What Would Happen if All the Antarctic Ice Melted?

Yes, there is indeed climate change. There’s no question that we (the humans) have been putting a whole bunch of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and this carbon dioxide is changing the climate. And things are looking pretty bad. Maybe seriously bad. So what would happen if the global temperature increased enough to melt the […]

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The Effort to Build the Mathematical Library of the Future

“Two years ago you would have had to [apply the associative property] yourself in Lean,” said Amelia Livingston, an undergraduate math major at Imperial College London who is learning Lean from Buzzard. “Then [someone] wrote a tactic that can do it all for you. Every time I use it, I get very happy.” Altogether, it […]

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Neutrino Detectors Could Be Used to Spot Nuclear Rogues

Being able to place a detector aboveground also helps if you want to convince a reactor facility to get onboard. “Most operators of nuclear reactors don’t respond too kindly to building a 6-meter hole in the ground,” says Huber. Proof that aboveground detectors could work came in 2018, when two projects—called Prospect and Chandler—on which […]

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At Last, Alchemy Arrives in a Burst of Light—From Lasers

In quantum mechanics, a particular property of a substance—electrical conductivity, say, or optical transparency or reflectivity—corresponds to the average or “expectation value” of an observable quantity. If you have the wave function of a substance and you know what kind of light pulse you’re using, you can predict the result—the expectation value—you’re going to get. […]

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Is Dark Matter Just Black Holes Made During the Big Bang?

Black holes are like sharks. Elegant, simple, scarier in the popular imagination than they deserve, and possibly lurking in deep, dark places all around us. Original story reprinted with permission from Quanta Magazine, an editorially independent publication of the Simons Foundation whose mission is to enhance public understanding of science by covering research develop­ments and […]

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To Make Fairer AI, Physicists Peer Inside Its Black Box

While their understanding of algorithm error is still in early stages, their ultimate goal is to help develop a clear and accurate way to communicate an algorithm’s margin of error, a new area of AI research called “uncertainty quantification.” “It’s this idea of rigorously understanding AI’s error bars,” says Nord. Tegmark is tackling AI inscrutability […]

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A New Tool Detects Counterfeit Whiskey—Without Wasting a Drop

There’s nothing quite like the pleasure of sipping a fine Scotch whiskey, for those whose tastes run to such indulgences. But how can you be sure that you’re paying for the real deal and not some cheap counterfeit? Good news: Physicists at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland have figured out how to test […]

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Mathematical ‘Hocus-Pocus’ Saved Particle Physics

In the 1940s, trailblazing physicists stumbled upon the next layer of reality. Particles were out, and fields—expansive, undulating entities that fill space like an ocean—were in. One ripple in a field would be an electron, another a photon, and interactions between them seemed to explain all electromagnetic events. Original story reprinted with permission from Quanta […]

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Mathematicians Open a New Front on an Ancient Number Problem

As a high school student in the mid-1990s, Pace Nielsen encountered a mathematical question that he’s still struggling with to this day. But he doesn’t feel bad: The problem that captivated him, called the odd perfect number conjecture, has been around for more than 2,000 years, making it one of the oldest unsolved problems in […]

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How to Calculate How Many Helium Balloons David Blaine Needed

Pretty much everyone loves balloons—especially younger children. Kids are slowly building up ideas about the way the universe works (through their observations), and they already know that when you let go of something, it falls. Oh, but the helium-filled balloon is a rule breaker. It goes UP. It just seems magical. Older people still have […]

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Mathematicians Report New Discovery About the Dodecahedron

Mathematicians have spent more than 2,000 years dissecting the structure of the five Platonic solids—the tetrahedron, cube, octahedron, icosahedron, and dodecahedron—but there’s still a lot we don’t know about them. Now a trio of mathematicians has resolved one of the most basic questions about the dodecahedron. Original story reprinted with permission from Quanta Magazine, an […]

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The FDA Just OK’d Emergency Use of Plasma for Covid-19

In a hastily-called press conference Sunday evening, President Donald Trump and the heads of the Food and Drug Administration and Department of Health and Human Services announced what the president had touted as a “breakthrough” in treating the pandemic disease Covid-19. That breakthrough turned out to be a change in the bureaucratic status of convalescent […]

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The FDA Just OK’d Emergency Use of Plasma for Covid-19

In a hastily-called press conference Sunday evening, President Donald Trump and the heads of the Food and Drug Administration and Department of Health and Human Services announced what the president had touted as a “breakthrough” in treating the pandemic disease Covid-19. That breakthrough turned out to be a change in the bureaucratic status of convalescent […]

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