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Illustration for "Why Can’t We Find Planet Nine?"
Abstractions blog

Why Can’t We Find Planet Nine?

Astronomers suspect that there’s a large planet hiding out in the distant fringes of the solar system. At a recent workshop, they brainstormed ways to coax it into view.

Photo for "The Milky Way Once Collided With Another Galaxy"
Abstractions blog

The Young Milky Way Collided With a Dwarf Galaxy

Astronomers have found stars dating from a long-ago collision between the Milky Way and another galaxy. The crash helps to explain why the Milky Way looks the way it does.

Photo of Jupiter for "Mathematicians Tame Turbulence in Flattened Fluids"
fluid dynamics

Mathematicians Tame Turbulence in Flattened Fluids

By squeezing fluids into flat sheets, researchers can get a handle on the strange ways that turbulence feeds energy into a system instead of eating it away.

Illustration for "Real-Life Schrödinger’s Cats Probe the Boundary of the Quantum World"
quantum mechanics

Real-Life Schrödinger’s Cats Probe the Boundary of the Quantum World

Recent experiments have put relatively large objects into quantum states, illuminating the processes by which the ordinary world emerges out of the quantum one.

Illustration for "Brains May Teeter Near Their Tipping Point"

Brains May Teeter Near Their Tipping Point

In a renewed attempt at a grand unified theory of brain function, physicists now argue that brains optimize performance by staying near — though not exactly at — the critical point between two phases.

Illustration of a galaxy simulation.

The Universe Is Not a Simulation, but We Can Now Simulate It

Computer simulations have become so accurate that cosmologists can now use them to study dark matter, supermassive black holes and other mysteries of the real evolving cosmos.

Photo of Lisa Manning

The Physics of Glass Opens a Window Into Biology

The physicist Lisa Manning studies the dynamics of glassy materials to understand embryonic development and disease.

Photo of a diver between two tectonic plates in Silfra. reykjavik. Iceland

Why Earth’s Cracked Crust May Be Essential for Life

Life needs more than water alone. Recent discoveries suggest that plate tectonics has played a critical role in nourishing life on Earth. The findings carry major consequences for the search for life elsewhere in the universe.

Quantized Columns

There Are No Laws of Physics. There’s Only the Landscape.

Scientists seek a single description of reality. But modern physics allows for many different descriptions, many equivalent to one another, connected through a vast landscape of mathematical possibility.