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Liz MacDonald holding a banner printed with the STEVE aurora.

The Scientist Leading the World’s Aurora Hunters

July 9, 2020

Liz MacDonald realized that if she wanted to create the world’s best aurora map, she needed a secret ingredient: Twitter.

A glass object being shaped by a blowtorch.]
Abstractions blog

Why Is Glass Rigid? Signs of Its Secret Structure Emerge.

July 7, 2020

At the molecular level, glass looks like a liquid. But an artificial neural network has picked up on hidden structure in its molecules that may explain why glass is rigid like a solid.

Magnetic fields in the universe.

The Hidden Magnetic Universe Begins to Come Into View

July 2, 2020

Astronomers are discovering that magnetic fields permeate much of the cosmos. If these fields date back to the Big Bang, they could solve a major cosmological mystery.

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.

Katie Mack portrait.

This Cosmologist Knows How It’s All Going to End

The astrophysicist and social media phenom Katie Mack is ready to tell you about the fate of the universe.

The XENON1T detector’s time projection chamber.
Abstractions blog

Dark Matter Experiment Finds Unexplained Signal

June 17, 2020

Researchers say there are three possible explanations for the anomalous data. One is mundane. Two would revolutionize physics.

Illustration showing an austere number line on one side and various interesting objects on the the other, including a dodecahedron, an armillary sphere, flowers and plants.
Quantized Columns

The Two Forms of Mathematical Beauty

June 16, 2020

Mathematicians typically appreciate either generic or exceptional beauty in their work, but one type is more useful in describing the universe.

A falling apple.
Abstractions blog

Why Gravity Is Not Like the Other Forces

June 15, 2020

We asked four physicists why gravity stands out among the forces of nature. We got four different answers.

A magnetar.

A Surprise Discovery Points to the Source of Fast Radio Bursts

June 11, 2020

After a burst lit up their telescope “like a Christmas tree,” astronomers were able to finally track down the source of these cosmic oddities.