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Primates and paradoxical twins in the ISS, cosmic musicals, alien advertising and more


By Tushna Commissariat

The International Space Station (ISS) usually has only the human variety of primate on board, but earlier this week a gorilla seemed to have joined the crew. If you thought that this was part of one of the hundreds of planned experiments on the ISS you would be wrong. Instead, it was crew member Scott Kelly’s birthday hijinks after his twin brother sent him the suit for his birthday as the astronaut celebrated a year in space. Kelly will return to Earth in six days’ time.

Interestingly, this is the first time NASA has sent up one half of a pair of twins into space and is studying just how life on the ISS will change Scott’s physiology from that of his twin Mark. Apart from looking at how life in space will alter everything from Scott’s DNA to his gut microbes, this is also a real-life variation of the “twin paradox” experiment where Scott will return to the planet a bit “younger” than his twin in that Scott’s clock runs a bit slower than Mark’s, thanks to the ISS’s orbital speed of 17,000 mph. After reading this, if you feel like you would like a go on the ISS, NASA is currently hiring.

Earlier this week, we wrote about the world’s deepest lab – the China Jinping Underground Laboratory – which will soon host the proposed Jinping Neutrino Experiment. Neutrino labs are strange and wondrous places – most of them are caverns nestled deep under the Earth in mines and are full of glistening liquids and shiny photomultiplier tubes that pick up the eerie glow of the Cherenkov radiation given off when a particle zips through. Over on Vice’s Motherboard website, science editor Michael Bryne talks some more about the ethereal beauty of these detectors and why they look “so damn cool.”

Just in case you want a bit more on gravitational waves and LIGO, head on over to the Cosmic Yarns blog where physicist Robert Scherrer succinctly explains just why ET won’t be using gravitational waves to send us a message. ” Any civilization powerful enough to manipulate neutron stars or black holes could just as easily rearrange the stars in their galaxy to spell out messages:  “Eat at Joe’s!” writes Scherrer – I couldn’t have put it any better myself!

Also, take a look at this ars technica story on how LIGO survived budget cuts in the mid-1990s, while listening to this song by Tesla Boy, dubbed “Black hole”, about the experiment’s recent discovery.

For some more physics-themed weekend listening, visit the Peninsula Arts Contemporary Music Festival in Plymouth, which begins today. The festival will showcase a work called the “Sonification of dark matter”, which hopes to “gently” introduce festival-goers to the topic, according to its creators – you can read all about it over at the Independent.

And finally, don’t forget to tune into Perimeter Institute’s next public lecture on Wednesday 2 March to learn all about the “dark side” (no Siths included) with cosmologist Katherine Freese.

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