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history of science

Photo of radio telescopes at the Allen Telescope Array with a starry sky featuring the Milky Way in the background.
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How Radio Astronomy Reveals the Universe

April 13, 2021

Radio waves, longer and less energetic than visible light, give astronomers access to some of the most obscure physics in the cosmos.

Illustration showing a human figure sitting on a large straw, gazing at different topological figures.
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Topology 101: The Hole Truth

January 26, 2021

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

Photo of Darden sitting on her couch and smiling

The NASA Engineer Who’s a Mathematician at Heart

January 19, 2021

Christine Darden worked at NASA for 40 years, helping make supersonic planes quieter and forging a path for women to follow in her footsteps.

Black and white photo of Claude Shannon in front of a computer
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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.

Illustration of a black goat with a red leash, grazing at the intersection of two circles

After Centuries, a Seemingly Simple Math Problem Gets an Exact Solution

December 9, 2020

Mathematicians have long pondered the reach of a grazing goat tied to a fence, only finding approximate answers until now.

Black and white historical photo of eight men in front of a building, including Henri Cartan, André Weil and Szolem Mandelbrojt.
Abstractions blog

Inside the Secret Math Society Known Simply as Nicolas Bourbaki

November 9, 2020

For almost a century, the anonymous members of Nicolas Bourbaki have written books intended as pure expressions of mathematical thought.

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.

An abstract illustration showing broken tools, cubes, numbers and other abstract representations of impossible math
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When Math Gets Impossibly Hard

September 14, 2020

Mathematicians have long grappled with the reality that some problems just don’t have solutions.

A comically long “missing persons” poster for an odd perfect number that shows all the restrictions it has to satisfy.
number theory

Mathematicians Open a New Front on an Ancient Number Problem

September 10, 2020

For millennia, mathematicians have wondered whether odd perfect numbers exist, establishing an extraordinary list of restrictions for the hypothetical objects in the process. Insight on this question could come from studying the next best things.