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Physics

Art for "Quanta’s Year in Physics (2019)"
2019 in Review

The Year in Physics

December 23, 2019

Physicists saw a black hole for the first time, debated the expansion rate of the universe, pondered the origin of time and modeled the end of clouds.

Six looping videos of different types of snowflakes and snow crystals growing.
crystals

Toward a Grand Unified Theory of Snowflakes

December 19, 2019

Snow crystals come in two main types. The “pope” of snowflake physics has a new theory that explains why.

Animation of two rings of fluid approaching each other and colliding.
fluid dynamics

Famous Fluid Equations Spring a Leak

December 18, 2019

Researchers have spent centuries looking for a scenario in which the Euler fluid equations fail. Now a mathematician has finally found one.

Supernova in galaxy NGC 5584.
Abstractions blog

No Dark Energy? No Chance, Cosmologists Contend

December 17, 2019

A study challenged the evidence for the mysterious antigravitational force known as dark energy. Then cosmologists shot back.

Video simulation of gas around a black hole.
astrophysics

Astronomers Find Black Holes Stirring Up the Biggest Galaxies

December 12, 2019

After a space telescope disintegrated, astrophysicists had little hope of understanding how supermassive black holes agitate giant galaxies. Then they invented a hack.

A domino, a two of clubs, and a clock face.
Abstractions blog

Why the Laws of Physics Are Inevitable

December 9, 2019

By considering simple symmetries, physicists working on the “bootstrap” can rediscover the basic form of the known forces that shape the universe.

Animation of a black hole rotating.
Abstractions blog

Black Hole Singularities Are as Inescapable as Expected

December 2, 2019

For the first time, physicists have calculated exactly what kind of singularity lies at the center of a realistic black hole.

An overhead shot of an engineer working on a metal tank with pipes and cables coming out of it.
Abstractions blog

Top Dark Matter Candidate Loses Ground to Tiniest Competitor

November 27, 2019

Physicists have long searched for hypothesized dark matter particles called WIMPs. Now, focus may be shifting to the axion — an ultra-lightweight particle whose existence would solve two mysteries at once.

insights puzzle

Solution: ‘Randomness From Determinism’

November 22, 2019

Readers’ modifications of a bean machine showed how deterministic laws are capable of producing random-seeming behavior.