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Podcast Profile: Quanta Science Podcast

podcast imageTwitter: @QuantaMagazine
237 episodes
2015 to present
Average episode: 20 minutes
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Categories: Math • Multidisciplinary • Physics • Story-Style

Podcaster's summary: Listen to Quanta Magazine's in-depth news stories about developments in mathematics, theoretical physics, theoretical computer science and the basic life sciences. Quanta, an editorially independent magazine published by the Simons Foundation, seeks to enhance public understanding of basic research. Read more at | | You've learned from Quanta. Now we want to learn from you! Quanta is conducting a series of surveys to better serve our audience. Take our podcast listener survey and you will be entered to win a free Quanta book, t-shirt or tote bag:

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List Updated: 2024-Apr-20 06:41 UTC. Episodes: 237. Feedback: @TrueSciPhi.

2024-Apr-17 • 21 minutes
Why the Human Brain Perceives Small Numbers Better
The discovery that the brain has different systems for representing small and large numbers provokes new questions about memory, attention and mathematics. Read more at Music is “Quasi Motion” by Kevin MacLeod.
2024-Apr-03 • 22 minutes
Inside Scientists' Life-Saving Prediction of the Iceland Eruption
The Reykjanes Peninsula has entered a new volcanic era. Innovative efforts to map and monitor the subterranean magma are saving lives. Read more at Music is “Fire Water” by Saidbysed.
2024-Mar-20 • 21 minutes
Echoes of Electromagnetism Found in Number Theory
A new magnum opus posits the existence of a hidden mathematical link akin to the connection between electricity and magnetism. Read more at Music is “Clover 3” by Vibe Mountain.
2024-Mar-06 • 21 minutes
Tiny Language Models Come of Age
To better understand how neural networks learn to simulate writing, researchers trained simpler versions on synthetic children’s stories. Read more at Music is “Thought Bot” by Audionautix.
2024-Feb-21 • 22 minutes
Rogue Worlds Throw Planetary Ideas Out of Orbit
Scientists have recently discovered scores of free-floating worlds that defy classification. The new observations have forced them to rethink their theories of star and planet formation. Read more at Music is “Light Gazing” by Andrew Langdon.
2024-Feb-07 • 24 minutes
What Makes Life Tick? Mitochondria May Keep Time for Cells
Every species develops at its own unique tempo, leaving scientists to wonder what governs their timing. A suite of new findings suggests that cells use basic metabolic processes as clocks. Read more at Music is “Pulse” by Geographer.
2024-Jan-24 • 17 minutes
An Old Conjecture Falls, Making Spheres a Lot More Complicated
The telescope conjecture gave mathematicians a handle on ways to map one sphere to another. Now that it has been disproved, the universe of shapes has exploded. Read more at Music is “Slow Burn” by Kevin MacLeod.
2024-Jan-10 • 15 minutes
Even Synthetic Life Forms With a Tiny Genome Can Evolve
By watching “minimal” cells regain the fitness they lost, researchers are testing whether a genome can be too simple to evolve. Read more at Music is “Hidden Agenda” by Kevin MacLeod.
2023-Dec-20 • 13 minutes
Selfish, Virus-Like DNA Can Carry Genes Between Species
Genetic elements known as "Mavericks" may be responsible for transferring genes between different species throughout the history of life.
2023-Dec-06 • 13 minutes
Exoplanets Could Help Us Learn How Planets Make Magnetism
New observations of a faraway rocky world that might have its own magnetic field could help astronomers understand the seemingly haphazard magnetic fields in our own solar system. Read more at Music is “Light Gazing” by Andrew Langdon.
2023-Nov-21 • 16 minutes
To Move Fast, Quantum Maze Solvers Must Forget the Past
If you've ever entered a room, and then completely forgotten how you got there, you may have something in common with a quantum computer.
2023-Nov-08 • 14 minutes
Underground Cells Make 'Dark Oxygen' Without Light
In the groundwaters beneath Alberta, Canada, researchers have found microbes that can produce abundant oxygen, even in the absence of light.
2023-Oct-25 • 12 minutes
How the Brain Protects Itself From Blood-Borne Threats
A system of sophisticated pumps and receptors protects the brain like bouncers at the door of an elite club.
2023-Oct-11 • 25 minutes
JWST Spots Giant Black Holes All Over the Early Universe
Giant black holes were supposed to be bit players in the early cosmic story. But recent James Webb Space Telescope observations are finding an unexpected abundance of the beasts. Read more at Music is “Light Gazing” by Andrew Langdon.
2023-Sep-27 • 18 minutes
Is It Real or Imagined? How Your Brain Tells the Difference.
A recent neuroscience study reveals how human brains differentiate between the imagined and the observed.
2023-Sep-13 • 17 minutes
Chatbots Don't Know What Stuff Isn't
Researchers still don't understand whether machines will ever truly know the word "no."
2023-Aug-30 • 21 minutes
Global Microbiome Study Gives New View of Shared Health Risks
A recent study found that the more time you spend with someone, the more likely you are to share strains of species in your microbiome.
2023-Aug-16 • 19 minutes
Physicists Use Quantum Mechanics to Pull Energy out of Nothing
A recently demonstrated quantum protocol teleports energy from one location to another without violating any sacred physical principles.
2023-Aug-02 • 21 minutes
How Loneliness Reshapes the Brain
Loneliness doesn't just make people feel isolated. It alters their brain in ways that can hinder their ability to trust and connect to others.
2023-Jul-19 • 20 minutes
Gene Expression in Neurons Solves a Brain Evolution Puzzle
Our brains have even less in common with reptile brains than was once thought.
2023-Jul-05 • 21 minutes
Machines Learn Better if We Teach Them the Basics
To improve reinforcement learning algorithms, computer scientists are training them as if they were human.
2023-Jun-21 • 22 minutes
The Cause of Depression Is Probably Not What You Think
Better treatments for depression may require a clear-eyed look at the condition's nuance.
2023-Jun-07 • 18 minutes
Ants Live 10 Times Longer by Altering Their Insulin Responses
A tapeworm has evolved the ability to make its ant hosts live longer. Researchers recently discovered how the parasite does it.
2023-May-24 • 14 minutes
How the Brain Distinguishes Memories From Perceptions
The "blurriness" of remembered images may help our brains distinguish memories from current perceptions.
2023-May-10 • 41 minutes
What Causes Alzheimer's? Scientists Are Rethinking the Answer. (Pt 2)
Researchers investigating alternatives to amyloid plaques as the possible cause of Alzheimer's disease have faced resistance, but intriguing new theories have emerged.
2023-Apr-26 • 34 minutes
What Causes Alzheimer's? Scientists Are Rethinking the Answer. (Pt. 1)
For three decades, most Alzheimer's researchers have stuck by the theory that aggregations of proteins called amyloid plaques cause the disease. But unsatisfied with the slow pace of progress, some are now exploring other hypotheses.
2023-Apr-12 • 15 minutes
Astronomers Say They Have Spotted the Universe's First Stars
Thanks to the James Webb Space Telescope, we may have just gotten a glimpse of the first generation of stars.
2023-Mar-29 • 19 minutes
New Chip Expands the Possibilities for AI
Chips that run on an analog spectrum of memory rather than 0s and 1s could transform energy-efficient AI.
2023-Mar-15 • 19 minutes
How Supergenes Fuel Evolution Despite Harmful Mutations
"Supergenes" lock several genes together into a single inheritable unit. This type of evolution offers both risks and rewards.
2023-Mar-01 • 12 minutes
Brightest-Ever Space Explosion Reveals Possible Hints of Dark Matter
In 2022, astronomers saw the brightest gamma-ray burst ever observed by humans. Did it also offer a glimpse of dark matter?
2023-Feb-16 • 17 minutes
Inside the Proton, the 'Most Complicated Thing You Could Possibly Imagine'
What's inside a proton? Your answer may vary depending on how hard you hit it with electrons.
2023-Feb-01 • 15 minutes
High-Temperature Superconductivity Understood at Last
Physicists have all but confirmed the phenomenon behind the strongest known form of superconductivity.
2023-Jan-18 • 20 minutes
Record-Breaking Robot Highlights How Animals Excel at Jumping
A robot has, in all likelihood, leapt higher than any animal or machine before it on Earth.
2023-Jan-04 • 20 minutes
A Good Memory or a Bad One? One Brain Molecule Decides.
The brain may be fearful and pessimistic by default.
2022-Dec-21 • 21 minutes
Old Problem About Mathematical Curves Falls to Young Couple
A husband and wife math duo solved an algebraic question that went unanswered for more than a century.
2022-Dec-07 • 17 minutes
How the Physics of Nothing Underlies Everything
The key to understanding the origin and fate of the universe may be a more complete understanding of the vacuum.
2022-Nov-23 • 18 minutes
Geometric Analysis Reveals How Birds Mastered Flight
Scientists are beginning to grasp the biomechanics that allow birds to maneuver in the air.
2022-Nov-09 • 17 minutes
How the 'Diamond of the Plant World' Helped Land Plants Evolve
Scientists are beginning to crack secrets from one of the sturdiest organic materials in nature.
2022-Oct-26 • 23 minutes
Protein Blobs Linked to Alzheimer's Affect Aging in All Cells
A first-of-its-kind study offers a fresh perspective on what happens inside cells as they age.
2022-Oct-12 • 18 minutes
The Brain Has a 'Low-Power Mode' That Blunts Our Senses
Neuroscientists uncovered an energy-saving mode in vision-system neurons that works at the cost of being able to see fine-grained details. Read more at Music is "Unanswered Questions" by Kevin MacLeod.
2022-Sep-28 • 18 minutes
Researchers Achieve 'Absurdly Fast' Algorithm for Network Flow
Mathematicians recently figured out a near-optimal way to go with the flow.
2022-Sep-14 • 13 minutes
Graduate Student's Side Project Proves Prime Number Conjecture
A graduate student recently proved Paul Erdős' conjecture about what makes the prime numbers particularly unique among primitive sets.
2022-Aug-31 • 27 minutes
Physicists Rewrite the Fundamental Law That Leads to Disorder
The second law of thermodynamics is among the most sacred in all of science, but it has always rested on 19th century arguments about probability. New arguments trace its true source to the flows of quantum information.
2022-Aug-17 • 23 minutes
Secrets of the Moon's Permanent Shadows Are Coming to Light
Robots are about to venture into the sunless depths of lunar craters to investigate ancient water ice trapped there, while remote studies find hints about how water arrives on rocky worlds. Read more and explore infographics at
2022-Aug-03 • 22 minutes
Deep Learning Poised to 'Blow Up' Famed Fluid Equations
For centuries, mathematicians have tried to prove that Euler's fluid equations can produce nonsensical answers. A new approach to machine learning has researchers betting that "blowup" is near. Read more at Music is "Pulse" by Geographer.
2022-Jul-19 • 22 minutes
Researchers Identify 'Master Problem' Underlying All Cryptography
The existence of secure cryptography depends on one of the oldest questions in computational complexity.
2022-Jul-06 • 17 minutes
Brain Chemical Helps Signal to Neurons When to Start a Movement
Dopamine, a neurochemical often associated with reward behavior, also seems to help organize precisely when the brain initiates movements. It's the latest revelation about the power of neuromodulators.
2022-Jun-22 • 25 minutes
This Animal's Behavior Is Mechanically Programmed
Biomechanical interactions, rather than neurons, control the movements of one of the simplest animals. The discovery offers a glimpse into how animal behavior worked before neurons evolved.
2022-Jun-08 • 16 minutes
Tiny Galaxies Reveal Secrets of Supermassive Black Holes
Dwarf galaxies weren't supposed to have big black holes. Their surprise discovery has revealed clues about how the universe's biggest black holes could have formed.
2022-May-25 • 40 minutes
A Deepening Crisis Forces Physicists to Rethink Structure of Nature's Laws
To explain "naturalness," physicists are rethinking some of their core assumptions about the way that nature works.
2022-May-11 • 20 minutes
New Map of Meaning in the Brain Changes Ideas About Memory
Researchers have mapped hundreds of semantic categories to the tiny bits of the cortex that represent them in our thoughts and perceptions. What they discovered might change our view of memory. Read more at
2022-Apr-27 • 21 minutes
Machine Learning Gets a Quantum Speedup
Two teams have shown how quantum approaches can solve problems faster than classical computers, bringing physics and computer science closer together.
2022-Apr-14 • 18 minutes
Secrets of Early Animal Evolution Revealed by Chromosome 'Tectonics'
Just as plate tectonics makes sense of the geology and positions of continents, "genome tectonics" helps biologists reconstruct the genomic duplications, fusions and translocations that created the chromosomes we see today.
2022-Mar-31 • 25 minutes
A Solution to the Faint-Sun Paradox Reveals a Narrow Window for Life
When the sun was 30% dimmer, Earth seems like it should have been inhospitably frozen, but new work suggests that dimness may be why life exists here at all.
2022-Mar-18 • 25 minutes
Evolution 'Landscapes' Predict What's Next for COVID Virus
By mapping in three dimensions how various mutations affect the fitness of the coronavirus, researchers can get insights into how the COVID-19 pandemic might change next.
2022-Mar-03 • 17 minutes
Flying Fish and Aquarium Pets Yield Secrets of Evolution
New studies reveal the ancient, shared genetic "grammar" underpinning the diverse evolution of fish fins and tetrapod limbs. Read more at Music is "Hidden Agenda" by Kevin MacLeod.
2022-Feb-17 • 21 minutes
Mathematicians Outwit Hidden Number Conspiracy
Decades ago, a mathematician posed a warmup problem for some of the most difficult questions about prime numbers. It turned out to be just as difficult to solve, until now. Read more at Music is "Aimless Amos" by Rondo Brothers.
2022-Feb-03 • 17 minutes
Mathematician Hurls Structure and Disorder Into Century-Old Problem
A new paper shows how to create longer disordered strings than mathematicians had thought possible, proving that a well-known recent conjecture is "spectacularly wrong." Read more at Music is "Transmission" by John Deley and the 41 Players.
2022-Jan-20 • 24 minutes
Researchers Defeat Randomness to Create Ideal Code
By carefully constructing a multidimensional and well-connected graph, a team of researchers has finally created a long-sought locally testable code that can immediately reveal whether it's been corrupted. Read more at Music is "Clover 3" by Vibe Mountain.
2022-Jan-06 • 19 minutes
The Brain Processes Speech in Parallel With Other Sounds
Scientists thought that the brain's hearing centers might just process speech along with other sounds. But new work suggests that speech gets some special treatment very early on. Read more at Music is "Thought Bot" by Audionautix.
2021-Dec-23 • 25 minutes
Biologists Rethink the Logic Behind Cells' Molecular Signals
The molecular signaling systems of complex cells are nothing like simple electronic circuits. The logic governing their operation is riotously complex - but it has advantages. Read more at Music is "Unanswered Questions" by Kevin MacLeod.
2021-Dec-09 • 23 minutes
A Massive Subterranean ‘Tree’ Is Moving Magma to Earth’s Surface
Deep in the mantle, a branching plume of intensely hot material appears to be the engine powering vast volcanic activity. Read more at Music is "Dark Toys" by SYBS.
2021-Nov-24 • 22 minutes
One Lab’s Quest to Build Space-Time Out of Quantum Particles
For over two decades, physicists have pondered how the fabric of space-time may emerge from some kind of quantum entanglement. In Monika Schleier-Smith's lab at Stanford University, the thought experiment is becoming real. Read more at Music is "Clover 3" by Vibe Mountain.
2021-Nov-11 • 18 minutes
The New Thermodynamic Understanding of Clocks
Studies of the simplest possible clocks have revealed their fundamental limitations - as well as insights into the nature of time itself. Read more at Music is "Aimless Amos" by Rondo Brothers.
2021-Oct-28 • 27 minutes
The Brain Doesn’t Think the Way You Think It Does
Familiar categories of mental functions such as perception, memory and attention reflect our experience of ourselves, but they are misleading about how the brain works. More revealing approaches are emerging. Read more at Music is "Pulse" by Geographer.
2021-Oct-14 • 22 minutes
Eternal Change for No Energy: A Time Crystal Finally Made Real
The world's first time crystal has been built inside a quantum computer.
2021-Sep-30 • 28 minutes
How Many Numbers Exist? Infinity Proof Moves Math Closer to an Answer.
For 50 years, mathematicians have believed that the total number of real numbers is unknowable. A new proof suggests otherwise. The post How Many Numbers Exist? Infinity Proof Moves Math Closer to an Answer. first appeared on Quanta Magazine
2021-Sep-16 • 15 minutes
DNA Has Four Bases. Some Viruses Swap in a Fifth.
The DNA of some viruses doesn't use the same four nucleotide bases found in all other life. New work shows how this exception is possible and hints that it could be more common than we think. Read more at Music is "Hidden Agenda" by Kevin MacLeod.
2021-Sep-02 • 37 minutes
The Mystery at the Heart of Physics That Only Math Can Solve
The accelerating effort to understand the mathematics of quantum field theory will have profound consequences for both math and physics. Read more at Music is "Pulse" by Geographer.
2021-Aug-19 • 24 minutes
Radioactivity May Fuel Life Deep Underground and Inside Other Worlds
New work suggests that the radiolytic splitting of water supports giant subsurface ecosystems of life on Earth — and could do it elsewhere, too. The post Radioactivity May Fuel Life Deep Underground and Inside Other Worlds first appeared on Quanta Magazine
2021-Aug-05 • 24 minutes
DNA of Giant ‘Corpse Flower’ Parasite Surprises Biologists
The bizarre genome of the world's most mysterious flowering plants shows how far parasites will go in stealing, deleting and duplicating DNA. Read more at Music is "Who's Using Who" by the Mini Vandals.
2021-Jul-22 • 21 minutes
Scientists Pin Down When Earth’s Crust Cracked, Then Came to Life
New data indicating that Earth's surface broke up about 3.2 billion years ago helps clarify how plate tectonics drove the evolution of complex life. Read more at Music is "Pulse" by Geographer.
2021-Jul-08 • 21 minutes
A New Twist Reveals Superconductivity’s Secrets
An unexpected superconductor was beginning to look like a fluke, but a new theory and a second discovery have revealed that emergent quasiparticles may be behind the effect. Read more at Music is "Racing the Clock" by The Green Orbs.
2021-Jun-24 • 22 minutes
Statistics Postdoc Tames Decades-Old Geometry Problem
To the surprise of experts in the field, a postdoctoral statistician has solved one of the most important problems in high-dimensional convex geometry. Read more at Music is "Transmission" by John Deley and the 41 Players.
2021-Jun-10 • 26 minutes
Mathematicians Set Numbers in Motion to Unlock Their Secrets
A new proof demonstrates the power of arithmetic dynamics, an emerging discipline that combines insights from number theory and dynamical systems. Read more at Music is "Pulse" by Geographer.
2021-May-27 • 20 minutes
Artificial Neural Nets Finally Yield Clues to How Brains Learn
The learning algorithm that enables the runaway success of deep neural networks doesn't work in biological brains, but researchers are finding alternatives that could. Read more at Music is "Telepathic Drive" by Unicorn Heads.
2021-May-13 • 29 minutes
Brain’s ‘Background Noise’ May Hold Clues to Persistent Mysteries
By digging out signals hidden within the brain's electrical chatter, scientists are getting new insights into sleep, aging and more. Read more at Music is "Thought Bot" by Audionautix.
2021-Apr-29 • 22 minutes
Rumbles on Mars Raise Hopes of Underground Magma Flows
Small and cold, Mars has long been considered a dead planet. But a series of recent discoveries has forced scientists to rethink how recently its insides stopped churning - if they ever stopped at all. Read more at Music is "Pulse" by Geographer.
2021-Apr-15 • 20 minutes
Mathematicians Resurrect Hilbert’s 13th Problem
Long considered solved, David Hilbert's question about seventh-degree polynomials is leading researchers to a new web of mathematical connections. Read more at Music is "Confusing Disco" by Birocratic.
2021-Apr-01 • 28 minutes
A Newfound Source of Cellular Order in the Chemistry of Life
Inside cells, droplets of biomolecules called condensates merge, divide and dissolve. Their dance may regulate vital processes. The post A Newfound Source of Cellular Order in the Chemistry of Life first appeared on Quanta Magazine
2021-Mar-18 • 13 minutes
The Mystery of Mistletoe’s Missing Genes
Mistletoes have all but shut down the powerhouses of their cells. Scientists are still trying to understand the plants' unorthodox survival strategy. Read more at Music is "Sugar Zone" by Silent Partner.
2021-Mar-04 • 16 minutes
The New History of the Milky Way
Over the past two years, astronomers have rewritten the story of our galaxy. Read more at Music is "Cast of Pods" by Doug Maxwell.
2021-Feb-18 • 23 minutes
Scientists Uncover the Universal Geometry of Geology
An exercise in pure mathematics has led to a wide-ranging theory of how the world comes together. The post Scientists Uncover the Universal Geometry of Geology first appeared on Quanta Magazine
2021-Feb-04 • 38 minutes
The Most Famous Paradox in Physics Nears Its End
In a landmark series of calculations, physicists have proved that black holes can shed information, which seems impossible by definition. The work appears to resolve a paradox that Stephen Hawking first described five decades ago. Read more at Music is The Banquet by Hainbach.
2021-Jan-21 • 23 minutes
Quantum Tunnels Show How Particles Can Break the Speed of Light
Recent experiments show that particles should be able to go faster than light when they quantum mechanically "tunnel" through walls. Read more at Music is "Good Times" by Patrick Patrikios.
2021-Jan-07 • 19 minutes
Computer Scientists Break Traveling Salesperson Record
After 44 years, there's finally a better way to find approximate solutions to the notoriously difficult traveling salesperson problem. Read more at Music is "Who's Using Who" by The Mini Vandals.
2020-Dec-16 • 18 minutes
Mitochondria May Hold Keys to Anxiety and Mental Health
Research hints that the energy-generating organelles of cells may play a surprisingly pivotal role in mediating anxiety and depression. Read more at Music is "Good Times" by Patrick Patrikios.
2020-Dec-03 • 22 minutes
The Hidden Magnetic Universe Begins to Come Into View
Astronomers are discovering that magnetic fields permeate much of the cosmos. If these fields date back to the Big Bang, they could solve a major cosmological mystery. Read more at Music is "The Joint is Jumpin" by Joel Cummins.
2020-Nov-19 • 17 minutes
Graduate Student Solves Decades-Old Conway Knot Problem
It took a graduate student less than a week to answer a long-standing question about a strange knot discovered over half a century ago by the legendary John Conway. Read more at Music is "Retro" by Wayne Jones.
2020-Nov-05 • 19 minutes
The Grand Unified Theory of Rogue Waves
Rogue waves - enigmatic giants of the sea - were thought to be caused by two different mechanisms. But a new idea that borrows from the hinterlands of probability theory has the potential to predict them all. Read more at Music is "Fire Water" by Saidbysed.
2020-Oct-22 • 17 minutes
Hidden Computational Power Found in the Arms of Neurons
The dendritic arms of some human neurons can perform logic operations that once seemed to require whole neural networks. Read more at Music is "Thought Bot" by Audionautix.
2020-Oct-08 • 18 minutes
Neutrinos Lead to Unexpected Discovery in Basic Math
Three physicists wanted to calculate how neutrinos change. They ended up discovering an unexpected relationship between some of the most ubiquitous objects in math. Read more at Music is "Fire Water" by Saidbysed.
2020-Sep-24 • 31 minutes
Machines Beat Humans on a Reading Test. But Do They Understand?
A tool known as BERT can now beat humans on advanced reading-comprehension tests. But it's also revealed how far AI has to go. Read more at Music is "If I Had a Chicken" by Kevin MacLeod.
2020-Sep-10 • 16 minutes
How Jurassic Plankton Stole Control of the Ocean’s Chemistry
Only 170 million years ago, new plankton evolved. Their demand for carbon and calcium permanently transformed the seas as homes for life. Read more at Music is "Fire Water" by Saidbysed.
2020-Aug-27 • 19 minutes
To Pay Attention, the Brain Uses Filters, Not a Spotlight
A brain circuit that suppresses distracting sensory information holds important clues about attention and other cognitive processes. Read more at Music is "Aimless Amos" by the Rondo Brothers.
2020-Aug-12 • 20 minutes
Fossil DNA Reveals New Twists in Modern Human Origins
Modern humans and more ancient hominins interbred many times throughout Eurasia and Africa, and the genetic flow went both ways. Read more at
2020-Jul-30 • 16 minutes
For Embryo's Cells, Size Can Determine Fate
Modeling suggests that many embryonic cells commit to a developmental fate when they become too small to divide unevenly anymore. The post For Embryo’s Cells, Size Can Determine Fate first appeared on Quanta Magazine
2020-Jul-16 • 19 minutes
Scientists Debate the Origin of Cell Types in the First Animals
Theories about how animals became multicellular are shifting as researchers find greater complexity in our single-celled ancestors. Read more at Music is "Light Gazing" by Andrew Langdon.
2020-Jul-02 • 15 minutes
Wandering Space Rocks Help Solve Mysteries of Planet Formation
After an interstellar asteroid shot past the sun, scientists realized that there's probably a lot of itinerant rocks out there. Those stones are changing what we know about the birth of solar systems. Read more at Music is "Clover 3" by Vibe Mountain.
2020-Jun-18 • 12 minutes
Random Surfaces Hide an Intricate Order
During development, cells seem to decode their fate through optimal information processing, which could hint at a more general principle of life. Read more at Music is "Desert Caravan" by Aaron Kenny.
2020-Jun-04 • 16 minutes
Where We See Shapes, AI Sees Textures
To researchers’ surprise, deep learning vision algorithms often fail at classifying images because they mostly take cues from textures, not shapes. The post Where We See Shapes, AI Sees Textures first appeared on Quanta Magazine
2020-May-21 • 25 minutes
What’s in a Name? Taxonomy Problems Vex Biologists
Researchers struggle to incorporate ongoing evolutionary discoveries into an animal classification scheme older than Darwin. Read more at Music is "Light Gazing" by Andrew Langdon.
2020-May-07 • 21 minutes
Bacterial Complexity Revises Ideas About ‘Which Came First?’
Contrary to popular belief, bacteria have organelles too. Scientists are now studying them for insights into how complex cells evolved. Read more at Music is "Aimless Amos" by Rondo Brothers.
2020-Apr-23 • 24 minutes
Ancient DNA Yields Snapshots of Vanished Ecosystems
Surviving fragments of genetic material preserved in sediments allow metagenomics researchers to see the full diversity of past life - even microbes. Read more at Music is "Light Gazing" by Andrew Langdon.
2020-Apr-09 • 17 minutes
Computer Scientists Expand the Frontier of Verifiable Knowledge
The universe of problems that a computer can check has grown. The researchers' secret ingredient? Quantum entanglement. Read more at Music is "Desert Caravan" by Aaron Kenny.
2020-Mar-26 • 19 minutes
The Hidden Heroines of Chaos
Two women programmers played a pivotal role in the birth of chaos theory. Their previously untold story illustrates the changing status of computation in science.
2020-Mar-12 • 28 minutes
Heat-Loving Microbes, Once Dormant, Thrive Over Decades-Old Fire
In harsh ecosystems around the world, microbiologists are finding evidence that "microbial seed banks" protect biodiversity from changing conditions. Read more at Music is "Fire Water" by Saidbysed.
2020-Feb-27 • 24 minutes
Scientists Discover Exotic New Patterns of Synchronization
In a world seemingly filled with chaos, physicists have discovered new forms of synchronization and are learning how to predict and control them. Read more at Music is "Slow Burn" by Kevin MacLeod.
2020-Feb-06 • 12 minutes
Cryptography That Is Provably Secure
Researchers have just released cryptographic code that's less likely to be hacked. The programs have nearly the same level of invincibility as a mathematical proof. Read more at Music is "Light Gazing" by Andrew Langdon.
2020-Jan-30 • 17 minutes
The Math That Tells Cells What They Are
During development, cells seem to decode their fate through optimal information processing, which could hint at a more general principle of life. Read more at Music is "Retro" by Wayne Jones.
2020-Jan-16 • 22 minutes
How Artificial Intelligence Is Changing Science
The latest AI algorithms are probing the evolution of galaxies, calculating quantum wave functions, discovering new chemical compounds and more. Is there anything that scientists do that can’t be automated? The post How Artificial Intelligence Is Changing Science first appeared on Quanta Magazine
2020-Jan-02 • 26 minutes
A World Without Clouds
A state-of-the-art supercomputer simulation indicates that a feedback loop between global warming and cloud loss can push Earth's climate past a disastrous tipping point in as little as a century. Read more at Music is "Clover 3" by Vibe Mountain.
2019-Dec-19 • 16 minutes
How the Brain Creates a Timeline of the Past
The brain can't directly encode the passage of time, but recent work hints at a workaround for putting timestamps on memories of events.
2019-Dec-05 • 17 minutes
Foundations Built for a General Theory of Neural Networks
Neural networks can be as unpredictable as they are powerful. Now mathematicians are beginning to reveal how a neural network’s form will influence its function. The post Foundations Built for a General Theory of Neural Networks first appeared on Quanta Magazine
2019-Nov-21 • 25 minutes
The Brain Maps Out Ideas and Memories Like Spaces
Emerging evidence suggests that the brain encodes abstract knowledge in the same way that it represents positions in space, which hints at a more universal theory of cognition. Read more at Music is "Pulse" by Geographer. Special thanks to ©Nobel Media AB, production SVT/UR for Nobel Prize lecture audio.
2019-Nov-07 • 11 minutes
Milestone Experiment Proves Quantum Communication Really Is Faster
In a Paris lab, researchers have shown for the first time that quantum methods of transmitting information are superior to classical ones. Read more at Music is "Telepathic Drive" by Unicorn Heads.
2019-Oct-31 • 19 minutes
Mathematical Simplicity May Drive Evolution’s Speed
Computer scientists are looking to evolutionary biology for inspiration in the search for optimal solutions among astronomically huge sets of possibilities. Read more at Music is "Dark Toys" by SYBS.
2019-Sep-26 • 25 minutes
Should Evolution Treat Our Microbes as Part of Us?
How does evolution select the fittest "individuals" when they are ecosystems made up of hosts and their microbiomes? Biologists debate the need to revise theories. Read more at Music is "Chee Zee Jungle - Primal Drive" by Kevin MacLeod.
2019-Sep-26 • 15 minutes
A Universal Law for the ‘Blood of the Earth’
Simple physical principles can be used to describe how rivers grow everywhere from Florida to Mars. Read more at Music is "Redwood Trail" by Audionautix.
2019-Sep-06 • 12 minutes
Amateur Mathematician Finds Smallest Universal Cover
Through exacting geometric calculations, Philip Gibbs has found the smallest known cover for any possible shape. Read more at Music is "Valerie Plain" by Rondo Brothers.
2019-Aug-29 • 15 minutes
In the Nucleus, Genes’ Activity Might Depend on Their Location
Using a new CRISPR-based technique, researchers are examining how the position of DNA within the nucleus affects gene expression and cell function. Read more at Music is "Sugar Zone" by Silent Partner.
2019-Aug-15 • 12 minutes
Machine Learning Confronts the Elephant in the Room
A visual prank exposes an Achilles’ heel of computer vision systems: Unlike humans, they can’t do a double take. The post Machine Learning Confronts the Elephant in the Room first appeared on Quanta Magazine
2019-Aug-01 • 20 minutes
The New Science of Seeing Around Corners
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. Read more at Music is "Confusing Disco" by Birocratic.
2019-Jul-18 • 14 minutes
Major Quantum Computing Advance Made Obsolete by Teenager
Teenager Ewin Tang has proven that classical computers can solve the "recommendation problem" nearly as fast as quantum computers. The result eliminates one of the best examples of quantum speedup. Read more at Music is "Retro" by Wayne Jones.
2019-Jul-05 • 24 minutes
A Math Theory for Why People Hallucinate
Psychedelic drugs can trigger characteristic hallucinations, which have long been thought to hold clues about the brain's circuitry. After nearly a century of study, a possible explanation is crystallizing. Read more at Music is "Retro" by Wayne Jones.
2019-Jun-20 • 18 minutes
Closed Loophole Confirms the Unreality of the Quantum World
A quickly closed loophole has proved that the "great smoky dragon" of quantum mechanics may forever elude capture.
2019-Jun-06 • 20 minutes
To Remember, the Brain Must Actively Forget
Researchers find evidence that neural systems actively remove memories, which suggests that forgetting may be the default mode of the brain. Read more at Music by The Green Orbs.
2019-May-23 • 26 minutes
The Peculiar Math That Could Underlie the Laws of Nature
New findings are fueling an old suspicion that fundamental particles and forces spring from strange eight-part numbers called "octonions." Read more at Music by Kevin MacLeod.
2019-May-09 • 30 minutes
To Make Sense of the Present, Brains May Predict the Future
A controversial theory suggests that perception, motor control, memory and other brain functions all depend on comparisons between ongoing actual experiences and the brain's modeled expectations. Read more at Music by Everet Almond.
2019-Apr-25 • 12 minutes
Finally, a Problem That Only Quantum Computers Will Ever Be Able to Solve
Computer scientists have been searching for years for a type of problem that a quantum computer can solve but that any possible future classical computer cannot. Now they've found one. Read more at Music by Vibe Mountain.
2019-Apr-11 • 27 minutes
Why Earth’s Cracked Crust May Be Essential for Life
Life needs more than water alone. Recent discoveries suggest that plate tectonics has played a critical role in nourishing life on Earth. The findings carry major consequences for the search for life elsewhere in the universe. Music by Audionautix.
2019-Mar-28 • 14 minutes
Overtaxed Working Memory Knocks the Brain Out of Sync
Researchers find that when working memory gets overburdened, dialogue between three brain regions breaks down. The discovery provides new support for a broader theory about how the brain operates. Read more at Music by SYBS.
2019-Mar-14 • 9 minutes
A New World’s Extraordinary Orbit Points to Planet Nine
Astronomers argue that there's an undiscovered giant planet far beyond the orbit of Neptune. A newly discovered rocky body has added evidence to the circumstantial case for it. Read more at
2019-Feb-28 • 17 minutes
A Thermodynamic Answer to Why Birds Migrate
New modeling studies suggest that birds migrate to strike a favorable balance between their input and output of energy. Read more at Music by Kevin MacLeod.
2019-Feb-14 • 20 minutes
Machine Learning’s ‘Amazing’ Ability to Predict Chaos
In new computer experiments, artificial-intelligence algorithms can tell the future of chaotic systems. The post Machine Learning’s ‘Amazing’ Ability to Predict Chaos first appeared on Quanta Magazine
2019-Jan-31 • 9 minutes
Decades-Old Graph Problem Yields to Amateur Mathematician
By making the first progress on the "chromatic number of the plane" problem in over 60 years, an anti-aging pundit has achieved mathematical immortality. Read more at
2019-Jan-03 • 17 minutes
To Test Einstein’s Equations, Poke a Black Hole
Two teams of researchers have made significant progress toward proving the black hole stability conjecture, a critical mathematical test of Einstein's theory of general relativity. Read more at Music by Vibe Mountain.
2019-Jan-03 • 17 minutes
Oxygen and Stem Cells May Have Reshaped Early Complex Animals
An unlikely team offers a controversial hypothesis about what enabled animal life to get more complex and diverse during the Cambrian explosion. Read more at Music by Doug Maxwell.
2018-Dec-06 • 21 minutes
Physicists Find a Way to See the ‘Grin’ of Quantum Gravity
A recently proposed experiment would confirm that gravity is a quantum force. Read more at Music by Kevin MacLeod.
2018-Nov-22 • 66 minutes
Quanta Writers and Editors Discuss Trends in Science and Math
Join writers and editors from Quanta Magazine for a stimulating panel discussion on the biggest ideas in math and science presented in two new books: Alice and Bob Meet the Wall of Fire and The Prime Number Conspiracy. Panelists will discuss whether our universe is "natural," the nature of time, the origin and evolution of life, the role of mathematics in science and society, and where all these questions are taking us.
2018-Nov-08 • 11 minutes
Why Don’t Patients Get Sick in Sync? Modelers Find Statistical Clues.
The long, variable times that some diseases incubate after infection defies simple explanation. An idealized model of tumor growth offers a statistical solution. Read more at Music by Audionautix.
2018-Oct-25 • 21 minutes
Why Artificial Intelligence Like AlphaZero Has Trouble With the Real World
The latest artificial intelligence systems start from zero knowledge of a game and grow to world-beating in a matter of hours. But researchers are struggling to apply these systems beyond the arcade. The post Why Artificial Intelligence Like AlphaZero Has Trouble With the Real World first appeared on Quanta Magazine
2018-Oct-11 • 22 minutes
Scant Evidence of Power Laws Found in Real-World Networks
A new study challenges one of the most celebrated and controversial ideas in network science. Read more at Music by South London HiFi.
2018-Sep-27 • 16 minutes
Smart Swarms Seek New Ways to Cooperate
New algorithms show how swarms of very simple robots can be made to work together as a group. Read more at Music by Doug Maxwell.
2018-Aug-30 • 22 minutes
How the Universe Got Its Bounce Back
Cosmologists have shown that it's theoretically possible for a contracting universe to bounce and expand. The new work resuscitates an old idea that directly challenges the Big Bang theory of cosmic origins. Read more at Music by Geographer.
2018-Aug-09 • 17 minutes
A Domesticated Dingo? No, but Some Are Getting Less Wild
Near an Australian desert mining camp, wild dingoes are losing their fear of humans. Their genetic and behavioral changes may echo those from the domestication of dogs. Read more at Music by Kevin MacLeod.
2018-Jul-05 • 20 minutes
Fossil Discoveries Challenge Ideas About Earth’s Start
A series of fossil finds suggests that life on Earth started earlier than anyone thought, calling into question a widely held theory of the solar system's beginnings. Read more at
2018-Jun-21 • 17 minutes
Mathematicians Find Wrinkle in Famed Fluid Equations
Two mathematicians prove that under certain extreme conditions, the Navier-Stokes equations output nonsense. Read more at
2018-Jun-07 • 16 minutes
Light-Triggered Genes Reveal the Hidden Workings of Memory
Nobel laureate Susumu Tonegawa's lab is overturning old assumptions about how memories form, how recall works and whether lost memories might be restored from "silent engrams." Read more at
2018-May-31 • 20 minutes
Secret Link Uncovered Between Pure Math and Physics
An eminent mathematician reveals that his advances in the study of millennia-old mathematical questions owe to concepts derived from physics. Read more at
2018-May-10 • 9 minutes
How Bacteria Help Regulate Blood Pressure
Kidneys sniff out signals from gut bacteria for cues to moderate blood pressure after meals. Our understanding of how symbiotic microbes affect health is becoming much more molecular. Read more at
2018-Apr-26 • 15 minutes
Choosy Eggs May Pick Sperm for Their Genes, Defying Mendel’s Law
The oldest law of genetics says that gametes combine randomly, but experiments hint that sometimes eggs select sperm actively for their genetic assets. Read more at
2018-Apr-12 • 10 minutes
A Zombie Gene Protects Elephants From Cancer
Elephants did not evolve to become huge animals until after they turned a bit of genetic junk into a unique defense against inevitable tumors. Read more at
2018-Mar-29 • 16 minutes
Best-Ever Algorithm Found for Huge Streams of Data
To efficiently analyze a firehose of data, scientists first have to break big numbers into bits. Read more at
2018-Mar-15 • 16 minutes
Newfound Wormhole Allows Information to Escape Black Holes
Physicists theorize that a new "traversable" kind of wormhole could resolve a baffling paradox and rescue information that falls into black holes.Read more at
2018-Mar-13 • 21 minutes
Brainless Embryos Suggest Bioelectricity Guides Growth
Researchers are building a case that long before the nervous system works, the brain sends crucial bioelectric signals to guide the growth of embryonic tissues. Read more at Music by SYBS.
2018-Mar-01 • 16 minutes
New Theory Cracks Open the Black Box of Deep Learning
A new idea is helping to explain the puzzling success of today’s artificial-intelligence algorithms — and might also explain how human brains learn. The post New Theory Cracks Open the Black Box of Deep Learning first appeared on Quanta Magazine
2018-Feb-16 • 19 minutes
Clever Machines Learn How to Be Curious
Computer scientists are finding ways to code curiosity into intelligent machines. The post Clever Machines Learn How to Be Curious first appeared on Quanta Magazine
2018-Feb-01 • 14 minutes
Mathematicians Tame Rogue Waves, Lighting Up Future of LEDs
Mathematicians have figured out how to predict the behavior of electrons. It's a mathematical discovery that could have immediate practical effects. Read more at Music by Susan Valot with bells from, including itsallhappening.
2018-Jan-18 • 18 minutes
Interspecies Hybrids Play a Vital Role in Evolution
Hybrids, once treated as biological misfits, have been the secret saviors of many animal species in trouble. Reconciling that truth with conservation policies poses a challenge for science. Read more at Music by Silent Partner.
2017-Nov-17 • 21 minutes
What Made the Moon? New Ideas Try to Rescue a Troubled Theory
Textbooks will tell you the moon formed when a Mars-sized mass smashed into the Earth. But new research has scientists dreaming new ways our silvery sister could have formed. Read more at Music by John Deley and the 41 Players.
2017-Oct-12 • 16 minutes
In Game Theory, No Clear Path to Equilibrium
John Nash's ideas about equilibrium are widespread in economic theory, but a new study shows they're not always realistic. Read more at Music by Kevin MacLeod.
2017-Sep-21 • 11 minutes
Pentagon Tiling Proof Solves Century-Old Math Problem
A French mathematician has completed the classification of all convex pentagons. Now mathematicians know all the convex polygons that can tile a plane. Read more at Music by Kevin MacLeod.
2017-Aug-31 • 16 minutes
Can Microbes Encourage Altruism?
Parasites skillfully manipulate their hosts, but could they be responsible for altruistic behaviors some animals show towards their own kind? Read more at Music by Kevin MacLeod.
2017-Aug-25 • 15 minutes
Dark Matter Recipe Calls for One Part Superfluid
Dark matter seems to act differently at different scales. Two physicists propose one possible explanation may be that dark matter sometimes condenses into a superfluid. Read more at Music by Kevin MacLeod.
2017-Jul-20 • 12 minutes
A Puzzle of Clever Connections Nears a Happy End
Three young friends became some of the most influential mathematicians of the 20th century - but they never solved their own puzzle. Read more at Music by John Deley and the 41 Players.
2017-Jul-13 • 13 minutes
The Thoughts of a Spiderweb
Spiders appear to offload cognitive tasks to their webs, making them one of a number of species with a mind that isn't fully confined within the head. Read more at Music by Kevin MacLeod.
2017-Jun-29 • 17 minutes
How to Quantify (and Fight) Gerrymandering
Tools developed by mathematicians and quantitative social scientists can help combat partisan gerrymandering. Read more at Music by Audionautix.
2017-Jun-01 • 15 minutes
A Long-Sought Proof, Found and Almost Lost
Thomas Royen, a retired German statistician, found a long-sought proof that links geometry, probability theory and statistics. Read more at Music is Redwood Trail by Jason Shaw.
2017-May-18 • 12 minutes
A New Blast May Have Forged Cosmic Gold
Did space-rippling collisions of neutron stars create the universe's supply of gold and other heavy metals? Read more at Music by Kevin MacLeod.
2017-Apr-06 • 10 minutes
Why Did Life Move to Land? For the View
The ancient creatures who first crawled onto land may have been lured by the informational benefit that comes from seeing through air. Read more at
2017-Mar-30 • 7 minutes
New Number Systems Seek Their Lost Primes
For centuries, mathematicians tried to solve problems by adding new values to the usual numbers. Now they're investigating the unintended consequences of that tinkering. Read more at
2017-Mar-16 • 8 minutes
Researchers Tap a Sleep Switch in the Brain
Powerful new experiments have uncovered some of the molecular underpinnings of sleep. Read more at
2017-Mar-09 • 10 minutes
Experiment Reaffirms Quantum Weirdness
Physicists are closing the door on an intriguing loophole around the quantum phenomenon Einstein called "spooky action at a distance." Read more at
2017-Mar-02 • 6 minutes
To Live Your Best Life, Do Mathematics
The ancient Greeks argued that the best life was filled with beauty, truth, justice, play and love. The mathematician Francis Su knows just where to find them. Read more at
2017-Feb-23 • 12 minutes
Dividing Droplets Could Explain Life’s Origin
Researchers have discovered that simple "chemically active" droplets grow to the size of cells and spontaneously divide, suggesting they might have evolved into the first living cells. Read more at
2017-Feb-16 • 11 minutes
Infant Brains Reveal How the Mind Gets Built
Is the brain a blank slate, or is it wired from birth to understand the world? An ambitious new study put infants into an MRI machine to reveal a neural organization similar to that of adults. Read more at
2017-Feb-09 • 12 minutes
3-D Fractals Offer Clues to Complex Systems
By folding fractals into 3-D objects, a mathematical duo hopes to gain new insight into simple equations. Read more at
2017-Feb-02 • 13 minutes
Grand Unification Dream Kept at Bay
Physicists have failed to find disintegrating protons, throwing into limbo the beloved theory that the forces of nature were unified at the beginning of time. Read more at
2017-Jan-26 • 24 minutes
The Art of Teaching Math and Science
The impasse in math and science instruction runs deeper than test scores or the latest educational theory. What can we learn from the best teachers on the front lines? Read more at
2016-Dec-08 • 18 minutes
The Case Against Dark Matter
A proposed theory of gravity does away with dark matter, even as new astrophysical findings challenge the need for galaxies full of the invisible mystery particles. Read more at
2016-Nov-24 • 13 minutes
What Sonic Black Holes Say About Real Ones
Can a fluid analogue of a black hole point physicists toward the theory of quantum gravity, or is it a red herring? Read more at
2016-Nov-17 • 9 minutes
Giant Genetic Map Shows Life’s Hidden Links
In a monumental set of experiments, spread out over nearly two decades, biologists removed genes two at a time to uncover the secret workings of the cell. Read more at
2016-Nov-10 • 10 minutes
How to Cut Cake Fairly and Finally Eat It Too
Computer scientists have come up with an algorithm that can fairly divide a cake among any number of people. Read more at
2016-Oct-27 • 16 minutes
Strange Dark Galaxy Puzzles Astrophysicists
The surprising discovery of a massive, Milky Way-size galaxy that is made of 99.99 percent dark matter has astronomers dreaming up new ideas about how galaxies form. Read more at
2016-Oct-20 • 16 minutes
Hacker-Proof Code Confirmed
Computer scientists can prove certain programs to be error-free with the same certainty that mathematicians prove theorems. The advances are being used to secure everything from unmanned drones to the internet. Read more at
2016-Oct-13 • 13 minutes
Colliding Black Holes Tell New Story of Stars
Just months after their discovery, gravitational waves coming from the mergers of black holes are shaking up astrophysics. Read more at
2016-Sep-22 • 14 minutes
The Neuroscience Behind Bad Decisions
Irrationality may be a consequence of the brain's ravenous energy needs. Read more at
2016-Sep-15 • 13 minutes
What No New Particles Means for Physics
Physicists are confronting their "nightmare scenario." What does the absence of new particles suggest about how nature works? Read more at
2016-Sep-08 • 21 minutes
A Debate Over the Physics of Time
According to our best theories of physics, the universe is a fixed block where time only appears to pass. Yet a number of physicists hope to replace this "block universe" with a physical theory of time. Read more at
2016-Aug-18 • 16 minutes
Biologists Search for New Model Organisms
The bulk of biological research is centered on a handful of species. Are we missing a huge chunk of life's secrets? Read more at
2016-Aug-11 • 12 minutes
Neutrinos Hint of Matter-Antimatter Rift
An early sign that neutrinos behave differently than antineutrinos suggests an answer to one of the biggest questions in physics. Read more at
2016-Aug-05 • 14 minutes
A Bird’s-Eye View of Nature’s Hidden Order
Scientists are exploring a mysterious pattern, found in birds' eyes, boxes of marbles and other surprising places, that is neither regular nor random. Read more at
2016-Jul-28 • 13 minutes
How Feynman Diagrams Almost Saved Space
Richard Feynman's famous diagrams embody a deep shift in thinking about how the universe is put together. Read more at
2016-Jul-21 • 14 minutes
The Oracle of Arithmetic
At 28, Peter Scholze is uncovering deep connections between number theory and geometry. Read more at
2016-Jul-07 • 10 minutes
New Life Found That Lives Off Electricity
Scientists have figured out how microbes can suck energy from rocks. Such life-forms might be more widespread than anyone anticipated. Read more at
2016-Jun-17 • 16 minutes
Simple Set Game Proof Stuns Mathematicians
A new series of papers has settled a long-standing question related to the popular game in which players seek patterned sets of three cards. Read more at
2016-Jun-09 • 10 minutes
How Neanderthal DNA Helps Humanity
Neanderthals and Denisovans may have supplied modern humans with genetic variants that let them thrive in new environments. Read more at
2016-Jun-02 • 13 minutes
New Support for Alternative Quantum View
An experiment claims to have invalidated a decades-old criticism against pilot-wave theory, an alternative formulation of quantum mechanics that avoids the most baffling features of the subatomic universe. Read more at
2016-May-26 • 13 minutes
New Evidence for the Necessity of Loneliness
A specific set of neurons deep in the brain may motivate us to seek company, holding social species together. Read more at
2016-May-12 • 11 minutes
Tiny Tests Seek the Universe’s Big Mysteries
The search for exotic new physical phenomena is being led by huge experiments like the Large Hadron Collider. But at the other end of the spectrum lie tabletop experiments - small-scale probes of hidden dimensions, dark matter and dark energy. Read more at
2016-May-05 • 12 minutes
A Secret Flexibility Found in Life’s Blueprints
A new study reveals that individual genes can create many different versions of the molecular machinery that powers the cell. Read more at
2016-Apr-28 • 26 minutes
Physicists Hunt for the Big Bang’s Triangles
The story of the universe's birth - and evidence for string theory - could be found in triangles and myriad other shapes in the sky. Read more at
2016-Apr-21 • 14 minutes
Debate Intensifies Over Dark Disk Theory
In the new, free-for-all era of dark matter research, the controversial idea that dark matter is concentrated in thin disks is being rescued from scientific oblivion. Read more at
2016-Apr-14 • 25 minutes
Mapping the Brain to Build Better Machines
A project to decipher the brain’s learning rules could revolutionize machine learning. The post Mapping the Brain to Build Better Machines first appeared on Quanta Magazine
2016-Apr-07 • 22 minutes
Sphere Packing Solved in Higher Dimensions
A Ukrainian mathematician has solved the centuries-old sphere-packing problem in dimensions eight and 24. Read more at
2016-Mar-31 • 22 minutes
The Beasts That Keep the Beat
New insights from neuroscience - aided by a small zoo's worth of dancing animals - are revealing the biological origins of rhythm. Read more at
2016-Mar-24 • 26 minutes
Mathematicians Discover Prime Conspiracy
A previously unnoticed property of prime numbers seems to violate a long-standing assumption about how they behave. Read more at
2016-Mar-24 • 34 minutes
A Life in Games
John Horton Conway claims to have never worked a day in his life. This adaptation from the biography Genius at Play shows how serious advances such as the surreal numbers can spring out of fun and games. Read more at
2016-Mar-10 • 22 minutes
After Black Holes Collide, a Puzzling Flash
A satellite spotted a burst of light just as gravitational waves rolled in from the collision of two black holes. Was the flash a cosmic coincidence, or do astrophysicists need to rethink what black holes can do? Read more at
2016-Mar-03 • 24 minutes
The Quantum Secret to Superconductivity
In a virtuoso experiment, physicists have revealed details of a "quantum critical point" that underlies high-temperature superconductivity. Read more at
2016-Feb-25 • 29 minutes
How to Build Life in a Pre-Darwinian World
Perhaps chemistry played a more instrumental role in the origin of life than scientists thought. Read more at
2016-Feb-18 • 35 minutes
Gravitational Waves Discovered at Long Last
This week on the podcast, ripples in space-time have been detected a century after Einstein predicted them, launching a new era in astronomy. Then, in our second segment, researchers think they can avoid some knotty paradoxes at the edge of physics by replacing black holes with fuzzballs.
2016-Feb-11 • 25 minutes
Scientists Debate Signatures of Alien Life
Searching for signs of life on faraway planets, astrobiologists must decide which telltale biosignature gases to target. Read more at
2016-Feb-04 • 26 minutes
New Clues to How the Brain Maps Time
The same brain cells that track location in space appear to also count beats in time. The research suggests that our thoughts may take place on a mental space-time canvas. Read more at
2016-Jan-28 • 34 minutes
Quantum Weirdness Now a Matter of Time
Bizarre quantum bonds connect distinct moments in time, suggesting that quantum links - not space-time - constitute the fundamental structure of the universe. Read more at
String Theory Meets Loop Quantum Gravity
Two leading candidates for a “theory of everything,” long thought to be incompatible, may be two sides of the same coin. The post String Theory Meets Loop Quantum Gravity first appeared on Quanta Magazine
2016-Jan-14 • 30 minutes
Landmark Algorithm Breaks 30-Year Impasse
Computer scientists are abuzz over a fast new algorithm for solving one of the central problems in the field. Read more at
2015-Dec-17 • 31 minutes
Math Quartet Joins Forces on Unified Theory
A new breakthrough that bridges number theory and geometry is just the latest triumph for a close-knit group of mathematicians. Read more at
2015-Dec-10 • 30 minutes
The Incredible Shrinking Sex Chromosome
Nature offers species a panoply of ways to determine an organism's sex. That flexibility suggests we need not be concerned about losing sex chromosomes, but it raises the question of why such a fundamental property is so variable. Read more at
2015-Nov-26 • 34 minutes
Nature’s Critical Warning System
Scientists are homing in on a warning signal that arises in complex systems like ecological food webs, the brain and the Earth's climate. Could it help prevent future catastrophes? Read more at
2015-Nov-19 • 37 minutes
How Humans Evolved Supersize Brains
Scientists have begun to identify the symphony of biological triggers that powered the extraordinary expansion of the human brain. Read more at
2015-Nov-12 • 30 minutes
Mongrel Microbe Tests Story of Complex Life
A newly discovered class of microbe could help to resolve one of the biggest and most controversial mysteries in evolution - how simple microbes transformed into the complex cells that produced animals, plants and fungi. Read more at
2015-Nov-05 • 20 minutes
Theorists Draw Closer to Perfect Coloring
A theorem for coloring a large class of "perfect" mathematical networks could ease the way for a long-sought general coloring proof. Read more at
2015-Oct-22 • 32 minutes
A Twisted Path to Equation-Free Prediction
Complex natural systems defy standard mathematical analysis, so one ecologist is throwing out the equations. Read more at
2015-Oct-15 • 27 minutes
The Mutant Genes Behind the Black Death
Only a few genetic changes were enough to turn an ordinary stomach bug into the bacteria responsible for the plague. Read more at
2015-Oct-08 • 27 minutes
A New Map Traces the Limits of Computation
A major advance in computational complexity reveals deep connections between the classes of problems that computers can - and can't - possibly do. Read more at
2015-Oct-01 • 33 minutes
Visions of Future Physics
Nima Arkani-Hamed is championing a campaign to build the world's largest particle collider, even as he pursues a new vision of the laws of nature. Read more at
2015-Sep-25 • 31 minutes
How the Body’s Trillions of Clocks Keep Time
Cellular clocks are almost everywhere. Clues to how they work are coming from the places that they're not. Read more at
2015-Sep-16 • 24 minutes
Einstein’s Parable of Quantum Insanity
Einstein refused to believe in the inherent unpredictability of the world. Is the subatomic world insane, or just subtle? Read more at
2015-Sep-10 • 25 minutes
A New Design for Cryptography’s Black Box
A two-year-old cryptographic breakthrough has proven difficult to put into practice. But new advances show how near-perfect computer security might be surprisingly close at hand. Read more at
2015-Sep-03 • 28 minutes
How Mutant Viral Swarms Spread Disease
Viruses exist as "mutant clouds" of closely-related individuals. A new understanding of these swarms is helping researchers predict how viruses will evolve and where disease is likely to spread. Read more at
2015-Aug-27 • 34 minutes
A Surprise Source of Life’s Code
Emerging data suggests that mysterious new genes arise from so-called "junk" DNA. And, all life on Earth is made of molecules that twist in the same direction, but new research reveals that this may not always be the case. Read more at
2015-Aug-20 • 34 minutes
How Life and Luck Changed Earth’s Minerals
Is geology predictable or due to chance events? And, a museum rock, traced back to its origins, reveals mysteries about the early solar system. Read more at
2015-Aug-06 • 20 minutes
At Tiny Scales, a Giant Burst on Tree of Life
A new technique for identifying microbes is revealing a hidden world. And, can computers make deep conceptual insights into the way the world works?Read more at
2015-Jul-30 • 22 minutes
The New Laws of Explosive Networks
An unexpected answer in the effort to bridge the particle and fluid descriptions of nature. And, the hidden laws that reveal how explosive networks form. Read more at
2015-Jul-30 • 24 minutes
New Letters Added to the Genetic Alphabet
Scientists hope that new genetic letters, created in the lab, will endow DNA with new powers. Read more at