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condensed matter physics

water molecules, droplets and a wave
Abstractions blog

How Mathematical ‘Hocus-Pocus’ Saved Particle Physics

September 17, 2020

Renormalization has become perhaps the single most important advance in theoretical physics in 50 years.

materials science

The Shape-Shifting Squeeze Coolers

August 24, 2020

Push or crush a new class of materials, and they’ll undergo record-breaking temperature changes.

A glass object being shaped by a blowtorch.]
Abstractions blog

Why Is Glass Rigid? Signs of Its Secret Structure Emerge.

July 7, 2020

At the molecular level, glass looks like a liquid. But an artificial neural network has picked up on hidden structure in its molecules that may explain why glass is rigid like a solid.

Gif of a grid of arrows whose directions flip up and down.
Abstractions blog

The Cartoon Picture of Magnets That Has Transformed Science

June 24, 2020

One hundred years after it was proposed, the Ising model is used to understand everything from magnets to brains.

A quantum knot.
Abstractions blog

‘Milestone’ Evidence for Anyons, a Third Kingdom of Particles

May 12, 2020

Anyons don’t fit into either of the two known particle kingdoms. To find them, physicists had to erase the third dimension.

Image of LIGO’s mirror.
Abstractions blog

To Make the Perfect Mirror, Physicists Confront the Mystery of Glass

April 2, 2020

Sometimes a mirror that reflects 99.9999% of light isn’t good enough.

A close-up of fossilized amber.
materials science

Ideal Glass Would Explain Why Glass Exists at All

March 11, 2020

Glass is anything that’s rigid like a crystal, yet made of disordered molecules like a liquid. To understand why it exists, researchers are attempting to create the perfect, still-hypothetical “ideal glass.”

Q&A

The Man Making Rwanda Into a Hub for Physics

March 3, 2020

As the founding director of a new institute for fundamental research in Rwanda, the physicist Omololu Akin-Ojo hopes to stem the brain drain of Africa’s brightest minds.

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.