Category Archives: Physics

We need quantum physics to see

Frank Wilczek writes: Many people, when they encounter the words “quantum mechanics,” go on the alert for esoteric paradoxes. And there are certainly plenty of those on offer. But sometimes, as my brilliant friend the physicist Sidney Coleman put it in a famous lecture at Harvard, quantum physics is “in your face.” To hear, we… Read More »

Time is not an illusion

Sara Walker and Lee Cronin write: A timeless universe is hard to imagine, but not because time is a technically complex or philosophically elusive concept. There is a more structural reason: imagining timelessness requires time to pass. Even when you try to imagine its absence, you sense it moving as your thoughts shift, your heart… Read More »

The tiny physics behind immense cosmic eruptions

Zack Savitsky writes: During fleeting fits, the sun occasionally hurls a colossal amount of energy into space. Called solar flares, these eruptions last for mere minutes, and they can trigger catastrophic blackouts and dazzling auroras on Earth. But our leading mathematical theories of how these flares work fail to predict the strength and speed of… Read More »

It’s time to take quantum biology research seriously

Clarice Aiello writes: Imagine healing an injury by applying a tailored magnetic field to a wound. This outcome might sound fantastical, but researchers have shown that cell proliferation and wound healing, among other important biological functions, can be controlled by magnetic fields with strengths on the order of those produced by cell phones. This kind… Read More »

Monist philosophy and quantum physics agree that all is one

Heinrich Päs writes: ‘From all things One and from One all things,’ wrote the Greek philosopher Heraclitus some 2,500 years ago. He was describing monism, the ancient idea that all is one – that, fundamentally, everything we see or experience is an aspect of one unified whole. Heraclitus wasn’t the first, nor the last, to… Read More »

Reality has no ultimate building blocks

Tuomas Tahko writes: Philosophers and scientists alike often talk about “fundamentality” or the “fundamental level”. We might say that, fundamentally, everything is made of waves or that quantum field theory is as close to a fundamental theory as we currently have. More colloquially, we might say that ultimately everything is made of the fundamental “building… Read More »

‘QBism’: quantum mechanics is not a description of objective reality – it reveals a world of genuine free will

In a cubist painting, reality is more than a single perspective can capture. wikipedia, CC BY-SA By Ruediger Schack, Royal Holloway University of London What does quantum mechanics, the most successful theory ever proposed by physics, teach us about reality? The starting point for most philosophers of physics is that quantum mechanics must somehow provide… Read More »

Are world happiness rankings culturally biased?

Emiliana R. Simon-Thomas writes: Every year, the World Happiness Report ranks 146 countries around the globe by their average level of happiness. Scandinavian countries usually top the list, the U.S. falls someplace in the mid-teens, and war-torn and deeply impoverished countries are at the bottom. The happiness scores come from a survey of life satisfaction,… Read More »

The multiverse: Our universe is suspiciously unlikely to exist – unless it is one of many

Do universes pop up as bubbles from a multiverse? arda savasciogullari/Shutterstock By Martin Rees, University of Cambridge It’s easy to envisage other universes, governed by slightly different laws of physics, in which no intelligent life, nor indeed any kind of organised complex systems, could arise. Should we therefore be surprised that a universe exists in… Read More »

Neutron stars: A form of matter like no other

Katia Moskvitch writes: On Aug. 6, 1967, Jocelyn Bell was looking at the squiggles drawn by a red pen on moving rolls of chart paper—the data from a radio telescope she was using to do her Ph.D. research on distant galaxies. She noticed one squiggle that looked odd. It was a “a bit of scruff,”… Read More »

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 »