Kevin Hartnett

Senior Writer

Illustration for "Mathematicians Explore Mirror Link Between Two Geometric Worlds"
geometry

Mathematicians Explore Mirror Link Between Two Geometric Worlds

Decades after physicists happened upon a stunning mathematical coincidence, researchers are getting close to understanding the link between two seemingly unrelated geometric universes.

520px photo of Robert Langlands
Abstractions blog

Robert Langlands, Mathematical Visionary, Wins the Abel Prize

Generations of researchers have pursued his “Langlands program,” which seeks to create a grand unified theory of mathematics.

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.

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.

520px photo of army ants forming a bridge
Abstractions blog

The Simple Algorithm That Ants Use to Build Bridges

Even with no one in charge, army ants work collectively to build bridges out of their bodies. New research reveals the simple rules that lead to such complex group behavior.

520px photo of smarticles
Computer Science

Smart Swarms Seek New Ways to Cooperate

New algorithms show how swarms of very simple robots can be made to work together as a group.

Photo of smoke
Abstractions blog

What Makes the Hardest Equations in Physics So Difficult?

The Navier-Stokes equations describe simple, everyday phenomena, like water flowing from a garden hose, yet they provide a million-dollar mathematical challenge.

520px photo of Richard Schwartz
Q&A

In Praise of Simple Problems

The mathematician Richard Schwartz finds the hidden depth lurking in simple mathematical puzzles.

Simulation of Kelvin-Helmholz Instability
fluid dynamics

Mathematicians Find Wrinkle in Famed Fluid Equations

Two mathematicians prove that under certain extreme conditions, the Navier-Stokes equations output nonsense.

About the author

Kevin Hartnett is a senior writer at Quanta Magazine covering mathematics and computer science. His work has been collected in the “Best Writing on Mathematics” series in 2013 and 2016. From 2013-2016 he wrote “Brainiac,” a weekly column for the Boston Globe‘s Ideas section.