For sheer color, you can’t do much better than a black hole event horizon. It swallows everything without a trace, but it also evaporates. It may contain a wall of fire created by disentangling virtual particles. Unless it’s a fuzzball made of fundamental strings, in which case it has “hair” instead of a firewall.
Why the Tiny Weight of Empty Space Is Such a Huge Mystery
Reprinted with permission from Quanta Magazine‘s Abstractions blog. The controversial idea that our universe is just a random bubble in an endless, frothing multiverse arises logically from nature’s most innocuous-seeming feature: empty space. Specifically, the seed of the multiverse hypothesis is the inexplicably tiny amount of energy infused in empty space—energy known as the vacuum energy, dark […]
How to Use the Large Hadron Collider to Search for Dark Matter
If you can’t find dark matter, look first for a dark force. While cosmologists may be fascinated by what dark matter does, particle physicists are fascinated by what dark matter is. For us, dark matter should be—naturally—a particle, albeit one that is still lurking hidden in our data. For the last few decades, we’ve had […]
A Better Way to Cancel Noise
The other day I stepped into my apartment elevator and saw a neighbor of mine joking around with a construction worker. “You know what you do with these guys?” my neighbor said to me. He grabbed the construction worker by his bright-colored vest and pretended to shove him out the door. For the past few […]
Black Hole Firewalls Could Be Too Tepid to Burn
Reprinted with permission from Quanta Magazine‘s Abstractions blog. Despite its ability to bend both minds and space, an Einsteinian black hole looks so simple a child could draw it. There’s a point in the center, a perfectly spherical boundary a bit farther out, and that’s it The point is the singularity, an infinitely dense, unimaginably small dot […]
My Mom, the Missile Computress
What it was like being among the first women in the US missile program.
The Euclidean Metrics of Trump’s Twitter Account
How online personalities are quantified and compared.
Forget Everything You Think You Know About Time
In April, in the famous Faraday Theatre at the Royal Institution in London, Carlo Rovelli gave an hour-long lecture on the nature of time. A red thread spanned the stage, a metaphor for the Italian theoretical physicist’s subject. “Time is a long line,” he said. To the left lies the past—the dinosaurs, the big bang—and […]
Why Lunar Ice Caps Don’t Change My Moon Base Design
The author of The Martian and Artemis argues that the moon’s ice caps (blue) don’t change how he would design his fictional moon bases.NASA / JPL When I wrote The Martian, the general belief was that Mars had very little water, and what supply it did have would be at the poles. After the book came out, Curiosity […]
How Insulin Helped Create Ant Societies
Reprinted with permission from Quanta Magazine‘s Abstractions blog. Ants, wasps, bees, and other social insects live in highly organized “eusocial” colonies where throngs of females forgo reproduction—usually viewed as the cornerstone of evolutionary fitness—to serve the needs of a few egg-laying queens and their offspring. How they got that way has been hard to explain despite more than 150 […]