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Fossil Discoveries Challenge Ideas About Earth’s Start

A series of fossil finds suggests that life on Earth started earlier than anyone thought, calling into question a widely held theory of the solar system’s beginnings.

Illustration for Extreme Radio Bursts

Astronomers Trace Radio Burst to Extreme Cosmic Neighborhood

A mysterious object that repeatedly bursts with ultra-powerful radio waves must live in an extreme environment — something like the one around a supermassive black hole.

520 Illustration for Quantum Gravity
Quantized Columns

Why an Old Theory of Everything Is Gaining New Life

For decades, physicists have struggled to create a quantum theory of gravity. Now an approach that dates to the 1970s is attracting newfound attention.

520px illustration of classification of phases
condensed matter physics

Physicists Aim to Classify All Possible Phases of Matter

A complete classification could lead to a wealth of new materials and technologies. But some exotic phases continue to resist understanding.

M theory and its six components
Abstractions blog

Why Is M-Theory the Leading Candidate for Theory of Everything?

The mother of all string theories passes a litmus test that, so far, no other candidate theory of quantum gravity has been able to match.

Electron-neutrino candidate in Super Kamiokande
Abstractions blog

Neutrinos Suggest Solution to Mystery of Universe’s Existence

Updated results from a Japanese neutrino experiment continue to reveal an inconsistency in the way that matter and antimatter behave.

Magellan Baade telescope and CMB illustration

Earliest Black Hole Gives Rare Glimpse of Ancient Universe

It weighs as much as 780 million suns and helped to cast off the cosmic Dark Ages. But now that astronomers have found the earliest known black hole, they wonder: How could this giant have grown so big, so fast?

Edward Witten in his office at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey.

A Physicist’s Physicist Ponders the Nature of Reality

Edward Witten reflects on the meaning of dualities in physics and math, emergent space-time, and the pursuit of a complete description of nature.

An artist’s conception of the Vela Supercluster peeking out from behind the Milky Way’s Zone of Avoidance.

Hidden Supercluster Could Solve Milky Way Mystery

Astronomers generally stay away from the “Zone of Avoidance.” When one astronomer didn’t, she found a giant cosmic structure that could help explain why our galaxy moves so fast.