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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 deci

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 deci

Operating as usual

Sequencing a highly repetitive genome is challenging even for researchers equipped with the most updated technologies. “...
09/14/2021
DNA of Giant ‘Corpse Flower’ Parasite Surprises Biologists

Sequencing a highly repetitive genome is challenging even for researchers equipped with the most updated technologies. “It’s like trying to do a puzzle of a completely clear blue sky where every piece is exactly the same shape,” said Timothy Sackton. https://www.quantamagazine.org/dna-of-giant-corpse-flower-parasite-surprises-biologists-20210421/

The bizarre genome of the world’s most mysterious flowering plants shows how far parasites will go in stealing, deleting and duplicating DNA.

Bent light from a supernova has treated astronomers to three sightings of the event. The next replay, which may come in ...
09/14/2021
A New Cosmic Tension: The Universe Might Be Too Thin

Bent light from a supernova has treated astronomers to three sightings of the event. The next replay, which may come in 2037, could help cosmologists nail down the universe’s controversial expansion rate, Ken Croswell reports for Science News.
https://www.sciencenews.org/article/supernova-sn-requiem-gravitational-lens-hubble-constant-universe-expansion

Diverted light has become a major tool for studying the universe. Distortions of distant galaxies caused by dark matter have hinted at weaknesses in the leading theory of cosmology, Charlie Wood reported for Quanta last year.
https://www.quantamagazine.org/a-new-cosmic-tension-the-universe-might-be-too-thin-20200908/

Cosmologists have concluded that the universe doesn’t appear to clump as much as it should. Could both of cosmology’s big puzzles share a single fix?

The Perseverance rover has, on its second attempt, successfully stashed its first piece of Mars, Lisa Grossman reports f...
09/13/2021
The Woman Who Gets Called When a Piece of Mars Falls From the Sky | Quanta Magazine

The Perseverance rover has, on its second attempt, successfully stashed its first piece of Mars, Lisa Grossman reports for Science News. Patient planetary scientists hope to study this and other samples firsthand when a second mission flies them back to Earth in the 2030s.
https://www.sciencenews.org/article/nasa-perseverance-rover-mars-rock-sample-space

Meenakshi Wadhwa, the sample return mission’s principal scientist, has long dreamt of getting fresh bits of Mars into her lab. She talked with Rebecca Boyle about chasing Martian meteorites to the ends of the Earth for Quanta in 2018.
https://www.quantamagazine.org/its-raining-mars-interview-with-meteor-scientist-meenakshi-wadhwa-20181218/

Planetary geologist Meenakshi Wadhwa uses Martian meteorites to trace the history of our solar system.

Einstein’s theory of relativity implied a block universe in which “the distinction between past, present and future is o...
09/13/2021
Does Time Really Flow? New Clues Come From a Century-Old Approach to Math.

Einstein’s theory of relativity implied a block universe in which “the distinction between past, present and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion.” Nicolas Gisin argues that the block universe requires infinite information and thus cannot exist. https://www.quantamagazine.org/does-time-really-flow-new-clues-come-from-a-century-old-approach-to-math-20200407/

The laws of physics imply that the passage of time is an illusion. To avoid this conclusion, we might have to rethink the reality of infinitely precise numbers.

Geneticist Karen Miga explains that when the Human Genome Project was declared finished, “It wasn’t really clear to the ...
09/12/2021

Geneticist Karen Miga explains that when the Human Genome Project was declared finished, “It wasn’t really clear to the public how much of our genome was left unresolved and unexplored.” https://www.quantamagazine.org/karen-miga-fills-in-the-missing-pieces-of-our-genome-20210908/

Geneticist Karen Miga explains that when the Human Genome Project was declared finished, “It wasn’t really clear to the public how much of our genome was left unresolved and unexplored.” https://www.quantamagazine.org/karen-miga-fills-in-the-missing-pieces-of-our-genome-20210908/

Math students are often asked to show their work, but imagine crafting one of the most significant contributions to topo...
09/12/2021

Math students are often asked to show their work, but imagine crafting one of the most significant contributions to topology and only being able to explain it through conversation. https://www.quantamagazine.org/new-math-book-rescues-landmark-topology-proof-20210909/

Math students are often asked to show their work, but imagine crafting one of the most significant contributions to topology and only being able to explain it through conversation. https://www.quantamagazine.org/new-math-book-rescues-landmark-topology-proof-20210909/

The collaboration between the physicists Brian Swingle and Monika Schleier-Smith began with a simple question: “I wrote ...
09/12/2021

The collaboration between the physicists Brian Swingle and Monika Schleier-Smith began with a simple question: “I wrote her an email saying, basically, ‘Can you reverse time in your lab?’” said Swingle. “And she said yes. And so we started talking.” https://www.quantamagazine.org/one-labs-quest-to-build-space-time-out-of-quantum-particles-20210907

The collaboration between the physicists Brian Swingle and Monika Schleier-Smith began with a simple question: “I wrote her an email saying, basically, ‘Can you reverse time in your lab?’” said Swingle. “And she said yes. And so we started talking.” https://www.quantamagazine.org/one-labs-quest-to-build-space-time-out-of-quantum-particles-20210907

Albert Einstein once quipped that “time is what a clock measures,” so it follows that a new perspective on clocks has pr...
09/12/2021
The New Thermodynamic Understanding of Clocks | Quanta Magazine

Albert Einstein once quipped that “time is what a clock measures,” so it follows that a new perspective on clocks has provided fresh insights into the nature of time itself. https://www.quantamagazine.org/the-new-science-of-clocks-prompts-questions-about-the-nature-of-time-20210831

Investigations of the simplest possible clocks have revealed their fundamental limitations — as well as insights into the nature of time itself.

In the mid-1980s, the brilliant mathematician Jean Bourgain thought up a simple question about high-dimensional shapes. ...
09/12/2021

In the mid-1980s, the brilliant mathematician Jean Bourgain thought up a simple question about high-dimensional shapes. But he remained stuck on it for the rest of his life. A postdoctoral statistician found a solution even Bourgain missed. https://www.quantamagazine.org/statistics-postdoc-tames-decades-old-geometry-problem-20210301/

In the mid-1980s, the brilliant mathematician Jean Bourgain thought up a simple question about high-dimensional shapes. But he remained stuck on it for the rest of his life. A postdoctoral statistician found a solution even Bourgain missed. https://www.quantamagazine.org/statistics-postdoc-tames-decades-old-geometry-problem-20210301/

In topology, holes are the whole point — but describing them is tricky. Homology infers an object’s holes from its bound...
09/12/2021

In topology, holes are the whole point — but describing them is tricky. Homology infers an object’s holes from its boundaries, the collection of points on a shape’s periphery. If you combine shapes, the boundary points where they meet disappear. https://www.quantamagazine.org/how-mathematicians-use-homology-to-make-sense-of-topology-20210511/

In topology, holes are the whole point — but describing them is tricky. Homology infers an object’s holes from its boundaries, the collection of points on a shape’s periphery. If you combine shapes, the boundary points where they meet disappear. https://www.quantamagazine.org/how-mathematicians-use-homology-to-make-sense-of-topology-20210511/

Gravitons multiply with a promiscuity that would make a bunny blush. A mathematical procedure that simplifies these grav...
09/11/2021
How Gravity Is a Double Copy of Other Forces | Quanta Magazine

Gravitons multiply with a promiscuity that would make a bunny blush. A mathematical procedure that simplifies these gravitational affairs is letting physicists taste the lowest apples on the tree of possible particle theories of gravity. https://www.quantamagazine.org/how-gravity-is-a-double-copy-of-other-forces-20210504/

An enigmatic connection between the forces of nature is allowing physicists to explore gravity’s quantum side.

A clock can be anything that undergoes irreversible change: Garbage gets smellier, wrinkles develop with age, coffee tur...
09/11/2021
The New Thermodynamic Understanding of Clocks | Quanta Magazine

A clock can be anything that undergoes irreversible change: Garbage gets smellier, wrinkles develop with age, coffee turns from hot to tepid. But a good clock doesn’t just change — it ticks. A newly devised theoretical description of clocks may help physicists design optimally efficient quantum clocks for future quantum computers and robots. https://www.quantamagazine.org/the-new-science-of-clocks-prompts-questions-about-the-nature-of-time-20210831

Investigations of the simplest possible clocks have revealed their fundamental limitations — as well as insights into the nature of time itself.

Geneticist Karen Miga led the work that finally sequenced a full human genome, but she recognizes there is still more to...
09/11/2021

Geneticist Karen Miga led the work that finally sequenced a full human genome, but she recognizes there is still more to do: “The next challenge is to make this completely routine and expand our study across hundreds if not thousands of people.” https://www.quantamagazine.org/karen-miga-fills-in-the-missing-pieces-of-our-genome-20210908/

Geneticist Karen Miga led the work that finally sequenced a full human genome, but she recognizes there is still more to do: “The next challenge is to make this completely routine and expand our study across hundreds if not thousands of people.” https://www.quantamagazine.org/karen-miga-fills-in-the-missing-pieces-of-our-genome-20210908/

Michael Freedman’s proof of the four-dimensional Poincaré conjecture was known by a few people and inaccessible to every...
09/11/2021

Michael Freedman’s proof of the four-dimensional Poincaré conjecture was known by a few people and inaccessible to everyone else. “Basically the situation arose where no one under 40 years old knew the proof and it was a little frightening that this bit of information might eventually be lost,” said Freedman. Now, thanks to a new book, the next generation of mathematicians can finally examine it in detail. https://www.quantamagazine.org/new-math-book-rescues-landmark-topology-proof-20210909/

Michael Freedman’s proof of the four-dimensional Poincaré conjecture was known by a few people and inaccessible to everyone else. “Basically the situation arose where no one under 40 years old knew the proof and it was a little frightening that this bit of information might eventually be lost,” said Freedman. Now, thanks to a new book, the next generation of mathematicians can finally examine it in detail. https://www.quantamagazine.org/new-math-book-rescues-landmark-topology-proof-20210909/

From 2018: The reassignment of the familiar houseplant P. bipinnatifidum to a new genus offers a useful glimpse into how...
09/11/2021

From 2018: The reassignment of the familiar houseplant P. bipinnatifidum to a new genus offers a useful glimpse into how molecular biology and digital technologies have been quietly transforming taxonomy and systematics. https://www.quantamagazine.org/dna-analysis-reveals-a-genus-of-plants-hiding-in-plain-sight-20180904/

From 2018: The reassignment of the familiar houseplant P. bipinnatifidum to a new genus offers a useful glimpse into how molecular biology and digital technologies have been quietly transforming taxonomy and systematics. https://www.quantamagazine.org/dna-analysis-reveals-a-genus-of-plants-hiding-in-plain-sight-20180904/

A very brief, very bright burst in a galaxy over 200 million light-years away shocked astronomers in 2018 and defied exp...
09/11/2021

A very brief, very bright burst in a galaxy over 200 million light-years away shocked astronomers in 2018 and defied explanation. They spent more than two years waiting for a similar event, but finally spotted another last fall: https://www.quantamagazine.org/the-camel-supernova-reveals-the-birth-of-a-black-hole-20210310/

A very brief, very bright burst in a galaxy over 200 million light-years away shocked astronomers in 2018 and defied explanation. They spent more than two years waiting for a similar event, but finally spotted another last fall: https://www.quantamagazine.org/the-camel-supernova-reveals-the-birth-of-a-black-hole-20210310/

The geneticist Motoo Kimura argued in 1968 that Darwinian selection isn’t the only driver of evolution. His idea, now ca...
09/11/2021
How Neutral Theory Altered Ideas About Biodiversity

The geneticist Motoo Kimura argued in 1968 that Darwinian selection isn’t the only driver of evolution. His idea, now called neutral theory, posits that most of the variety we see isn’t a product of the hidden hand of selection but rather of luck. https://www.quantamagazine.org/how-neutral-theory-altered-ideas-about-biodiversity-20201208/

The simple insight that most changes are random had a profound effect on genetics, evolution and ecology.

In 1961, the physicist Rolf Landauer showed that any logically irreversible computation would result in a minimal nonzer...
09/10/2021
How Maxwell’s Demon Continues to Startle Scientists

In 1961, the physicist Rolf Landauer showed that any logically irreversible computation would result in a minimal nonzero amount of work converted into heat dumped into the environment. “Information is physical,” he later proclaimed. https://www.quantamagazine.org/how-maxwells-demon-continues-to-startle-scientists-20210422/

The thorny thought experiment has been turned into a real experiment — one that physicists use to probe the physics of information.

Researchers have developed a kind of camera that can generate rough images of the interior of a closed room simply by sh...
09/10/2021
The New Science of Seeing Around Corners | Quanta Magazine

Researchers have developed a kind of camera that can generate rough images of the interior of a closed room simply by shining a laser through a keyhole in the room’s door, Andrew Liszewski reports for Gizmodo.
https://gizmodo.com/a-single-laser-fired-through-a-keyhole-can-expose-every-1847638281

It’s the latest technique in an emerging field that analyzes shadows and the properties of reflected light to image objects that would otherwise be out of sight. Natalie Wolchover wrote about how cameras are learning to see around corners for Quanta in 2018.
https://www.quantamagazine.org/the-new-science-of-seeing-around-corners-20180830/

Computer vision researchers have uncovered a world of visual signals hiding in our midst, including subtle motions that betray what’s being said and faint images of what’s around a corner.

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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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