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Portrait of Mathematician Prof. Günter M. Ziegler

In Search of God’s Perfect Proofs

The mathematicians Günter Ziegler and Martin Aigner have spent the past 20 years collecting some of the most beautiful proofs in mathematics.

Photo of Stephen Hawking in 1979 in Princeton, New Jersey.
Abstractions blog

Why Stephen Hawking’s Black Hole Puzzle Keeps Puzzling

The renowned British physicist, who died at 76, left behind a riddle that could eventually lead his successors to the theory of quantum gravity.

Photograph of Albert Einstein in his office at the University of Berlin, published in the USA in 1920.
Abstractions blog

How Einstein Lost His Bearings, and With Them, General Relativity

By 1913, Albert Einstein had nearly completed general relativity. But a simple mistake set him on a tortured, two-year reconsideration of his theory. Today, mathematicians still grapple with the issues he confronted.

520px illustration for bioelectric signaling
developmental biology

Brainless Embryos Suggest Bioelectricity Guides Growth

Researchers are building a case that long before the nervous system works, the brain sends crucial bioelectric signals to guide the growth of embryonic tissues.

Illustration of a bowl of dark energy on a weighing scale
Abstractions blog

Why the Tiny Weight of Empty Space Is Such a Huge Mystery

The amount of energy infusing empty space seems too small to explain without a multiverse. But physicists have at least one alternative left to explore.

Animated illustration of a black hole in a cube of jelly
mathematical physics

To Test Einstein’s Equations, Poke a Black Hole

Two teams of researchers have made significant progress toward proving the black hole stability conjecture, a critical mathematical test of Einstein’s theory of general relativity.

Illustration of life evolving to use oxygen

Oxygen and Stem Cells May Have Reshaped Early Complex Animals

An unlikely team offers a controversial hypothesis about what enabled animal life to get more complex during the Cambrian explosion.

An illustration of gravity as particles

Physicists Find a Way to See the ‘Grin’ of Quantum Gravity

A recently proposed experiment would confirm that gravity is a quantum force.

Lede photo of a giant virus under a microscope
Abstractions blog

New Giant Viruses Further Blur the Definition of Life

A newfound pair of giant viruses have massive genomes and the most complete resources for building proteins ever seen in the viral world. They have refreshed the debate about the origins of these cellular parasites.