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Abstractions blog

A house of cards propped up by a letter i, the unit of imaginary numbers.
quantum physics

Imaginary Numbers May Be Essential for Describing Reality

March 3, 2021

A new thought experiment indicates that quantum mechanics doesn’t work without strange numbers that turn negative when squared.

Photograph showing cirrus clouds in a blue sky above an expanse of flat, snow-covered ice.
Abstractions blog

Cloud-Making Aerosol Could Devastate Polar Sea Ice

February 23, 2021

An overlooked but powerful driver of cloud formation could accelerate the loss of polar sea ice.

Black holes on a blue swirly background.
Abstractions blog

Growing Inventory of Black Holes Offers a Radical Probe of the Cosmos

February 17, 2021

One black hole is nice, but astrophysicists can do a lot more science with 50 of them.

An abstract black ball on a blue background.
Abstractions blog

In Violation of Einstein, Black Holes Might Have ‘Hair’

February 11, 2021

A new study shows that extreme black holes could break the famous “no-hair” theorem, and in a way that we could detect.

Abstractions blog

Undergraduates Hunt for Special Tetrahedra That Fit Together

February 9, 2021

A group of MIT undergraduates is searching for tetrahedra that tile space, the latest effort in a millennia-long inquiry. They’ve already made a new discovery.

A drawing of a piece of folded paper going back and forth between paper airplane and paper bird shapes.
Abstractions blog

Some Proteins Change Their Folds to Perform Different Jobs

February 3, 2021

Unusual proteins that can quickly fold into different shapes provide cells with a novel regulatory mechanism.

Historical star chart of the constellation Monoceros.
Abstractions blog

‘Unicorn’ Discovery Points to a New Population of Black Holes

January 27, 2021

Small black holes were nowhere to be found, leading astronomers to wonder if they didn’t exist at all. Now a series of findings, including a “unicorn” black hole, has raised hopes of solving the decade-long mystery.

Close-up photograph of a soap bubble with a spot on it that looks as though it must have come from a collision.
Abstractions blog

Physicists Study How Universes Might Bubble Up and Collide

January 25, 2021

Since they can’t prod actual universes as they inflate and bump into each other in the hypothetical multiverse, physicists are studying digital and physical analogs of the process.

Abstractions blog

Secret Ingredient Found to Power Supernovas

January 21, 2021

Three-dimensional supernova simulations have solved the mystery of why they explode at all.