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Photo illustration of Alessio Figalli
2018 Fields Medal and Nevanlinna Prize Winners

A Traveler Who Finds Stability in the Natural World

The mathematician Alessio Figalli is rarely in one place for very long. But his work has established the stability of everything from crystals to weather fronts by using concepts derived from Napoleonic fortifications.

Art for "Major Quantum Computing Advance Made Obsolete by Teenager"
quantum computing

Major Quantum Computing Advance Made Obsolete by Teenager

18-year-old Ewin Tang has proven that classical computers can solve the “recommendation problem” nearly as fast as quantum computers. The result eliminates one of the best examples of quantum speedup.

Art for "A Math Theory for Why People Hallucinate"
neuroscience

A Math Theory for Why People Hallucinate

Psychedelic drugs can trigger characteristic hallucinations, which have long been thought to hold clues about the brain’s circuitry. After nearly a century of study, a possible explanation is crystallizing.

Photo of Escherichia coli under a microscope
Abstractions blog

Swarming Bacteria Create an ‘Impossible’ Superfluid

Researchers explore a loophole that extracts useful energy from a fluid’s seemingly random motion. The secret? Sugar and asymmetry.

quantum mechanics

Closed Loophole Confirms the Unreality of the Quantum World

A quickly closed loophole has proved that the “great smoky dragon” of quantum mechanics may forever elude capture.

Illustration for "To Remember, the Brain Must Actively Forget"
neuroscience

To Remember, the Brain Must Actively Forget

Researchers find evidence that neural systems actively remove memories, suggesting that forgetting may be the default mode of the brain.

Abstractions blog

How Artificial Intelligence Can Supercharge the Search for New Particles

In the hunt for new fundamental particles, physicists have always had to make assumptions about how the particles will behave. New machine learning algorithms don’t.

Photo of Cohl Furey
fundamental physics

The Peculiar Math That Could Underlie the Laws of Nature

New findings are fueling an old suspicion that fundamental particles and forces spring from strange eight-part numbers called “octonions.”

Sau Lan Wu at CERN, 2018
Q&A

Three Major Physics Discoveries and Counting

Sau Lan Wu spent decades working to establish the Standard Model of particle physics. Now she’s searching for what lies beyond it.