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Abstractions blog

Lede art for "Chronological Clues to Life’s Early History Hide in Gene Transfers"
Abstractions blog

Chronological Clues to Life’s Early History Lurk in Gene Transfers

To date the branches on the evolutionary tree of life, researchers are looking at horizontal gene transfers among ancient microorganisms, which once seemed only to muddle the record.

Illustration for thermodynamics
Abstractions blog

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.

Photo of the cosmos by the multi-lensed Dragonfly telescope
Abstractions blog

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.

Illustration for brain computer interface
Abstractions blog

Brains Cling to Old Habits When Learning New Tricks

Using a brain-computer interface, scientists are beginning to learn why learning is hard.

Photo of Ziegler's chalkboard
Abstractions blog

The Infinite Primes and Museum Guard Proofs, Explained

A simple, step-by-step breakdown of two “perfect” math proofs.

Abstractions blog

Complex Animals Led to More Oxygen, Says Maverick Theory

For decades, researchers have commonly assumed that higher oxygen levels led to the sudden diversification of animal life 540 million years ago. But one iconoclast argues the opposite: that new animal behaviors raised oxygen levels and remade the environment.

520px photo of Robert Langlands
Abstractions blog

Robert Langlands, Mathematical Visionary, Wins the Abel Prize

Generations of researchers have pursued his “Langlands program,” which seeks to create a grand unified theory of mathematics.

Photo of Stephen Hawking in 1979 in Princeton, New Jersey.
Abstractions blog

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.

Photograph of Albert Einstein in his office at the University of Berlin, published in the USA in 1920.
Abstractions blog

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.