Attached are top stories from the past week in cosmology and evolutionary biology (with an Omega Point reflection thrown in:-). Please click on the heading to see the article.
Reflections on the Omega Point. From Metanexus: The Omega Point is a term coined by Teilhard de Chardin to describe the maximum level of complexity and consciousness towards which he believed the universe was evolving. In Jason Silva’s latest short video, he explores this concept along with contemporary theories.
Climate Change Occurring Ten Times Faster Than at Any Time in the Past 65 Million Years. From Science Daily: The planet is undergoing one of the largest changes in climate since the dinosaurs went extinct. But what might be even more troubling for humans, plants and animals is the speed of the change. Stanford climate scientists warn that the likely rate of change over the next century will be at least 10 times quicker than any climate shift in the past 65 million years. If the trend continues at its current rapid pace, it will place significant stress on terrestrial ecosystems around the world, and many species will need to make behavioral, evolutionary or geographic adaptations to survive.
Big Bang Light Reveals Minimum Lifetime of Photons. From Scientific American: The notion of the speed of light as the cosmic speed limit is based on the assumption that particles of light, called photons, have no mass. But astrophysical observations cannot rule out the slim chance that photons do have a tiny bit of mass—a prospect with wide ramifications in physics. For instance, if photons weigh nothing at all, they would be completely stable and could theoretically last forever. But if they do have a little mass, they could eventually decay into lighter particles.
Seeking the Cosmic Dawn: Evidence of Inflation?. From Sky and Telescope: In a tiny fraction of a second, an outburst of energy propelled our universe from a hot, dense point to cosmic size. This theoretical outburst, called inflation, provides a fantastically accurate explanation of why the cosmos is the way it is. Among other things, it predicts the pattern of temperature blotches astronomers observe in their earliest view of the cosmos, the cosmic microwave background (CMB). But there’s still no conclusive evidence that inflation happened. Now, a team of astronomers using the South Pole Telescope (SPT) in Antarctica has detected a pattern in the CMB that might help reveal inflation’s signature
Evolution Will Punish You if You are Selfish and Mean. From Science Daily: Two Michigan State University evolutionary biologists offer new evidence that evolution doesn’t favor the selfish, disproving a theory popularized in 2012. “We found evolution will punish you if you’re selfish and mean,” said lead author Christoph Adami, MSU professor of microbiology and molecular genetics. “For a short time and against a specific set of opponents, some selfish organisms may come out ahead. But selfishness isn’t evolutionarily sustainable.”
Oxygen Brought Earliest Carnivores to Life. From Scientific American: Without oxygen, there would be no carnivores. Without carnivores, there would be no Cambrian explosion, the stunning evolutionary burst of diversity in species and body forms that began 540 million years ago. Those are the findings of a new study that stitches together competing models for why meat-eating appeared simultaneously with the Cambrian explosion. Previously, one camp of scientists had proposed that rising oxygen levels gave animals the extra power to evolve complex body forms. Another school of thought said that competition among animals drove the sudden appearance of new species, such as the weird and wild life forms found in the Burgess Shale, a rock formation in Canada that has been an amazing source of fossils.
When Galaxies Switch Off: Hubble’s COSMOS Survey Solves “Quenched” Galaxy Mystery. From Science Daily: Some galaxies hit a point in their lives when their star formation is snuffed out, and they become “quenched.” Quenched galaxies in the distant past appear to be much smaller than the quenched galaxies in the Universe today. This has always puzzled astronomers — how can these galaxies grow if they are no longer forming stars? A team of astronomers has now used a huge set of Hubble observations to give a surprisingly simple answer to this long-standing cosmic riddle.