Category Archives: Physics

A tiny particle’s wobble could upend the known laws of physics

Dennis Overbye writes: Evidence is mounting that a tiny subatomic particle seems to be disobeying the known laws of physics, scientists announced on Wednesday, a finding that would open a vast and tantalizing hole in our understanding of the universe. The result, physicists say, suggests that there are forms of matter and energy vital to… Read More »

Physicists nail down the ‘magic number’ that shapes the universe

Natalie Wolchover writes: As fundamental constants go, the speed of light, c, enjoys all the fame, yet c’s numerical value says nothing about nature; it differs depending on whether it’s measured in meters per second or miles per hour. The fine-structure constant, by contrast, has no dimensions or units. It’s a pure number that shapes… Read More »

Physics and information theory give a glimpse of life’s origins

Natalie Elliot writes: How did life originate? Scientists have been studying the question for decades, and they’ve developed ingenious methods to try to find out. They’ve even enlisted biology’s most powerful theory, Darwinian evolution, in the search. But they still don’t have a complete answer. What they have hit is the world’s most theoretically fertile… Read More »

The hidden magnetic universe begins to come into view

Natalie Wolchover writes: Anytime astronomers figure out a new way of looking for magnetic fields in ever more remote regions of the cosmos, inexplicably, they find them. These force fields — the same entities that emanate from fridge magnets — surround Earth, the sun and all galaxies. Twenty years ago, astronomers started to detect magnetism… Read More »

Lunch with Freeman Dyson

Siobhan Roberts writes: Lunchtime in the cafeteria at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N.J. — sometimes called the Institute for Advanced Dining — is a heady scene, and Freeman Dyson, who died last week at 96, was a regular fixture, arriving with reading material tucked under his arm. One day about 10 years… Read More »

Do we live in a multiple universe?

David J. Eicher writes: Decades of astrophysical research beginning in the late 19th century established the universe as we see it, culminating with the Big Bang theory. We now know the universe is about 13.8 billion years old and at least 150 billion trillion miles across. But in recent years, astronomers have begun to address… Read More »

How far is it to the edge of the Universe?

Ethan Siegel writes: If you were to go as far out into space as you can imagine, what would you encounter? Would there be a limit to how far you could go, or could you travel a limitless distance? Would you eventually return to your starting point, or would you continue to traverse space that… Read More »

Quantum physics: Study suggests objective reality doesn’t exist

Gearoid Hayes/Flickr, CC BY-SA By Alessandro Fedrizzi, Heriot-Watt University and Massimiliano Proietti, Heriot-Watt University Alternative facts are spreading like a virus across society. Now it seems they have even infected science – at least the quantum realm. This may seem counter intuitive. The scientific method is after all founded on the reliable notions of observation,… Read More »

Is a new particle changing the fate of the universe?

Paul Sutter writes: Astronomers around the world are in a bit of a tizzy because they can’t seem to agree about how fast the universe is expanding. Ever since our universe emerged from an explosion of a tiny speck of infinite density and gravity, it has been ballooning, and not at a steady rate, either… Read More »

Materialism alone cannot explain the riddle of consciousness

Adam Frank writes: Materialism holds the high ground these days in debates over that most ultimate of scientific questions: the nature of consciousness. When tackling the problem of mind and brain, many prominent researchers advocate for a universe fully reducible to matter. ‘Of course you are nothing but the activity of your neurons,’ they proclaim.… Read More »

Can physicists rewrite the origin story of the universe?

Jess Romeo writes: During a 2015 conference on theoretical cosmology at Princeton University, Roger Penrose, a pioneer in the field of mathematical physics, was asked to speak on a panel about the origin of the universe. For decades, the leading theory had been that, during roughly the first trillionth of a trillionth of a nanosecond… Read More »