What's up in

physics

An illustration of a chaotic scene of spheres representing quarks and gluons.
Abstractions blog

Physicists Finally Nail the Proton’s Size, and Hope Dies

September 11, 2019

A new measurement appears to have eliminated an anomaly that had captivated physicists for nearly a decade.

An illustration of a pink hand reaching for quantum dice.
Quantized Columns

Where Quantum Probability Comes From

September 9, 2019

There are many different ways to think about probability. Quantum mechanics embodies them all.

Craig Callender holding a paddleboard at the beach.
Q&A

Are We All Wrong About Black Holes?

September 5, 2019

Since the 1970s, physicists have described black holes using borrowed versions of the laws of thermodynamics. But are black holes really thermodynamic systems? Craig Callender worries that the analogy has been stretched too far.

A view of nanoparticles in a crystalline pattern.
Abstractions blog

Strange Metal-like Bonds Discovered in Customized Crystals

September 3, 2019

While studying materials made from DNA-coated nanoparticles, researchers found a new form of this matter: lattices in which smaller particles roam like electrons in metallic bonds.

An illustration of an extra-large black hole.
Abstractions blog

Possible Detection of a Black Hole So Big It ‘Should Not Exist’

August 28, 2019

At stake are fundamental ideas about how black holes form — and a six-way bet.

Nelson, wearing hiking gear, smiles at the camera at the top of a rocky outcrop.
Quantized Columns

Ann Nelson Took On the Biggest Problems in Physics

August 22, 2019

The theoretical particle physicist Ann Nelson, who died on August 4 at age 61, was a font of brilliant ideas and a champion of ending discrimination in the field.

An illustration of a sunset beach scene turned into a puzzle.
insights puzzle

The Puzzling Search for Perfect Randomness

August 20, 2019

Does objective, perfect randomness exist, or is randomness merely a product of our ignorance?

Illustration of three black holes on a starry background
Abstractions blog

To Make Two Black Holes Collide, Try Three

August 15, 2019

How do black holes merge and make gravitational waves? Maybe with a little help from their friends.

An illustration of the cosmologists Wendy Freedman and Adam Riess debating the expansion rate of the universe at a recent meeting at the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics in Santa Barbara, California.
cosmology

Cosmologists Debate How Fast the Universe Is Expanding

August 8, 2019

New measurements could upend the standard theory of the cosmos that has reigned since the discovery of dark energy 21 years ago.