Joshua Sokol

Contributing Correspondent

Composite of numerous protoplanetary disc images taken by SPHERE
astronomy

Stellar Disks Reveal How Planets Get Made

May 21, 2018

Detailed images of disks swirling around young stars show the details of how solar systems come to be.

Photo of the cosmos by the multi-lensed Dragonfly telescope
Abstractions blog

A Victory for Dark Matter in a Galaxy Without Any

March 28, 2018

Paradoxically, a small galaxy that seems to contain none of the invisible stuff known as “dark matter” may help prove that it exists.

Lede art for "Why Self-Taught Artificial Intelligence Has Trouble With the Real World"
artificial intelligence

Why Artificial Intelligence Like AlphaZero Has Trouble With the Real World

February 21, 2018

The latest artificial intelligence systems start from zero knowledge of a game and grow to world-beating in a matter of hours. But researchers are struggling to apply these systems beyond the arcade.

Photo of Corina Tarnita 520px
Q&A

A Mathematician Who Decodes the Patterns Stamped Out by Life

December 20, 2017

Corina Tarnita deciphers bizarre patterns in the soil created by competing life-forms.

Magellan Baade telescope and CMB illustration
astrophysics

Earliest Black Hole Gives Rare Glimpse of Ancient Universe

December 6, 2017

It weighs as much as 780 million suns and helped to cast off the cosmic Dark Ages. But now that astronomers have found the earliest known black hole, they wonder: How could this giant have grown so big, so fast?

astrophysics

Squishy or Solid? A Neutron Star’s Insides Open to Debate

October 30, 2017

The core of a neutron star is such an extreme environment that physicists can’t agree on what happens inside. But a new space-based experiment — and a few more colliding neutron stars — should reveal whether neutrons themselves break down.

Abstractions blog

For Astronomers, Neutron Star Merger Could Eclipse Eclipse

August 25, 2017

Even as the solar eclipse was mesmerizing millions, astronomers were training their space- and land-based telescopes on a far more violent astrophysical event.

Andrea Ghez in Hawaii
Q&A

Black-Hole Hunter Takes Aim at Einstein

July 27, 2017

The astrophysicist Andrea Ghez spent two decades proving that a supermassive black hole anchors the center of the Milky Way galaxy. Her new plan? Test what happens when things get too close.

Jessica Flack
Q&A

How Nature Solves Problems Through Computation

July 6, 2017

The evolutionary biologist Jessica Flack seeks the computational rules that groups of organisms use to solve problems.