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Physics

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The New Historian of the Smash That Made the Himalayas

April 14, 2021

About 60 million years ago, India plowed into Eurasia and pushed up the Himalayas. But when Lucía Pérez-Díaz reconstructed the event in detail, she found that its central mystery depended on a broken geological clock.

Photo of radio telescopes at the Allen Telescope Array with a starry sky featuring the Milky Way in the background.
Quantized Columns

How Radio Astronomy Reveals the Universe

April 13, 2021

Radio waves, longer and less energetic than visible light, give astronomers access to some of the most obscure physics in the cosmos.

A sphere swirling with many small orbs around it.
particle physics

‘Last Hope’ Experiment Finds Evidence for Unknown Particles

April 7, 2021

Today’s long-anticipated announcement by Fermilab’s Muon g-2 team appears to solidify a tantalizing conflict between nature and theory. But a separate calculation, published at the same time, has clouded the picture.

planetary science

Iceland’s Eruptions Reveal the Hot History of Mars

April 6, 2021

The new volcanic fissures are more otherworldly than they first appear.

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Spheres representing black holes, with small ones on top, large ones on the bottom, and one midsize example in the middle.
astrophysics

Long-Missing Midsize Black Hole Flashes Into View

Black holes seemed to come only in sizes small and XXL. A new search strategy has uncovered a black hole of “intermediate” mass, raising hopes of more to come.

A mosaic of five microscope images of igneous rocks. The rocks are dappled with blue, pink, orange and multicolor inclusions.
geology

Scientists Pin Down When Earth’s Crust Cracked, Then Came to Life

March 25, 2021

New data indicating that Earth’s surface broke up about 3.2 billion years ago helps clarify how plate tectonics drove the evolution of complex life.

Orange hills (polaritons) against a black background. Below each hill, an arrow points to an angular position on a circle.
explainers

The Near-Magical Mystery of Quasiparticles

March 24, 2021

The zoo of spontaneously emerging particlelike entities known as quasiparticles has grown quickly and become more and more exotic. Here are a few of the most curious and potentially useful examples.

Graphic of swirling vortex-like patterns called skyrmions.
condensed matter physics

A New Twist Reveals Superconductivity’s Secrets

March 16, 2021

An unexpected superconductor was beginning to look like a fluke, but a new theory and a second discovery have revealed that emergent quasiparticles may be behind the effect.

An illustration of an airplane with its contrails coming out in front of it.
quantum gravity

Quantum Mischief Rewrites the Laws of Cause and Effect

March 11, 2021

Spurred on by quantum experiments that scramble the ordering of causes and their effects, some physicists are figuring out how to abandon causality altogether.