All Articles

Gif of a grid of arrows whose directions flip up and down.
Abstractions blog

The Cartoon Picture of Magnets That Has Transformed Science

June 24, 2020

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

People in India stand near a red van that serves as a mobile testing center for COVID-19 .
infectious disease

Why South Asia’s COVID-19 Numbers Are So Low (For Now)

June 23, 2020

Many theories have been offered for why the official COVID-19 toll on the Indian subcontinent has been surprisingly low. The best explanation may be the shortage of good, timely data.

Katie Mack portrait.

This Cosmologist Knows How It’s All Going to End

June 22, 2020

The astrophysicist and social media phenom Katie Mack is ready to tell you about the fate of the universe.

insights puzzle

How to Breed a Pomsky and Other Questions About Dogs and Sex

June 18, 2020

Solve a puzzle about mixed dog breeds, sexual reproduction and the COVID-19 pandemic.

The XENON1T detector’s time projection chamber.
Abstractions blog

Dark Matter Experiment Finds Unexplained Signal

June 17, 2020

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

Illustration showing an austere number line on one side and various interesting objects on the the other, including a dodecahedron, an armillary sphere, flowers and plants.
Quantized Columns

The Two Forms of Mathematical Beauty

June 16, 2020

Mathematicians typically appreciate either generic or exceptional beauty in their work, but one type is more useful in describing the universe.

A falling apple.
Abstractions blog

Why Gravity Is Not Like the Other Forces

June 15, 2020

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

Illustration of a flying albatross, a swimming basking shark and the Lévy walk paths they take.

Random Search Wired Into Animals May Help Them Hunt

June 11, 2020

The nervous systems of foraging and predatory animals may prompt them to move along a special kind of random path called a Lévy walk to find food efficiently when no clues are available.

A magnetar.

A Surprise Discovery Points to the Source of Fast Radio Bursts

June 11, 2020

After a burst lit up their telescope “like a Christmas tree,” astronomers were able to finally track down the source of these cosmic oddities.