Science### How Math Can Help Unravel the Weird Interactions of Microbes

On January 26, 2018 by Sally

Over the past century, scientists have become adept at plotting the ecological interactions of the diverse organisms that populate the planet’s forests, plains and seas. They have established powerful mathematical techniques to describe systems ranging from the carbon cycles driven by plants to the predator-prey dynamics that dictate the behavior of lions and gazelles. Understanding Read More

Science### Why an Old Theory of Everything Is Gaining New Life

On January 14, 2018 by Sally

Twenty-five particles and four forces. That description—the Standard Model of particle physics—constitutes physicists’ best current explanation for everything. It’s neat and it’s simple, but no one is entirely happy with it. What irritates physicists most is that one of the forces—gravity—sticks out like a sore thumb on a four-fingered hand. Gravity is different. Quanta Magazine Read More

Science### Astronomers Trace Fast Radio Burst to Extreme Cosmic Neighborhood

On January 12, 2018 by Sally

On Christmas Eve 2016, Andrew Seymour, an astronomer at the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico, kissed his 4-year-old daughter, Cora Lee, goodnight, telling her he was off to track Santa. He walked to the well-worn telescope, occasionally passing revelers riding horses through the empty streets—a common sight in Arecibo during the holidays. Sometimes a lonely Read More

Science### Mathematicians Second-Guess Centuries-Old Fluid Equations

On January 8, 2018 by Sally

The Navier-Stokes equations capture in a few succinct terms one of the most ubiquitous features of the physical world: the flow of fluids. The equations, which date to the 1820s, are today used to model everything from ocean currents to turbulence in the wake of an airplane to the flow of blood in the heart. Read More

Science### Why Symmetry Continues to Beguile Mathematicians

On January 4, 2018 by Sally

You could forgive mathematicians for being drawn to the monster group, an algebraic object so enormous and mysterious that it took them nearly a decade to prove it exists. Now, 30 years later, string theorists—physicists studying how all fundamental forces and particles might be explained by tiny strings vibrating in hidden dimensions—are looking to connect Read More

Science### The Math Behind Gerrymandering and Wasted Votes

On January 2, 2018 by Sally

Imagine fighting a war on 10 battlefields. You and your opponent each have 200 soldiers, and your aim is to win as many battles as possible. How would you deploy your troops? If you spread them out evenly, sending 20 to each battlefield, your opponent could concentrate their own troops and easily win a majority Read More

Science### Dive into the Mind-Boggling Math of Tessellating Pentagons

On December 27, 2017 by Sally

Children’s blocks lie scattered on the floor. You start playing with them—squares, rectangles, triangles and hexagons—moving them around, flipping them over, seeing how they fit together. You feel a primal satisfaction from arranging these shapes into a perfect pattern, an experience you’ve probably enjoyed many times. But of all the blocks designed to lie flat Read More

Science### Edward Witten, a Physicist’s Physicist, Ponders the Nature of Reality

On December 23, 2017 by Sally

Among the brilliant theorists cloistered in the quiet woodside campus of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, Edward Witten stands out as a kind of high priest. The sole physicist ever to win the Fields Medal, mathematics’ premier prize, Witten is also known for discovering M-theory, the leading candidate for a unified Read More

Science### Light-Triggered Genes Reveal the Hidden Workings of Memory

On December 21, 2017 by Sally

Susumu Tonegawa’s presence announces itself as soon as you walk through the door of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Picower Institute for Learning and Memory. A three-foot-high framed photograph of Tonegawa stands front and center in the high-ceilinged lobby, flanked by a screen playing a looping rainbow-hued clip of recent research highlights. Quanta Magazine About Read More

Science### Secret Link Uncovered Between Pure Math and Physics

On December 17, 2017 by Sally

Mathematics is full of weird number systems that most people have never heard of and would have trouble even conceptualizing. But rational numbers are familiar. They’re the counting numbers and the fractions—all the numbers you’ve known since elementary school. But in mathematics, the simplest things are often the hardest to understand. They’re simple like a Read More

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