Chatbots Don't Know What Stuff Isn't
September 13th, 2023
Today’s language models are more sophisticated than ever, but they still struggle with the concept of negation. That’s unlikely to change anytime soon.
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Global Microbiome Study Gives New View of Shared Health Risks
August 30th, 2023
The most comprehensive survey of how we share our microbiomes suggests a new way of thinking about the risks of developing some diseases that aren’t usually considered contagious.
The post Global Microbiome …
Physicists Use Quantum Mechanics to Pull Energy out of Nothing
August 16th, 2023
The quantum energy teleportation protocol was proposed in 2008 and largely ignored. Now two independent experiments have shown that it works. …
Gene Expression in Neurons Solves a Brain Evolution Puzzle
July 19th, 2023
The neocortex of our brain is the seat of our intellect. New data suggests that mammals created it with new types of cells that they developed only …
Astronomers Say They Have Spotted the Universe's First Stars
April 12th, 2023
Theory has it that “Population III” stars brought light to the cosmos. The James Webb Space Telescope may have just glimpsed them.
The Cause of Depression Is Probably Not What You Think
June 21st, 2023
Depression has often been blamed on low levels of serotonin in the brain. That answer is insufficient, but alternatives are coming into view and changing our understanding of the disease.
The post The Cause …
Ants Live 10 Times Longer by Altering Their Insulin Responses
June 7th, 2023
Queen ants live far longer than genetically identical workers. Researchers are learning what their longevity secrets could mean for aging in other …
What Causes Alzheimer's? Scientists Are Rethinking the Answer. (Pt 2)
May 10th, 2023
If plaques of amyloid protein in the brain aren’t the root cause of Alzheimer’s disease, what is? Researchers investigating alternative possibilities have faced resistance from the biomedical establishment for decades, …
What Causes Alzheimer's? Scientists Are Rethinking the Answer. (Pt. 1)
April 26th, 2023
After decades in the shadow of the reigning model for Alzheimer’s disease, alternative explanations are finally getting the attention they deserve. Read more at QuantaMagazine.org. Music is “Redwood Trail” by …
New Chip Expands the Possibilities for AI
March 29th, 2023
An energy-efficient chip called NeuRRAM fixes an old design flaw to run large-scale AI algorithms on smaller devices, reaching the same accuracy as …
How Supergenes Fuel Evolution Despite Harmful Mutations
March 15th, 2023
Supergenes that lock inherited traits together are widespread in nature. Recent work shows that their blend of genetic benefits and risks for species …
Brightest-Ever Space Explosion Reveals Possible Hints of Dark Matter
March 1st, 2023
A recent gamma-ray burst known as the BOAT — “brightest of all time” — appears to have produced a high-energy particle that shouldn’t exist. For …
Inside the Proton, the 'Most Complicated Thing You Could Possibly Imagine'
February 16th, 2023
The positively charged particle at the heart of the atom is an object of unspeakable complexity, one that changes its appearance depending on how it is probed. Read more at QuantaMagazine.org. Music is “Light Gazing” by …
High-Temperature Superconductivity Understood at Last
February 1st, 2023
A new atomic-scale experiment all but settles the origin of the strong form of superconductivity seen in cuprate crystals, confirming a 35-year-old …
Record-Breaking Robot Highlights How Animals Excel at Jumping
January 18th, 2023
Robots can surpass the limitations on how high and far animals can jump, but their success only underscores nature’s ingenuity in making the most of what’s available. Read more at QuantaMagazine.org. Music is “Pixel …
A Good Memory or a Bad One? One Brain Molecule Decides.
January 4th, 2023
When the brain encodes memories as positive or negative, one molecule determines which way they will go. Read more at QuantaMagazine.org. Music is …
Old Problem About Mathematical Curves Falls to Young Couple
December 21st, 2022
Eric Larson and Isabel Vogt have solved the interpolation problem — a centuries-old question about some of the most basic objects in geometry. Some …
How the Physics of Nothing Underlies Everything
December 7th, 2022
The key to understanding the origin and fate of the universe may be a more complete understanding of the vacuum. Read more at QuantaMagazine.org. …
Geometric Analysis Reveals How Birds Mastered Flight
November 23rd, 2022
Partnerships between engineers and biologists have begun to reveal how birds evolved their superb maneuverability. Read more at QuantaMagazine.org. …
How the 'Diamond of the Plant World' Helped Land Plants Evolve
November 9th, 2022
Structural studies of the robust material called sporopollenin reveal how it made plants hardy enough to reproduce on dry land. Read more at …
Protein Blobs Linked to Alzheimer's Affect Aging in All Cells
October 26th, 2022
Protein buildups like those seen around neurons in Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and other brain diseases occur in all aging cells, a new study suggests. Learning their significance may reveal new strategies for treating …
The Brain Has a 'Low-Power Mode' That Blunts Our Senses
October 12th, 2022
Neuroscientists uncovered an energy-saving mode in vision-system neurons that works at the cost of being able to see fine-grained details. Read more at QuantaMagazine.org. Music is “Unanswered Questions” by Kevin …
Researchers Achieve 'Absurdly Fast' Algorithm for Network Flow
September 28th, 2022
Computer scientists can now solve a decades-old problem in practically the time it takes to write it down. Read more at quantamagazine.org. Music is …
Graduate Student's Side Project Proves Prime Number Conjecture
September 14th, 2022
Jared Duker Lichtman, 26, has proved a longstanding conjecture relating prime numbers to a broad class of “primitive” sets. To his adviser, it came as a “complete shock.” Read more at quantamagazine.org. Music is …
Physicists Rewrite the Fundamental Law That Leads to Disorder
August 31st, 2022
The second law of thermodynamics is among the most sacred in all of science, but it has always rested on 19th century arguments about probability. New arguments trace its true source to the flows of quantum information. …
Secrets of the Moon's Permanent Shadows Are Coming to Light
August 17th, 2022
Robots are about to venture into the sunless depths of lunar craters to investigate ancient water ice trapped there, while remote studies find hints about how water arrives on rocky worlds. Read more and explore …
Deep Learning Poised to 'Blow Up' Famed Fluid Equations
August 3rd, 2022
For centuries, mathematicians have tried to prove that Euler’s fluid equations can produce nonsensical answers. A new approach to machine learning …
Researchers Identify 'Master Problem' Underlying All Cryptography
July 19th, 2022
The existence of secure cryptography depends on one of the oldest questions in computational complexity. Read more at QuantaMagazine.org. Music is …
Brain Chemical Helps Signal to Neurons When to Start a Movement
July 6th, 2022
Dopamine, a neurochemical often associated with reward behavior, also seems to help organize precisely when the brain initiates movements. It’s the …
This Animal's Behavior Is Mechanically Programmed
June 22nd, 2022
Biomechanical interactions, rather than neurons, control the movements of one of the simplest animals. The discovery offers a glimpse into how animal …
Tiny Galaxies Reveal Secrets of Supermassive Black Holes
June 8th, 2022
Dwarf galaxies weren’t supposed to have big black holes. Their surprise discovery has revealed clues about how the universe’s biggest black holes …
New Map of Meaning in the Brain Changes Ideas About Memory
May 11th, 2022
Researchers have mapped hundreds of semantic categories to the tiny bits of the cortex that represent them in our thoughts and perceptions. What they discovered might change our view of memory.
The post New …
Machine Learning Gets a Quantum Speedup
April 27th, 2022
Two teams have shown how quantum approaches can solve problems faster than classical computers, bringing physics and computer science closer …
Secrets of Early Animal Evolution Revealed by Chromosome 'Tectonics'
April 14th, 2022
Large blocks of genes conserved through hundreds of millions of years of evolution hint at how the first animal chromosomes came to be.
A Solution to the Faint-Sun Paradox Reveals a Narrow Window for Life
March 31st, 2022
We might have a past faint sun to owe for life’s existence. This has consequences for the possibility of life outside Earth.
The post A …
Evolution 'Landscapes' Predict What's Next for COVID Virus
March 18th, 2022
Studies that map the adaptive value of viral mutations hint at how the COVID-19 pandemic might progress next.
The post Evolution …
Flying Fish and Aquarium Pets Yield Secrets of Evolution
March 3rd, 2022
New studies reveal the ancient, shared genetic “grammar” underpinning the diverse evolution of fish fins and tetrapod limbs.
The post …
Mathematicians Outwit Hidden Number Conspiracy
February 17th, 2022
Decades ago, a mathematician posed a warmup problem for some of the most difficult questions about prime numbers. It turned out to be just as …
Mathematician Hurls Structure and Disorder Into Century-Old Problem
February 3rd, 2022
A new paper shows how to create longer disordered strings than mathematicians had thought possible, proving that a well-known recent conjecture is …
Researchers Defeat Randomness to Create Ideal Code
January 20th, 2022
By carefully constructing a multidimensional and well-connected graph, a team of researchers has finally created a long-sought locally testable code …
The Brain Processes Speech in Parallel With Other Sounds
January 6th, 2022
Scientists thought that the brain’s hearing centers might just process speech along with other sounds. But new work suggests that speech gets some special treatment very early on.
The post The Brain Processes …
Biologists Rethink the Logic Behind Cells' Molecular Signals
December 23rd, 2021
The molecular signaling systems of complex cells are nothing like simple electronic circuits. The logic governing their operation is riotously …
A Massive Subterranean ‘Tree’ Is Moving Magma to Earth’s Surface
December 9th, 2021
Deep in the mantle, a branching plume of intensely hot material appears to be the engine powering vast volcanic activity.
The post A …
One Lab’s Quest to Build Space-Time Out of Quantum Particles
November 24th, 2021
For over two decades, physicists have pondered how the fabric of space-time may emerge from some kind of quantum entanglement. In Monika Schleier-Smith’s lab at Stanford University, the thought experiment is becoming …
The Brain Doesn’t Think the Way You Think It Does
October 28th, 2021
Familiar categories of mental functions such as perception, memory and attention reflect our experience of ourselves, but they are misleading about how the brain works. More revealing approaches are emerging.
Eternal Change for No Energy: A Time Crystal Finally Made Real
October 14th, 2021
Like a perpetual motion machine, a time crystal forever cycles between states without consuming energy. Physicists claim to have built this new phase of matter inside a quantum computer.
DNA Has Four Bases. Some Viruses Swap in a Fifth.
September 16th, 2021
The DNA of some viruses doesn’t use the same four nucleotide bases found in all other life. New work shows how this exception is possible and hints …
The Mystery at the Heart of Physics That Only Math Can Solve
September 2nd, 2021
The accelerating effort to understand the mathematics of quantum field theory will have profound consequences for both math and physics.
Radioactivity May Fuel Life Deep Underground and Inside Other Worlds
August 19th, 2021
New work suggests that the radiolytic splitting of water supports giant subsurface ecosystems of life on Earth — and could do it elsewhere, too. …
DNA of Giant ‘Corpse Flower’ Parasite Surprises Biologists
August 5th, 2021
The bizarre genome of the world’s most mysterious flowering plants shows how far parasites will go in stealing, deleting and duplicating DNA. …
Scientists Pin Down When Earth’s Crust Cracked, Then Came to Life
July 22nd, 2021
New data indicating that Earth’s surface broke up about 3.2 billion years ago helps clarify how plate tectonics drove the evolution of complex life. …
A New Twist Reveals Superconductivity’s Secrets
July 8th, 2021
An unexpected superconductor was beginning to look like a fluke, but a new theory and a second discovery have revealed that emergent quasiparticles may be behind the effect.
The post A New Twist Reveals …
Statistics Postdoc Tames Decades-Old Geometry Problem
June 24th, 2021
To the surprise of experts in the field, a postdoctoral statistician has solved one of the most important problems in high-dimensional convex …
Artificial Neural Nets Finally Yield Clues to How Brains Learn
May 27th, 2021
The learning algorithm that enables the runaway success of deep neural networks doesn’t work in biological brains, but researchers are finding …
Brain’s ‘Background Noise’ May Hold Clues to Persistent Mysteries
May 13th, 2021
By digging out signals hidden within the brain’s electrical chatter, scientists are getting new insights into sleep, aging and more.
Rumbles on Mars Raise Hopes of Underground Magma Flows
April 29th, 2021
Small and cold, Mars has long been considered a dead planet. But a series of recent discoveries has forced scientists to rethink how recently its …
Mathematicians Resurrect Hilbert’s 13th Problem
April 15th, 2021
Long considered solved, David Hilbert’s question about seventh-degree polynomials is leading researchers to a new web of mathematical connections. …
A Newfound Source of Cellular Order in the Chemistry of Life
April 1st, 2021
Inside cells, droplets of biomolecules called condensates merge, divide and dissolve. Their dance may regulate vital processes.
The post A …
The Mystery of Mistletoe’s Missing Genes
March 18th, 2021
Mistletoes have all but shut down the powerhouses of their cells. Scientists are still trying to understand the plants’ unorthodox survival strategy.
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Scientists Uncover the Universal Geometry of Geology
February 18th, 2021
An exercise in pure mathematics has led to a wide-ranging theory of how the world comes together.
The post Scientists Uncover the …
Quantum Tunnels Show How Particles Can Break the Speed of Light
January 21st, 2021
Recent experiments show that particles should be able to go faster than light when they quantum mechanically “tunnel” through walls.
Computer Scientists Break Traveling Salesperson Record
January 7th, 2021
After 44 years, there’s finally a better way to find approximate solutions to the notoriously difficult traveling salesperson problem.
Mitochondria May Hold Keys to Anxiety and Mental Health
December 16th, 2020
Research hints that the energy-generating organelles of cells may play a surprisingly pivotal role in mediating anxiety and depression.
The Hidden Magnetic Universe Begins to Come Into View
December 3rd, 2020
Astronomers are discovering that magnetic fields permeate much of the cosmos. If these fields date back to the Big Bang, they could solve a major …
Graduate Student Solves Decades-Old Conway Knot Problem
November 19th, 2020
It took Lisa Piccirillo less than a week to answer a long-standing question about a strange knot discovered over half a century ago by the legendary …
The Grand Unified Theory of Rogue Waves
November 5th, 2020
Rogue waves — enigmatic giants of the sea — were thought to be caused by two different mechanisms. But a new idea that borrows from the hinterlands of probability theory has the potential to predict them all. …
Hidden Computational Power Found in the Arms of Neurons
October 22nd, 2020
The dendritic arms of some human neurons can perform logic operations that once seemed to require whole neural networks.
The post Hidden …
Machines Beat Humans on a Reading Test. But Do They Understand?
September 24th, 2020
A tool known as BERT can now beat humans on advanced reading-comprehension tests. But it's also revealed how far AI has to go.
The post …
How Jurassic Plankton Stole Control of the Ocean’s Chemistry
September 10th, 2020
Only 170 million years ago, new plankton evolved. Their demand for carbon and calcium permanently transformed the seas as homes for life.
To Pay Attention, the Brain Uses Filters, Not a Spotlight
August 27th, 2020
A brain circuit that suppresses distracting sensory information holds important clues about attention and other cognitive processes.
Scientists Debate the Origin of Cell Types in the First Animals
July 16th, 2020
Theories about how animals became multicellular are shifting as researchers find greater complexity in our single-celled ancestors.
Wandering Space Rocks Help Solve Mysteries of Planet Formation
July 2nd, 2020
After an interstellar asteroid shot past the sun, scientists realized that there’s probably a lot of itinerant rocks out there.
The post …
Where We See Shapes, AI Sees Textures
June 4th, 2020
To researchers’ surprise, deep learning vision algorithms often fail at classifying images because they mostly take cues from textures, not shapes.
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What’s in a Name? Taxonomy Problems Vex Biologists
May 21st, 2020
Researchers struggle to incorporate ongoing evolutionary discoveries into an animal classification scheme older than Darwin.
The post …
Bacterial Complexity Revises Ideas About ‘Which Came First?’
May 7th, 2020
Contrary to popular belief, bacteria have organelles too. Scientists are now studying them for insights into how complex cells evolved.
Ancient DNA Yields Snapshots of Vanished Ecosystems
April 23rd, 2020
Surviving fragments of genetic material preserved in sediments allow scientists to see the full diversity of past life — even microbes.
The Hidden Heroines of Chaos
March 26th, 2020
Two women programmers played a pivotal role in the birth of chaos theory. Their previously untold story illustrates the changing status of …
Heat-Loving Microbes, Once Dormant, Thrive Over Decades-Old Fire
March 12th, 2020
In harsh ecosystems around the world, microbiologists are finding evidence that “microbial seed banks” protect biodiversity from changing conditions. …
Scientists Discover Exotic New Patterns of Synchronization
February 27th, 2020
In a world seemingly filled with chaos, physicists have discovered new forms of synchronization and are learning how to predict and control them. …
The Math That Tells Cells What They Are
January 30th, 2020
During development, cells seem to decode their fate through optimal information processing, which could hint at a more general principle of life. …
How Artificial Intelligence Is Changing Science
January 16th, 2020
The latest AI algorithms are probing the evolution of galaxies, calculating quantum wave functions, discovering new chemical compounds and more. Is …
A World Without Clouds
January 2nd, 2020
A state-of-the-art supercomputer simulation indicates that a feedback loop between global warming and cloud loss can push Earth’s climate past a …
Foundations Built for a General Theory of Neural Networks
December 5th, 2019
Neural networks can be as unpredictable as they are powerful. Now mathematicians are beginning to reveal how a neural network’s form will influence …
The Brain Maps Out Ideas and Memories Like Spaces
November 21st, 2019
Emerging evidence suggests that the brain encodes abstract knowledge in the same way that it represents positions in space, which hints at a more universal theory of cognition.
The post The Brain Maps Out …
Mathematical Simplicity May Drive Evolution’s Speed
October 31st, 2019
Some researchers are using a complexity framework thought to be purely theoretical to understand evolutionary dynamics in biological and …
Quanta Writers and Editors Discuss Trends in Science and Math
November 22nd, 2018
On November 16, 2018, more than 200 readers joined writers and editors from Quanta Magazine for a wide-ranging panel discussion that examined the …
Should Evolution Treat Our Microbes as Part of Us?
September 26th, 2019
How does evolution select the fittest “individuals” when they are ecosystems made up of hosts and their microbiomes? Biologist debate the need to …
Amateur Mathematician Finds Smallest Universal Cover
September 6th, 2019
Through exacting geometric calculations, Philip Gibbs has found the smallest known cover for any possible shape.
The post Amateur …
The New Science of Seeing Around Corners
August 1st, 2019
Computer vision researchers have uncovered a world of visual signals hiding in our midst, including subtle motions that betray what’s being said and faint images of what’s around a corner.
The post The New …
Major Quantum Computing Advance Made Obsolete by Teenager
July 18th, 2019
18-year-old Ewin Tang has proven that classical computers can solve the “recommendation problem” nearly as fast as quantum computers. The result …
A Math Theory for Why People Hallucinate
July 5th, 2019
Psychedelic drugs can trigger characteristic hallucinations, which have long been thought to hold clues about the brain’s circuitry. After nearly a …
Closed Loophole Confirms the Unreality of the Quantum World
June 20th, 2019
A quickly closed loophole has proved that the “great smoky dragon” of quantum mechanics may forever elude capture.
The post Closed …
To Remember, the Brain Must Actively Forget
June 6th, 2019
Researchers find evidence that neural systems actively remove memories, suggesting that forgetting may be the default mode of the brain.
The Peculiar Math That Could Underlie the Laws of Nature
May 23rd, 2019
New findings are fueling an old suspicion that fundamental particles and forces spring from strange eight-part numbers called “octonions.”
To Make Sense of the Present, Brains May Predict the Future
May 9th, 2019
A controversial theory suggests that perception, motor control, memory and other brain functions all depend on comparisons between ongoing actual …
Finally, a Problem That Only Quantum Computers Will Ever Be Able to Solve
April 25th, 2019
Computer scientists have been searching for years for a type of problem that a quantum computer can solve but that any possible future classical …
Why Earth’s Cracked Crust May Be Essential for Life
April 11th, 2019
Life needs more than water alone. Recent discoveries suggest that plate tectonics has played a critical role in nourishing life on Earth. The …
Overtaxed Working Memory Knocks the Brain Out of Sync
March 28th, 2019
Researchers find that when working memory gets overburdened, dialogue between three brain regions breaks down. The discovery provides new support for a larger concept about how the brain works.
The post …
A New World’s Extraordinary Orbit Points to Planet Nine
March 14th, 2019
Astronomers argue that there’s an undiscovered giant planet far beyond the orbit of Neptune. A newly discovered rocky body has added evidence to the circumstantial case for it.
The post A New World’s …
Decades-Old Graph Problem Yields to Amateur Mathematician
January 31st, 2019
By making the first progress on the “chromatic number of the plane” problem in over 60 years, an anti-aging pundit has achieved mathematical …
Brainless Embryos Suggest Bioelectricity Guides Growth
March 13th, 2018
Researchers are building a case that long before the nervous system works, the brain sends crucial bioelectric signals to guide the growth of embryonic tissues.
The post Brainless Embryos Suggest …
To Test Einstein’s Equations, Poke a Black Hole
January 3rd, 2019
Two teams of researchers have made significant progress toward proving the black hole stability conjecture, a critical mathematical test of …
Why Don’t Patients Get Sick in Sync? Modelers Find Statistical Clues.
November 8th, 2018
The long, variable times that some diseases incubate after infection defies simple explanation. An idealized model of tumor growth offers a …
Why Artificial Intelligence Like AlphaZero Has Trouble With the Real World
October 25th, 2018
The latest artificial intelligence systems start from zero knowledge of a game and grow to world-beating in a matter of hours. But researchers are struggling to apply these systems beyond the arcade.
How the Universe Got Its Bounce Back
August 30th, 2018
Cosmologists have shown that it’s theoretically possible for a contracting universe to bounce and expand. The new work resuscitates an old idea that …
A Domesticated Dingo? No, but Some Are Getting Less Wild
August 9th, 2018
Near an Australian desert mining camp, wild dingoes are losing their fear of humans. Their genetic and behavioral changes may echo those from the domestication of dogs.
The post A Domesticated Dingo? No, but …
Fossil Discoveries Challenge Ideas About Earth’s Start
July 5th, 2018
A series of fossil finds suggests that life on Earth started earlier than anyone thought, calling into question a widely held theory of the solar …
Light-Triggered Genes Reveal the Hidden Workings of Memory
June 7th, 2018
Nobel laureate Susumu Tonegawa’s lab is overturning old assumptions about how memories form, how recall works and whether lost memories might be …
Secret Link Uncovered Between Pure Math and Physics
May 31st, 2018
An eminent mathematician reveals that his advances in the study of millennia-old mathematical questions owe to concepts derived from physics. …
How Bacteria Help Regulate Blood Pressure
May 10th, 2018
Kidneys sniff out signals from gut bacteria for cues to lower blood pressure after meals. Our understanding of how the symbiotic microbes affect …
Choosy Eggs May Pick Sperm for Their Genes, Defying Mendel’s Law
April 26th, 2018
The oldest law of genetics says that gametes combine randomly, but experiments hint that sometimes eggs select sperm actively for their genetic …
A Zombie Gene Protects Elephants From Cancer
April 12th, 2018
Elephants did not evolve to become huge animals until after they turned a bit of genetic junk into a unique defense against inevitable tumors. …
Newfound Wormhole Allows Information to Escape Black Holes
March 15th, 2018
Physicists theorize that a new “traversable” kind of wormhole could resolve a baffling paradox and rescue information that falls into black holes. …
Interspecies Hybrids Play a Vital Role in Evolution
January 18th, 2018
Hybrids, once treated as biological misfits, play a vital role in the evolution of many animal species. Now conservationists are trying to reconcile …
Mathematicians Tame Rogue Waves, Lighting Up Future of LEDs
February 1st, 2018
The mathematician Svitlana Mayboroda and collaborators have figured out how to predict the behavior of electrons — a mathematical discovery that …
What Made the Moon? New Ideas Try to Rescue a Troubled Theory
November 17th, 2017
Textbooks say that the moon was formed after a Mars-size mass smashed the young Earth. But new evidence has cast doubt on that story, leaving researchers to dream up new ways to get a giant rock into orbit.
Pentagon Tiling Proof Solves Century-Old Math Problem
September 21st, 2017
A French mathematician has completed the classification of all convex pentagons, and therefore all convex polygons, that tile the plane.
Can Microbes Encourage Altruism?
August 31st, 2017
If gut bacteria can sway their hosts to be selfless, it could answer a riddle that goes back to Darwin.
The post Can Microbes Encourage …
A Puzzle of Clever Connections Nears a Happy End
July 20th, 2017
The three young friends who devised the “happy ending” problem would become some of the most influential mathematicians of the 20th century, but were …
The Thoughts of a Spiderweb
July 13th, 2017
Spiders appear to offload cognitive tasks to their webs, making them one of a number of species with a mind that isn’t fully confined within the …
How to Quantify (and Fight) Gerrymandering
June 29th, 2017
Powerful new quantitative tools are now available to combat partisan bias in the drawing of voting districts.
The post How to Quantify …
A New Blast May Have Forged Cosmic Gold
May 18th, 2017
For decades, researchers believed that violent supernovas forged gold and other heavy elements. But many now argue for a different cosmic quarry. …
New Number Systems Seek Their Lost Primes
March 30th, 2017
For centuries, mathematicians tried to solve problems by adding new values to the usual numbers. Now they’re investigating the unintended …
Experiment Reaffirms Quantum Weirdness
March 9th, 2017
Physicists are closing the door on an intriguing loophole around the quantum phenomenon Einstein called “spooky action at a distance.”
To Live Your Best Life, Do Mathematics
March 2nd, 2017
The ancient Greeks argued that the best life was filled with beauty, truth, justice, play and love. The mathematician Francis Su knows just where to find them.
The post To Live Your Best Life, Do Mathematics …
Dividing Droplets Could Explain Life’s Origin
February 23rd, 2017
Researchers have discovered that simple “chemically active” droplets grow to the size of cells and spontaneously divide, suggesting they might have …
3-D Fractals Offer Clues to Complex Systems
February 9th, 2017
By folding fractals into 3-D objects, a mathematical duo hopes to gain new insight into simple equations.
The post 3-D Fractals Offer …
Grand Unification Dream Kept at Bay
February 2nd, 2017
Physicists have failed to find disintegrating protons, throwing into limbo the beloved theory that the forces of nature were unified at the beginning of time.
The post Grand Unification Dream Kept at Bay …
The Case Against Dark Matter
December 8th, 2016
A proposed theory of gravity does away with dark matter, even as new astrophysical findings challenge the need for galaxies full of the invisible …
What Sonic Black Holes Say About Real Ones
November 24th, 2016
Can a fluid analogue of a black hole point physicists toward the theory of quantum gravity, or is it a red herring?
The post What Sonic …
Giant Genetic Map Shows Life’s Hidden Links
November 17th, 2016
In a monumental set of experiments, spread out over nearly two decades, biologists removed genes two at a time to uncover the secret workings of the …
The Art of Teaching Math and Science
January 26th, 2017
The impasse in math and science instruction runs deeper than test scores or the latest educational theory. What can we learn from the best teachers on the front lines?
The post The Art of Teaching Math and …
How to Cut Cake Fairly and Finally Eat It Too
November 10th, 2016
Computer scientists have come up with a bounded algorithm that can fairly divide a cake among any number of people.
The post How to Cut …
Strange Dark Galaxy Puzzles Astrophysicists
October 27th, 2016
The surprising discovery of a massive, Milky Way–size galaxy that is made of 99.99 percent dark matter has astronomers dreaming up new ideas about how galaxies form.
The post Strange Dark Galaxy Puzzles …
Colliding Black Holes Tell New Story of Stars
October 13th, 2016
Just months after their discovery, gravitational waves coming from the mergers of black holes are shaking up astrophysics.
The post …
Biologists Search for New Model Organisms
August 18th, 2016
The bulk of biological research is centered on a handful of species. Are we missing a huge chunk of interesting biology?
The post …
A Bird’s-Eye View of Nature’s Hidden Order
August 5th, 2016
Scientists are exploring a mysterious pattern, found in birds’ eyes, boxes of marbles and other surprising places, that is neither regular nor …
How Feynman Diagrams Almost Saved Space
July 28th, 2016
Richard Feynman's famous diagrams weren’t just a way to do calculations. They represented a deep shift in thinking about how the universe is put …
The Oracle of Arithmetic
July 21st, 2016
At 28, Peter Scholze is uncovering deep connections between number theory and geometry.
The post The Oracle of Arithmetic first appeared …
Simple Set Game Proof Stuns Mathematicians
June 17th, 2016
A new series of papers has settled a long-standing question related to the popular game in which players seek patterned sets of three cards. …
New Support for Alternative Quantum View
June 2nd, 2016
An experiment claims to have invalidated a decades-old criticism against pilot-wave theory, an alternative formulation of quantum mechanics that …
New Evidence for the Necessity of Loneliness
May 26th, 2016
A specific set of neurons deep in the brain may motivate us to seek company, holding social species together.
The post New Evidence for …
Tiny Tests Seek the Universe’s Big Mysteries
May 12th, 2016
The search for exotic new physical phenomena is being led by huge experiments like the Large Hadron Collider. But at the other end of the spectrum …
A Secret Flexibility Found in Life’s Blueprints
May 5th, 2016
A new study reveals that individual genes can create many different versions of the molecular machinery that powers the cell.
The post A …
Physicists Hunt for the Big Bang’s Triangles
April 28th, 2016
The story of the universe’s birth — and evidence for string theory — could be found in triangles and myriad other shapes in the sky.
Debate Intensifies Over Dark Disk Theory
April 21st, 2016
In the new, free-for-all era of dark matter research, the controversial idea that dark matter is concentrated in thin disks is being rescued from scientific oblivion.
The post Debate Intensifies Over Dark …
Sphere Packing Solved in Higher Dimensions
April 7th, 2016
The Ukrainian mathematician Maryna Viazovska has solved the centuries-old sphere-packing problem in dimensions eight and 24.
The post …
The Beasts That Keep the Beat
March 31st, 2016
New insights from neuroscience — aided by a small zoo’s worth of dancing animals — are revealing the biological origins of rhythm.
Mathematicians Discover Prime Conspiracy
March 24th, 2016
A previously unnoticed property of prime numbers seems to violate a long-standing assumption about how they behave.
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After Black Holes Collide, a Puzzling Flash
March 10th, 2016
A satellite spotted a burst of light just as gravitational waves rolled in from the collision of two black holes. Was the flash a cosmic coincidence, …
The Quantum Secret to Superconductivity
March 3rd, 2016
In a virtuoso experiment, physicists have revealed details of a “quantum critical point” that underlies high-temperature superconductivity.
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How to Build Life in a Pre-Darwinian World
February 25th, 2016
Perhaps chemistry played a more instrumental role in the origin of life than scientists thought.
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Scientists Debate Signatures of Alien Life
February 11th, 2016
Searching for signs of life on faraway planets, astrobiologists must decide which telltale biosignature gases to target.
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New Clues to How the Brain Maps Time
February 4th, 2016
The same brain cells that track location in space appear to also count beats in time. The research suggests that our thoughts may take place on a mental space-time canvas.
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Quantum Weirdness Now a Matter of Time
January 28th, 2016
Bizarre quantum bonds connect distinct moments in time, suggesting that quantum links — not space-time — constitute the fundamental structure of the universe.
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Landmark Algorithm Breaks 30-Year Impasse
January 14th, 2016
Computer scientists are abuzz over a fast new algorithm for solving one of the central problems in the field.
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The Incredible Shrinking Sex Chromosome
December 10th, 2015
Nature offers species a panoply of ways to determine an organism’s sex. That flexibility suggests we need not be concerned about losing sex chromosomes, but it raises the question of why such a fundamental property is …
Nature’s Critical Warning System
November 26th, 2015
Scientists are homing in on a warning signal that arises in complex systems like ecological food webs, the brain and the Earth’s climate. Could it …
How Humans Evolved Supersize Brains
November 19th, 2015
Scientists have begun to identify the symphony of biological triggers that powered the extraordinary expansion of the human brain.
Mongrel Microbe Tests Story of Complex Life
November 12th, 2015
A newly discovered class of microbe could help to resolve one of the biggest and most controversial mysteries in evolution — how simple microbes …
Theorists Draw Closer to Perfect Coloring
November 5th, 2015
A theorem for coloring a large class of “perfect” mathematical networks could ease the way for a long-sought general coloring proof.
A Twisted Path to Equation-Free Prediction
October 22nd, 2015
Complex natural systems defy analysis using a standard mathematical toolkit, so one ecologist is throwing out the equations.
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The Mutant Genes Behind the Black Death
October 15th, 2015
Only a few genetic changes were enough to change an ordinary stomach bug into the bacteria responsible for the plague.
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Visions of Future Physics
October 1st, 2015
Nima Arkani-Hamed is championing a campaign to build the world’s largest particle collider, even as he pursues a new vision of the laws of nature. …
A New Design for Cryptography’s Black Box
September 10th, 2015
A recent cryptographic breakthrough has proven difficult to put into practice. But new advances show how near-perfect computer security might be …
A Life in Games
March 24th, 2016
The mathematician John Horton Conway’s myriad accomplishments — including the Game of Life, sprouts and the surreal numbers — are the product of a mind at play.
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How Mutant Viral Swarms Spread Disease
September 3rd, 2015
A new understanding of viral swarms is helping researchers predict how viruses will evolve and where disease is likely to spread.
How Life and Luck Changed Earth’s Minerals
August 20th, 2015
Did the minerals on our planet arise in a predictable fashion, or did they result from chance events? The answers could eventually help scientists …
At Tiny Scales, a Giant Burst on Tree of Life
August 6th, 2015
A new technique for finding and characterizing microbes has boosted the number of known bacteria by almost 50 percent, revealing a hidden world all around us.
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