All Articles

3D illustration of three human skulls, split into left and right halves and nested one inside the next.
evolution

Fossil DNA Reveals New Twists in Modern Human Origins

August 29, 2019

Modern humans and more ancient hominins interbred many times throughout Eurasia and Africa, and the genetic flow went both ways.

An illustration of an extra-large black hole.
Abstractions blog

Possible Detection of a Black Hole So Big It ‘Should Not Exist’

August 28, 2019

At stake are fundamental ideas about how black holes form — and a six-way bet.

Root glowing green against black background. Small spheres and threadlike filaments surround it.
ecology

Soil’s Microbial Market Shows the Ruthless Side of Forests

August 27, 2019

In the “underground economy” for soil nutrients, fungi strike hard bargains and punish plants that won’t meet their price.

The researcher Iyad Rahwan sitting at his desk.
Q&A

The Anthropologist of Artificial Intelligence

August 26, 2019

Iyad Rahwan’s radical idea: The best way to understand algorithms is to observe their behavior in the wild.

Nelson, wearing hiking gear, smiles at the camera at the top of a rocky outcrop.
Quantized Columns

Ann Nelson Took On the Biggest Problems in Physics

August 22, 2019

The theoretical particle physicist Ann Nelson, who died on August 4 at age 61, was a font of brilliant ideas and a champion of ending discrimination in the field.

An illustration of eyeballs connected to many hands painting the Mona Lisa.
mathematical biology

A Mathematical Model Unlocks the Secrets of Vision

August 21, 2019

Mathematicians and neuroscientists have created the first anatomically accurate model that explains how vision is possible.

An illustration of a sunset beach scene turned into a puzzle.
insights puzzle

The Puzzling Search for Perfect Randomness

August 20, 2019

Does objective, perfect randomness exist, or is randomness merely a product of our ignorance?

Abstractions blog

Can New Species Evolve From Cancers? Maybe. Here’s How.

August 19, 2019

Researchers agree it’s a long shot, but transmissible cancers could theoretically evolve into independent species. Certain weird parasites might be living proof.

Illustration of three black holes on a starry background
Abstractions blog

To Make Two Black Holes Collide, Try Three

August 15, 2019

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