Category Archives: Physics

The remarkable emptiness of existence

Paul M Sutter writes: In 1654 a German scientist and politician named Otto von Guericke was supposed to be busy being the mayor of Magdeburg. But instead he was putting on a demonstration for lords of the Holy Roman Empire. With his newfangled invention, a vacuum pump, he sucked the air out of a copper… Read More »

Asymmetry detected in the distribution of galaxies

Katie McCormick writes: Physicists believe they have detected a striking asymmetry in the arrangements of galaxies in the sky. If confirmed, the finding would point to features of the unknown fundamental laws that operated during the Big Bang. “If this result is real, someone’s going to get a Nobel Prize,” said Marc Kamionkowski, a physicist at… Read More »

Why this universe is more likely than any other

Charlie Wood writes: Cosmologists have spent decades striving to understand why our universe is so stunningly vanilla. Not only is it smooth and flat as far as we can see, but it’s also expanding at an ever-so-slowly increasing pace, when naïve calculations suggest that — coming out of the Big Bang — space should have… Read More »

How I learned to stop worrying and love uncertainty

Paul M Sutter writes: Like most physicists, I spent much of my career ignoring the majority of quantum mechanics. I was taught the theory in graduate school and applied the mechanics here and there when an interesting problem required it … and that’s about it. Despite its fearsome reputation, the mathematics of quantum theory is… Read More »

Physicists rewrite a quantum rule that clashes with our universe

Charlie Wood writes: A jarring divide cleaves modern physics. On one side lies quantum theory, which portrays subatomic particles as probabilistic waves. On the other lies general relativity, Einstein’s theory that space and time can bend, causing gravity. For 90 years, physicists have sought a reconciliation, a more fundamental description of reality that encompasses both… Read More »

Chaos researchers can now predict perilous points of no return

Ben Brubaker writes: Predicting complex systems like the weather is famously difficult. But at least the weather’s governing equations don’t change from one day to the next. In contrast, certain complex systems can undergo “tipping point” transitions, suddenly changing their behavior dramatically and perhaps irreversibly, with little warning and potentially catastrophic consequences. On long enough… Read More »

Dark energy may come from giant cosmic voids

Paul Sutter writes: Gigantic deserts of almost complete nothingness that make up most of the universe may be causing the expansion of the universe to speed up, new research suggests. That means these vast tracts of nothingness could explain dark energy, the mysterious force that seems to be flinging the universe apart. Zoom all the… Read More »

How the physics of nothing underlies everything

Charlie Wood writes: Millennia ago, Aristotle asserted that nature abhors a vacuum, reasoning that objects would fly through truly empty space at impossible speeds. In 1277, the French bishop Etienne Tempier shot back, declaring that God could do anything, even create a vacuum. Then a mere scientist pulled it off. Otto von Guericke invented a… Read More »

The origins of the universe may be hidden in the voids of space

Paul M. Sutter writes: Beginning in the 1970s cosmologists started to uncover the structure of the universe writ large. They already knew that galaxies occasionally clump together into clusters, but over even larger distances, spanning 100 million light-years and more, they found superclusters. And in between those superclusters they saw something even more unexpected: vast… Read More »