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How Long Do We Have Before Arctic Ice Melts Away?

“Pull out your ice picks,” a scientist whispers in the inky twilight. We’re standing on 30 centimeters of ice — a thin veneer that separates us from the deadly Arctic Ocean below — and the ice is trembling. It emits a loud popping sound as a crack starts to spread tens of meters away. Unsure […]

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Computers Are Learning to See in Higher Dimensions

Computers can now drive cars, beat world champions at board games like chess and Go, and even write prose. The revolution in artificial intelligence stems in large part from the power of one particular kind of artificial neural network, whose design is inspired by the connected layers of neurons in the mammalian visual cortex. These […]

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Do LEDs Cause Orange Presidents?

Remember incandescent lights? They’ve largely been phased out because of their horrendously low efficiency—less than 5 percent. Incandescent bulbs are classified by how much electrical power they use, like 60 watts or 100 watts. But most of that power is turned into thermal energy, not light. Of course, if you’re trying to heat things up, […]

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Does Dark Energy Really Exist? Cosmologists Battle It Out

In their recent paper, Sarkar and collaborators took an unconventional approach to the analysis. Normally, any study of supernova data has to account for Earth’s movement: As Earth orbits the sun, which orbits the galaxy, which orbits the local group of galaxies, we and our telescopes hurtle through space at around 600 kilometers per second. […]

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How the Extreme Art of Dropping Stuff Could Upend Physics

Babies love it, and Galileo supposedly tried it: Drop some objects from on high, and see how fast they fall. According to Einstein’s theory of general relativity, all objects in Earth’s gravity, regardless of mass, should descend at the same rate in the absence of air resistance. But there are plenty of reasons to believe […]

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Mathematician Terence Tao Cracks a ‘Dangerous’ Problem

But legitimate proofs are rare. In the 1970s, mathematicians showed that almost all Collatz sequences—the list of numbers you get as you repeat the process—eventually reach a number that’s smaller than where you started—weak evidence, but evidence nonetheless, that almost all Collatz sequences incline toward 1. From 1994 until Tao’s result this year, Ivan Korec […]

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Revolt\! Scientists Say They’re Sick of Quantum Computing’s Hype

This spring, a mysterious figure calling themselves the Quantum Bullshit Detector strolled onto the Twitter scene. Posting anonymously, they began to comment on purported breakthroughs in quantum computing—claims that the technology will speed up artificial intelligence algorithms, manage financial risk in banks, and break all encryption. The account preferred to express its opinions in a […]

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