All Articles

An AI genie turning a home into a jungle.
artificial intelligence

Artificial Intelligence Will Do What We Ask. That’s a Problem.

January 30, 2020

By teaching machines to understand our true desires, one scientist hopes to avoid the potentially disastrous consequences of having them do what we command.

Illustration of interstellar objects entering our solar system
Quantized Columns

The Age of Interstellar Visitors

January 29, 2020

As astronomers get better at finding the comets and asteroids of other stars, they’ll learn more about the universe and our place in it.

Gif of a spinning sphere that has a dappled blue, green and red pattern.
Abstractions blog

How Ancient Light Reveals the Universe’s Contents

January 28, 2020

A photograph of the infant cosmos reveals the precise amounts of dark matter and dark energy in the universe, leaving precious little room for argument.

Spindly green star-shaped cells against a black background.
Abstractions blog

Glial Brain Cells, Long in Neurons’ Shadow, Reveal Hidden Powers

January 27, 2020

The glial cells of the nervous system have been eclipsed in importance by neurons for decades. But glia are turning out to be central to many neurological functions, including pain perception.

Micrograph of a section of brain organoid tissue.
neuroscience

An Ethical Future for Brain Organoids Takes Shape

January 23, 2020

Collaborations in progress between ethicists and biologists seek to head off challenges raised by lab-grown “organoids” as they become increasingly similar to human brain tissue.

Photo of Scarlett Howard, a researcher at the University of Toulouse, working with honeybees
Q&A

Secrets of Math From the Bee Whisperer

January 22, 2020

As Scarlett Howard taught honeybees to do arithmetic, they showed her how fundamental numbers might be to all brains.

Diagram showing blocks of different sizes colliding, along with different vectors
Abstractions blog

How Pi Connects Colliding Blocks to a Quantum Search Algorithm

January 21, 2020

A curious physicist has discovered an unexpected link between theoretical block collisions and a famed quantum search algorithm.

insights puzzle

Solution: ‘Natural Law and Elegant Math’

January 17, 2020

While mathematics gives us elegant explanations for many physical phenomena, real-world situations often require us to scramble through dense numerical thickets.

The Polarstern icebreaker in sea ice.
climate science

The Voyage to the End of Ice

January 16, 2020

Summer sea ice could vanish later this decade, with disastrous consequences. It all depends on the physics of ice.