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Abstractions blog

Looping video of chloroplasts moving within the walled cells of the pond plant Elodea.
Abstractions blog

Plant Cells of Different Species Can Swap Organelles

January 20, 2021

In grafted plants, shrunken chloroplasts can jump between species by slipping through unexpected gateways in cell walls.

A hollow, cylindrical skeleton formed from a lattice of glass strands shown against a black background.
Abstractions blog

The Curious Strength of a Sea Sponge’s Glass Skeleton

January 11, 2021

A glass sponge found deep in the Pacific shows a remarkable ability to withstand compression and bending, on top of the sponge’s other unusual properties.

The Milky Way galaxy shown in X-rays.
Abstractions blog

Galaxy-Size Bubbles Discovered Towering Over the Milky Way

January 6, 2021

For decades, astronomers debated whether a particular smudge was close-by and small, or distant and huge. A new X-ray map supports the massive option.

An animation showing chaotic swirls of purple coalesce into a single line
Abstractions blog

New Quantum Algorithms Finally Crack Nonlinear Equations

January 5, 2021

Two teams found different ways for quantum computers to process nonlinear systems by first disguising them as linear ones.

Abstractions blog

The Mystery of Mistletoe’s Missing Genes

December 21, 2020

Mistletoes have all but shut down the powerhouses of their cells. Scientists are still trying to understand the plants’ unorthodox survival strategy.

Abstractions blog

Astronomers Get Their Wish, and a Cosmic Crisis Gets Worse

December 17, 2020

We don’t know why the universe appears to be expanding faster than it should. New ultra-precise distance measurements have only intensified the problem.

Abstractions blog

How the Slowest Computer Programs Illuminate Math’s Fundamental Limits

December 10, 2020

The goal of the “busy beaver” game is to find the longest-running computer program. Its pursuit has surprising connections to some of the most profound questions and concepts in mathematics.

Illustration of a blue tiger.
Abstractions blog

How Neutral Theory Altered Ideas About Biodiversity

December 8, 2020

The simple insight that most changes are random had a profound effect on genetics, evolution and ecology.

Concentric rings of light seen through crosshairs of a Fabry-Pérot interferometer.
Abstractions blog

Physicists Nail Down the ‘Magic Number’ That Shapes the Universe

December 2, 2020

A team in Paris has made the most precise measurement yet of the fine-structure constant, killing hopes for a new force of nature.