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Physics

Illustration: life as a computation efficiently storing & using predictive info
information theory

How Life (and Death) Spring From Disorder

Life was long thought to obey its own set of rules. But as simple systems show signs of lifelike behavior, scientists are arguing about whether this apparent complexity is all a consequence of thermodynamics.

Photo of raindrops on a window by Philip Kraaijenbrink
Abstractions blog

Droplets That ‘Come to Life’

Life might have originated in droplets that behave surprisingly like living cells.

Illustration: Dividing Droplets
biophysics

Dividing Droplets Could Explain Life’s Origin

Researchers have discovered that simple “chemically active” droplets grow to the size of cells and spontaneously divide, suggesting they might have evolved into the first living cells.

Abstractions blog

On the Moon’s Far Side, Clues to a Cataclysm?

A mission to collect samples from the far side of the moon could answer questions about a barrage of asteroids nearly 4 billion years ago.

Earth scientists hope that their growing knowledge of the planet’s early history will shed light on poorly understood features seen today, from continents to geysers.
geophysics

Explorers Find Passage to Earth’s Dark Age

Geochemical signals from deep inside Earth are beginning to shed light on the planet’s first 50 million years, a formative period long viewed as inaccessible to science.

Elena Aprile in her lab at Columbia University.
Q&A

In the Deep, a Drive to Find Dark Matter

Elena Aprile now leads the world’s most sensitive dark-matter search. But before she could build her first detector, she had to make herself out of titanium.

particle physics

Grand Unification Dream Kept at Bay

Physicists have failed to find disintegrating protons, throwing into limbo the beloved theory that the forces of nature were unified at the beginning of time.

Janet Conrad by Kayana Szymczak
Q&A

On a Hunt for a Ghost of a Particle

Janet Conrad has a plan to catch the sterile neutrino — an elusive particle, possibly glimpsed by a number of experiments, that would upend what we know about the subatomic world.

Warped time. Olena Shmahalo/Quanta Magazine
Abstractions blog

Quantum Gravity’s Time Problem

The effort to unify quantum mechanics and general relativity means reconciling totally different notions of time.