Natalie Wolchover

Senior Writer/Editor

Image of LIGO’s mirror.
Abstractions blog

To Make the Perfect Mirror, Physicists Confront the Mystery of Glass

April 2, 2020

Sometimes a mirror that reflects 99.9999% of light isn’t good enough.

Swirling video.
Abstractions blog

Axions Would Solve Another Major Problem in Physics

March 17, 2020

In a new paper, physicists argue that hypothetical particles called axions could explain why the universe isn’t empty.

A close-up of fossilized amber.
materials science

Ideal Glass Would Explain Why Glass Exists at All

March 11, 2020

Glass is anything that’s rigid like a crystal, yet made of disordered molecules like a liquid. To understand why it exists, researchers are attempting to create the perfect, still-hypothetical “ideal glass.”

Antares photograph.
Abstractions blog

New Wrinkle Added to Cosmology’s Hubble Crisis

February 26, 2020

A problem confronts cosmology: Two independent measurements of the universe’s expansion give incompatible answers. Now a third method, advanced by an astronomy pioneer, appears to bridge the divide.

An AI genie turning a home into a jungle.
artificial intelligence

Artificial Intelligence Will Do What We Ask. That’s a Problem.

January 30, 2020

By teaching machines to understand our true desires, one scientist hopes to avoid the potentially disastrous consequences of having them do what we command.

Supernova in galaxy NGC 5584.
Abstractions blog

No Dark Energy? No Chance, Cosmologists Contend

December 17, 2019

A study challenged the evidence for the mysterious antigravitational force known as dark energy. Then cosmologists shot back.

A domino, a two of clubs, and a clock face.
Abstractions blog

Why the Laws of Physics Are Inevitable

December 9, 2019

By considering simple symmetries, physicists working on the “bootstrap” can rediscover the basic form of the known forces that shape the universe.

Neutrinos and matrices
mathematical physics

Neutrinos Lead to Unexpected Discovery in Basic Math

November 13, 2019

Three physicists stumbled across an unexpected relationship between some of the most ubiquitous objects in math.

Illustration of three flat sheets, connoting a flat universe, and three balls, connoting a closed universe.
Abstractions blog

What Shape Is the Universe? A New Study Suggests We’ve Got It All Wrong

November 4, 2019

Most every cosmologist believes the universe is flat. A new analysis argues that it’s closed.