Mysterious Ancient Board Game Discovered in 2,300-Year-Old Tomb in China
A group of archaeologists in China have unearthed pieces from a mysterious ancient board game that was last played around 1,500 years ago.
A 14-face die made of animal tooth, 21 rectangular game pieces with numbers painted on them, and a broken tile from a board game were found in a 2,300-year-old tomb in Qingzhou City, according to Live Science.
When reconstructed, the tile turned out to be “decorated with two eyes, which are surrounded by cloud-and-thunder patterns,” a report published in the journal Chinese Cultural Relics claimed. The die comprises the numbers 1 through 6, each appearing twice on 12 of the faces in a form of ancient Chinese writing known as “seal script.” Two of the faces were left blank.
The women often fight topless, like male fighters would usually, with one combatant showing off bruises and marks from being raked by her opponents’ fingers
There are no rules in the all-female fight club, just grit and determination as women of all sizes and shapes pit themselves against each other in the ring.
Photographer Katarzyna Mazur has captured the East Berlin-based club in a series of no-holds barred portraits of the women, often battered and bruised, taking each other on in fighting gear or topless.
The private club has no official guidelines and does not have one particular fighting style and shows women – who are practising their sport unpaid, for the sheer challenge of combat – throwing off the preconceived notions about their gender to compete as equals.
The club was started in 2010 by female fighters Anna Konda and Red Devil, from Russia, as a place for women to come and fight.
Anna was very slim when she was younger, but is now much ‘bigger’ she told Vice UK but she said she could not keep her trim figure forever.
She said about her wrestling: ‘I don’t enjoy the pain of others. I enjoy my own power and having control.
‘I guess sometimes this can amount to the same thing for my prey.
LSD has been described as ‘a healthy alternative to Adderall’Photo: Alamy
It seems unlikely, but that’s apparently what some Silicon Valley professionals have been doing – and reporting great results.
According to Rolling Stone, a growing number of people are experimenting with “microdoses” of psychedelics to help them work.
A microdose of LSD is around 10-15 micrograms, approximately a tenth of a “normal” dose.
At that dosage, Rolling Stone describes the drug’s effects as “subperceptual”: ” ‘Enough, says Rick Doblin, founder and executive director of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, ‘to feel a little bit of energy lift, a little bit of insight, but not so much that you are tripping.’”
Anonymous Hackers Fight ISIS but Reactions Are Mixed
By KATIE ROGERS
People from various hacking collectives have tried for several months to block social media accounts that spread propaganda and attempt to recruit fighters for the Islamic State, but those campaigns gained a new energy on Twitter after the Paris attacks.
Hashtags like #OpParis and #OpISIS have allowed the public to see the inner workings of those efforts, which seem to get results. The best-known group involved, the shadowy collective Anonymous, has claimed to have helped take down as many as 20,000 Twitter accounts since the attacks.
The group also has an extensive how-to list for anyone interested in taking ISIS offline. Those tactics include posting the names of thousands of questionable accounts and deploying a tool that searches certain keywords on social media and uses a bot to report inappropriate behavior to Twitter.
In the wake of the November 13 Paris attacks, Ernest Hemingway’s “A Moveable Feast” has become a symbol of life in the French capital, climbing to the top of bestseller lists as it flies off the shelves of bookstores across France.
Published posthumously in 1964, “A Moveable Feast” is a memoir of Hemingway’s experiences living in Paris during the 1920s.
In the shocked aftermath of the November 13 attacks, which killed 130 people, copies of the book have been placed among the flowers and candles at makeshift memorials across the city.
The book’s sudden revival has been partly attributed to a woman known as “Grandma” Danielle, who evoked the tome during an interview with France’s BFM TV at a memorial outside of the Bataclan concert hall days after the attacks.
“It’s very important to bring flowers to our dead, it’s very important to read Hemingway’s book ‘A Moveable Feast’ over and over again,” said the woman who was only identified by her first name. “We are an ancient civilisation and we will uphold our values. We will fraternise with the 5 million Muslims who practise their religion freely and peacefully and we will fight against the 10,000 barbarians who kill, in the so-called name of Allah.”
Since then, “A Moveable Feast” (translated to “Paris est une fête”) has surged to the top of French retailer FNAC and Amazon France’s bestseller lists.
121 cars dancing in UAE desert: ‘Black Knight Decoded’ for world record
Final chapter of Pepsi Challenge brings UAE into picture
In the newest chapter of the Pepsi Challenge, Pepsi has released Black Knight Decoded, an epic short film by Pepsi in collaboration with Levity Entertainment Group (LEG) and UrtheCast, the ultra High-Definition video system located aboard the International Space Station, incorporating the world’s largest synchronised car dance, shot in the UAE desert from space.
The short film, which fuses scenes shot from space from 11 countries around the world, includes footage of 121 cars dancing in the UAE’s desert before forming a peace sign, which measures over 80 meters in diameter. The activation, which broke the Guinness World Record for the largest synchronized car dance in the world, was overseen by the renowned UK-based graffiti artist, INSA.
Set to an original track, ‘Miracles’, from Usher, the action-packed adventure film has a star-studded cast and a host of creative talent including Golden Globe nominee David Oyelowo, SAG Award winner Freida Pinto, Emmy Award winning director Jabbar Raisani, bestselling author James Frey.
Black Knight Decoded tells a powerful story about a father (Oyelowo), his daughter (Layla Crawford) and co-conspirator (Pinto) on their quest to decode radio signals transmitted from the Black Knight satellite where they rely on support from communities around the world to come together to communicate universal messages of hope, unity and peace.
Photographer: Andrew Hetherington for Bloomberg Businessweek
The biggest guest star to appear on the second season of Fox’s hit hip-hop drama, Empire, isn’t an actor, a musician, or even a politician doing a cameo. It’s a cola.
Nov. 18 marked the beginning of a three-episode storyline for Pepsi, the brand and the beverage. In the first episode, Jamal Lyon, middle son of fictional entertainment mogul Lucious Lyon, is trying to shore up his status as a full-blown pop star and takes a meeting with Pepsi executives to discuss becoming the face of the brand; he generates a fresh new track (created in real life by producer Swizz Beatz) to impress the team; Pepsi loves it. In the second episode, Jamal films his Pepsi commercial, which is directed by Lee Daniels, the Oscar-nominee behind Precious, The Butler, and—oh, yeah—Empire.
The narrative culminates with the debut of Jamal’s Pepsi commercial on Dec. 2, right before Empire goes on a three-month hiatus. On the show, the spot will air at a press conference; when the ad is shown to the assembled characters, Fox will go to commercial—and show the same ad in reality. “You have a real brand anointing a fictional artist in a commercial directed by the creator of the series appearing as himself,” says Steven Melnick, a senior vice president for 20th Century Fox Television, the studio that makes Empire. “It’s very meta.”
Oyelowo, Pinto, Raisani, Frey And Usher Come Together For New Short Film
LOS ANGELES, Nov. 17, 2015 /PRNewswire/. Golden Globe nominee David Oyelowo, SAG Award winner Freida Pinto, Emmy Award winning director Jabbar Raisani, bestselling author James Frey, Grammy Award winning entertainer Usher and a host of creative talent have come together to create Black Knight Decoded, an action-packed, first-of-its-kind short film produced by Levity Entertainment Group (LEG) and Pepsi. The film features footage shot from space utilizing UrtheCast‘s ultra High-Definition video system located aboard the International Space Station. Black Knight Decoded will be available November 17, 2015 on YouTube.com/Pepsi.
Black Knight Decoded imagines a rich fictional narrative around what some people believe is a very real entity, the Black Knight satellite. The film, which features an original track, “Miracles,” from Usher, tells a powerful story of a father (Oyelowo), his daughter (Layla Crawford) and co-conspirator (Pinto) on their quest to decode radio signals transmitted from the Black Knight satellite. As they struggle to respond before the government shuts down their mission, the group rely on support from communities around the world to come together to communicate universal messages of hope, unity and peace. Those communities across Australia, China, the Czech Republic, India, Mexico, Poland, Romania, Russia, United Arab Emirates, the United States and Vietnam were filmed from cameras on the ground as well as UrtheCast’s cameras aboard the International Space Station.
“Black Knight Decoded is an ambitious project that marries an all-star cast, innovative use of the UrtheCast technology and unprecedented consumer participation,” said Kristin Patrick, senior vice president of Global Brand Development, PepsiCo Global Beverage Group. “The result is an inspiring, one-of-a-kind film that was truly co-created with top notch creative film talent and consumers from around the world.”
View Black Knight Decoded and learn more at YouTube.com/Pepsi and follow along on social media using #BlackKnightDecoded.
Four days after armed terrorists opened fire in a crowded concert venue during their Paris concert, Eagles of Death Metal have shared a statement about the tragic events of last Friday night.
“While the band is now home safe, we are horrified and still trying to come to terms with what happened in France,” they wrote in a statement posted to Twitter. “Our thoughts are first and foremost with our brother, Nick Alexander, our record company comrades Thomas Ayad, Marie Mosser, and Manu Perez, and all the friends and fan’s whose lives were taken in Paris, as well as their friends, families, and loved ones.”
Groom discovers bride isn’t a virgin, eats genitals of her rapist
By Associated Press
Murder suspects Rudi Efendi (left) and his wife, Nuriah Photo: Getty Images
LAMPUNG, Indonesia — Two Indonesian newlyweds have been arrested on accusations they plotted to kill a man the woman said had raped her a week before her marriage, and police said Tuesday the couple ate the victim’s genitals after the man was killed.
Sulistyaningsih, who uses one name, said police found the victim’s body in a burnt minivan Oct. 4.
The couple had married in September and the husband found on the wedding night that his wife was no longer a virgin. She then said she had been raped one week before the marriage.
Police said Effendi, 30, asked his 20-year-old wife to arrange a meeting with the man she accused of raping her. Effendi stabbed the man to death and cut off his genitals before setting ablaze the car.
Effendi said he fried the severed genitals and ate them to cure his heartache over the rape.
From one former champion to another, Floyd Mayweather has a few supportive words for Ronda Rousey
After suffering the first loss of her career during an Ultimate Fighting Championship match against Holly Holm on Nov. 15, the 28-year-old Olympic medalist faced immediate backlash from all angles and became the focus of Internet shame because of the shocking upset.
When rapper 50 Cent posted an unflattering photoshopped Instagram picture of Rousey knocked out in the arms of iconic boxing character Rocky Balboa, he generated speculation that Mayweather also wanted to poke fun at Rousey’s loss by claiming the athlete asked him to post it.
“LMAO FLOYD TOLD ME TO POST THIS, he want me to do the dirty work,” the rapper wrote of the photograph.
However, Mayweather, who also faced off in a similar “fight of the century” this year, put an end to the gossip when he spoke out publicly Monday.
“That’s not true at all. I haven’t really spoke to anyone about the Ronda Rousey situation, just to set the record straight,” he told Fight Hype. “I don’t have anything against MMA fighters. It’s just like boxing; you win some, you lose some. A true champion can take a loss and bounce back.”
How I Tried to Transplant the Musical Heart of Apocalypse Now
Oscar-winning editor Walter Murch describes the surprising idiosyncrasies of film scoring.
BY WALTER MURCH
In 1979, sometime during the barely controlled chaos of the last months of finishing Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now, someone in legal affairs had the presence of mind to ask if we had secured the rights to use the 1965 Georg Solti recording of the “Ride of the Valkyries,” the music which accompanied Colonel Kilgore’s attack on the Vietnamese village of Vin Drin Dop, otherwise known as Charlie’s Point.
The idea of blasting music from Wagner’s opera Die Walküre as a form of PsyWarOp (Psychological Warfare Operations) to terrify the Vietnamese had originated deep in the neuronal labyrinth of John Milius’s mind in 1969, when he was writing the original screenplay for Apocalypse Now.
“That Valkyrie scene came from a vision I had of the exhilaration of war—right alongside the terror and the horror and the fear of being snuffed out. The glory of it!” John told Lawrence Weschler in a 2005 Harper’s article. “Nowadays—unlike during the Victorian era when the glory was all that got discussed—nowadays it’s the horror that always gets talked about. And either one by itself, of course, is a ridiculous half-statement.”
The “Ride of the Valkyries” was so deeply associated with the attack on Charlie’s Point, and had been for so long—from birth, so to speak—that we who were working on the film, editing the picture and mixing the sound, could barely conceive of separating the two. How that particular Solti recording came to be chosen, I never found out—the decision predated my joining the film—but there is a general consensus in musical circles that Solti’s interpretation, conducting the Vienna Philharmonic, has never been surpassed.
So it came as an existential shock when Decca, the record company in question, said firmly: No.
There was so little time left that we were constrained to move forward along three fronts, hoping that at least one would pay off: 1) to continue to petition Decca; 2) to make arrangements to record the “Valkyries” with the San Francisco Symphony, trying to duplicate Solti’s dynamics and meter; and 3) to comb through all the existing recordings with the hope of finding one that was close to Solti’s interpretation and available to use in the film.
The last of these approaches fell to me, since I was responsible for the sound design of the film as a whole, as well as being, at that time, the picture editor for this section of the film.
Ohio high school senior Ryan Chester became the inaugural winner of a new college scholarship on Sunday night, winning $250,000 for his 7-minute film that uses simple props and hand-drawn graphics to explain Einstein’s special theory of relativity.
Besides winning that money for himself, Chester also won $100,000 for a new science lab at his school in the Cleveland suburbs, North Royalton High, and $50,000 for his physics teacher, Richard Nestoff.
“This is awesome,” Chester, 18, said in an interview Monday, the day after he accepted the award.
Jennifer Jason Leigh and Kurt Russell in “The Hateful Eight,” scheduled to be released on 100 screens in 70-millimeter projection. PHOTO: Andrew Cooper/SMPSP/The Weinstein Company
LOS ANGELES — When Quentin Tarantino’s “The Hateful Eight” is released in a special roadshow version (with overture, intermission and additional footage) on Dec. 25, it will represent a feat worthy of the heist in the director’s “Jackie Brown.”
The film is scheduled to open on 96 screens in the United States and four in Canada, all in 70-millimeter projection, a premium format associated with extravaganzas of the 1950s and 1960s.
Yet from a theatrical standpoint, the technology is nearly obsolete. Last year, “Interstellar” opened in 70 millimeter at only 11 comparable locations. There were only 16 in 2012 for “The Master,” which renewed interested in the format. No film has opened with 100 70-millimeter prints since 1992. According to the National Association of Theater Owners, 97 percent of the 40,000 screens in the United States now use digital projection.
Over a period of a year and a half, the Weinstein Company, which will distribute the film, arranged for old projectors to be procured, purchased and refurbished and new lenses to be made for theaters.
There are fifty-two million items in the New York Public Library, if you count the artifacts, like pieces of Percy Bysshe Shelley’s skull and the walking stick that Virginia Woolf carried to the river’s edge. The other day, Thomas Lannon, a curator, was riffling through the collection, trying to find some objects that might interest Shaquille O’Neal, who was coming to the library that night as part of the N.Y.P.L.’s conversation series to talk about his new children’s book, “Little Shaq.”
Lannon was stumped. He’d considered original Superman comics, but they’re stored off-site. “Shaquille O’Neal isn’t really a scholar,” Lannon said, as he wheeled two boxes into a makeshift greenroom. “But he does have a doctorate”—in education, and also a master’s in business. One of his many nicknames is the Big Aristotle.
When Paul Holdengräber, the library’s resident interviewer, started the series, the staff created a tradition: before each event, the curators pull objects geared to the speaker’s interests. George Clinton was shown correspondence between Timothy Leary and Allen Ginsberg about psychedelics and jazz. Werner Herzog looked at a register of executions at San Quentin, and Patti Smith got to hold the Woolf walking stick.
Aardman Animations’ half-hour “Shaun the Sheep: The Farmer’s Llamas” will debut for Prime members in the U.S. on Nov. 13. The three other series will bow on Prime next year in the U.S., U.K., Germany and Austria.
In “The Kicks,” Devin Burke (played by newcomer Sixx Orange) was the star player on her soccer team back home until her family moved to California midway through the school year — and she has to rally her new team to victory. Based on the books by Alex Morgan, Olympic soccer gold medalist and current U.S. Women’s National Team soccer player. “The Kicks” is executive produced by Full Fathom Five’s novelist James Frey and Todd Cohen, as well as Andrew Orenstein (“Malcolm in the Middle”).
“We’re excited to offer our Prime members a beautifully reimagined world in our first original kids 6-to-11 animated series (‘Lost in Oz’) and bring to the screen Alex Morgan’s successful book series with an inspirational role model at the core,” said Tara Sorensen, head of kids programming at Amazon Studios. “Aardman and Sinking Ship are award-winning producers and we’re excited to debut ‘Dino Dana’ and ‘Shaun the Sheep’ on Prime Video.”
FOR A GUY born and raised in Mexico, Roberto Gallardo has an exquisite knack for Southern manners. That’s one of the first things I notice about him when we meet up one recent morning at a deli in Starkville, Mississippi. Mostly it’s the way he punctuates his answers to my questions with a decorous “Yes sir” or “No sir”—a verbal tic I associate with my own Mississippi upbringing in the 1960s.
Gallardo is 36 years old, with a salt-and-pepper beard, oval glasses, and the faint remnant of a Latino accent. He came to Mississippi from Mexico a little more than a decade ago for a doctorate in public policy. Then he never left.
I’m here in Starkville, sitting in this booth, to learn about the work that has kept Gallardo in Mississippi all these years—work that seems increasingly vital to the future of my home state. I’m also here because Gallardo reminds me of my father.
Gallardo is affiliated with something called the Extension Service, an institution that dates back to the days when America was a nation of farmers. Its original purpose was to disseminate the latest agricultural know-how to all the homesteads scattered across the interior. Using land grant universities as bases of operations, each state’s extension service would deploy a network of experts and “county agents” to set up 4-H Clubs or instruct farmers in cultivation science or demonstrate how to can and freeze vegetables without poisoning yourself in your own kitchen.
State extension services still do all this, but Gallardo’s mission is a bit of an update. Rather than teach modern techniques of crop rotation, his job—as an extension professor at Mississippi State University—is to drive around the state in his silver 2013 Nissan Sentra and teach rural Mississippians the value of the Internet.
To get his PhD, MIT grad student Andy Barry packed up a car with a drone and a catapult to launch it. Then he headed west.
Barry’s destination was a farm in western Massachusetts. It had a great restaurant, a friendly owner and a ton of space. Boston, with all of its density, wasn’t the right place to test an automated drone flying at 30 mph.
Barry’s trips to the farm grew out of conversations five years ago with his adviser at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab. Could a lightweight drone be launched at obstacles, and avoid them with no prior knowledge of its surroundings?
Fast forward to today. Moore’s Law delivered, and now Barry will be defending his thesis next month. A new video shows his drone avoiding trees at 30 mph. There’s nothing special about the components. The drone is powered by the same chip that’s in a Samsung Galaxy S3. Barry shot the video as proof for his thesis committee.
“Some people call me Mr. Ra,” Sun Ra often told interviewers, “and some call me Mr. Ree.”
Sun Ra was a man of many mysteries, not the least of which was how much he believed his own story. He insisted that he wasn’t born as Herman Blount on May 22, 1914, in Birmingham, Alabama, as official records had it, but was instead an angel from the planet Saturn who made his first appearance on this planet at that time and place.
Many people watched him closely for the wink or smile that would acknowledge that the tale was an extravagant joke or elaborate fiction. He never provided any such indication and stubbornly stuck to his story that he was a messenger from a superior race come to help troubled earthlings.
This left it up to each member of his far-flung audience to decide just how to take Sun Ra’s claims. For most of us, the tale of his voyage from Saturn to Earth was clearly not reality but just as clearly no joke either. All of Sun Ra’s work included sci-fi elements: his instrumental compositions boasted exotic, extraterrestrial sounds; his poems and song lyrics referenced interplanetary exploration; he and his band members were costumed in otherworldly attire. But in many ways his greatest science fiction was his own life.
In Robert Mugge’s brilliant documentary film, Sun Ra: A Joyful Noise, Sun Ra stands on the rooftop of a tall building in Philadelphia. He’s dressed like an angel from Saturn: a rotund man in a gold mask, blue face paint, a purple caftan, Mardi Gras beads, a magenta wig and a maroon mesh cap bristling with silver wires.
“With all the churches you’ve got, all the schools you’ve got and all the governments you’ve got,” he proclaims, as if he were the inspector from an intergalactic accreditation agency, “you’re supposed to have a better planet than this. Man has failed…He should be a good sport about it and say, ‘I give up. I need help.’ I’m here as a bridge for them to get help.”
In 1965, producers of the “Batman” television show needed a supercar that Adam West could wield to battle the Joker and the Riddler.
There was just one man for the job: George Barris.
“I saw the script and it said, ‘Bang,’ ‘Pow,’ ‘Boom,’ ” Barris told The Times in 2012. “That’s exactly what I wanted the car to be able to do. I wanted it to be as big a character as the actors themselves.”
It took 15 days and $15,000 for Barris to transform a 1955 Ford Lincoln Futura into the iconic midnight black and fluorescent-red-pinstriped Batmobile with plexiglass bubble windshields — “bulletproof,” of course. He didn’t forget the Bat Ray, with its dual 450-watt laser beams for obliterating obstacles, the Bat-O-Meter for identifying the bad guys, or the oil squirters for repelling evildoers.
Barris, the Southern California custom-car legend who created many of the most memorable and outrageous automobiles ever seen on film and television, died Thursday at his home in Encino. He was 89.
A man nearly as flamboyant as his cars, Barris also designed special vehicles for many of the biggest names in Hollywood, including Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson and John Wayne.
For his everyday use he drove a Toyota Prius that was tricked out in true Barris fashion — sprayed gold with emerald green metallic accents and doors that opened upward, like a Lamborghini.
Laurie Anderson is a cultural archeologist, explorer of ideas, of experiences, big and small. She takes it all in, and she takes it all on—everything from asking exactly who and what is America to how to teach tricks to a dog. Laurie puts together and takes apart concepts so deftly that in her hands even the most dissonant of ideas snap together like Legos. She is a sprite of some sort, a lithe spirit, moving between forms and media, between voices—hauntingly beautiful feminine vocals that call us to her and a deeper voice of authority, commanding our attention.
The first time I met her was in Washington, D.C., in the mid-’80s, after she’d played a show at the historic and conservative DAR Constitution Hall. I was with a friend who worked with her, and after the show, a small group of us were waiting outside for Laurie. She came out into the humid D.C. night and, under the glow of the crime lights, spotted a tree just outside of Constitution Hall. She looked up at the tree and asked us all if we thought it was okay if she climbed it—she thought it would be great to climb a tree in Washington, D.C. We all watched and stood by as Laurie tried to scale the tree—but it was a kind of small scrabbly tree, the kind the city plants to make they city “greener,” the kind they have to replace every few years. So after Laurie attempted the climb and then abandoned it for fear of harming the tree, we hopped into my car, a 1980 Honda Civic wagon, and headed for the after-party. Laurie was folded up in the space between the front seat and the back seat, kind of curled into a space that was between spaces, her head pressed into the sunroof. And as we were driving, I started telling her about how, when I was younger, I’d gone to a camp that had metal bunk beds, and I was always on the lower bunk, and at night if I sat up, my hair would get caught in the metal webbing under the top bunk, and after a few days there would be a lot of long brown hair just hanging down from the metal webbing … There was a long pause, and Laurie curiously asked, in classic Laurie Anderson tone, “Exactly what kind of camp was this?”
She’s often described as a multimedia artist—I’m not sure why, perhaps because it’s nonspecific with room for autonomy or—but there really is no word or set of words for who she is and what she does. Why does artist fall short? Poet? Sculptor? Musician? Philosopher? Inventor?
Starship Technologies will conduct a pilot test of the new robot in early 2016. (Starship Technologies)
The future of delivery might involve small drones zooming above pedestrians, cyclists and motorists at high speeds. Amazon and now Wal-Mart are moving down this path. Or it might be something a lot slower that travels on sidewalks.
On Monday, a London startup founded by two Skype co-founders unveiled their self-driving delivery robot. It bumbles along at a whopping 4 mph.
That’s slightly faster than a pedestrian but slower than a jogger.
Starship Technologies says the 40-pound robot could make local deliveries in 30 minutes or less. The technology could be useful for neighborhood restaurants and retailers. Because the robot is largely automated, requiring almost no human involvement, Starship Technologies thinks the costs of delivering goods will drop by an order of magnitude. The slow speed and grounded approach also removes some of the safety concerns with drone delivery.
Poof! The Planet Closest To Our Solar System Just Vanished
The disappearance of Alpha Centauri Bb raises questions for planet hunters looking for Earth-sized alien worlds.
By Devin Powell, for National Geographic
PHOTOGRAPH BY REUTERS
Scientists just made a planet disappear. According to a new study, Alpha Centauri Bb, a world in the nearest star system to us, was merely a ghost in the data.
The planet, thought to be perhaps similar in mass to Earth, was hailed as a “landmark” when it was announced in 2012 in the journal Nature. The discovery got people excited about finding neighboring worlds that might harbor life in the Alpha Centauri system 4.3 light-years away—already home to science fiction characters such as the Transformers and the creatures of Avatar.
This particular alien world wouldn’t have been a good place to look for life, though. It would have been roughly a tenth the distance to its star that Mercury is to the sun, with a scorchingly hot surface probably covered in molten rock.
Now it will serve as a cautionary tale for planet hunters, a reminder that planets as small as Earth are hard to find. Distinguishing subtle clues from background noise is incredibly difficult, as shown in a new paper recently posted at arXiv.org and due to appear in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.
Even the team that originally reported the planet agrees. “This is really good work,” said Xavier Dumusque of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. “We are not 100 percent sure, but probably the planet is not there.”