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An abstract illustration showing broken tools, cubes, numbers and other abstract representations of impossible math
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When Math Gets Impossibly Hard

September 14, 2020

Mathematicians have long grappled with the reality that some problems just don’t have solutions.

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

Animated illustration of a hand emerging from a black hole, while drawing the black hole by connecting dots flashing 0 and 1.
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Spotting Quantum Black Holes in the Lab

July 15, 2020

Can we test speculations about how quantum physics affects black holes and the Big Bang?

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The Math of Social Distancing Is a Lesson in Geometry

July 13, 2020

How to safely reopen offices, schools and other public spaces while keeping people six feet apart comes down to a question mathematicians have been studying for centuries.

Illustration showing an austere number line on one side and various interesting objects on the the other, including a dodecahedron, an armillary sphere, flowers and plants.
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The Two Forms of Mathematical Beauty

June 16, 2020

Mathematicians typically appreciate either generic or exceptional beauty in their work, but one type is more useful in describing the universe.

Animated illustration of flashing, moving wavelengths and strobing lights surrounding a pair of eyes.
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Spreading the Word on a Possible Alzheimer’s Treatment

May 27, 2020

Neuroscientists could use brain waves to spur immune cells into action against the disease — but the process is almost too fantastic to believe.

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To Win This Numbers Game, Learn to Avoid Math Patterns

May 7, 2020

Sizing up patternless sets is hard, so mathematicians rely on simple bounds to help answer their questions.

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What Other Coronaviruses Tell Us About SARS-CoV-2

April 29, 2020

As COVID-19 cases continue to increase, our extensive knowledge of other coronaviruses informs our understanding.

Photo of Freeman Dyson standing in a meadow in front of a forest
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Remembering the Unstoppable Freeman Dyson

April 13, 2020

Freeman Dyson — physicist, mathematician, writer and idea factory — died on February 28, but his vitality lives on.

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A regular column in which top researchers explore the process of discovery.