What's up in

explainers

An illustration of a demon’s face.
explainers

How Maxwell’s Demon Continues to Startle Scientists

April 22, 2021

The thorny thought experiment has been turned into a real experiment — one that physicists use to probe the physics of information.

A graphic showing that changing any of the digits of 505, 447 turns it into a composite number
prime numbers

Mathematicians Find a New Class of Digitally Delicate Primes

March 30, 2021

Despite finding no specific examples, researchers have proved the existence of a pervasive kind of prime number so delicate that changing any of its infinite digits renders it composite.

Orange hills (polaritons) against a black background. Below each hill, an arrow points to an angular position on a circle.
explainers

The Near-Magical Mystery of Quasiparticles

March 24, 2021

The zoo of spontaneously emerging particlelike entities known as quasiparticles has grown quickly and become more and more exotic. Here are a few of the most curious and potentially useful examples.

A graphic showing improvements in the speed of matrix multiplication
algorithms

Matrix Multiplication Inches Closer to Mythic Goal

March 23, 2021

A recent paper set the fastest record for multiplying two matrices. But it also marks the end of the line for a method researchers have relied on for decades to make improvements.

Quantized Columns

How to Understand COVID-19 Variants and Their Effects on Vaccines

February 25, 2021

Researchers are tracking the different strains of SARS-CoV-2 and studying how they spread through our population and our bodies.

Illustration showing a human figure sitting on a large straw, gazing at different topological figures.
Quantized Columns

Topology 101: The Hole Truth

January 26, 2021

The relationships among the properties of flexible shapes have fascinated mathematicians for centuries.

Black and white photo of Claude Shannon in front of a computer
Quantized Columns

How Claude Shannon Invented the Future

December 22, 2020

Today’s information age is only possible thanks to the groundbreaking work of a lone genius.

A visualization of the tower formed by the 3-adic numbers
Abstractions blog

An Infinite Universe of Number Systems

October 19, 2020

The p-adics form an infinite collection of number systems based on prime numbers. They’re at the heart of modern number theory.

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.