Fractons, the Weirdest Matter, Could Yield Quantum Clues

Reading Time: 8 minutes Your desk is made up of individual, distinct atoms, but from far away its surface appears smooth. This simple idea is at the core of all our models of the physical world. We can describe what’s happening overall without getting bogged down in the complicated interactions between every atom and electron. So when a new … Read more

DNA Has Four Bases. Some Viruses Swap in a Fifth

Reading Time: 7 minutes But the biggest surprise was that the viruses had a polymerase enzyme dedicated to pairing Z bases with T’s during DNA replication. “It was like a fairy tale,” said Marlière, who had been hoping to find such a polymerase. “Our wildest dreams came true.” That’s because while scientists have uncovered other examples of bacteriophages making … Read more

What Causes Gamma-Ray Bursts? Their Ultrabright Flashes Hold Clues

Reading Time: 7 minutes In July 1967, at the height of the Cold War, American satellites that had been launched to look for Soviet nuclear weapons tests found something wholly unexpected. The Vela 3 and 4 satellites observed brief flashes of high-energy photons, or gamma rays, that appeared to be coming from space. Later, in a 1973 paper that … Read more

Mathematicians Prove Symmetry of Phase Transitions

Reading Time: 8 minutes The presence of conformal invariance has a direct physical meaning: It indicates that the global behavior of the system won’t change even if you tweak the microscopic details of the substance. It also hints at a certain mathematical elegance that sets in, for a brief interlude, just as the entire system is breaking its overarching … Read more

Mathematicians Prove a 2D Version of Quantum Gravity Works

Reading Time: 7 minutes It’s an elegant idea that yields concrete answers only for select quantum fields. No known mathematical procedure can meaningfully average an infinite number of objects covering an infinite expanse of space in general. The path integral is more of a physics philosophy than an exact mathematical recipe. Mathematicians question its very existence as a valid … Read more