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Abstractions

Belt trick illustration
Abstractions blog

The Strange Numbers That Birthed Modern Algebra

The 19th-century discovery of numbers called “quaternions” gave mathematicians a way to describe rotations in space, forever changing physics and math.

Art for "Black Hole Firewalls Could Be Too Tepid to Burn"
Abstractions blog

Black Hole Firewalls Could Be Too Tepid to Burn

String theorists elide a paradox about black holes by extinguishing the walls of fire feared to surround them.

Abstractions blog

How Insulin Helped Create Ant Societies

Evolution may have coopted an ancient metabolic mechanism to set social insects on the path toward one of the most puzzling behaviors found in nature.

Photo of Escherichia coli under a microscope
Abstractions blog

Swarming Bacteria Create an ‘Impossible’ Superfluid

Researchers explore a loophole that extracts useful energy from a fluid’s seemingly random motion. The secret? Sugar and asymmetry.

Abstractions blog

How Artificial Intelligence Can Supercharge the Search for New Particles

In the hunt for new fundamental particles, physicists have always had to make assumptions about how the particles will behave. New machine learning algorithms don’t.

Abstractions blog

Why Nature Prefers Couples, Even for Yeast

Some species have the equivalent of many more than two sexes, but most do not. A new model suggests the reason depends on how often they mate.

Illustration for "Why Can’t We Find Planet Nine?"
Abstractions blog

Why Can’t We Find Planet Nine?

Astronomers suspect that there’s a large planet hiding out in the distant fringes of the solar system. At a recent workshop, they brainstormed ways to coax it into view.

Photo for "The Milky Way Once Collided With Another Galaxy"
Abstractions blog

The Young Milky Way Collided With a Dwarf Galaxy

Astronomers have found stars dating from a long-ago collision between the Milky Way and another galaxy. The crash helps to explain why the Milky Way looks the way it does.

Photo of inside the MiniBooNE tank
Abstractions blog

Evidence Found for a New Fundamental Particle

An experiment at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory near Chicago has detected far more electron neutrinos than predicted — a possible harbinger of a revolutionary new elementary particle called the sterile neutrino, though many physicists remain skeptical.