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To Measure Gravity, Scientists Drop Individual Atoms

Since interferometry was developed in the 19th century, physics has not been the same. The technique, which relies on manipulating a wave’s path, has been used to measure everything from the speed of light to gravitational waves with remarkable precision. Now, physicists are applying it to an entirely different type of problem: determining the acceleration […]

Bosons and Bubbles: Building a Universe from Scratch

Where did we come from? Where are we going? Why do we exist? These are questions that we tend to associate with philosophers and theologians, but they’re also critically important to certain fields of physics. Theorists speculate on what sort of weird parallel universes we could or could not have existed in. Cosmologists study the […]

The Controversial "Cow" Explosion

It’s a supernova… It’s a tidal event… It’s a cow?A June 16, 2018 stellar explosion has provided astronomers with a goldmine of new information on stellar deaths. It has also provided them with a wealth of opportunities to insert cow jokes into research talks, given that its official name is AT2018cow. A long-exposure image of […]

There’s an Excessive Amount of Radioactivity in this Middle Eastern Water Supply—but is it Actually Dangerous?

People in Egypt’s western desert are drinking groundwater with naturally high levels of radium, a radioactive element, according to research presented last month at the American Geophysical Union meeting in Washington. Experts disagree on the cancer-related health risks, but babies who rely on the most radioactive wells could get more than 100 times the maximum […]

Starlight and Pink Poo: Studying Penguins from Space

December is behind us, but there’s still a lot icy-cold winter left in our part of the world. That means we’re surrounded by snowmen, sleds, and cute little images of penguins and polar bears. This season I’m seeing those penguins in a whole new light, thanks to research presented at the American Geophysical Union’s annual […]

A New Model for How Wrinkled Organs Get Their Shapes

You might think wrinkles are only skin deep, but there’s a lot more to the topic than anti-aging cream and laundry. The brain is a wrinkly object for a reason, as are flames, fingerprints, raisins, elephants, and the ridges in your teeth. Understanding how and why wrinkles emerge in developing biological organs like the brain […]

Ask a Physicist: Rudolph the Redshifted Reindeer

Visiting every house in the world in one night is a tough job, even when you don’t count the difficulty of squeezing down a chimney after eating a few million Christmas cookies. Just from a logistics perspective, it’s a nightmare: finding the most efficient route between a bunch of points on a map (the so-called […]

Want to Build a Nanobot? This New Shrinking Technique Could Help

Researchers from MIT have come up with a new way to fabricate nanoscale structures using an innovative “shrinking” technique. The new method uses equipment many laboratories already have and is relatively straightforward, so it could make nanoscale fabrication more accessible. Image Credit: Illustration by Abigail Malate, American Institute of Physics Conventional nanostructure manufacturing techniques—ones that […]