## How Two Nobel Laureates Spotted the First Exoplanet

The 2019 Nobel Prize for Physics was awarded yesterday in part to Michel Mayor and Didier Queloz for an amazing discovery they made back in 1995: the first detection of a planet orbiting a far-away star similar to our sun. Before that, the only planets on the map were the eight in our own solar […]

## The Style Maven Astrophysicists of Silicon Valley

Chris Moody knows a thing or two about the universe. As an astrophysicist, he built galaxy simulations, using supercomputers to model the way the universe expands and how galaxies crash into one another. One night, not long after he’d finished his PhD at UC Santa Cruz, he met up with a few other astrophysicists for […]

## Why I Coined the Term ‘Quantum Supremacy’

A recent paper from Google’s quantum computing lab announced that the company had achieved quantum supremacy. Everyone has been talking about it, but what does it all mean? In 2012, I proposed the term “quantum supremacy” to describe the point where quantum computers can do things that classical computers can’t, regardless of whether those tasks […]

## If Each of Us Planted a Tree, Would It Slow Global Warming?

That works out to 53,000 kilograms per tree. But how much of that is carbon? Trees are made of many different elements, like hydrogen and nitrogen, but let’s say it’s about half carbon. At least that’s an estimate that agrees with Wikipedia. So the mass of carbon would be 0.5 times the mass of the […]

## Want to Find the Best Parking Spot? Do the Math

The next time you’re hunting for a parking spot, mathematics could help you identify the most efficient strategy, according to a recent paper in the Journal of Statistical Mechanics. It’s basically an optimization problem: weighing different variables and crunching the numbers to find the optimal combination of those factors. In the case of where to […]

## Whoa! Is That Death Star Wreckage on That Planet?

What if we use something easier—like the moon? I listed the size and mass of the moon in the code above. If you change the values to those of the moon, you still get an impact velocity of more than 2,000 meters per second (4,474 mph). Still no good. Kind of a Drag Wait, what […]

On September 7, two mathematicians posted a proof of a version of one of the most famous open problems in mathematics. The result opens a new front in the study of the “twin primes conjecture,” which has bedeviled mathematicians for more than a century and has implications for some of the deepest features of arithmetic. […]

## Even Huge Molecules Follow the Quantum World’s Bizarre Rules

Magnify a speck of dirt a thousand times, and suddenly it no longer seems to play by the same rules. Its outline, for example, won’t look well-defined most of the time and will resemble a diffuse, sprawling cloud. That’s the bizarre realm of quantum mechanics. “In some books, you’ll find they say a particle is […]

## AI Helps Seismologists Predict Earthquakes

In May of last year, after a 13-month slumber, the ground beneath Washington’s Puget Sound rumbled to life. The quake began more than 20 miles below the Olympic mountains and, over the course of a few weeks, drifted northwest, reaching Canada’s Vancouver Island. It then briefly reversed course, migrating back across the US border before […]

## What to Expect From a Pooch on a Paddleboard

Illustration: Rhett Allain As you can see, each of these objects has three forces acting on it—two vertical forces and one horizontal force. The vertical forces aren’t that important here. For the dog, there is its downward weight (Wd) and the upward “normal” force from the board. Same for the board-plus-human. (Technically, the upward force […]

## Sean Carroll Thinks We All Exist on Multiple Worlds

In the sixties, the physicist Richard Feynman wrote, “I think I can safely say that nobody understands quantum mechanics.” Today, the situation hasn’t changed. Sure, physicists use quantum mechanics. They used the theory to anticipate the existence of new particles like the Higgs boson, and now they’re harnessing its rules to build technologies like quantum […]

## Unusual Fluids Flip, Twirl, and Redefine How Liquids Work

When not confined to a container, liquids will splatter, dribble, and ooze. They shape-shift into their surroundings as puddles and streams, largely beyond human control. Lauren Zarzar is trying to make more obedient liquids. Zarzar, a materials scientist at Pennsylvania State University, designs liquids that she can tame—fluids that move or change shape on command. […]

## Are We All Wrong About Black Holes?

Now grab a thermodynamics textbook, locate the laws, and see if you can find true statements when you replace the thermodynamic terms with black hole variables. In many cases you can, and the analogy improves. Hawking then discovers Hawking radiation, which further improves the analogy. At that point, most physicists start claiming the analogy is […]

## Is It OK to Change Hurricane Forecasts With a Sharpie Doodle?

No. Why is this even a question? You can’t just go and alter the predictions of a model because you expected something different. I’m talking, of course, about that famously doctored map of Hurricane Dorian’s projected path. The chart, dated August 29, included a white “uncertainty cone” around the storm’s anticipated path, which someone later […]

## How to Rip a Crazy Skateboard Loop With Physics

Why study physics, you ask? Scroll down, friend. This video of a guy rolling through a 360-degree vertical loop at a skatepark—cool as ice, with no helmet—is answer enough. Clearly, his understanding of acceleration for an object in circular motion enabled him to calculate the precise speed required, for a pipe of this diameter, to […]

## This Huge Electric Dump Truck Never Needs to Plug In

There’s an electric dump truck that’s all over the internet right now: It’s called the eDumper. What’s so great about an electric dump truck? Beyond being electric, there are two cool things about it. First, it’s huge—HUGE. It has a weight of 45 tons. Second, it doesn’t need an external power source to charge the […]

## Scientists Watch Atoms Fall to See Earth’s Changing Structure

Of the four fundamental forces, gravity is the most familiar—seemingly unchanging, ubiquitous, and maybe even a little boring. We first meet gravity while dropping our first toys, and later get to know it from the thrill of a rollercoaster and the scabs on our knees. As the years go by, it keeps our feet on […]

## Humans and Neanderthals Kept Breeding—and Breeding—for Ages

Humans today are mosaics, our genomes rich tapestries of interwoven ancestries. With every fossil discovered, with every DNA analysis performed, the story gets more complex: We, the sole survivors of the genus Homo, harbor genetic fragments from other closely related but long-extinct lineages. Modern humans are the products of a sprawling history of shifts and […]

## You’re Racing Toward a Wall. Should You Brake Hard—or Swerve?

I know it was a long time ago, but there was this interesting discussion about stopping a car on an episode of Car Talk. Should you just brake as hard as possible or should you brake and weave back and forth? The idea is that by weaving back and forth you increase your total distance […]