All Articles

Stringy filaments wiggling against a black background.
Abstractions blog

Some Physicists See Signs of Cosmic Strings From the Big Bang

September 29, 2020

Subtle aberrations in the clockwork blinking of stars could become “the result of the century.” That’s if the distortions are produced by a network of giant filaments left over from the birth of the universe.

Computer scientist and complexity researcher Carlos Gershenson of the National Autonomous University of Mexico stands by a busy urban roadway.
Q&A

Complexity Scientist Beats Traffic Jams Through Adaptation

September 28, 2020

To tame urban traffic, the computer scientist Carlos Gershenson finds that letting transportation systems adapt and self-organize often works better than trying to predict and control them.

insights puzzle

How to Assess Risks During the Coronavirus Pandemic

September 25, 2020

The medical research scientist and Quanta puzzle columnist Pradeep Mutalik explores how to make sense of COVID-19 data while managing your personal risk.

Looping video of illustrated clocks stretching in different directions.
Abstractions blog

Reasons Revealed for the Brain’s Elastic Sense of Time

September 24, 2020

New research finds that the subjective experience of time is linked to learning, thwarted expectations and neural fatigue.

Black holes of various sizes
black holes

Physicists Argue That Black Holes From the Big Bang Could Be the Dark Matter

September 23, 2020

It was an old idea of Stephen Hawking’s: Unseen “primordial” black holes might be the hidden dark matter. A new series of studies has shown how the theory can work.

Quantized Academy

The Simple Math Problem We Still Can’t Solve

September 22, 2020

Despite recent progress on the notorious Collatz conjecture, we still don’t know whether a number can escape its infinite loop.

Photo of students sitting at desks competing in the International Mathematical Olympiad
Abstractions blog

At the Math Olympiad, Computers Prepare to Go for the Gold

September 21, 2020

Computer scientists are trying to build an AI system that can win a gold medal at the world’s premier math competition.

water molecules, droplets and a wave
Abstractions blog

How Mathematical ‘Hocus-Pocus’ Saved Particle Physics

September 17, 2020

Renormalization has become perhaps the single most important advance in theoretical physics in 50 years.

Aerial image of a complicated road network.
Abstractions blog

A New Algorithm for Graph Crossings, Hiding in Plain Sight

September 15, 2020

Two computer scientists found — in the unlikeliest of places — just the idea they needed to make a big leap in graph theory.