Tag: Physics

Where Theory Meets Chalk, Dust Flies

This is what thought looks like. Ideas, and ideas about ideas. Suppositions and suspicions about relationships among abstract notions — shape, number, geometry, space — emerging through a fog of chalk dust, preferably of the silky Hagoromo chalk, originally from Japan, now made in South Korea. In these diagrams, mysteries are being born and solved. […]

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Transformative? New Device Harvests Energy in Darkness

Aaswath Raman was driving through a village in Sierra Leone in 2013 when an idea came to him as suddenly as, perhaps, a light bulb switching on. The village was not equipped with electricity, and Dr. Raman, an electrical engineer at the University of California, Los Angeles, was unaware he was in a village until […]

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Even Physicists Don’t Understand Quantum Mechanics

“I think I can safely say that nobody really understands quantum mechanics,” observed the physicist and Nobel laureate Richard Feynman. That’s not surprising, as far as it goes. Science makes progress by confronting our lack of understanding, and quantum mechanics has a reputation for being especially mysterious. What’s surprising is that physicists seem to be […]

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Steven Gubser, a Bright Star in the Physics Universe, Dies at 47

Steven Gubser, a Princeton theoretical physicist who did groundbreaking work in trying to unite the two great fields of physics — quantum mechanics and general relativity — as part of a broad effort in the scientific community to devise “a theory of everything,” died on Aug. 3 in a rock-climbing accident in the French Alps. […]

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What I Didn’t Do This Summer

So I missed the eclipse. It turned out that in early July something equally cosmic would be happening — likewise accompanied by crying, laughing, drinking and a last-minute, nail-biting weather watch — albeit something more local and hopefully far more lasting. I performed a wedding. In all, I’ve witnessed eight total solar eclipses, from 35 […]

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Is It Time to Upend the Periodic Table?

When Sir Martyn Poliakoff, a chemist at the University of Nottingham, heard about a game called Periodic Table Battleship, he couldn’t help but imagine a player’s perspective of the opponent’s inverted fleet of elements. This catalyzed a mad idea. In May — coinciding with Unesco’s International Year of the Periodic Table, which marks its 150th […]

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Watch This Plant Shoot Its Seeds Like Spiraling Footballs

Squeeze tightly on a watermelon seed between two of your fingers, and it’ll shoot out and fly through the air, as generations of delighted children have discovered. The Chinese witch hazel plant does the same thing. CreditCreditBy Poppinga Et Al. Plants, like some animals, want to send their offspring far out into the wider world. […]

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Most Wikipedia Profiles Are of Men. This Scientist Is Changing That.

You’re reading In Her Words, where women rule the headlines. Sign up here to get it delivered to your inbox. Let me know what you think at dearmaya@nytimes.com. “Our science can only benefit the whole of society if it’s done by the whole of society.” — Dr. Jessica Wade, a physicist who adds biographies of […]

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Mitchell Feigenbaum, Physicist Who Made Sense of Chaos, Dies at 74

Mitchell J. Feigenbaum, a pioneer in the field of mathematical physics known as chaos, died on June 30 in Manhattan. He was 74. The cause was a heart attack, his stepson Sasha Dobrovolsky said. Dr. Feigenbaum’s intense, eclectic curiosity led him to questions far astray from the ones usually asked by theoretical physicists. How does […]

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Wired Bacteria Form Nature’s Power Grid: ‘We Have an Electric Planet’

At three o’clock in the afternoon on September 4, 1882, the electrical age began. The Edison Illuminating Company switched on its Pearl Street power plant, and a network of copper wires came alive, delivering current to a few dozen buildings in the surrounding neighborhood. One of those buildings housed this newspaper. As night fell, reporters […]

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Scientists Took an M.R.I. Scan of an Atom

As our devices get smaller and more sophisticated, so do the materials we use to make them. That means we have to get up close to engineer new materials. Really close. Different microscopy techniques allow scientists to see the nucleotide-by-nucleotide genetic sequences in cells down to the resolution of a couple atoms as seen in […]

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Watch Soap Bubbles Turn Into Tiny Snow Globes as They Freeze

You may have seen the viral videos of photographers freezing soap bubbles during a recent Snowmageddon. They’re magical, turning into ethereal globes filled with ice crystals when the surrounding temperature is just right. Unlike water droplets, puddles or other liquid surfaces, the thin, rounded shape of bubbles makes them poor heat conductors. So when soap […]

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The Eclipse That Made Einstein Famous

A century ago, on May 29, 1919, the universe was momentarily perturbed, and Albert Einstein became famous. Einstein himself apparently had no special plans for what he knew could be a momentous day. He was home in Berlin. He wrote a letter admitting a “blunder” in an ongoing debate with Theodor Kaluza, a German mathematician […]

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The Physicist Who Made Sense of the Universe

There is nothing physicists love more than a mess of puzzling, apparently contradictory experimental results. Physicists are convinced that nature is fundamentally simple, and that they can discover hidden principles which bring order to the chaos — if they just think about it hard enough. Nobody was better at finding order amid apparent chaos than […]

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Scientists Map the Geometry of a Single Electron for the First Time

Quantum dot containers emitting multi-spectrum light. Image: Antipoff Scientists have created the first geometric map of a single electron, according to a study published Wednesday in the Physical Review Letters. The authors, led by University of Basel physicist Dominik Zumbühl, outline a new technique that can shed light on this bizarre subatomic particle and improve […]

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