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A type of symmetry so unusual that it was called a “pariah” turns out to have deep connections to number theory.

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.

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

The pot-stirring string theorist and quantum gravity theorist never sits still for long.

Daily bike rides, serendipitous interactions and long periods of solo thinking inspire this string cosmologist.

One of the world’s preeminent theoretical physicists seeks a quiet place to think.

Recent calculations tie together two conjectures about gravity, potentially revealing new truths about its elusive quantum nature.

In order to fully understand the quantum world, we may have to develop a new realm of mathematics.

String theory has so far failed to live up to its promise as a way to unite gravity and quantum mechanics. At the same time, it has blossomed into one of the most useful sets of tools in science.