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Abstractions blog

Mathematicians Calculate How Randomness Creeps In

November 12, 2019

Mathematicians have figured out exactly how many moves it takes to randomize a 15 puzzle.

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.

A Tsimané man plays an instrument resembling a violin.
Abstractions blog

Perceptions of Musical Octaves Are Learned, Not Wired in the Brain

October 30, 2019

Singing experiments with residents of the Bolivian rainforest demonstrate how biology and experience shape the way we hear music.

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.

Photos of Google’s quantum computer system on the left, IMB’s supercomputer Summit on the right.
Abstractions blog

Google and IBM Clash Over Milestone Quantum Computing Experiment

October 23, 2019

Today Google announced that it achieved “quantum supremacy.” Its chief quantum computing rival, IBM, said it hasn’t. The disagreement hinges on what the term really means.

Photo of a yellow sunflower against a yellow background.
Abstractions blog

Mathematicians Begin to Tame Wild ‘Sunflower’ Problem

October 21, 2019

A major advance toward solving the 60-year-old sunflower conjecture is shedding light on how order begins to appear as random systems grow in size.

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.

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.