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    Evolution’s Gravity: A Paean to Natural Selection

    Physicists speak of four fundamental forces that govern the interactions among the bits of matter that make up our universe. The strongest of these four forces, aptly known as the Strong Force, is so powerful that it can keep an atom’s positively charged protons from ripping the atom’s nucleus apart as their mutually repellent positive […]

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    The Most Symmetrical Objects in the World

    If you’ve ever tried to give yourself a haircut, you know just how hard it is to make something precisely symmetrical. We value symmetry so highly in part because it’s really hard to achieve.  Here are five of the most symmetrical objects humans have ever crafted, and why they were so hard to make. Strikingly […]

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    Science Is Finally Getting Its Close-up

    In case you hadn’t noticed, science is enjoying a renaissance on screen. Not science fiction—that’s always been a silver screen staple—but actual scientists doing actual science. As Nautilus explained in December, in “How We Got from Doc Brown to Walter White,” the fictional scientist, in particular on TV, has evolved from the nutty genius to […]

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    Watch Water Levitate, Flow Up, & Swirl the Wrong Way in the Other Hemisphere

    The conventional wisdom is all wrong. Countless parents and teachers have gotten it twisted. The BBC and PBS aired bogus explanations. Even textbooks have botched the story. The Earth’s rotation, and the Coriolis effect that results, do not cause water to circle the drain in opposite directions in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres. Well, actually, […]

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    Why “Hawking Radiation” Was Almost “Feynman Radiation”

    Nautilus’ Ingenious this month, Alan Lightman, is a successful writer and physicist, and one of the very rare people to receive an appointment in both science and humanities at MIT*. He did his doctoral research at Caltech while Richard Feynman was a professor there. One day, Lightman was on hand to see the brilliant and […]

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    Why Galactic Collisions Are So Beautiful

    The Antennae Galaxies are in a state of “starburst,” when the gas from the two colliding galaxies crashes together to produce huge numbers of new stars.ESA/Hubble & NASA According to the basic approximation, stars are formed by a stately, gradual process that belies the power it eventually unleashes. Within a great gas cloud, gravity slowly […]

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    “White Holes” Could Exist—But That Doesn’t Mean They Do

      A black hole is a one-way door to oblivion. According to general relativity, once anything crosses its boundary—the event horizon—it cannot return to the outside. For that particle, the black hole is the entire future. We’ll never actually get a chance to see the particle live out that destiny: Any light the particle emits […]

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    The Father of Inflation Clears Up a Big Misunderstanding

    Last week researchers working on the BICEP2 experiment in Antarctica announced that they’d seen solid evidence of gravitational waves that emerged very early in the Universe’s history. This discovery lent support to inflation, a theory of cosmology long popular among physicists but still lacking in direct proof. (To learn more about the recent discovery and […]

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    The Most Massive Object in the Universe—How Was It Created?

      The galaxy known prosaically as M87 doesn’t look like much. Unlike beautiful spiral galaxies (including the Milky Way), M87 appears as an orangish blob of stars through telescopes. Its only noticeable feature is the long streamer of gas emanating from the galactic center. The source of that jet is far from prosaic, however: It’s […]

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    Where Nature Hides the Darkest Mystery of All

      No known object in existence has as clear a division between “inside” and “outside” as a black hole. We live and see the outside, and no probe will bring us information about the inside. We can send radio messages or robotic spacecraft, but once they cross over into a black hole’s interior, we’ll never […]