Quanta Magazine

Quanta Magazine Read and discuss the latest news and trends in mathematics, physics, computer science and life science research. At Quanta Magazine, scientific accuracy is every bit as important as telling a good story.

Since Quanta is a nonprofit foundation-funded publication, all of its resources go toward producing responsible, freely accessible journalism that is meticulously researched, reported, edited, copy-edited and fact-checked. And our editorial independence ensures the impartiality of our science coverage — our articles do not reflect or represent the views of the Simons Foundation. All editorial decisions, including which research or researchers to cover, are made by Quanta’s staff reporting to the editor in chief; editorial content is not reviewed by anyone outside of the news team prior to publication; Quanta has no involvement in any of the Simons Foundation’s grant-giving or research efforts; and researchers who receive funding from the foundation do not receive preferential treatment. The decision to cover a particular researcher or research result is made solely on editorial grounds in service of our readers.

Since Quanta is a nonprofit foundation-funded publication, all of its resources go toward producing responsible, freely accessible journalism that is meticulously researched, reported, edited, copy-edited and fact-checked. And our editorial independence ensures the impartiality of our science coverage — our articles do not reflect or represent the views of the Simons Foundation. All editorial decisions, including which research or researchers to cover, are made by Quanta’s staff reporting to the editor in chief; editorial content is not reviewed by anyone outside of the news team prior to publication; Quanta has no involvement in any of the Simons Foundation’s grant-giving or research efforts; and researchers who receive funding from the foundation do not receive preferential treatment. The decision to cover a particular researcher or research result is made solely on editorial grounds in service of our readers.

Operating as usual

Earthquakes should happen only near the Earth’s surface, but seismologists have detected tremors from far deeper. Compon...
06/04/2021
The Hunt for Earth’s Deep Hidden Oceans | Quanta Magazine

Earthquakes should happen only near the Earth’s surface, but seismologists have detected tremors from far deeper. Components of water trapped inside diamonds could be the reason why, Sid Perkins reports for Science Magazine.
https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2021/06/giant-diamonds-may-hold-key-superdeep-earthquakes

Diamonds provide a unique window into our planet’s opaque depths. Tiny gems containing water’s fundamental ingredients hint that tectonic slabs unexpectedly hold entire oceans’ worth of H2O, Marcus Woo reported for Quanta in 2018.
https://www.quantamagazine.org/the-hunt-for-earths-deep-hidden-oceans-20180711/

A couple hundred pebble-size diamonds, plucked from Brazilian mud, sit inside a safe at Northwestern University. To some, they might be worthless. “They’re battered,” said Steve Jacobsen, a mineralogist at Northwestern. “They look like they’ve been through a washing machine.” Many are da...

The “Oh-My-God” particle observed in 1991 is the most energetic cosmic ray ever detected,  going something like 99.99999...
06/04/2021
Cosmic Map of Ultrahigh-Energy Particles Points to Long-Hidden Treasures | Quanta Magazine

The “Oh-My-God” particle observed in 1991 is the most energetic cosmic ray ever detected, going something like 99.99999999999999999999951% of the speed of light. Researchers are narrowing down cosmic events that can accelerate particles to Oh-My-God levels. https://www.quantamagazine.org/high-energy-cosmic-ray-sources-mapped-out-for-the-first-time-20210427/

Ultrahigh-energy cosmic rays twist and turn on their way to Earth, which has made it nearly impossible to identify the colossal monsters that create them.

Geochemical processes seen in deep marine sediments have unveiled a new perspective on how life survives without the sun...
06/04/2021

Geochemical processes seen in deep marine sediments have unveiled a new perspective on how life survives without the sun or hydrothermal vents. https://www.quantamagazine.org/radioactivity-may-fuel-life-deep-underground-and-inside-other-worlds-20210524/

Geochemical processes seen in deep marine sediments have unveiled a new perspective on how life survives without the sun or hydrothermal vents. https://www.quantamagazine.org/radioactivity-may-fuel-life-deep-underground-and-inside-other-worlds-20210524/

NASA blasted baby squids (among other creatures) into space today to better understand how weightlessness affects a part...
06/03/2021
New Squid Genome Shines Light on Symbiotic Evolution | Quanta Magazine

NASA blasted baby squids (among other creatures) into space today to better understand how weightlessness affects a partnership between the cephalopods and helpful bacteria, the BBC reports.
https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-57339989

The bacteria in bobtail squids are so essential to the animal’s survival that it has evolved an organ just for them. Laura Poppick reported for Quanta in 2019 on how this model symbiosis evolved.
https://www.quantamagazine.org/new-squid-genome-shines-light-on-symbiotic-evolution-20190219/

Researchers hope that the genes of a glowing squid can illuminate how animals evolved organs for beneficial bacteria.

NASA blasted baby squids (among other creatures) into space today to better understand how weightlessness affects a part...
06/03/2021
New Squid Genome Shines Light on Symbiotic Evolution | Quanta Magazine

NASA blasted baby squids (among other creatures) into space today to better understand how weightlessness affects a partnership between the cephalopods and helpful bacteria, the BBC reports.
https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-57339989

The bacteria in bobtail squids are so essential to the animal’s survival that it has evolved an organ just for them. Laura Poppick reported for Quanta in 2019 on how this model symbiosis evolved.
https://www.quantamagazine.org/new-squid-genome-shines-light-on-symbiotic-evolution-20190219/

Researchers hope that the genes of a glowing squid can illuminate how animals evolved organs for beneficial bacteria.

Two classes of models named MAD and SANE postulate the origin of the enormous beams of energy that shoot out of black ho...
06/03/2021

Two classes of models named MAD and SANE postulate the origin of the enormous beams of energy that shoot out of black holes. The latest data from the Event Horizon Telescope clearly favors MAD. https://www.quantamagazine.org/physicists-identify-the-engine-powering-black-hole-energy-beams-20210520/

Two classes of models named MAD and SANE postulate the origin of the enormous beams of energy that shoot out of black holes. The latest data from the Event Horizon Telescope clearly favors MAD. https://www.quantamagazine.org/physicists-identify-the-engine-powering-black-hole-energy-beams-20210520/

Astronomers have tracked a handful of intense radio bursts back to the spiral arms of galaxies — a hint that their sourc...
06/02/2021
A Surprise Discovery Points to the Source of Fast Radio Bursts

Astronomers have tracked a handful of intense radio bursts back to the spiral arms of galaxies — a hint that their sources are not extremely old, Lisa Grossman reports for Science News.
https://www.sciencenews.org/article/fast-radio-bursts-spiral-arms-galaxies

The find is consistent with the growing consensus that the mysterious bursts come from magnetized neutron stars, such as the one that fired off a flash in our cosmic backyard last year, as Shannon Hall reported for Quanta at the time.
https://www.quantamagazine.org/a-surprise-discovery-shows-magnetars-create-fast-radio-bursts-20200611/

The fast radio burst was tracked back to a magnetar — an extremely dense stellar fossil that generates tremendous magnetic fields.

From 2020: New understanding of how “giant viruses” replicate inside their hosts reinforces some researchers’ hunch that...
06/02/2021

From 2020: New understanding of how “giant viruses” replicate inside their hosts reinforces some researchers’ hunch that viruses gave eukaryotic cells their nucleus. https://www.quantamagazine.org/did-viruses-create-the-nucleus-the-answer-may-be-near-20201125/

From 2020: New understanding of how “giant viruses” replicate inside their hosts reinforces some researchers’ hunch that viruses gave eukaryotic cells their nucleus. https://www.quantamagazine.org/did-viruses-create-the-nucleus-the-answer-may-be-near-20201125/

Glycans, the complex sugars that stud cellular surfaces, are the world’s most abundant organic material. Researchers are...
06/01/2021

Glycans, the complex sugars that stud cellular surfaces, are the world’s most abundant organic material. Researchers are only beginning to understand glycans’ importance in illnesses including certain cancers, COVID-19 and schizophrenia. https://www.quantamagazine.org/researchers-read-the-sugary-language-on-cell-surfaces-20210503/

Glycans, the complex sugars that stud cellular surfaces, are the world’s most abundant organic material. Researchers are only beginning to understand glycans’ importance in illnesses including certain cancers, COVID-19 and schizophrenia. https://www.quantamagazine.org/researchers-read-the-sugary-language-on-cell-surfaces-20210503/

In corals, researchers have found a record of the longest known earthquake in history — a “slow slip” that rumbled benea...
06/01/2021
Artificial Intelligence Takes On Earthquake Prediction | Quanta Magazine

In corals, researchers have found a record of the longest known earthquake in history — a “slow slip” that rumbled beneath Sumatra for more than three decades before unleashing a damaging mega-quake, Maaya Wei-Haas reports for National Geographic.
https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/article/an-earthquake-lasted-32-years-and-scientists-want-to-know-how

Earthquakes generally strike without warning, but geophysicists have found that slow-slip quakes are common enough that machine-learning algorithms can predict them to a degree, Ashley Smart reported for Quanta in 2019.
https://www.quantamagazine.org/artificial-intelligence-takes-on-earthquake-prediction-20190919/

Remnants of a 2,000-year-old spruce forest on Neskowin Beach, Oregon — one of dozens of “ghost forests” along the Oregon and Washington coast. It’s thought that a mega-earthquake of the Cascadia subduction zone felled the trees, and that the stumps were then buried by tsunami debris.

The roots of unity are the solutions to polynomials where a variable raised to a power is set equal to 1, such as x⁵ = 1...
06/01/2021

The roots of unity are the solutions to polynomials where a variable raised to a power is set equal to 1, such as x⁵ = 1 or x⁸ = 1. If you plot them on the complex plane, the points all lie on a circle of radius 1. https://www.quantamagazine.org/mathematicians-find-polynomial-building-blocks-hilbert-sought-20210525/

The roots of unity are the solutions to polynomials where a variable raised to a power is set equal to 1, such as x⁵ = 1 or x⁸ = 1. If you plot them on the complex plane, the points all lie on a circle of radius 1. https://www.quantamagazine.org/mathematicians-find-polynomial-building-blocks-hilbert-sought-20210525/

In mathematics, a hole can be described as a closed and hollow space. How do you count the holes inside a ten-dimensiona...
06/01/2021
How Mathematicians Use Homology to Make Sense of Topology | Quanta Magazine

In mathematics, a hole can be described as a closed and hollow space. How do you count the holes inside a ten-dimensional object? Computers and mathematicians alike use homology to answer questions like this. Here’s how it works: https://www.quantamagazine.org/how-mathematicians-use-homology-to-make-sense-of-topology-20210511/

Originally devised as a rigorous means of counting holes, homology provides a scaffolding for mathematical ideas, allowing for a new way to analyze the shapes within data.

6174, a number known as Kaprekar’s constant, was discovered in 1946 by the Indian mathematician D.R. Kaprekar with simpl...
05/30/2021
How a Simple Math Puzzle Can Guide Discovery | Quanta Magazine

6174, a number known as Kaprekar’s constant, was discovered in 1946 by the Indian mathematician D.R. Kaprekar with simple pen-and-paper arithmetic. Kaprekar described himself as being “drunk on numbers.” See how it works in the solution to our April puzzle: https://www.quantamagazine.org/how-a-simple-math-puzzle-can-guide-discovery-20210528/

Playing with numbers can lead to deep mathematical and scientific insights.

Estimates suggest that the realm beneath Earth’s surface holds on the order of 10³⁰ cells, making it one of the biggest ...
05/29/2021

Estimates suggest that the realm beneath Earth’s surface holds on the order of 10³⁰ cells, making it one of the biggest and oldest habitats on the planet. But kilometers below the reach of sunlight and far from sources of geothermal energy, what can life possibly use to fuel itself? https://www.quantamagazine.org/radioactivity-may-fuel-life-deep-underground-and-inside-other-worlds-20210524/

Estimates suggest that the realm beneath Earth’s surface holds on the order of 10³⁰ cells, making it one of the biggest and oldest habitats on the planet. But kilometers below the reach of sunlight and far from sources of geothermal energy, what can life possibly use to fuel itself? https://www.quantamagazine.org/radioactivity-may-fuel-life-deep-underground-and-inside-other-worlds-20210524/

David Hilbert famously described 23 unsolved problems to inspire future mathematicians. After more than 50 years of coll...
05/29/2021
Mathematicians Find Long-Sought Building Blocks for Special Polynomials | Quanta Magazine

David Hilbert famously described 23 unsolved problems to inspire future mathematicians. After more than 50 years of collaborative effort, work spanning three generations of mathematicians has finally found building blocks for certain number systems. The result opens new doors and provides novel structures on which to continue building. https://www.quantamagazine.org/mathematicians-find-polynomial-building-blocks-hilbert-sought-20210525/

Hilbert’s 12th problem asked for novel analogues of the roots of unity, the building blocks for certain number systems. Now, over 100 years later, two mathematicians have produced them.

Many of the subjects in Quanta like quantum dynamics or high-dimensional geometry can be tough to imagine visually. In a...
05/28/2021
Science Spotlight: Quanta Magazine

Many of the subjects in Quanta like quantum dynamics or high-dimensional geometry can be tough to imagine visually. In a new blog for Sketchfab, our art director Olena Shmahalo describes how she and our artists render abstract concepts in 3D: https://sketchfab.com/blogs/community/science-spotlight-quanta-magazine/

Quanta Magazine’s Art Director Olena Shmahalo shares how the online publication uses 3D illustrations to tell stories and spark interest in math and science.

How did the U.S. track the progression of the pandemic? With a patchwork of 56 systems that counted tests, cases, deaths...
05/27/2021
The Hard Lessons of Modeling the Coronavirus Pandemic

How did the U.S. track the progression of the pandemic? With a patchwork of 56 systems that counted tests, cases, deaths, and recoveries in conflicting and sometimes shifting ways, Kara Schechtman and Sara Simon report for The Atlantic.
https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2021/05/pandemic-data-america-messy/618987/

Atop that messy data, researchers endeavored to build models to forecast the spread of SARS-CoV-2. The math worked, but reliably accounting for human behavior proved to be a wild card, Jordana Cepelewicz reported for Quanta in January.
https://www.quantamagazine.org/the-hard-lessons-of-modeling-the-coronavirus-pandemic-20210128/

In the fight against COVID-19, disease modelers have struggled with misunderstanding and misuse of their work. They have also come to realize how unready the state of modeling was for this pandemic.

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Quanta Magazine’s goal is to enhance public understanding of science. Our reporters focus on developments in mathematics, theoretical physics, theoretical computer science and the basic life sciences. At Quanta, scientific accuracy is every bit as important as telling a good story. And having editorial independence ensures the impartiality of our science coverage, so while our publication was launched by the Simons Foundation, our articles do not necessarily reflect or represent the foundation’s views. https://www.quantamagazine.org/ Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/QuantaNews Twitter: https://twitter.com/QuantaMagazine Sign up for our weekly newsletter: http://eepurl.com/6FnWj

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