenge scientists to question the popular model.




ICR and AIG Refute BioLogos Old-Earth Argument

‎Thursday, ‎December ‎15, ‎2016, ‏‎10:00:00 AMGo to full article

In 2010, the BioLogos Foundation published an article that attempted to refute biblical creation. It was authored by old-Earth geologists Drs. Gregg Davidson and Ken Wolgemuth. Do their arguments hold up to scientific scrutiny?



Fossil Feather Proteins Confirm Recent Flood

‎Monday, ‎December ‎12, ‎2016, ‏‎10:00:00 AMGo to full article

Ever since Dr. Mary Schweitzer's 2005 discovery of preserved original dinosaur proteins and blood cells, many secular scientists have remained skeptical. How could dinosaur fossils retain original organic material after millions of years? A new ancient bird fossil reveals more unexpected original chemicals, adding fuel to the fierce debate within the scientific community.




Another Feathered Dinosaur Tale

‎Saturday, ‎December ‎10, ‎2016, ‏‎10:00:00 AMGo to full article

On December 8, 2016, a science news story broke that researchers had found entombed in mid-Cretaceous amber a dinosaur tail complete with "primitive plumage"—i.e., feathers. Is this claim credible?



Gene Pleiotropy Roadblocks Evolution

‎Thursday, ‎December ‎8, ‎2016, ‏‎10:00:00 AMGo to full article

In the early days of genetics, genes were thought to be solitary entities. Now it's well understood that genes operate in complex networks and that gene mutations can have multiple detrimental effects. A new study reconfirms mutations are a