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physics

A computer simulation of two galaxies colliding.
astrophysics

The New History of the Milky Way

December 15, 2020

Over the past two years, astronomers have rewritten the story of our galaxy.

A stylized atom surrounded by concentric shells of increasingly complex organisms.
quantum physics

A New Theorem Maps Out the Limits of Quantum Physics

December 3, 2020

The result highlights a fundamental tension: Either the rules of quantum mechanics don’t always apply, or at least one basic assumption about reality must be wrong.

Concentric rings of light seen through crosshairs of a Fabry-Pérot interferometer.
Abstractions blog

Physicists Nail Down the ‘Magic Number’ That Shapes the Universe

December 2, 2020

A team in Paris has made the most precise measurement yet of the fine-structure constant, killing hopes for a new force of nature.

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?

Infographic showing the ranges of possible masses of WIMPs, axions, ultralight dark matter, sub-GeV dark matter and primordial black holes, which are five different candidates for dark matter.
Abstractions blog

The Search for Dark Matter Is Dramatically Expanding

November 23, 2020

Physicists plan to leave no stone unturned, checking whether dark matter tickles different types of detectors, nudges starlight, warms planetary cores or even lodges in rocks.

Graphical model of a cubic earth.
geophysics

Scientists Uncover the Universal Geometry of Geology

November 19, 2020

An exercise in pure mathematics has led to a wide-ranging theory of how the world comes together.

Illustration of a particle
Hidden Structure

What Is a Particle?

November 12, 2020

It has been thought of as many things: a pointlike object, an excitation of a field, a speck of pure math that has cut into reality. But never has physicists’ conception of a particle changed more than it is changing now.

A pink beam at the center of a metallic experimental apparatus.
Abstractions blog

Physicists Pin Down Nuclear Reaction From Moments After the Big Bang

November 11, 2020

The newly-measured rate of a key nuclear fusion process from the Big Bang matches the picture of the universe 380,000 years later.

Cora Dvorkin in front of a starry backdrop.
Hidden Structure

The Cosmologist Who Dreams in the Universe’s Dark Threads

November 5, 2020

Cora Dvorkin discovered new possibilities for what dark matter could be. Now she’s devising unorthodox ways to identify it.