Quanta Magazine

Is It Real or Imagined? How Your Brain Tells the Difference.
New experiments show that the brain distinguishes between perceived and imagined mental images by...

a week ago

New experiments show that the brain distinguishes between perceived and imagined mental images by checking whether they cross a “reality threshold.”
The post Is It Real or Imagined? How Your Brain Tells the Difference. first appeared on Quanta Magazine

Quanta Magazine

Are There Reasons to Believe in a Multiverse?
Several areas of physics suggest reasons to think that unobservable universes with different natural...

2 weeks ago

Several areas of physics suggest reasons to think that unobservable universes with different natural laws could lie beyond ours. The theoretical physicist David Kaplan talks with Steven Strogatz about the mysteries that a multiverse would solve.
The post Are There...

Quanta Magazine

Chatbots Don’t Know What Stuff Isn’t
Today’s language models are more sophisticated than ever, but they still struggle with the concept...

3 weeks ago

Today’s language models are more sophisticated than ever, but they still struggle with the concept of negation. That’s unlikely to change anytime soon.
The post Chatbots Don’t Know What Stuff Isn’t first appeared on Quanta Magazine

Quanta Magazine

A New Approach to Computation Reimagines Artificial Intelligence
By imbuing enormous vectors with semantic meaning, we can get machines to reason more abstractly —...

a month ago

By imbuing enormous vectors with semantic meaning, we can get machines to reason more abstractly — and efficiently — than before.
The post A New Approach to Computation Reimagines Artificial Intelligence first appeared on Quanta Magazine

Quanta Magazine

A Very Big Small Leap Forward in Graph Theory
Four mathematicians have found a new upper limit to the “Ramsey number,” a crucial property...

a month ago

Four mathematicians have found a new upper limit to the “Ramsey number,” a crucial property describing unavoidable structure in graphs.
The post A Very Big Small Leap Forward in Graph Theory first appeared on Quanta Magazine

Quanta Magazine

How a Human Smell Receptor Works Is Finally Revealed
After decades of frustration, researchers have finally determined how an airborne scent molecule...

a month ago

After decades of frustration, researchers have finally determined how an airborne scent molecule links to a human smell receptor.
The post How a Human Smell Receptor Works Is Finally Revealed first appeared on Quanta Magazine

Quanta Magazine

Memories Help Brains Recognize New Events Worth Remembering
Memories may affect how well the brain will learn about future events by shifting our perceptions of...

2 weeks ago

Memories may affect how well the brain will learn about future events by shifting our perceptions of the world.
The post Memories Help Brains Recognize New Events Worth Remembering first appeared on Quanta Magazine

Quanta Magazine

A Plan to Address the World’s Challenges With Math
Minhyong Kim is leading a new initiative called Mathematics for Humanity that encourages...

3 weeks ago

Minhyong Kim is leading a new initiative called Mathematics for Humanity that encourages mathematicians to apply their skills to solving social problems.
The post A Plan to Address the World’s Challenges With Math first appeared on Quanta Magazine

Quanta Magazine

How Math Has Changed the Shape of Gerrymandering
New tools make it possible to detect hidden manipulation of maps.
The post How Math Has...

5 days ago

New tools make it possible to detect hidden manipulation of maps.
The post How Math Has Changed the Shape of Gerrymandering first appeared on Quanta Magazine

Quanta Magazine

Astronomers Dig Up the Stars That Birthed the Milky Way
There once was a cosmic seed that sprouted the Milky Way galaxy. Astronomers have discovered its...

2 months ago

There once was a cosmic seed that sprouted the Milky Way galaxy. Astronomers have discovered its last surviving remnants.
The post Astronomers Dig Up the Stars That Birthed the Milky Way first appeared on Quanta Magazine

Quanta Magazine

The Tiny Physics Behind Immense Cosmic Eruptions
A new theory describes how particle interactions fuel fast magnetic reconnection, the process behind...

3 weeks ago

A new theory describes how particle interactions fuel fast magnetic reconnection, the process behind solar flares and other astrophysical jets.
The post The Tiny Physics Behind Immense Cosmic Eruptions first appeared on Quanta Magazine

Quanta Magazine

The Most Important Machine That Was Never Built
When he invented Turing machines in 1936, Alan Turing also invented modern computing. ...

a month ago

When he invented Turing machines in 1936, Alan Turing also invented modern computing.
The post The Most Important Machine That Was Never Built first appeared on Quanta Magazine

Quanta Magazine

Emmy Murphy Is a Mathematician Who Finds Beauty in Flexibility
The prize-winning geometer feels most fulfilled when exploring the fertile ground where constraint...

2 months ago

The prize-winning geometer feels most fulfilled when exploring the fertile ground where constraint meets creation.
The post Emmy Murphy Is a Mathematician Who Finds Beauty in Flexibility first appeared on Quanta Magazine

Quanta Magazine

Primitive Asgard Cells Show Life on the Brink of Complexity
As researchers race to cultivate more of the intriguing cells from the deep seafloor, the few cells...

a month ago

As researchers race to cultivate more of the intriguing cells from the deep seafloor, the few cells now growing in labs are giving us our best glimpses of the forerunners of all complex life.
The post Primitive Asgard Cells Show Life on the Brink of Complexity first...

Quanta Magazine

How to Tame the Endless Infinities Hiding in the Heart of Particle Physics
In the math of particle physics, every calculation should result in infinity. The set of techniques...

2 months ago

In the math of particle physics, every calculation should result in infinity. The set of techniques known as “resurgence” points toward an escape.
The post How to Tame the Endless Infinities Hiding in the Heart of Particle Physics first appeared on Quanta Magazine

Quanta Magazine

The Electron Is So Round That It’s Ruling Out Potential New Particles
If the electron’s charge wasn’t perfectly round, it could reveal the existence of hidden particles....

a month ago

If the electron’s charge wasn’t perfectly round, it could reveal the existence of hidden particles. A new measurement approaches perfection.
The post The Electron Is So Round That It’s Ruling Out Potential New Particles first appeared on Quanta Magazine

Quanta Magazine

Physicists Create Elusive Particles That Remember Their Pasts
In two landmark experiments, researchers used quantum processors to engineer exotic particles that...

4 weeks ago

In two landmark experiments, researchers used quantum processors to engineer exotic particles that have captivated physicists for decades. The work is a step toward crash-proof quantum computers.
The post Physicists Create Elusive Particles That Remember Their Pasts...

Quanta Magazine

Math That Goes On Forever but Never Repeats
Simple math can help explain the complexities of the newly discovered aperiodic monotile. ...

2 weeks ago

Simple math can help explain the complexities of the newly discovered aperiodic monotile.
The post Math That Goes On Forever but Never Repeats first appeared on Quanta Magazine

Quanta Magazine

New Proof Finds the ‘Ultimate Instability’ in a Solar System Model
For the first time, mathematicians have proved that planetary orbits in a solar system will always...

3 weeks ago

For the first time, mathematicians have proved that planetary orbits in a solar system will always be unstable.
The post New Proof Finds the ‘Ultimate Instability’ in a Solar System Model first appeared on Quanta Magazine

Quanta Magazine

How Randomness Improves Algorithms
Unpredictability can help computer scientists solve otherwise intractable problems.
The...

2 months ago

Unpredictability can help computer scientists solve otherwise intractable problems.
The post How Randomness Improves Algorithms first appeared on Quanta Magazine

Quanta Magazine

The Computer Scientist Peering Inside AI’s Black Boxes
Cynthia Rudin wants machine learning models, responsible for increasingly important decisions, to...

a month ago

Cynthia Rudin wants machine learning models, responsible for increasingly important decisions, to show their work.
The post The Computer Scientist Peering Inside AI’s Black Boxes first appeared on Quanta Magazine

Quanta Magazine

Tiny Jets on the Sun Power the Colossal Solar Wind
A new analysis argues that ubiquitous eruptions in the sun’s corona explain the vast flow of charged...

a month ago

A new analysis argues that ubiquitous eruptions in the sun’s corona explain the vast flow of charged particles seen streaming out through the solar system.
The post Tiny Jets on the Sun Power the Colossal Solar Wind first appeared on Quanta Magazine

Quanta Magazine

The Number 15 Describes the Secret Limit of an Infinite Grid
The “packing coloring” problem asks how many numbers are needed to fill an infinite grid so that...

a month ago

The “packing coloring” problem asks how many numbers are needed to fill an infinite grid so that identical numbers never get too close to one another. A new computer-assisted proof finds a surprisingly straightforward answer.
The post The Number 15 Describes the...

Quanta Magazine

Mathematicians Find Hidden Structure in a Common Type of Space
In 50 years of searching, mathematicians found only one example of a “subspace design” in a vector...

a month ago

In 50 years of searching, mathematicians found only one example of a “subspace design” in a vector space. A new proof reveals that there are infinitely more out there.
The post Mathematicians Find Hidden Structure in a Common Type of Space first appeared on Quanta...

Quanta Magazine

Why Mathematicians Re-Prove What They Already Know
It’s been known for thousands of years that the primes go on forever, but new proofs give fresh...

a month ago

It’s been known for thousands of years that the primes go on forever, but new proofs give fresh insights into how theorems depend on one another.
The post Why Mathematicians Re-Prove What They Already Know first appeared on Quanta Magazine

Quanta Magazine

What Causes Alzheimer’s? Scientists Are Rethinking the Answer. (Pt 2)
If plaques of amyloid protein in the brain aren’t the root cause of Alzheimer’s disease, what is?...

3 weeks ago

If plaques of amyloid protein in the brain aren’t the root cause of Alzheimer’s disease, what is? Researchers investigating alternative possibilities have faced resistance from the biomedical establishment for decades, but intriguing theories about the role of defects in protein...

Quanta Magazine

The Physicist Who Glues Together Universes
Renate Loll has helped pioneer a radically new approach to quantum gravity. She assumes that the...

a week ago

Renate Loll has helped pioneer a radically new approach to quantum gravity. She assumes that the fabric of space-time is a blend of all possible fabrics, and she has developed the computational tools needed to calculate the far-reaching implications of that assumption. ...

Quanta Magazine

A Mutation Turned Ants Into Parasites in One Generation
A new genetics study of ant “social parasites” shows how complex sets of features can emerge rapidly...

4 weeks ago

A new genetics study of ant “social parasites” shows how complex sets of features can emerge rapidly and potentially split species.
The post A Mutation Turned Ants Into Parasites in One Generation first appeared on Quanta Magazine

Quanta Magazine

How Can Some Infinities Be Bigger Than Others?
All infinities go on forever, so how is it possible for some infinities to be larger than others?...

a month ago

All infinities go on forever, so how is it possible for some infinities to be larger than others? The mathematician Justin Moore discusses the mysteries of infinity with Steven Strogatz.
The post How Can Some Infinities Be Bigger Than Others? first appeared on Quanta...

Quanta Magazine

The Symmetry That Makes Solving Math Equations Easy
Learn why the quadratic formula works and why quadratics are easier to solve than cubics. ...

2 months ago

Learn why the quadratic formula works and why quadratics are easier to solve than cubics.
The post The Symmetry That Makes Solving Math Equations Easy first appeared on Quanta Magazine

Quanta Magazine

Secret Messages Can Hide in AI-Generated Media
In steganography, an ordinary message masks the presence of a secret communication. Humans can never...

2 weeks ago

In steganography, an ordinary message masks the presence of a secret communication. Humans can never do it perfectly, but a new study shows it’s possible for machines.
The post Secret Messages Can Hide in AI-Generated Media first appeared on Quanta Magazine

Quanta Magazine

A New Idea for How to Assemble Life
If we want to understand complex constructions, such as ourselves, assembly theory says we must...

a month ago

If we want to understand complex constructions, such as ourselves, assembly theory says we must account for the entire history of how such entities came to be.
The post A New Idea for How to Assemble Life first appeared on Quanta Magazine

Quanta Magazine

Some Neural Networks Learn Language Like Humans
Researchers uncover striking parallels in the ways that humans and machine learning models acquire...

2 weeks ago

Researchers uncover striking parallels in the ways that humans and machine learning models acquire language skills.
The post Some Neural Networks Learn Language Like Humans first appeared on Quanta Magazine

Quanta Magazine

Hobbyist Finds Math’s Elusive ‘Einstein’ Tile
The surprisingly simple tile is the first single, connected tile that can fill the entire plane in a...

2 months ago

The surprisingly simple tile is the first single, connected tile that can fill the entire plane in a pattern that never repeats — and can’t be made to fill it in a repeating way.
The post Hobbyist Finds Math’s Elusive ‘Einstein’ Tile first appeared on Quanta Magazine

Quanta Magazine

Data Compression Drives the Internet. Here’s How It Works.
One student’s desire to get out of a final exam led to the ubiquitous algorithm that shrinks data...

6 days ago

One student’s desire to get out of a final exam led to the ubiquitous algorithm that shrinks data without sacrificing information.
The post Data Compression Drives the Internet. Here’s How It Works. first appeared on Quanta Magazine

Quanta Magazine

Is Perpetual Motion Possible at the Quantum Level?
A new phase of matter called a “time crystal” plays with our expectations of thermodynamics. The...

a month ago

A new phase of matter called a “time crystal” plays with our expectations of thermodynamics. The physicist Vedika Khemani talks with Steven Strogatz about its surprising quantum behavior.
The post Is Perpetual Motion Possible at the Quantum Level? first appeared on...

Quanta Magazine

A New Kind of Symmetry Shakes Up Physics
So-called “higher symmetries” are illuminating everything from particle decays to the behavior of...

a month ago

So-called “higher symmetries” are illuminating everything from particle decays to the behavior of complex quantum systems.
The post A New Kind of Symmetry Shakes Up Physics first appeared on Quanta Magazine

Quanta Magazine

The Colorful Problem That Has Long Frustrated Mathematicians
The four-color problem is simple to explain, but its complex proof continues to be both celebrated...

2 months ago

The four-color problem is simple to explain, but its complex proof continues to be both celebrated and despised.
The post The Colorful Problem That Has Long Frustrated Mathematicians first appeared on Quanta Magazine

Quanta Magazine

What Has the Pandemic Taught Us About Vaccines?
Should Covid-19 vaccines be judged by how well they prevent disease or how well they prevent death?...

2 months ago

Should Covid-19 vaccines be judged by how well they prevent disease or how well they prevent death? Anna Durbin, a public health expert and vaccine researcher, talks with Steven Strogatz about the science behind vaccines.
The post What Has the Pandemic Taught Us About...

Quanta Magazine

How Pools of Genetic Diversity Affect a Species’ Fate
A new, deeper understanding of how the breeding structure of species affects their genetic diversity...

a month ago

A new, deeper understanding of how the breeding structure of species affects their genetic diversity is giving conservationists better tools for saving animals.
The post How Pools of Genetic Diversity Affect a Species’ Fate first appeared on Quanta Magazine

Quanta Magazine

She Tracks the DNA of Elusive Species That Hide in Harsh Places
On Mount Everest and in the Peruvian Andes, Tracie Seimon uses DNA to study how species and...

a month ago

On Mount Everest and in the Peruvian Andes, Tracie Seimon uses DNA to study how species and ecosystems respond to climate change, pathogens and other influences.
The post She Tracks the DNA of Elusive Species That Hide in Harsh Places first appeared on Quanta Magazine

Quanta Magazine

Animal Mutation Rates Reveal Traits That Speed Evolution
The first large-scale comparison of mutation rates gives insights into how quickly species can...

2 months ago

The first large-scale comparison of mutation rates gives insights into how quickly species can evolve.
The post Animal Mutation Rates Reveal Traits That Speed Evolution first appeared on Quanta Magazine

Quanta Magazine

First-Year Graduate Student Finds Paradoxical Set
No two pairs have the same sum; add three numbers together, and you can get any whole number. ...

yesterday

No two pairs have the same sum; add three numbers together, and you can get any whole number.
The post First-Year Graduate Student Finds Paradoxical Set first appeared on Quanta Magazine

Quanta Magazine

How 3D Changes in the Genome Turned Sharks Into Skates
Changes in the 3D structure of their genome gave skates and rays their distinctive winglike fins and...

a week ago

Changes in the 3D structure of their genome gave skates and rays their distinctive winglike fins and pancake flatness.
The post How 3D Changes in the Genome Turned Sharks Into Skates first appeared on Quanta Magazine

Quanta Magazine

In New Paradox, Black Holes Appear to Evade Heat Death
The puzzling behavior of black hole interiors has led researchers to propose a new physical law: the...

9 hours ago

The puzzling behavior of black hole interiors has led researchers to propose a new physical law: the second law of quantum complexity.
The post In New Paradox, Black Holes Appear to Evade Heat Death first appeared on Quanta Magazine

Quanta Magazine

What Is the Nature of Consciousness?
Consciousness, our experience of being in the world, is one of the mind’s greatest mysteries, but as...

6 days ago

Consciousness, our experience of being in the world, is one of the mind’s greatest mysteries, but as the neuroscientist Anil Seth explains to Steven Strogatz, research is making progress in understanding this elusive phenomenon.
The post What Is the Nature of...

Quanta Magazine

Why the Brain’s Connections to the Body Are Crisscrossed
In all bilaterally symmetrical animals, from humans down to simple worms, nerves cross from one side...

a month ago

In all bilaterally symmetrical animals, from humans down to simple worms, nerves cross from one side of the body to the opposite side of the brain. Geometry may explain why.
The post Why the Brain’s Connections to the Body Are Crisscrossed first appeared on Quanta...

Quanta Magazine

How a DNA ‘Parasite’ May Have Fragmented Our Genes
A novel type of “jumping gene” may explain why the genomes of complex cells aren’t all equally...

2 months ago

A novel type of “jumping gene” may explain why the genomes of complex cells aren’t all equally stuffed with noncoding sequences.
The post How a DNA ‘Parasite’ May Have Fragmented Our Genes first appeared on Quanta Magazine