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520 Illustration for Quantum Gravity
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Why an Old Theory of Everything Is Gaining New Life

For decades, physicists have struggled to create a quantum theory of gravity. Now an approach that dates to the 1970s is attracting newfound attention.

Illustration of pentagon tiling
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The (Math) Problem With Pentagons

Triangles fit effortlessly together, as do squares. When it comes to pentagons, what gives?

Traveling person with a luggage filled with bacteria
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What Bacteria Can Tell Us About Human Evolution

To discover our species’ deep history and to shape its future health, we should learn from the microbes that accompanied us on our evolutionary journey.

White stick figures incased in blue teardrops surround other stick figures on a blue background. They are surrounded by stick figures on a red background.
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The Unforgiving Math That Stops Epidemics

If you didn’t get a flu shot, you are endangering more than just your own health. Calculations of herd immunity against common diseases don’t make exceptions.

Gerrymandering illustration by Scott Martin for Quanta Magazine
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The Math Behind Gerrymandering and Wasted Votes

Simple math can help scheming politicians manipulate district maps and cruise to victory. But it can also help identify and fix the problem.

Neuron drawings by Santiago Ramón y Cajal
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Why the First Drawings of Neurons Were Defaced

Every exquisite drawing by Santiago Ramón y Cajal, the founder of modern neuroscience, is marred by a curious mark. Here is the little-known story behind it.

Emergent reductionism flower
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To Solve the Biggest Mystery in Physics, Join Two Kinds of Law

Reductionism breaks the world into elementary building blocks. Emergence finds the simple laws that arise out of complexity. These two complementary ways of viewing the universe come together in modern theories of quantum gravity.

fidget spinners
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Symmetry, Algebra and the Monster

To begin to understand what mathematicians and physicists see in the abstract structures of symmetries, let’s start with a familiar shape.

Maryam Mirzakhani
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The Beautiful Mathematical Explorations of Maryam Mirzakhani

After her untimely death, Maryam Mirzakhani’s life is best remembered through her work.