for December, 2016

Ramen Anyone?

Friday, December 2nd, 2016

Japan hopes to get elderly drivers off the road by bribing them with ramen noodles

Image: Japan hopes to get elderly drivers off the road by bribing them with ramen noodles

(NaturalNews) In one of the sillier stories of a historically silly year, Japanese authorities are now bribing elderly drivers to give up their driver’s licenses — in exchange for coupons that will lower the cost of ramen noodles. No, this is not an article from The Onion. This is happening in real life.

Why would Japan ask such a thing of their elderly? It has a lot to do with the fact that they seem to be putting a lot of innocent lives at risk by remaining on the road. Yaron Steinbuch of The New York Post reports, “The offer comes amid a spate of deadly accidents caused by vehicles driven by the elderly — a growing problem in a country where 4.8 million people aged 75 or older have a license. Those who relinquish their license will receive a certificate that will cut prices from 590 to 500 yen – about $5.20 to $4.43.”

If the authorities are actually concerned about the well-being of these elderly individuals, you have to question just how healthy a diet of ramen noodles could possibly be. They’re historically filled with sodium, which is not exactly what people who are coming up on the last years of their lives should be consuming on a regular basis, if at all.

Still, at this time, the government is not forcing elderly citizens to hand in their driver’s licenses, leaving this a completely optional decision. Though it is extremely strange and something that is easy to poke fun at, it is a far cry from fascism and that’s a very good thing. During an era when government overreach has become the norm, it’s nice to see the powers that be trying to get creative in order to achieve their goals. It may not be a good idea and it may not even work, but at least they aren’t trying to oppress people based on their age.

So where do you stand on this issue? Should elderly people be allowed to drive after if they pass all the requirements necessary?

from:    http://www.naturalnews.com/2016-12-02-japan-hopes-to-get-elderly-drivers-off-the-road-by-bribing-them-with-ramen-noodles.html

Vaccination – Some Considerations

Friday, December 2nd, 2016

First Study on Vaccinated vs. Unvaccinated Children Pulled from Web

vaccinated-childChristina Sarich, Staff Writer
Waking Times  

The results of the first ever study comparing the health of vaccinated children vs. unvaccinated children is out, and they are already causing controversy. For many – hundreds of thousands of families that have already been injured by vaccines – the results won’t be surprising, but to many others, the findings might be a little shocking. This is possibly why the scientific journal which originally published the results withdrew the study from publication.

The abstract of the study was published online in Frontiers in Public Health after being accepted November 2. The study compared children’s health via surveys of mothers who home-schooled their children aged 6-12 years. Nearly 40 percent of the children had never been vaccinated, so the control group was adequate to do a good comparison against children who had been vaccinated.

After heavy criticism from the public and scientific community due to the results of the study, though, it was retracted. Why? Those that were vaccinated were three times more likely to be diagnosed with neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism.

The abstract specifically stated,

“A total of 415 mothers provided data on 666 children, of which 261 (39%) were unvaccinated. Vaccinated children were significantly less likely than the unvaccinated to have been diagnosed with chickenpox and pertussis, but significantly more likely to have been diagnosed with pneumonia, otitis media, allergies and NDDs (defined as Autism Spectrum Disorder, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, and/or a learning disability).”

The study further concluded,

“In this study based on mothers’ reports, the vaccinated had a higher rate of allergies and NDD than the unvaccinated. Vaccination, but not preterm birth, remained significantly associated with NDD after controlling for other factors. However, preterm birth combined with vaccination was associated with an apparent synergistic increase in the odds of NDD. Further research involving larger, independent samples is needed to verify and understand these unexpected findings in order to optimize the impact of vaccines on children’s health.”

The initial backlash was significant. Public comments included, “this study is of poor design, though not impossible results. Study relies of self-report of moms, inducing bias,” and, “Another garbage vaccine study in Frontiers journal. Scientists, stop reviewing/publishing there.”

Science Blogs also quickly posted an article titled, “Antivaccinationists promote a bogus internet “survey.” Hilarity ensues as it’s retracted.

When the paper was pulled, the publishers were also accused of not following a proper retraction process. Though the journal isn’t the first to pull a vaccine paper amid public criticism — in February, Vaccine temporarily removed — then soon retracted — a paper linking the vaccine for Human papillomavirus to behavioral problems in mice; a modified version of the paper was later republished, the retraction is suspect considering how quickly the paper was pulled. When the publishers were asked why this happened, they simply responded that the paper was submitted for review, but had not been approved.

Researchers like Catherine J. Frompovich likely wouldn’t think the study is so ‘hilarious’ as Science Blogs attests. She writes of a doctor in the UK who believes vaccines are indeed tied to autism. Dr. Graham Downing, who is a Neuro-musculoskeletal and Functional Medicine consultant in the UK has found that the vaccination of pregnant women increases inflammation in their bodies and also increases the risk of releasing inflammatory markers in their fetuses/infants. Such releases include phenotypes [the set of observable characteristics of an individual resulting from the interaction of its genotype with the environment.]

Downing also contends that the increased inflammation in cells caused by vaccines, also elevate in the fetal brain where cytokines release glutamates. The prefrontal lobes and the limbic system, which involves human emotions, are affected in fetuses from pregnancy vaccines administered to moms-to-be. So, not only are children outside the womb affected, but the neurological/immunological decline starts while they are still in the womb.

Downing also attests that vaccines are tied to the artificial intelligence rollout goals of the elite. As Frompovich writes,

“Dr. Downing says there are five-year and fifteen year goals for AI. The fifteen-year goal is to have AI run everything, including humans! You have to listen to his comments about that aspect—one word: “frightening!” To ‘authentic’ his remarks, Doctor cited a report issued by the White House, “A Federal Vision for Future Computing: A Nanotechnology-inspired Grand Challenge.”

Here’s what that 15-page report is about:

Create a new type of computer that can proactively interpret and learn from data, solve unfamiliar problems using what it has learned, and operate with the energy efficiency of the human brain. [3]

[Basically, it’s an artificial brain to replace the human brain. Also, they want to create a new soul for humans, too!]”

So, why are vaccine promoters so quick to dismiss, or make a drivel of a study based on mothers’ health reports of their children? Bias or no bias – it’s hard to dismiss a 300 percent increase in autism and neurological damage rates – but those reasons are left to your imagination.

from:     http://www.wakingtimes.com/2016/12/01/first-ever-study-vaccinated-vs-unvaccinated-children-removed-web/

The Role of Media – Something You Can Do

Friday, December 2nd, 2016

What Went Wrong With Trump and the Media

The business model is pulling in the wrong direction for democracy.

We need to push harder, go deeper, spread the story wider. Help us do it with a tax-deductible donation to Mother Jones

There aren’t a lot of people who have not yet been blamed for the election of Donald Trump.

FBI Director James Comey. Vladimir Putin, Jon Stewart, Sean Hannity, Twitter, Facebook, CNN, Hillary Clinton, the DNC, and oh, Donald Trump. There’s a good case to be made for almost every culprit you can imagine, and a tweetstorm or thinkpiece to lay it out.

This is not going to be one of those pieces. As my colleague Kevin Drum writes, “For the most part, people are just blaming all the stuff they already believed in.” But in the flood of emails that have poured into MoJo since the election, many readers have asked us to dive into one issue in particular—the role of  media.

And it happens to be an issue we’re obsessed with. We believe that the business model for media in the United States is broken; that if we’re going to have the kind of journalism that democracy requires, we’re going to need different ways of paying for it; and that critical among those will be reader support in many different forms.

So we’re not going to pussyfoot around: By the end of this piece, we hope you’ll invest in our hard-hitting investigative reporting. And if you’re already in for that, you can do it right now. Meanwhile, let’s take a look at where things stand.

We’re preparing to be governed by a man with a record of contempt for truth and transparency, at a time when every potential countervailing force, from the Democratic Party to the courts, is on the ropes. We’re also headed for nearly unmitigated one-party control of the federal government and a growing number of states.

In the past, the Fourth Estate has been essential at moments like this, holding the powerful accountable until the pendulum swings back toward checks and balances. Whether that can happen this time, though, is not so clear. Because this time, the press itself is among the institutions under strain—and that strain may well be part of what made Trump’s ascent possible.

Here’s what played out during the campaign, and is playing out again in the transition: Individual journalists and individual outlets do amazing work under the most difficult circumstances, facing down virulent abuse in person and on social media. But the larger gravitational forces of the industry pull in the opposite direction. Those forces push us toward the lowest common denominator. They reward outrage and affirm anger—and they don’t incentivize digging deep, explaining complex problems, or exposing wrongdoing.

One person who understands this better than most is…Donald Trump. He knew from the get-go that as a celebrity known for saying outrageous stuff, he could call up any show, anytime, and count on being put on the air because he brought the eyeballs. As CBS chairman Les Moonves put it way back in February, his bomb-throwing “may not be good for America, but it’s damn good for CBS.”

Trump could have capitalized on this at any time, but he really hit a perfect-storm moment. Media revenues are under enormous pressure across the board. Newspapers and magazines are battling cheap and free digital competitors. Cable is threatened by cord-cutting. And digital publishers are watching new ad dollars rush over to Facebook and Google.

That made news organizations desperate for eyeballs and content, and Trump gave them both. Airing his interviews, covering his rallies, turning his tweets into posts and his comments into tweets was quick and inexpensive—far less expensive certainly than digging through his business record or analyzing how his campaign has emboldened white nationalists.

When it comes to news, you get what you pay for, and when the answer to that is “zero,”  that’s also the value of a lot of what you get in your Facebook feed.

Which brings us to the other part of the perfect storm: social media. Rage (and fear) motivate sharing. Rage-sharing reinforces the beliefs we and our friends already hold, which makes us want to signal those beliefs even more. Each “OMFG, Trump just_______” pushes the button again, and motivates.

And it’s not just media organizations that noticed Trump driving the clicks and shares. A network of bottom-feeders, bots, and outright provocateurs have discovered that you can cash in on ad networks by simply making up fake news stories that will spread wildly on social media. And what a coincidence that we didn’t learn until after the election that Facebook had a way to tamp down fake news, but held back because it was terrified of a conservative backlash. Google likewise waited until after the election to kick fake-news sites out of its ad network; Twitter didn’t crack down on far-right accounts until November 15. That really bodes well for the future decisions of companies that govern our digital life (and know more about each of us than the National Security Agency ever will).

The last part of the perfect storm was—is—the evisceration of newsrooms. There are, give or take, 40 percent fewer journalists in America than there were a decade ago, and there are about to be even fewer as companies cut back dramatically post-election. Univision is shedding more than 200 jobs, many of them at millennial-aimed Fusion; the Guardian is in the process of reducing its US newsroom by 30 percent, the Wall Street Journal is trimming positions and consolidating sections, and the New York Times has said it has a newsroom downsizing coming in January.

For those journalists who remain, the pressure will only increase—to bring eyeballs, but also avoid offense. Because while big media companies feed on controversy, they are terrified of being targets of controversy themselves. They built big audiences and revenue streams on a style of journalism that avoids any semblance of a point of view, so as not to drive any part of the audience away. Trump’s attacks on journalists as biased are designed to reinforce that fear. That’s one reason why for much of the campaign his lies weren’t called out, his falsehoods weren’t fact-checked—because that would have appeared like injecting a point of view.

Grim, right? Here’s another link where you can support our work during these challenging times with a monthly or one-time gift (along with a Harvard study showing that the act of giving may promote happiness).

In the end, political journalism is deeply conservative—not in the partisan sense, but in the sense of being invested in institutions, ways of doing things, and the foundational belief that the system works and  destructive forces will be neutralized in due time. That was what made it hard to imagine a Trump win, or to recognize Bernie Sanders’ movement as more than the usual protest candidacy.

And it’s what now is driving coverage inexorably toward normalization. Already, public radio hosts banter as they inform us that Steve Bannon, a man who ran an openly race-baiting website, has become the senior White House strategist; already People, just weeks after publishing a harrowing article about its own writer’s experience of being assaulted by Trump, has compiled “27 Photos of Ivanka Trump’s Family That Are Way Too Cute.”

Demagogues are dependent on a compliant media. It is the air they breathe, the fuel they run on. They rely on it to legitimize their lies and give their bombast a veneer of respectability. They deploy it to bestow favors and mete out punishment. And they will not abide disrespect from the press, because it’s contagious.

Peter Thiel, the Silicon Valley billionaire and Trump champion, showed one way of punishing journalists when he spent millions on the lawsuit that shut down Gawker. (Mother Jones was a target of similar litigation—though we won.) There will be many other opportunities, from rewriting transparency laws like the Freedom of Information Act to defunding the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. (So in addition to supporting Mother Jones with a monthly or one-time gift, consider pitching in for your local public media station.)

We need an alternative—and we need it now.

Back to where we started: The business model is broken when it comes to ensuring the kind of journalism democracy requires. In the uncertain, dangerous times ahead, we’ll need something better, and a lot of it.

We’ll need media that doesn’t have to bargain for access or worry about backlash.

We’ll need media that isn’t dependent on giving bigots a platform. (CNN expects to make $1 billion this year—in large part thanks to election coverage that had many high moments, but also employed paid Trump operative Corey Lewandowski.)

We’ll need media that doesn’t sell out its own for political ends. (Remember when Fox News’ Megyn Kelly had to “make up” with Trump after nearly a year of bullying and threats?)

We’ll need reporters who can chase after what is shaping up to be cronyism and corruption of epic proportions, and who can stand up to the intimidation that is bound to ensue.

We’ll need a business model that—to circle all the way back to Les Moonves—isn’t dependent on pumping up the eyeballs at any cost.

That’s what we are determined to build here at MoJo.

We don’t claim to have all the answers on where things go from here. But we know a free, fearless press is an essential part of it, and that means doubling down on the investigative reporting that readers like you have demanded, and supported, for 40 years.

Instead of focusing on the controversies that Trump and other politicians spoon-feed the press (over here, five candidates for secretary of state! No here, a fresh Twitter rant against the New York Times!), we’ll dig into the stories they want to keep secret. We’ll go after the unprecedented conflicts of interest and corruption wherever they arise. (These, as you well know, are not limited to either party.)

We’ll expose the danger to vulnerable communities like immigrants and religious minorities, while also exploring how people are organizing and fighting back. We’ll listen to people whose voices aren’t heard enough—including the working-class people who voted for Trump because he promised them better times. And we will ask you, our readers, what else is important to cover now—your input is key as we all find our way in this new landscape.

Whatever the story is, we won’t be held back by timidity or fear of controversy. The only thing that limits us are the resources we have to hire reporters, send them into the field, and give them the time and job security they need to go deep.

That’s where your tax-deductible monthly or one-time donation makes all the difference. (So does subscribing to our magazine, giving a gift subscription—we have some great holiday savings going on—or signing up for our newsletters.) A full 70 percent of Mother Jones’ revenue comes from reader support. It’s the core of the business model we think will be critical to saving watchdog journalism. And many of you agree: Since the election we’ve been seeing unprecedented support from readers who have flocked to our site to read, subscribe, donate, and share their thoughts about where we need to go from here.

And let’s take one more step. While it’s critically important to shore up independent reporting, you’re going to want to take action in other ways too. Here are some things we’re thinking about as we head toward the holidays.

Many of you will talk—and listen—to people you disagree with, to understand where they’re coming from and maybe find the tiniest sliver of common ground. Arlie Hochschild did that in our cover story about Trump voters, and she saw many of the trends others in the media missed. Some of you might want to try to open up your Facebook feeds to people you differ with; we put together a list of tools to get out of your “filter bubbles.” And one of our editors, James West, has started a project where he’s friending all the Trump supporters he interviewed this year. He’ll tell their stories as that evolves.

Finally, we’re remembering to be thankful—not least, to you. Mother Jones as you know it today is the result of a big, risky bet at a moment not unlike this one—2006, when we were looking at media that had failed to challenge a war-mongering government’s lies and a digital news landscape where hot takes had overtaken original reporting. We asked you, our readers, to help us counter that trend, to build a 24/7 digital operation and a newsroom to go after the big stories of the day. And you did.

Ten years later, at a moment of even more radical upheaval, many of you have told us that you want to be part of a movement that builds a bigger, stronger independent journalism scene. Thanks to you, we are ready.

MoJo will need to be stronger, more agile, and even more fearless in an environment that’s growing more dangerous to journalism and democracy. Let’s go.

from:    http://www.motherjones.com/media/2016/11/trump-media-fail

New FBI Hacking Powers

Friday, December 2nd, 2016
It Just Got Much Easier for the FBI to Hack Your Computer
Just in time for the Trump administration.

Just in time for the Trump administration, the FBI has gotten what critics characterize as broad new hacking powers. As of Thursday, government agents can now use warrants obtained from a single judge to hack computers in multiple jurisdictions, rather than having to get warrants from judges in each distinct jurisdiction, as required under the old rule. The rule went into effect despite the last-ditch efforts by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and others to either kill or delay it in order to give Congress time to study its implications.

In a speech on the Senate floor Wednesday, Wyden said the change to Rule 41 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure was especially troubling given the imminent presidency of Donald Trump, who has “openly said he wants the power to hack his political opponents the same way Russia does.”

“By sitting here and doing nothing, the Senate has given consent to this expansion of government hacking and surveillance.”

The changes were approved by the US Supreme Court in a private vote at the end of April, after several years of discussion within the federal judiciary. They were never debated by Congress. The US Department of Justice says the news rules are necessary, particularly in cases where criminals use anonymizing software to conceal their location while committing crimes such as peddling child pornography. Another concern is the weaponizing of hundreds of thousands of internet-connected devices into “botnets” that are then used to flood websites with traffic to shut them down, or for criminal activities that, in the words of Assistant Attorney General Leslie Caldwell, “siphon wealth and invade privacy on a massive scale.”

Wyden isn’t convinced that the changes are urgent. Along with Sens. Chris Coons (D-Del.) and Steve Daines (R-Mont.), he tried on Wednesday to get the Senate to approve legislation that would have either blocked or delayed the implementation of the new powers.

Those efforts failed.

“By sitting here and doing nothing, the Senate has given consent to this expansion of government hacking and surveillance,” Wyden said in a statement. “Law-abiding Americans are going to ask, ‘What were you guys thinking?’ when the FBI starts hacking victims of a botnet hack. Or when a mass hack goes awry and breaks their device or an entire hospital system and puts lives at risk.”

Caldwell argued the rules had already been debated and vetted. In a November 28 blog post, she wrote the federal judiciary deliberated on the changes for three years, using the same process used to modify other rules of criminal procedure. The current rule change deals specifically with venue issues—removing traditional jurisdictional constraints—and not what investigators can actually do as part of the search, she wrote. Further, investigators already had the power to search multiple computers at the same time, she noted, and it was already legal for investigators to hack victim computers to understand the scope of the criminal hack.

“It would be strange if the law forbade searching the scene of a crime,” she wrote.

Caldwell also wrote that the rule modification doesn’t change what is and isn’t permissible under the Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable searches and seizures. “The Constitution already forbids mass, indiscriminate rummaging through victims’ computers, and it will continue to do so,” she wrote. “By contrast, blocking the [rule change] would make it more difficult for law enforcement to combat mass hacking by actual criminals.”

But those reassurances likely will not satisfy privacy advocates. In June, tech writer Mike Masnick noted that the DOJ’s justification for the rule change “skirt[ed] the truth, at best.” The new rule, Masnick wrote, “effectively wipe[s] out the requirement to give a copy of the warrant to the person whose computers are being hacked,” which “pretty much guarantees that some of the people who are hacked following this won’t even know about it.” He suggested that the DOJ’s use of the threat of child exploitation as a way to legitimize the rule change in effect derailed the necessary review of serious modifications to the government’s powers that should be debated and approved by Congress. “The FBI has a rather long history of abusing its surveillance powers, and especially seeking to avoid strict oversight,” Masnick wrote. “Approving such a change just because the DOJ is insisting it’s ‘FOR THE CHILDREN, WON’T YOU PLEASE THINK OF THE CHILDREN!’ isn’t a particularly good reason.”

That’s probably why big tech companies like Google and a host of civil rights organizations have opposed the change for years.

“Google has a significant interest in protecting its users and securing its infrastructure,” wrote Richard Salgado, Google’s director of law enforcement and information security, in a February 2015 letter submitted to the Judicial Advisory Committee on Criminal Rules. “The proposed amendment substantively expands the government’s current authority under Rule 41 and raises a number of monumental and highly complex constitutional, legal, and geopolitical concerns.”

from:    http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2016/12/fbi-computer-hacking-supreme-court

What Value – Hope?

Friday, December 2nd, 2016

In Stripping Away Our Hope, Maybe Trump Has Done Us a Favor

The outcome of this election is a wake-up call to action. Now that we know our elected leaders will not save us, let’s get to work.
Trump-Action.gif

Prince Ea, rapper and spoken-word artist and social justice advocate, has a soliloquy on YouTube with a surprising title: WHY IM HAPPY TRUMP WON. How could he think that, as he has passionately called for recognizing the dignity in all people? He’s happy, he says, because he sees this election result as a wake-up call. It forces us to recognize the sickness of our society and “that we cannot legislate our way out of human problems, nor can we truly change the world by changing the rulers.”

I remember hoping a Clinton-Gore administration would lead to a system transformation back in 1992. I had the same hope for the Obama administration in 2008.

But it’s now clear that leadership for the needed system change will not come from within the existing corporate-dominated political system. It must come from We the People, claiming and exercising our sovereign right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Since we cannot expect action from the upcoming administration and Congress on any measure that puts environmental and social interests ahead of the interests of corporations and the very rich, there will be no point during the next two to four years in the old discussions of what might be politically feasible. We can instead focus on building popular support for what is necessary and desirable and transforming the political landscape to press the rule makers to follow.

Because of the depth and breadth of the change our circumstances require, we will need to organize on many fronts, including the following four:

1. Resist the forces of corporate rule. Given Trump’s record and that of his political allies, we should be prepared to expose his betrayal of his promise to his base to clear the swamp of Wall Street interests and lobbyists as he pushes to privatize public services, programs, and infrastructure; roll back environmental protections; cut taxes for the rich; normalize corruption; and further rig the electoral process. All the while, we must keep clearly in mind that resistance without a compelling positive alternative is a losing strategy.

2. Grow community. The relationships involved in strong, inclusive, caring communities are an essential foundation of what some call the ecological civilization we must now bring into being. Reconnecting with neighbors. Organizing activities that connect people across religious and racial lines. Rebuilding local economies. Resisting racism and sexism. Supporting local farmers. Participating in local initiatives to restore local ecosystems. Supporting sustainable-energy initiatives. Advancing cooperative ownership. Electing community-oriented city council members and county supervisors. Supporting groups finding housing for the homeless and jobs for the jobless. Campaigning for a living wage. I find hope in evidence that such efforts are blossoming all around the country in ways I’ve not seen in my lifetime. As science is confirming, such community-building engagement affirms our self-worth and aids recovery from the distrust and fear the presidential campaign has evoked.

3. Democratize political institutions. Voter suppression, the distortions of corporate media and dark money, gerrymandering, the candidate limitations of a two-party system controlled by a corporate establishment, and an electoral college system that ignores the will of the majority are powerful reminders that democracy in the United States remains an aspiration. A true democracy of the sovereign people is another essential foundation of the ecological civilization on which our future well-being depends. We will have it only as We the People organize to demand it.

4. Advance a new public narrative. We humans are only beginning to awaken to the fact that our status as living Earth’s dominant species carries with it responsibilities as well as rewards. The ways of living, the institutions, and the narratives of our past no longer serve. We humans live by shared stories. We need a shared narrative that gives us the courage and guiding vision to take the step to species maturity. Through public dialogue, social networking, and independent media, we can find a compelling shared narrative to guide our path to institutions and policies appropriate for our time.

If the outcome of this election forces us to face up to the depth of system failure that threatens our common future and motivates us to engage the work of an essential cultural and institutional transformation, it may prove to be, as Prince Ea put it, a blessing in disguise.

from:   http://www.yesmagazine.org/new-economy/in-stripping-away-our-hope-maybe-trump-has-done-us-a-favor-20161130

Interesting Quantum Distortion

Friday, December 2nd, 2016
ESO/L. Calçada

We just got the first real evidence of a strange quantum distortion in empty space

It’s taken us 80 years to witness this.

BEC CREW

For the first time, astronomers have observed a strange quantum phenomenon in action, where a neutron star is surrounded by a magnetic field so intense, it’s given rise to a region in empty space where matter spontaneously pops in and out of existence.

Called vacuum birefringence, this bizarre phenomenon was first predicted back in the 1930s, but had only ever been observed on the atomic scale. Now scientists have finally seen it occur in nature, and it goes against everything that Newton and Einstein had mapped out.

“This is a macroscopic manifestation of quantum field,” Jeremy Heyl from the University of British Columbia in Canada, who was not involved in the research, told Science“It’s manifest on the scale of a neutron star.”

An international team of astronomers led by Roberto Mignani from INAF Milan in Italy made the discovery while observing a neutron star called RX J1856.5-3754 that’s 400 light-years from Earth.

Neutron stars are the crushed cores of massive stars that collapsed under their own weight when they ran out of fuel, and exploded as a supernova.

They’re made of some of the most dense material in the Universe – just 1 teaspoon of the stuff would weigh 1 billion tons on Earth – and their crust is 10 billion times stronger than steel.

Neutron stars also have the strongest magnetic fields in the known Universe – astronomers predict that the strongest neutron star magnetic fields are nearly 100 trillion times stronger than Earth’s.

These magnetic fields are so ridiculous, they’re thought to affect the properties of the empty space surrounding a neutron star.

In the classical physics of Newton and Einstein, the vacuum of space is entirely empty, but the theory of quantum mechanics assumes something very different.

According to quantum electrodynamics (QED) – a quantum theory that describes how light and matter interact – it’s predicted that space is actually full of ‘virtual particles’ that pop in and out of existence and mess with the activity of light particles (photons) as they zip around the Universe.

These virtual particles aren’t like regular physical particles like electrons and photons, but are fluctuations in quantum fields that have similar properties to a regular particle – the big difference being that they can appear and vanish at any point in space and time.

In regular empty space, photons aren’t affected by these virtual particles, and travel without interference.

But in the empty space near the incredibly intense magnetic field of a neutron star, these virtual particles are ‘excited’, and they have a dramatic effect on any photons passing through.

“According to QED, a highly magnetised vacuum behaves as a prism for the propagation of light, an effect known as vacuum birefringence,” Mignani explains in a press release.

“This effect can be detected only in the presence of enormously strong magnetic fields, such as those around neutron stars,” adds team member Roberto Turolla from the University of Padua in Italy.

As Jay Bennett reports for Popular Mechanics, the researchers directed the world’s most advanced ground-based telescope, the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope (VLT), at their neutron star, and observed linear polarisation – the alignment of light waves influenced by electromagnetic forced – in the empty space around the star.

“This is rather odd, because conventional relativity says that light should pass freely through a vacuum, such as space, without being altered,” says Bennett.

“The linear polarisation was to such a degree (16 degrees, to be precise) that the only known explanations are theories of QED and the influence of virtual particles.”

You can see an illustration of this at the top of the page, where light coming from the surface of a neutron star (on the left) becomes linearly polarised as it travels through the vacuum of space on its way to the observer on Earth (on the right).

The next step now is for the observations to be replicated in another scenario to know for sure that vacuum birefringence is what we’re looking at here, and if that’s the case, we’ve got a whole new phenomenon to investigate in the field of quantum mechanics.

“When Einstein came up with the theory of general relativity 100 years ago, he had no idea that it would be used for navigational systems. The consequences of this discovery probably will also have to be realised on a longer timescale,” Magnani told New Scientist.

The research has been published in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, and you can access it for free at arXiv.org.

from:    http://www.sciencealert.com/we-just-got-the-first-real-evidence-of-a-strange-quantum-distortion-in-empty-space