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materials science

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

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.

Graphic of swirling vortex-like patterns called skyrmions.
condensed matter physics

A New Twist Reveals Superconductivity’s Secrets

March 16, 2021

An unexpected superconductor was beginning to look like a fluke, but a new theory and a second discovery have revealed that emergent quasiparticles may be behind the effect.

Video artwork showing yellow blobs move, merge, split, shrink and enlarge inside a clear cube.
molecular biology

A Newfound Source of Cellular Order in the Chemistry of Life

January 7, 2021

Inside cells, droplets of biomolecules called condensates merge, divide and dissolve. Their dance may regulate vital processes.

Illustration showing orange building blocks outside a doorway that opens onto blue towers made up of similar building blocks.
Quantized Columns

Contemplating the End of Physics

November 24, 2020

Has physics reached the limits of what we can discover — or are the possibilities only just beginning?

Illustration of gold unicorn
optical physics

Alchemy Arrives in a Burst of Light

September 30, 2020

Researchers have shown how to effectively transform one material into another using a finely shaped laser pulse.

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.

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.”

Photo of a complicated knot.
Abstractions blog

Color-Changing Material Unites the Math and Physics of Knots

February 10, 2020

Mathematicians have studied knots for centuries, but a new material is showing why some knots are better than others.