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UPI NewsTrack Science and Technology News

Nov. 28, 2012 at 6:34 PM   |   Comments

Experiment yields possible 'spooky' matter

CAMBRIDGE, Mass., Nov. 28 (UPI) -- U.S. physicists say unexpected results from the Large Hadron Collider suggest its particle collisions may be producing a new type of matter.

Recent experiments with the LHC at CERN -- European Organization for Nuclear Research -- in Switzerland, where the elusive Higgs boson was discovered earlier this year, may have discovered a new type of "spooky" matter in which particles seemingly interact without any direct connection with each other, they said.

In the LHC beams of particles crash into each other at high speeds in collisions, yielding hundreds of new particles, most of which fly away from the collision point at nearly the speed of light.

However, in a sample of 2 million lead-proton collisions, some pairs of particles flew away from each other with their respective directions correlated.

"Somehow they fly at the same direction even though it's not clear how they can communicate their direction with one another," reports Massachusetts Institute of Technology physics Professor Gunther Roland, whose group led the analysis of the collision data. "That has surprised many people, including us."

The behavior had previously been observed in collisions between larger particles under conditions similar to those that existed in the first few millionths of a second after the Big Bang.

The observed particle correlation may be due to quantum mechanics, researchers said.

"This 'quantum entanglement' explains how the particles that fly away from the collision can share information such as direction of flight path," Brookhaven National Laboratory scientist Raju Venugopalan told MIT News.

Quantum entanglement describes a phenomenon in which particles that were initially connected behave as if they are still interacting with each other even after they have been separated.

The phenomenon was so unexpected Albert Einstein famously dubbed it "spooky action at a distance."


Cellphone addiction called pathological

WACO, Texas, Nov. 28 (UPI) -- Cellphone addiction shows similarities to compulsive buying and credit card misuse, a study by marketing researchers at Baylor University in Texas found.

Addiction to cellphones and to text messaging are driven by materialism and impulsiveness and can be compared to other consumption pathologies, the researchers said.

"Cellphones are a part of our consumer culture," Baylor marketing Professor James Roberts said. "They are not just a consumer tool, but are used as a status symbol. They're also eroding our personal relationships."

Cellphones can be part of the conspicuous consumption ritual and also act as a pacifier for the impulsive tendencies of the user, he said. Impulsiveness, Roberts noted, plays an important role in both behavioral and substance addictions.

Previous studies have shown young adults send an average of 109.5 text messages a day or approximately 3,200 texts each month. They receive an additional 113 text messages and check their cells 60 times in a typical day.

"At first glance, one might have the tendency to dismiss such aberrant cellphone use as merely youthful nonsense -- a passing fad. But an emerging body of literature has given increasing credence to cellphone addiction and similar behavioral addictions," Roberts said in a Baylor release Wednesday.


Space Station to reposition for science

PARIS, Nov. 28 (UPI) -- The International Space Station will reposition itself for a better view of the sun, the first-ever attitude change for scientific reasons alone, officials say.

The ISS will turn itself to position the European Space Agency's SOLAR instrument for a better view of the sun.

The instrument has been monitoring the sun's output since it was installed on one of the station's laboratory modules in February 2008, a release from ESA's Paris headquarters said Wednesday.

"That is quite an achievement," says Nadia This, operations engineer at the Belgian User Support and Operations Centre that controls SOLAR. "The instrument was designed to work for only 18 months."

SOLAR needs a direct view of the sun to take measurements but the space station's normal orbit obscures the view for two weeks out of every month.

"We want to record a complete rotation of the sun and that takes around 25 days," Nadia said.

SOLAR started recording a full rotation of the sun Nov. 19 and Saturday will spend two hours turning about 7 degrees so observations can continue.

It will hold this angle for 10 days before returning to its original attitude, ESA officials said.


Web news outlets victim of PR hoax

NEW YORK, Nov. 28 (UPI) -- A big story in the tech world of an acquisition by Google of WiFi provider ICOA, reported by many news outlets Monday, was a hoax, both companies said.

An announcement transmitted by PRWeb, a website that distributes press releases for a fee, said Google had acquired ICOA for $400 million.

PRWeb said the release was planted by someone falsely claiming to represent ICOA, CNN reported Wednesday.

"Even with reasonable safeguards identity theft occurs, on occasion, across all the major wire services," PRWeb said on its company blog.

"We have removed the fraudulent release and turned the matter over to the proper authorities for further investigation."

Financial experts said the hoax was likely an illegal effort to inflate ICOA's stock, which jumped in price dramatically Monday with hundreds of millions of shares being bought and sold before the stock was frozen.

The incident shows how reporting can go wrong in the fast-paced world of Web journalism, media experts said.

"With something like this, there are a lot of blogs and websites that build their reputation on the tech world," Kelly McBride at the Poynter Institute, a non-profit devoted to the study and teaching of journalism, said.

News outlets such as The Associated Press and tech-watching site CNET had carried news of the purported Google-ICOA purchase.

"If Google is spending $400 million to buy something, there are people who are expected to have something to say about that and they want to be in that mix," McBride said.

"Once one organization does it, other organizations tend to place even more blind faith," she said. "Once the AP [for example] does it, then everyone does it."

The Associated Press retracted and issued a correction for its story. CNET apologized to its readers.

© 2012 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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