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Abstractions blog

The Strange Numbers That Birthed Modern Algebra

The 19th-century discovery of numbers called “quaternions” gave mathematicians a way to describe rotations in space, forever changing physics and math.

Rosaly Lopes above one of the lava lakes at Ambrym, an exceptionally active volcano in the Pacific island nation of Vanuatu.
Q&A

To Understand Volcanoes on Other Worlds, Stand On Our Own

Rosaly Lopes has visited dozens of active volcanoes on Earth and discovered even more elsewhere in the solar system. Her work is helping to establish whether volcanoes on distant moons could create conditions friendly to life.

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Quantized Columns

The End of Theoretical Physics As We Know It

Computer simulations and custom-built quantum analogues are changing what it means to search for the laws of nature.

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Abstractions blog

Black Hole Firewalls Could Be Too Tepid to Burn

String theorists elide a paradox about black holes by extinguishing the walls of fire feared to surround them.

Art for "Dark Energy May Be Incompatible With String Theory"
theoretical physics

Dark Energy May Be Incompatible With String Theory

A controversial new paper argues that universes with dark energy profiles like ours do not exist in the “landscape” of universes allowed by string theory.

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astrophysics

Star-Swallowing Black Holes Reveal Secrets in Exotic Light Shows

Black holes occasionally reveal themselves when passing stars get ripped apart by their gravity. These tidal disruption events have created a new way for astronomers to map the hidden cosmos.

quantum mechanics

Closed Loophole Confirms the Unreality of the Quantum World

A quickly closed loophole has proved that the “great smoky dragon” of quantum mechanics may forever elude capture.

Abstractions blog

How Artificial Intelligence Can Supercharge the Search for New Particles

In the hunt for new fundamental particles, physicists have always had to make assumptions about how the particles will behave. New machine learning algorithms don’t.

Photo of Cohl Furey
fundamental physics

The Peculiar Math That Could Underlie the Laws of Nature

New findings are fueling an old suspicion that fundamental particles and forces spring from strange eight-part numbers called “octonions.”