What's up in


Illustration of three flat sheets, connoting a flat universe, and three balls, connoting a closed universe.
Abstractions blog

What Shape Is the Universe? A New Study Suggests We’ve Got It All Wrong

November 4, 2019

Most every cosmologist believes the universe is flat. A new analysis argues that it’s closed.

An interactive illustration of shapes hiding clocks.

Cosmic Triangles Open a Window to the Origin of Time

October 29, 2019

A close look at fundamental symmetries has exposed hidden patterns in the universe. Physicists think that those same symmetries may also reveal time’s original secret.

Illustration of a magnetar with blue magnetic field lines.
Abstractions blog

The Most-Magnetic Objects in the Universe Attract New Controversy

October 28, 2019

How do magnetars get so magnetic? A study of stellar explosions shows that the long-accepted theory might be wrong.

Abstractions blog

How the Neutrino’s Tiny Mass Could Help Solve Big Mysteries

October 15, 2019

The KATRIN experiment is closing in on the mass of the neutrino, which could point to new laws of particle physics and shape theories of cosmology.

insights puzzle

How Randomness Can Arise From Determinism

October 14, 2019

Playing with a simple bean machine illustrates how deterministic laws can produce probabilistic, random-seeming behavior.

Photo of lithium batteries
Abstractions blog

Nobel Awarded for Lithium-Ion Batteries and Portable Power

October 9, 2019

John Goodenough, M. Stanley Whittingham and Akira Yoshino shared the 2019 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for developing lithium-ion batteries, “the hidden workhorses of the mobile era.”

An illustration of a planet in front of a star.
Abstractions blog

Physics Nobel Honors Early Universe and Exoplanet Discoveries

October 8, 2019

The astronomers Michel Mayor and Didier Queloz won half of the prize for their 1995 discovery of a Jupiter-like planet orbiting a nearby star. The cosmologist James Peebles won the other half for work exploring the structure of the universe.

A sandy beach at low tide dotted with ancient tree stumps.

Artificial Intelligence Takes On Earthquake Prediction

September 19, 2019

After successfully predicting laboratory earthquakes, a team of geophysicists has applied a machine learning algorithm to quakes in the Pacific Northwest.

Thumbnail: stylized illustration of a supernova

Long-Lived Stellar Blast Kindles Hope of a Supernova We’ve Never Seen Before

September 12, 2019

A giant star’s death throes may offer the first evidence of a pair-instability supernova, and a glimpse of the first stars in the universe.