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Physics

369 articles
  • Detailed Footage Finally Reveals What Triggers Lightning

    Scientists have never been able to adequately explain where lightning comes from. Now the first detailed observations of its emergence inside a cloud have exposed how electric fields grow strong enough to let bolts fly.

  • The Country Gentleman of Physics

    Julian Barbour’s ideas about time and the universe have always roamed free of academia.

  • Our Little Life Is Rounded with Possibility

    Science expressed only in terms of what happens is getting in the way of progress.

  • The Joy of Condensed Matter

    Hard times in fundamental physics got you down? Let’s talk excitons.

  • Seeing the Big Picture: Moving From One Molecule to Many

    We are living through a so-called “omics revolution,” with new technologies that make cellular analyses much more comprehensive.

  • Gravitational Waves Should Permanently Distort Space-Time

    The “gravitational memory effect” predicts that a passing gravitational wave should forever alter the structure of space-time. Physicists have linked the phenomenon to a potential solution to the black hole information paradox.

  • Quantum Simulators Create a Totally New Phase of Matter

    One of the first goals of quantum computing has been to recreate bizarre quantum systems that can’t be studied in an ordinary computer. A dark-horse quantum simulator has now done just that.

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    What Impossible Meant to Richard Feynman

    What I learned when I challenged the legendary physicist.

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    What You’re Doing Right Now Is Proof of Quantum Theory

    Running a computer underscores how quantum physics is remaking our world.

  • The Power of the Waves

    Understanding how oceans move is key to understanding life on Earth

  • An Ultra-Precise Clock Shows How to Link the Quantum World With Gravity

    Time was found to flow differently between the top and bottom of a single cloud of atoms. Physicists hope that such a system will one day help them combine quantum mechanics and Einstein’s theory of gravity.

  • How Wavelets Allow Researchers to Transform, and Understand, Data

    Built upon the ubiquitous Fourier transform, the mathematical tools known as wavelets allow unprecedented analysis and understanding of continuous signals.

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    Neuroscience Weighs in on Physics’ Biggest Questions

    A theory of consciousness can help build a theory of everything.

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    How I Escaped My Troubles Through Science

    My life in theoretical physics took a fateful turn after 9/11.

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    The Electromagnetic Force of Fridge Magnets

    An illustrated guide to the universal laws in your kitchen.

  • Turing Patterns Turn Up in a Tiny Crystal

    The mechanism behind leopard spots and zebra stripes also appears to explain the patterned growth of a bismuth crystal, extending Alan Turing’s 1952 idea to the atomic scale.

  • The ‘Weirdest’ Matter, Made of Partial Particles, Defies Description

    Theorists are in a frenzy over “fractons,” bizarre, but potentially useful, hypothetical particles that can only move in combination with one another.

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    The Math of Living Things

    Exploring the intersection of physical and biological laws.

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    The End of Reductionism Could Be Nigh. Or Not.

    Quantum mechanics seems to have a problem with the order of time, which might signal the need for an entirely new type of law.Illustration by Ekaterina Kulaeva / Shutterstock The history of science so far has been a triumph of reductionism. Biology can be reduced to chemistry, chemistry can be reduced to atomic physics, and […]

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    Is the Universe Open-Ended?

    An intriguing proposal about what makes reality tick under the surface.

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    Our Little Life Is Rounded with Possibility

    Science expressed only in terms of what happens is getting in the way of progress.

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    The Country Gentleman of Physics

    Julian Barbour’s ideas about time and the universe have always roamed free of academia.

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    How Maxwell’s Demon Continues to Startle Scientists

    Reprinted with permission from Quanta Magazine’s Abstractions blog. The universe bets on disorder. Imagine, for example, dropping a thimbleful of red dye into a swimming pool. All of those dye molecules are going to slowly spread throughout the water. Physicists quantify this tendency to spread by counting the number of possible ways the dye molecules […]

  • How Maxwell’s Demon Continues to Startle Scientists

    The thorny thought experiment has been turned into a real experiment—one that physicists use to probe the physics of information.

  • The Near-Magical Mystery of Quasiparticles

    The zoo of spontaneously emerging particlelike entities known as quasiparticles has grown quickly and become more and more exotic. Here are a few of the most curious and potentially useful examples.

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    This Tenet Shows Time Travel May Be Possible

    Director Christopher Nolan could take a tip from new research into “closed timelike curves.”

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    The Charmed Life of Frank Wilczek

    A novelist gets a physicist to explain his scientific breakthroughs.

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    The Joy of Condensed Matter

    Hard times in fundamental physics got you down? Let’s talk excitons.

  • Growing Inventory of Black Holes Offers a Radical Probe of the Cosmos

    One black hole is nice, but astrophysicists can do a lot more science with 50 of them.

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    How Universes Might Bubble Up and Collide

    Reprinted with permission from Quanta Magazine’s Abstractions blog. What lies beyond all we can see? The question may seem unanswerable. Nevertheless, some cosmologists have a response: Our universe is a swelling bubble. Outside it, more bubble universes exist, all immersed in an eternally expanding and energized sea—the multiverse. The idea is polarizing. Some physicists embrace […]

  • Physicists Study How Universes Might Bubble Up and Collide

    Since they can’t prod actual universes as they inflate and bump into each other in the hypothetical multiverse, physicists are studying digital and physical analogs of the process.

  • Secret Ingredient Found to Power Supernovas

    Three-dimensional supernova simulations have solved the mystery of why they explode at all.

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    A Breakthrough in Measuring the Building Blocks of Nature

    An artistic rendering of the quarks and gluons that make up a proton.Illustration by D. Dominguez / CERN In a recent experiment done at the Max Planck Institute for Quantum Optics, in Germany, physicist Alexey Grinin and his colleagues came a step closer to resolving one of the more significant puzzles to have arisen in […]

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    How to Talk Like a Physicist

    Theoretical physicist Sabine Hossenfelder, who probably is the smartest person on her block, has fun in her latest video skewering the scientific braggart.Photograph by Francisco De Legarreta C. / Unsplash The other night I was out on our street with the neighbors for a socially distanced hang. My two-year-old daughter, mistaking the only street light […]

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    Electrons May Very Well Be Conscious

    Is it possible that all matter has some form of a mind?

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    Physicists Nail Down the “Magic Number” That Shapes the Universe

    Reprinted with permission from Quanta Magazine’s Abstractions blog. As fundamental constants go, the speed of light, c, enjoys all the fame, yet c’s numerical value says nothing about nature; it differs depending on whether it’s measured in meters per second or miles per hour. The fine-structure constant, by contrast, has no dimensions or units. It’s a pure […]

  • Physicists Nail Down the ‘Magic Number’ That Shapes the Universe

    A team in Paris has made the most precise measurement yet of the fine-structure constant, killing hopes for a new force of nature.

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    Time Flows Toward Order

    Revisiting the gospel of the second law of thermodynamics.

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    A Supermassive Lens on the Constants of Nature

    What this year’s Nobel-winning discovery of the black hole at our galaxy’s center reveals.

  • The Search for Dark Matter Is Dramatically Expanding

    Physicists plan to leave no stone unturned, checking whether dark matter tickles different types of detectors, nudges starlight, warms planetary cores or even lodges in rocks.

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    The Synchronicity of Wolfgang Pauli and Carl Jung

    How the theoretical physicist and analyst came together and then apart.

  • Physicists Pin Down Nuclear Reaction From Moments After the Big Bang

    The newly-measured rate of a key nuclear fusion process from the Big Bang matches the picture of the universe 380,000 years later.

  • Debate Erupts Over How ‘Forbidden’ Black Holes Grow

    Once missing in action, middleweight black holes have finally been detected. Now researchers are trying to figure out how they grow from small ones.

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    The Physicist’s New Book of Life

    Jeremy England says religious ideas can inform our scientific quest for the origin of life.

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    Why Physics Can’t Tell Us What Life Is

    The origin of life can’t be explained by first principles.

  • Room-Temperature Superconductivity Achieved for the First Time

    Physicists have reached a long-sought goal. The catch is that their room-temperature superconductor requires crushing pressures to keep from falling apart.

  • Physics Nobel Awarded for Black Hole Breakthroughs

    Roger Penrose, Reinhard Genzel and Andrea Ghez were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for their studies of black holes.

  • Some Physicists See Signs of Cosmic Strings From the Big Bang

    Subtle aberrations in the clockwork blinking of stars could become “the result of the century.” That’s if the distortions are produced by a network of giant filaments left over from the birth of the universe.

  • How Mathematical “Hocus-Pocus” Saved Particle Physics

    Renormalization has become perhaps the single most important advance in theoretical physics in 50 years.

  • A New Cosmic Tension: The Universe Might Be Too Thin

    Cosmologists have concluded that the universe doesn’t appear to clump as much as it should. Could both of cosmology’s big puzzles share a single fix?

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    Your Guide to the Many Meanings of Quantum Mechanics

    The question “What is real?” is inescapable if you study quantum mechanics.Photo illustration by Nikk / Flickr Quantum mechanics is more than a century old, but physicists still fight over what it means. Most of the hand wringing and knuckle cracking in their debates goes back to an assumption known as “realism.” This is the […]

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    Schrödinger’s Cat When Nobody Is Looking

    A solution to the measurement problem, black hole paradox, and other quantum puzzles.

  • The Mathematical Structure of Particle Collisions Comes Into View

    Physicists have identified an algebraic structure underlying the messy mathematics of particle collisions. Some hope it will lead to a more elegant theory of the natural world.

  • Big Bounce Simulations Challenge the Big Bang

    Detailed computer simulations have found that a cosmic contraction can generate features of the universe that we observe today.

  • How Physics Found a Geometric Structure for Math to Play With

    Symplectic geometry is a relatively new field with implications for much of modern mathematics. Here’s what it’s all about.

  • An Alternative to Dark Matter Passes Critical Test

    Modified gravity theories have never been able to describe the universe’s first light. A new formulation does.

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    Do We Need a Theory of Everything?

    I get constantly asked if I could please comment on other people’s theories of everything. That could be Garrett Lisi’s E8 theory or Eric Weinstein’s geometric unity or Stephen Wolfram’s idea that the universe is but a big graph, and so on. Good, then. Let me tell you what I think about this. But I’m […]

  • Why Is Glass Rigid? Signs of Its Secret Structure Emerge.

    At the molecular level, glass looks like a liquid. But an artificial neural network has picked up on hidden structure in its molecules that may explain why glass is rigid like a solid.

  • The Cartoon Picture of Magnets That Has Transformed Science

    One hundred years after it was proposed, the Ising model is used to understand everything from magnets to brains.

  • Dark Matter Experiment Finds Unexplained Signal

    Researchers say there are three possible explanations for the anomalous data. One is mundane. Two would revolutionize physics.

  • Why Gravity Is Not Like the Other Forces

    We asked four physicists why gravity stands out among the forces of nature. We got four different answers.

  • Five Things We Still Don’t Know About Water

    From steam to ice, water continues to mystify.

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    The Road Less Traveled to Fusion Energy

    This privateer is developing a way to power the world with water and borax.

  • Growing Anomalies at the Large Hadron Collider Raise Hopes

    Recent measurements of particles called B mesons deviate from predictions. Alone, each oddity looks like a fluke, but their collective drift is more suggestive.

  • ‘Milestone’ Evidence for Anyons, a Third Kingdom of Particles

    Anyons don’t fit into either of the two known particle kingdoms. To find them, physicists had to erase the third dimension.

  • What Goes On in a Proton? Quark Math Still Conflicts With Experiments.

    Two ways of approximating the ultra-complicated math that governs quark particles have recently come into conflict, leaving physicists unsure what their decades-old theory predicts.

  • What Might Be Speeding Up the Universe’s Expansion?

    Physicists have proposed extra cosmic ingredients that could explain the faster-than-expected expansion of space.

  • Why Are Black Holes So Bright?

    And why is the black hole at the center of our own galaxy so dim?

  • Neutrino Asymmetry Passes Critical Threshold

    The first official evidence of a key imbalance between neutrinos and antineutrinos provides one of the best clues for why the universe contains something rather than nothing.

  • To Make the Perfect Mirror, Physicists Confront the Mystery of Glass

    Sometimes a mirror that reflects 99.9999% of light isn’t good enough.

  • Why Do Matter Particles Come in Threes? A Physics Titan Weighs In.

    Three progressively heavier copies of each type of matter particle exist, and no one knows why. A paper by Steven Weinberg takes a stab at explaining the pattern.

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    It’s the End of the World and This Physicist Feels Fine

    I promise I have no intention to propose a quantum-model for disease spread, but like everyone else I have been wondering if I can make myself somewhat more useful in these difficult times.Screengrab via Sabine Hossenfelder / YouTube It’s week three of COVID lockdown here in Germany. Schools are closed, my institute is closed, my […]

  • What a Real Superhero Looks Like

    Particle physicist Jessica Esquivel on diversity, perseverance, and the search for a new understanding of our universe.

  • Axions Would Solve Another Major Problem in Physics

    In a new paper, physicists argue that hypothetical particles called axions could explain why the universe isn’t empty.

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    How to Make Sense of Quantum Physics

    Superdeterminism, a long-abandoned idea, may help us overcome the current crisis in physics.

  • Melissa Franklin

    Princeton University experimental particle physicist

  • For Fluid Equations, a Steady Flow of Progress

    A startling experimental discovery about how fluids behave started a wave of important mathematical proofs.

  • No Dark Energy? No Chance, Cosmologists Contend

    A study challenged the evidence for the mysterious antigravitational force known as dark energy. Then cosmologists shot back.

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    The Eccentric Seer of Supernovas

    Fritz Zwicky decoded how exploding stars fill space with cosmic rays.

  • Why the Laws of Physics Are Inevitable

    By considering simple symmetries, physicists working on the “bootstrap” have rederived the four known forces. “There’s just no freedom in the laws of physics,” said one.

  • Black Hole Singularities Are as Inescapable as Expected

    For the first time, physicists have calculated exactly what kind of singularity lies at the center of a realistic black hole.

  • Hologram Within a Hologram Hints at Fate of Black Holes

    Calculations involving a higher dimension are guiding physicists toward a misstep in Stephen Hawking’s legendary black hole analysis.

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    Is the Law of Conservation of Energy Cancelled?

    Maybe energy can be created and destroyed, or maybe the notion doesn’t quite make sense.

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    Why the Laws of Physics Are Inevitable

    Reprinted with permission from Quanta Magazine’s Abstractions blog. Compared to the unsolved mysteries of the universe, far less gets said about one of the most profound facts to have crystallized in physics over the past half-century: To an astonishing degree, nature is the way it is because it couldn’t be any different. “There’s just no […]

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    Hologram Within a Hologram Hints at Fate of Black Holes

    Reprinted with permission from Quanta Magazine’s Abstractions blog. Like cosmic hard drives, black holes pack troves of data into compact spaces. But ever since Stephen Hawking calculated in 1974 that these dense spheres of extreme gravity give off heat and fade away, the fate of their stored information has haunted physicists. The problem is this: The laws […]

  • What Shape Is the Universe? A New Study Suggests We’ve Got It All Wrong

    When researchers reanalyzed the gold-standard data set of the early universe, they concluded that the cosmos must be “closed,” or curled up like a ball. Most others remain unconvinced.

  • The Most-Magnetic Objects in the Universe Attract New Controversy

    How do magnetars get so magnetic? A study of stellar explosions shows that the long-accepted theory might be wrong.

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    How the Neutrino’s Tiny Mass Could Help Solve Big Mysteries

    Reprinted with permission from Quanta Magazine’s Abstractions blog. Of all the known particles in the universe, only photons outnumber neutrinos. Despite their abundance, however, neutrinos are hard to catch and inspect, as they interact with matter only very weakly. About a thousand trillion of the ghostly particles pass through your body every second—with nary a […]

  • How the Neutrino’s Tiny Mass Could Help Solve Big Mysteries

    The KATRIN experiment is closing in on the mass of the neutrino, which could point to new laws of particle physics and shape theories of cosmology.

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    The Strange Physics of How Babies Talk

    Different arrangements of words can be likened to microstates in statistical mechanics—the total set of ways a system’s constituent particles can be configured.Photo illustration by Khomich Yauheni / Shutterstock Like all new parents, I must sound like a kook when I babble along with my 9-month-old daughter. That’s okay: It delights her. I sometimes ask […]

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    Mind the Gap Between Science and Religion

    Have you heard that we may be living in a computer simulation? Or that our universe is only one of infinitely many parallel worlds in which you live every possible variation of your life? Or that the laws of nature derive from a beautiful, higher-dimensional theory that is super-symmetric and explains, supposedly, everything? I’ve heard […]

  • Physicists Finally Nail the Proton’s Size, and Hope Dies

    A new measurement appears to have eliminated an anomaly that had captivated physicists for nearly a decade.

  • Beyond the Horizon of the Universe

    Want to see evidence of other universes? Just look up.

  • Strange Metal-like Bonds Discovered in Customized Crystals

    lattices in which smaller particles roam like electrons in metallic bonds.

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    A Hologram Shows How Space Could Pop Into Existence

    The holographic principle—with a real hologram.

  • To Make Two Black Holes Collide, Try Three

    How do black holes merge and make gravitational waves? Maybe with a little help from their friends.

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    A Novelist Teaches Herself Physics

    To explore loss and mystery, Nell Freudenberger journeyed into the atomic world.

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    Physicists Peer Inside a Fireball of Quantum Matter

    Reprinted with permission from Quanta Magazine’s Abstractions blog. A gold wedding band will melt at around 1,000 degrees Celsius and vaporize at about 2,800 degrees, but these changes are just the beginning of what can happen to matter. Crank up the temperature to trillions of degrees, and particles deep inside the atoms start to shift into new, non-atomic configurations. Physicists […]

  • Physicists Peer Inside a Fireball of Quantum Matter

    Experimenters in Germany have glimpsed the kind of strange, non-atomic matter thought to fill the cores of merging neutron stars.

  • Sun’s Puzzling Plasma Recreated in a Laboratory

    The twisting loops of the sun’s magnetic field control the flow of charged particles throughout the solar system. For the first time, researchers have created a scale model of this mysterious environment.

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    The Disappearing Physicist and His Elusive Particle

    He ushered symmetry into theoretical physics, then vanished without a trace.

  • How (Relatively) Simple Symmetries Underlie Our Expanding Universe

    Although Einstein’s theory of space-time seems more complicated than Newtonian physics, it greatly simplified the mathematical description of the universe.

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    Think You Know the Definition of a Black Hole? Think Again

    What might be more puzzling than the innards of a black hole is the trouble of defining one in the first place.Wikicommons When I was 12, I made the mistake of watching the Paul W. S. Anderson horror film, Event Horizon. It gave me nightmares for weeks: The movie’s title refers to an experimental spaceship […]

  • A New Law to Describe Quantum Computing’s Rise?

    Neven’s law states that quantum computers are improving at a “doubly exponential” rate. If it holds, quantum supremacy is around the corner.

  • The Quantum Theory That Peels Away the Mystery of Measurement

    A recent test has confirmed the predictions of quantum trajectory theory, which describes what happens during the long-mysterious “collapse” of a quantum system.

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    The Quantum Theory That Peels Away the Mystery of Measurement

    Reprinted with permission from Quanta Magazine’s Abstractions blog. Imagine if all our scientific theories and models told us only about averages: if the best weather forecasts could only give you the average daily amount of rain expected over the next month, or if astronomers could only predict the average time between solar eclipses. In the early days of quantum […]

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    The Spirit of the Inquisition Lives in Science

    What a 16th-century scientist can tell us about the fate of a physicist like David Bohm.

  • What’s the Magic Behind Graphene’s ‘Magic’ Angle?

    A new theoretical model may help explain the shocking onset of superconductivity in stacked, twisted carbon sheets.

  • This Physics Pioneer Walked Away from It All

    Why Fotini Markopoulou traded quantum gravity for industrial design.

  • Dark Matter Gets a Reprieve in New Analysis

    A strange glow coming from the Milky Way’s center was thought to be due to ordinary pulsars. But a new look at a years-old study shows that dark matter might still be responsible.

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    Why the Flow of Time Is an Illusion

    Getting human feeling to match the math is an ultimate goal in physics.

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    When Beauty Gets in the Way of Science

    Insisting that new ideas must be beautiful blocks progress in particle physics.

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    The Day Feynman Worked Out Black-Hole Radiation on My Blackboard

    After a few minutes, Richard Feynman had worked out the process of spontaneous emission, which is what Stephen Hawking became famous for a year later.Wikicommons The amazing image of a black hole unveiled Wednesday, along with data from the Event Horizon Telescope, may not substantiate Stephen Hawking’s famous theory that radiation, an example of spontaneous […]

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    In Quantum Games, There’s No Way to Play the Odds

    Reprinted with permission from Quanta Magazine’s Abstractions blog. In the 1950s, four mathematically minded U.S. Army soldiers used primitive electronic calculators to work out the optimal strategy for playing blackjack. Their results, later published in the Journal of the American Statistical Association, detailed the best decision a player could make for every situation encountered in the game. Yet that strategy—which would evolve into […]

  • In Quantum Games, There’s No Way to Play the Odds

    These games combine quantum entanglement, infinity and impossible-to-calculate winning probabilities. But if researchers can crack them, they’ll reveal deep mathematical secrets.

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    When the Link Between Space and Time Will Be Intuitive

    The celebrated English writer Ian McEwan has, in his stories and essays, shown a fondness for science. For two years he shadowed a neurosurgeon to write his 2005 novel Saturday, and his 2010 novel Solar focused on a Nobel Prize-winning physicist’s solar-energy solution to climate change. His forthcoming novel, Machines Like Me, delves into artificial […]

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    Forget Everything You Think You Know About Time

    Last 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 […]

  • Galaxy Simulations Offer a New Solution to the Fermi Paradox

    Astronomers claim in a new paper that star motions should make it easy for civilizations to spread across the galaxy, but still we might find ourselves alone.

  • The Physics Still Hiding in the Higgs Boson

    No new particles have been found at the Large Hadron Collider since the Higgs boson in 2012, but physicists say there’s much we can still learn from the Higgs itself.

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    Galaxy Simulations Offer a New Solution to the Fermi Paradox

    Reprinted with permission from Quanta Magazine’s Abstractions blog. As far as anyone knows, we have always been alone. It’s just us on this pale blue dot, “home to everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of,” as Carl Sagan so memorably put it. No one has called or dropped by. And yet […]

  • Smarter Parts Make Collective Systems Too Stubborn

    As researchers delve deeper into the behavior of decentralized collective systems, they’re beginning to question some of their initial assumptions.

  • How Our Universe Could Emerge as a Hologram

    Physicists have devised a holographic model of “de Sitter space,” the term for a universe like ours, that could give us new clues about the origin of space and time.

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    How Our Universe Could Emerge as a Hologram

    Reprinted with permission from Quanta Magazine’s Abstractions blog. The fabric of space and time is widely believed by physicists to be emergent, stitched out of quantum threads according to an unknown pattern. And for 22 years, they’ve had a toy model of how emergent space-time can work: a theoretical “universe in a bottle,” as its discoverer, Juan Maldacena, has described it. The […]

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    How the Universe Remembers Information

    A “memory matrix” might solve Stephen Hawking’s black-hole paradox.

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    What Dark Matter Needs Are New Kinds of Experiments

    After 30 years and no results, it’s time to support more entrepreneurial physicists.

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    When Gravity Breaks Down

    Theoretical physicists have known since the 1930s that quantum gravity is necessary to bring order into the laws of nature, but 80 years on, a solution isn’t anywhere in sight.Photograph by Andrea / Flickr Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity is more than a hundred years old, but still it gives physicists headaches. Not only […]

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    How to Get Close to a Black Hole

    Want to understand the most mysterious object in the universe? Make one at home.

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    How to Get Close to a Black Hole

    Want to understand the most mysterious object in the universe? Make one at home.

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    How Supermassive Black Holes Were Discovered

    Astronomers turned a fantastic concept into reality.

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    What Impossible Meant to Feynman

    Physicist Paul Steinhardt remembers a great mentor and scientist.

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    Paradox Is Illuminating the Black Hole

    How reconciling opposites is driving the science of black holes forward.

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    Paradox Is Illuminating the Black Hole

    How reconciling opposites is driving the science of black holes forward.

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    How Black Holes Nearly Ruined Time

    Quantum mechanics rescued our understanding of past and future from the black hole.

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    How Black Holes Nearly Ruined Time

    Quantum mechanics rescued our understanding of past and future from the black hole.

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    The Strangeness of Black Holes

    From quantum information to the Schwarzschild radius.

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    The Strangeness of Black Holes

    From quantum information to the Schwarzschild radius.

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    When People Are as Predictable as Water

    Can we apply a physics-like reductionism to people? That’s a question we asked Simon DeDeo, a professor of social and decision sciences at Carnegie Mellon University, who also heads the Laboratory for Social Minds at the Santa Fe Institute. DeDeo was well suited to the question. With a background in astrophysics, studying galaxy formation, he’s […]

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    Why Black Hole Interiors Grow (Almost) Forever

    Reprinted with permission from Quanta Magazine’s Abstractions blog. Leonard Susskind, a pioneer of string theory, the holographic principle, and other big physics ideas spanning the past half-century, has proposed a solution to an important puzzle about black holes. The problem is that even though these mysterious, invisible spheres appear to stay a constant size as viewed from the outside, their interiors keep growing […]

  • Why Black Hole Interiors Grow (Almost) Forever

    The renowned physicist Leonard Susskind has identified a possible quantum origin for the ever-growing volume of black holes.

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    The Present Phase of Stagnation in the Foundations of Physics Is Not Normal

    The problem is loads of wrong predictions from theoretical physicists.Photograph by Inga Nielsen / Shutterstock Nothing is moving in the foundations of physics. One experiment after the other is returning null results: No new particles, no new dimensions, no new symmetries. Sure, there are some anomalies in the data here and there, and maybe one of them will turn out to be real news. But […]

  • A Short History of the Missing Universe

    Astronomers have known where the universe’s missing matter has been hiding for the past 20 years. So why did it take so long to find it?

  • Laser Physicists, Including Third Woman Ever, Win Physics Nobel

    Three researchers shared the Nobel Prize in Physics for advances in laser physics. The winners include a woman for the first time in 55 years.

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    Are Black Holes Actually Dark Energy Stars?

    George Chapline believes that the Event Horizon Telescope will offer evidence that black holes are really dark energy stars. NASA What does the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way look like? Early next year, we might find out. The Event Horizon Telescope—really a virtual telescope with an effective diameter of the […]

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    Can Analogies Reveal the Laws of Physics?

    Reprinted with permission from Quanta Magazine’s Abstractions blog. Hoping to gain insight into domains of nature that lie beyond experimental reach—the interiors of black holes, the subtleties of the quantum realm, the Big Bang—physicists are experimenting on “analogue” systems made of fluids and other easily manipulable materials that can be modeled by similar equations. Results […]

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    Have Balloons and Ice Broken the Standard Model?

    How five anomalous events at two neutrino experiments provide evidence for supersymmetry.

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    A Short History of the Missing Universe

    Reprinted with permission from Quanta Magazine‘s Abstractions blog. The cosmos plays hide-and-seek. Sometimes, though, even when astronomers have a hunch for where their prey might hide, it can take them decades of searching to confirm it. The case of the universe’s missing matter—a case that appears to now be closed, as I reported earlier this month—is one such instance. […]

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    The Fourth Copernican Revolution

    Is our universe one island in an archipelago?

  • Rosaler_HERO

    Fine Tuning Is Just Fine

    Why it’s not such a problem that the Large Hadron Collider hasn’t found new physics.

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    Is It Time to Get Rid of Time?

    The crisis inside the physics of time.

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    The End of Time

    In the fundamental physics of the world, there is neither space nor time.

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    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 […]

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    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 […]

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    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 […]

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    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 […]

  • Black Hole Firewalls Could Be Too Tepid to Burn

    String theorists elide a paradox about black holes by extinguishing the walls of fire feared to surround them.

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    Evidence Found for a New Fundamental Particle

    Reprinted with permission from Quanta Magazine’s Abstractions blog. Physicists are both thrilled and baffled by a new report from a neutrino experiment at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory near Chicago. The MiniBooNE experiment has detected far more neutrinos of a particular type than expected, a finding that is most easily explained by the existence of a new elementary particle: a […]

  • Evidence Found for a New Fundamental Particle

    An experiment at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory near Chicago has detected far more electron neutrinos than predicted—a possible harbinger of a revolutionary new elementary particle called the sterile neutrino.

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    5 Things That Sound, Move, or Smell Like a Nuclear Explosion

    The Licorne (“Unicorn”) thermonuclear test; Fangataufa, French Polynesia; 1970Photograph courtesy of Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization / Flickr After most of the world’s nations signed the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, in 1996, they set up a new commission to watch out for clandestine explosions. Since then the commission (CTBTO) has wired the world with hundreds of seismometers, […]

  • A Radically Conservative Solution for Cosmology’s Biggest Mystery

    Two ways of measuring the universe’s expansion rate yield two conflicting answers. Many point to the possibility of new physics at work, but a new analysis argues that unseen errors could be to blame.

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    Why Water Is Weird

    One day, frustrated after many hours of meditation and practice, Bruce Lee, still a teenager, went sailing. His martial arts teacher, Yip Man, had been instructing Lee in the art of detachment, a key facet of gung fu. Lee couldn’t let go. “On the sea I thought of all my past training and got mad […]

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    Another Side of Feynman

    Nine letters by Freeman Dyson portray his relationship with the Nobel Laureate.

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    Freeman Dyson on How Robert Oppenheimer Ran Hot and Cold

    Robert Oppenheimer could be extremely generous and friendly or he could be very harsh. He was very quick to judge and decide that somebody was no good, and then that was final.Photograph by Ed Westcott (U.S. Government photographer) / Wikicommons Kai Bird is miffed. His 2005 Pulitzer Prize-winning book American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy […]

  • Quantum Correlations Reverse Thermodynamic Arrow of Time

    A recent experiment shows how quantum mechanics can make heat flow from a cold body to a hot one, an apparent (though not real) violation of the second law of thermodynamics.

  • A Victory for Dark Matter in a Galaxy Without Any

    Paradoxically, a small galaxy that seems to contain none of the invisible stuff known as “dark matter” may help prove that it exists.

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    When the Heavens Stopped Being Perfect

    The advent of the telescope punctured our ideals about the nighttime sky.

  • Why Stephen Hawking’s Black Hole Puzzle Keeps Puzzling

    The renowned British physicist, who died at 76, left behind a riddle that could eventually lead his successors to the theory of quantum gravity.

  • How Einstein Lost His Bearings, and With Them, General Relativity

    By 1913, Albert Einstein had nearly completed general relativity. But a simple mistake set him on a tortured, two-year reconsideration of his theory. Today, mathematicians still grapple with the issues he confronted.

  • Why the Tiny Weight of Empty Space Is Such a Huge Mystery

    The amount of energy infusing empty space seems too small to explain without a multiverse. But physicists have at least one alternative left to explore.

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    Can Many-Worlds Theory Rescue Us From Boltzmann Brains?

    Boltzmann’s theory leads to a paradox, where the very scientific assumption that we can trust what we observe leads to the conclusion that we can’t trust what we observe.Image by Chaosophia218 / Tumblr Can you trust the world to be consistent? Scientists don’t have much choice. They need to assume that objective observations of the universe […]

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    To Save Drowning People, Ask Yourself “What Would Light Do?”

    Imagine you’re a lifeguard and you see someone struggling to stay afloat. Being a responsible lifeguard, you want to get to them as quickly as possible. You’re pretty fast when swimming, but even faster running on sand. So what’s the quickest route to get to the swimmer? It may not sound like it, but this […]

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    This Is Why Understanding Space Is So Hard

    The overwhelming success of Einstein’s theory was the final blow for Newton’s absolute space—but without absolute space, we continue to struggle to make sense of the forces evinced by Newton’s spinning bucket of water..Photograph by Comstock / Getty Images If all the matter in the universe suddenly disappeared, would space still exist? Isaac Newton thought […]

  • Why Is M-Theory the Leading Candidate for Theory of Everything?

    The mother of all string theories passes a litmus test that, so far, no other candidate theory of quantum gravity has been able to match.

  • Neutrinos Suggest Solution to Mystery of Universe’s Existence

    Updated results from a Japanese neutrino experiment continue to reveal an inconsistency in the way that matter and antimatter behave.

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    Is Quantum Theory About Reality or What We Know?

    Does the quantum state ultimately represent some objective aspect of reality, or is it a way of characterizing something about us, namely, something about what some person knows about reality?Photograph by Ben Scholzen / Flickr Physicists know how to use quantum theory—your phone and computer give plenty of evidence of that. But knowing how to […]

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    The Science of Star Wars Weaponry

    Just how realistic are lightsabers, blasters, and ion cannons?

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    Actually, There Is a Time Like the Present

    Think there’s no time like the present? Modern physics begs to differ.

  • Deathblow Dealt to Dark Matter Disks

    New data tracking the movements of millions of Milky Way stars have effectively ruled out the presence of a “dark disk” that could have offered important clues to the mystery of dark matter.

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    7 Major Experiments That Still Haven’t Found What They’re Looking For

    Being an experimental scientist can sometimes seem like a thankless task. You may be used to reading headlines about experiments that end up making great discoveries, but less is heard about the (often heroic) efforts of experimentalists that have yet to detect or observe what they set out to. Some of these efforts have spanned […]

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    Why Einstein Just Got Ranked as History’s Greatest Hero

      Two predictions of Albert Einstein’s—one scientific, one sentimental—have recently been confirmed. The first came early in 2016: the existence of gravitational waves. The second came late last month: the handsome price of a pair of notes Einstein wrote, in place of a tip, to a bellboy in 1922, while on a lecturing tour in […]

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    Physics Has Demoted Mass

    Modern physics has taught us that mass is not an intrinsic property.

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    Ice Fishing for Neutrinos

    Ignorant and lucky at the bottom of the Earth.

  • LIGO Architects Win Nobel Prize in Physics

    The American physicists Rainer Weiss, Kip Thorne, and Barry Barish were honored for dreaming up and realizing the experiment that confirmed the existence of gravitational waves.

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    Are Gravitational Wave Detections Becoming Normal?

      When I heard the news, I emailed my editor with my immediate reaction: “Bummer.” For the fourth time now, humans have directly detected the collision of two black holes. The violent merger occurred over 2 billion years ago, between black holes with 25 and 31 times the mass of our sun. It released an […]

  • What to Savor about the Discovery of Gravity Waves

    The new view of the cosmos.

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    What to Savor about the Discovery of Gravity Waves

    What will come with the ability to detect gravitational waves? Nergis Mavalvala can’t wait to find out.Image by LLacertae / Flickr You may have once startled a duck or two after tossing a rock into a pond to watch the water ripple. But imagine watching ripples in space-time as the result of two black holes […]

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    The Universe Began With a Big Melt, Not a Big Bang

    The cosmological constant and the creation of the universe.

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    This Crystal Mimics Learning and Forgetting

    You don’t need a brain to learn. Slime molds, for example, solve mazes and navigate obstacles—all without a single neuron. Information about their environment is somehow stored across their bodies. (Scientists are still a bit hazy on how this works.) But what about something that isn’t even alive? A new paper suggests that samarium nickelate […]

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    A Letter to Einstein from the Future

    Two Princeton physicists catch Albert up.

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    Why We Had to Change the Meaning of Nothing

    Nothing” isn’t what it used to be. It used to be something self-evident: the opposite, or the absence, of something. We still use the word this way colloquially, of course. When I’m asked, on the sidewalk, if I can spare some change or a dollar, I say, if I have neither, “Sorry, I got nothing.” […]

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    Will We Ever Know What Dark Matter Is?

    The search for the elusive material is reaching the end of its tether.

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    19 Women Leading Math and Physics

    Reprinted with permission from Quanta Abstractions In an interview with Quanta Magazine last fall, the eminent theoretical physicist Helen Quinn recalled her uncertainty, as a Stanford University undergraduate in the 1960s, about whether to pursue a career in physics or become a high school teacher. “There were no women in the faculty at Stanford at that time in the […]

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    A New Explanation for One of the Strangest Occurrences in Nature—Ball Lightning

    Explanations for how ball lightning is formed are even more diverse than its physical characteristics. Just a sampling of the theories out there suggest the ball is a cloud of hot silicon particles, a natural nuclear reaction, a lightning-induced epileptic hallucination, a miniature black hole, an aggregate of cellulose and other natural polymers, and a […]

  • Re-Inventing Gravity

    Many scientists believe Einstein’s theory of general relativity will need to be modified. What new evidence will point the way?

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    Where Did Time Come From, and Why Does It Seem to Flow?

    We say a river flows because it moves through space with respect to time. But time can’t move with respect to time—time is time.Image by violscraper / Flickr Paul Davies has a lot on his mind—or perhaps more accurate to say in his mind. A physicist at Arizona State University, he does research on a […]

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    The Strange Similarity of Neuron and Galaxy Networks

    Your life’s memories could, in principle, be stored in the universe’s structure.

  • Vazza_HERO

    The Strange Similarity of Neuron and Galaxy Networks

    Your life’s memories could, in principle, be stored in the universe’s structure.

  • The Hunt for a New Neutrino

    Physicists are hot on the trail of a new fundamental particle.

  • Researchers Check Space-Time to See if It’s Made of Quantum Bits

    The newly developed theory of emergent gravity, proposed as an alternative to dark matter, struggles in one of its first trials.

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    Chaos Makes the Multiverse Unnecessary

    Science predicts only the predictable, ignoring most of our chaotic universe.

  • Cham_HERO-3

    What Is Space?

    It’s not what you think.

  • How Superfluid Dark Matter Mimics an Old Idea About Gravity

    Does the force of gravity change at large scales? Perhaps not, but a new theory of dark matter shows why that could appear to be the case.

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    The Crisis of the Multiverse

    In an infinite multiverse, physics loses its ability to make predictions.

  • Latest Black Hole Collision Comes With a Twist

    The Advanced Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory’s third detection further compounds the mystery of why black holes collide.

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    The Physicist Who Denies Dark Matter

    Maybe Newtonian physics doesn’t need dark matter to work.

  • Cepelewicz_HERO

    The Multiverse As Muse

    The uncertainty of quantum mechanics provided a perfect literary model for Modernist ideas.

  • Randalls_HERO

    Does Dark Matter Harbor Life?

    An invisible civilization could be living right under your nose.

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    Roger Penrose On Why Consciousness Does Not Compute

    The emperor of physics defends his controversial theory of mind.

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    A Theory of Consciousness Can Help Build a Theory of Everything

    Neuroscience is weighing in on physics’ biggest questions.

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    Is Quantum Theory About Reality or What We Know?

    Physicists know how to use quantum theory—your phone and computer give plenty of evidence of that. But knowing how to use it is a far cry from fully understanding the world the theory describes—or even what the various mathematical devices scientists use in the theory are supposed to mean. One such mathematical object, whose status […]

  • The Origin of the Universe

    Measuring tiny variations in the cosmic microwave background will enable major discoveries about the origin of the universe.

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    Can Many-Worlds Theory Rescue Us From Boltzmann Brains?

    Boltzmann’s theory leads to a paradox, where the very scientific assumption that we can trust what we observe leads to the conclusion that we can’t trust what we observe.Image by Chaosophia218 / Tumblr Can you trust the world to be consistent? Scientists don’t have much choice. They need to assume that objective observations of the universe […]

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    The Quest for Unity Is Not Something Physics Is Cut Out to Do

    If physics is understood as a descriptive mode of explanation, free of the unifying quest, the angst of not knowing it all is exorcised.Image by Andrew J. Hanson / Indiana University. In physics, we like theories that are simple and broad-ranging. By “simple,” physicists usually mean a mathematical theory that rests on as few postulates […]

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    Is Matter Conscious?

    Why the central problem in neuroscience is mirrored in physics.

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    Can Dark Energy Kill Galaxies?

    The surprising importance of a dark-energy selection effect.

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    What This Drawing Taught Me About Four-Dimensional Spacetime

    Stuck in his research, a cosmologist finds a hint in an intricate drawing.

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    The Fifth Force of Physics Is Hanging by a Thread

    As scientists chase tantalizing hints of a new force, modern physics hangs in the balance.

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    A Brief History of the Grand Unified Theory of Physics

    It’s the best of times or the worst of times in physics.

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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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    7 Major Experiments That Still Haven’t Found What They’re Looking For

    Being an experimental scientist can sometimes seem like a thankless task. You may be used to reading headlines about experiments that end up making great discoveries, but less is heard about the (often heroic) efforts of experimentalists that have yet to detect or observe what they set out to. Some of these efforts have spanned […]

  • Gravity Waves and Neutrinos

    The later work of Joseph Weber.

  • How Much Should Expectation Drive Science?

    Answers to the biggest mysteries may lie well outside traditional paradigms.

  • Gravity’s Kiss

    The third ripple.

  • Dark Matter Could Be a Superfluid Sometimes

    Dark matter might be fluid in galaxies but something else on vaster, cosmological scales.

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    Why We Love to Anthropomorphize Physics

    Family Physics” may be the best episode of Public Radio’s long running show, This American Life. Its premise was simple. Import key concepts from the realms of quantum mechanics and cosmology and use them to illuminate the everyday world of parents, kids, and their interactions. Introducing the show, however, host Ira Glass was quick to […]

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    New Evidence for the Strange Idea that the Universe Is a Hologram

    One of the great mysteries of modern cosmology is how our universe can be so thermally uniform—the vast cosmos is filled with the lingering heat of the Big Bang. Over time, it has cooled to a few degrees above absolute zero, but it can still be seen in the faint glow of microwave radiation, known […]

  • Meet the South Pole’s Dark Matter Detective

    Reina Maruyama wasn’t expecting her particle detector to work buried deep in ice. She was wrong.

  • The Physicist Who Denies that Dark Matter Exists

    Maybe Newtonian physics doesn't need dark matter to work, but Mordehai Milgrom instead.

  • Dark Matter Is in Our DNA

    The binary pairing of Darkness and Light is so basic to human culture, no other name for the unseen stuff could do.

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    The Tangled History of Big Bang Science

    Diagram outlining the critical stages of evolution of the Universe from the Big Bang to the present.CERN / Flickr For a theory of the universe as successful as the Big Bang, it may come as a surprise to realize how many complications its promoters had to stumble through. Let’s begin with the unfortunate figure of […]

  • What Dark Matter Needs Are New Kinds of Experiments

    After 30 years and no results, it’s time to support more entrepreneurial physicists.

  • If You Can’t Find Dark Matter, Look First for a Dark Force

    Physicists are rethinking how to use the Large Hadron Collider to search for dark matter.

  • Maybe Dark Matter Is All Just a Big Mistake

    what is dark matter. Mystery two: how to unify physics. Are they the same mystery?

  • Dark Matter May Show Quantum Effects on a Galactic Scale

    This weird type of dark matter would also puff up galaxies and make stars age prematurely.

  • Dark Matter Is Our Friend

    Without the extra heft of dark matter, you wouldn’t be here.

  • Does Dark Matter Harbor Life?

    An invisible civilization could be living right under your nose.

  • Will We Ever Know What Dark Matter Is?

    The search for the elusive material is reaching the end of its tether.

  • Virtual Reality Poses the Same Riddles as the Cosmic Multiverse

    Alt-realities, whether cosmic or VR, would undermine the laws of physics.

  • Evil Triumphs in These Multiverses, and God Is Powerless

    How scientific cosmology puts a new twist on the problem of evil.

  • The Multiverse As Muse

    The foundational uncertainty of quantum mechanics provided the perfect literary model for Modernist ideas.

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    What Quantum Gravity Needs Is More Experiments

    Math won’t solve quantum gravity. Experimentation will.

  • Hossenfelder-HERO

    What Quantum Gravity Needs Is More Experiments

    Math won’t solve quantum gravity. Experimentation will.

  • The Multiverse Is an Ancient Idea

    Turns out, we've been debating the notion of infinite worlds for millennia.

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    Why Theories of Everything Are Ill-Conceived

    The police don’t often sympathize with speeding drivers, but if you’re a quantum gravity physicist who was distracted by a grand epiphany while driving at night, you might have a better chance. “The Italian policeman asked me politely if I was crazy to drive at that speed,” writes the Italian physicist Carlo Rovelli in his […]

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    The Multiple Multiverses May Be One and the Same

    If multiverses seem weird, it’s because we need to revamp our notions of time and space.

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    The Exotic Matter States Behind PCs, Visual Displays, and the Future of Water

    You might have learned in school that there are three phases of matter: solid, liquid, and gas. That is a useful simplification for young students, but there are in fact many, many more. In the past century or so, we’ve discovered that there are hundreds of distinct solid phases—some of which are used to build […]

  • Droplets That “Come to Life”

    Life might have originated in droplets that behave surprisingly like living cells.

  • Fictional Multiverses Are Frankly Kind of Lame

    And sorry, Eleven, but psychic powers won’t transport you to another world.

  • Graph Isomorphism Vanquished—Again

    László Babai has fixed the flaw in his retracted claim.

  • The Crisis of the Multiverse

    In an infinite multiverse, physics loses its ability to make predictions.

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    The Not-So-Fine Tuning of the Universe

    There’s more than one way to build a universe suitable for life.

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    Even Physicists Find the Multiverse Faintly Disturbing

    It’s not the immensity or inscrutability, but that it reduces physical law to happenstance.

  • The Not-So-Fine Tuning of the Universe

    There’s more than one way to build a universe suitable for life.

  • Dr. Robbert Dijkgraaf

    Director and Leon Levy Professor, Institute for Advanced Study

  • France A. Cordova

    Director of the National Science Foundation

  • Even Physicists Find the Multiverse Faintly Disturbing

    It’s not the immensity or even the inscrutability, but that it reduces physical law to happenstance.

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    Why Rotation Makes No Sense Sometimes

    What is orbital rotation? The basic picture is clear enough: One body is at rest, while the other follows some circular or elliptical path around it. The trouble is just to figure out which body is which. If you’re standing on the surface of the earth, it appears that the sun slowly orbits around you […]

  • The Many Mice Theory of Quantum Mechanics

    The father of the quantum multiverse didn’t actually think of it as a multiverse.

  • The Islamic View of the Multiverse

    In their faith, Muslim cosmologists find a guide to their scientific model-building.

  • We Have Pushed Physics Too Far

    Parallel universes are a non-answer to a premature question.

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    My Personal Hero: Alan Lightman on William Gerace

    Several years ago, I attended a Buddhist retreat in which I was introduced to the idea of the “retinue,” a constellation of influential and supportive people whom one imagines in an enveloping cloud as one meditates. Mentors. I took the concept one step further and decided to create an actual photo montage that I could […]

  • The Multiple Multiverses May Be One and the Same

    If multiverses seem weird, it’s because we need to revamp our notions of time and space.

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    Spark of Science: Melissa Franklin

    Harvard’s first tenured woman physicist tells us about her heroes and her work.

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    What Does Any of This Have To Do with Physics?

    Einstein and Feynman ushered me into grad school, reality ushered me out.

  • Henderson-HERO_2

    What Does Any of This Have To Do with Physics?

    Einstein and Feynman ushered me into grad school, reality ushered me out.

  • Quantum Gravity’s Time Problem

    The effort to unify quantum mechanics and general relativity means reconciling totally different notions of time.

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    My Life with the Physics Dream Team

    Freeman Dyson on working with the greatest physicists of the 20th century.

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    When Einstein Tilted at Windmills

    The young physicist’s quest to prove the theories of Ernst Mach.

  • Gefter_HERO

    When Einstein Tilted at Windmills

    The young physicist’s quest to prove the theories of Ernst Mach.

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    What It Means to Live in a Holographic Cosmos

    When you look in the mirror, the image you see looks a lot like you—not exactly the same, because when you raise your right hand, your mirror-self raises its left. What’s more, the mirror image is merely an assemblage of reflected light, without a physical body behind it. Despite these differences, you can see an […]

  • Is Physical Law an Alien Intelligence?

    Alien life could be so advanced it becomes indistinguishable from physics.

  • A Quasicrystal’s Shocking Origin

    By blasting a stack of minerals with a four-meter-long gun, scientists have found a new clue about the backstory of a very strange rock.

  • Can Analogies Reveal the Laws of Physics?

    So-called “analogue experiments” are becoming increasingly common in physics, but do they teach or mislead?

  • Nobel Prize Awarded for Quantum Topology

    Three physicists have been awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for rewriting our understanding of exotic quantum states on the surfaces of materials.

  • New Measurement Deepens Proton Puzzle

    Researchers fired a laser at a gas of muonic deuterium in order to measure the size of its nucleus.

  • Supersymmetry Bet Settled With Cognac

    The absence of supersymmetry particles at the Large Hadron Collider has settled a 16-year-old bet among physicists.

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    The Astrophysicists Who Faked It

    The inside story of the gravitational wave signal injection.

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    How Einstein and Schrödinger Conspired to Kill a Cat

    The rise of fascism shaped Schrödinger’s cat fable.

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    5 Paradoxical Time Travel Stories

    Can you imagine a time before we dreamed about time travel? The idea of altering an unpleasant future disclosed by an oracle, and the associated paradoxes of Fate, have been with us for millennia; but before H.G. Wells’ The Time Traveller, in 1895, the concept of time travel was wispy and of very little cultural […]

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    Lawrence Krauss Versus Freeman Dyson on Gravitons

    Yesterday, in the New York Review of Books, Freeman Dyson analyzed a trio of recent books on humanity’s future in the larger cosmos. They were How to Make a Spaceship: A Band of Renegades, an Epic Space Race, and the Birth of Private Spaceflight; Beyond Earth: Our Path to a New Home in the Planets; […]

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    A Nonlinear History of Time Travel

    Births, deaths, and other time travel paradoxes.

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    Benchtop Black Holes Help Physicists Glimpse the Quantum Universe

    A black hole is a physicist’s playground: A place where some of the most bizarre and fundamental concepts in physics can be observed and tested. However, there is currently no way to directly observe black holes in action; these bodies of matter don’t emit the sort of radiation, like light or X-rays, that telescopes are […]

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    How Much More Can We Learn About the Universe?

    These are the few limits on our ability to know.

  • Krauss_HERO-1

    How Much More Can We Learn About the Universe?

    These are the few limits on our ability to know.

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    To Measure the Power of Lightning, Get a Shovel

    It was a rainy, early summer day in the Hamptons, a few years before the First World War. Robert W. Wood, a physicist (and later a science fiction writer) engaged in optics research at Johns Hopkins University, was out on his lawn spending time with his family when he had a close encounter with a […]

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    Aristotle at the Gigafactory: Why Physics Is a Philosophy

    On Friday, in Storey County, Nevada, a woman at Tesla’s Gigafactory inauguration hollered, “Beam me up, Elon!” Elon Musk, the electric car company’s chief executive officer, had just taken the stage along with J.B. Straubel, Tesla’s chief technical officer. “Okay, we’re working on that one,” Musk gamely replied before saying: “Alright—welcome everyone to the Gigafactory […]

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    A New Explanation for One of the Strangest Occurrences in Nature: Ball Lightning

    Every so often, given the proper conditions, a small and roughly spherical piece of the atmosphere around us will briefly catch fire. As they are best viewed late into the night and have no obvious natural explanation, it’s perhaps no wonder they’ve inspired a rich mythology. Names for balls of fire include ignis fatuus, will-o’-the-wisp, […]

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    Her Second Act: Fotini Markopoulou on Life Beyond Physics

    It was time to work with her hands, not only her mind.

  • Davies_HERO-ART1

    This Physics Pioneer Walked Away from It All

    Why Fotini Markopoulou traded quantum gravity for industrial design.

  • Scholes-HERO-5

    The Hidden Science of the Missing Gravitational Waves

    A relatively unknown experiment is already drawing conclusions from the sound of silence.

  • SPARK-Cordova_HERO

    Spark of Science: France A. Cordova

    The director of the National Science Foundation on what brought her back to science.

  • Musser-HERO

    The Noise at the Bottom of the Universe

    The origin of quantum noise is the modern incarnation of a millennia-old debate.

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    The Noise None of Us Can Live Without

    Noise is one of my favorite things in the universe. I don’t mean the neighbor’s rusty old lawnmower thundering you out of bed on a Sunday morning; like everybody else, I despise that kind of noise. No, what I am talking about is noise as the scientist understands it: a limitation of deterministic systems. As […]

  • beluga whale_HERO

    Listen to the Large Hadron Collider’s Weird, Whale-Like Sounds

    To refer to the Large Hadron Collider merely as the world’s largest machine, or the world’s most powerful particle accelerator, would be to engage in prosaic understatement—the Collider is nothing less than a scientific and engineering wonder of the world. Nominally an underground ring 27 kilometers in circumference, the Collider is tasked with accelerating, in […]

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    How Big Can Life Get?

    An illustrated trip from smallest to biggest.

  • Alexander_HERO-Eno

    Brian Eno Plays the Universe

    A physicist explains what the composer has in common with the dawn of the cosmos.

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    The Strange Physics of Tea Leaves Floating Upstream

    It’s been said that the true harbinger of scientific discovery is not “Eureka!” but “Huh… that’s funny….” That certainly proved to be the case for Sebastian Bianchi: a simple cup of tea led him to some intriguing, counter-intuitive insights into the surface tension of water. Back when he was an undergraduate physics major at the […]

  • Krieger_HERO3

    Bacteria Are Masters of Tai Chi

    The remarkable science that helped me understand what it means to be a physicist.

  • Wharton_HERO

    To Understand Your Past, Look to Your Future

    An alternative to the Newtonian worldview promises to help explain quantum weirdness.

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    Physics Makes Aging Inevitable, Not Biology

    Nanoscale thermal physics guarantees our decline, no matter how many diseases we cure.

  • mingarelli_HERO

    What It’s Like to Be a Female Gravity Wave Hunter

    Chiara Mingarelli can count herself as a successful scientist. She is a Marie Curie Fellow at Caltech, and a former visiting scholar at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Her area of research, hunting for gravitational waves using distant stars, is at one of the forefronts of cosmology. Her scientific work has been cited in nearly 1,000 […]

  • Dijkgraff_HERO

    Are There Barbarians at the Gates of Science?

    The increasingly complex border between science and society is changing both.

  • Ball_HERO-2

    Why Nature Prefers Hexagons

    The geometric rules behind fly eyes, honeycombs, and soap bubbles.

  • Laughlin_HERO_F

    Can a Living Creature Be as Big as a Galaxy?

    Why life is constrained to be about the sizes we see on Earth.

  • Eck_HERO

    How Do You Say “Life” in Physics?

    A new theory sheds light on the emergence of life’s complexity.

  • Eck_HERO

    How Do You Say “Life” in Physics?

    A new theory sheds light on the emergence of life’s complexity.

  • curved gravity waves

    Top 5 Targets of a Gravity Wave Observatory

    On February 3, Cliff Burgess, a physicist at McMaster University, emailed some of his colleagues about an exciting rumor—a possible discovery—that, if verified at a press conference later today, would mean a “Nobel prize is coming someone’s way.” According to “spies,” Burgess said, an instrument called LIGO (the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory) had apparently observed […]

  • Ball_HERO-F-3

    Describing People as Particles Isn’t Always a Bad Idea

    Using physics to describe social phenomena can work—if it’s the right physics.

  • water bucket

    This Is Why Understanding Space Is So Hard

      If all the matter in the universe suddenly disappeared, would space still exist? Isaac Newton thought so. Space, he imagined, was something like Star Trek’s holodeck, a 3-dimensional virtual-reality grid onto which simulated people and places and things are projected. As Newton put it in the early pages of his Principia: “Absolute space, of […]

  • cmb

    Is the Cosmic Microwave Background as Beautiful as Any Work of Art?

    The usual space vista is of distant tumbling galaxies, or towering clouds of dust. The Hubble Ultra Deep Field, for instance, is a photograph of a patch of blackness representing just one 24-millionth of the whole sky. Over 11 days, the telescope soaked in whatever light came in, and the result was astonishing: Every point […]

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    Beauty Is Physics’ Secret Weapon

    A Nobel laureate maps his path to discovery.

  • Musser_HERO

    Let’s Rethink Space

    Does space exist without objects, or is it made by them?

  • Eremets_HERO

    Superconductivity for Siberia

    How we broke the world record in high-temperature superconductors.

  • Myrvold_HERO-1

    10 Breaking Points

    The pressure it takes to break everything from raindrops to stars.

  • Gefter-HERO_alt

    Quantum Mechanics Is Putting Human Identity on Trial

    If our particles have no identity, how can we?

  • Rowe_HERO-3

    A Travel Guide for the Fourth Dimension

    Say goodbye to stable orbits and knotted shoelaces.

  • Saykally_HERO

    Five Things We Still Don’t Know About Water

    From steam to ice, water continues to mystify.

  • Stephens_HERO-2

    The Data That Threatened to Break Physics

    What does a rational scientist do with an impossible result?

  • Stephens_HERO-2

    The Data That Threatened to Break Physics

    What does a rational scientist do with an impossible result?

  • Steinhardt blog

    Is Our Universe a One-Off Fluke, or an Endless Cycle?

    Paul Steinhardt is torn. On the one hand, he has been working on and contributing to the theory of inflation for decades. On the other hand, he thinks it may very well be wrong. Inflation describes the early universe going through an unimaginably rapid expansion in its infancy, from the size of an atomic nucleus […]

  • Francis_HERO-2

    How To Clock a Glacier

    Portable slow-light technology could measure the speed of glaciers in real time.

  • Aronson_HERO-4

    Ingenious: Scott Aaronson

    From computational complexity to quantum mechanics.

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    How the Universe Made the Stuff That Made Us

      When our Universe was in its infancy, the only element it contained was hydrogen, the simplest one—not nearly enough by itself to create interesting things like planets and people. By the time things cooled sufficiently for the single proton in each hydrogen atom to pair with a negatively charged electron, about 92 percent of […]

  • Mlodinow_HERO

    The Loneliest Genius

    Isaac Newton spurned social contact but also relied on it for his greatest work.

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    Who Really Found the Higgs Boson

    The real genius in the Nobel Prize-winning discovery is not who you think it is.

  • Hartman_HERO.png

    Who Really Found the Higgs Boson

    The real genius in the Nobel Prize-winning discovery is not who you think it is.

  • Hartman_HERO.png

    Who Really Found the Higgs Boson

    The real genius in the Nobel Prize-winning discovery is not who you think it is.

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    Excitement Over Gravity Waves Comes Crashing Down

    The Dark Sector Lab includes the BICEP2 telescope, seen on the left.BICEP Keck Science giveth, and science taketh away. What appeared earlier this year to be a long-sought glimpse of ancient ripples in spacetime now seems to have been schmutz in astronomers’ eyes. In March, sky-gazers using a telescope at the South Pole called BICEP2 […]

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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 […]

  • Gefter_HERO

    The Bridge From Nowhere

    How is it possible to get something from nothing?

  • Anderson_HERO

    Do We Have the Big Bang Theory All Wrong?

    One physicist’s radical reinterpretation of the cosmic microwave background.

  • Ball_HERO

    The Scientific Problem That Must Be Experienced

    To understand turbulence we need the intuitive perspective of art.

  • Mackenzie_HERO

    How Does Turbulence Get Started?

    The high stakes of solving one of science’s most obstinate problems.

  • most symm

    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. 1. […]

  • woman in the mirror

    What It Means to Live in a Holographic Universe

    When you look in the mirror, the image you see looks a lot like you—not exactly the same, because when you raise your right hand, your mirror-self raises its left. What’s more, the mirror image is merely an assemblage of reflected light, without a physical body behind it. Despite these differences, you can see an […]

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    Ingenious: Simon DeDeo

    Cosmic microwaves and crime.

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    Over the Universe—The Best Reactions to the Big Physics News

    These swirls in the cosmic microwave background show the effect of primordial gravitational waves.BICEP2 Scientists, on the whole, are a circumspect lot. When faced with a microphone or reporter’s notepad, most of them (excepting a vocal minority) hedge and temper their language, adding provisos and qualifications, burying significant news behind accurate but unexciting jargon. So […]

  • Briggs-HERO

    Flashback: Human Uniqueness

    Shining a light on the spark that separates man from beast.

  • Ball_HERO-2

    Why Physicists Make Up Stories in the Dark

    In unseen worlds, science invariably crosses paths with fantasy.

  • Segal_HERO

    Higgs—The Movie

    The director of “Particle Fever” talks about his film.

  • Refusal of Time

    The Ends of Time, in Art and Science

    In Gallery 919, in New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, there is a giant breathing machine. Its creator, William Kentridge, calls it “the elephant,” after Charles Dickens’s description of factory machines that move “monotonously up and down, like the head of an elephant in a state of melancholy madness.” On the walls surrounding the elephant […]

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    Where Did Time Come From, and Why Does It Seem to Flow?

    ASU Paul Davies has a lot on his mind—or perhaps more accurate to say in his mind. A physicist at Arizona State University, he does research on a wide range of topics, from the abstract fields of theoretical physics and cosmology to the more concrete realm of astrobiology, the study of life in places beyond […]

  • Smolin_HERO_1

    The Metaphysical Baggage of Physics

    Lee Smolin argues that time is more fundamental than physical laws.

  • DUDE

    Haunted by His Brother, He Revolutionized Physics

    To John Archibald Wheeler, the race to explain time was personal.

  • Tegmark_HERO

    Ingenious: Max Tegmark

    A bird’s-eye view on life and the universe.

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    Hearing Hadrons, and Doing Research by Ear

    Animation of data from collisions at the LHCCERN Several years ago, particle physicist Lily Asquith was hanging out with a few musician pals in London after a band rehearsal, doing impromptu impersonations of what she thought the various elementary particles might sound like, and encouraging the drummer to recreate them electronically. Another band member asked […]

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    Discovering the Expected

    In the search for subatomic particles, it helps to know what you’re looking for.

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    The Quirky Muon Just Might Spur a Physics Breakthrough—Again

    Folks in the Midwest may have been surprised to see a massive electromagnet being towed up the Mississippi River and driven through the flatlands of Illinois in July. The electromagnet was on its way from its original home at New York’s Brookhaven National Laboratory to Fermilab, near Chicago. In 2016 it’s scheduled to be the […]

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    Outsmarting the CERNageddon

    Can the Large Hadron Collider spawn black holes at full power? CERN investigates.

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    The Time-Honored Quest to Find the Rules of Time Travel

    It’s 2077 in the city of Vancouver, now part of the North American Union, run by a “Corporate Congress.” Technically, everyone is still free and enjoys the fruits of a highly technologically advanced society—except they spend their lives paying down the massive debt owed to the corporations, and are subject to high surveillance in what […]

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    The Best Evidence for Dark Matter & the Uncertainty Therein

      If I told you that I was 99.81 percent certain I had made a big discovery, you might suggest it was time to break out the champagne. If I said the discovery resolved one of the biggest outstanding problems in science and would probably let me punch a ticket to Stockholm to pick up […]

  • Parallel universe

    Splitting Image: The Alternate Realities of the Multiverse

    We tend to focus on major decisions as having momentous effects, but what if something as simple as a missed train could change the course of your life? And what if you follow two different paths to see which turned out better? That’s the premise of the 1998 film Sliding Doors, in which Gwyneth Paltrow stars […]

  • Schrödinger’s Cat

    Why Every Coin Flip May Be a Schrödinger’s Cat

    During a recent conference on cosmic frontiers, University of California, Davis, professor Andreas Albrecht made a provocative statement: “Every Brownian motion is a Schrödinger’s Cat.” Technically, it was part of a broader talk on implications for a multiverse contained in various models of inflation in the early universe—based in turn on a recent technical paper. But Albrecht’s colorful […]

  • fsr_060413_cosmic-radiation

    Universal Remoteness: What the Multiverse Means About Us

    Our Universe is vast and mostly empty. Even if many of the billions of planets we suspect are out there have life, most of the cosmos is uninhabitable, and those worlds are unreachable by any means we know. That’s just within our galaxy, which is one of about 100 billion in the part of the […]

  • IR_VanGogh

    Looking at Art Through Different Eyes—Like a Bee

    There is more to the world than meets the human eye, a fact that hit home for the 18th-century astronomer Sir Frederick William Herschel when he discovered infrared light—a wavelength of light that lies just outside the visible portion of the electromagnetic spectrum. We can feel its heat, but we can’t see the light—not without […]

  • FSR_Copernicus

    An Overdose of Copernicus? Our Universe Might Yet Be Special

    The mediocre universe… Depending on how you look at it, that is either a term of derision or an interesting, mind-warping concept. Cosmologists who are enamored of the theory that there are many, or perhaps infinite, universes like to look at our cosmic home and call it average, boring, run of the mill, vanilla. They […]

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    Certainly Not!

    Good science requires cultivating doubt and finding pleasure in mystery.

  • Deutsch_HERO_1280x376

    Ingenious: David Deutsch

    The truth will set us free, so long as we remember to challenge it.

  • Stochastic_HERO_1280x376

    A Universe Made of Tiny, Random Chunks

    The space-time that makes up our universe is inherently uncertain.

  • Vidral_HERO_1280x376

    The Rise of the Uncertain

    Uncertainty in physics has gone from black sheep to overachiever.

  • David_Deutsch_preview

    Are We Important to the Universe?

    Is there something special about humanity’s method of understanding the world around us? If there are other intelligent beings in the world, would their knowledge be important in the same way? David Deutsch‘s research suggests an affirmative answer to both questions. Deutsch is a physicist at the University of Oxford, a fellow of the Royal […]

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    In the Mind of the Fractal King

    A reconstructed interview on life and fractals.