Category Archives: Physics

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 »

A bizarre form of water may exist all over the universe

Joshua Sokol writes: Recently at the Laboratory for Laser Energetics in Brighton, New York, one of the world’s most powerful lasers blasted a droplet of water, creating a shock wave that raised the water’s pressure to millions of atmospheres and its temperature to thousands of degrees. X-rays that beamed through the droplet in the same… Read More »

The interplay that brings together order and disorder

Alan Lightman writes: Planets, stars, life, even the direction of time all depend on disorder. And we human beings as well. Especially if, along with disorder, we group together such concepts as randomness, novelty, spontaneity, free will and unpredictability. We might put all of these ideas in the same psychic basket. Within the oppositional category… Read More »

A quantum experiment suggests there’s no such thing as objective reality

MIT Technology Review reports: Back in 1961, the Nobel Prize–winning physicist Eugene Wigner outlined a thought experiment that demonstrated one of the lesser-known paradoxes of quantum mechanics. The experiment shows how the strange nature of the universe allows two observers—say, Wigner and Wigner’s friend—to experience different realities. Since then, physicists have used the “Wigner’s Friend”… Read More »

Inside the struggle to define life

Ian Sample writes: All the brain cells of life on Earth still cannot explain life on Earth. Its most intelligent species has uncovered the building blocks of matter, read countless genomes and watched spacetime quiver as black holes collide. It understands much of how living creatures work, but not how they came to be. There… Read More »

Emergence: How complex wholes arise from simple parts

John Rennie writes: You could spend a lifetime studying an individual water molecule and never deduce the precise hardness or slipperiness of ice. Watch a lone ant under a microscope for as long as you like, and you still couldn’t predict that thousands of them might collaboratively build bridges with their bodies to span gaps.… Read More »

The crisis inside the physics of time

Marcia Bartusiak writes: Poets often think of time as a river, a free-flowing stream that carries us from the radiant morning of birth to the golden twilight of old age. It is the span that separates the delicate bud of spring from the lush flower of summer. Physicists think of time in somewhat more practical… Read More »