Charlie Wood

Contributing Writer

A DNA double helix being struck by a cosmic ray.
Abstractions blog

Cosmic Rays May Explain Life’s Bias for Right-Handed DNA

June 29, 2020

Cosmic rays may have given right-handed genetic helixes an evolutionary edge at the beginning of life’s history.

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.

Lines representing paths of particles fan out from a point and pass through a series of detectors.
Abstractions blog

Growing Anomalies at the Large Hadron Collider Raise Hopes

May 26, 2020

Collider physicists report that several measurements of particles called B mesons deviate from predictions. Alone, each oddity looks like a fluke, but their collective drift is more suggestive.

Three particles moving closer together then farther apart. The region between them appears in green.
Abstractions blog

What Goes On in a Proton? Quark Math Still Conflicts With Experiments.

May 6, 2020

Two ways of approximating the ultra-complicated math that governs quark particles have recently come into conflict, leaving physicists unsure what their decades-old theory predicts.

Abstractions blog

Why Do Matter Particles Come in Threes? A Physics Titan Weighs In.

March 30, 2020

Three progressively heavier copies of each type of matter particle exist, and no one knows why. A new paper by Steven Weinberg takes a stab at explaining the pattern.

A rogue wave and a sailboat.
fluid dynamics

The Grand Unified Theory of Rogue Waves

February 5, 2020

Rogue waves — enigmatic giants of the sea — were thought to be caused by two different mechanisms. But a new idea that borrows from the hinterlands of probability theory has the potential to predict them all.

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.

Video simulation of gas around a black hole.
astrophysics

Astronomers Find Black Holes Stirring Up the Biggest Galaxies

December 12, 2019

After a space telescope disintegrated, astrophysicists had little hope of understanding how supermassive black holes agitate giant galaxies. Then they invented a hack.

An overhead shot of an engineer working on a metal tank with pipes and cables coming out of it.
Abstractions blog

Top Dark Matter Candidate Loses Ground to Tiniest Competitor

November 27, 2019

Physicists have long searched for hypothesized dark matter particles called WIMPs. Now, focus may be shifting to the axion — an ultra-lightweight particle whose existence would solve two mysteries at once.

About the author

Charlie Wood is a journalist covering developments in the physical sciences both on and off the planet. His work has appeared in Scientific American, The Christian Science Monitor and LiveScience, among other publications. Previously, he taught physics and English in Mozambique and Japan, and he has a bachelor’s in physics from Brown University.