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matthew francis

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    Where Nature Hides the Darkest Mystery of All

    There’s no boundary quite like a black hole boundary.

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    Earth’s Stash of Gold Comes From Colliders Fit for Gods

    Ron Dale via Shutterstock One of science’s greatest feats is having described where we came from—not as individual people, or as a species, or even as a planet, but as stuff, the very material we’re made of. The Big Bang forged all of the basic particles of our lives—electrons and the quarks that make up […]

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    Is Our Universe Like Oil & Vinegar or Homogenized Milk?

    Is our Universe inhomogeneous, lumpy and uneven on many size scales, like oil droplets in water?via Shutterstock   In the earliest moments after the Big Bang, the Universe was a turbulent mess, a high-temperature stew of quantum fluctuations. As with turbulence in water, the fluctuations acted at every level: If you could imagine observing the […]

  • White Holes

    “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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    How to See Quantum Drops of Light

    An illustration of wave interferenceSybille Yates via Shutterstock Though we can see in remarkably low-light conditions, humans aren’t quite sensitive enough to see individual photons—the particles that make up all types of light. In our day-to-day lives, we are so awash with light that its particle nature is just as masked as the atomic nature […]

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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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    How to Map a Galaxy When You’re Right in the Middle of It

    The barred spiral galaxy UGC 12158 probably looks similar to how the Milky Way does from the outside. http://www.spacetelescope.org/images/potw1035a/ ESA/Hubble & NASA The T-shirts and posters are common: an image of a galaxy, an arrow pointing to a spot in that galaxy, and a sign reading “You are here.” But it’s all a big lie. […]

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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 […]

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    An Arguably Unreal Particle Powers All of Your Electronics

    A microscopic image of a metamaterial used to test relativity in a lab.Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory Like happy families, every free electron is alike: They all have the same mass, the same electric charge, and the same spin. But inside a solid, various interactions can make electrons behave like entirely different particles. They may act […]

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    Supernovas & Other Big Bangs: Where Your Body Comes From

    “Some part of our being knows this is where we came from. We long to return. And we can. Because the cosmos is also within us. We’re made of star stuff. We are a way for the cosmos to know itself.” —Carl Sagan, Cosmos That Carl Sagan quote is among one of his most famous sayings, […]