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Liz MacDonald holding a banner printed with the STEVE aurora.

The Scientist Leading the World’s Aurora Hunters

July 9, 2020

Liz MacDonald realized that if she wanted to create the world’s best aurora map, she needed a secret ingredient: Twitter.

Photo of various kinds and colors of dice
Abstractions blog

How and Why Computers Roll Loaded Dice

July 8, 2020

Researchers are one step closer to injecting probability into deterministic machines.

A glass object being shaped by a blowtorch.]
Abstractions blog

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

July 7, 2020

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.

Simple line drawing of a beating human heart.
Abstractions blog

How Your Heart Influences What You Perceive and Fear

July 6, 2020

The heartbeat and other bodily processes play a surprising role in shaping perception and cognition.

Magnetic fields in the universe.

The Hidden Magnetic Universe Begins to Come Into View

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 cosmological mystery.

A photograph of the mathematician James Maynard outside his home in Oxford, England.

A Number Theorist Who Solves the Hardest Easy Problems

July 1, 2020

In his rapid ascent to the top of his field, James Maynard has cut a path through simple-sounding questions about prime numbers that have stumped mathematicians for centuries.

Animated illustration showing vulnerable red shapes become “infected” and turn green, amid immune blue shapes.
Abstractions blog

The Tricky Math of Herd Immunity for COVID-19

June 30, 2020

Herd immunity differs from place to place, and many factors influence how it’s calculated.

A DNA double helix being struck by a cosmic ray.
Abstractions blog

Cosmic Rays May Explain Life’s Bias for Right-Handed DNA

June 29, 2020

Cosmic rays may have given right-handed genetic helixes an evolutionary edge at the beginning of life’s history.

Animation of different rectangles made by connecting four points on a colorful loop.

New Geometric Perspective Cracks Old Problem About Rectangles

June 25, 2020

While locked down due to COVID-19, Joshua Greene and Andrew Lobb figured out how to prove a version of the “rectangular peg problem.”