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combinatorics

A Puzzle of Clever Connections Nears a Happy End

The three young friends who devised the “happy ending” problem would become some of the most influential mathematicians of the 20th century, but were never able to solve their own puzzle. Now it receives its first big breakthrough.

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cognitive science

The Thoughts of a Spiderweb

Spiders appear to offload cognitive tasks to their webs, making them one of a number of species with a mind that isn’t fully confined within the head.

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applied math

How to Quantify (and Fight) Gerrymandering

Powerful new quantitative tools are now available to combat partisan bias in the drawing of voting districts.

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statistics

A Long-Sought Proof, Found and Almost Lost

When a German retiree proved a famous long-standing mathematical conjecture, the response was underwhelming.

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astrophysics

A New Blast May Have Forged Cosmic Gold

For decades, researchers believed that violent supernovas forged gold and other heavy elements. But many now argue for a different cosmic quarry.

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evolution

Why Did Life Move to Land? For the View

The ancient creatures who first crawled onto land may have been lured by the informational benefit that comes from seeing through air.

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number theory

New Number Systems Seek Their Lost Primes

For centuries, mathematicians tried to solve problems by adding new values to the usual numbers. Now they’re investigating the unintended consequences of that tinkering.

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chronobiology

Researchers Tap a Sleep Switch in the Brain

Powerful new experiments have uncovered some of the molecular underpinnings of sleep.

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quantum mechanics

Experiment Reaffirms Quantum Weirdness

Physicists are closing the door on an intriguing loophole around the quantum phenomenon Einstein called “spooky action at a distance.”