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optics

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.

Photo of a sign reading “To Telescope” near Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles.
Quantized Columns

Social Distancing From the Stars

August 11, 2020

Professional astronomers may not point their telescopes by hand anymore, but COVID-19 has still closed observatories and impeded research.

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.

insights puzzle

How to Design a Perpetual Energy Machine

April 1, 2020

This April, find the fatal flaws in two paradoxical claims — one about a perpetual source of energy and the other about whether you will ever see the solution to these puzzles.

Q&A

The Astronomer Who’d Rather Build Space Cameras

April 18, 2019

Jim Gunn shaped the theory of the evolution of the cosmos before building cameras and spectrographs for major observatories like the Hubble Space Telescope.

Illustration of a bunny hiding around a corner
algorithms

The New Science of Seeing Around Corners

August 30, 2018

Computer vision researchers have uncovered a world of visual signals hiding in our midst, including subtle motions that betray what’s being said and faint images of what’s around a corner.

Composite of numerous protoplanetary disc images taken by SPHERE
astronomy

Stellar Disks Reveal How Planets Get Made

May 21, 2018

Detailed images of disks swirling around young stars show the details of how solar systems come to be.

Andrea Ghez in Hawaii
Q&A

Black-Hole Hunter Takes Aim at Einstein

July 27, 2017

The astrophysicist Andrea Ghez spent two decades proving that a supermassive black hole anchors the center of the Milky Way galaxy. Her new plan? Test what happens when things get too close.

Physics

Physicists Close In on ‘Perfect’ Optical Lens

August 8, 2013

Researchers are making progress toward a “perfect lens” that will be able to resolve an organelle assembling a protein or a virus attacking a cell.