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materials science

mathematical physics

A Child’s Puzzle Has Helped Unlock the Secrets of Magnetism

People have known about magnets since ancient times, but the physics of ferromagnetism remains a mystery. Now a familiar puzzle is getting physicists closer to the answer.

In Theory

How Complex Wholes Emerge From Simple Parts

Throughout nature, throngs of relatively simple elements can self-organize into behaviors that seem unexpectedly complex. Scientists are beginning to understand why and how these phenomena emerge without a central organizing entity.

Photo of Lisa Manning

The Physics of Glass Opens a Window Into Biology

The physicist Lisa Manning studies the dynamics of glassy materials to understand embryonic development and disease.


‘Digital Alchemist’ Seeks Rules of Emergence

Computational physicist Sharon Glotzer is uncovering the rules by which complex collective phenomena emerge from simple building blocks.

condensed matter physics

Paradoxical Crystal Baffles Physicists

At super-low temperatures, a crystal called samarium hexaboride behaves in an unexplained, imagination-stretching way.


Solid or Liquid? Physicists Redefine States of Matter

Glass and other strange materials have long confounded textbook definitions of what it means to be solid. Now, two groups of physicists propose a new solution to the riddle.